My mom has been waiting and waiting on these photos so tonight I’m staying up late to get them up for her! Love you mom!

This summer I found out that you can adopt a bird from the World Bird Sanctuary and then once it’s healed you can actually be the one to release it back into the wild. I thought that sounded like one of the coolest experiences ever! And my parents are BIG bird people. Not BIG BIRD people! HA! But they love birds. They keep bird books all around their house and in their car so they can identify them, if they travel they don’t count miles they count hawks and they LOVE it when a bird of prey (usually owls or hawks) make nests in their neighborhood. They really do love birds.

SO it was the perfect gift!

It was a little costly (all the money goes to the World Bird Sanctuary) so I figured it could be their birthday, anniversary and Christmas gift all rolled into one! Then at some point I told my sister about it and she got so excited we started talking and planning and this big surprise began!

Abbie booked a super cool park shelter that I knew about from Monica’s wedding, we invited some friends, planned dinner, talked to the World Bird Sanctuary, found out one of our favorite middle school teachers who just happens to be good friends with my parents still actually volunteers there, planned the release, etc. We had so much fun planning this surprise! One of the hardest parts was figuring out how to get my parents all the way out to Creve Coeur Park!

So after church Abbie managed to get this card in their house so they could find it while we had Bailey’s last club soccer game and then headed out to the park to set up…

The front was all about their Merry Birthiversary (Christmas, Birthdays and 35 years of marriage… all four of those things happen in Nov/Dec for them!)!

The inside gave the instructions…

We went to the park a couple of hours early to set up and of course I got no shots of the cute picnic tables we covered in vintage table cloths, the spread of food we had or the warm+cozy fires we had in two of the fireplaces! It looked SO cute though!

Here are the kids charging to the van when my parents arrived!

It was so cute to see the kids making them run!

The kids worked really hard on that banner and were so excited to show them! For the first ten minutes the kids just dragged them around the area they’d been playing in for two hours! They took them into the woods to see where they had gathered sticks for the fires, showed them the playground, the banner, etc. They were even more excited than me and Abbie!

I didn’t get a shot of it but we had this hanging in the shelter…

(My mom framed it so I took a quick iPhone shot…ignore the quality and glare!)

See the hawk on a pole? We cracked ourselves up! HA!

All we did was print the photo out on plain printer paper and glued on the fun accents! Just something fun to carry on the Merry Birthiversary theme!

One of my mom’s best friends, JoAn (JoJo to my kids!)…. Jo is my best friend’s mother-in-law! We love the MacBryde family!

Abbie and my mom!

Thirty minutes after they got there they thought the whole surprise was just a little BBQ with us and some friends! But then Mr. Baldwin walked up! They were SO surprised and had NO idea what was happening!

When Mr. Baldwin explained what he was doing there it was so much fun to see their faces! My dad wanted to do the release (my mom was too nervous) so Mr. Baldwin taught him all about holding a bird. He also went into great detail about hawks in general which was so great for the kids!

He started by demonstrating with a puppet which the kids loved!

Then he taught him how to hold the bird.

The kids reactions were awesome! Some were totally engrossed in what Mr. Baldwin was saying, some were obsessed with the hawk and some were really nervous! Gray cracked me up because I think he thought the hawk was going to “get him!”

I loved seeing Mr. Baldwin doing something he truly loves again! When I was 12 I surely didn’t appreciate his passion for teaching but that day I certainly did! His smile couldn’t have been brighter!

It was so neat to see his red tail up close!

I missed the split second he opened her wings all the way but that’s my dad estimating how wide her wingspan is!

Isn’t she beautiful?

Once Mr. Baldwin finished teaching us all about the hawk he made the exchange with my dad.

So my dad climbed up on the stone wall where Mr. Baldwin demonstrated how to release him. He was supposed to literally throw him in the air as hard as he could!

Everyone counted down… three…two…one…

It happened SO SO SO fast! One minute she was in his arms and the next she was gone! I was so happy I got that one shot of her flying away because I thought for sure I didn’t catch it! It’s so hard to see her I added the arrow for you! HA!

We all ran down to see if we could see her! Hawks are fed well before the release so they usually perch close by and just sit for a little while. Luckily she was close enough we could all see her!

After the release we had dinner, sat by the fires and just enjoyed friends and family! I loved that my dad sat and played “I spy” with Avery and Grayson! So cute!

As the light was fading we grabbed one quick family shot and I’m SO glad we did!

Oh this shot just brings me JOY!

I have to say this was one of the neatest things ever and it helps such an awesome cause! You can even adopt a bald eagle! How amazing would that be? Maybe next year!