Thursday, August 17, 2017

Thursday Things

1) I'm just going to say it: what our president said in his press conference Tuesday was disgusting and absolutely a low point for our country.  He spoke of violence "on both sides."  People.  One side was freaking neo-Nazis and white supremacists (and one of these people DROVE HIS CAR INTO THE OPPOSING CROWD AND KILLED A PERSON) and the "other side" was, you know, PEOPLE WHO OPPOSE NAZIS AND WHITE SUPREMACY.  I weep for our country.  I cannot believe we have a sitting president who basically sympathizes with hate groups.  Oh wait.  Yes, I can.  He freaking told us the entire time he was on the campaign trail!

2) Let's move on to things that aren't gross, disgusting, and, well, Trumped.

 I'm excited about the eclipse!  And, I'll be honest, this is mostly due to influence of my children (J has already had a quiz concerning the eclipse and we've had to sign waivers agreeing to let them watch) and social media.  But . . . ECLIPSE!  REASON FOR A PARTY!  I'll (maybe, probably, hopefully) be posting about the "party" after it happens but in the meantime I thought I'd pass this along: I'm sending each of my kids to school on Monday with a MOON pie and a single sized SUNny D.  I consider it genius, Mark laughed, and J said, "another corny mom thing!"

3) The kiddos had club night at their school Tuesday night where they received information on the various clubs and organizations.  I learned my lesson last year and limited them to two clubs (in addition to the sport they're doing) each.  We're going to have a busy few months!  J is doing intramurals, football, and playing violin in the orchestra.  The Girl is running Cross Country and doing Girls Club and Ceramics.  K1 has picked football, intramurals, and rocks (the city rocks that they paint and hide all over town.)  And K2 is old enough for clubs this year!  She's doing a special Accelerated Reader to club and also wants to do Glee Club (it's limited to 40 kids and, since she's amongst the youngest, there's no guarantee she'll get in.)  I almost agreed to let the boys do cross country too - they wanted to! - but it interferes too much with their football. 

4) Monday night was one of my last "free" week nights for the next several weeks so I did a GNO with Kendra and Cady.  We headed to Kooky Canuck for burgers and beer and just had the best time laughing and catching up.  It was much, much, MUCH needed girl time.  I'm so thankful I have a partner who will willingly take the kids to let me have some down time.  He even told me Tuesday morning, "my only complaint about your Girls' Nights is that you don't get enough of them."  He's the best.  My friends are the best.

5) Over the weekend, we went to a pretty cool birthday party!  We have friends who live here about 40% of the year . . . meaning, they maintain a house in the greater Chicago area but also one here.  They spend their fall, winter, and spring breaks in Memphis as well as the entire summer.  Their son turned 11 over the weekend and we all celebrated with a Nerf gun battle then swimming at the JCC.  The kids LOVED it!

6) The Boy had his first ever junior high football game!  It was a Saturday night and we had no idea how short it was going to be -- each "game" only lasted ten minutes.  And, unfortunately, the Boys' team scored defensively on the first drive (yay!) but the other team kept getting penalties on offense and the Boys' team never really got a chance to take the field offensively.  He was pretty disappointed and we were a little bit too.  The good news is he's a seventh grader so there are SO many more chances coming his way!

His second game was last night.  I wasn't able to go -- both J and K1 had football practice -- but Mark went.  Aaaaand . . . they lost.  And lost pretty big.  Disappointing.

7) At his practice last night, K1 received his first ever helmet stickers!  He was rewarded for most effort and teamwork.  WAY TO GO KYKES!  He's going to fill that helmet up!

8) Aaaaand . . . to continue all the football talk, J's team went full contact for the first time last night and my baby is BRUISED.  We even had to ice down his arm for a bit last night.  You know what though?  He LOVES it.

9) I had three weeks "off" between the kids going back to school and me getting back to the grind.  And guess what?  We're at the end of week two.  Noooooo.  Make it stop!

10) Basically the most ME thing ever.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Summer Reading List: Moriarty and Hilderbrand

When I took the kids back to school shopping, we went to the Goodwill and after perusing the kids' clothes I made my way to the book section.   It was there that I found a hard copy of Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty.  Yessss!  I read the book a couple years ago - via iPad - but is there anyTHING better than finding a good book at the Goodwill??

Three Wishes is the story of the Kettle triplets: identical twins Lyn and Cat and the "other egg" Gemma.  It's set in Australia and, apparently, is Moriarty's debut.  Lovely debut it is!  The book begins by setting the scene at the sisters' 34th birthday party . . . wherein one has thrown a fork - that lands in her pregnant sister's belly . . . and goes backward from there.

I adored this book.  I adore Moriarty (we'll not talk about The Hypnotists Love Story!.) 

One of my favorite things about Moriarty is her multi-faceted characters.  Each of the triplets in this book are assholes in her own way yet they're all so endearing, so goshdarn likeable.  The characters are very well-developed and, honestly, it made me want to be a Kettle sister!  Moriarty did an outstanding job with her character development.  No one in this book is perfect, far from it, and that makes you enjoy the characters and the story all the more.  I think this was a great book and a good starter for a Moriarty novel.  She does have other, better books (The Husband's Secret and The Last Anniversary) are my favorites.  But this is such a cute and fun book, an easy summer read.

"Cute and fun" and "easy summer read" are currently what I'm craving in a book.  So my next pick was another re-read, Beautiful Day by Elin Hilderbrand.

Jenna Carmichael and Stuart Graham are getting married and both families have descended on Nantucket for the ceremony.  Jenna's mother, Beth, died of ovarian cancer seven years previously and, in her final months, kept a meticulous notebook to be used (or not used) as a guide for Jenna's wedding.  The book is told in the voice of three characters: Jenna's sister Margot, their father Doug, and Stuart's mother Ann.  Each character is dealing with and working through heartache, either past or present. 

I really enjoyed this book.  It did invoke one of my biggest pet peeves: the dead person was practically sainted.  I get it, that's what we do when someone passes away.  But the book doesn't tell us any of Beth's flaws and, honestly, some of the notebook passages made her seem a little controlling.  The characters are well-developed, even though there are a lot of them, and I loved how even though it was the story of Jenna's wedding, it's not told in her voice.  It's less about the wedding and more about everything going on at the same time.  Yet, at the same time, still made me want to get married on Nantucket! 

My biggest complaint is that we know Margot did something professionally unethical but we don't find out what until the end of the book and it's alluded to CONSTANTLY.  It was a little much.  Also, I hate that her character - otherwise likeable - was so gullible in the situation.

I wanted to share a couple favorite quotes from the book.  The first one may seem a little weird but this is something I'm struggling with trying to instill in my kids right now.  OWN IT.  Own what you do!

". . . and because she was the mother of three young and growing souls.  She could feed them takeout every night, she could leave them for hours with Kitty, the afternoon babysitter, but ultimately the person who was responsible for installing their moral compass was her.  It was okay to mess up - to set a scorching hot pan directly on a soft pine table and mar it forever, to file for divorce when she was no longer in love and had exhausted every hope, to become utterly infatuated with the wrong person and then commit what was essentially a crime of passion - but she had to own it."

YES.  Own what you do!  The part about installing their moral compass made me choke up a little.  What a honor - and horrifying thing! - to be responsible for that in another person.

 And this line from the notebook:

"He did two things for me every single day of our marriage: he made me laugh, and he was my friend."

So simple, so lovely, and so needed in a relationship.

Once again, this is a fun and easy summer read.  You'll want to be on Nantucket with the characters!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Tennessee Tuesday: Tennessee Safari Park

The last week before school started (July 31- August 4th) we had all five kids, Grandma B came to town, and, that Wednesday, our friends Ed and Beth and their family joined us.  And Mark took the week off work and staycationed with us!  We initially planned on traveling but the Boy had football practice and J and K1 had football evaluations and, y'all, FOOTBALLFOOTBALLFOOTBALL.  It's what my life (and mileage on my car) revolves around these days. 
Seriously, we originally planned everything around football.  "Well, can't do anything from around 2:00 for Hay or until after 8:00 for the other two boys.  So, we'll get up way early and go to the zoo?!?"  Fortunately, J and K1 had evaluations end a day early and the Boy's coach decided he wanted to really enjoy the last couple days of his summer break and announced there would be no practice the next day.  We were free (-ish) on Thursday!  The -ish because we did have to be back in time to make it to Meet the Teacher night for the younger four kiddos.
Anyhow.  Long, convoluted way of saying this: we suddenly sound ourselves free until late Thursday afternoon so we decided to make our way to the Tennessee Safari Park.
And, spoiler: WE LOVED IT. 
The park is located in Bells, Tennessee.  From Memphis, it's about an hour and a half drive.  You take I-40 toward Nashville, get off on exit 79, and drive another 15 or so miles.
Monday through Saturday, the park is opens at 10 a.m. and the last car is admitted at 4 p.m.  The park closes at 5.  Gates do not open until noon on Sundays.
The price is $14 for adults, $10 for kids 12 and under, and kids under age one are free.  Feed buckets are $3 each or four for $10.  CASH ONLY!
Pro Tip: If you meander your way out to the Safari Park, there's an Olympic Steakhouse with an all-you-can-eat buffet that's pretty decent and seriously cheap.  When we got the bill, Mark was wide eyed with surprise and how cheap it was and I said, "that's whatcha get with country living, babe!"
One more thing before I get going with my review.  We had four kids in our car (The boy, J, The girl, and K2.  K1 was in Ed and Beth's car.)  We took a poll on who would lose their feed bucket to an animal first and, hands down, we thought K2.  Hold on to that nugget of information . . .
So, getting into the Safari is slightly frustrating (or maybe I was just irritable.)  You sit in a line of cars and then, when you finally get to the window, you understand why: so many instructions!  I get it, they really care for these animals and after listening to the lady I was no longer annoyed.  But keep in mind: there's a good chance you'll sit in your car for a bit before you even get to the gate to pay to get in.

There are bathrooms VERY close to the entrance (our first stop!) and then we set out on the safari.  The rules clearly state that you may go no faster than 5 miles per hour and no honking at the animals.  I set in the way, way back of the car and let the four kiddos squish together in the middle seats so they could hold their feed buckets out the window for the animals.

I'm going to use this ostrich picture to talk about my personal highlight of the day.  We were stopped behind another car and Mark decided to use the opportunity to borrow the Girl's feed bucket and try to throw pieces of it to a bird that was behind a fence.  While he was doing this, an ostrich came right up and stuck his face in Mark's window.  He screamed and threw the bucket of feed and there's a good chance I died of laughter.  Hahahahahaha.  A total "had to be there" moment but, gah, so funny!

Anyway.  You follow a path and watch the animals roam freely.  You hang your feed bucket out the window and the animals come to you.  Some allow themselves to be petted (llamas) while others (zebras), the park lets you know they bite.

We lost our first bucket to a buffalo and guess which kid was holding it?  The Boy!  He's definitely the strongest of all the children so this was a bit of a surprise but, as he said, "I had nothing on that buffalo!"  The buffalo wanted it, the buffalo got it!

Second personal highlight of the day?  A llama SPIT on the girls!  Hahahahahaha.  Seriously, two prissy girls getting spit on by a llama?  I probably laughed more than I should have.  However.  Did not stop them from petting and feeding every llama we saw from there on that.  Nor did it stop the "Llama Llama Mad at Mama" jokes.

There were SO MANY animals!  It was really cool to see all the different species and even more cool to be able to feed them.

One of the last animals on the safari was a giraffe.

Let's talk about this.

All four kids wanted to feed the giraffe.  All four kids clutched their feed buckets close in order to have feed leftover for the giraffe.  Yet they felt the lure of the buffalo . . . the camel . . . the ostrich.  And, one by one, the kiddos lost their buckets to hungry animals. 

Except . . .

Yes!  The one voted "first to lose her bucket" was the only one who had her bucket left!  And, y'all, it's been a week and a half since we went and we still haven't heard the end of this.  "I did not lose my bucket."  Yes.  We know, sweetheart, we know.

At this point I need to tell you: I did not want to go on this road trip.  It was an hour and a half away, we needed to get up early, I did NOT want to get the children up early nor did I want to deal with their moods re: being awakened early. 

And the aftermath is this: I LOVED IT!   And by "IT" I mean the kiddos' reactions to the park.  It.was.awesome.  As I said previously, I sat in the very back so I was able to see most of the "oohs" and "awwws" and "OMG, THERE'S AN OSTRICH RIGHT THERE's."  And you know what?  Just how much the kids LOVED and adored it was so, so, so worth it to me.  I really did enjoy seeing all the animals and, yeah, next time I go I'll be sitting in the front seat to take selfies with the zebras.

We really did love it.


I have to point out the things we didn't really care for --

For starters, we got involved in a "traffic jam."  Meaning: the car in front of us would not move.  Not because they were feeding animals either: because they were afraid of hitting animals.  If your car moves, they will move!  Really!  It was frustrating being behind an insecure driver and, for the record, I so would've been that insecure driver so afraid of hitting Bambi had I been the one driving!

There were a lot of cool animals but I thought the price was a little steep.  Basically I'm saying the price of the feed buckets should've been included in admission.  Because, yeah, why else do you go??

Those are really my only complaints and they won't keep me from going back.  I think we've decided to make this an annual summer tradition.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Trump's America: Are You Happy Now?

What happened in Charlottesville this weekend was disgusting, sad, shameful, horrific, and totally on par for where our country is headed.

You know what else is shameful?  The number of posts I saw on Facebook that said something along the lines of, "not all Trump voters are racists!!"  Yeah, okay, whatever.  Maybe you think you're not racist and maybe you have a black friend and your uncle is married to a Hispanic lady.  But you know what?  The man told you what he was all about.  He told you and you voted for him anyway.  And now here we are in 2017 with a neo-Nazi driving his car into a crowd of counter-protestors.  People assembled to protest racism and the idea of white supremacy. 

Trump told you what he was all about!

He told you when he called Mexicans rapists and "bad hombres" and in numerous quotes about Muslims.  Hell, he told you when he questioned the citizenship of Barack Obama because the guy had dark skin and a name that wasn't John or George or James.  He told you when he claimed to support "stop and frisk."  He told you when he started going on and on about building that damn wall. 


And you voted for him anyway.  Perhaps because he also told you he was pro-life.  Perhaps because he just wasn't Hillary.  Who knows why.  But he told you.  He told you who he was.  He told you he was racist.  He told you he thought he was better than anyone.  He told you he was misogynistic.  Jesus, Evangelicals!  You heard the "grab 'em by the p*ssy" audio and you EXCUSED IT. 

Now we have this . . . this shameful mess.  And our "esteemed" leader can't even specifically refer to hate groups in condemning what happened.  He can't -- because David Duke himself even said that people like him (I REFUSE to use his term because it's so offensive to anyone who is white and manages to have, you know, some basic human decency) that got Trump into office.

He told you.  Trump told you who he was.  And now here we are.  Here we are.

Friday, August 11, 2017


By now, everyone knows that each year Lay's potato chips sponsors "Do us a Flavor," a contest for consumers like you and me to enter in ideas for a chip flavor.  And every summer they release the top three or four finalists and ask us to vote for the winner.  And, as a chip aficionado and all around person-who-really-loves-food, I look forward to this chip drop as though it were Christmas.  Ahhhh.

This year Lay's released three flavors: Crispy Taco, Everything Bagel with cream cheese, and Fried Green Tomato.

Now, the Everything Bagel didn't even begin to catch my eye.  English muffins all day err day over bagels and plain cream cheese makes the Baby Jesus cry.  Maybe I'm being a tad bit dramatic but, really, I don't like cream cheese and don't want to eat it in any dish where I can taste it.  Because YUCK.

But Crispy Taco and Fried Green Tomato?  Seriously?!?  Hello, Lay's?  Are you making the 2017 Do Us a Flavor challenge all about Brandi?  Because those are two of my very favorite things on Earth and when I saw those flavors my first thought was: Jesus.  He loves me.

I picked up a bag of each earlier this week and (grudgingly) shared with the kids.

The verdict?

Well, there's one nearly full bag in my pantry and another that was completely destroyed less than an hour after opening despite my urgings of "don't eat them all!"  "Save some for Mark!"

I really do love fried green tomatoes.  They're so good, so flavorful, and second only to okra in "fried southern shit that's totally my jaaaaam."  However.  They don't translate well into chips. Either that or the developers live in, like, Washington state and wouldn't know a decent fried green tomato if it bit 'em in the ass.  The chip was . . . interesting.  There was a definite tomato-y taste but you just can't replicate a fried green tomato in a potato chip.  Ya just can't.  It also had a funky after taste.  We were most excited about this one . . . and most disappointed.  Womp womp.

Of course, that leaves Crispy Taco as the clear winner.

Oh yes.  Winner it is.  Winner, winner, Taco Dinner.

Several years ago - back when I still lived in Texas and K2 wasn't even a thought - Pringles had a "seven layer dip" flavor and I loved it, loved it, loved it, FAVORITE CHIP EVER.  Well, K2 is now seven and I've yet to been able to find that flavor since I was gestating her.  It was SO good though and guess what?  The Crispy Taco flavor reminds me a lot of those.  The chips are seriously good.  Taco-y but not so much that you think some queso to dip them in.  They're just . . . they're really, really good.  Like, I could easily find myself addicted.

If you do the chip challenge, pick up the Crispy Taco flavor!!!!  (And don't judge legit fried green tomatoes by what Lay's did with their flavor!!!)

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Thursday Things

1) You know how you go through those seasons of life where you feel like you're surrounded by tragic news and grief?  That's me, this summer.  Three people I know have passed just in the last month.  All were under 50, all had young children, and all left behind grieving spouses.  One was someone I met online ten years ago when we both joined the same mom group.  One I met by coincidence in Vegas several years ago.  She was a friend of a friend who hung out in our cabana and became a Facebook friend then an absolute rock star in the inspiration department as she battled breast cancer.  Another, a boy I went to high school with.  "Boy" is the wrong description as he's a 37 year old man with a wife and child but I hadn't seen him since high school graduation and, to me, he'll always be that 18-year-old boy.
I feel like I've had this little cloud of sorrow following me around like in the old cartoons when a rain cloud would pop up over a character's head.  But I also know that what I feel is nothing on what their families are going through.  I can't imagine how their mothers are feeling, how their spouses are getting out of bed every morning and adjusting to their normal.  It's all just so sad.
2) Our friends Ed and Beth were in town for a bit last week - hopefully tomorrow I'll get a chance to write about something super fun we did with them!- and I wanted to share a few pictures of the kids.  Ed and Mark have been friends since high school so they - and Beth - have watched each other's kids grow since infancy.  Adding my brood to the group nearly doubled it's size: from seven to eight! Fun fact: three of these boys have an -aidan/ -ayden, -aiden name.  It can get confusing!

3) As previously mentioned, I've been in a bit of a funk lately.  So I laughed out loud when I read this post from my friend D.  She's the best.

4) Around this time of year - back to school - I really get in the mood to listen to Texas country.  Pat Green, Robert Earl Keen, Cross Canadian Ragweed, Radney Foster.  I think a lot of it has to do with me going to Baylor in the days when Pat Green was giving free concerts at the Bellmead Walmart.  Still love him and I think this one is my favorite . . . because, well, George's!

5) You know, these days I look back to the time when I had three babies and I think, "I survived!  I did it!"  And, honestly, it does feel like a real accomplishment.  Babies are hard!  But now I'm in the thick of being their taxi driver and I'm reminding myself of those baby days: I will survive this too.  I mean, I will . . . right?  Because next Tuesday, I have to be three different places at once and next Thursday it's second verse same as the first with added bonus of Mark traveling and not able to help me out.  I have a feeling I'm going to look back on these days and be VERY thankful for our friends who might as well be family!

6) I really - really - hate to see summer slip away (the only thing that makes it even halfway okay is FOOTBALL!) but one thing I look forward to?  Fall food!  I use my oven very sparingly during the summer because it heats the whole house up and, by mid-August, I'm ready for all the cold weather foods.  Let me have my oven on for over an hour to cook the lasagna!  Give me all the casseroles, all the chili!  Basically what I'm trying to tell you is that my family will be eatin' guuuuud again come October or November.

7) That said.  (About the oven heating the house up) August has been relatively mild.  Humidity has been lower.  It's still been hot but 90 with low humidity is so different than 90 with a heat index of 120 that MAKES YOU WANT TO DIE. 

8) I was tucking K2 into bed last night and she told me, "Hey mom, I have a BFF.  Do you know what that means?  Best friends forever!"  And it made my heart smile so big.  I met my first "BFF" in second grade so I'm hoping this is something that really becomes a thing for my girl.

9) I want to brag on once again.  I started reading Angel Falls by Kristin Hannah nearly two weeks ago then got distracted with all we had going on last week.  I went to pick up a book Monday morning and just couldn't with that one -- I've been in such a funk and it's the story of a woman in a coma after a horse accident.  I still have a few books on my summer reading list to read through but thought, what the heck, #treatyoself so I headed to thriftbooks. I ordered FIVE books -- three Elin Hilderbrand re-reads that I want hard copies of, a Mary Kubica book, and Liane Moriarty's newest (from last summer.)  I should have them all in my hands by tomorrow and the grand total was $20!  Seriously, so love me some thriftbooks.
10) *Almost 11.  But the sentiment is still the same . . .

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Back to School 2017

We had a busy - and fun! - time last week that I still need to write about.  But, first up, HALLELUJAH, AMEN, PASS THE PLATE AGAIN, school started back on Monday!
Yes, school here starts ridiculously early.  Mostly because they get out before Memorial Day and have a week long Fall Break (which I think is stupid because I'm old school.) 
This year we have a first grader, a fourth grader, and two fifth graders.  I kept saying "the fourth graders" to Mark the other day and he was like, "uh, Babe, they're FIFTH graders."  I'm in denial.  That's all there is to it.  Last year of elementary school.  Last year for me to walk them to their class on the last day.  HOLD ME.
I thought I'd do a little something different this year and share a few things about each kiddo as they start the new school year.  Here goes!

K2 is seven-years-old and started first grade. 
She loves playing Barbies and asking every day if we can get a dog yet.
Her favorite color is pink, food is hot sauce (Mark and I were laughing at dinner the other night because K2 actually asked for more meat: but only as a vessel to get more hot sauce to her mouth!)
She loves to wear skirts and dresses; she's definitely a girly-girl!
She's so excited to be in first grade because this means she can join school clubs!  She's anxiously counting down to club night.
She wants to be a mom when she grows up.  I see her doing something like working in an animal shelter.  The girl loves animals and has a heart of gold!
K1 is nine-years-old and started fourth grade.
He has one of the Girl's teachers from last year and two of J's!  I have a feeling, after those two, the teachers are going to find K1 quite delightful.  ;)
He loves football.  Football, football, football. 
His favorite color is Razorback Red and his favorite food is chicken wings or maybe steak (the kid loves meat!)
He is a walking, talking football encyclopedia.  The kid knows so much.  He'll be playing his first year of tackle football for the G'town Falcons.  He's a Dirty Bird (sorry Gigi!)
When he grows up, he wants to be in the NFL.

The Girl Child is ten-years-old and started fifth grade.
Her homeroom teacher this year is fairly young and this is such a good thing.  She came home the first day saying she wished her teacher was her mom.
She loves anything artsy and gymnastics.  Seriously have had to get on to this kid for turning cartwheels in the grocery store!
Her favorite color is teal and her favorite food is cheese quesadillas.
She is very talented when it comes to art and even won the art award at school last year!  She will be running cross country for the first time this year.
When she grows up, she wants to be a hairdresser or something artsy.  And I think either would be perfect for her!

J is ten-years-old and started fifth grade. 
His homeroom teacher is male and I LOVE this!  So good for him!
He loves football and basketball and telling people he's older than he is.
His favorite color is blue and his favorite food is pretty much any kind of MEAT.
He is very conscientious about his hair and clothing.  VERY!  The boy will soon be getting a full length mirror for his room because I'm tired of finding him preening in front of mine.
He is playing tackle football for the G'Town (wait for it Gigi) SAINTS.  He will also be playing violin in the school orchestra this year.
Like his brother, he wants to play in the NFL when he grows up.  He's also open to the NBA though.  ;)

And that's where we are as we start the 2017-18 school year!
Back to that first day of school . . .
I really try to do a few small on the first day that make it a little more special.  Things that get the kids pumped up and ready to start school, excited for it.  What we usually do:
- First Day breakfast.  I usually just do canned cinnamon rolls (my kids love those SO much!  It's also the requested birthday breakfast) but this year they requested blueberry muffins.  I whipped them up the night before because . . . ain't nobody got time for that . . . on the first morning of waking up early again!
- I take them to school.  They normally ride the bus but I take them to school - and walk them to their classes - on the first day.  Mark and our friend Beth both think this is weird.  "I rode the bus on the first day of kindergarten!"  But my mom did it for me and it's VERY common around here.  I asked girlfriends and it seems like about 70% of them do it as well.  Plus, K2 gets VERY nervous.  There was no way I was going to send her on the bus on her first day.  She's my baby!
- After school "party."  So, in years passed, I've done balloons and streamers, banners, homemade goodies.  This year it was this:


But you know what?  They ran in the door and saw the "surprise" and yelled, "YESSSS!" and "I KNEW IT!"  All I ever want is for them to remember things like this when they grow up.  The days that were made a little more special.

- Up until this year, I've always done a special dinner on the first day back.  It's always something the kids love -- usually chicken wrapped in bacon with homemade Chikfila sauce (and I thought I had posted the "recipe" for this and was going to link it but, um, apparently not!  Guess the kids are getting this sometime soon!).  This year, though.  Woo boy.  We had football in the evening and things are just going to be crazy the next few months.  I had no time to cook so we had leftovers: steak, potatoes, and salad.  So basically BEST MEAL EVER as far as the boys were concerned. 

 So, we don't really do a whole lot but we do just enough for the kids to realize the day is special.  They came home so pumped, talking over each other, very excited. 

And finally --

I know it's only Wednesday but this week is whipping our tails!  We're first week tired AND we have football thrown in on top of that.  We literally do not stop from the time the kids get home in the afternoon until around 10:00.  Thankfully, today we have NO PRACTICE - only day this week! - so we can decompress and, let's be real, Cady is coming over so she and I can day drink and really celebrate the kids being back in school.  Ha!

Here's hoping for a really great and super awesome school year.  It certainly got off on the right - and tiring - foot!

Monday, August 7, 2017

Memphis Monday: Mud Island River Park

This post is about one of my favorite places in Memphis . . . Mud Island River Park!
I don't have a lot of pictures in this post because I realized, while going through pics, that I always take pictures of the exact same things.  Despite the abundance of pictures, please know that it is one of my very favorites, particularly for small children (that mine no longer are, wahhhh!)
The Basics:
The River Park is located on Mud Island in downtown Memphis.  You can drive directly to the river park but if you want to ride the sky bus across the river, you will need to park on Front Street.
It is open Tuesday - Sunday 10:00-5:00 from the months of April through October.
The Riverwalk is FREE but parking is $6.  The Mississippi River museum is $10 for adults, $7 for children under 12, and free for those four and under.  The monorail (sky bus) is $4 per person but included with museum admission.
The riverwalk is a scale version of the lower Mississippi River that empties into an acre-sized version of the Gulf of Mexico -- which is also a pretty cool wading pool for the kids!  There are several cities mapped along the riverwalk and also various historic events listed.  Parts of the walk are deeper - where the river is deeper - and my kids love splashing along.  It's a total of five blocks long and we always make sure we stop in Arkansas and Tennessee because those are "our" places! I definitely recommend water shoes for this; it's very uneven in places and it's easier to walk in water shoes or barefoot as opposed to wearing flip flops.

When we go, we generally take a picnic lunch (it's a long walk so you'll want to bring a rolling cooler or wagon!) and stake out a spot at the "Gulf of Mexico."  We'll eat our lunch then let the kids play in the fountains.  Parts are specifically for wading and then, in a deeper water area, they have pedal boats that you can rent by the half hour ($5/ per person.) 

Confession time: I've never actually been to the Mississippi River museum!  When we got, it's usually to splash around, picnic, and enjoy one of the very best views of downtown Memphis.

Seriously, it's an amazing view of Memphis.  I'm a little biased - I love my adopted hometown - but I think Memphis has a gorgeous and unique skyline with the pyramid and Hernando Desoto bridge.  And Mud Island is one of the best places to see it all!  And, since it's right on the river, it also has very nice (I can't call the Mississippi beautiful, I just can't) views of the river, barges, and boats.

There is a restaurant/ grill on the premises as well as a gift shop (isn't there always?!?)  There's also an amphitheater that holds some pretty cool concerts.  Our friends Ed and Beth fell in love with the River Park last year when they saw Widespread Panic at the amphitheater.  The River Park hosts fireworks every Fourth of July and has a big kickoff kid concert every April to celebrate their opening for the season.

Mud Island is PERFECT for those who live in Memphis - or close - and want to try a little something different than the neighborhood splash pad.  It's especially great for those with small children.  My kids appreciated it a lot more when they were younger.  They still like it but don't get as excited as they did even a few yeas ago (GROWING KIDS, JEEZ!) 

If you're visiting Memphis, it's a neat little place to visit that (probably) won't take up an entire day.  It's a unique perspective of the Mississippi River and a riverwalk that you can indeed walk in!  If your in Memphis and make it to the pyramid, definitely cross the river to experience Mud Island!  And - beware if you go in May - lots of field trips!

Mud Island really is a sweet little jewel on the Mississippi and one I'm so glad we have right here in Memphis!

Friday, August 4, 2017

Friday Favorites: Hello Gawgeous!

The fact that I'm writing a beauty post is pretty amusing to me.  I mean, I wear makeup and all but I'm far from some kind of aficionado and if I ever tried YouTube makeup videos, they'd be the ones that people just made fun of.  I've been wearing makeup since I was 12 and other than adding liquid eyeliner to my routine a few years ago, I've pretty much always used the same stuff. 

A game changer for me was subscribing to the Sephora PLAY box.  Y'all.  I love this subscription so much!  It's $10 a month and includes five samples of products they carry as well as a perfume sample. It's been a great way for me to branch out of my Revlon and Cover Girl.  I have nothing against drug store makeup, believe me.  I remember back in 2000 when George W. Bush was first elected president (or maybe even when he was just campaigning), People magazine ran an article on Laura Bush.  The article claimed she wore drugstore makeup and loved Stevie Ray Vaughan and I remember thinking, "I like that lady!"  Even now, she's like 70 and still lovely.  (And, not to get totally political here, but even though I'm rainbow flag waving liberal, I do have a soft side for the Bush ladies and even Dubya and his daddy themselves.)  I think that says something for drugstore makeup!  All that to say this . . . I really, really have to LOVE a product to spent more than ten bucks on it.  Which brings me to . . .

Tarte Tarteguard 20 Tinted Moisturizer
I've long been a fan of the Revlon BB cream but no more.  I'm now addicted to Tarte.  The price ($36) goes against everything I believe in but ohhhh my.  Amazing coverage.  I have really bad sun spots on parts of my face and it completely covers them while also being extremely light weight.  It's perfect for summertime - even Memphis INSANE humidity summertime (seriously, people, it'll be 90 degrees with a 125 heat index)! -  because it really doesn't feel like you have any makeup on at all.  I received a sample in my June PLAY box and knew from the first time I wore it that I would have to order a full size.  I just love it so much.  By the way: I STILL have some of the sample left, two months later, and that's using it at least two days per week, most weeks more.  My only complaint is that the darkest color is "medium" and that's me in the summertime.  If you get darker than me, then this won't work for you until they expand their line.

(Side note to say I TOTALLY love Tarte's wrapping!  Unicorns!!)

Christophe Robin Cleansing Purifying Scrub with Sea Salt
I've always been a "wash my hair every day" person because, hello, that's how we were all raised and because I have a seriously oily scalp.  Missing a day of washing hair would leave me with OIL-LAY hair like woah.  I wanted to be one of those people who only washed once or twice a week but it just wasn't happening for me.  Until I tried this stuff.  Oh man, it's awesome!  I am down to washing my hair just three times a week now (two times coming soon!).  The price tag is STEEP ($53 for the larger size, something I couldn't commit to so I'll be ordering the smaller size when it's back in stock) but it lasts a good, long while.  My sample has lasted a couple months so I can easily see this being something I only have to buy once or twice a year.  And, really, I just love the way it smells and how it revolutionized how I wash my hair!

Yes to Coconut Ultra Hydrating Cleansing Water
I'm a certified Lazy Girl when it comes to taking makeup off.  Which is probably why I have wrinkles marching their way all across my forehead.  This stuff is PERFECT for us lazy girls.  It's a makeup remover, cleanser, and moisturizer all in one and you can use it WITHOUT WATER.  I keep a bottle and cotton balls on my nightstand (disclaimer: this pic taken by Mark's nightstand rather than mine because he was out of town last week.  I don't have "Space Invaders'  on my nightstand!)  so I can take makeup off at night while I'm lying in bed.  It's super budget friendly, too, the Yes to website lists it at $8.99 but I think I only paid around $6.99 at Target.  Oh, and it smells SO good!


BB Don't Blow It
Guys.  GUYS!  This has revolutionized how I "do" my hair in the summertime.  I have very fine, wavy hair and I kinda  REALLY hate it!  I've tried MULTIPLE products to give me the beach waves look and none have worked until the BB Don't Blow It.  Seriously, this is a miracle cream.  I LOVE IT!   A couple weeks ago, Cady and I met for a GNO and I mentioned I didn't do anything with my hair.  She said, "but it looks awesome!"  Yeah.  Because this stuff!  Love it!

And, to balance things out, I wanted to do a couple of save instead of splurge:

I received this mascara in my latest PLAY! box and, not gonna lie, it's pretty awesome.  Thing is, though, I wasn't blessed with many things but he good Lord did give me big boobs and long lashes.  I did feel like it elongated my lashes but no more than the Maybeline  ...

The best drugstore mascara EVER.  Seriously.  We're talking a $24 mascara versus a less than $10 mascara.  YOU KNOW WHICH ROAD TO TAKE!

Then there's this one . . . 

Somebody please hold me while I cry.

I love a very light pink lip gloss for every day.  Love.  LOVE, okay?  LOVE.  I found this ELF version (110 Flirty Pink) at THE DOLLAR TREE once upon a time and it instantly became my go-to for every day lip gloss.  Well.  One night, I went out and the girls snuck into my bedroom and used up all my lip gloss and now I hope they are both cursed with crusty lips for the remainder of eternity (kidding, I love them, but I hope their own daughters doddle in their lip gloss one of these days!).  I haven't been able to find it anywhere else and I'm thinking that, since I found it at Dollar Tree, it's discontinued.  The Clinique Chubby Stick Watermelon is really (really!) close but way more expensive ($17!) and not as much color.  Give me all the ELF!   

So there you have it . . . some Friday favorite beauty finds from SO not a beauty girl!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

The Limit.

I told myself back in May that I was really going to enjoy this summer with my kids.  There's a good chance I'll be working next summer and, let's face it, they're getting to the ages where social lives and friends will take up a good chunk of their summer. 

For the most part, I have really enjoyed this time we've had together.

However, it happened last Thursday.  My limit. I hit it.

My boys were fighting endlessly.  We had a mini-sleepover last Monday night and two children in the house proceeded to use that time to break every single rule we have.  I'm tired of tattling.  I'm sick of "it wasn't me!"  I'm over their feeling entitled and being spoiled and I'm tired of telling them, "y'all need to go back to 1989 to see what summer were like when I was a kid!"

I can now officially say that I'm so ready for Monday to be here, for school to start.  There's a good chance I'll just dump 'em at the curb of the school with a "see ya suckers!" as I peel off with tires screeching. 

Okay, not really.  (But not because I don't want to!!)

The thing is, I know they're just kids and kids in general don't appreciate their childhoods until they're grown and raising their own children.  It was just a few short weeks ago that my cousin was in town and we reminisced about a childhood spent on "the hill," jumping on hay bales, collecting eggs for my grandpa, feeding the fish, and picnic lunches on the storm cellar.  If you went back to the late 1980's and early 90's, though, and talked to that Brandi, she would've told you that she couldn't wait to not live on the farm.  She wanted a neighborhood and pavement to ride her bike on.  She wanted neighbors who weren't related to her and actual street lights.  So I get it.  One of these days, the kids will hopefully look back on their childhood summers with a fondness.  Right now, though, I really struggle with feeling unappreciated.  And, believe me, it's not something I want to feel.  I don't want to be this person who feels ugly thoughts because I'm schlepping them to the zoo or Mud Island or downtown or inviting friends over rather than just letting them watch TV or play xbox all day. 

I've said for the past couple years that I feel like I'm the sweet spot of parenting.  No more babies.  No more diaper changes, no potty training, no wondering why the heck they won't stop crying.  No toddlers to get into ANY an EVERYthing in the house (though, let's be real, older children are great at that too.)  We're not quite yet to the teenage years either.  So while the attitudes can be funky and sometimes I think we have way too much testosterone and there are times when I wanna smack a kid for rolling their eyes . . . I know it's not as bad as it's going to be. 

But these days aren't easy.  They're easier than they were and they're easier than they're going to be.  All that while being far, far, far from easy.  And, yes, I do need some cheese to go with my w(h)iiiiiine.  ;)

If you're a fellow mom who has reached her limit: I'm right there with ya, sister, I stand in solidarity.  And I raise my spiked drink and remind you that the end is near.  School will start soon and, before we know it, it'll be next May and we'll be counting down the days until it's just over.

If you're a mom of a precious little baby and you can't ever imagine feeling this way: buckle up, girlfriend.  Buckle up!

The Limit.  We all have it! 

P.S. My reward for surviving the last eleven days of summer break? I have THREE WEEKS - three blissful weeks! - where the children will be in school and I will not.  If you need me, I'll be in the pool.  Cocktail in hand.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Summer Reading List: Kubica and Hilderbrand

Two books this week!

In Pretty Baby, we meet Heidi Wood, a do-gooder with a heart of gold.  The kind of woman who always drops money in the panhandler's cup, who rescues stray animals, who goes out of her way to make the world a better place.  Even still, her husband and daughter are shocked when she one day shows up with a girl, Willow, and her baby, Ruby.  Over the course of the book, Willow's story is unraveled as is Heidi's own painful past.

I read Kubica's The Good Girl last year so I knew what I was getting into: a psychological thriller that I wouldn't quite be able to put down.  On that count, I was right.  That said, I just . . . I don't know how I feel about this book.  I gave it three stars on Goodreads but wish I could have given it 3.5.  It deserved more than three, less than four.

My main issue is that I really didn't like the character of Heidi.  In the beginning, she's okay but as the book carries on she comes across as more and more selfish and unlikeable.  Her daughter, Zoe, is twelve and going through the pre-teen stage where she hates everyone and everything and as I got to one point in the book I realized that I felt sorry for Zoe because Heidi was her mother.  The character of Willow is sympathetic as her story unfolds through the book yet you don't really know if you should pity her.  There is some interaction between Heidi and her husband, Chris, that I felt was unnecessary for the book and basically just fodder to add extra pages. 

One thing I really didn't care for about the book is the description of Willow's early home life.  The book was published in 2015 and we're lead to believe, by descriptions Google searches and Facebook pages and the like, that it takes place in recent times.  However, there's mention of Willow's mother with her "beehive hair-do" and singing Patsy Cline songs.  I don't know if the author is just unaware of what things are like in rural parts of the United States (spoiler: rural communities may be a little behind New York and LA but not DECADES) or what she was trying to portray.  As someone who grew up in a rural community, it just really rubbed me wrong. 

One more thing: the back of the book carries the quote from NPR, "It's the perfect setup - but the twists you expect aren't the ones that arrive."  And, eh, no.  Just as with The Good Girl, I figured out the twists.  Though I was left wondering from time to time if I ACTUALLY had it figured out.

All in all, the book is a lot like Room.  It's gripping, it's thrilling, a real page turner.  But also definitely not one that I can say I "love."

The Love Season introduces us to Marguerite Beale, a reclusive former chef, whose world is rocked when she receives a call from her 19-year-old goddaughter, Renata.  She hasn't seen her since the death of Renata's mother, Candace, 14 years earlier.  The girl is on Nantucket with her fiancé and wants to visit with her "Aunt Daisy."  The entire book takes place in just a little over 24 hours -- with a lot of reminiscing and remembering the past as well.  Renata wants answers, to talk about her mother, and Marguerite is who she has to turn to.

I . . . I'm glad this wasn't the first Hilderbrand book I read.  It was a re-read for me but, honestly, I didn't remember any of the details at all.  That's how little of an impression the book left on me the first time around. It's not Hilderbrand's best . . . it may even be her worst.

The character of Marguerite is such a pushover that it's hard to feel sorry for her.  You kind of want to grab her by the shoulders and scream, "SUCK IT UP BUTTERCUP!"  She experiences a great deal of guilt and grief over her friend's death and she wallows in it for the entirety of the book.  "The Love Season" title is pulled from a quick quote in the book and it would've been better titled "The Guilt Season."

The character of Renata seemed poorly developed and her fiancé, Cade, goes from being such a great, awesome, wonderful guy to kind of being an asshole to her.  Cade's parents, particularly his mother, are a rich, snooty Nantucket stereotype.  Basically, there are just so many things in this book that Hilderbrand is better than resorting to.

And one more tiny gripe -- The Beach Club was Hilderbrand's first novel and, in it, we learn that The Beach Club is owned by Bill Elliot, who inherited it from his father, and ran by Mack Peterson.  Mack even makes a reappearance in The Blue Bistro -- where he's still managing the Beach Club.  However, in The Love Season The Beach Club is owned at one point by Daniel Knox.  It's a tiny gripe and there are no overlapping characters, these are obviously two very different and stand alone books.  But I wish Hilderbrand had named the club owned by Knox something a little different.

Two stars for this one . . . and it's painful for me to do that to a Hilderbrand book!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Shopping in Stores with Kids (And Other Nightmares)

One week from now, all my children will be in school.  And all God's children said AMEN!

This summer has been fun with them.  Mostly.


Last Monday I took them back to school shopping and, even though this was the best BTS shopping trip yet, I would still kind of rather shut my hand in a car door.  Repeatedly.

Let's get this out of the way: K1 is easy.  He likes athletic shorts and t-shirts and he's not picky.  The other three are kinda a-holes.  The Girl Child likes nothing I show her, K2 only likes 50% of what I show her, and J is a Beyoncé-level diva when it comes to clothes.  Seriously.  Slam my hand in a car door.

So, I spent about $200 on them this year for back to school clothes.  Which kind of gives me a mini-heart attack but also doesn't seem that bad considering it's $50 per kid and THANK YOU JESUS they are not yet into designer denim and all of mine are masters of thrifting and shopping second hand.

Here is my formula for shopping with kids:

First, we hit up the Goodwill.  I know there are people who don't care for the Goodwill -- I've chosen to spend the rest of my life with one of these people -- but, guys, you can find some gems!  I always choose to do this first and early with kids while they're (hopefully) in good moods because it can require some digging.  On this particular trip, we found two Justice brand bathing suits - with tags! - for the Girl Child and a pair of jeans - with tags! - for K2.  We round a few other assorted items; every kid left with something.  K2 found a fur vest that she HAD to have and that you'll probably see on repeat in the fall.  One thing with the Goodwill: inspect the clothes!  I check everything over a few times to make sure we're buying stuff with no holes or stains.  I can't quit this paragraph on the Goodwill without adding this: K2 wanted me to buy her a sari.  Like, a legit Indian Sari that was red with gold embellishments.  After I told her no - twice! - I wavered a bit.  I mean, she could wear it around the house, right?  Then I realized she would put it on one Friday morning when I was too tired to argue with her and she'd be sent off to school as the very picture of cultural appropriation so we nixed that purchase.  She still got the fur vest though.  And a sequined top. 

Next stop: Once Upon a Child.  We have three in our area: Cordova, Collierville, and Southaven.  I've yet to try the Southaven location but my house is smack dab in the middle of Cordova and Collierville and I will go to Collierville every.single.time. to avoid the rudeness at the Cordova location.  I doubt all OUAC's are like that but just thought I'd throw it out there.  If you're in the Memphis area: make the drive to Collierville!  We love Once Upon a Child.  LOVE it.  The clothes are all in very good/ bordering on perfect condition and the prices are awesome.  I'm a really sad that J will probably be in men's sizes next year (he's 5'3!!) and mostly because we won't be able to get the awesome OUAC prices.  I'm talking . . . K1 got a Memphis Tigers hoodie that was $4.50.  We paid, like, $40 for one for the Girl at a game last fall!

And, finally, Target.  Also known as that place where K2 demands on having her picture taken and every kid NEEDS a strawberry frap from Starbucks.

Last week, Cat and Jack jeans were $10 and graphic tees were $4 and we were also able to stock up on socks and undies.  And, I mean, it's Target.  You have to go there, like, at least once a week.  AmIright?

So mostly we do second hand and thrift and - I AM SO LUCKY - that my kids are okay with this.  I get irritated from time to time at how entitled they can be but I realize I'm fortunate that they love them some Goodwill.  And are impressed with how much they can get when we shop at Once Upon a Child.  They know they can get better name brands by thrifting/ shopping second hand.  And that makes me feel like I've raised them at least a tiny bit right! 

That's how we do back to school shopping for clothes.  For supplies?  We use Kidz School Box.  I SERRIOUSLY LOVE THIS SERVICE SO MUCH!  You pay a little more for the convenience but . . . #worthit.  I don't know that there is anything more frustrating than going to three different stores to find plastic folders with pockets and brads and, well, this takes care of all that for you.  And!  At our school, they deliver all the boxes before Back to School Night (Thursday!) so the kids can assemble their desks before the first day of school.  We love it.

And, with that, I guess we're ready to go back to school?!?  I feel like this summer went SO fast and also like my summers with them are fleeting.  It won't be long when summers will be all about friends or working or conditioning for their fall sports and they won't need - or want - me around (except K2.  K2 will ALWAYS need and want her mama!) My years in the trenches are winding down and, I promise you, even when I'm 95 I'll be thankful for the summertime with kids.  And I'll miss it.  Because these really are the best days.

Though, not gonna lie, the thought of next Tuesday?  Floating in the pool with a day drink and not being splashed by wayward cannonballers?  I can dig it. 

Monday, July 31, 2017

Memphis Monday: National Civil Rights Museum

I have lived in Memphis for nearly eight years and I'm ashamed to say that my first visit to the National Civil Rights Museum was last Wednesday.  I'm just going to put it out there: this museum is a MUST.  A must when you're in Memphis, a must when you're anywhere close to Memphis, a must if you're just an American.  It's a MUST.

The Basics:
The museum is closed every Tuesday but open 9-6 every other day of the week.
Admission is $15 for adults and $12 for children 3-12.  There are special rates for students and seniors.  Free admission to Tennessee residents on Mondays.
The museum is located on Mulberry Street in downtown.
There is free parking on the premises (HUGE for downtown Memphis!)
When you're finished touring, you should totally go next door to Central BBQ across the street!  ;)

For anyone who may not be familiar, Martin Luther King, Jr, was assassinated at the Lorraine Motel in downtown Memphis on April 4, 1968.  In the early 90's, the motel was converted into the National Civil Rights Museum and, just a few years ago, there was a complete renovation of the museum. 

When you first walk in and purchase tickets, you are directed to begin at a traveling exhibit.  It's all photography of John Lucas and dedicated entirely to the civil rights movement in Mississippi.  I would've LOVED to have spent a lot of time studying the photos and reading the descriptions.  However, the line was moving very slowly and my boys were getting antsy.  We did a quick tour of the room -- long enough for K1 to see pictures of Robert F. Kennedy visiting a primary school in Mississippi and for me to correct him that it was not JFK but, rather, his brother. 

From there, we began our tour of the permanent exhibits.

One thing I really appreciated about the museum is that it's all chronological.  So you begin in Africa with slavery and from there go to Jim Crow, school desegregation, Rosa Parks, sit-in's, etc.  Cady went earlier in the summer and she and I discussed the museum visit later in the day.  I told her it's like you start with horrific how do you do that to a human and as you go through you get only slightly better versions of horrific. 

Anyway, you begin in Africa -- slavery -- and I wish this exhibit had been a little bigger because it was SO crowded.  I'll tell you what, though, the one thing that stuck with J was this:

The slaves on the ships from Africa to America only had three feet and three inches of space.  Three feet.  For a weeks long journey.  It was what J still talked about, what he remembered.  Both boys, obviously, knew about slavery but were still horrified at what they saw in the museum.  (Just for reference: there's nothing too graphic in this part but it did drive home to my boys just how awful slavery was.)

From slavery, you make your way to the Jim Crow era and, from there, the part of the Civil Rights Movement that's most interesting to me: the desegregation of schools. 

(Click to enlarge.  It's not funny yet it's funny)

(Enlarge this one too!  A letter written to Earnest Green urging him not to attend his own graduation festivities)

As with any museum, my boys were craziest about the interactive exhibits.  So when we rounded a corner and saw a Rosa Parks/ Montgomery Bus Boycott exhibit, they were all about it.  They quickly ascended the steps to the bus and were shocked and scared when they heard audio telling them to "GET UP!  YOU CAN'T HAVE THAT SEAT!"

This was a very powerful exhibit -- mostly because of the audio you hear when you board the bus.  It drives home how harshly Rosa Parks was spoken to and only because she was black.

From there, we made our way to the "Standing Up by Sitting Down" exhibit.  This was also something very powerful to my boys.  As you enter the exhibit, you see "whites only" on the glass partition.

The mock Woolworth's counter shows a movie on repeat and, at one point, you hear a woman yell, "Hey!  You can't sit here!"  This was really eye-opening for my boys and they actually spent a lot of time in this exhibit.

There is an entire wall that's dedicated to the mug shots of those arrested during the protests of the 1960's.  I'm going to be honest: I really appreciated seeing as many white faces as there were on the wall.  I mean, I knew that whites were also imperative to the Civil Rights Movement but sometimes, especially living in the south, you're more bombarded with stories of the KKK and all the wrong white people perpetrated during that time period. 

There is an exhibit dedicated to the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing.  I wanted to spend more time here but, again, my children were getting antsy.

From there, we made our way to an exhibit dedicated to the movement to allow blacks to vote.  This was yet another thing that blew my boys' minds. 

(As a side note, a few weeks ago Mark and Jason were discussing the time period they'd most like to go back to and both mentioned the 1920's.  My response?  "Yeah, because you're both white men."  Applies here!)

There was a mock up of the community action centers . . .

The museum takes you through Selma and then to the sanitation worker strike that led Dr. King to Memphis.

This part of the museum winds down with a view of rooms 306 and 307 of the Lorraine Motel.  It was room 307 where Dr. King was shot and died on the balcony.  I felt icky at the thought of taking pictures and there are signs requesting silence and respect.  It was very . . . I don't know the words.  Almost reverent? I mean, you're looking in the room where one of the most historical figures in American history - THE leader of the Civil Rights movement - lived his last moments, the room in which he died.  It's touching and sad.

That's where the tour ended up with us (well, it also included a trip through the gift shop to add a magnet to our collection.)  But there's an entire building across the street -- where James Earl Ray fired the fatal shot that killed Dr. King.  The boys and I didn't make it over there (they were hungry and, after eating, we were all too hot and tired to make our way back to the museum.)  Cady said it was really interesting as it goes into the aftermath of the Civil Rights Movement after King's death.

I have enough of my dad in me that I love pretty much anything history related so I knew I would enjoy the museum and it way exceeding my expectations. I  do think my boys were a touch too young.  I mean, they got it and they were humbled and shocked by a lot of things they saw.   But they got antsy too often and didn't want to stand and read descriptions.  I think in another five years, they'll be the perfect age to not only get the museum but to also appreciate it and how it applies to their own unique culture.  Honestly, I want to go back to the museum with no kids!  I'd love to just be able to read, read, read my way through it.

My only complaint is that the first two exhibits were in WAY small areas so it was hard to really read and get the gist of what they were about.

I really do feel this is a Memphis MUST, something you should do when you're in Memphis.  Doesn't matter your skin color or your heritage, you are going to get something out of this museum.  It is well, well, WELL worth the $15 admission.  I wouldn't recommend doing it with very young children (just because they'll bore easily and drive you crazy) but it was fine with my nine and ten year olds and would be perfect with teens.  Seriously, this is a bucket list destination!