Monday, July 22, 2019

Berry Picking 2019

A few weeks ago, I planned a blackberry picking excursion with the boys.
A couple of days before we had planned to go, my friend texted and said she was going to pick blueberries at the blueberry plantation just a few miles away from the blackberry farm, and she wondered if we wanted to come...and she was making plans for the same day!
So we decided to double our fun and make a day of it.
We headed out bright and early to the Nesbit Blueberry Plantation, unloaded the kids, and started picking berries, catching bugs, shoving dirty blueberries into mouths (Benson), and sweating buckets as we tried to fill our buckets.

Talmage caught a tiny grasshopper and handed it to Benson. It cracked me up to see his little fist clenched around such a tiny little live bug!

We finally got a gallon of blueberries and potty needs arose, so we headed over to the bathroom.
On our way, Talmage noticed tiny little frogs all over behind a building! They were ADORABLE.
He quickly caught a few and the boys had fun playing with them.
Maxwell was furious that we couldn't bring them in the car.

It was ridiculously hot, but nonetheless we piled into our minivan with broken A/C and headed over to Cedar Hill to pick blackberries. The playground there is just too good to pass up!
On the way we stopped at The Dip, a small town ice cream and burger stand (opened in 1947) with an unreal number of possibilities. In addition to their homemade, smoooooth, crazy rich ice cream, they have 250 mix-in options and a burger menu a mile long! The ice cream was so rich that even with the small sizes we ordered, the boys had trouble finishing their scoops. I got the monkey bread ice cream and it was unbelievable. It was the perfect refresher before we piled back into our stuffy car and hit the blackberries.

The older boys were pretty burnt out and didn't last long picking berries.
They ran down to the pirate ship and started playing with our friends, who decided to come with us after picking blueberries.

But I still had the little ones to keep me company picking berries!

Then we headed up to the front to hit the big playground. This is probably my favorite place to visit in the entire Memphis area! I love the tire swings, ziplines, enormous pipe slides, beautiful flowers, giant shade trees, and horses!

The 45 minute drive is worth it for the playground alone. And it's a good thing, too, because it was so insanely hot that by the time we got home, our blackberries had gone completely rancid! They smelled like vinegar and tasted disgusting. The blackberry pie I had been planning to make with them became only a fantasy, but we still had loads of fresh blueberries and lots of great memories that I'd take over blackberry pie any day.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Bubble Baths and Fevers

The past week has been very blah.
The boys have all taken turns having fevers and feeling downright crummy,
which has resulted in lots of bubble baths,
lots of crackers and juice,
lots of Wild Kratts watching,
and lots of napping,
while residual rain from Tropical Storm Barry lingered outside.
The boys have finally turned a corner and I'm so grateful!
School starts in just over 3 weeks so we need to make the most of the time we've got left!

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Quoth the Baby

Benson loves to say, "No!"
As evidenced in the video below:

A while back Sam and I somehow got talking about Edgar Allan Poe's classic The Raven,
and how our wee little tyke is a bit like that creepy raven in his verbosity.
Combine that with Sam's perpetual exhaustion and kids often trailing into our room at all hours of the night, and you get this silly adaptation of The Raven I scrawled out this morning,
hoping to bring a smile to my sleep-deprived husband's face.
His sorrow for his lost snores may just match the character's sorrow over his lost Lenore.

Solidarity, fellow parents of little ones.
Hang in there.
We're all tired together.

The Baby

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of children's lore--
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
"'Tis a child," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door--
Only this and nothing more."

Ah, distinctly I remember it was hot as burning embers;
And my iPhone's glow wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Anxiously I awaited the morrow;--vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow--sorrow for the lost Snore--
For the rare and radiant sleep that brings such a blessed Snore--
Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each pillow and blanket
Thrilled me--filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
"'Tis a child entreating entrance at my chamber door--
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door;--
This it is and nothing more."

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
"Child," said I, "or Baby, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you"--here I opened wide the door;--
Darkness there and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, "Snore?"
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, "Snore!"--
Merely this and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
"Surely," said I, "surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see, then, what threat is, and this mystery explore--
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;--
'Tis the wind and nothing more!"

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a tiny Lad of the saintly days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, jumped into my bed to snore--
Perched upon my pillow just beyond my chamber door--
Perched, and smiled, and nothing more.

Then this cherubic child beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the sweet and tender decorum of the countenance it wore,
"Though thy head be shorn and shaven, thou," I said, "art sure no craven,
Come wandering in to steal my errant Snore--
Tell me why you won't yourself snore!"
Quoth the Baby, "NO!"

Much I marvelled this ungainly babe to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning--little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with such sweet boys to steal his Snores--
Boy or babe upon the bed to steal his Snores,
While yet declaring, "NO!"

But the Lad, sitting lonely on that white pillow, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing farther then he uttered--not a finger then he fluttered--
Till I scarcely more than muttered "Other boys have flown before--
On the morrow he will leave me, as my boys have flown before."
Then the Baby said, "NO!"

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
"Doubtless," said I, "what it utters is its only stock and store
Caught from some unhappy siblings whom unmerciful quibblings
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore--
Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore
Of 'NO!'"

But the Baby still beguiling all my fancy into smiling,
Straight I walked toward the Lad, and bed, and door;
Then, upon the mattress sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous child of yore--
What this sweet, innocent, cherubic, bright, and plump babe of yore
Meant in bellowing, "NO!"

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the boy whose shining eyes now burned into my bosom's core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the pillow's silky lining that the lamp-light gloated o'er,
But whose white and silky lining with the lamp-light gloating o'er,
Sleep shall linger, ah, nevermore!

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by another boy whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
"Wretch," I cried, "thy mother hath lent thee--by these brothers she hath sent thee
Respite--respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Snore;
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Snore!"
Quoth the Baby "NO!"

"Child!" said I, "born of mother!--child still, if babe or brother!--
Whether Mother sent, or whether nightmares tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this wooded land enchanted--
On this home by Sleeplessness haunted--tell me truly, I implore--
Is there--is there balm in Gilead?--tell me--tell me, I implore!"
Quoth the Baby "NO!"

"Child!" said I, "born of mother!--child still, if babe or brother!
By the toys that yet surround us--by the books we both adore--
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall grasp a blissful craving accompanied by a certain Snore--
Grasp a rare and radiant craving accompanied by a certain Snore."
Quoth the Baby "NO!"

"Be that word our sign of parting, child or fiend!" I shrieked, upstarting--
"Get thee back into thy bed and place of baby snores!
Leave no blonde tuft as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken!--quit the pillow inside my door!
Take thy teething mouth from out my heart, and take thy form from inside my door!"
Quoth the Baby "NO!"

And the Baby, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid pillow just inside my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall ever be moaning--"Noooooo!"

Friday, July 12, 2019

RIP, Mr. Bubbles

In mid-June, Talmage got to go to Cub Camp each day, Monday-Friday.
The camp here is really quite amazing and he LOVED playing in the mud pit, going down the "wet willy" giant water slide into the lake, fishing every day, practicing archery and target shooting, and doing STEM activities. All in all, it was wet, dirty, stinky, and noisy, so it was basically a little boy's paradise.

One day he came to the car proudly carrying his own ecosystem--2-liter soda bottles were taped together with an earthworm in the top section whose waste supposedly filtered down to feed the little fishy swimming below in the bottom section.
I admit, I was skeptical as I placed it on the fridge, away from the little hands that would love nothing more than to shake the poor little fish into oblivion.
Talmage named him "Mr. Bubbles," and to my surprise, he swam happily around for days and then for weeks.
Evidently the ecosystem actually worked!

But either Midnight the earthworm eventually died or something else went wrong,
and yesterday when I checked on Mr. Bubbles, I found that he was living no more.
I broke the news to Talmage and he was disappointed but took it in stride.
RIP, Mr. Bubbles, our first family pet.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

A Visit from Aunt Amanda

Way back in April Sam's sister, Amanda, came to visit with her husband and 8-year-old son!
(I never wrote about it because I wanted to get some pictures from her.)
The boys LOVE playing with their cousin, Ivan,
and it is always enjoyable to visit with Dan and Amanda.
They know so much about just about everything, it seems, which always makes for a fascinating conversation! Amanda works for Google and Dan works designing agricultural robots, so it was fun for me to learn more about their work as well.

Unfortunately, it rained for much of the time we were there, but we still managed to do a number of fun things.
They arrived pretty late in the evening, so we let the boys stay up late eating San Francisco candy and running wildly through the house with Ivan, roughhousing and just altogether enjoying life.
The next morning we headed to the zoo together.
Right now the Memphis zoo has a really cool Lego animal exhibit. It blows my mind to think about the effort put into these and other large-scale Lego projects!

This is the face Maxwell always makes as he points to animals (a sea lion, in this case). I find it irresistible!

After the zoo we stopped by the house for a bit and then headed out to the trampoline park.
The boys had sooo much fun bouncing and flipping and unleashing all their pent-up energy!
Sam and I had a lot of fun trying to conquer the Ninja Warrior course and the Warped Wall, as well.
There was almost no one else there, so they bent a few of the rules and let us play on the trampolines with Maxwell and Benson, too, who very quickly warmed up to it all.

The next morning we headed out to the Civil Rights Museum.
It was sobering to stand where Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot and consider the history of racism. I feel so grateful to be a part of this country but there is much from its history that makes my stomach churn and fills me with confusion and anger. I loved the way the museum focused a lot on those who triumphed in spite of all of the persecution and opposition.

We decided to find a place to grab lunch downtown, and, after consulting online reviews, settled on a place that sounded like it had a good menu and lots of more nutritious options to meet the dietary needs of our group. We walked into the restaurant and I was surprised to see that it was about the size of our living room and our group filled up about half of the seats! I looked at the overpriced menu and tried to find something the kids would eat. Finally, I decided on smoothies for each of them and ordered and paid. After we had placed our orders they started reporting the ingredients they were out of...which were kind of key ingredients on several of our dishes!
(Like, there was no smoothie base, so they couldn't make any smoothies.)
When I asked if they could just refund me, the cashier looked at me with concern and said uncertainly, "Uh...I could call my manager..." I told her not to worry about it and attempted to form some sandwich combinations that the kids would eat and just cut our losses on those pricey smoothies. Meanwhile, they were out of berries for Amanda's berry/spinach salad. The sandwiches Sam and I got were reasonably good, but I left pretty disenchanted with the whole thing.
We had planned to go to the River Park after lunch, but it was FREEZING and pouring down rain, so we decided to come home and set up their video game system with our computer and let the boys play Mario Kart for the afternoon.

The next morning was beautiful.
It was one of the first warm Saturdays of the year, so we headed out to Shelby Farms Park to let the kids play.

That afternoon, we drove across the river into Arkansas to let Ivan walk around and check off another state he's visited. Then we came back into Memphis to check out Beale Street.
I've been to Beale Street a couple of times, but the first time it was completely frozen over with ice and snow and, as such, was almost totally deserted, and the second time was early on a Saturday morning for breakfast.
So I was sorely unprepared for the MASSIVE crowds of people.
We parked and fought through crowds with our family "train" we make in these kinds of situations...Sam led the way, three boys walked single-file behind, and I took up the rear with the other two boys in a stroller, barking orders to keep moving, close the gaps, cross streets quickly, and stay together, frantically trying not to lose any kids in the swarms of people.

Apparently Saturday afternoon is the WORST time to visit Beale Street.
AND, three professional ball games were about to start, each just a couple of blocks away.
AND, it was one of the first warm weekends of the year.
AAANNNND, unbeknownst to us, it was April 11...4/11...marijuana day.
So marijuana was being used heavily and we were packed into the area like sardines while trying to navigate the stroller-unfriendly streets with 5 kids and a stroller, shouting to be heard over ear-splitting music. We stopped in a candy store that seemed to be about the size of our bedroom closet, fought the whole time to keep little hands from grabbing things they should not, paid for extremely overpriced treats, and were incredibly relieved when Dan and Amanda decided they had seen enough just a few minutes later.
We were all rather overwhelmed.

The kids did not enjoy Beale Street at all and have since categorized it as one of the worst, most filthy, evil places on Earth. They are still telling me often about how they don't like Beale Street and even warned the missionaries about it last week when they came over for dinner!
Haha. I guess it made for a good real-life lesson for them.

Note to self: if we ever take guests to Beale Street again, let's not do it on Saturday afternoon/marijuana day.

We came home and recovered from the stressful evening and then Dan and Amanda packed things up and prepared to leave, as their flight would head out in the wee hours of the morning. We had one more late-night chat with them, and then called it a night.

We're so grateful they made the effort to come see us!
Maybe one day we'll make it out to California...just give us a few years. Maybe we can handle crowds better when we're stroller-free. ;)
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