Monday, August 24, 2015

Memphis, Tennessee: National Civil Rights Museum

During spring break 2015, my family and I took a road trip to Orange Beach, Alabama.  As we do with any road trip, we researched other things to see along the way.  Memphis, Tennessee was definitely the place to visit!  At first it was to see Graceland.  Then a friend told me about the National Civil Rights Museum.  I wasn't sure if my kiddos were ready for that level of civil rights knowledge but, after a lot of research, we decided to stop there too.  The museum's website also provided talking points for young children and suggestions for areas to skip over.  Here is our our experience at the National Civil Rights Museum.

On the way to Memphis, my family read this book.  We learned so much from this and it was a great introduction to the place we were visiting.  

This really helped my kiddos understand Martin Luther King, Jr. mission.

If you did not know, Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot and killed while standing on an outside balcony  of the Lorraine Motel.  The motel was later turned into the National Civil Rights Museum.

This is the room (#306) and balcony where Martin was shot.

FYI - you can save some money by ordering your tickets online.
We were then given these printed tickets at the museum.

Looking out of the museum from the area where MLK was shot.
In this picture you can see an entrance under the grass hill.
The Lorraine Motel section of the museum covers civil rights issues up until Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed.
From that time (1968) until current day is covered in the section of the museum across the street.
Unfortunately, we ran out of time and were not able to visit the more current section.  
MLK's room as it was the day he was killed.
Here are some of the other items/displays in the museum:

This is a replica of the "Rosa Parks" bus.  The actual bus is at The Henry Ford Museum in Detroit, Michigan.
I thought it was strange that the original bus is in Detroit.  But, one of the first things you do at the National Civil Rights Museum is watch a movie that shows how involved the Ford Company is in this museum.
FYI - I didn't care for the movie (the tone/theme is a fast and jumps around) but it is mandatory before exploring the museum.  

Rosa Parks

Push the button and the bus driver will yell at you to move to the back of the bus.

Stuff like this breaks my heart.

Gift shop at the end.

While in Memphis, we also visited Beale Street and Graceland.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Memphis, Tennessee: Beale Street

During spring break 2015, my family and I took a road trip to Orange Beach, Alabama.  As we do with any road trip, we researched other things to see along the way.  Memphis, Tennessee was definitely the place to visit!  At first it was to see Graceland.  We are not big fans of Elvis but how can you not go to Graceland when you are so close.  Then a friend told me about the National Civil Rights Museum.  I wasn't sure if my kiddos were ready for that level of civil rights knowledge but, after a lot of research, we decided to stop there too.  Finally, I saw some information on Beale Street. I really didn't know much about it but the Memphis Hard Rock Cafe is located there.  I'm sure you know by now that my family bases a lot of our stops on collecting pins from Hard Rock Cafe!

Beale Street didn't seem very big (just a block or two of the really cool stuff) but it was so much more than we expected.  I think it had something to do with getting there as  night was starting to settle in.  The music, the lights, what people, the unique shops, ... It was a lot of fun!  

The main section of the street was blocked off from cars.

A band playing.

Tons of great food and a great spot to people watch!

I have no idea what the point of this is but it was unique and interesting!

Lots of cool shops: voodoo and music stores.

There were a lot of carriages to pull people around.
They were all lit up with colored strings of lights which looked really cool as it got darker.

Beale Streets version of Hollywood BLVD.

I didn't get a great picture of it but the "M" shaped bridge is really cool - especially when lit up at night!

While in Memphis, we also visited the National Civil Rights Museum and Graceland.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Homemade Classroom Valentine's: Finger Puppets

Okay - so this blog post is pretty late.  But, better late than never - right?  

With every school party or birthday I struggle with finding something "cool" for my kiddos to pass out that DOESN'T include CANDY!  I know that it would be much easier to just pick up a big bag of candy, or cupcakes, to bring to the class.  And I know that the majority of the kids would LOVE to have the sweets over anything else.  But, I really do believe that there are too many sweets!  So, for Valentine's Day 2015, my kiddos and I made finger puppets that were attached to a pencil.

For my son's class - he is obsessed with Minecraft so he picked "Steve".

And my daughter picked hedgehogs.

They all turned out adorable (or awesome if you asked the boys) and the kids loved them!  Now on to next year...

Animal Shelter Donations: Old Blankets, Towels, Sheets and MORE

Whenever I get rid of items that I no longer need, I go through my "checklist":
Is there another use I might have for it?  Maybe even a Pinterest craft project.  
Can I sell it?  If so - eBay, Craigslist, Mom-to-Mom sale, garage sale, ...  
Do I know someone else that could benefit from having it?  
Can it be donated?  
And lastly, is it trash?  In which case - can it be recycled or is it heading off to dump?

One day I noticed a sign at my vets office (they support an animal shelter).  They were asking for old towels and blankets.  I had never thought about a vet, or animal shelter, needing such things.  But, it makes sense.   They do care for many animals that have been injured or need treatment.  Sometimes those blankets/towels are used to comfort them and may not be able to be used again.  So they may go through them often.

Then I started to think more about a lot of things that an animal shelter might need:  animal beds, toys, food, collars, leashes, animal cages, cat towers, ...  The list is huge!  So, as my dog continued to grow, I donated the collars and leashes that she outgrew.  I also started bagging up all my old towels and blankets that I knew no person would want.  

It all added up to be a lot!  And, it's tax deductible!

We have donated many times since!  It feels so good to know that my "old things" have a new purpose in life!  My local Humane Society does wash and reuse blankets, towels, sheets, ....  But they still go through a lot.  It is so simple to donate!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Oahu, Hawaii: Hanauma Bay

Hanauma Bay State Park is amazing!  A friend recommended a visit there and we finally had an opportunity to check it out during our last visit to Oahu.  I'm glad that we did.  I had heard great things about the snorkeling opportunities there and now I know why!

Map to give you an idea of where Hanauma Bay is.
Also pictured is Waikiki (where we were staying.)
Our experience:  

It was early February 2015 so we were concerned about water temp and waves.  Not just for our visit to Hanauma Bay but for all of our water adventures during the trip.  So, after much research, we decided to get our snorkeling equipment from Snorkel Bob's.  That way we could have the equipment for a week and be able to use it at a variety of locations.  Of course, we were talked into upgrading most of the equipment and renting wet suits....  It ended up costing our family of 4 a small fortune for the equipment to ensure that we had a great experience.  Looking back - we should have NOT done this!  We only used the equipment one other time for a very quick test run.  Hanauma Bay does offer equipment rental on site that is fairly priced and is plenty good for what you need there.

They only allow a limited number of people in the bay at a time and there are MANY tour buses that bring large groups every day. Parking is hard to get!  You do pay to park in their lot but it is refundable (within 15 minutes) if you go in and there isn't a place open.  From everything I read - this is very common.  Most recommend getting there the first thing that they open.  We did not arrive as early as we had hoped.  Actually, we got there about 2 hours before they closed.  For us, parking was not an issue.  But, we also had very little time before the bay closed.  

Lots of free range poultry on the island.

First things first, after you pay to get in you have to watch a short video (8 minutes).  This is to ensure that you understand the rules of the bay and the importance of those rules.  I think they should play this movie on all flights going into Hawaii!  It covers things like:

  • It's against the law to touch the turtles.
  • Do not touch the fish, rocks or coral (it's all living).

You do sign a form after that will put you on a list.  That list will allow you to visit again over the next year without having to watch the movie again.  I'm not sure how easy that process is as we have not returned since.

There is a paved hill that you walk down to get to the bay.  Or you can pay to ride the tram.

We walked down.  I'm glad that we did as there were so many great picture opportunities!  But we did take the tram back up the hill.  Normally we would have been fine with walking but, as I mentioned, it was close to closing time when we got there.  

In the background of this picture is the snorkel rental stand.  As I mentioned, they offer plenty for your visit and at a decent price.   One thing that I thought was a little strange - all rental equipment had to be returned one hour before closing.  They REALLY pushed for people to be completely out of the park (and parking) by closing time.  It wouldn't have been too bad but we did arrive late....

We did have one couple tell us that they stopped at the Goodwill nearby and picked their equipment up for super cheap.  They planned to donate it back when they were done. 
Restrooms and changing rooms.

Lots of animals looking for food in the trash.

This picture shows the tram going up the hill to the gift shop and visitors center.

Notice the break wall?  This made snorkeling so much easier than where we had tried before!  The waves were kept out but all the beautiful fish were still there to see!

Hanauma Bay will be our #1 place to snorkel in the future!

My Notes:

  • There is no smoking anywhere in the park - so you have to leave to smoke.  But, you can get your hand stamped to return.
  • You can not take shells, sand, or rocks from the bay.
  • There is no food or beverages for sale in the bay but you can bring your own.
  • Bring your own towels!  We forgot ours....
  • There are free mats to use at the volunteer station but it closes early (closed at 4:00 pm when we were there and the park didn't close until 6:00 pm.)
  • You can rent lockers.
  • The water gets really sandy/cloudy during busy times so it may be heard to see anything when snorkeling.
  • You can not climb on the coral.