New Orleans

Our drive to New Orleans coincided with a huge storm hitting middle America and the east coast, which gave us a whole day of rain to look forward to. As Floridians, were used to driving in the rain. But driving an RV amongst people who don’t know how to drive in the rain could spell disaster. So we took precautions – we left early and drove under the speed limit the whole way. We may have annoyed some people, but we got to our destination in one piece.

We pulled into a Walmart to grab lunch for the boys when Damon realized the car battery was dead. I have no idea why the battery keeps dieing – Damon thinks it’s the extra things in the car (like our heated seats), that are draining the battery. On the plus side, we bought that battery at a Walmart, so we were able to return the dead one and got a replacement for free!

Our RV park is located just a few miles from downtown New Orleans, which means it’s pretty small and tight. At least we’d be able to get to local attractions quickly. I’d been looking forward to the pool here, but the weather didn’t look promising – cold and rainy.

Thanks to the time changes, fall back plus moving over a time zone, the boys were asleep by 7! Always nice to go to bed early, but it meant an early morning for us the next day.

As predicted, it was cold and rainy, so we took our crazy boys to the Louisiana Children’s Museum. This is exactly what they needed. This two-story facility was filled with hands on activities perfect for the boys. We spent three hours there before they needed lunch. In fact, the museum worked so well, that both boys fell asleep after they had lunch.

After some thrifting, we decided to head back to the RV. The owner of the park warned us that the main highways basically becomes a parking lot from 3p-6p. Don’t have to tell us twice!

The next day was another early, cold, and wet morning. No problem – we headed to the aquarium!

Damon was hesitant to visit as our last few visits to aquariums weren’t very successful. As we approached the building, mini-man got very excited and started talking about sish. Always a good sign.

One saving grace was the aquarium was completely dead. Little-dude had fallen asleep, so mini-man and I were able to just sit and look at fish for as long as we needed.

This aquarium was an amazing combination of detailed exhibits while being interesting for kids. It was also the perfect size for kids to walk around and not get too tired.

The next day we were finally given some dry, sunny weather. We took advantage and took the boys to a local park. In addition to being an amazing playground, it was house in a beautiful park filled with old oak trees.

While the boys played, we noticed a train going around the park and learned that just a few feet a way was a small, kids amusement park.

After we finished the playground, we searched out the train and made the last one of the day. It wrapped the perimeter of the whole park – one of the longest kid trains we’d found. It was so calming that both boys fell asleep.

Of course, as soon as we got back to the car, they both woke up. So we decided to head to Cafe Du Monde. Everything I’ve ever read or heard from people about New Orleans is that Cafe Du Monde is a must.

And I can see why. Despite being busy, we found a table quickly and got served instantly. As soon as the server brought out the beniets, little-dude dove right in. I think he at half of our order! After I had half of one, I offered it to mini-man, who, to our shock, tried! And liked it! He kept shouting ‘YUMMY!’. You know it’s good if the picky three year liked it.

Afterwards, we walked around the French Quarter a bit, enjoying the architecture and the atmosphere.

Our last in New Orleans was absolutely perfect outside and we had nothing planned. However, mini-man started talking about wild animals, which inspired us to visit the Audobon Zoo.

And I am so glad we visited. This was by far the best zoos we’ve ever visited. The quality of each exhibit and habitat was outstanding – lots of detail, an ability to get close to the animals without compromising animal comfort, and a variety of exhibits to explore.

Everywhere we walked, there was something new to see. Although it’s a large zoo, it felt small and cozy. My favorite things was the oak tree lined pathways. These are old trees and I appreciated that the park maintained them and worked them into the expert of the park.

My other favorite part was their attention to children. Many zoo provide a playground and that’s it. In addition to a playground at the front, the zoo offered a water play area and climbing structures, with slides, in each area of the park. It was a great way to see the animals with the boys and let them play at the same time. It was the very first time we’d stayed at a place from open to close.

We did so much at this stop and I feel like we got a very good feel for the city of New Orleans. I’m glad it’s close to Orlando. We hope to come back soon and spend some more time there. But, for now, it’s time to get to Florida!

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Home, Sweet Home … For Now

We bought our RV and SUV a few days before little-dude joined our family. We decided to take a small break from moving to adjust to being a family of four and allow me time to heal from child birth. 

Two weeks ago, we talked with our Realtor and are getting the house ready to sell. Which means we need a place to put the RV. After some research we found a cute place close to the house so we could be nearby while we sell the house and move into the RV. 

The actual trip to the RV resort was nerve racking for me – this made it real. Everything’s been abstract for months but actually seeing the resort made it real. And I have to admit, I’m still nervous. This is such a drastic change from what I’m used to. 

However, I’m also kinda excited – the resort is walking distance to parks, restaurants, and much more. Now we will have the opportunity to get out more as a family. 

It took some time to get the RV here as the place we bought it from kept “losing” our moving information. Thankfully, we managed to get the RV to it’s new home a few days ago.

We now have about half our stuff in the RV and spent our first official night. So far, so good. We still have some work to do, but it’s getting there.

Backyard Adventures: The LA Zoo

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Ready for a wild adventures at the LA Z00

With mini-man getting bigger and more independent, I’ve been trying to find some fun, yet cost effective, activities for us to do together. One activity that we both enjoy is visiting the LA Zoo.

Located in Griffith Park, and just minutes from our apartment, the LA Zoo is an ideal place to take mini-man for some new adventures.

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I bought an annual pass for $79 – which gets me and one guest into the zoo. Since mini-man is free (under 2 can visit free) this pass is ideal for our little family.  Just use it four time and then pass pays for itself.

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Another benefit of an annual pass – we can come and go as we please. If we arrive and it’s too crowded, too hot, mini-man isn’t in the mood, or any reason, we can just leave. This happened one, hot day when mini-man kept wanting to get into the water. Instead of making him stay, we went home and jumped in the pool. Both parties are happy – i didn’t have to drag a cranky toddler around the zoo and he got to do what he wanted.

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Right now, mini-man loves to explore the zoo. So each time we visit, I take him in a different direction to see new animals. The only issue we have at the moment is he wants to touch all of the animals. Thankfully he is easily distracted.

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So if your looking for a cost effective activity for your family in LA, I highly recommend the LA Zoo.

Stay-at-Home-Mom: Savings

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I think we can all relate – raising kids can get pricey. The clothes they grow out of in two seconds, the toys that cost $$$ and are played with for a few months, you know the drill. Added to the fact that we are on a budget tends to make things interesting. I grew up pretty poor and learned quickly how to spot a good deal and to invest money wisely. However, my husband has taught me even more than I imagined. 

I showed him toys/clothes for mini-man that I think are a good price and he takes me to places where there even better! What places are these? Thrift stores. Places like this didn’t really exist for me as a kid – I’m not sure why. They are a great place to find awesome treasures at an amazing price. Yes they can take some time to dig and your not guaranteed to find what you are looking for but with an open mind and some digging, you can unearth some amazing items. And bonus – it’s the ultimate in recycling! An old toy gets a new life, you save money, and the old owner gets some cash – everybody wins!

 Here are some things that I have found from Goodwill, local thrift stores, and Craigslist:

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  • Clothes

 Mini-man was born at 10 pounds (naturally!). I loved my big guy but all of the clothes we had for him were too small (NB clothes fit upto 10 pounds). My first thought was to go to Walmart and get a few things. However, Damon suggested trying our local Goodwill first. OMG was I surprised – the store had a wall full of baby clothes and for $1.50! I couldn’t believe it – we left with a bag full of clothes for less than the cost of one outfit at a local retailer. I was hooked. 

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  • Toys 

Children’s toy are pricey, require a lot of batteries, and maintain interested for a few minutes. Looking at the toy aisle, I couldn’t help but wonder where all these toys ended up once kids were done playing with them. Turns out that most of them end up at garage sales and local thrift stores. We found a couple of amazing stores near us in Glendale that have huge toy sections. I have found name brand electronic toys (I.e. V-tech and Leap Frog) for $3 or less! Mini-mans airplane rocker – $3.50! (Going for $100 on Amazon). And our latest find – the car above for $10! 

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  • Books

Mini-man loves books. I started his collections with some books I found on Amazon. However, I have expanded the collection immensely from thrift stores. These books, which retail for $5-$20 are sold for $1 at thrift stores! I do take comfort in the fact that the books I bought at full retail I have never found at thrift stores, but I have found similar books that mini-man loves. The books are usually all mixed together and requires some digging, but it’s well worth the savings. 

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  • Furniture

I think this is where I am the most thrilled with my thrift store findings. Furniture can be pricey but kids grow of them so fast that a lot of it ends up on Craiglist or Goodwill. We recently went back to Florida for a week and found a Step2 pic-nic table and sand table for $50! Mini-man loved the sand table so much that we found the same table in L.A. for $20. The blue chair was in the trash near our apartment – we rescued it, repaired it and now mini-man has an awesome chair for $10. 

With a little imagination, determination, and patience, it is incredible how much you can save and still have fun with your kids!

Five fast tips for thrift stores:

  • Go Often – Thrift stores get stuff in everyday. The more you go, the more chances you have to get something you are looking for.
  • Dig, Dig, Dig – Thrift stores are notoriously unorganized. Spend a few minutes digging and you can unearth some treasures.
  • Not everything is a Deal – Be sure to check online for retail prices before you buy. I have seen things at thrift stores that are more expensive than retail.
  • Color of the Week – Most thrift stores color code their price tags. Each week they will put a color on sale. If you buy something with that color price tag and you can get a discount. I found mini-mans airplane rocker for $7 but it was a color of the week, so I got 50% off!
  • Don’t be Afarid – I am somewhere who isn’t comfortable in crowds or in unfamiliar places. However, it is worth giving thrift stores a try for the savings.