Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Changed Criteria

Totally unrelated picture of my boys at the zoo,
but I think it's pretty cool that the gorilla is made completely out of recycled tires.


With five little boys at home,
some days I feel like things are pretty smooth sailing.
Today was not one of those days.

The kids are out of school all week for Thanksgiving, so I scheduled check-ups for Talmage and Wesley with the pediatrician for this morning. The mother of all colds descended upon our household a week ago, so we've been coughing and sniffling up a storm and my kids' faces have constantly been a very goopy sight to behold.
So I didn't feel like I could ask anyone to watch any of the kids while I took the oldest two,
not to mention the fact that a lot of my friends are out of town for Thanksgiving.

The thought of five little ones, plus me and the doctor, crammed into one tiny exam room wasn't exactly thrilling, but I put a brave face on and hoped for the best.

And then I realized.

I'll spare you the details of why, but our minivan was parked in a parking lot a couple of miles from our house.
I didn't have a car and my chances of getting a ride were slim to none
(how many people do you know with SIX extra seats and carseats in their car??).
Undeterred, I decided we would ride bikes to the pediatrician's office.
It's only about 2 miles away and there are sidewalks almost the entire way, so it would be fine.

Except that I need to fix a part of my bike and the baby seat doesn't fit on Sam's bike.
So I decided I would walk, pulling Lincoln, Maxwell, and Benson in the wagon, and Talmage and Wesley would ride their bikes.
It's only a couple of miles--no big deal, right?

We were cutting it close on time, so I quickly threw my hair into a ponytail, jammed kids into coats and hats, pumped up a bike tire, and set off at somewhat of a jog (as much of a jog as I could manage while pulling a heavily loaded wagon behind me), trying to keep up with the boys on their bikes.
About fifty yards into our journey I realized that I really should have brought a water bottle.
With my hacking cough and the other grossness of a bad cold,
I was struggling to breathe.
But I definitely wasn't turning back, so onward we went, coughing and wheezing all the way.

As we went along an incredibly busy road with cars zooming past us close enough to touch (though we were on the sidewalk),
I was pretty optimistic (ha!), thinking things like,
"There is NO WAY I can make it all the way there pulling these kids while hacking up a storm."
"We are going to be so late."
"I hope no one we know drives past."
(This is Memphis, ya know, and while there is plenty of foot traffic it is generally more the just-out-of-jail type than the mom-with-5-kids type, so I was quite a spectacle...)
"What if that guy right there suddenly just shoots us all?"
"I didn't realize how many hills this road had!!!"
"I am going to die if I don't get a drink RIGHT NOW."
(Spoiler: I didn't die.)

About 30 minutes into our journey we were still a couple of blocks away and it was time for us to be at the doctor.
I stopped the kids and called the pediatrician.
"Good morning! My kids have an appointment and we had some car trouble. I'm almost there, but I'm going to be 10-15 minutes late..."
(No car=car trouble, right?)
"Okay, let me just check and make sure that's okay," the receptionist told me.

"Okay??? Okay?? PLEASE don't turn me away after all this!" I thought with desperation.
Thankfully she came back on the line and said it would be fine and we made it the last few blocks to the pediatrician.

As I stood in line to check in my body began shaking, and I started to feel really faint and nauseous.
"I'm going to throw up!" I thought with horror.
I imagined myself dashing out the door and vomiting in the bushes and then forced the feeling away as I tried to breathe deeply and calmly.
Finally I got everyone checked in (boys with amazing helmet and hat hair)
and sat down to catch my breath and continue working on not throwing up.

The nurse called us back, we stuffed everyone into the exam room, they were all relatively calm (with the exception of a screaming fit when Maxwell fell and hit his chin on the windowsill), I got a drink, and we finally made it home.

As I walked through the door, I remembered three Hawaiian sisters I knew in college.
They lived one floor below me and they became pretty good friends.
One day I was walking up to campus in a snowstorm and they saw me and pulled over to offer me a ride.
I explained to them that I liked to walk in snowstorms because it felt good to tell myself,
"I'm going to get there, and I'm going to get there HAPPY!"

Today when I got home I just thought to myself,
"Well, nobody died and nobody cried. Success."

My criteria for success has DEFINITELY changed.
But maybe not that much.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Birthday Trauma


We had never thrown a birthday party for our kids with their friends before,
and they had never asked for one either.
This year Sam and I talked it over and decided we would plan to do one for each of them when they turn 4, 8, 12, and 16. Since Talmage missed the 8-year-old party last year, we decided to do a party for him this year. I got pretty excited about it, having never done it before, and we decided on a wilderness survival theme.

For one of the party activities, I wanted the kids to make slingshots out of sticks and elastic,
so on Talmage's birthday (a few days before his party), I enlisted the help of the boys to go hunting for forked sticks.
We headed to the park pictured above with the hope that there would be branches on the ground from the many trees that would work for what we had in mind.
The weather was perfect, and I sat happily in the front seat of the car watching the kids while I nursed Benson.
Maxwell wandered along behind Talmage and I thrilled in the peace of the moment.

Suddenly I heard a loud SCREAM and I saw Talmage sprinting through the trees.
I'm pretty immune to screams from my kids by this point, so I honestly didn't think much of it at first and continued nursing Benson for a few seconds.
But he repeatedly screamed as he ran and then shouted, "THEY'RE ALL OVER ME!!!"
I quickly plopped Benson onto the front seat of the car and met Talmage a few steps away as he was frantically slapping his head and arms.
"What's all over you???" I asked.
"I DON'T KNOW!" he replied. I looked at his trembling hands and noticed torn skin with what appeared to be maggots of some kind embedded in them. Horrified, I wondered for a split second what kind of carnivorous maggots could be attacking my son, and then I took in his entire appearance and saw not maggots but WASPS covering his body.

I froze for a moment, wondering what I could possibly do that wouldn't harm him further or hurt anyone else. My heart was racing as I said, "Bud, I'm going to rip your shirt off your head and then I need you to run into the car, okay?"
There were at least a dozen wasps all over his shirt and it looked like they were oddly paralyzed.
I didn't have time to take it in or wonder what was going on, though, so on the count of 3 I ripped his shirt off, threw it on the ground a distance away, and herded everyone into the car.
We drove across the parking lot, away from the wasps, where I could finally assess the damage.

Maxwell had been stung once on the side of the head, but everyone else was okay besides Talmage.
What I had initially thought were maggots were actually stingers and pieces of smashed wasps that must have resulted from the slapping as he felt the initial pain and before he realized what was going on.
He had been stung all over one hand, the other arm, and the head, and his entire body was shaking violently.
I gently removed stingers before the 10-minute drive to home.
Talmage was gasping in the back seat and I kept telling him, "It's okay to cry, bud, it's okay!" because he wasn't doing anything but gasping for air.
The pain just continued to escalate as we drove home and I pulled into the garage.
I yanked the car into park and ran into the house and began running bath water for Talmage.
His head was hurting so much and upon closer examination there was another stinger stuck in his scalp. I removed it as well, noticing that the back of his head was red and swollen all the way around to his ear and down his neck.
One hand remained swollen about twice as large as normal through the following day.
In all he received probably about 12-15 stings (It was difficult to tell how many there were, especially in his hair).
Throughout the evening the pain would go through a cycle where it would decrease and then suddenly crescendo for several minutes. He would pace around the house until it eased back off.
Needless to say it took a couple of hours before he felt up to having his birthday dinner and presents.

The whole thing was really terrifying for him and for me.
I woke up in the night, still thinking about how awful the situation was and imagining all the things that could have happened, and it occurred to me that I was so focused on the bad that had happened that I was neglecting to recognize and be grateful for the little miracles that took place.

Like how only our oldest boy was attacked (who could probably handle it best) and Maxwell, who was right next to him, was only stung once. Talmage later told me that he was just walking along when he attacked; he hadn't moved any sticks or rocks, so they really could have attacked anyone.
Or how Benson didn't fall out of the car despite the way I precariously placed him on the front seat in my frantic response, although he typically rolls all over the place when I lay him down.
Or the way the wasps that were covering Talmage's shirt seemed paralyzed and he didn't receive any stings on his face.
Or how he didn't receive any additional stings when I removed his shirt and the wasps remained frozen somehow to the shirt while I got everyone in the car.

Often when scary situations happen with my kids I am stuck thinking about what could have happened.
But when I focus on what actually did happen and I acknowledge God's loving care, my heart is filled with gratitude and faith that drives away anxiety and fear.
I'm so grateful our boy was okay and that Heavenly Father was watching out for our family that afternoon.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Pumpkin Patch

Talmage's birthday came during the week-long Fall Break from school the kids got.
So, that morning, we headed to a darling pumpkin patch with some friends.
They had a fun wooden ark (yes, this is REALLY the Bible Belt)
and lots of other playthings for the kids.
The weather was perfect and even Benson's diaper blow-out couldn't ruin it.

Good thing we had such a great morning,
because a majorly TRAUMATIZING event happened that afternoon that put quite a damper on the birthday boy's day. That story is up next!

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Happy Birthday, Lincoln!

Our sweet, happy Lincoln is FIVE!
After many elaborate cake suggestions, we finally came to agreement with a chocolate bundt cake covered in bugs.
He wanted thai curry, hot dogs, banana muffins, scrambled eggs, and watermelon for his birthday dinner,
so we settled on having the scrambled eggs earlier in the day and made everything else for a birthday feast.
When he likes a food, he can out-eat Sam.

All he wanted was a knight costume just like Wesley's and a beyblade,
but Wesley's knight costume isn't sold anymore and I was struggling to find one that had all the elements he wanted.
Finally I discovered that the closest thing was at...the dollar store of all places!
So the boy was happy as a clam with a tiny bit of money spent.
Good things all around!

After opening his presents, a duel broke out in the backyard.
Naturally.


As I type this, my arm rests on sticky labels that have been plastered on the desk,
spelling out, "Mom is wun uv the besdist" (Mom is one of the bestest).
Our sweet Lincoln writes me messages such as this just about every day.
He loves with his whole soul,
gives hugs that nearly knock me over as he launches himself onto me and lifts his feet off the ground,
and has such a sweet heart in the midst of his incredible energy.
He loves so fiercely that we tend to cringe when we see him coming to express affection,
but we appreciate it all the same.

His endless energy and enthusiasm results in him being rather accident prone
(you know...fractured cheek bone, multiple black eyes, back of the head split open, stitches down the bridge of his nose)
and he is constantly hurting people and damaging things and then is so extremely remorseful about what happened that he just about breaks our hearts.
He is very sensitive and we try very hard to be extremely gentle in our interactions because he can be very hard on himself.

He is doing great learning to read and can read most of the words in most picture books.

He loves learning and using big words
(like today he said, "I will never eradicate Benson!").
He also has a great memory.
He is excited to start Kindergarten and misses his brothers fiercely as they go to school each day.

He follows me around trying to serve and help all through the day.
Like if I comment that Benson needs a diaper change he will dash off and reappear moments later holding a diaper and wipes.
Or if I say I'm going to make pasta for lunch, I will walk into the kitchen to find a pan on the stove, a box of pasta on the counter, and bowls and forks sitting out.

We all love the way Lincoln loves with all his heart
and how his energy and enthusiasm add so much to the dynamic in our family.
Oh, how we adore our Lincoln!!

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Be Back Soon


We've so enjoyed the first day of General Conference together as a family!
I am continually amazed by how much the Church is changing.
I'm only 29 years old and I already feel like the organizations of the Church I knew as a teenager seem like a distant memory because things have changed so much.
It is so amazing to see how continuing revelation works to help the Church progress!

On that note, tonight our prophet, President Russell M. Nelson, invited us to participate in a 10-day fast from social media.
So I will be stepping away from this blog for the next little while.

Be back soon!

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Jane Austen or Dr. Seuss


I always get so sentimental when Fall begins.
This year I'm particularly nostalgic because on top of the usual memories of dating/falling in love that Fall brings,
we're a few months away from our 10th anniversary
and I'm turning 30 in less than a year.
So I've been given to even more reflection than usual (and that's saying something!).

In the early days of our relationship in dating and marriage,
we wrote many long, gushing e-mails to one another while we went about our duties on our college campus.
Ten years ago today, for example, just as we were falling in love:

From: Kaitlyn
To: Samuel
9/26/08
Subject: Quintessence of Your Nature

To Samuel the Magnificent:
I came across this quote and decided it epitomizes your essence, so naturally I had to show you:
"'That best portion of a good man's life [is] his . . . kindness,' said Mr. William Wordsworth ('Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey' [1798], lines 33–35). There are lots of limitations in all of us that we hope our sweethearts will overlook. I suppose no one is as handsome or as beautiful as he or she wishes, or as brilliant in school or as witty in speech or as wealthy as we would like, but in a world of varied talents and fortunes that we can't always command, I think that makes even more attractive the qualities we can command--such qualities as thoughtfulness, patience, a kind word, and true delight in the accomplishment of another. These cost us nothing, and they can mean everything to the one who receives them."     -Jeffrey R. Holland
Do you recognize the first line? :) You, however, are handsome (and beautiful, in a very manly kind of way...), brilliant in school, witty in speech, and...hmm...I guess I don't know (or really care, frankly) about wealthy! You have a wealth of...um...amazingness! The more important qualities listed above are abundant within your character, and I thank you for that! Your kindness is a continual shining example to me. Actually, all of your actions are so exemplary that I am continually 'awed and amazed,' to use the phrase of my mom. I continually look forward with excitement to be a partaker of your presence and essence. Thank you for all you do! I hope your day is absolutely exquisite!
Love,
Kaitlyn

From: Samuel
To: Kaitlyn
9/26/08
Subject: Re: Quintessence of Your Nature

To Kaitlyn the Pure:
Thanks for the wonderful quote! Your compliments make me want to live up to them, so thank you. I have learned that it takes more virtue to compliment than to be complimented. Sometimes we are tempted to impress but the people of real virtue are those that are impressed and learn from others rather than trying to impress others. You are definitely that kind of person - that compliments, that is impressed and learns from others, rather than seeking compliments and to impress, and you take "true delight in the accomplishments of another," like Elder Holland said in the quote. 
And for the record, I am a millionaire. Everyone must know this, and you most importantly. I thought the word motif you used in your last email was really impressive and poetic - with the -sence suffix (quintessence, presence, essence). Perhaps sometime I will tell you about the miracle of cellular senescence and how it prevents the formation of cancer in our bodies.
I'm grateful, so very grateful, for our relationship. I wish I could explain to you how peaceful it makes me feel. Everything about you exudes peace, happiness, sweetness, and incredible awesomeness, modesty, appropriate restraint, sweet boldness, patience, humility, and much, much more! I hope to have the pleasure of doing something with you this evening! 
Love,
Sam 


We laugh fondly as we look back on these e-mails...
(If you think these are gushy, just know that I chose some of the most mild ones.)
I have them compiled in a very large binder along with dozens of creative notes.
Just before we were married, one of my aunts remarked about our relationship, "I feel like I'm in a Jane Austen movie!"
And it's funny, because while we occasionally still have a cute note or an eloquent e-mail to add to our repertoire,
our life is currently more Dr. Seuss than Jane Austen.
But that's totally okay.
Because we have grown ever closer even as our lives have been filled to the bursting with other responsibilities.
Parenting together, as crazy as it is, has been such a unifying process.
The ups and downs and busyness of schooling and career progress have brought us closer together as we have turned to one another for counsel and strength.
The all-encompassing demands on our time right now help us cherish all the more the moments we get to focus on each other 100 percent.

Every life and every relationship has different seasons,
but our love has grown ever stronger through the changes.

So while our love is currently characterized more through kisses stolen in the middle of dish duty with children underfoot than it is by rapturous writings,
we are steadily growing closer together.

And now I'll end these sappy writings
and continue to re-live my memories to myself.
Just like I do every Fall.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Happy Fall, Y'all!

This weekend we welcomed FALL with caramel apples, pumpkin chocolate chip pancakes, about a 20 degree drop in weather, and lots and lots of RAIN.
The thunder is rumbling as I type and the pumpkins were out in the grocery store and that distinct feeling of anticipation is in the air.

It's beautiful and we are so, so happy about FALL.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Happy as a Clam

I haven't posted much about Benson lately.
He is such a sweet, happy baby.
He is starting to get pretty bored with sitting and doing nothing, though...he plants his feet and straightens his legs when he's sitting on my lap so I will stand him up and he greatly prefers it when I walk around the house with him.
Today he was a bit fussy so we went on a walk in the brutally hot weather and he was happy as a clam.
He is the most fascinated by his brothers and they totally capture his attention when they are in the room.
He loves Maxwell just as much as Maxwell loves him despite face squishes (hilarious to watch a baby squish another baby's face!), head mashes (when Maxwell cuddles with a great deal of pressure), and the way Maxwell likes to completely sit/lay on Benson. The two of them are going to be great friends.
He sleeps pretty well at night, although he still likes to eat 1-2 times per night for about 5 minutes.
I haven't done much with feeding him solids, but he has tried applesauce, mango, a smoothie (he couldn't get enough), a lime (hilarious full-body shudders!), and a tomato and he has loved it all.
He is quite chubby but really just proportionately big; he is growing out of his 9 month size clothing already, which is so strange--he's wearing clothes his brothers learned to walk in!
He is constantly clasping his hands together like in the picture below.
He is extremely ticklish but hates being tickled.
He spits up like crazy.
He is anxious to MOVE and is already starting to scoot, although without clear purpose in mind.
He's the perfect addition to this loud, busy family and we couldn't love him more.
It's been such a delightful (almost) 5 months.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Mindfulness


Lately I've been working on mindful eating with myself and the kids.
When we eat, we often discuss the sources of the food we are eating.
We'll talk about bees and all the work they do to produce honey
or we'll look up peanut or oat plants and learn more about them.
We talk about how much of the world's cocoa bean harvest comes from Africa and how many cocoa bean farmers have never even tasted chocolate.

With myself, I've tried to be more mindful about why I'm eating.
Am I bored? Tired? Craving sugar? Actually hungry?
As I consider the source of my food and the processes it has gone through to be before me,
I have found myself actually being more easily physically satisfied.
Eating mindfully has helped me feel gratitude instead of gluttony and I have a new appreciation for all food, but especially plants.

Does that sound cheesy?
Maybe it does, but it's made for some interesting discussions with the boys, anyway.
So the other day Talmage was saying the breakfast prayer and he said,
"Thank Thee for the farmers who grew the wheat and thank Thee for the people who milked the cows and thank Thee for the people who pasteurized it."

Pasteurized it?
I was surprised by that one, because we hadn't ever discussed that before.
I don't know where these boys learn so many things that come out of their mouths.
Teach a child to read and you give them the world.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

So Many Rolls


One of my sisters (Hi, Breanne!) did this awesome multi-cultural book club for her nieces and nephews over the past year.
Each month she would send a book that helped the kids learn more about a different culture or life situation and then they would discuss it on video chat.
At the end of the book club, she had the amazing idea to have the kids work together to raise money to buy a goat for a refugee family in Jordan through Lifting Hands International (LHI), after reading and discussing Beatrice's Goat.

Wesley has been begging me for quite some time to have a "roll stand."
You know, like a lemonade stand, but featuring rolls because Wesley loves bread so much.

So naturally, when we were thinking of ideas for the kids to raise some money, we decided selling rolls would be a fun activity. I figured I could make a bunch of rolls, and then the boys could walk around the neighborhood and, while I watched from the sidewalk, knock on doors and explain their project. It would be a good way to meet more of our neighbors, help people learn about LHI (it was started by my friend's sister and is truly an amazing organization!), and help the boys develop some skills.
Well, I decided that before they started going door-to-door, I might post about the project on our ward Facebook page and see if there was any interest.
So I snapped a picture of the boys with some rolls (don't they look like such cute little business partners??) and put it online.
And then the orders started rolling in (no pun intended!).
More and more and MORE people were ordering rolls until I had almost more than I felt I could handle.
At last the orders stopped and we made plans to make and deliver rolls.

33 dozen rolls later I was totally exhausted, we had made deliveries alone for 4 hours, and my boys were ELATED about how much money they were able to raise for the goat.
My wallet was very full of cash as people gave more than they owed to support the good cause,
and the boys had a memory that I hope will last a lifetime.

Needless to say, we didn't walk around the neighborhood this time,
but we might try a project like this again in the future!

Only next time we better work on communicating a little better with Lincoln.
Somehow he misunderstood and thought we were raising money to buy a goat for US to have.
When he learned that wasn't true, he dissolved into tears.
Apparently he wants a mini-farm just as much as his mommy.

Thanks for the fun project, Aunt Breanne!

*****

PS-I had people asking for the recipe, ordering additional rolls, and asking me to teach them to make the rolls after they ate them. For anyone interested, here is the recipe!

Blender Rolls

Blend up:
3 eggs
1 t. salt
3/4 c. butter (not margarine)
1/2 c. sugar
2 T. yeast
2 c. very warm water

Pour liquid into a bowl containing 6 cups of flour. Mix well with a fork (it will be very sticky). Let rise 1-2 hours. (If it rises longer it will get too sticky.) Spread 1 c. of flour out on the counter and scrape dough onto it. Knead a little (add more flour if needed) and divide into three equal pieces. Roll each piece into a circle about 1/2 inch thick and cut pizza style into 12 pieces. Roll into crescent rolls. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes (or until lightly browned) after letting them rise a little on pan. Rub a little butter over the tops immediately after taking them from the oven.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The Dog Days of Summer

We've been enduring the dog days of Summer lately,
and popsicle time on the swing was a frequent occurrence.
BUT THEN
the weather totally surprised us by plummeting in temperatures this week.
Today it was in the 60s and it felt GLORIOUS!!!
I have been keeping the windows and door open and sitting outside, enjoying the chill on my arms and the crisp feeling in the air.

We are making plans for apple picking, caramel apple dipping, birthdays and parties, and General Conference all while feeling such nostalgia over the fact that TEN years ago we were dating and falling in love.
I always missed Utah the most at this time of year when we lived in Texas,
but here in Tennessee we still get chilly nights and the leaves change colors so I'm a happy camper.

Yesterday evening I walked into the backyard to find a number of kids from the neighborhood perched on the jungle gym, playing with the boys in the beautiful weather.
I was baking brownies inside, the baby was curled up asleep nearby, Maxwell toddled around happily pretending he was every bit as big as everyone else, and frequent melodies were performed on the piano by passers-by.
Altogether, it was a loud, busy jangle.
When it was time to tell friends good-bye and Talmage happily said, "See y'all later!"
a feeling of perfect contentment settled upon me.
I'm so grateful for change.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Aunt Avalon's Visit

We had such delightful visits from family this Summer!
My sister, Avalon, was able to come visit us toward the end of August before her new semester started at BYU.
We had such a blast!
Avalon loves our boys in a way few people do outside of Sam and I. We are so grateful she spent so much time throughout high school babysitting and playing with them. They were more than thrilled to see her again, and even Maxwell seemed to remember her, as he didn't show his usual signs of stranger anxiety!
Maybe that's because we're often told we look just alike (she's even been mistaken for me before!).
When we break down our appearances, we really can't see it...we have very different hair, eyes, noses, and chins...but then I've seen pictures where our mannerisms look almost identical and I think that must be what makes us look so similar to outside observers.
In any case, it was a delight to have her here.
Here are the highlights!

DAY 1:
Avalon arrived after the boys were in bed, so we didn't do much besides make a pit stop at Sonic for half-price shakes on the way home from the airport!

DAY 2:
First we took advantage of the gorgeous weather and headed to the zoo.
We spent a good chunk of time in the farm section...I am longing for our own space so badly right now. I keep praying to be content with where I am now and not wish away these years because I want to fully enjoy them. But goodness, I REALLY want some chickens and a great big garden.
So visiting the farm at the zoo helps curb my cravings. :)


The komodo dragons are pretty amazing to see as well. Did you know ONE of these lizards can eat an entire deer in 20 minutes?? This guy came right up to the glass, clearly watching us as his super long tongue flicked in and out.


We spent a little more time in the panda exhibit than we have in the past and watched a fun movie about the preservation of the pandas. The US Ambassador to China was from Tennessee when the pandas were brought to the Memphis Zoo, so he was able to make arrangements to get the pandas here. (The Memphis Zoo is one of only 6 zoos in the US that has giant pandas.) It was a years-long process that was pretty fascinating to read about.

Here Lincoln and our cute panda friend have identical expressions:

And here our cute panda friend demonstrates her awesome photo-bombing capabilities:

The African drums were pretty amazing to play!
Lincoln's rendition of "Praise to the Man" was quite entertaining.

The boys were really excited to take Avalon into the nocturnal animals exhibit, which is only lit by black lights so the animals will be awake for us to see during the day. I think our favorites are the 3-toed sloth, the porcupines, and the armadillo with its hilarious fast running of "laps," as the boys say.
On our way out of that exhibit, we watched a monkey doing HILARIOUS tricks for a man he evidently wanted to impress. He would do these amazing 360 degree jumps along a ledge and move in these bizarre ways and then run right up to the glass and do a thumbs up for the guy in a questioning way, waiting for the guy to give him a thumbs up back before doing more tricks. It was a riot!

After that fun, we let the boys play in the wading pool before heading home.

Goodness, guys, if someone would just figure out the stork delivery thing I think I'd want about 10 more babies just like this one. He is adorable and squishy (17 lbs, 12 oz at his 4 month checkup) and cuddly and ridiculously happy and smiley. We are all pretty smitten with him.

After the zoo we came home for a brief nap time before Talmage and Wesley got home from school and then I headed to the store to pick up some Blue Bell ice cream. Because no visit to the South is complete without Blue Bell!
The boys were so taken with the komodo dragon that we decided to eat our ice cream and watch a documentary about monitor lizards together before picking up Sam and having dinner.
Then Avalon and I headed to a Relief Society activity about "when life gives you lemons" with inspiring speakers and lemon-themed desserts.

DAY 3:
We got ready and, after a quick Costco trip to pick up some groceries and some lunch, we headed to the International Harvester Managerial Park (how's that for a mouthful??) to hike around a bit.
It was a beautiful hike through the forest and around a lake, but it was also super exhausting and I'm pretty sure I broke about 20 cobwebs with my face, so I was pretty creepy-crawly by the end.


This little guy jumped right on Avalon's shirt!

Maxwell's "cheese" face is one of my most favorite things ever.

We stumbled upon the most charming, quaint cemetery hidden in the woods while we were hiking around. It was really charming, that is, until we discovered that we were no longer in the boundaries of the park and we were likely trespassing on someone's private cemetery that had no road access.
Then I got a little nervous and we quickly made our way back to the designated trail.

After the hike we were SO EXHAUSTED but we had promised Talmage and Wesley that we would visit Shelby Farms Park after they got home from school. By the time we finally made it there it was almost time to pick up Sam, so they got 15 minutes to play on the awesome playgrounds and then we headed home.
That night we watched "Woodlawn" (and ate more Blue Bell, of course) before crashing.

DAY 4:
Saturday morning we loaded up the bikes and Avalon and I headed downtown to Beale Street, where we enjoyed breakfast at Miss Polly's Soul City Cafe.
We decided to have the full Memphis experience and ordered biscuits and gravy, chicken and waffles, eggs, and grits. It was pretty tasty!
After all that heavy food, we were ready for a bike ride so we rode bikes across the Mississippi River and visited Martyr's Park, where a cool statue stands as a memorial to those who gave their lives to care for the sick during the Yellow Fever epidemic of the 1800s.

Then we headed home and hung out the rest of the evening, enjoying copycat Guru's cilantro-lime chicken quesadillas and playing Blokus with Sam. He trash-talked me all the way through and won in the end, so it made for a pretty entertaining evening.

DAY 5:
We didn't do much beyond go to Church and hang out at the house,
but we did put together a scripture treasure hunt (one of our favorite Sabbath activities) for the boys to find some peanut butter popcorn. Avalon had the idea to give them a scripture that referenced a baby and hide the clue on Benson's diaper...the boys had quite a time finding that one and then laughed hysterically when it finally dawned on them!

DAY 6:
On Monday we got ready and headed to the Bass Pro Pyramid. The pyramid was built in 1991 and was originally a basketball arena for the Grizzlies. (Memphis was named after a city on the Nile in Egypt, so the pyramid sits on the banks of the Mississippi River.) But then the FedEx Forum was built and the basketball teams moved there in 2004, leaving the Great Pyramid empty.
After lots of rumors of various businesses not wanting to open up shop because of a crystal skull that was supposedly put in the point of the pyramid (evidently that would curse the building!), Bass Pro finally took the plunge and opened a massive space dedicated to sporting in the Great Outdoors in 2010.
It's random and unique and a Memphis icon, so naturally we had to go see it!
The boys loved seeing the animals, especially the aquarium that housed a catfish about 4 feet long!

After the morning at the Pyramid, we headed over to St. Jude to check out the campus and the Danny Thomas Pavilion (a small museum of sorts).
After we finally found a place to park, we made our way through the maze of buildings and food trucks over to the memorial garden and pavilion. I texted Sam a picture of myself with his building in the background to say hello, and the next thing I knew he had come down to find us and walk around with us a bit!
St. Jude is such a fascinating, inspiring place.
It is a dream place for Sam to work.
I gave Lincoln some change as we walked into the pavilion and saw a donation jar. I told him he could keep the money or put it in the jar if he wanted to help kids not be sick, and he eagerly put all the coins in the jar. When Sam came down he excitedly told him, "I put money in the jar so I could help you with your work to help the sick kids!!!"

After Talmage and Wesley got home from school, we headed to the Crystal Shrine Grotto.
This was a new discovery for me as I was researching different activities for us to do with Avalon.
It's a man-made crystal cave nestled in a gorgeous cemetery in East Memphis, and throughout the cave are various sculptures depicting scenes from the life of Christ.
It is super unique, beautiful, and peaceful.
It was a lot cooler than we were expecting it to be!
So cool, in fact, that Sam and I went back this past weekend for our date so he could see it as well.
Lincoln was furious that he didn't get to see "the crystal cave" again with us.

Outside the crystal shrine was a picturesque area where I had ambitions of getting a nice picture with all my boys...
one of those pictures that depicts the joy of motherhood and the love we all share.
Silly me...
sometimes I forget that I have 5 little boys who do not want to stand calmly and peacefully while gazing at the fish in the pond at the cemetery.
They want to dig in the dirt, climb the rocks, and be rambunctious.
I'm a bit embarrassed about the way I acted in trying to get this nice, loving picture...
obviously pictures can be deceiving!
Thankfully little kids are super forgiving and no one was permanently scarred.
So, yeah, enjoy this peaceful-looking fake photo.

We picked up Sam and had dinner and Family Home Evening,
and the next morning Avalon left.
It's always a little sad to say good-bye,
but when Lincoln was sad as we were driving back from the airport because he missed her I told him,
"Soon it's your birthday and then it will be Talmage's birthday and then Wesley's birthday and then Halloween and then Thanksgiving and then we are GOING TO UTAH for Christmas!!!"
Bring on the joyful whirlwind that is Fall!

Thanks for the visit, Avalon!!!
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