Touring Memphis before Christmas

The week before Christmas was a busy one as Mom and Dad came for Christmas.  For some reason I thought we’d have all kinds of time to go out and shop and look around in the days before Christmas.  It’s fun shopping with other adults, but we never really had the desire to drag the kids out with us.  They wouldn’t even go out to lunch at Five Guys with us one day!  They just wanted to go home and play.  We did get around the area a bit though.

My mom has loved Elvis forever so she and I and Dad went on a tour of Graceland.  I had heard that some people were disappointed with it because you just look at his house and that’s it.  But there was so much more and it was all so interesting.  The house is really neat.  It’s like stepping back in time, only people usually think of going back centuries when you do that.  Because it was only decades, it didn’t feel so far removed.  You could easily imagine the people that moved in and out of the house and it felt like Elvis could have walked through the door at any moment.

From shag carpet on the ceiling to a room that was covered in thousands of yards of fabric, there were so many details that were fascinating.  On top of his house, we toured a trophy building with a chronological history of his hits and his movies and his charitable works.  We went to a lot of extra little exhibits on our tickets as well and I have to say that I would definitely take anyone else who came into town to visit Graceland again.

We also spent an afternoon in Memphis.  We went on our annual Christmas ice skating adventure.  There is a rink set up at the zoo so went to that one.  Casey was on skates for the first time this year.  She was very excited but she has a little work to do on her balance.  Jack has been playing hockey since November and he was a little show-off.  He zoomed around the ice faster than any kid out there (and he knew it.)  We had a great time until Casey had enough of the falling and Jack took a couple of rough spills too.

We wandered through the zoo on our way out and I’ve never seen the animals so active.  It was like going to the zoo for the first time.  The pandas were out and were even moving around and eating.  All the cats were pacing and moving around.  It’s one of my favorite trips to the zoo and we weren’t even looking at animals for all that long.  

A quick tour of downtown Memphis one evening took us to the Peabody Hotel.  The hotel is known for its ducks.  In the morning, the ducks come down the elevator and hop into the fountain in the middle of the lobby.  They spend the day there, enjoying the people while getting shooed back into the water as soon as they make a move to escape.  (I think someone is payed to be on duck watch every day.)  In the evenings, there’s another big ceremony as the ducks march back to the elevator and back to their evening residence.

On this trip, we did not watch the march of the ducks.  I’ve seen it twice and it is very misleading.  The ducks do not in any way march.  They get out of the pond and waddle to the elevator.  There is really no where else for them to go because people are lined up on either side of them from the fountain to the elevator.  But there is a bit of pomp and circumstance and a fun little story behind it and the kids like it, even though they have to sit and wait for 45 minutes if they want to get anywhere near where the red carpet.

So we saw no duck marching but we just enjoyed the gorgeous Christmas decorations in the lobby and the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season.  There was a huge gingerbread village with a train that travels around it that entertains the kids.  There was live piano music.  And it was gorgeous!

Finally, we went to get some traditional Memphis BBQ.  I’ve been to a place in downtown Memphis which is renowned for it’s bar-b-que and it’s atmosphere but I was not impressed.  Pat took us to another place this time and it was just right – great bar-b-que and a great atmosphere.  We’ll definitely go there again too!

Mother’s Day Weekend

After the Crayola Factory on Friday, we had more fun events to keep us busy.  We visited Uncle Matt and Aunt Kelly.  The kids played loudly until Brady finally woke up from his nap and could go out to play.  We went to a huge castle playground that we had visited last time we were in the area.  It’s about 8 kid-sized stories tall and you could get lost in there.  Last time we were there, Casey did.  She stuck to the smaller areas and played with Brady most of the time.  They had some monkey bars that she could reach all by herself and she swung across them without any help for the first time.  She was very proud of that.  She couldn’t wait to get home and try it out on the monkey bars in the backyard.

For dinner we went out to my father in law’s country club with Pat’s parents and Matt, Kelly and Brady.  We had a great dinner.  The table was beside the door so we could let the kids go out and play on the patio when they got restless.  Which was every 5 minutes or so.  The chocolate milk that we ordered for Jack and Casey came in a huge glass with whipped cream on top and I think that may have fueled their inability to sit still.  Brady is 20 months old and I forgot how fast a 20 month old can be.  My chasing skills were a little out of practice.  One minute he’s running toward the street and the next he’s running towards a set of stairs.  

Sunday morning we got up very early so we could walk in the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Mother’s Day Walk in Philadelphia.  We were walking to support Pat’s Aunt Kathy and another family friend.  I can’t remember the last time I had to wake the kids up before 7…and this was way before 7.  We sweetened the deal with a train ride to the middle of Philly.  Jack claimed it was his very first train ride…very different from when he went on the subway last year.

All of the breast cancer survivors were standing on the top of the steps at the Art Museum and it was very impressive to see them all up there.  They descended the steps and met up with their families and then everyone set out on the walk.

We had a couple of umbrella strollers for the kids.  The one Jack chose to ride in was a good 15 years old and sometimes the wheels didn’t always roll the way they should have.  I have to say how impressed I was with my husband who pushed this stroller the whole time, while hunched over, and not once did he curse…or tell Jack to get out and walk.  I didn’t tell him but that show of patience felt like a really nice Mother’s Day gift for me.

It was amazing to see the huge crowd of people wearing pink to support finding a cure for breast cancer.  It was also a little overwhelming to see how many people were touched by it and it’s only one kind of cancer.  I’m very glad we were able to meet up with family and make it to the walk this year.

After the walk we took the train back and packed up our car.  Pat’s Aunt Kathy invited everyone back to her house after the walk and we spent a great afternoon in her backyard.  The kids played, we got to visit with everyone we probably won’t see for a couple years while we’re in Tennessee and there were tables and tables of delicious food.  It was a great get together.

Casey picked up on Pat and Matt calling Pop Pop “Bernie” as in Bernie from Weekend at Bernie’s and started telling everyone, “My Pop Pop is Bernie!”  She got a kick out of making everyone laugh.  Maybe you see the resemblance too…

Picture from last Easter.  In full disclosure, those are Jack’s sunglasses

After a stop at Ikea for a few pieces of furniture to take to the new house, a stop at the airport to drop Pat off, a drive through Widener University to find gas, 4 stops for the kids to use the bathroom, we finally arrived – exhausted – at our house.  At one point Jack fell asleep using a balloon for a pillow.  And they both fell asleep 10 minutes before we got home.  It was a great weekend and I’m so glad that we made the trip!

   

    

Crayola Factory

What a fun and busy Mother’s Day Weekend!  Jack, Casey and I drove to Philly, picked Pat up at the airport there and spent the weekend with his family.  As we normally do when we are up there, we packed our weekend full of adventures.

Part of why I wanted to get back to Philly before we head to Tennessee for a couple years is that I realized the kids were probably a great age for the Crayola Factory – The Crayola Experience.  It is in Easton, PA about an hour and a half from Pat’s parents.

We made the trip through some hilly and windy roads which the kids thought was a lot of fun until Casey experienced her first bout of carsickness.  I got a bag in time, but didn’t quite get it opened up all the way.  I didn’t specifically have a change of clothes for her but we happened to have a whole bag of hand me downs that I had brought for my sister-in-law.  We managed to find an outfit that would still fit and cleaned Casey up.  Thankfully, we were only 5 minutes from the factory.

The kids had a great time at the factory.  I had read something to them from the internet about being able to do a bunch of crafts and not having to clean up and Jack was pretty excited about that.  There is basically a station in the museum for each product that Crayola makes – markers, crayons, paint, modeling clay, etc and the kids craft their way through the place.  I thought it would be a little more factory-like.  Although we did see a presentation of how they make crayons and markers with some of their machines.

I remembered my camera so here is our visit in pictures…

Jack was pretty sure he had just spotted the world’s largest crayon.  It’s actually a yellow plastic crayon.  You have to go into the gift shop to see the largest crayon.

Chalk tic-tac-toe with Nana.

Daddy helping Jack with his “flying saucer.”

Dancing with Nana.

Excited about something 🙂

Trying on her space suit.

Making his space suit.

Working hard with Nana…

Another neat part of the museum was a hands on model canal system.  As we drove to Easton, we followed the Delaware river for a while and could see where the canals used to be.  Pat informed us that they used mules to pull cargo up the river through the canals.  The kids got to pretend to be mules at the museum and sent their boats through a series of locks and ramps to get to the other side.  It was a really neat display and the kids loved getting their hands wet.

And I guess Casey got her shirt wet too!

After a trip to the store to see the world’s largest crayon and buy some goodies, we had a great lunch at Pearly Baker’s Alehouse.  The kids collected a special set of 4 different crayons throughout the museum so they got to color with them while we waited for lunch.

Casey’s Ambition & A Sunny Spring Sunday

In the car a few days ago, Casey asked me, “Mommy, how old are you when you’re a grownup?”

I said, “18…Well, somewhere between 18 and 25.”  Then I asked her if she wanted to be a grownup and she said she did.  
When I asked her why she wanted to be grown up, she said, “I want to be in the Olympics and win a gold medal in figure skating.”
We decided we better start with some skating lessons next winter.
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Today was a beautiful Sunday so I grabbed the big camera tried to capture a little bit of the fun the kids were having outside.  I thought I would get some impromptu shots but everyone wanted to pose today.  The other little boy is our neighbor and he and Casey played together all afternoon.  I think she was excited to be the older child for a few hours…a little change of pace from being Jack’s little sister.  And yes, she was wearing two hats in most of these pictures.

Playing with Photo Booth

I just spent way too much time trying to figure out how to upload photos to blogger from iPhoto on my new computer.  Sadly I think it was exactly the same way I used to but I didn’t scroll down enough to see the Media button that I needed.  But now I don’t have it in me to write the post I was going to so I’ll prove that I can upload photos.
There is a fun Photo Booth program (app?) on our computer that lets you take all kinds of fun pictures.  Jack, Casey and I have had a blast in the last couple days taking funny pictures of ourselves.  Finding something that makes all three of us laugh hysterically is pretty great…something I should remember to do on those days that aren’t going so well!
 So we have my alien children…

The chipmunk family…

I think we are a frog family here…

This one is called blockhead but I’m going to say it transforms us into Klingons pretty well.  Just need a few more ridges in our foreheads…

This is the mirror function.  Jack worked pretty hard to position himself just right so he has three eyes, two noses and one mouth!

The kids think the mirror is pretty funny but I like this picture because I think it captured how much fun we were having…
 

A Winter Trip to the Zoo

Last week, there was a nice warm afternoon and I asked the kids what they wanted to do.  I expected to hear “Play outside” or “Play hockey” but Jack suggested going to the zoo.  I was tired and I knew that if I hung around the house nothing would get done anyway, so going to the zoo sounded like a great idea…a real excuse for getting nothing done.

Before we could get out the door, I had to make Jack eat lunch.  While I was doing that, I got a phone call from a high school friend.  As we were chatting, Jack and Casey were doing their own type of chatting that was more like bickering.  Jack was slowing eating his lunch while Casey had already devoured hers.  It was taking Jack a while to eat because he kept getting out of his chair to growl at Casey who was (innocently, I’m sure) playing with her baby.  She started crying and said, “Jack’s trying to eat my baby.”  And so the next thing that comes out of my mouth (as I’m still on the phone) is, “Jack is not going to eat your baby!”  I’m sure it’s a rational fear every girl has of her growling brother.  

At that point, I was second guessing whether I wanted to take these squabbling kids to the zoo.  I didn’t want to bring any strollers and Casey was already whining about that.  But I finally ushered them to the car with water bottles and snacks and off we went.

It turned out to be so great.  They took turns picking which part of the park they wanted to go to next.  There were a lot of animals out and about.  There was no fighting.  They both walked the whole time and there wasn’t a single complaint.  It was just one of those afternoons where I truly enjoyed spending time with my kids and seeing the zoo from their point of view.

We also saw giraffes trying to mate…can’t really top that.  Well, actually the male giraffe desperately wanted to top that but she was playing hard to get.  At least that prevented anything more than a male anatomy discussion.

I wish I’d had my good camera with me, but the phone pics aren’t that bad.  Snakes, new red shoes (accidental picture), sibling love, several wooden cutouts to stick your head in and more sibling love.  On a sixty degree day in the middle of January.  Mating giraffes.  What’s not to love?  (Except I have no pictures of mating giraffes…I was too distracted to take pics I guess.)