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!

Friday, July 28, 2017

Foodie Friday: Dyer's Burgers


I'm pretty sure that if I ever get to pick my last meal it'll be a cheeseburger and fries.  I'm a burger person, always have been, and I LOVE me a good, juicy, greasy cheeseburger!  I've heard about Dyer's since I first moved to Memphis; it's supposed to be one of the best burgers.  It's usually Huey's, Dyer's, and Kooky Canuck competing for that title.  Dyer's is rumored to use grease - strained daily - that's over a century old.  I had to check it out for myself so the boys and I headed over there last Wednesday after touring the National Civil Rights Museum.
 
First things first, the place is TEENY!  It's much smaller than I was expecting but I loved the old fashioned soda fountain feel to it.  We were instructed to "take a seat wherever" and made our way to a booth.  Our waiter promptly brought menus and let us know he'd be back "in a minute."  It took him a while - which was only really an issue at all because we were THIRSTY from our walk!  But he was very nice and courteous and everything after that initial menu throw-down was prompt and our food was even ordered super quick.  Like super quick.
 
My boys are punks so neither ordered a burger.  I went with the single with cheese combo (burger, fries, and a drink for $7.50!)  The burger was on the small side and when I first unwrapped it, I thought it was cold.  Turns out, they just don't toast the buns.  The patty and cheese were both warm, pretty much the perfect temperature.  All Dyer's burgers are served with mustard, pickle, onion, and a generous shake of pepper.  I only added ketchup to mine.
 

The verdict: it was good, particularly for the price.  I thought they could've chilled with the pepper a bit, though, and I happen to really LIKE pepper!  It reminded me somewhat of the East Texas burger joint, Texas Burger.  Texas Burger is fast food so the Dyer's burgers were better but had the same overly peppered flavor.  One thing I liked best about the burger is that it was small enough not to be overpowering.  You know?  I didn't have to cut it in half just to pick it up and I was able to finish the entire thing.  However.  Huey's makes a MUCH better burger.  Much.  And I'll even rate Kooky Canuck above Dyer's.  Sorry Dyer's!  :/  The fries were great, though, and the sweet tea was top notch.

My boys both went with chicken.  J ordered the chicken tender sandwich (with Ranch instead of mustard) and that thing was HUGE.  Growing boy, though, he ate the whole thing and even at all his fries.


K1 is - literally - my wingman.  Ha!  The kid loves him some wings so as soon as he saw them on the menu, his mind was made up.  He loved them but, then, this kid really hasn't met a wing he hasn't liked.  He did say he didn't think the hot was hot enough but again . . . this kid.  He's a hot sauce fiend. 
 

The best thing about Dyer's?  THE PRICE!  All three of us ate for $30.  That's unheard of for a downtown Memphis restaurant.  (Also, it was early afternoon so I wasn't throwing back any Ghost River or anything.)

Overall, I'm pretty meh about Dyer's.  I think the expectation was so much greater than what I actually had.  I would eat there again, though, and I did think the service was pretty spectacular.

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.

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

Epic.

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, d├ęcor, 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

ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOOOOTBALL?

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.
 
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 . . " 
 
#accurate
 
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.