First Zoo Trip.

In April, my sister and I bought tickets to the Wildlife World Zoo on Living Social for a good price. Then we realized why they were a "good price"....they expired at the beginning of September, meaning they were valid during the hottest months of the year here in Satan's Lair the Valley of the Sun. We tried to sell them on Craigslist and a coupon resell site with no luck. Then, when my sister had left for Boston, we decided to go with my mom as an activity for Jake's birthday. I might've mentioned it before, but TJ and I have decided to try and make a tradition of doing a fun activity for birthdays instead of giving tons of gifts. A gift of experiences, if you will. So, we picked what turned out to be one of the hottest days in August to make the 45-minute trek to Litchfield Park, AZ, otherwise known as The Middle Of Nowhere.

I would love to say that we are so glad we went, but honestly I was regretting those ticket purchases. It would have been probably 80% more enjoyable had it not been The Hottest Day in August. BUT, the other 20% (or more, don't check my math) was just the fact that this zoo is not the most enjoyable. The exhibits are old and rundown and many seemed too small for the animals. TJ actually said, "I've decided I don't like zoos. The animals deserve better." While we realize that zoos do a lot for conservation and research and public awareness, it really was kind of depressing. It wasn't just the animals either. Some of the staff were kind of off-putting (the petting zoo guy barely talked to us, only when we spoke to him), and it really just wasn't worth the drive for us when the Phoenix Zoo is so much closer. Maybe it just needs some "We Bought a Zoo"-esque treatment (and they are making some improvements, the signs told us).

All that being said, it was fun to watch Jake and see his interest in the animals. He especially enjoyed the aquarium portion of the zoo, which was also a welcome relief from the heat. A lot of the animals in the other exhibits were out and about, and the small enclosures meant they were easily visible even if they weren't active, which was nice. He liked seeing the animals in the petting zoo, but refused to touch them, as is evidenced in the photos.

Oh you know, just me practicing some boring compositions.

His expressions....priceless.

These baby goats were only a few weeks old and so cute.

Looking at, but not touching (never touching) the tortoise.

There were a couple of baby sea lions that Jake loved.

That monkey backpack is a leash. I said I would never, but I've learned that one of the main dishes in the meal of motherhood is one's own words. It was awesome.

I've decided that hyenas are really kinda creepy, in-bred looking creatures. But they kinda look like dogs, too. They were the most active animals we saw, though they seemed to be taunting us.

At the Park.

We had the opportunity to go up with TJ to Flagstaff when he made a trip up for work. It was SO nice to escape the muggy heat of August in the Valley and journey to the cooler pines. We went a couple of times in August, and one of them we spent in sweaters as it was a cool 60 degrees and rainy (amazing in its own right). However, the other time we went up, the weather was perfectly clear and so we invited our friends Rachel and Jane to walk to the park with us. Jake killed some time outside on his "Coneen" (Lightning McQueen) ride-on toy, then when they arrived we strapped the babies in their strollers and walked to the park a couple blocks away.

Jake and Jane had lots of fun on the swings, slide, and teeter totter. I love the picture of Jake with his tongue sticking out, which is something I used to do as a kid when I was concentrating. Jane is such a beauty and so adventurous. She went right down the steep slide a few times before Jake mustered the courage to go once. We miss having these friends close by! Thanks for playing with us Rachel and Jane.

Jake Turns Two!

Last month, Jake had his second birthday! We decided to keep it super simple this year. TJ's family came down from Flagstaff, and we went to and early morning session at the Gilbert temple with his parents and Grandpa Lamar and Denise. TJ's siblings met us at the temple with Jake, and then we all went to breakfast at Village Inn, where Jake got a free piece of chocolate pie. Then, we went to Grandpa Lamar's house to visit for a bit. Jake loved playing with their car collection. He fell asleep on the way home and while he napped, I tried to nap off a headache. When he woke up, we all went swimming in our complex pool.

When everyone was properly raisined from the water, we got dressed and headed to Cici's Pizza Buffet to meet my family for dinner. We chose Cici's because it's a) cheap, and b) pizza, one of Jake's favorite foods. It's kinda ghetto fab. I think Jake really loved it.

He enjoyed the macaroni & cheese pizza just like mom.

Then, Auntie Hannah spoiled him in the little arcade and bought tokens for him to play some of the games. He was surprisingly really good at this basketball game! He loves basketball, and he made several shots in a row. We were proud, for sure.

Of course, he had to ride with "Meekey." I'm pretty sure he had a meltdown when it was time to leave.

After dinner, we headed to my parents' house for Jake to open presents and eat cupcakes. These photos are all kinda (or really) blurry because my camera is old and terrible at shooting indoors at night (and I hate the flash). Oh well, it's the memories that matter.

He was super excited for this "Olath" shirt from Uncle Brady.

Contrary to the packaging, this was a toy helicopter from Auntie Hannah which he also loves. He got a lot of really fun gifts and was certainly spoiled.

Something really cute about Jake is that he gets SUPER shy whenever Happy Birthday is sung, whether it's for him or not. He closes his eyes and bows his head which is kind of hilarious. He actually tried to blow out his candles, though! There are two in the picture. His face when it went out was super funny, and he wanted to do it again. Then he asked for sprinkles and dumped like half a bottle on his cupcake.

That night, we also showed our families this special video we made:

KylieTJFamily 2014 from Kyndra Hassell on Vimeo.

They were all SO surprised and SO excited to find out that we'll be expecting our second baby in February! Hannah was excited, and then really sad because she'll be leaving for her mission to Mexico in December. We promised to send loads of pictures and videos to her, though. It's inevitable that siblings will miss out on big events when they serve missions. Skylar missed our wedding, Sheldon missed Jake's birth and the first year and a half of his life, but poor Hannah will miss the birth of another baby, and two graduations (Skylar and Brady). I know we will all be blessed for her service, though, and she is setting an amazing example for her brothers and nephew.

The next morning, Jake had lots of fun playing with his gift from us, a train set. Jake has been loving trains lately, so this was the perfect gift. He's enjoyed playing with it many times since.

We love you, Jakey Boy! Here's to another amazing year! I can't wait to see you be a big brother.

Lazy Saturday.

I've been practicing some composition techniques and others with my camera lately. This was a random, lazy Saturday morning that I was practicing, TJ was organizing his iTunes library (one of his favorite pastimes), and Jake was doing his thing. I love the one of Jake under the table with his car, even though it's not the greatest technically. And I know, it's bad that I let him play on my phone, but it was that or he was trying to get my camera. I also love that the one of his little feet shows his little freckle birth marks. After a hectic week, it's nice to be able to just "be" as a family. I know it won't always be this way as our kids grow older, so I'm glad I documented it while it is.

June & July.

Our summer has been, for the most part, pretty uneventful. It was so so hot and not at all easy for us to adjust to. Plus, as it turns out, I was in my first trimester the whole summer! I would rather spend my first trimester during an AZ summer than my third, but it still wasn't easy. I was uninspired (thanks to pregnancy and the heat) and didn't pick up my DSLR much, but I did get some of the more major events. The rest was captured through my phone and will be documented when I print off my Instagram photos.

In June, Skylar's back surgery was not as successful as we'd hoped and he ended up in the hospital due to debilitating pain. He was there a few days before they got it managed enough that he could go home. He couldn't go home until he could get up and walk unassisted, and he was not at all motivated at one point. After talking it over with TJ's parents and Skylar's girlfriend, Casey, we decided that having his big brother there would help tremendously. And it did! We made a quick trip to Flagstaff, and Skylar started getting up and walking around while we were there. He may have a second surgery next year, if his insurance approves it.

On another trip to Flagstaff, Jake "helped" Papa wash his car. Which mostly meant he soaked himself and thoroughly muddied the front yard playing with the hose.

Over the Fourth of July, our family trekked up to Utah for Grandpa and Elizabeth's wedding. We made a bit of a reunion out of it, and Grandpa rented a ramada at the Spanish Fork Reservoir for the day prior to the event. It was a lot of fun, and that night we had great views of several fireworks across the valley, which were topped by that gorgeous sunset. We also celebrated Kyndra's 19th birthday with a cake she made herself. (My birthday was spent driving all day, but Jake was an angel so it wasn't so bad). It was so nice to see family we hadn't seen in a long, long time. I'm a bit upset that I didn't get pictures at the wedding, but others did. We also went to see TJ's Great-Grandma Pond, who is 99, and his cousins Rhet, Zac, Maloree, and Jesslyn, and their families.