This post has a lot of pictures...a LOT of pictures. Like, 100.
And those are just the best ones!
You've been warned.
My sister Breanne was starting a new job and decided to come visit us during the week before her new job started!
She cranked out the 12-hour drive from Washington, D.C. on Father's Day with a stop in southern Virginia for Church and arrived at our house that evening.
Last time she visited, over Martin Luther King Day, I ended up in the hospital before we had done almost any sightseeing. I was super disappointed that her trip had been spoiled and had high hopes for this one.
But THEN, just days before she was set to arrive, Maxwell came down with a HORRIBLE case of hand, foot, and mouth disease. Like, easily over 1,000 sores covering his body and screaming for hours at a time.
It was heartbreaking.
And when Lincoln came down with a fever and threw up a few hours before she arrived, I was more than a little concerned that yet again we would spoil her trip.
Thankfully his bug was short-lived and the hand, foot, and mouth disease was contained to Maxwell.
After one day at home recovering and planning the rest of the week, we were ready to go adventuring!
Unfortunately, Talmage had Cub Scout Day Camp the entire week she was with us, so he had to miss most of our fun, but he came home each day soaked in sweat, suncreen, and bug spray and full of stories to tell about fishing (where they saw a water moccasin and one of the leaders had to chop its head off), BB guns, archery, a mud pit, and lots more fun activities.
So, without further ado, let me share some of the week's highlights!
Family Home Evening
For part of Family Home Evening, Breanne shared some interesting stories from her mission she served in Taiwan.
Like the amazing toilet-themed restaurant she went to.
(Oh, and some inspiring stories as well.)
She had gone to the International Farmers' Market near our house earlier and picked up a variety of Chinese desserts, so we had fun sampling them for our FHE treat!
Mango mochi ice cream is amazing stuff, let me tell ya.
Pink Palace Museum
Thankfully Maxwell's sores had disappeared enough that I felt okay taking him places,
and he was no longer screaming for hours at a time,
so we headed out to explore Memphis.
The Pink Palace Museum is something that people rave over here, and I honestly thought it was rather odd the first time we visited.
I like it more now, but it's still a rather interesting assortment of...stuff.
The museum is the former home of the man who started Piggly-Wiggly (the first-ever grocery store).
He was from right here in Memphis!
The mansion is under construction, but there is another section of the museum that features interesting things like a Life Science display, a grouping of ancient canoes that were found by a bunch of high school students in Florida, lots of rocks, the history of yellow fever in Memphis, a miniature circus, real Civil War weapons that kids can touch, a Martin Luther King exhibit, and a wide variety of moderately creepy wax statue displays (especially the pharmacist with purple hair).
The free summer membership makes it worthwhile to check out!
Shelby Farms Park
After the Pink Palace, Breanne treated us to lunch at Chick-fil-a and we took it to Shelby Farms Park for a picnic. Shelby Farms Park is an amazing 4,500 acre park (more than 5 times the size of Central Park in NYC!) not too far from our home. There are all kinds of things you can do there, from paddle boating to horseback riding to ziplining through the trees to playing on the amazing, innovative playgrounds.
They even have a herd of bison that live there!
The main playground consists of 4 "nests," which are like play areas set into huge pits, each one with a different theme. There is a climbing nest, a swinging nest, a sliding nest, and a sand/water play nest. Each nest is surrounded by an arbor-tunnel that is covered with flowering plants and provides the most delightful shade in the crazy Memphis heat and humidity.
It's perfectly lovely.
Wednesday was the day we tried to cram a lot of activities into because the weather forecast predicted rain on Thursday and Friday.
So we got ready bright and early and as soon as we dropped Talmage off at Day Camp we headed up to Overton Park to play at another favorite innovative playground.
Breanne is awesome, so she plays on all the toys with the kids and soon every kid at the park was swarming around her, wanting to join in the fun.
What kid can resist a troll under the bridge?
Family Art Day
After playing at the park for a while, we walked across the street to the art museum for the free family art day they do each week.
In addition to the art exhibit and storybook movies
(sing with me, Breanne! "Bugs, bugs, bugs, bugs, bugs, bugs, bugs, bugs, bugs, bugs, bugs, bugs, bugs!")
they had a project set up where the kids could make weather mobiles.
Wesley chose to make a thundercloud mobile
and Lincoln was more interested in drawing knights.
I was feeling good about our timing for the day's activities as we stopped by the grocery store on our way home from the art museum. Everything was going smoothly so far.
But things started to get really hectic, really fast.
We ate lunch at home and then began prepping the bikes for a bike ride we planned for the evening.
Breanne loaded bikes into/onto her car while I made a couple of pans of pizza bread to eat for dinner that night. We worked to get the bikes, kids, food, water, and everything else loaded up and then set off to pick Talmage up early from Day Camp.
The last hour had been quite a frenzy to get everything done, but we were on track...until I called the blackberry farm, which was located in northern Mississippi, to verify that they were open until 5:00 and they told me they were only open until 4:00 and that we had to pick up our buckets for picking by 3:00 at the latest.
That posed a bit of a problem since I was picking Talmage up from Day Camp at 2:00 and it took almost an hour to drive there!
We were crunched for time but things were still looking okay until I sat and waited for Talmage...and waited...and waited. His group was not up by the pavilion and we had to wait for them to come up.
Finally, around 2:10, we were able to set off and we zoomed through the Memphis freeways trying to make up for lost time.
It looked as though we might barely make it and just at that moment my Google Maps app decided to quit working and I ended up on the wrong freeway, much to my dismay!
Long story short, I ended up going into the little store at the berry patch around 3:10 begging them to let us pick berries for just a few minutes.
When I told the sweet woman that we had driven an hour and could only stay for a few minutes, she gave me a couple of buckets and we drove back to the berry patch and the pirate ship!
(Yes, this is the same place we got our Christmas tree from last year.)
By this point Benson was hysterical so I quickly nursed him in the car while Breanne and the boys played on the pirate ship and then we had approximately 17 minutes to pick blackberries.
Why the rush?
I needed to be back at St. Jude to pick up Sam for an appointment (that was also in Northern Mississippi) before we would be going on our bike ride all together.
So we hurriedly picked a few blackberries and then I left the older three boys with Breanne while I raced back to St. Jude to pick up Sam. Breanne stayed at the berry patch with the boys for a bit longer before meeting up with us at Sam's appointment.
Despite its charm, the hectic nature of the trip didn't allow Cedar Hill to quite live up to the glowing review I had shared with Breanne!
Riding Bikes Across the Mississippi River
By the time Breanne met up with us, I was feeling the stress of the day and storm clouds were rapidly gathering overhead.
Wasn't the rain supposed to wait until Thursday??
(Not to mention the fact that Lincoln had opened the door in Breanne's car while they were driving on the freeway which was a teeny bit stressful for her as well!)
Sam's appointment went an hour longer than expected and I was waiting in the car with Benson and Maxwell while the other boys ran around in a field and we all munched on pizza bread.
By the time Sam came out to the car, huge raindrops were coming down, we had discovered that Talmage's bike tire would not hold air, and I was ready to give up the bike ride.
Breanne was adamant that after all the work we did to put the bikes on we needed to use them and Sam was feeling rather nonchalant about the weather and other obstacles, so I was quickly outvoted and we set off to unload the bikes near Big River Crossing back in Memphis.
We unloaded bikes and Wesley sweetly offered to let Talmage ride his bike while he rode in the bike trailer with Lincoln (who is just learning to ride a 2-wheeler), I carried Benson in the baby carrier, and Breanne had Maxwell attached to her bike in the baby seat.
We are such a spectacle everywhere we go, and as we got everything prepared the rain was coming down harder and harder.
I began to laugh at the absurdity of it all.
I had forgotten Sam's street clothes so he was still wearing his dress clothes from work,
Maxwell was screaming about riding with Breanne instead of his mom or dad,
Poor Benson's bald little head was getting very wet,
and the rain just kept increasing!
Eventually we set off, Benson didn't seem to mind the rain, Maxwell quickly cheered up, and the rain subsided.
I'm SO glad my doubts were squashed because this ended up being one of the funnest parts of Breanne's visit!
The rain had cooled everything off and we were almost the only people on the bridge because of the storm.
The views were magnificent and the ride felt wonderful.
We made it home that night wet and very tired from the crazy day,
but all very happy!
We set off the next morning to visit Peabody Hotel and see the famous ducks!
They've been featured on countless media outlets including Oprah and Sesame Street,
and they're quite the random sight to see.
The Peabody Hotel is a super fancy hotel in downtown Memphis where presidents come to stay and Elvis used to shop for clothing.
They have a penthouse suite for their ducks that the Duckmaster brings down to the fountain in the lobby each day and each evening he takes them back up.
The public is invited to watch the Duck March, so together we lined the red carpet
(with a surprising number of other guests)
and watched the ducks run/waddle to the fountain.
To be honest I thought it was a bit overrated,
but Maxwell absolutely ADORES animals so watching him observe the ducks in the fountain afterward made it worth the hassle!
After the fun with the ducks, Breanne wanted to stop by a group of food trucks nearby and she once again treated us to lunch
(funnel cake for the boys and the most delicious South American sandwich for me!).
She dubbed the morning "Ducks and Trucks."
Mud Island Riverwalk
We made it over to the riverwalk on Mud Island on Friday morning.
We walked across the bridge to the "island" (which is really a peninsula) to walk along the engineering-wonder of the to-scale model of the lower Mississippi. I had read some reviews about the park online that indicated that it was pretty sub-par, so we were pleasantly surprised by the beautiful flowers, lovely shade, relaxing music, and fun wading river.
The river empties into a 1-acre "Gulf of Mexico" where you can paddleboat,
but we didn't even make it that far.
When 30 inches=1 mile, the model river is quite long!!
It was a really fun, relaxing outing and afterward we got lunch at a quaint grocery store called Miss Cordelia's which we ate outside the store on a picnic table and a porch swing.
Benson has turned into such a smiley baby.
His smile progression makes my heart sing!
Just Hanging Out
We also had a lot of fun just hanging out at home...
eating blackberry cobbler with the most delicious Blue Bell lemon ice cream
swinging on the porch swing
watching the boys cram themselves into their makeshift swimming pool (ball storage box!)
delighting in Wesley's unusual reading positions
watching Coco and I Can Only Imagine (I highly recommend that one!!)
snuggling a baby
eating horchata popsicles (super YUM)
and so much more.
All in all, it was a super amazing visit and I'm so glad we got to spend so much time with Breanne!
Hopefully one of these days we will make the trip back east to see the sites in D.C.
Maybe when we don't have a nursing newborn and the transmission on our car isn't about to go out. ;)
If you've made it this far, congratulations on wading through all that text and all those photos.
Next up: a visit from Sam's mom and sister this week!