The oldest I could have been was eight.

I remember a saw, “blood”, my mom panicking and my dad laughing.

I don’t remember being scared at all. I’m pretty sure I must have known it was a joke, maybe dad included me in on it. I don’t remember that part.

I do remember the joke. Dad scared mom into thinking he hurt himself with the saw out in the front yard.

I’m no longer eight, but I have an eight year old. And an 11 year old. And a 7 year old. Boys. Boys that like to work together. Boys that have discovered April’s Fools Day.

4.1.15-1Despite the acting skills of the 8 year old, his older brother’s smile gave it away. This year their attempt was good, but their execution needs a bit of work. I have a feeling next year they will up their game and I’ll be in trouble. I fear for the coming years. I’m thinking some ‘rules’ might be needed…or I am going to have to up my game. I’ll talk to my dad. He can help me out.

What are some of your favorite practical jokes? I need to start filling my arsenal of options!

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  • Southern Gal - I would have had a heart attack. We’ve never pulled pranks in my family, so yes, they would have gotten me.

  • Tracy R. - Very creative! I would have freaked out! I get a big kick out of the story my oldest daughter tells of a prank she did at a friends house to her friends younger brothers. She and her girlfriend scrapped the icing out of oreo cookies and refilled them with mayo! Put them on a serving plate and stood back and watched as the boys “enjoyed” their oreos!

  • TheDenverPack - The last time I tried any April Fool’s jokes on my kids, they were 4 and 6 years old. I got the idea from a family magazine and thought it would be hilarious. I waited until they were both fast asleep and then switched them to the other’s bed. Both woke up confused and did not find it the least bit funny. I had 2 very grumpy kids on my hands that morning.

  • AmandaK - My husband sometimes buys the boys a treat after school and has it on the table for them. Yesterday, he put a few Oreos on a paper plate for them, but had replaced a few of the cookies filling with toothpaste. Both were fooled.
    What makes it even more funny, after the joke, my oldest did the same to a few of the cookies in the package my husband had put away.
    When hubs came in from working later, he helped himself to a few cookies and put the whole cookie in his mouth and had chewed it up before he discovered he had been pranked as well.
    Was a great laugh yesterday!

  • Lee - Up your game Sister! Be ready, be first!

  • Jenny B. - Oh my! For a second, I forgot that yesterday was April Fools Day, and had just started to freak out a bit when I glanced at the picture! Whew! They almost got me too. :)

    I love April Fools Day because that’s the day my husband asked me to marry him. He had a plastic gumball machine ring and everything. Except he wasn’t actually joking. It was great. :)

  • Michelle - Tracy R. that is gold! I wish I read this yesterday, I totally would have used that prank on my hubby 😉

    the look of older son’s face in this pic is priceless. He is having the most genuine, belly laughing fit…is there anything better than that?! love it :)

  • MELISSA u - Here is a simple joke that had us all laughing! I found it on Pinterest so it’s not my original idea. The kids and I painted a bar of soap with clear fingernail polish (I put 2 coats on) and replaced the bar of soap dad uses in the shower. He didn’t say anything until that evening. He said “did you use the soap in the shower?” The kids and I played “dumb” and asked why. He said “I couldn’t get it to suds up, I smelled it and it smelled fine, and I even scratched it and it still wouldn’t suds up. Something is wrong with that bar.”

    Needless to say this had us cracking up. He was clueless.

  • Autumn - We put a for sale sign on my neighbor’s vintage Chevy truck yesterday :) they are in the process of moving so he had to park it on the street for a few days. we had a great laugh!

  • Erin - I learned a new one this year. You text your friend (who has an iPhone) “hey did you know that if, while texting, you press and hold the little camera button and the slide your finger up to the pop up camera button, a whole bunch of new emojis will pop up?”

    really it just takes a picture of them and immediately sends to you as a text. i’ve gotten a huge kick out of doing that to my friends this year :)

  • Tammy Henderson - They were really thinking here! We do lots of tricks on April fools, but I think our favorite this year was the confetti we put on the blades of hubby’s office ceiling fan. That was fun to watch. We do have one rule in our house and that is whatever mess your prank makes, you clean it up–thus we’ve never had a saran wrapped toilet.

  • Amanda K - My mom made cupcakes for us to take to school every April 1. She put those wheel macaroni in the middle of them, so as the kids were eating them they got their trick.

    My friend’s dad put a pack of koolaid in the shower head so when she turned it on she got all colored. She wasn’t happy about that one. I thought it was funny, but it didn’t happen to me.

  • EricaB - My mom was the best prankster. One time, she switched my brother’s cereal out with dog food. Another time, she made “chocolates,” complete with cotton ball insides. This year, (she’s a nurse) she attached a small fishing weight to the side of the scale in her office. She has a zest for life.

    Happy Good Friday everyone. May you remember you are dearly loved today!

  • Tracy R. - I am laughing so hard and taking notes for next year! There are some great ideas! So glad you asked this question!

  • Victoria / Justice Pirate - Oh man that was a terrible joke!!!! Haha. Glad they didn’t get you so easily because that would really be a rough one!

  • Juli - I thought about posting an old ultrasound photo of one of my children as my Facebook profile but decided against it. We have 5 kids so I’d get a great laugh out of it but I am from a small town (which I no longer live near) and it’d spread like wildfire before I could clarify that it was an April Fools joke. I let my Mom in on my plans and she got very upset and asked how I could do that to her so I didn’t. :( I thought it’d be hilarious!

  • Kelly - My girlfriend cut up a bunch of brown paper in the shape of letter “e”‘s and put them in a tin. She then told her kids that there were “brownies” in the kitchen for them. One kid thought it was hilarious. The other not so much as he really wanted brownies not brown “e”s!

  • Brittany Maxwell - My grandma did this to someone… Brilliant! Carmel covered onions… Similar shape as an apple, and when the unsuspecting person bites in- yuck! ????

Before Hope Spoken kicked off, Sarah of Neighbors Table gathered the speakers around her backyard table for dinner. From the moment I walked into Sarah’s backyard I felt warmly welcomed. She is a master at gathering people and inviting them in – everyone belongs at her table. As we ate dinner, neighbors walked past in the alley behind her house. She knew each person that walked by and greeted then with a sincere hello.

neighborstable

Danielle Burkleo | Anna Leisemeyer | Meg Duerksen | Casey Weigand | Me | Jen Lula | Ruth Simons | Emily Anderson | Stephanie Holden | Lynsey Kramer

The table was beautiful and the women surrounding it so normal, yet wonderfully inspiring too. However, one of the most wonderful parts of the evening was that she served us chicken spaghetti that she purchased because a busy work day meant she didn’t have time to cook. I also loved that the grass was not mowed and things didn’t look pristine. She loved and welcomed us – she showed us hospitality. She also removed excuses for having others over – excuses like “I’m too busy to cook” (or I can’t cook). Excuses like “my yard isn’t big enough or pretty enough”. Though the table was stunning and her yard perfectly imperfect, it was the ‘normal’ that made it feel like there was a place at the table for me.

In 2012, Sarah set a goal to serve 500 people around her table. Her father built her a table big enough for 20 people and she began inviting others. In the last three years, she has welcomed nearly 1,600 people around her table! It is hard for me to even wrap my mind around that – and she has a separate full time job. Sarah hosts simple dinners, fancy dinners, pot-luck dinners. The main thing is she says YES to inviting others in and YES to building community.

Sarah showed me love in action in a community. It was beautiful to witness.

4.15neighborstable-2-24.15neighborstable-3One evening around Sarah’s table and I am dreaming of getting two in my backyard (my family nearly takes up 1!). I’m thinking two long tables nestled under my apple trees with twinkling lights above….and filling those benches with new and old friends. Building community and welcoming others in only needs a willing yes. It doesn’t take gourmet food or fancy plates. It can be pot-luck or pizza on paper towels. It just takes a YES. I’m thankful for the chance to meet Sarah. I’m thankful she chooses to say YES. I’m thankful she is inspiring me to do the same.

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  • Angela - I stalked her over the weekend because I saw a few folks tagging her in photos. I love her attitude toward community and hospitality- It’s the same attitude that I am striving/struggling to have. :)

  • Bevy @ treasured up and pondered - LOVE THIS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! and I actually would have a table pretty much like this. Except that is covered with sewing stuff – in my so-called sewing room.

    Time to clear the table. :)

  • kaitlyn - so great! I’ll be a guest at your table if you want to ever invite me!

  • jenn - i love this. so awesome.

  • amber - I love this. Coming into adulthood, I allowed the illusion that everything in my home had to be perfect affect the way I allowed people in my home. Now that I’m a mom & have been an “adult” for a while now, I’m letting the Lord free me from that. I just want to let people in & love on them, despite dishes or an unkept lawn or crackers crumbs on my couch. I think that’s what makes people feel even more at home. When it feels like home. Now I need a giant table for our little backyard. Thanks for that! :)

  • susie - I love that table! We have some scrap wood around- I should try see if I can build one too! Looks like fun!

  • Susan - Wow. What a beautiful idea. I hope to welcome more around my table this spring and summer too. May we all be inspired to share some time together around a loving table.
    Susan

  • Lakmali - cool!!!!!

  • Monique - What a beautiful beautiful idea! And a fantastic inspiration.

  • Melisa - I absolutely love this!! My husband and I want to do the same thing. We just bought an acre and are slowly getting it ready to grow community.

  • Paige E - LOVE this! YES! YES! YES!

  • christina larsen - That sounds amazing. I miss having people over…hopefully soon!

  • Salinda - To spend a few moments with Sarah is to understand “love thy neighbor”. What an evening you must have had!

  • Angela - Oh my goodness, so inspiring. I love that she set that goal. I totally want to do something like this. Especially after we move.

  • Kara M - Oh my gosh! What a delightful thing to do. We bought an old picnic table last year and put it in the front yard. Had a friend randomly drop by yesterday and he went straight for the table for a chat! LOVE this!! BTW, I love it when people don’t fuss over coming for dinner. I’ve even had friends come over and teach me a new recipe, then we all gather for dinner!

  • Ryan - Whip up some of those yummy SnapShop cinnamon rolls and I will be there every. single. time! :)

  • Tracie M. - Yes, yes, yes! I think we get so overwhelmed by the beautiful images we see online of parties and gatherings that we feel like we can’t measure up. People just want to be invited in, so just do it. Even if your house is messy and the food is simple, being together is a blessing!

  • Meghan - I LOVED this! So often I get wound up in if my home is in “good enough” condition to host get-togethers and parties. It is amazing how we can get so wrapped up with dust-bunnies and perfectly presented dishes when, honestly, nobody cares and most don’t notice the imperfections. If the company is great, the atmosphere will always be delightful!

  • Jenny - Love this!!! :)

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - I so needed this post tonight. I said yes to hosting tomorrow… and this post gives me so much encouragement.

  • Sing It Out Sunday: Easter Edition | Gumption Studio - […] obviously requires that you continually bring people around to sit at it and become friends. This story of one such party explains it better than I […]

  • Sarah Harmeyer - Hurry back soon, Ashley – we’ll be saving you a seat!!

4.15hopespoken-2This weekend has lingered in my mind for nearly a year – at least thoughts about what the weekend would be and what I would share. I ventured down to Dallas with my sister to join hundreds of other women for the Hope Spoken conference. This year I was slated as one of the speakers. It took everything in me to stand in front of the women and share. It isn’t so much that I am scared of speaking in front of people as much as it just isn’t on my list of things I remotely enjoy!

Each speaker was asked to pick a word…The Story of __________. I chose adventure. My story involves lots of waiting for dreams to come true and finding the adventure and miraculous in what can seem routine and mundane. I’m thankful that life’s greatest adventures don’t have to be BIG, but they take place everyday when we open our eyes to see God working the extraordinary in the midst of the ordinary.

I cried a bunch – I’m not a crier, so that was weird.

I’m pretty sure my words were a little jumbled and my nerves might have got the best of me. Regardless, the women that came to hear my story were so kind and encouraging. Their words, I am confident, meant more to me than anything I shared with them.

This weekend also meant extra time with my sister and dear friends. I got to start with weekend rooming with my sweet friends Meg, Kimberlee and Shannan. Then a room change meant I got to spend a little extra time with my girl Ruth (I wish we could have all been in one big room!). Ruth and I laughed about how it is quite possible we couldn’t be more opposite in every way – I wouldn’t have it any other way!

4.15hopespoken-1I had the chance to meet other bloggers and friends I only knew through instagram. All gifts. All conversations, though too brief, I am so very thankful to have had. Seeing real faces, hearing real voices and hugging real necks is so much better than little glimpses on a computer or phone screen.

However, the highlight was meeting some of you. Before I left Chris prayed that some of you would stop to say ‘hi’ to me, that some of you would share your stories with me. I’ve been blogging for a while now. I really just write a post, hit “publish” then go back to laundry and sweeping floors. I don’t attend conferences or social media ‘meet ups’, so my chances for meeting any of you are quite slim. Blogging can feel very one sided.

This weekend I had the chance to see faces, to hug necks, to hear stories and experience you. Real people. Real stories. What a gift to me. For those that shared your stories (and photos of your beautiful cleft babies!) – thank you. You will perhaps never know how much your kindness to me was a gift I will treasure.

I came home exhausted and woke up to a new day. The sun is shining and I am back with my people – and loving that as I write this post I get to picture some of your sweet faces reading on the other side.4.15hopespoken-4

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  • Melissa C - I want you to know how much I appreciate your blog and sharing your adventures with the blogosphere. I single, live in a small city and work retail. I love the little things in life. And one of them is reading blogs about how others live and see there lives.

    Thank you.

  • jenn - Love your word……..adventure. I have joined my cousin and a few others in a 52 weeks of adventuring posts and it has been fun to see some of the adventures in my everyday. The weekend looked beautiful. Would have loved to be there.

  • Debbie - Beautiful post. I, too, love seeing how other people live every day life. I try to stay present in the moment so I do not miss anything. Especially the whispers from God.

    Hope you have a wonderful Easter.

  • Shira - Lovely post, per usual. If I lived anywhere near OK, I’d stop by with muffins to say hello in person so that it’d feel less one-sided for you -you certainly seem “real” to me. You are often the highlight of my mornings; I save reading your blog post for my morning coffee break and pick me up. I will quite literally think, “urgh, tough meeting, so tired/frustrated/blech, oh, I’d better go read Ashley’s post to cheer up.” So you make a difference, every day, and I know that I’m not the only one. By the way, and I think that I posted this before, but I’m Jewish, don’t have any kids (we are working on that! just tougher for us), and live in a big-ish city, but although our lives are so different, love how you write about life, God, and love and agree with pretty much all of it. Have shared your blog link with many of my friends from all walks of life. Keep writing – we’re out here listening and talking back!

  • Aubrey - After all the years of following and reading your story, being inspired by your faithfulness and the beauty that shines through the computer screen (or my iPhone screen) you were just as beautiful to meet in person. It was weird and awkward to be a part of a weekend where so many seemed to “know” each other. At times I felt a bit like the outsider…but your warmth and honesty were redeeming. Thank you thank you for allowing our God to shine all around you. And thank you for a sweet embrace and picture to remind me of those beautiful things.

    Aubrey

  • susie - I like your blog because your life is so much like mine! I have 6 kids (one more due in a week!) Sometime it feels so monotonous- same thing day in and out… reading your blog helps me realize how fast life is changing- plus I love your photos! Magazine quality everyday!

  • Jessica Meinardus - Oh sweet friend! I am so glad I finally got to meet you in person! You are such a doll! When I signed up for Hope Spoken a year ago, hearing your story was what I was most excited about! It did not disappoint and I took so many notes! Showing off my cleft baby was such a joy and I am glad you allowed me to! Thanks for being willing to share!

  • Heidi - Ashley, I am an unmarried, non-religious 29 year-old woman living in California, with no children – and I love your blog and Instagram! I’ve never commented before, but I know you’ve said you read them all, so I just wanted to peek out from behind the internet barrier and say that I’ve been following you guys since your littlest was “in the works” but not yet here. Of all the blogs I follow, yours is the most honest and real. I can always count on your posts to have wonderful pictures and details of your family, to always be positive, and never full of those sponsored product reviews that seem so prevalent these days. (When you do share one of those, I know it’s never based on your desire to receive compensation for it, and that makes a big difference.) Anyway, I wanted to say hello, and to thank you for writing in a way that includes everyone, regardless of belief system or whether or not we’re moms :-)

  • Crystal - Ashley! I mentioned on IG that I adored meeting you (and thank you for appreciating your readers!), and that I so loved your talk. You didn’t seem nervous at all! But, ok, unlike Jessica, I didn’t take any notes and I’ve been kicking myself ever since! So, if y’all have any notes you can forward, I’d love it! :)
    Your words truly did speak to so many of us. After you were done, I thought “okay, I can go home now! I’ve heard enough!” Ha, it was just so good….and my favorite was that God is working the miraculous while I’m doing the mundane….and that, like Joseph, we are not forgotten. Those were some strong nuggets anyway. :) Thanks for sharing with us!!

  • Jenny B. - Oh, so sweet and special! This post just warms my heart. I feel like saying, “I’m proud of you, Ashley.” :) Oh, and P.S. I love your blog. :)

  • debbie - Congrats on the conference! I am sure your spoken words touched the hearts & souls of everyone present, just like here. Every post. Every ordinary share has an extraordinary impact. xo

  • Jodi - I wanted to come up and meet you so bad, but was too shy. I listened to your breakout session, was seated in the front and even had the opportunity to say “hi”. I also had the opportunity in the elevator when you ran to get your hair dryer :) What I wanted to say was “Thank You”, I read your blog faithfully at night when the kids are asleep. You are so creative and I get a lot of inspiration from you! Gosh this sounds weird….see.

  • Jenny - I love that you picked adventure! It’s a perfect fit! :)

  • Kelli - So wonderful to meet you this weekend and I hope we cross paths again soon!

  • AshleyAnn - Jodi – Oh girl I wish you would have said “hi”. Thank you for taking a moment to do that here today. And it doesn’t sound weird at all. Just know that a friendly “hi” can go such a long way in brightening someone’s day – whether the “hi” is in an elevator or online :)

  • AshleyAnn - Thanks Jenny :)

  • AshleyAnn - Crystal – I recorded my session for a friend. It is just an iPhone voice memo recording, but if you want a copy I’ll email it to you :) Thank you for your encouragement!

  • AshleyAnn - Heidi – thank you for taking the time to leave me a comment and share a little bit of your story with me! I really appreciate your thoughtful words and encouragement to me!

  • AshleyAnn - Jessica – meeting you was a highlight for me too!!!

  • AshleyAnn - Aubrey – thank you :) There were weird and awkward times there for me too….and I had a lot of random connections to so many in attendance!

  • AshleyAnn - Shira – I love when differences seem small in view of the larger picture! Thank you for sharing your morning coffee with me :)

  • Marg - A huge highlight from my weekend at hope spoken was getting to chat with you and hear your story on adventure. You have been a big source of inspiration and comfort to me when my son was born with a cleft, and also as we continue our adoption process of a child with a cleft from China. I’m sure this whole blogging thing feels pretty one sided but know that God has used your blog to speak through in my life and I’m sure in many other lives as well! So thank you for sharing yor heart, it’s a beautiful one.

  • Lori Danelle - Such an amazing weekend. As you know, there were many highlights for me, and I’m glad meeting you (finally!!) was one of them. I’ve always like you online, but I think I like you even better in person. 😉

  • brooke - So, so fun to finally meet you in ‘real’ life and give you a hug! Your sister is the sweetest too! What a fun time, and I can just say it again: your words were awesome and it was so fun to hear you sharing your story from beginning to now… it really is a fun testimony of God’s power in our lives!! And I would be lying if I didn’t say that my heart is totally turned towards cleft babies!! :)

  • Crystal - Yes! I would love that!! crysjolley @ yahoo dot com Thank you!!

  • Laura - I loved meeting you, Miss Ashley Ann. Your talk was my favorite. Waiting on God for his timing and his provision and finding joy and adventure while doing it is one of the main things I took away. That, and “fear has no place in the Lord’s plan”. Yes and amen. Love your heart.