Thursday, June 30, 2011

the last day of June...

Isn't that sad? The first month of summer is over. July starts in a few hours.... It always always just goes way too fast. Thankfully we have lots of fun events to look forward to over the next several weeks of summer but that doesn't help me get over that this is June 30th. I turn 42 in August... how is that possible?? Time just keeps on a ticking.... tick tock tick tock
Ending June with photos of my girls and summer flowers. Begrundingly welcoming in July.

Bubble Girl
one of ellie's favorite summer time activities - bubbles!

Flowers on the patio
container plants on the patio. they make me happy

The face
the face of summer :)

Dog days
pant pant pant

me and Emma
me and emma - photo courtesy of ellie

Monday, June 27, 2011

Shenadoah National Park

Sunday the mister and I took a day for ourselves and headed west to the mountains. Emma was with a girlfriend at home and Ellie got to have some one on one time with grandma. We dropped her off on our way. She was thrilled to pieces about it too. There was partaking in sundaes, shopping, movie watching and hanging out and chatting about life. A perfect day for Grandma and for Ellie. We also had a perfect day.

We went to the Shenandoah National Park which is one of my favorite places in the world. Everytime I am there, I see or experience something new. It's never a disappointment. The weather was gorgeous. A warm 72 degrees and the birds were singing and calling from everywhere.

We decided to take a hike on a trail that was posted as relatively easy. Just 2 miles roundtrip. One mile up to the mountain top and one mile down. Oi vhey, I am so out of shape. The mile up was tough and I was sweating and breathing heavy and Steve would look back and say "are you OK?" which made it worse because it was no big deal to him... but I made it! All the way to the top and I didn't have a heart attack or stop to rest too much.

Up up up
it doesn't look too tough but it was a long way up!

It was worth all the panting and cursing because the feeling of accomplishment when we reached the top was amazing. The views were beautiful and to think that we were just on the road 30 minutes before was super cool. I also realized that I need to invest in some hiking shoes for our next trip. My 2.5 year old Keds that have no traction were not really cutting it. I think a walking stick would help too oh, and maybe a hat...Once I am properly accessorized, I can go back and laugh in the face of that uphill trail.

Skyline Drive
skyline drive from up above. see.. it was a big trail to climb.


Atop Frazier Trail
the view from the top.

we had a chuckle over the bong that we found in the woods.
I don't know if I would enjoy being 'high' this high up with such a looong way to fall down.

After our hike we headed to the lodge for a late lunch. The lodge is located across from a big field and I was keeping my fingers crossed that there would be deer and fawns. I was not disappointed. There is nothing cuter than a baby fawn. The big eyes, the wet nose, the long eye lashes and those precious spots dotting their backs - love them! We spied three fawn that flitted between two moms. How very nurturing and caring each mamma deer was, even if it wasn't her offspring.

precious, just precious.

how could anyone shoot one of us? look how cute I am.

Spring Fawn
fawn in the meadow.

We saw lots of birds at the meadow too. Barn Swallows were zigging and zagging all across the road, American Robins were uncovering earth worms and a Brown Thrasher parent was teaching junior some life lessons. It was great and I could have stayed all day. My partner in crime was very tolerant but there is only so long that he can look at birds so he went off to the car to listen to some talk radio and relax. Again, I could have stayed for another hour just watching and observing and appreciating.

Brown Thrasher family
brown thrasher family
notice the baby hasn't 'matured' into his golden eyes yet

Barn Swallow
finally, one took a break. barn swallows fly for a looong looong time

Barn Swallow Babies
baby barn swallows!

We ended our day hiking down from one of the overlooks to a grouping of rocks. We heard a Barred Owl call and saw several warblers. Three new life birds for me. I was so happy. Sadly, they were too fast for me to photograph as they flew from tree top to tree top in mock speed. AND...Steve was standing too close to the edge for my liking and he was taking the edge off my bird high because I was afraid he was going to fall. Next time we go, I am bringing a tent and a sleeping bag and some hiking shoes and I am staying for a day or two...or three.

Careful there...
see....see how close to the edge he is. made me very nervous!

Taking it in
goodbye shenandoah national park. until next time...

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The month of June

Summer is in full swing. We have had fabulous weather and so far we have been quite busy. The girls finished school on the 18th so this is their first 'official' week on break. They both did well in school. Emma heads to high school in September and Ellie will be off to 3rd grade. Cannot believe I have a high schooler. She is excited about this transition and I am excited for her. Third grade is known to be much more challenging than 2nd grade so we will have our fingers crossed that Ellie will do OK. She starts summer reading school next month and we also have lined up a reading specialist to tutor her twice a week. Hoping it all pays off by the end of the summer.

We have been busy since our trip to St. Jude. We enjoyed having our friends Laurel and Tony visit us for a long weekend. Laurel and I shopped and had lunch and many laughs. They also brought down their kayaks and we took an early morning run at the lake. It was amazing. I was able to kayak down into a little cove and see 3 Belted Kingfishers. I think mom was teaching a class on fishing. I was able to get really close which was a treat for me. We also spied the Osprey and several catfish jumping out of the water. I so love the lake we live on. It's a blessing in my life.

After our visit with Laurel and Tony, Steve's cousin Karen was next to visit. She is such fun and we all laugh at her fun spirit. One day I had to work and she played with Ellie for most of the day. Ellie was overjoyed! We also went to Busch Gardens amusement park in Williamsburg. It was just Emma, her friend, Karen and I. Since Ellie is not a fan of all the 'big' rides she stayed home and went out to the movies with Steven. Us big ride fans were not disappointed in the least. It was the first time for Emma and I (Karen too) going to Busch Gardens. It wasn't very crowded so we were able to ride the roller coasters all day without much of a wait. Love when that happens. When you purchase a ticket you can come back all summer long so I am sure we will be back in the very near future. There are still a lot of things that we didn't get to, that I would like to do there.

Weather wise, we have been fortunate to have pretty great weather. It hasn't rained much and there has only been one or two thunderstorms. It has been a bit on the hot side but nothing horrible. The life in the backyard has been a pleasure to watch this season. So many birds and their babies, chipmunks, lizards, the two Mallard ducks that come everyday, frogs, toads, deer and racoons. I love to just sit and watch from the porch. My favorite summer time activity.

One of Ellie's favorite activities is swimming and she has already gone to 3 pool parties. She did have to bid farwell to one of her good friends who moved to Utah and another little friend has been in China for 2 weeks but thankfully, there are still lots of little girls in our neighborhood to play with. Emma has been hanging out with friends too and last week I went to "chaperone" with a girl friend whose older daughter was having a party at our clubhouse. Emma and her friend were invited to come along but they were so nervous because these kids were sophomores and juniors (I know right!). Well, I spied this really cute boy and inquired about him (a rising sophomore) and then he was introduced to Emma and now they are texting and he just asked her out to the movies. We haven't put a dating policy into effect yet so we aren't sure how to handle this. It's fun to be a match maker though!! Who knew!

I have been busy with work too. Hoping to get to some new designs out this month. Emma has been helping a lot in the studio which is great. She does require payment in clothes from Hollister but so far the arrangement is working. Next, we are gearing up for our July vacation to Cape Cod. Cannot wait. Here are some random photos from the last few weeks of our summer thus far.

Melting Pot
We took my mom the Melting Pot for her 75th Birthday. Oh my...was it good!

Male Hummingbird
Ruby Throated male humming bird at the feeder.

Busch Gardens
photo from Busch Gardens. A scary one of me but man riding roller coasters in 95 degree weather makes you look a bit beat down.

Canoe Ride
Steve after one of our canoe rides on the lake.

Emma and her friend. Such pretty girls.

We have two chipmunks in the yard and I love to watch their antics.

Emma & Ellie
Emma & Ellie enjoying a summer night.

Party Girl
Ellie headed off to another pool party

Canoe Ride
Shot from our canoe ride on the lake.
See what I mean about this lake - such a blessing.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Trip to Memphis

It's been a busy start to the summer. First, the good news, Ellie had a wonderful check-up at St. Jude. Her scans came back clear. Thank God! I was nervous about this one since it was our first time going for 6 months without an MRI. When you are used to checking on things every three months and then to have to wait twice as long - things become a little unnerving. So, BIG sigh of relief for a good report. Dr. Gajjar feels now that we are heading into year four, we are in a good place. Statistically, the odds are starting to go in her favor for being cured. One more year to go. I know we will always be apprehensive and I don't think I will ever truly let my guard down about cancer recurrence but each day out she gets a little closer to that goal and we breathe a little bit easier.

While at St. Jude we made friends with a new family. The beautiful thing about being a St. Jude family is that you can instantly bond and connect with another cancer family because they truly understand and relate to what you have gone through or will go through. No words need to be spoken. Sharing Ellie's story is something I have promised God I would do and it is such an honor to have her testimony in our lives. I know Ellie's journey made an impact on them and hopefully encouraged them as well. I hope I continue to have many opportunities to talk about everything we have witnessed and experienced in the last 3 years.

During our visit Ellie finished up some loose strings with the Sterling Jeweler campaign. She needed to redo some video footage that was corrupt from our last visit. I cannot wait to see the final edited piece because there were so many starts and stops to this process that sometimes it is hard to imagine what the end result will be. I am sure it will be wonderful and we will cry and hopefully laugh too. Of course we got to see Dr. B on this visit. We both look so forward to that part of the trip. He does a great job of keeping me focused and keeping my faith strong for a positive outcome while Ellie goes to sleep and the scans probe the depths of her brain looking for changes. I know she is in the best hands possible while this takes place and I take great comfort knowing he is watching over her while she sleeps. He is getting ready to retire in the next year and that makes us sad but we know he will always be a part of our lives. We actually enjoyed some out of the hospital time with him and his wife and daughter this time. Ellie fell in love with his daughter as she is just as warm and compassionate as her dad. Whoever takes over this position will have HUGE, GINORMOUS shoes to fill. HUGE...did I say HUGE?

Here are some photos from our trip. We won't be back until December. That sounds light years away doesn't it! Time to enjoy the summer!!

Dr. B
Ellie and Dr. B before sedation and her MRI.

Blowing Kisses

she's just the cutest kid ever...

Bracelet making
Video shoot in the craft room

Crafting away
More video for the 'B' roll footage.

Video shoot
The St Jude & Sterling staff

Getting in some IPad time while we wait in endocrinology.
And...we had a great report from endo too!! Yahoo!

Ellie's photo
I love when I see photos of Ellie in the hospital. This one was down in behavorial medicine