Ashley's Story

She will leave fingerprints all over your heart


Feeling Better...Little by little

 Ashley Kate is feeling better a little more each day.  She's not complaining near as much, no longer crying, and running no more fevers.  Her ear is still bothering her, but its getting better or else she has learned to adjust to it hurting.  I only see her pushing on it occasionally throughout the day and she only asked me to push on it once today.  She is still sleeping a lot more than normal.  She seems to be getting worn out a little quicker than she used to.

Her lab work wasn't great.  We are working hard to re hydrate her by running a constant IV of half normal saline into her line.  Her BUN had climbed up to 42 last week.  On her last set of labs we had managed to get it down to 28, but that is still a very high number.  Ash loses so much fluid each day making it almost impossible to keep her ins and outs balanced.  I had no idea until after her ex plant how much fluid, bile, and stomach content filtered into her bowel.  Now without the bowel being there her tummy has to constantly be draining out of her g-tube to reduce the amount of bile she throws up.  She is connected to a drain bag 24 hours a day and loses approximately 2500ccs of fluid into it daily.  Replacing all of that loss is tricky.

Her CBC was all messed up on her last set of labs.  All of her numbers were registering low.  I knew she had suffered some blood loss from her stoma, but was surprised at how much.  Her hemoglobin is trending lower and lower as is her platelet count which kind of explains why after tearing her ostomy bag off she couldn't seem to clot.  She bled for 4 days into her bag!

Today was a good day for her.  She got to go watch Allie's volleyball game tonight at the high school.  She was so excited!  She loves the gym!  I tried to get a few pics of her but none of them turned out.  I thought she looked really good today compared to how she looked just a few days ago.  She was happy and smiling for most of it.  Her color is good and she looks really "healthy".  She's been growing like crazy lately and I look at that little girl sitting in that chair and have a hard time believing she was our tiny gherkin.  Shes a total mess and at one point the entire huddle turned around to see what kind of trouble she was causing.  Thankfully Allie could laugh about it.  I'm so grateful the big kids aren't embarrassed by all the "chaos" that follows us when Ash attends their games. They are so proud of her they don't mind one bit that shes loud and causing trouble!

Its going to be a busy, busy week for us.  Between volleyball tonight ,cheering at the football game Thursday night, a volleyball tournament this weekend, and Blake getting ready for fall baseball, we are spread pretty thin.  Add to that the school schedule and my calendars is completely filled in!  I'm tired just looking at it, but seriously I wouldn't want life to be any other way.  We are so blessed.


First Day

Its here.  Summer is officially over and the school year has begun.  My big kids, both now in HIGH SCHOOL, yikes!
I think that means Dave and I are old.  Seriously, where did the time go?  Where are those tiny people who I used to teach at our kitchen table all those year ago?  I remember so well the first day he counted to 100 and the very first sentence she ever read all by herself.  I miss those days of little people calling my name all day long and driving me crazy.  I'm just so grateful that I didn't miss out on those days.  
I've been so blessed to have been home with them all these years.  So blessed.  I wouldn't trade our life and the choices we have made for anything.  I truly believe they are the young people they are today because of those tough choices. 

I prayed for this young man today.  Actually I lay awake a good portion of last night praying for him too.  I prayed he would be a blessing today and be blessed today.  I prayed as he walks through those halls this year he would be a leader.  A leader who has the heart of a servant.  A leader who leads with humility and kindness towards others.  I prayed he would be surrounded by positive, up lifting young people and teachers.  I prayed he would grow.  Learn.  Achieve. Dream.

I prayed for this beautiful girl today. Last night too.  I spend many of my nights lying awake talking to the Father about our beautiful Allie.  Oh, how I love this girl!  I prayed her day would be blessed.  I prayed her heart would be protected.  I prayed for her to be surrounded by precious young girls who want to uplift and not tear down.  Who want to sharpen my Allie and be sharpened by her.  I prayed the mean, hateful, un kind attitudes that so often arise in girls this age would be kept away and that her fragile heart would be shielded from them.  I prayed for her to find her place in that big world of high school and that she would not lose sight of who she is in Christ.  I prayed she would see the value He has placed on her each time she catches a glimpse of herself in the mirror today.  I prayed for this child.

As we sat around the dinner table last night we had a little family meeting.  I learned a great lesson from a friend last week and I was determined to share it with my teenagers the night before their first day.  I searched and searched for my "visuals" to make my point and was left empty handed.  Disappointed I sat down in an attempt to explain my life lesson to them without it, and then I saw it.  There on our dinner plates I saw it.  So thankful for the provision, I went on to explain.

We had chicken and rice last night.  Not just chicken and rice but "Dad's famous chicken and rice".  Its Blake and Allies favorite meal.  Nothing too special about it, but something Dave made up years and years ago and he actually doesn't even eat it anymore.  I knew I wanted them to have their favorite dinner before the first day of school.  Anyway, as we sat eating our chicken and rice I stopped for a moment and asked them to look in my bowl.  "What do you see?"

"Chicken and rice."

 Then I asked them, "What do you see more of?"  One of them answered, "rice".  I went on to ask what they only saw a few of and they answered "pieces of chicken."

"Be the chicken" I told them.

"HUH?" they both said.

"Tomorrow as you walk those halls I want you to be the chicken in the school.  There will be a thousand pieces of rice that surround you, but only a few pieces of chicken.  Be that.  Be the chicken.  Its too easy to be the rice.  You are SO MUCH MORE THAN THE RICE.  You are both chicken."

They were cracking up by this time, but I kept going.  "What has more substance in my bowl?  The tiny grains of rice or the pieces of chicken?  What do you think has more value when I take a bite?"

"The chicken".

They were getting it.  Thinking I had lost my mind, but still getting it.  "You are far too valuable to settle for being a grain of rice.  You have substance.  You matter.  You were created for a bigger purpose.  Do not allow the rice to swallow you up.  It will try.  Trust me, it will.  The chicken is going to come out on top because of its substance.  It will always come out on top as the rice fills in around it."

"I'm praying you will be the chicken."

The last line of the notes I secretly placed inside of their bags this morning said this, "BE THE CHICKEN" and "KNOW THAT  I LOVE YOU", Mom

As they went to bed last night they were talking about how they would greet each other in the hallways today.  Blake is planning to cluck at Allie each time he sees her today.  I know they will be cracking up and if nothing else is gained from my little visual they will have the opportunity to smile today...and that makes me smile.

I felt kind of silly as I prayed for them today.  I asked the Father to remind them that they were chicken.  Then I laughed.  I so hope they have a great first day!

I love being a mom:)


Our Sweet Ash... feeling bad today.  It makes my heart so sad.  Last night she went right to sleep without any giggling, playing, or silly antics.  I commented to Dave about how tired she must have been. 

This morning I realized it wasn't that she was tired.  She's not well.  She's been crying off and on all day.  She's got an ear ache.  I know its a bad one because she's complaining about it.  It takes an awful lot for Ash to complain about something hurting.  She's so tough its hard to figure out when somethings wrong with her.  I know she's not feeling well when she starts telling me about it. 

She's got a low fever.  She isn't up to playing.  Not even with her Ipad.  She just feels bad all over. 

Her labs don't look so good this morning.  Her CBC registered low numbers across the board.  Her CMP registered a few panic values as well. 

Your prayers would be appreciated.


Party Details...Final Post:)

I'm going to finish up the birthday party posts today.  I could go on and on and on, but I'm ready to move on.  I'm sure you guys are too!  As always, I am happy to answer any specific questions you have.  Just send me a message with your email address in it and I'll help you in any way I can.  

Again, these are some of my favorite photographs from Ashley's Acres.  The details are what I love the most.  Our photographer was my close friends 11 year old daughter.  No joke!  She is SO talented and did the most amazing job for us.  You can see Katie in action in the upper right photo.  I love her eye.  I love her angles.  I love seeing the party through her lens.  I couldn't have asked for anything more.  She simply did an incredible job.

These photos show our "produce" stand.  It was built out of old pallets and Allie white washed it for me.  We lined old apple baskets, which we had painted a barn red color, with burlap and then filled them old fashioned candies.  In the top row of photos you see a white basket that shows the little burlap treat bags we provided.  My mom and sister sewed them up one weekend and then we simply painted our Ashley's Acres brand on the front.  They had a little draw string in the top made out of jute to close them up once the kids filled them with treats. We also filled mason jars with yummy candies, lined the tops with gingham fabric, and added an Ashley's Acres tag on a burlap patch to the front of the jars.  The kiddos who won the races received a badge and then they took that badge to the produce stand and chose a jar of candy as their prize.  They loved this!  I've also included a picture of the little barns we handed out as party favors.  They were complete with a "Thank you for visiting Ashley's Acres" card attached.  I had bushel baskets of the favor boxes scattered around the grounds.  In addition to the barns and candy bags the kids took home the stick ponies and cowboy hats too.  The final pictures are of the "seed" garland we assembled.  Rectangle pieces of burlap with either our brand or a packet of garden seeds attached and the hung with clothes pins along a line of jute.  We strung them up high between the trees.  I love the final look of this!

I added this to help answer the questions I'm receiving about how the windows were made.  These are just some close ups that show in more detail the final products.  I think you can see pretty clearly the chicken wire in these pictures.  I added a large sunflower to the bottom corner to pull it all together with the rest of the farm.  I chose some of my favorite pictures of Ash over the last year and used clothes pins to attach them.  I was very pleased with the end product.  A great way to display her pictures.

Many of you always ask what tips I would give for throwing a big party like we do for Ash.  I have a method to my madness.  It may not seem like it, but I really do.  So I'm going to share with you a few of my biggest tips.

1.  Pick a theme and pick it early.  I like to know almost a year in advance what theme I'm going to be working on.  It doesn't always work out that way, but it helps if you know what type of party you are planning as early as you can.

2.  Keep a notebook.  I know that sounds so old fashioned in today's technology, but it works for me.  I compile my ideas, my "wishes", my plans, my sketches, my supplies, my everything in this notebook. Nothing is assumed.  I add items as small as straight pins to as large as my menus in the notebook. I brainstorm to come up with every single thing I will need to finish every single idea I have in mind. Whatever I need to finish every project with.   I work with it almost every day as the party gets closer and closer.

3. Look.  All year long I keep my eye out for props that I could possibly incorporate into my party.  I find them everywhere.  Sometimes I even find them on the side of the road, in trash piles, on the ground, garage sales, flea markets, etc.  Not my favorite places to visit, but essential when staying inside of a budget.

4.  Start early assembling props, painting, organizing, etc.  We work for months in advance on the big items we are building and even on any sewing projects we may need done.  If you give yourself time then you save yourself a lot of stress and panic.

5.  Secure a photographer.  You need someone to take the burden of capturing pictures off of your hands.  It really can be a huge burden if you as the host it trying to make sure your getting all the pictures you want.  If you can pass this responsibility off to someone else it will make your event so much more enjoyable.  Professional or not you need someone neutral to be assigned the task of capturing your memories.  That way you are free to host the event.

6.  Have fun.  I honestly enjoy every minute of the process.  I stay focused on the gift of Ashley's life as I plan to celebrate it.  How can I not enjoy planning another birthday for her?  She's a miracle.  Every day, every year, is a gift to our family.

Now we can move on to the next chapter in our lives.  School is starting next week and before you know it I'll be working on the holiday decorations.  Blowing right past Halloween and into the good stuff!  Life is as busy as always.  The big kids are running in lots of directions.  Two in high school!  Blows my mind.  Just think, if Ash were able she would be starting second grade this year.  Wow...second grade.  Some days it  makes me long for a different life for her.  I can just picture her in second grade.  My sweet girl would be amazing!  Oh well, her back packs won't be filled with pencils and papers this year, but they will be filled with the bags that sustain her life...and ...thats whats most important to me.

 Who needs second grade to be happy?  Not my Ashley.  I promise you wouldn't be able to find a happier 7 year old in the world than the one that I'm going to spend my day with.  We are blessed and grateful.

I'm gonna keep taking my cues from her.  I've got a lot to learn!


Party Details...Part 3

I decided to take a little break from writing about all the details (although I know there are still lots I haven't covered) so I could share some of the other photographs.  There are so many good pictures that truly capture the spirit of Ashley's Acres and how much fun we all had celebrating together. As I go through the photos I can feel myself smiling.  You know its a good picture when the image brings joy to your heart and a smile to your face as you remember the event.  I thought you might enjoy seeing some of the fun the kiddos had.

All I can say about this collage is that I absolutely LOVE every picture in it.  Especially the joy on my sweet Ashley Kate's face in the lower right photograph.  

This collage captures the beauty of the pony who came to visit Ashley's Acres.  Truly a blessing to our hearts.  The willingness of the owner to spend the evening celebrating with us touched my heart so very much.  I will forever be grateful to have had them with us.

Sweet babies!  I LOVE these photographs!  Yummy watermelon being enjoyed by all of these precious girls.  Love, love love it!

I know I've already said this once, but its soooo true...the animals simply made our little farm party a real "farm".  It was so fun to watch everyone enjoying the animals.  Nothing sweeter than cuddling a baby bunny!

Our Ashley's Acres celebration was one of my favorite parties ever.  We all had so much fun.  I could have never imagined it turning out as well as it did.  All the planning and weekends spent working really paid off.  It will go down in my heart as one of my favorite memories ever.  Celebrating the life of Ashley Kate is something we look forward to every single year.  Every birthday is a reminder to our family that God is the one in control of her every breath.  He is her creator and the giver of her life.  Humbling.  So very humbling.  We choose to let go of our fears, our worries, and our unknowns on this day and just celebrate with true thanksgiving that our sweet girl is with us.

I'll get back to the "details" tomorrow.  Hoping to finish them all up.  Thank you for your interest.  Thank you for your continued presence.  Thank you for your prayers.  Our girl is 7 years old and we know its your love and prayers that have gotten us to this place in her life.  I've never forgotten or lost sight of that.  Those of you who have loved us, stayed with us, and supported us all this time hold a very special place in our hearts.

Enjoy the pictures!


Party Details...Part 2

I'm going to start with a few pics of Ash the day of her party.  Many of you were wondering if she enjoyed her party and how she was feeling that day.  She had a really good day.  She had been feeling pretty good up to her 7th birthday so I was fairly confident that her mood would be pleasant for the party and it was.  We didn't start the party until 7 that evening so it was starting to cool off by that time.  She does much better in cooler weather.  

I wish she were smiling in this center picture, but I still love it.  She looks so grown up!  I wanted to show her outfit and this was actually the only full shot of the whole night!  Anyway, her skirt was made out of two bandannas.  My mom threw it together one afternoon and it was so cute.  My dear friend took one of the bandannas and appliqued her a matching shirt.  

Ash had a great time.  She loved the animals.  She loved the atmosphere.  She signed "farm" several times that night which totally made me smile because I knew I had pulled it off for her.  She thought she was at the farm. She especially loved the big red rooster and the pony.  

Animals made this whole farm party a success!  I worried more about this detail than any other.  I knew it wouldn't be a farm without the animals.  

I was SO blessed by everyone who allowed us to borrow their animals for Ash's birthday.  The pony was a huge hit!  So gentle and beautiful.  The kids really enjoyed riding him.  We also had 3 baby bunnies.  So precious!  One large red rooster and hen.  Ash's absolute favorites.  Then two more small rooster, two small hens, and a beautiful white chicken of some sort.   I wish I knew the names of them all, but I don't.  The small roosters and chicken were full grown but looked like little miniature versions of something bigger.  We purchased the 5 smaller chickens and roosters at Canton then gave them away.  I really loved our chicken coop!  It was so cute with its slanted roof!  Dave did all the build projects for this party.  Including our animal pens.  

Here are the close ups of items I described in the previous posts.  The center pieces were perfect for what I wanted.  My mom did an amazing job on them.  you can see the smaller ones in more detail in this picture.  You can also see the pails of berries with the Ashley's Acres tags attached on burlap patches.  The top center picture shows the wreaths we hung on the barn front.  The bottom center photo shows our burlap cushions that sat on the hay bales.  I searched garage sales all summer long looking for square throw pillows.  Then I bought some burlap bags from Canton and covered the pillows with it.  My mom  spent many hours sewing this summer!  After the pillows were covered we hand painted our brand on all of them.  I was very pleased with how they turned out and with how inexpensive they were to make.  I also added a closer picture of our napkins and napkin rings.  Hope you can see the wire used to form them a little better in this picture.  The cupcake jars are also shown again.  I did not bake the cakes in the jars.  We actually baked sheet cakes, crumbled them up, then alternated layers of icing and cake into the jars.  We used strawberry and red gingham printed fabric to add to our tops.  The final product was so cute.  Love, love, loved the tags that said, "from the kitchen of Ashley's Acres.".  Its the smallest details that make me so happy when planning parties!

Here are some photos of the hay bale couches we set up around the grounds.  All of our seating consisted of hay bales or picnic quilts scattered around the yard.  I wanted to be sure and avoid any chair rental not only for my budget but also because I just didn't like the look of any chairs around the "farm".  The hay was perfect!  You can see we used several of the pillows we made on the couches as well as using them for seat cushions on the bales.  I also picked up some old, hand quilted, quilts from a vendor in Canton for only 7dollars a piece!  I was so excited to find them.  We cut them into four pieces, hemmed them, and then used them on top of the bales to make them more comfortable for seating.  We also threw large, full size quilts around the yard for our guests to sit and picnic on.  I loved the vintage look the quilts added to the atmosphere. 

You can also see pictures of the split rail fences we built to add to the front of the yard.  These old fence posts were given to me free from a garage sale I was shopping at.  If I hauled them away I could have them! I was way more excited than Dave was as we loaded them up in the heat, but in the end he really did like the final result.  

The saw horse pony was constructed out of an old, rotted saw horse that I found at another sale.  They kept telling me it wasn't good for anything and I had to convince them to sell it to me.  They thought I was crazy, but it was a roping pony in the making!  I covered a hula hoop in rope and we used that to "rope" the pony all night.  The little boys especially enjoyed this activity.

The last two photos show the directional sign I built and painted all by myself and the feed sack we made.  I was so proud of that sign!  I actually used real power tools to cut and assemble it while Dave was out of town.  Totally thrilled with the outcome!  The feed sack was sewn out of the old burlap bags and then I hand painted the Ashley's Acres on the front.  Dave made all of our stencils on the computer and designed our brand for the party.

I love these pictures!  
I made stick ponies for all the little ones who attended.  We used brown butcher paper, dowel rods, hot glue, yarn, and walmart sacks for the stuffing.   I lined them up along the split rail fences and the kids chose their own along with a cowboy hat.  They turned out so cute!  The kids LOVED them.  We had a barrel race using the ponies.  My favorite shots in this group are the action shots.  You can see my good friends little boy racing past the blurry pony he was racing against and also sweet cowgirl Bryleigh racing by in the top left picture.  Some of my favorite images from the whole night!

Be sure to click on the photos to see close ups of the barrel racers on the starting line.  I loved this!
We also had sack races, three legged races, and horse shoes.  It was so fun!

I thought I'd talk a little about our menu.  We served barbecue that night.  Smoked brisket sandwiches, yummy brown beans, corn on the cob, pickles, onions, and chips.  Delicious!  Dear friends of Dave's parents did all the cooking for us.  It was such a blessing not to have to concern myself with the food prep that day!  I served ice cold lemonade and iced tea in mason jars of course.  We were able to mix the drinks the day before, pour them in the jars, along with lemonade and tea ice cubes we had frozen, and house them in the outside fridge.  This saved me tons of time that afternoon.  I purchased three, old, rusted wheel barrows over the summer and filled them ice to hold our drinks during the party.  I loved the whole look of it!  Nothing says country living to me more than iced  tea served in a mason jar!  

We of course had an amazing and delicious birthday cake prepared and decorated by my very talented sister.  We had layers of chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla cakes.  She also made dozens of cupcakes in chocolate, carrot, and strawberry flavors.  It was perfect!

As the party went on through the evening we walked around with trays of ice cold watermelon.  I put them on large popsicle sticks to make it easier for the kids to hold.  This was a huge hit!  Less messy and so fun.  

I used pie tins and bowls for my serving dishes. No paper napkins or plates or plastic cups anywhere for this party.  It was perfect and totally fit our farm theme.  

Wow this post was long!  So sorry if your bored.  There are so many details and pictures to discuss.  I'm really trying to address specific questions I've been asked so I apologize for the many details I'm going over.  

Hope your able to enjoy at least some of it.  I'll start working on another post as soon as I can.  Allie has a volleyball tournament this weekend so we will be super busy.  


Party Details...Part One

I'm finally getting a few pictures of Ashley's Acres organized in order to share with everyone.  We had an amazing time celebrating Ashley's birthday.  We surrounded her with family and friends and enjoyed having  the opportunity to share her with all who came.  

I've put collages of photographs together and tried to arrange them in order of topics.  There are hundreds of pictures to go through and more details than most of you are interested in, but I'm trying to answer questions of those who are interested.  If I miss a particular detail that you are wondering the hows and wheres about just send me a message and I'll do my best to address it.

Here goes.  Enjoy!

Welcome to Ashley's Acres.  This ranch style interest greeted our guests as they arrived at Ashley's Acres.  

Here are a few shots from inside of our barn.  You can see the outside entrance in the bottom left.  This was one of my very favorite details of the entire party.  It came out just as I had imagined.  I love, love, loved the barn!  The farm windows in the upper left were a gift from a dear friend.  They hung over the back wall of the barn which you can see in the top right of this photo.  The barbecue was served from behind this wall and our guests walked in front of the wall, to receive their plates.  Ashley's name was spelled out with a rope and stapled into the wood of the wall.  The other two pictures  show images from inside the barn.  The backside of the entrance was decorated with old farm house dishes, farm tools, watering cans, horse shoes, etc.  You can kind of see the diner table in the bottom right of the photo.  I used old duvet covers and bed skirts picked up in Canton for my linens.  The crisp, clean look reminded me of freshly laundered linens hanging on a clothes line.  Hay bales were lined up along the sides for seating, complete with burlap covered cushions that were hand painted with our brand for Ashley's Acres.  I'll show pictures of the cushions in a later post.

Here are a few more details from inside the barn.  If you click on the image I believe it will show it to you on a large scale so you can see the photos a little better.  The top right pictures is a view of the lighting we used inside the barn.  An old wagon wheel chandelier hung in the center.  I removed the electrical and glued in some taper candles.  You can also see the mason jar lanterns we made.  Another detail I loved!  We lined them with chicken coop wire, glued in a glass votive holder inside, and hung with chain.  So cute.  I used several old farm house windows I picked up in Canton and stapled chicken wire across the back.  I stenciled  Ashley's Acres on the glass and then mounted a series of photographs of Ash through the year on burlap.  I hung a string of just across the glass, clothes pinned the photos on the line and hung them in the barn. I'm now hanging those windows in her bedroom:)  Our napkins were made from bandannas.  We cut them into fourths, hemmed all the edges and made the sweetest napkins rings out of a brown floral type wire and a sunflower.  The center picture shows the main center piece.  I used an old metal milking bucket for the container.  My mom did all the floral arranging.  She is amazingly talented!  I originally wanted fresh flowers but the budget would have been blown so I settled on silks.  Lots of sunflowers were used.  They were the main focus of all centerpieces, including the wreaths we hung on the outside of the barn.  I'll show a photo of the wreaths in a later post along with the cushions.  The bottom center photos is a view of another dinner table we set outside the barn.  The center pieces were smaller for this table.  We used mason jars for the containers, lined with chicken wire and more sunflowers.  Loved them.  Will have to add close ups of those in the next post too.  Finally you can see the cupcake jars we designed.  They were at all the place settings along with metal pails of fresh strawberries.  We designed tags that said "from the kitchen of Ashley's Acres", attached them to burlap and hung them from the jars.  Delicious red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese icing were baked inside.

Lots of props were collected for this party.  My goal was to give it an old farm look.  Obviously we live in the city and aren't country folk, but the props were able to transform our front yard.  The look and feel was exactly how I had imagined it to be.  I gathered old wagon wheels, milking cans, jars, water pumps, plows, lanterns, seed dollies, seed carts, barrels, and much, much more.  I used them all around the yard, in the flower beds, against the barn, in the barn, etc.  Every where you looked you saw some nostalgic piece of farming equipment.  I spent the summer collecting from garage sales, antique dealers, Canton, and my dad's place.  All those hot summer days spent digging in barns, garages, and fields really paid off.  

I'll finish this post up with produce.  I wanted bushels of produce scattered everywhere for this party.  I had carrots, apples, corn, peaches, cherries, strawberries, watermelons and more.  The produce served two purposes.  Great decorations and delicious snacks!  We built little produce stands to hold our bushel baskets and scattered them around the property.  I lined the baskets with red bandannas.  Most of the baskets came from estates sales and Canton.  I didn't order any of them new because I really wanted them to have the look and feel of being aged.

This post is just the beginning!  I have so many things to share from this party.  I'm hoping to find some more time later this evening to put up another details post.  If your not interested in reading all this stuff please feel free to skip this and the upcoming posts.  I totally get that.  

Hope your having a blessed day.  I'm off to Walmart!


Their Home

I love knowing they have this place to come to.  I love knowing we are providing it for them.  I love knowing my big kids can walk in the front door, leave the outside world outside, and find rest here.  Inside this home the goal is to lift up, encourage, and surround them with words of kindness.

  As my kiddos grow up I'm learning that their world is a very different place than the world I had to grow up in.  Its ugly out there.  

I can't change much of who and what they are forced to deal with when they leave my front door, but I can make this a safe place for them.  A place where they know they are loved and supported.  A place where they can laugh, relax, share, talk, and cry if they need to.  We aren't going anywhere and we won't like them one day and change our minds the next.  We won't criticize, tear down, demoralize, or hurt.  We will lift them up, pray for them, support them, and enjoy them.

As a new school year begins, I worry for my big kids.  Worry about what walks in those halls waiting to pounce.  I think its impossible not to worry when your raising teenagers.  My hope and my prayer for both of them is that they know where to come, where they can let down the walls they have to put up in order to protect themselves, and where they can find rest.  My hope is that God surrounds them with kind, loving, and purpose driven friends, and that He removes those who are only pretending.

I'm hoping for a year full of goals, accomplishments, and growth for my kiddos.  I'm also hoping they have enough time to slow down and enjoy being a kid while they still have the chance.  They have their whole lives to be adults.  I'm in no hurry for them to get there.

I'm working on putting together some party posts with amazing pictures taken from Ashley's Acres.  Hopefully I'll finish them up and get them posted.


Just a Peek...Down on the Farm

There are a thousand things I want to show you.  So many wonderful things from Ashley's Acres.  I haven't seen but a few of the pictures from Saturday evening, so I guess all the little details will have to wait for now. So many are asking to see pictures and wondering how it went that I decided to go ahead and share the few I do have. 

It was an amazing celebration of Ashley Kate's life.  We had the best time!  It was a little country and totally fitting for a Texas girl!  She enjoyed it so very much and I think our guests did too.

Here is a front view of the walk.  The ranch entrance was amazing!  Ashley's grand father made and designed it complete with her favorite thing...roosters!

This is the front view of the barn.  It turned out so well!  Dave and I loved designing it together.  We built the entire thing out of old wooden pallets.  Free lumber!!!

The inside wall of the barn was my favorite out of everything we did.  I collected old farm equipment, tools, and dishes all summer long from my dads place, flea markets, and garage sales.  

Another amazing cake by my sister Toni.  She always comes through leaving me speechless.  I'm so blessed by her talents and her willingness to make it a point to always be a part of Ash's celebration.  

The rooster!  Ashley's favorite part of her whole party!  There were lots of ups and downs over the summer as we tried to secure chickens and roosters for this party.  Every time we thought we had some they would somehow meet their end.  My heart was so sad.  The day before her birthday Dave found this beautiful guy and a hen who was just a beautiful.  They were a hit!

We also had precious baby bunnies, a pen full of small hens and roosters, and this:

This pony was perfect!  He was so gentle and amazing.  All the kids loved him so, so much!  

Something about this picture that I just love.
Ash with her toes on the bunny pen.  She couldn't hold any of the animals but she loved watching them.

Ash was thrilled to meet the pony.

The little details are what made this party work so well.  I can't wait to show everything.  From flowers, to monograms, to the lighting, the menu, and all the activities.  So many things that made Ashley's Acres the perfect place to spend an evening with family and friends.

To all who attended I just want to say you blessed our hearts with your presence.  Thank you for choosing to spend and evening with our Ashley.  Your always welcome to come again.


August 4, 2012

Dear Ash,

7 years ago tonight you came into this world and forever changed it.  You spent your first night here on this earth without us even knowing you had arrived. But...from the very moment we knew you had come the hearts of those who were set aside to become your family were changed.  

I'll never forget how desperately I wanted to get to you.  To touch you. To hold you.  To show you how much you were loved.  I needed you to know we were your family.  Your mommy.  Your daddy.  Your  big brother.  Your big sister.  You were not alone that night.  We were there.

I laid awake that night praying for you.  Longing for you.  Pulling for you to survive.  Ash, I loved you so much.  My heart ached to be near you.  I just needed to peek at you.  Know that you were really here.

Even with all the ups and downs, with all the closed doors, with all those who told us no...I knew...I always knew.  You were ours.  You were the one.  You belonged with us.

So many times in those early days I was reminded of the words Joseph spoke to his brothers, "What you meant for harm...God meant for good."  If only those who stood in the way, closed the doors, and tried to discourage us could see you today.  If only they knew how amazing you have grown up to be.  If only they could have seen the plan our Father had designed for you.  If only.

Ashley Kate, I am humbled by the greatness of our God when I look into your face.  When I see your eyes sparkle, and hear your laughter come tumbling out, I feel His presence in my life.  When you ask for me to hold you, and you wrap your arms so tight around my neck, I feel His presence in my life.  When I witness your love for your daddy, and watch you snuggle with Blake, and hear your conversations with Allie, I feel His presence in my life.  He used you to show Himself to me in ways bigger than I ever knew were possible.

How do I show you how very much you are loved?  How will you know?  How will you ever comprehend who you are to all of us?  How much you mean to us?  I want you to know.  I want you to see.  I want you to understand.  I want so much for you.  So much more than I can give.  More than I can promise.

This year as we live the first day of your 7th year I hope you feel surrounded by all those who love you.  I hope you know as big, and as deep, and as wide as you can possibly understand that you are LOVED.  There has never been a day that you were not.  Never.  Even on that first day, before we knew you were here, you were loved.  The Father had prepared our hearts in the days, weeks, months, and years before you came to love you.

My heart is flooded with memories on this day.  I fight back the tears.  I am overwhelmed by His goodness.  By His glory.  By His plan.  Its been a journey my sweet girl.  A journey that is long from over.  A journey that has scared me and shaken me to the very core of my faith.  A journey that has strengthened my faith as well.  Without you here, without you in our lives, I fear I would have never really known how very much He loves me.

Happy Birthday Ashley Kate.  Lets go celebrate.  Lets go live.  Lets get busy making memories today.  Its a great day to be 7!  I love you, Mom


Tomorrow's Her Day

Tomorrow is her day...and...although she doesn't even realize it...we all do.

My sweet girl will be 7 years old in a matter of minutes and I am overwhelmed with joy and gratitude and humility and grace and His mercy and gifts. 

Oh, Ashley Kate we have such an amazing day planned for you "down at the farm".  Down at your very own farm!  I'm so excited for you.

I can't wait.  Seriously, I'm too happy to sleep.  Did you ever think we would be given 7 WHOLE years?  7!

I'm beyond humbled by each life who travels, attends, and celebrates this day with our family.  You will never know how blessed we are that you have come to allow us to share her with you.  She is simply precious and I can't wait for you all to see her at Ashley's Acres.