why can’t Pennsylvania be next to Oklahoma?

After a million hours in the car, we arrived in Kentucky last week for a vacation with friends. Technically, it wasn’t a million miles, but with 5 kids it sure felt like it. Not much tests my patience and endurance like being stuck in a car for 14 hours with kids that need lots of potty stops and fight interventions.

Nonetheless, it was totally worth it. Last April, my youngest daughter and I flew to PA to meet the Weldons. Our family stories are interwoven in a beautiful way. (click here to read a post about that). This year we decided to get together the whole families and meet in between OK and PA….which landed us in the Daniel Boone National Forest of Kentucky. We stayed together in a little cabin by a lake.

It was awesome.

Our kids became instant friends. The 8 kids are all almost exactly a year apart…from 10 years old to 2 years old. I’m so grateful for crazy things like social media and how two families can become cherished friends as a result.

The boys did a little dock jumping. Don’t let the pictures fool you. It snowed over this pond 2 days before they jumped in. Little boys are awesome.
4.14KY-14.14KY-3We did a lot of hiking and exploring. A wild, wonderful adventure was had by all.4.14KY-5


Angie made all the kids these PVC bow & arrows. The kids spent hours playing with them. If they weren’t fishing, they were shooting their arrows.4.14KY-74.14KY-94.14KY-104.14KY-12

While the girls sweetly posed for a picture together, my son found a rock that looked like petrified animal droppings…to the delight and laughter of the boys. Little boys are awesome.4.14KY-144.14KY-15

We hiked up to Natural Bridge. It was such an incredible sight. After taking some pictures on the bridge, we hiked over to another spot to get a better view of the bridge. Both locations were incredibly high with no railings of any type. It was a beautiful (and dangerous adventure). Walking across that bridge I was in full protective mom mode.4.14KY-16

This is on on the middle of Natural Bridge, the lookout point is behind us.4.14KY-18

This is us on the lookout point with the Natural Bridge behind us. If you look closely you can see people on the bridge.4.14KY-19

And all of our fun crew. We were having a bit of a shoe battle with Little One…4.14KY-20

What a gift friendship is…especially when it spans beyond adults to the kids. I really wish Pennsylvania was next door to Oklahoma.

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  • Kari Signe - Looks like you guys had a great time! Do you think your friend could give a tutorial on how to make those bows? Pretty please!

  • Anastasia - Wonderful time!!!! Its a shame that PA & OK are so far apart, but true friendship is always tested by time and distance. On the positive side, all these obstacles will make every meeting more special & memorable :))))

  • kimberly oyler - isn’t kentucky beautiful? looks like you guys had fun!

  • Molly - I often wish that Pennsylvania was right next to Kansas, so we just need to rearrange some states. We could put it right in between Kansas and Oklahoma.

  • Elizabeth - You were about 20 minutes from my house!

  • Jody - Yes!! Please ask friend to give tutorial on bows & arrows!!! Please!!! Perfect for this coming summer for my 4 boys!!!!

  • Allison - Well, I grew up in KY (and have been to natural bridge many times) and lived in PA for over 10 years, before recently moving to Nebraska. So for many of the same reasons, I wish these states were all closer as well! I sure do miss the mountains and forests too.

  • Amy D - Thankful for you. We have best friends that “get it” who live far away too. They are “aunt, uncle, and cousins” to our kids, so we make annual long trips to meet them at the beach each year. One of the highlights of our year!

  • alix - i thought the same thing about the bow and arrow. How fun is that. I love Boys and all the fun adventures with them. I found this tutorial. it looks similar

    thank you ashley for sharing your life

  • ruth rosie - Hi ashley, I have been reading your blog since your blog was featuring in parents mag. And I am so glad I found you, you’ve been an inspiration to me since then. And as crazy as it sounds, last nite I dream that we met and the thing that I kept thinking about this morning when I woke up is that you were just as friendly and cool as I pictured you whenever I read your blog. Oh how I wish that could happen in real life. :)

  • Linda - I often wish Louisiana was next to South Carolina—where my daughter and her husband live. I’m going to wish it even more when they begin having grandbabies!!!

  • Tracy - My family has gone there many times. My husband and I are climbers and we have gone there for climb. We have two little ones so we are often renting cabins out there too! If you ate pizza from Miguel’s then you definitely found a good place to eat…however I totally understand if you made your meals too, because we almost always do that!

  • Taylor - This trip looks like a blast! I am so in love with that picture of Little One on Chris’ shoulders. Absolutely stunning and heartwarming picture.


  • amy cornwell - I love everything about this. I love the two families interwoven. I love the PVC bow & arrows (so stinking clever). I love that you know how to be goofy. I love how you cherish the moments. Thank you for sharing life with us and making us smile!

  • danielle - Looks like fun! I need to bring my boys there one day!

  • courtney - What a neat adventure! Would love to see how your friend made the bows and arrows. Do you think she would share?

  • Kristin S - As always, your photos tell the story.

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - That is so awesome. Can you believe that God even uses social media to bring His family together? Love it.

she wanted to make bows

She asks to sew all the time. Sadly, I don’t say ‘yes’ near enough. Sewing doesn’t come easily to me and she needs a lot of help. She found one of my sewing books and really wanted to make some bows for her hair and her sister’s. I knew I’d be making 95% of the bows, and though I wasn’t excited about sewing bows, she was. I want to me more of a “yes” mom than a “not now”, “hold on”, “no” or “maybe later” mom. More “yes” to her and her siblings.

So, we made bows. (I’m not posting a tutorial because we followed a pattern in Simple Sewing by Katie Lewis)

She picked the fabric, the size, and the clips. She did the cutting and a good portion of the sewing. And she beamed.


Before I know it she’ll be the one teaching me how to sew. I’ll probably still be making crooked curtains and lacking patience to measure perfectly. I’ll probably have to call out for her and ask her to come help me figure out the pattern I don’t want to follow. When that day comes, I hope she smiles at me and says “yes”.

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  • mandy - At least you know how to use a sewing machine. I can never thread the bobbin (or whatever it’s called) correvtly. My machine has been collecting dust since I bought it 6 years ago….

  • Sandy c - That bow looks great! Good work Firecracker!

  • Seamingly Sarah - Those are so cute. I’ll have to try them. And I should try to sew with my daughter more often. I tend to say no because her track record proves that she starts, but doesn’t finish. So I have all these unfinished projects laying around in my sewing room and I feel so guilty thinking about getting rid of them.

  • Diane - Oh, I lovvvvvve that proud picture of her smiling with the finished bow!

  • danielle - So sweet! It is hard sometimes saying yes to more work.

  • Kristen - Ashley- I just wrote about this exact thing yesterday. I so want to be the mom that stops saying – not now, in just a minute, etc. and instead say, sure- I’ve got time :)


    I have no patience for sewing either- I count on my mom for all her help ;)

  • Kimberly Oyler - there’s something so special about her. I can’t wait to see who she’ll be when she grows up.

  • Lindsey P - When did she grow up? She looks so big in these pictures! I think it’s the skinny legs!

  • Nini~ - Wow, she’s a great sewist! I am inspired to get my great niece sewing! I love how careful and serious she looks while sewing. Great job Firecracker!


  • Anastasia - What a great way to bond over a project! And that bow came out just perfect! Great Job girls! btw, its a really pretty material that firecracker picked)))

  • Abby May - Aww Firecracker is my kind of girl!

    Way to go Ashley. I’m sure this will be happy memories of sewing with her mama when she gets older. I remember all my memories of sewing with my grandma and I treasure them so much.

  • Birdy - She looks so excited, thankful and beautiful! She definitely will say yes to her mommy and, as she did now, will appreciate the time with you!

    Thankful to see a mother, who really tries to say yes to all of her children. I just guess (because I am not a mother now) that this is the hardest and the most beautiful job…

    have a wonderful weekend

    Love from sunny Germany and the -fatcatconnection-

  • Rikki - So sweet, she did such a good job! I am often mindful of saying “yes” as well, and catch myself during each “too busy” or “not now” moment. She looks just like you too, what a sweet girl!

  • Carrie - Do you have a lefty? My lefty is always challenging my thinking with her “outside the box” thinking. A true creative treasure.

  • Melanie - Cute!

  • Helen - I’m glad you said yes.

  • Cassandra - Cute Cute!! I’ll have to check out the tutorial for my girls, maybe get one done for Easter!

  • Sophia - I’m sure you’ve gotten this before, but I feel like we have a bond! You so frequently express my own desires and hopes. I love sharing motherhood with you.

  • Meg G. - I love that instead of just making them for her (which can sometimes be easier/faster/etc) she’s actively involved in the entire process! What a great way to start learning so young…instead of waiting until her 30′s like I did :) When I have kids I hope I can inspire and help encourage their hobbies and talents like you do with your kids!

  • Lynnie B - You ROCK as a mom!!!

  • Alison - That picture of her sewing, with the pedal up on the footrest, is just adorable! You can tell she is proud of herself. And she’s a better sew-er than I am!

  • Taylor - So cute! You guys did an awesome job!


  • Sarah - ADORABLE!!!!

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - Great job, firecracker! That bow looks amazing!

  • Kristin S - Oh, Firecracker, you are growing up so beautifully!

  • Ashley Lemaster - Beautiful, Ashley!! My kids love to “sew” although it ends up being a ton of work for me. They have been asking me forever to make pillows and I finally said “yes”. They are wonky in places but they picked out the fabric, etc. and have been parading the pillows around for weeks. Also saying that they “designed” them and constantly telling each other the rationale behind their fabric choices. Obviously they are way more calculated than me. Love it!!

  • Susie - I think I’m in love with Firecracker! And you too, Ashley! You teach your kids life skills and that’s so important. I love these photos of your daughter perched on a step-ladder with the machine pedal under her bare foot! And the fact that she’s a leftie and knows how to use a left handed scissors. I’m a leftie (and sewer too!) Only back in the day, they didn’t ask which hand we wrote with, they just taught everything right handed.

    Kudos to you and your family! You all serve as such positive role models!

  • Eryn - Sweet baby girl! Those pictures of her wearing her bow melted me into a puddle. You could see so much emotion in her eyes! What a great post.

  • Holly and eddie - I love how distracted children get whilst doing activities. These bows are wonderful.

  • Laura - Every time I see her picture I think of the first time I saw her on your blog, I think it was the first time I visited, I’m not even sure what got me here but it was the picture of her, maybe her 2nd birthday and she was out in a field with 2 sticks holding up a banner that you made. She captured my heart that day and continues to now. My daughter is now 19, she loved to create at my side as a child, we took a break (her idea) during her teen years and now we’re back at it. I recently bought a nail gun and so we have been building stuff, fun times!

two of my go-to books


I have a very long list of books I want to read. It is super long and it makes me a little sad that I add to the list faster than I check books off the list. I want to read more, but I’m just not in a season for it. One day I hope to be checking off faster than adding. Among my favorite books right now are those that I don’t need to read cover to cover, but instead can pick out pertinent chapters – like crafting books and cook books (this is a new one for me).  There are also two books I pick up throughout the year for ideas regarding holidays and celebrations that fall throughout the calendar year.

Since we are approaching Easter, I want to share those books; I like to use them to help me find ways to make celebrating Christian holidays significant and full of meaning for my family. The first is A Homemade Year by Jerusalem Greer. I started working through this book last year. She touches on several holidays that I did not celebrate growing up. The book is full of crafts, recipes, and ideas for bringing people together. The book follows the calendar year, so it is easy to jump in at any time. It is a really great fit for my family.4.14handmadeyear-2

The second book is Treasuring God in Our Traditions by Noel Piper. I got this book when my oldest was a baby. It has been my go-to book for nearly a decade when I want to be inspired, encouraged and reminded of ways to make our holiday celebrations significant.4.14handmadeyear-44.14handmadeyear-6

I don’t do giveaways very often (except the last 2 weeks!), but Jerusalem offered to let me host a giveaway for her book and I would love for one of you to have this book in your family. It has been such a special gift for my family, I hope one of you enjoys it too!


Prize: 1 copy of A Homemade Year by Jerusalem Greer

1 winner, chosen at random


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  • Chrissy - What a wonderful giveaway. I have a 23 month old and a 3 month old (today!). If I don’t win, I will be buying both of these.

  • AmyK - This would be perfect for my family too! Happy Thursday!

  • Melinda Davis - Love this blog- read it almost daily. Will enjoy reading Ms. Greer’s book and may purchase it if I am not the lucky winner. Warm blessing to Ashley and Chris and her little ones.

  • Faythe - Thank you!

  • Daniela - Love your blog and would love the book!

  • Debbie - These books look lovely

  • Courtney - Those books sound really cool and great for incorporating Jesus into holidays

  • Katie - Thank you! Have been wanting to read this book!

  • Dani M. - That sounds like a near book. Thanks for sharing, Ashley!

  • Lorie Bell - Love these!

  • Jennifer Garcia - These books would be wonderful to receive. My daughter just turned one and I am wanting to be more intentional about how we celebrate the holidays.

  • Amy - I have a pile of books waiting to be read as well! Even so, I am always looking for more. Happy to have your recommendations here. I would be pleased as punch to win this. Thanks for the opportunity! And Happy Easter! He is risen!

  • Jessica - Both look great! Thanks for the recommendations.

  • Jillian - Thanks for the recommendations and the giveaway!

  • Dawn - Books are such treasures. Thanks for sharing these! They both sound wonderful!

  • heather - I would love to win. I’m not in a season of reading either…. One day that will change.

  • jeni - I must read these books.

  • Sara - I totally understand about not being in a season. I am hopeful that my season for books is around the corner. Until then, perhaps this book with help bridge the gap.

  • Hannah H. - looks great!!!

  • Stephanie - I would love to get a book like this. Thank you!

  • Julie - I would love this book!

  • Cheryl - Thank you for the chance to win this book…very thoughtful.

  • Lolly - What a great concept for a book! I love the idea of exploring holidays I might not be familiar with-who wouldn’t love finding new reasons to celebrate?

  • Heidi c - These look amazing – thank you!

  • michelle - Would love to win

  • Kristi Jernigan - I would love this book!

  • Crystal - Thank you for the chance to win!

  • Wendy Ullmer - That looks like a great book. I have 4 boys and I am looking for more ways to be intentional about crafting in our home. Thanks for the giveaway!

  • Giana - Loving these books – always looking for inspiration – your blog provides me with a warm spot in my days!

  • Kathleen Dutill - Looks like a lot of fun and a great way to be inspired. Thanks for sharing!

  • Sarah - That would be a great birthday present.

  • Judy Kay Kyker - I love finding new ways to make our holidays and traditions special.

  • Michelle Hill - This is wonderful. I was just thinking this morning how I would like to start celebrating Easter for what it actually represents and not just bunny rabbits and easter egg hunts. I hope I win :)
    Thank you for the contest! Have a great Thursday!

  • Abigail Carpenter - Sounds like a great resource book. My kids and I love to do crafts and it would be so handy to have something to quickly grab as opposed to spending hours on Instagram;)

  • Fawn - I have had my eye on this book. Thanks for the opportunity to add it to my collection.

  • Leighanna - I would love to add another book to my reading list.

  • traceyo - Sounds fun! Can’t wait to check out the book even if i don’t win!

  • Emily - Your ideas always inspire me. These books sound wonderful. I would live tips on making family time together more significant.

  • Nancy Cresser - I LOVE your blog. These books sound really good. Thank you:)

  • julie - I am in that same season of not making it through books (except the ones I read aloud for homeschooling). But the making memory days are fleeting and so important. What a great giveaway. Thank you!

  • Rachel N. - I’ve spied this book around, looks interesting! Have a blessed Easter Ashley & family.

  • Judy - Jerusalem’s book is on my wish list! :)

  • Mary M - These sound amazing. Thanks for the chance to win!

  • Ashley - Would love to win this book!

  • Brittany A - Would love this book, looks beautiful!

  • Annie - I love Noel’s book! And would love another resource for celebrating well with my family!

  • Michelle - I just bought Noel Piper’s book not long ago after re-reading your post about making an Easter hill. Would love to read a Homemade Year as well!

  • Kelly - that book looks so inspiring… thank you for sharing!

  • Rebecca - I know just what you mean about adding books to the list faster than taking them off. This book seems right up my alley!

  • Megan S - I could not think of a better combination of things; coming together, cooking, and crafting :)