Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Our Sweet Little Zoo

The title may throw you off a bit---Drew and I don't actually own a Zoo.  I am referring in the title to the sweet little Zoo in Austin.  It is nothing like most Zoo's.   It is pretty small, intimate, but also beautiful.    And the Zoo is a sanctuary for rescued animals.  Their mission is as follows (copied from their website): The mission of Austin Zoo and Animal Sanctuary is to assist animals in need through rescue, rehabilitation and education. At our rescue and sanctuary zoo, children and adults alike can appreciate our Hill Country setting and enjoy a close-up experience with our rescued animals. Austin Zoo and Animal Sanctuary is a private, non-profit zoo, with over 350 animals across a hundred different species. Austin Zoo and Animal Sanctuary is a forever home for our rescued animals.  So, as you can imagine, the Zoo is very different from what you might normally expect at a typical Zoo.  But, I love it.   Since the weather was perfect, we planned a morning at the Zoo on Saturday.

You can get REALLY close to the animals here.

I didn't have a zoom lens on the camera.  I used a prime lens.  I was actually this close to this little guy!
  I was pretty excited (maybe even more excited than the kids) to be visiting here.  The last time we visited was last fall.  It was almost exactly one year prior.  It was the weekend before we found out I had cancer.  I had no idea cancer treatment lurked around the corner.  So, it was a little surreal being back there, and thinking about my completely different mental, physical and spiritual state this visit.

The setting there is truly wonderful.  There are huge trees everywhere.  I don't think they even removed one when constructing the animal sanctuary.  Also, the location is in the hills.  So, the train ride there is like no other.  You get to see beautiful hill country views as you ride along.

Not thrilled that daddy stuck her in a tree.  Maybe only Luke will be my tree climber.  
Luke spotted a picnic table and decided we needed to have a picnic.  It looks like he is in pretty deep thought here.
I loved watching all of Abbey's expressions as she looked at each of the animals.  Her expressions and personality is priceless.  She makes me laugh out loud every single day!

looking at a pig.

I love how she watches Luke experience the animals in these next two photos.  You can tell she already looks up to her big brother and loves him dearly.

One other wonderful thing we found out on our visit here.  We had expired (long expired) "google offers" vouchers that we purchased for half price admission last year.  With the past year that we have had, we never found an opportunity to make it back.  So, we brought the vouchers along, figuring we would just get credit for the amount we paid.  Instead, they told us that they always honor the vouchers, no matter how old.   Isn't that awesome?   So, since we felt like we got free admission, we bought some animal feed (and treated the kids to a train ride).

Luke wasn't interested in having the animals eat from his hand.   But Abbey, our little fearless animal lover, was thrilled to get to feed the sweet animals.

I love this funny dude.  No kids wanted to feed him though.   That made me want to feed him more.  Instead, I took a photo of him:

Precious moments.  Precious memories made.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Fall--we welcome you!

"Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the Fall" -F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

The weather finally cooled down and became AWESOME just in time for Fall to arrive this past weekend.  This just made me GIDDY!  First, on Friday we received some much needed rain.  I told Luke that if it rained, we were going to find some good puddles to splash in.  I was so excited!

During Abbey's afternoon nap, we stepped outside our house (with baby monitor in tow) and began seeking a good splashing puddle.

searching for puddles
However, I guess our neighborhood has some really good drainage systems.  Standing water was hard to find even though we had received a TON of rain.  But, we found a little bitty puddle near our house.

Later on Friday night, when Daddy got home from work, he helped us search for some good puddles.  This was Abbey's first puddle search (yeah, the poor girl has only seen rain a couple of times during her life--it's sad).  I forgot the camera for the HUGE puddle that we found as a family.  But, I grabbed it in time for Abbey to test out the tiny puddle that Luke and I found earlier.

See here, Abbey.  This is where you jump.

Abbey doesn't like her hands to get dirty.
The rain cooled things off just in time for Saturday--which we spent entirely outdoors.  Have I mentioned that I LOVE the fall?  Hands down--it's the best season!   I should probably mention that I made three separate pumpkin dishes last week as well.  That just got us into the fall spirit even more.  There will be weekly pumpkin dishes made around this house from now until at least Thanksgiving!

Anyway--let's transition back to the outdoors from the food discussion.  For some reason, at our house when the weather is beautiful, we all just want to blow bubbles in our backyard.  So, that is what we did.

patiently waiting for daddy to blow the first round of bubbles.
Praise the Lord for Fall!

I think these two may be just a bit competitive already.  I really don't know where they acquired that trait.
In awe of the bubble magic

And the day just wouldn't be complete without a race...or 20.  He leaves his sister in the dust.  But, she kept wanting to "re-do" the race so that she could try to win.  That's why there were 20 races.

Thank you, Lord, for the fun fall weekend and the ability to enjoy your beautiful creation!

Sunday, September 15, 2013


This weekend was a lot different than our weekend one year ago.

Last year (September 14-16, 2012):

Last year, we were coming to terms with the likelihood that I had advanced stage breast cancer.  I was told that I had to wean my daughter, who was exclusively breastfeeding and only a little over 8 months old.  Neither of us were nearly ready for that, as I planned on extended breastfeeding with her.  Not only that, but I had an awful bout of bronchitis as well.  There were a lot of tears shed that weekend.

Last year, we were unable to attend the 3rd birthday party of one of the little girls in our community group due to me being ill and all of us just dealing with cancer now entering the picture.  I wrote a blog post on Saturday of that weekend and asked for prayers of all friends and family.  On Sunday of that weekend in 2012, we began to feel the peace of God come over us....a peace that surpasses all understanding...an evidence of the covering in prayer.

This past weekend:

This past weekend was vastly different.   It started off completely awesome, as Drew's management team gave his team the Friday off!  On Saturday, we celebrated that friend's 4th birthday party.  On Sunday, we enjoyed the Lord's day, marveled in his creation and simply celebrated life together as a family.  No tears were shed.  But, there were a ton of smiles!   Here are some photos of our joyous weekend together.

First, on Saturday morning Drew and Luke built a tent together at a super-cool store, called "Techshop."  This place offers memberships for their facility, which includes laser cutters, plastics and electronics labs, a machine shop, a wood shop, a metal working shop, a textiles departments, welding stations and a waterjet cutter.  Members have open access to all of their equipment and design software as well.  We took a tour of the place last weekend (they offered free delicious food) and then we were offered by one of the owners a free workshop to make a backyard tent this weekend.   So, Drew and Luke had some fun father-son tent-building time, while I stayed home with Abbey for her nap.

Drew snapped a quick photo of Luke painting on the tent.  Doesn't Luke look so cute in his safety glasses and apron?

Luke's tent.  He also made some cool wooden shadow puppets with a laser cutter.   
The other side of the tent.

Later, we headed to Krystal's birthday party.  

The glowing birthday princess

Blowing out her #4 candle! I love how the little boy next to her is also blowing, as if to help.
Abbey enjoyed the special birthday treats!

Luke made sure to secure a seat near the birthday treats.
Giving mommy her little endearing look...along with a little cake face.
The kids (boys and girls) loved the balloon knight swords.  

We won't tell anyone that Luke took a break from the knightly sword fight to play with the little princess castle and princesses.
We went on a hike on Sunday.  Both of our kids LOVE exploring, which makes me VERY happy.  We will be outside every weekend this fall exploring some fun spots.   I can't wait!

Look who's always leading the way...
"Hey guys, come on over here!"

Daddy's girl!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A Walk in the Park

A walk in the park is what I decided I was going to take the kids on for my first day of independence from cancer treatment (which most folks would say was not necessarily "a walk in the park").  I just had all of my restrictions lifted on Monday at noon.  So, I was so excited to plan out all of the fun stuff I was going to do with the kids during the days over the coming weeks.  Drew really wanted me to take it easy, but that is something that is so difficult for me to do.  The doctor said I could do anything, so taking the kids on a couple of field trips outside the home seemed appropriate and within guidelines.

Tuesday morning turned out to be a pretty morning, with a fog that rolled in over the city.  I thought it might make for some nice photos, so I decided to take the kids for a walk in a beautiful Austin park.  At this park (Mayfield Park), many peacocks roam freely.  I decided to make our trip a school lesson on peacocks, which also made the little road trip multi-functional.

By the time we got to the park (hello early morning Austin traffic), the fog had moved on.  But, the cloud cover still remained, so it was a perfect photo opportunity.  However, one thing I didn't think about was the potential difficulty of watching two excited children around many little ponds of water, while attempting to take photographs.  So, I didn't get a ton of pictures.  I was happy to get a few though to remember our little experience this morning.  We'll plan our next visit to this beautiful mark on a weekend, when Drew will come along.  

Hello Mr. Peacock!
Come on down and visit with us, Mr. Peacock!
Reflecting at one of the ponds.

Looking at the fish.

We did a lot of exploring at the park, which the children LOVED!   They found a cute little building (it looked like a tower), but it was locked up.  My little hooligans were trying to break in.  Luke gave up pretty quickly though and moved on to other fun stuff.

Abbey didn't want to give up on getting inside though.  Here, she is looking for me to help her out and saying, "uh-oh!"
Luke found a peacock feather and didn't want to put it down.  I used to love finding feathers as a child.  Now, they are so gross to me!  Here, he is showing me how big he is (so big that he can touch both sides of the walkway wall)!

Looking over a ledge.  Don't worry, once I snapped this photo of Abbey attempting to climb up it, the camera went down and we left the area.  

I love how Abbey is squatting so lady-like in this photo.  
Bye-bye Mr. Peacock!
Luke was very disappointed that we didn't see any of the peacocks display their beautiful feathers.  Part of our lesson included heading back home and looking up when and why the peacocks spread their feathers.  Apparently, they do so as part of their mating ritual and when they feel threatened.  I guess they felt pretty comfortable around us, because we got VERY close to them (as evidenced by the photos--I didn't use a zoom lens).

I thought that I would be in the clear since my doctor removed my restrictions and said everything looked awesome.  However, I guess the healing process may still not be a "walk in the park".  Last night, I noticed blood on my bra where I had the emergency surgery a couple of weeks ago (and where the stitches were removed on Monday).  The incision is covered mostly by steri-strip tape, but there is a tiny area that is not currently covered.  I can tell that the bleeding is seeping along the entire incision though.  Apparently, the incision wasn't completely sealed together when the surgeon removed my stitches.  So, I guess I am back to trying to take it easy.  I plan on contacting my doctor to see if there is anything else I need to do, or if he recommends I visit a wound car clinic once again.  It's the silly radiation that is keeping my skin on the left breast area from healing.  That skin may just need a little extra assistance in healing.