Thursday, July 27, 2017

Thursday Things

1) So our kids are getting to the age where the attitudes are out of control and, with the boys, there is SO MUCH testosterone in the house and sometimes I get a little crazy with it all.  You know what's great about their ages though?  We can leave them alone.  One of us not need be with them at all times, especially with the Boy Child so close to the teenage years.  Mark had a friend in town Saturday afternoon and we tossed around the idea of taking all the kids out to lunch with said friend.  I told him, "You know what?  I was babysitting at 12.  Let's leave the Boy in charge."  And we did.  And - even better than "the old days" when I was babysitting at 12 - there was a phone in order to call or text us if the need arose.  (I mean, there was always a phone when I was babysitting but in the 90's, it was way harder to call the parent of a kid I was babysitting due to the lack of said parent having a cell.  You get the picture.)  So, we went out to lunch Saturday afternoon, left the Boy in charge, and everything actually went really great.  Really great.  I kinda love having older kiddos!

2) Lunch Saturday.  Mark's friend Ryan used to live in Memphis, worked with him for a bit before transferring to Chicago.  When visiting, he always wants to eat barbecue but had yet to try Germantown Commissary.  We went over there and WOW was the food better than the last time we went!  I now understand why it's routinely listed as top five for best BBQ in Memphis.  Also, we tried the pig sticks and, oh my goodness, you should come to Memphis, Tennessee, just to try these little morsels of Heaven.  They're DEEP FRIED sweet potato fries that are sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar and you will hear angels sing when you try them. 

3) My boys are playing tackle football for the first time this year and this means they need helmets.  Do you want to know how much youth football helmets cost?  Spoiler alert: you do not.  I about died in Dick's the other day, died of sticker shock.  And both my boys have long oval heads so helmets don't really fit them correctly.  Sigh.  We only bought one helmet Sunday and I'm honestly hoping their dad will buy the other helmet this weekend.  So pricy! 

4) It has been HOT here.  Correction: it has been HUMID here.  Temps in the 90's but air quality warnings all around because the heat indices are out of control.  Like, it'll be 95 degrees but feel like 115, that type of thing.  Seriously, too hot to do much of anything.  Our pool is currently 90 degrees which *I* love but everyone else wanted to put the water hose in to cool it off.  Whatever.

5) When the Girl Child went to Chicago last month, we gave her some spending money.  One of this child's best qualities is that she will readily spend her own money to make other people happy and that means she came back home with gifts for every other kid in the house.  For K2, it was a mermaid tail blanket. I  love it.  So cute!

6) I took the boys to the National Civil Rights Museum yesterday (more about that in a few days) and while we were there the girls did this . . .

A "little brushes" painting class at Pinot's Palette!  They loved it, of course, and I thought their paintings turned out SO cute.

7) I didn't realize 90 Day Fiance is back (or, rather, the Happily Ever After!)  Wahhhh!  Luckily, my DVR has been recording but I won't be able to catch up until the kids go back to school (JUST OVER A WEEK NOW!)  I've been catching up via the Previously forums though.  Ahhh, love me a good shitshow that's not my shitshow. 

8) Next week is the last week of summer before the kids start school.  First, how is that even possible?!?  This summer FLEW by.  Second, we will have Mark's mom in town for the week and then some friends at the end of the week.  It's going to be busy (and fun!) And, finally, all three boys have football all week long.  The Boy Child in the mornings and J and K1 in the evenings.  We're going to be football'd out.

9) I guess this is old news to some but apparently Coke Zero is being phased out and replaced by something called Coke Zero Sugar.  WHAT THE ACTUAL F-WORD?!?  Can Coke please learn to leave good things alone?  Please.  You would think they'd have learned their lesson back in 1985 with New Coke.  Jeez.
10) Pretty much.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Summer Reading List: Hannah, Donoghue, Hilderbrand

Three books this week!  That means the summer is dwindling down and the kids are tired of me and, therefore, leaving me alone.

Last month, I read Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah and loved it so much that I knew I had to order its companion, Fly Away.  I couldn't wait to get my hands on it!

I can't give much of a synopsis of Fly Away without giving away the ending of Firefly Lane but it picks up both where Lane left off and four years in the future.  I enjoyed catching up with the characters from Lane but also felt a little . . . somethin'.  Little somethin' like I wanted more.  Mark asked me at one point, "how do you like your book?" and I had to tell him "like it, buuuuut . . . " The thing is, it was WAY repetitive.  It was meant to be a stand alone novel as opposed to a companion to Firefly Lane.  Yet, it should've just been the companion.

I really enjoyed getting the backstory to Cloud/ Dorothy/ Tully's mom and THAT - to me - is what made the book worth reading.  The rest was just fodder, what you plod through to get to the most interesting part of the book.  I gave the novel three stars on Goodreads but, honestly, that rating was mostly because I was grateful for a chance to catch up with the characters.  If I hadn't read Firefly Lane first, I doubt I would've made it through Fly Away and would've chalked Kristin Hannah as a "meh" author.

Next up was Room by Emma Donoghue.

Room is written with five-year-old Jack as the narrator.  He was born in Room with his Ma and knows nothing of the outside world; everything he sees on TV is just that . . . TV or outer space. 

This book was written off the basis of a Jaycee Dugard type of story and it's impossible to write a synopsis without major spoilers.  The premise is actually really amazing: take a horrifying event (kidnap, rap, seclusion) but write about it in the voice of a five-year-old, a five-year-old who doesn't know he's being held captive in the only room he's ever known.  It makes the story - while still horrifying and awful to imagine - slightly more palatable because the details are washed over and simplistic.

I can't say I loved this book, not with the subject matter included, I will say that it was amazing.  Seriously, an amazing book.  My only real irritation is that something major happens in the middle of the book that splits the story into two parts.  And I felt like that "something major" was really implausible and far-fetched.  All in all, I found the book gripping and very much a "can't put it down" thriller.

After Room, I needed something lighter.  Something fluffier.  Something Elin Hilderbrand.  Therefore, it was on to The Blue Bistro.  When I finished The Beach Club a few weeks ago, I remembered there was a mention of Mack Peterson in The Blue Bistro so I immediately went to Thriftbooks and ordered Bistro.  So glad I did; it's such a great book.  Hilderbrand even calls it her favorite of her works and says that 99% of her fans claim it as their favorite.

The Blue Bistro tells the story of Adrienne Dealey, a woman in her 20's possessed with wanderlust and lacking the ability to settle down.  She ends up on Nantucket for the summer with a handwritten list of three rules: make money, don't lie about the past, make good decisions about men.  Even with little to no restaurant experience, she lands a job as the assistant manager of The Blue Bistro, an upscale beachfront dining experience.  There is mystery surrounding Fiona, head chef at the Blue Bistro, and Adrienne finds herself drawn to owner and manager Thatcher Smith, though things are complicated by his lifelong friendship with Fiona. 

So, I really enjoyed this book.  REALY enjoyed it.  It was a re-read for me and all but I seriously read the entire thing within 24 hours.  It's just so good and so easy to soak up.  But.


I didn't like Thatcher or Fiona.  Fiona is uptight and rude, standoffish, we occasionally have glimpses of her being softer, more human.  But, for the most part, she's just thoroughly unlikeable.  It's explained that she's "private" and she also has a health problem she doesn't want disclosed to the public.  But you can be private without being a bitch.  Then there's Thatcher.  Oh Thatcher.  I liked him even less than Fiona!  He's so thoroughly enmeshed with the his neighbor girl from South Bend, Indiana (that'd be Fiona), that he sold his share in the family business to follow her to Nantucket and invest in a restaurant.  He tells Adrienne that he hasn't had a relationship in twelve years and tries to attribute it to his loyalty to Fiona but, really, I wanted him to go on the Dr. Phil show so Dr. Phil could drawl, "does it really haf ta do with Feeowna, Thatcheer?  Or is it dooo to your own mama leavin' win you were such a young boy?

Those unlikeable characters aside, it's such a good book!  I loved the look into the restaurant industry and especially - oh, especially! - the descriptions of the food.  I want to make savory donuts.  And I want to eat seafood fondue at a four-top on the beach.  As with all Hilderbrand novels, this one is a keeper!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017


We have officially entered the sleepover stage of parenting (for us) and childhood (for the kids.)  My boys refer to this stage as "epic."  To me, though, it's something more like . . . interesting.

I grew up going to sleepovers.  In fact, I'm pretty sure in eighth and ninth grade, I spent more Friday nights at my friend Sarah's house than at my own.  We stayed up late, we watched Beavis and Butthead (not allowed at my house and we didn't have MTV anyway), and ate squeezy cheese straight from the can.  And, yeah, in my mind those days were way more "epic" than "interesting."

Being on the mom side of the sleepover thing is different though.  There is worry (when they're at someone else's house you just never know.)  The Girl was invited to a sleepover last December and I grilled her at length.  "Does she live with both her parents?  Any older brothers?"  Fortunately, the school we're at now gives a lot of opportunities for parents to connect and interact so we've gotten to know the parents of their school friends -- something that makes the sleepover thing slightly easier.  Sleepovers are also expensive (when you're hosting) and, honestly, a whole lot of fun.

My boys had a sleepover Wednesday night and then their friends stayed all day Thursday.  We had a total of six boys and it was loud and rowdy but you know what?  It really have me the opportunity to get to know their friends.  One boy told me he's coming over every Saturday to watch the Hogs with me.  That'll happen when they're in fourth grade: not sure I'll get that same kind of response when they're 14!  It's just really neat getting to know all their friends and their personalities.

One thing we have to do for sleepovers, though, is find a place for the girls to go (if it's a boy sleepover) and vice versa for a girl sleepover.  Cady was awesome enough to keep the girls at her house last week; I'm not sure how we'll work things as we get older.  But it's pretty necessary to keep them separated when we have two kids the same age and J and the Girl are in the same grade with K1 only a grade behind.  They all know each other's friends and having the boys around during a girl sleepover would be shrieks of "they won't get out of my room!"  And the girls during a boy sleepover would be much of the same.  Sigh.  For that reason, sleepovers at our house won't be happening a whole lot.

But they're still fun when they do.

And kinda epic. 

Monday, July 24, 2017

Memphis Monday: Pink Palace Museum

Every summer, the Pink Palace Family of Museums offers a free summer membership for the months of June, July, and August.  That's pretty awesome, right?  However, despite acquiring the membership every summer for the last, like, four years, I had only actually been to the museum for school field trips.  Not cool.  We decided to change that last Tuesday and head over to the Pink Palace to beat the heat with a little bit of learnin'!
Here are some basics:
Price varies based on what you want to do at the museum.  If you just want to see the exhibits, it's $9 for children and $12.75 for adults.  Adding in the Planetarium and/ or an IMAX show ups the price.
Military personnel and their families are free from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
Hours are 9-5 Monday through Saturday and 12-5 on Sunday.
The Pink Palace is located in midtown Memphis, on Central Avenue.
Now, let's get to it!
The first floor is dedicated to natural history which is something my boys completely and totally LOVED.
Looking at his bones

There was an area with three or four microscopes set up and my boys did not want to leave this area!  They loved it.

The girls, on the other hand, were torn between liking the skeletons and being slightly freaked out by them.  "That's a monkey?!?  Like a real monkey?  Really?"

There was a room containing tons of quartz and crystals and all kinds of other stones.  It was gorgeous and the kids were enthralled.  So, if you're a stepmom to a kiddo then you know sometimes you get cast into the "evil" role just by breathing and your bonus kiddo may not want to do something just because it was your idea?  That's kind of how things were going with the Girl that morning until she stepped into this room.  She LOVES things like this and it was almost impossible to pull her out of the place.  "I want this one for my room!  No, this one!" 

There are SO MANY dinosaurs - moving dinosaurs at that! - at the Pink Palace.  The kids enjoyed them but I think the peak age for boys would be more around five or six.  They thought they were cool but we've moved past dinosaurs. 

The kids love the natural history.  They love it, I think it's a kid thing.  Bones and microscopes and things that were buried beneath the Earth . . . they love it.  Mom, though?  I love the history history part of a museum.  When we moved upstairs to the cultural history part of the museum, that was totally my cup of tea.

We toured through exhibits dedicated to Memphis from 1800-1900. 

There's an exhibit about slavery that included a "notice of sale of land and negroes."  One of my boys sort of snickered at he word "negroes" (they live in a world where we know better than to use the n-word and have yet to really dive into this part of history, slavery to civil rights.)  I made him read the full notice -- that included 25 "negroes" being auctioned off along with land, mules, and farming utensils.  It was an "aha" moment for him.  A sad "aha" moment, where he realized that once upon a time, right here where he now lives, men were selling other men like they were farm equipment or livestock.

There is a pretty good sized Civil War exhibit. Keep in mind that Tennessee was a part of the Confederacy and Memphis was captured by the Union so while it's historical, there's much  more about the Confederacy -- several versions of the Confederate flag, a whole wall of Confederate money.  The favorite part for all the kids, though, was a selection of Confederate era tools and weapons that they could actually touch!

My favorite part of museums like these are old things.  Just stuff that people had back in those days.  It's so neat to look at.  K2 takes after her Mama because she could've stared at the toy exhibit for days.  And rather than saying something about being glad she has Barbies now days, she asked if she could play with those toys!  Ha!  The girl loves her toys.

And I love this . . . furniture, décor, fashion.  Check out that tiger rug on the floor!

The Pink Palace is currently undergoing renovations so a lot of the exhibits I wanted to see (Piggly Wiggly, Memphis 1900-1960, Vietnam Memorial, Changing Roles of Women) were closed when we were there.  They'll re-open next summer with the new and improved Pink Palace and, yes, we will be back to see them!  I was a little disappointed we missed out on those but the kids weren't because . . .

We found an entire room dedicated to dinosaurs!

Almost all of the dinosaurs moved and roared so that was pretty fun.  And there were other interactive things -- like a fossil making station:

Again, I think we're just a tiny bit past the stage of dinosaurs but that didn't stop all the kids from enjoying it.  In fact, K2 started at the same T-Rex practically the entire time we were there!

In addition to the trip we took last Tuesday, we've been a handful of other times for school field trips.  I absolutely recommend the Planetarium.  It's so neat and I have a bunch of third graders to back me up on that.  ;)  I did get a tiny bit of motion sickness and had to close my eyes a bit but that's just Brandi being Brandi.  I've also seen Walking with Dinosaurs at the IMAX and it was awesome!  J and the Girl Child saw "some movie about fish" for their fourth grade field trip and thought it was "lame" but still loved the IMAX experience.  It's such a cool way to watch a movie, no?

All in all, we definitely recommend the Pink Palace -- especially if you're a history buff and most especially if you live in Memphis.  Get yourself that free summer membership and check it out!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Thursday Things

1) Mark took a sick day on Monday -- he's been battling a summer cold for over a week now -- and, while he slept in, he is still the freakin' Energizer Bunny and would.not.sit.still.  I was like, "hello!  Sick day!  Rest!"  Yet he used the time to get all sorts of projects done.  One of the biggest was in the boys' room.  Ya see, when we were moving, Anthony took down a bunk bed all by himself.  Then once he brought it to the new house, here, he had no idea how to put it back together.  He and Russell tried but it was upside down and backwards and all kinds of boogered up.  So for the past year plus, we've just had this bunk bed frame in their room that they've been hanging laundry on our whatever.  All three of my guys finally took it down Monday and moved the futon into that part of the room.  It looks so much better now!

2) I love this song:

3) The kids start school in just two and a half weeks!  Where did the summer even go?!?  We have lots planned for next week: back to school shopping, a painting class, a visit to the Civil Rights Museum.  The week after we have family and friends in town.  Then.  Back to school!  I will miss them; I love our summers.  But they do drive me crazy so there's a part of me ready for them to go back.

4) Mark recently got me hooked on playing Boggle.  Anyone else play?  I'm Bdubs0519.  Look me up and I'll kick your ass.  Or something like that.  ;)

5) I was walking through Kroger the other day, minding my own business, when they jumped out at me.  Coconut almond Hershey Kisses.  Oh yes, oh come to Mama.  And, yes, they are just as good as you'd imagine!

6) Other things I can't stop eating . . . pistachios!  Mark picked up a big bag at Sam's over the weekend and . . . can't stop/ won't stop.  They're so good!

7) Cady and I had a girl's night Tuesday, Los Cabos for margaritas then back to my house for night swimming.  It was probably our last girl's night of the summer.  Before long, our schedules are going to be determined by football and soccer and school activities and lessons.  Ahhhhh.  I'm not ready!  I treasure the lazy days of summer!

8) Speaking of football . . . the boys had their first tackle clinic Tuesday night.  They are so ready for the season to start!  It's crazy to think that J just has two years until he'll be able to play for the school.  In fact, I think he can play on the school basketball team next year.  I can't believe he's so close to middle school!  It doesn't feel like he's old enough to be playing tackle football at all and we're so close to the cusp of playing school ball.

9) I have a post coming soon about beauty products I've recently found and fell in love with.  One of those is the Tarte tinted moisturizer.  I LOVE this stuff but don't love the idea of paying full price for it.  Well, right now you can get 25% off at Tarte using the code PARTY.  So if you're also in love with any of their makeup, check it out!  (Shipping is still $6 which . . . ick.  But even with tax and shipping, it still came out cheaper than Sephora for me.)

10) Seriously though.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Summer Reading List: Hilderbrand and Hilderbrand

So, yeah, we all know I love Elin Hilderbrand.  And today I have two re-reads!  Books I re-read last week but that I never reviewed when I first read them.

Summer People is one of my very favorites and has been since I first read it several years ago.  It tells us the story of the Newton family -- mother Beth and 17-year-old twins Garrett and Winnie.  Their husband and father - Arch -  was killed in a plane crash in they spring and they head to Nantucket for the summer to heal.  Along with them is Marcus Tyler, the son of Arch Newton's last client.  Arch invited Marcus along for the summer before his untimely death and Beth honors the invitation.  The summer is full of anger, new loves, and old loves.  Beth's mantra is "every man, woman, and child is allowed one secret" and during the fateful summer, her children discover hers. 

Like I said, this is one of my very favorite Hilderbrand books.  The characters are so real and raw in their grief.  Even Marcus is carrying the grief and shame of his mother's crimes as well as the loss of Arch.  It's so . . . it's real and it's raw.  There were times I hated Garrett and Winnie (they do something to Beth when they find out her secret that I thought unforgivable.)  There were times I wasn't the biggest fan of Beth.  Marcus is the most likeable character but also has his flaws.  This is, in my opinion, a five star book.  Read it!

*** Also, I re-read this as a part of High Tide, a compilation that included The Beach Club.  The re-read consisted of an additional chapter in the lives of the Newton family and Marcus Tyler, several years after their fateful summer in Nantucket.  I loved it!  It was so nice to catch up with Winnie, Marcus, and the crew.

I went from reading one of my favorite Hilderbrand novels . . . to one of my least favorite.  Womp womp.  It was still enjoyable, though, which is why I chose to re-read it.  I told you I love me some Hilderbrand.

The Matchmaker is the story of Dabney Kimball Beech, a woman with over forty couples who credit her as their matchmaker.  She sees an aura around couples - pink and rosy if they're meant to be and green and murky if things aren't so good.  The love of her own life, Clendenin Hughes, left years before taking Dabney's heart with him.  In The Matchmaker, Clen has returned to Nantucket and Dabney -- now married to professor John "Box" Beech is confused and finds herself torn between two men.

The reason I feel meh-ish about this book is because Hilderbrand deploys the Emily Giffin trick of making infidelity seem not as bad because the person being cheated on has some kind of character flaw.  In this case, Dabney begins an affair with Clen (that's not a spoiler as it happens very early in the book) and it's excused away because Box is distant, because they're never intimate, you get the picture.  Infidelity happens a lot in Hilderbrand novels but it's just so . . . icky . . . when it's excused because the offended partner had some sort of character flaw.  I hate that in a book. 

The book is easy to read.  It's hard to put down.  But when it was over I still felt a sense of, "you can do better than that!"  You know?  I feel like Hilderbrand is better than this novel.  She was still herself in so many details: you feel like you know the characters, really KNOW them, they are flawed, imperfect people, and there are characters you really connect with.  But . . . it just needed more.  It needed more Elin Hilderbrand and less Emily Giffin-isms.  It needed more Dabney as someone in the middle of saint and sinner.  I don't know.  I liked it: it was a Hilderbrand book!  But I didn't love it.  Three stars. 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017


We had a completely, totally laid back weekend.  And it was glorious.
I let the three older kids invite a friend to come over Friday afternoon.  None of K1's squad could make it but we got a confirmation from J's and the Girl's friends'.  Friday afternoon, J's friend came over. I asked them to pose for a pic and, well, this happened . . .

Ahhhhh, boys!!!

Unfortch, the Girl's friend never showed.  But we still had a lot of fun . . . and by "a lot of fun" I mean, ya do whatcha gotta do and we did a whole lot of improvising!  Seriously, I thought we'd have 7-8 kids and we ended up having a total of FIVE. 'Twas what it was.

K1 had a sleepover with a friend Thursday night so this was my little guy around 7:00 Friday night:

OUT.  He was out!
Mark and I were both in a bit of a funk Friday night . . . don't want to go out, don't want to cook . . . but we'd had sandwiches for dinner twice during the week.  Therefore we decided to ryy Bite Squad for the first time.
One word: AWESOME!
For just $1.99 we had El Toro Loco delivered to us without having to deal with taking four kids out to eat and without having to spend all the dollars on margaritas.  WIN!  We'll def be using Bite Squad again.
We had a storm roll through so that was the perfect time for . . . BOARD GAMES!

We played one game of Beat the Parents before the kids declared that I am, in fact, the trivia master and cried "uncle" and declared me their QUEEN and it all went down in history (or something like that . . .but not like that . . . )
Saturday morning was a BIG day. 
Earlier in the week, I signed the boys up to play tackle football (down, Mama, DOWN.  THEY.WILL.BE.OKAY.) Then I looked at everything they need play football and had a mini heart attack.  How am I gonna afford all this?  Luckily - OH SO LUCKILY - their football league has an equipment exchange for people to try to get rid of things and for people whose kids are new to the league and need all the things.  I went in to the exchange prepared to spend around $200. And I spent . . . nothing.  Nada.  ZERO.  Everything was free.  Each boy got a set of pads, cleats, two pair practice pants, two jerseys, two pair of shorts, socks, a football, and, well, it was awesome.
If you have boys then YOU KNOW.
In their minds, the remainder of the weekend was related to all things FOOTBALL.

As soon as we walked through the door Saturday morning, I told Mark, "you're gonna be running drills all weekend long . . " 
ALL the boys wanted to do.
We ended up keeping the Aviator Saturday night which K2 LOVED.  She'd been missing her bestie!

Sunday began with . . . well, with lots of housework.  Then lots of football.  I like to call this pic, "wtf, mom?  Should've saved your money - and sanity - and not signed us up for football!"

Y'all.  As of right now my boys only have each other to practice football with and it might as well be a knock down drag out WWE whaterionship.  ConSTANTfight.  Y'all, it's bad.  It is bad.  Bad.

The boys chilled as the evening wore down and did some football drills in the pool ( like, do they realize how fortunate they are?!?)


Thennnnnn. . .
Russell came over and it was all the DAD-ness in the pool.  Know what I mean?  Like, it's written in your "Dad Handbook" that you absolutely MUST throw a child around the pool.  MUST.

It was just a really fun evening in the pool  Full of me trying to get a good pic of all four kids. HashtagNOTHAPPENING.

Then this happened . . .
The Girl is super happy because she just pushed Russell and K1 into the pool . . .

Then  . . . Mark pushed HER into the pool.  Too funny!

We ended the evening with brats on the grill and a little night swimming.  Just a perfectly chill weekend, something we definitely needed.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Memphis Monday: The Memphis Zoo

Every other month or so, I'll get an email from someone telling me they're coming to Memphis and "what the heck should we do?!?"  That - combined with the fact that I really do love my adopted hometown - inspired me to start a new series on my blog: Memphis Monday.  Every Monday I will (hopefully) highlight another place around town.  I'm going to start with one of our very favorites: The Memphis Zoo!

Our zoo is routinely ranked among the best in the nation and for good reason.  It's pretty awesome!  There are so many animals and lots of other things to do as well.


They are open 9-5 from March though October; 9-4 the remainder of the year
Adult tickets are $15, children are $10 and parking is $5
A family membership - something we purchase every year - is $100 and includes admission for our family, parking, and special discounts.  If you're a member of your local zoo, you probably get discounted admission to Memphis.

Why we love it:

- Pandas.  We are one of only five zoos in the country to host pandas and they're my one MUST SEE every single time we go to the zoo.  I love the pandas!  Their names are LeLe and YaYa and they're part of the China exhibit.  You'll also find monkeys, otters, and various kinds of birds in the exhibit.  There's also a lot of history and the kids think no visit is complete without climbing on the statues.


- Stingray Bay.  Okay, we only tried this for the first time last week.  WHAT WERE WE WAITING ON?!?  It's such a cool little exhibit.  It's $2 if you're a member, $3 if you're not and well worth it.  There is a huge tank full of stingrays and they are so interactive!  I'm talking they were giving us high fives and everything.  The zookeeper told us they are super social creatures and that was obvious.  The kids loved being able to run their hands over then and squealed every time one popped up for a high five.

- Interaction.  There is a TON of interaction at the zoo!  The kids have been able to pet a huge snake.  We've seen the bird show -- I'm not a fan of birds and even I can admit it was pretty fun.  We've watched the hippos being fed and seen the sea lion show (my personal favorite!)  Various keeper chats are held throughout the day and the zookeepers are all informative and friendly, patient with the endless stream of questions that kids have!  

I took this picture of the sea lion show the summer of 2010 and I HAD to include this next picture, taken the same day, cause look at those tiny boys!

There are also opportunities for interaction that require a little bit of money.  ;)  Last week, we rode camels for the first time ($5 per rider) and you can also feed giraffes for $4. (The giraffes were closed when we were there last Wednesday because . . . a baby giraffe had just been born that day.  Now we can't wait to go back to see the baby giraffe.)

- Wading Pool and Fountains.  It is hot and humid in Memphis in the summertime and the zoo has two different ways to cool off.  The entrance has a wading pool and there are also fountains over by Teton Trek (where you'll find grizzlies and wolves.)  My kids are split as to which they prefer.  But both are GREAT ways to cool off!  If you take kids to the zoo, make sure they wear a bathing suit under their clothes.

This is the fountain at Teton Trek.  They recently redid the wading pool at the entrance and apparently I don't have a current picture of it!  This post may be updated with a pic the next time we go!

- The Monkeys.  So, how cliché right?  The monkeys are fun at every zoo!  You have to stop inside Cat House Café, though, because the monkeys will come right up to the windows and interact with you.  And they love selfies!

Okay, those are just a few reasons we absolutely love our zoo.  It's beautiful grounds and - mostly - well shaded.  There are plenty of things for kids to do.  There's a playground, petting zoo, and two different areas with instruments.

The best time of the year to go is early fall, I love going in October.  The weather has chilled out a bit and they have Halloween decorations out.  I have to add that you should avoid the zoo during the month of May.  That's field trip time and everywhere you turn you'll find a kindergarten class.  The price can be a little steep if you're just doing a one day visit (and you need to keep in mind that so many things cost extra - the camel rides, Stingray Bay, carousel, face painting, etc) but it really is a great zoo and you can easily spend an entire day there.

It's definitely one of our favorite places in Memphis!

The HUGE tank that's part of the newest exhibit - The Zambezi River Hippo Camp - we got to see Winnie, the baby hippo, when we were there last Wednesday!