CARES: Painting Party

We have the great privilege of being the CARES team at our apartment Community. Our role is to help foster a sense of community within our apartment. Part of that role is to host two events a month! This has meant that my love of hosting parties and party planning has taken shape at least twice a month for the past year since we just came up on our year anniversary with CARES. I'd love to share some of our past events with you guys in the future but for today, I'l start with our painting party. 
Every month we try to come up with creative, fun events for our residents. We know the favorites and we know the magic word (It's free FOOD!) but we also like to provide a variety for the varying interests of our residents and to keep things fresh. The painting party we held in February was the first "hands on" type event we had and it was a great success! We were able to see the true talent of some of our residents. I mean, check out that Mickey Mouse above!
This adorable couple, Nitesh and Priyanka, planned out some fun paintings for the day! How cute are they?!

We love the opportunity that CARES provides for us to meet our neighbors! We love knowing the people around us. It's a great feeling to know the people you see when you take your dog for a walk in the evenings. It's very special. 
This little pack is our favorite. They are so full of energy! It's so fun to see them running and biking around the apartment.
For every party we host or party ideas we have, I create a Pinterest Board for that party. These boards serve the purpose of being a Mood Board for me! We have a very limited budget and for some events we have limited time to prepare things for it. While we can't do everything I pin, the Pinterest board for each event is very helpful in giving me ideas on how to make things special and personalized. Unfortunately, I don't have photos of the details (I'm the worst at playing hostess and taking pictures!) for this party but we made sure to have colorful decorations and of course, colorful snacks! Here's my "mood board" for our Painting Party.

11 Mile Hike & Overnight

Zachary has been a "big camping guy" (Sean and Kaitlyn, anyone?) since we've moved back from China. He has loved researching and learning about camping! As we all know, Youtube has a wealth of knowledge and Zachary has took full advantage for all things camping. He can tie basically any knot. He can clean a fish (we even bought whole fish for him to practice on! Hehe). He can set trot lines. He can identify plants. It's been very cool learning a bit here and there of all he has learned about camping. His dream would be that we set out on a several week hike somewhere. Maybe one day we will do it! But in the mean time, we have gorgeous camping and hiking spots all over the Austin area. Thankfully for Zachary, we also have some great friends that love to camp and hike, too! Our good friend Chris, being one of them. Zachary and Chris decided to go on an 11 mile overnight hike together a few months ago. They planned out their course, packed their bags and Megan (Chris' wife) and I dropped them off at the starting point of their adventure. 
Sawyer Camp was their starting point! The trail head started at a parking lot so Meghan and I could easily drop them off. 
Packing for any kind of camping is always a chore. Unless you do it like your friend Bernie or my brother Justin has on occasion, which is basically sleeping on the ground. In which case, you have nothing to pack! Zachary and Chris weren't going the ground trek but they were hiking to a primitive camping site which meant they had to pack everything to boil water and to cook and catch their food. They also packed snacks, a few drinks for guys time around the fire, fire starters, a tent and sleeping bags. There was also a few items that are rarely used but fun to take like a machete. 
We dropped them off and watched them walk down the trail until they were out of eye and ear shot, like some proud momma ducklings letting their chicks go off for the first time by themselves.
The rest of the shots were from the guys along the way. They had gorgeous views of the lake the whole hike.

They hiked 6.5 miles the first day before making camp. Once they reached their stopping point they set up everything, starting purifying water and set lines out for fish. Unfortunately, they didn't catch anything! Thankfully, they brought a few canned goods for just the occasion.
In the morning, Zachary made some bannock from grains and flour for the guys to enjoy for breakfast. The night before, the guys had their make shift dinner, fish-less, chatted and drank around the fire and then hit the sack. The only hitch that night was when they heard rustling outside their tent only to find a racoon greedily trying to get into the marshmallow bag! 
The next days hike consisted of 4.5 miles so they started off early. The day was just as gorgeous as the day before.
Here's a few pics of their mile markers! We missed Mile 1 but you can see how they became less enthusiastic as the miles went on! By mile 8 the next day they were sore, hungry and tired! They were ready to get home. 

The last few miles included some stream jumping- fun!

The guys were thrilled to hit the San Gabriel River Trail head because that meant air conditioner and Sonic slushes! Haha. Meghan and I picked them up and made sure to have cool drinks in hand. They were, oddly, soaking wet! Neither could give us a clear explanation as to why. They would just laugh and drink their drinks. Must have been the adventure! The guys had a great time and a few months later did a kayaking/camping trip that sadly, I have no pictures for. We are looking forward to more camping adventures in the future! Meghan and I will eventually go on some, too. I have a whole Camping board in preparation for it, too. ;)post signature


Pumpkin Picking & Carving // Family Pictures

all photos by fuzebox photography

Family pictures are always beautiful, aren't they? They're these beautiful stills of a family and lives being lived. 

Sure, life may not always include throwing confetti, or walks hand and hand through the woods, or an entire family pumpkin patch day, but they are shots of what we wish and long for life to be. We long to all take off and enjoy a day at a pumpkin patch with family. And we long to have the time and intention to walk hand in hand with our love through a forest in the fall. Whatever said family or couple pictures hold, they're glimpses of what we long for life to look like. And at the very same time they're pictures of what actual life does look like, too. We may not always have the time or the forest or the pumpkin patch to walk through, but we do laugh, make memories and smile with the ones we love, and that's really what the pictures are all about capturing anyway, isn't it?

One of the silver linings to this horrible disease of cancer, is that on that day at the end of May 2015, life lived together and these family moments became intentional and priority.

This day, picking pumpkins, was photographed. But by God's grace and unfailing love towards us, the 17 months we battled Pancreatic Cancer as a family, looked a lot like these photos. Memories made. Memories lived. Life lived. With intention.


 When cancer enters the scene, it's like something slaps us in the face and tells us to wake up! Wake up! Live every day like it's the last. Or in my mother's words on a Facebook album she posted with glimpses of these very photos, 2 weeks before she passed away;

"Please always know God has a plan and we have to trust and have faith! And always be joyful and smile. Don't sweat the small stuff it's so unimportant! Please always know God has a plan and we have to trust and have faith! And always be joyful and smile. Don't sweat the small stuff it's so unimportant!"

I'll leave you with that (and with the photos of the rest of our day). With the wise, yet simple, and so very joy-filled words of my beautiful mother.

Thank you for reading and making it through all those photos! I know there's usually tons of pictures around here but these are especially lovely and bless my heart. So, thank you for scrolling through them. Love you guys.

Also, a HUGE thank you to Linda of fuzebox photography. We are forever grateful for these beautiful pictures.
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