Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Most Patient Kitty Ever

Gracie is not your normal cat. She is a people cat, a dog cat, if you will. She likes to be where her people are, and for some unfathomable reason, that includes the boys. 

She even tolerates dress up.


And she loves action figures!
I can has Ninja Turtles?
Bless her heart. =)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

DuFrene Family StayCay--Part Dos!

Friday of the StayCay was our lake day! I'm pretty sure we had the lake all to ourselves so we lived it up. We floated, tubed and soaked up the sun. 




Jackson got brave and decided to go for a tube ride all by himself! He looks so little in the tube!

On Friday night, we checked out the SFA planetarium.

The presentation on black holes pretty much went over all of our heads, but we all enjoyed the demonstration on the summer night sky and seeing where all of the constellations can be found.

The kids all did pretty well during the presentation thanks to the promise of a sweet treat following the show...



Saturday started off right with cupcakes for breakfast to celebrate Evie's 3rd birthday! Happy Birthday Evie!

All these littles sure make things...interesting! They fight like siblings but love each other so much.

Marc, Ali and the girls had to head home that morning, but the rest of us continued our tour of the East Texas back roads to Jacksonville for the Cherokee Trace Drive-thru Safari. Fun Fact: My dad loves the back roads "short cuts". We drove 60 miles to Jacksonville and never saw so much as a stop light or gas station...just rolling hills, pine trees, red dirt, and the buzzing metropolises of Cushing, Reklaw and Sacul. =) 


This place was so neat! They give you a bag of food and then you drive at your own pace through the 300 acre park. We saw most every kind of deer imaginable, many of whom would eat right out of your hand.


In addition to deer, we saw quite a few more exotic animals as well, like this handsome fellow, Ollie the Camel.

And llamas, zebras, water buffalo, and bison!

And did the kids like it? You bet!

Back at home that evening as the StayCation was drawing to a close, Justin and I left the boys to enjoy a little more Grammy/Pop/cousin time while we took the 4-wheeler down to the lake to watch the sunset.

As if we hadn't already enjoyed enough wildlife that day, on our way down to the lake we saw this mama deer and her twins. So cute! Mama Deer had a slight look of panic in her eyes when we saw her. Perhaps she thought we were going to run over her family with the 4-wheeler. I like to think though that she and I had a shared moment of sympathy with one another. I get it mama, taking care of two little ones is tough!

The perfect end to a wonderful vacation!
My happy place.
Thank you mom and dad for planning such fun activities, loving on our kids, cooking, cleaning, and putting up with our chaos, and helping us create priceless memories for our family!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

DuFrene Family StayCay

We just returned from our annual DuFrene family vacation. This year, it was a "stay-cation" full of all sorts of fun activities in beautiful East Texas. 

On Tuesday evening, Andrew and I drove to Nacogdoches where we were able to reunite with Jackson who had already spent a couple of days at Grammy and Pop's. Justin had to stay and work for a couple more days but was able to join us later in the week. On Wednesday, Jackson, Grammy and I went to see Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 at SFA. Jackson reported that his favorite part was the entire package of Skittles he was allowed to consume during the movie! But the most exciting part of Wednesday was that later in the afternoon all of the cousins arrived so then the fun could really get started!

We enjoyed some al fresco dining...

and a little pool splashin (swimsuit optional)....

On Thursday, we went to the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens, TX. It is a production fish hatchery that raises fish to stock ponds and lakes across the state. 

As we were walking up to the Fishery, Jackson came up with a little song. I was majorly impressed with his songwriting skills. Sung to the tune of "Daniel Tigers Neighborhood", it went like this:
We're going to the fishery,
Wonder what kind of fish we'll see?
Won't you ride along with me? (Ride along...)

We first checked out the exhibits where we saw lots of fish, of course, but also a big alligator! 

The highlight for most was the dive show conducted by a scuba diver who told us all about the fish they raise there. He even took questions from the audience. It was very neat!

We went on a tram tour where we saw mostly empty stock ponds (the primary production season is the Spring), but it was interesting nonetheless.


After the tram tour, we got to try our hand at actual fishing!

Supposedly, other lucky visitors have caught 50 lb bass in this very pond. Ali was the only successful fisherman out of our group and her catch wasn't exactly a record breaker. But we all had fun trying!

We left the Fishery and drove a few miles back through the Pineywoods to get to our picnic spot--Love's Lookout in Jacksonville. The view was beautiful!


Gram, Pop and their little grands

Love my mom and sister!

Thursday evening back at the Cabin in the Woods consisted of more al fresco dining, pool splashing and 4-wheeler riding. As we were making smores in the fire pit, we heard an unexpected crunch of tires on the gravel. It was Justin and he had surprised us by arriving a day early! He was greeted by shrieks of "Daddy's here! Daddy's here!" and smothered in hugs. And the boys were pretty excited too. =) They missed their daddy, for sure, but after a couple of days of wrangling the boys mostly on my own I think I was definitely happier to see him! 

Next up, highlights of our lake day, planetarium visit and wildlife safari!

Friday, July 25, 2014

A REEL good time

Jackson enjoyed a few days this week at the Cabin in the Woods with Grammy and Pop all to himself. 

On one of the mornings, Pop took him fishing (and Pop even took pictures--I'm so proud!) Now, he went fishing with Pop once before, but he didn't actually catch anything.

But this time, he got his first fish!

Even if he refused to touch his prize catch!


I would say he is HOOKED! =)

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Ducks Fly Together!

I don't write about my work very much, mostly because this is a family blog and my 14 or so readers don't care much about what I do for a living. 

But nonetheless, my career and being a working mom is a huge part of my personal identity and there are often intersections of my work and family life. At no time is this more evident than during the summer months. I work in orientation, so when pretty much everyone else on campus is enjoying a little downtime, my team is at our peak welcoming every new undergraduate student to Texas A&M. This year we had 19 basically 3-day conferences during which we saw 12,000 students and more than 15,000 family members. It's a lot, y'all! It is kind of all consuming for the 7 week period while this is happening. I spend more waking hours with my work family during these weeks than I do with my actual family. Good thing I like them so much!

Seriously, I couldn't ask for a better group of people. They make what could be a very daunting task FUN and so rewarding. So as we wrap up our summer, I must thank Emily, Erin, Libby, Meg, Ryan, Nathan, Jane Marie, Sarah, Shaq, Holly, Diana and Jamie for an AWESOME summer.

Jackson thinks "mommy's work friends" are pretty fun too!

I would be remiss here if I didn't also thank my wonderful hubby for keeping the home fire burning while I am working so much!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Favorite Playmates

The boys got to play with a few of their favorites this weekend, starting with Pop on Friday night.

My parents were driving through and just stayed for the evening. The boys wore Pop out and vice versa but you've never heard so many giggles!

On Saturday morning Gram and Pop had to leave, but the boys and I met up with Amber, Jilly and Alex for some playtime at the Children's Museum. 


The miracle of the morning was when we were leaving and Jackson asked "Mommy, will you take our picture on the train?" Perhaps it was just an excuse to climb on the train, but he rarely willingly takes a picture so I seized our opportunity!

The highlight of the morning immediately followed the photo op when the real train came whistling down the track that runs just behind the Museum. The conductor waved at the kiddos and blew the whistle. Jilly covered her ears while the boys watched with fascination while the entire train chugged along.

Day. made. =)

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Bluebonnets!

Back in April when the bluebonnets were in full bloom, we got to hang out with our favorite photographer, Sarah, for a couple of hours. 

Sarah said this may be her favorite shoot she's done with us yet (and she's done a lot!) and I would have to agree. Each image was just perfect. I had a hard time picking my favorites for this post and so you can imagine that it will be nearly impossible to pick the select few that make it onto my wall!

I suspect that the greatest pressure for a photographer must be to get the perfect family shot. #shenailedit 

Here's the one to hang over the mantle!

Mr. Jackson rocked this shoot. He absolutely adores Sarah and thinks our shoots are the most fun thing ever. He typically refuses to smile for a picture for me, but Sarah makes it all a game. The result? Absolutely swoon-worthy images!


That dimple...it gets me every time!




Precious Andrew made sure that big brother didn't upstage him. I just love everything about these images... how Sarah was able to perfectly capture this stage at 18 months as he was leaving babyhood for toddlerhood. I look at them and can hear his giggle, feel the softness of his hair and can pinch his quickly fading baby chubby cheeks.






Each boy got some pictures with mama....




And daddy....

Well, with Andrew we tried anyways! At 18 months Andrew was quite a mama's boy and these images perfectly tell that part of his story! Poor Daddy!

But perhaps my favorites are the ones of my sweet boys together. This is the first of our shoots in which it is obvious that Jackson and Andrew have become friends and playmates.



Even the outtakes are pretty adorable!



Every little Texan needs this image...on a horse in a field of bluebonnets. =)


One surprise when looking through these images was noticing how BIG Jackson looks on this rocking horse. He has almost outgrown it. Tear.

Me and my honey even got to snuggle in for a few pictures together.


Thank you, Sarah for so perfectly capturing our family once again! These are such a treasure and couldn't be more perfect!