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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!!!