Our dear friends, the Barkis, are a month away from moving way too far from us. Every member of our family is going to mourn what feels like a loss for us. However, in our sadness we are so excited for the adventure that awaits them.

4.15BarkiThis summer they will be boarding a Mercy Ship – their new home for the next two years. If you aren’t familiar with Mercy Ships, they are basically floating hospitals that dock at port cities, primarily in Africa to “bring hope and healing to the world’s forgotten poor.” Over 2.35 million people have been impacted by the work of Mercy Ships. “Many nations lack basic infrastructure services such as clean water supply, reliable delivery of electricity and medical facilities and personnel. A ship is a controlled, safe and environment ideally suited for serving patients and crew.” (Mercy Ship website). Brian will be serving as an anesthesiologist, while the rest of the family serves in other capacities. The kids will attend school on board the ship…docked for the first year in Madagascar!

Goodness, I am excited for what the next two years holds for them and those they will meet.


Brian let me interview him a while back about a two week trip he took with Mercy Ships. You can click here to read that interview. Mercy Ships are completely volunteer based. Instead of receiving pay to work on the ship, the Barkis (along with all other staff) are responsible for their living expenses, travel, insurance, etc. It is a huge leap for a family of 5 to put action to their dreams. Mercy Ships doctors perform all kinds of surgeries for those that cannot afford them…many, many cleft lip/palate surgeries included. So close to our hearts.  The Barkis inspire Chris & I to dream big and go for it. This weekend a few of us are putting on a garage sale to benefit the Barkis. It feels like such a small way to help, but we hope it helps some. If you are in the Tulsa area, we’d love for you to come out…it is for a good cause!

Our mutual friends, Nick & Jaime Parker, are hosting the garage sale. Their house is the one I featured a while back. The garage sale will be in their front yard and the Broken Arrow Farmer’s Market is just a couple blocks down the road. Main Street Broken Arrow also has several cute vintage/antique/flea markets…you could make a day of it!

GarageSaleIf you would like more information on the Barkis and how to support them, click here

For more information on Mercy Ships, click here.

I’ll be in and out on Saturday between soccer games. Hope to see you there!

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  • Anniken - Experience of a lifetime… Mercy ships are so great and they do a good job. In norway there is a childrens tv serie from mercy ships called, Fride på skipet.
    its a norwegian family who have worked on one of the mercy ship. Maybe your kids would like to see it. It show the kids view on living there…

  • Sorina K - Yeah for them! I lived/worked on board Mercy Ships for nearly 3 years. Changed my life in many ways! (Met my German husband there and now live in Germany with our 3 little people.) Maybe they’ll get to work together when my husband goes for his yearly 3-week stint (he’s a surgeon). God bless them! It’s 2 years that will fly by and they will not be the same when they return…but in a good way. 😉

  • amber - That is amazing. Love this story! Wish we were closer to Broken Arrow!

  • Sarah - This is such an amazing sacrifice and a big step for their family! We will certainly be praying for them. I love Mercy Ships and know people who have been a part of that ministry. My husband and I met in YWAM many years ago and now our family serves full time with them.

  • Shelley - Would you mind if I shared this on my blog as well? I would just type a blurb and share your link. I work for Mercy Ships and love spreading the word about our wonderful families!!

  • Tanya - What an amazing family and wonderful cause. Thank you for sharing.

  • Alice H - this garage sale is going to be amazing! Can’t wait to come shop and support your friends too!

  • Jennifer - I had a friend who was a nurse 3 separate times on Mercy Ship (2 months, 12 months & 6 month stints). She absolutely loved it and I’m sure that the family will remember this time with great fondness the rest of their lives. Thank you for making that sacrifice to help those who lack just basics!

  • Amelia - My husband is from Madagascar and we are currently struggling with finding out that my mother in law has advanced breast cancer, and finding care for her in a country which has little to no medical infrastructure. Reading your post this morning about this family’s sacrifice to improve the lives of the Malagasy people brings a little bit of light to what is a very hard time in our lives.

  • Hannah - Wow! This caught my attention quickly because I literally just heard about Mercy Ships in the last week while I was researching ministries for a project. Thanks for sharing this family’s story. It’ll be exciting to see what God does in and through them over the course of their service in Madagascar!

  • Julie - The link to click to donate is not working.

  • Laura Y - Ah! I was in Tulsa last weekend. Would have loved to come out and support such a great cause! Is there another way to navigate to the donate page?

I try to pick up my camera every day. I don’t get much time to craft or other creative outlets right now, but I can usually find at least a few minutes to pick up my camera. Photography helps me see my life in a different way. Simple, normal things – I just see them differently when I look through my camera lens. I pick up my camera everyday, not because I want a million pictures of my family. I pick up my camera everyday because I need the reminder to see the beauty the surrounds me. I pick up my camera everyday because I need to…

Gathering eggs. A daily, routine task. She ran out the back door with the basket. As I watched her through the window, I grabbed my camera and ran behind her.

All of these were shot using my 50mm lens. ISO 100, 1/200 or 1/250, f/2.8

4.15egggathering-24.15egggathering-34.15egggathering-44.15egggathering-5Her great grandpa’s gardening chair. A coop built by her mom & grandpa. Boots passed down from a sweet friend. So many stories in a simple photo.4.15egggathering-64.15egggathering-74.15egggathering-94.15egggathering-10“It is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all.” ~ Laura Ingalls Wilder

Origrami Giveaway winners are: Katie (mrsc…), Heather (heatherma…) Jen (jenjb…) Lee (hat…), & Kathi (ksc…). You should have each received an email from me yesterday!

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  • Itzi - You are so right! it is important to remember the daily beauty around us, even in the ugly days – especially on those ugly days. Thanks

  • Charlotte - Wow, you have describe why picking up your camera each and every day is so important! Beautiful photos and beautiful words!

    C |

  • dana - Beautiful! I am convinced that photos solidify memories! We experience so many things everyday…our brains just can’t hold on to every little detail year after year. But photos help us hold on to those details and memories. What a treasure for your sweet family.

  • Keri - Hi Ashley! I was trying to find a way to contact you but I am can’t find a place in which to submit a question. I am looking to get a photo printed into about a 24×25 inch size. Is there any place you would suggest I go to order?

  • [SPS] REEL | issue 006 - […] always loved Ashley’s work.  In this post, she tells us why “I try to pick up my camera every day.” And it’s what we’ve often said around here.  Photography helps you learn to […]

  • Charity G. - Such sweet photos and what a great reminder. Lately I’ve noticed my picture taking has tapered. I’m going to try and start again as I notice those happy little things I might not otherwise.

  • Allison - SO True!! Thanks for the reminder…i’ll go grab my camera right now! Sweet pics of your girl.

  • { l y d i a } - Keri, I’m pretty sure she’d recommend They’re great! They don’t have that size, but they do have 20×24, 20×30 and 24×36. I think if I were you and needed that specific size, I’d format the image in photoshop as 24×25 and place it on a “canvas” that was a more standard print size and cut off the excess.

    p.s. Is there any exception to “thou shalt not covet” when it comes to chicken coops? 😉 I need your grandpa. Love!

  • Natalie - I mean, gorgeous! Each and every picture. Please don’t stop picking up that camera!!

  • Kristin S - Firecracker is turning in to quite the young lady. You have a beautiful family, Ashley.

  • Judy - I, too, am working on picking up my camera every day! Thanks for your inspiration. How do you think you would liberate your photos from your camera if you did not have this blog? So many photos filling up my photostream! My kids are grown, so many of my pics are of the world around me, not really targeted to grandparents or memory books.

We are constantly looking for games and activities for our youngest that involve blowing air. One common challenge for kids born with a cleft palate is the ability to blow air through their mouths. To be very non-medical and brief, basically the soft palate doesn’t always close against the back of the throat after the initial cleft repair, making it hard to get enough pressure built up to blow. Quite often more than one surgery is required on a cleft palate. Another palate surgery might be in her future, but for now we are working with our girl on blowing.

I found this idea on The Kids Activities Blog. Stacked cups, Q-Tips and straws. It was supposed to be just f0r my youngest, but her siblings quickly came in to take part.

4.15straws-014.15straws-024.15straws-034.15straws-04The game quickly turned into attacking each other with flying Q-tips, shooting them in cups and then just stacking cups to kick down. It was raining outside. It worked.4.15straws-05Her favorite was tossing cups to her sister while her sister stacked them. They spent a good hour doing this.4.15straws-064.15straws-07We do a lot of bubble blowing and blowing objects across the floor. I would love to hear any games/activities you all do that involve blowing…the more ideas the better!

I’ll announce the Origrami giveaway winners tomorrow!

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  • Nicole - Blowing blobs of paint across paper with a straw is fun! Also a bit of detergent added to coloured water, blow with straw to make bubbles then press paper on top to print a bubble picture. You just need to make sure kids don’t suck instead of blow!

  • Cindy Tutor - hello, just read your blog and I wanted to share a game that the kids at our church played. They were laying on the floor behind a piece of tape, opposite sides with balloon in the center. The object was to blow the balloon to the other side via a straw without crossing over the tape on the floor. I think the lines could be made closer, because being little they don’t have the power to blow through a straw to move the balloon very far. You could use several balloons too. The kids seemed to really enjoy this game and maybe something your kids will enjoy too. Blessings! <3

  • Christi {Jealous Hands} - One thing our therapist gave my son was blowing on the party noisemakers – the ones that roll out. I loved it because we could take it with us everywhere & especially in the car. He loved it for obvious reasons… but never got bored with it!

  • Tracy R - My girls have always liked making their own instruments to blow into! A favorite is filling up glass jars with water at various levels, adding food coloring and blowing into the jars to get sounds. Hope that makes sense!!!

  • Me - Harmonica?
    Keeping a feather up in the air?

  • Janine M - How about a recorder? Its a cheap musical instrument and easy to make sound out of and play. The older kids can play too and you could even have a music reading lesson. A simple kazoo can be fun too. Party favors that you blow into. The noisy ones and the rolled up ones that unravel when you blow into them. Blow up balloons, make paintings by blowing the paint through a straw. Milk bubbles through a straw. Good luck.

  • Kim B - This makes me think of the bubble whistles I put in my children’s Easter baskets. They are no mess so they can play with them without the risk of spilling. I bought theirs at target, they have a whole line of no spill bubble items. I could only find a Dora one online here to give you an idea.
    It’s noisier than regular bubbles but that may be a different draw to it than just bubbles.

  • Tiffany - Bubble snakes! They’re awesome.

  • Mel - Hi Ashley,
    Some fun games we play are:
    Blowing ballons to keep them up off the floor.
    Using a straw blow feathers to make them fly like ‘fairies’ girls love this one!
    Also using a straw blow ping pong balls across the floor – race the boys!
    Tub of water get two leaves & make little sailing boats to blow across the pond.
    I’m in Australia and we have dandelion’s (weeds) that grow in the grass so we collect those & blow off all the little white petals. Sorry not sure if you have these???
    Love reading your blog (stumbles upon it when my little one needed surgery & placed in a hip Spica) x

  • Lucy - I have done blow painting projects with my kids and they love it. Here is a good example:

  • sarah - Use a straw to blow a pom pom into a goal :)

  • Debbie - Great post… the photos. Kids are so much fun!

  • Angela - As far as simple instruments, you could add those wooden train whistles or a harmonica.

    As far as games go, especially games involving siblings, they could make small paper fish (and decorate them, of course!) and they could use straws to “race” them to a finish line or one sibling could be the shark and everyone else could be a fish and the shark would have to “catch” the fish, while the fish could be blown around trying to escape. And then, BAM, easy food chain lesson/predator vs. prey! :)

  • Laura - Make little sailboats and blow them across the bathtub! My daughter had asthma and we did this for her.

  • Charity G. - For Christmas my sister made my boys marshmallow guns out of PVC pipe. You put the marshmallow in and then blow to shoot it out. This requires a pretty big breath but my boys think it’s awesome. I’ve also given them pom poms about the size of the small marshmallows to use instead and those work too.

    I also remember doing races as a child with cotton balls/pom poms and having to blow them across the floor or table.

  • Jennie - We played blow ball on our ping pong table as kids- two teams, one on each side of the table and the object is to blow the ball across and have it fall off the opposite side before the other team can stop it.

  • Sara W - We’ve done blow painting. There are lots of tutorials on how and what to use. Our favorite is to add googly eyes after they dry and make them look like monsters or germs.

  • Maureen - I just wanted to comment… especially over the last week or so, Little One’s smile and laugh has seemed to blossom and become huge! My heart thuds every time I see it. What a whole lot of love can do

  • Deb @ PaperTurtle - This is such a fun idea! I’m certified to teach kids yoga, and I here’s one of my favorite activities for teaching kiddos to breathe: Use two pool noodles to create an “obstacle course.” So, two pool noodles on the floor, parallel to each other, a couple feet apart. Scatter small pompoms (or cotton balls) at one end, and use straws to blow the pompoms to the opposite end. The pool noodles keep the pompoms from going all over the place. You can have two courses side-by-side for races. Another favorite uses feathers – tossing them up into the air and blowing through your mouth to keep them from falling to the floor.

    I have loved following your journey with your youngest daughter, and always look forward to hearing about her progress. Blessings to you and yours! xo

  • susie - we went to an australian aborigine program and tey made diggerys out of PVC pipe. we decorated them then you blow throw them. you older boys would like them a lot too. I will see if I can google the guy and get a link.

  • susie - it spelled.. Didgeridoo. there are some examples on you tube… the boys actually use it for an elk call- pretending they are elk and hunters.

  • susan - When I was a child one of my best friend’s grandmothers would make little origami balls for my friends birthday party. We would have to blow them across the room with straws and the fastest won. She wold use all sorts of pretty paper so you would know which one was yours.

  • elizabeth highsmith - I know there are very few days left, but April is national child abuse prevention month and pinwheels signify the month. Maybe you could make pinwheels and practice blowing them to spin!

  • Liz - SLP here :) love following your blog.
    (with supervision) blowing out candles, seeing how far the candle can be and still make the flame move/blow out the candle.

    using food coloring with bubbles and the blowing it onto paper to make art,

    noise makers and kazoos, or flutes/recorders/harmonicas that can play music

    blowing bubbles in your drink (milk, water etc) makes a mess but fun.

    wind spinners or game board spinners that you have to spin by blowing instead of with your finger before taking a turn

    I love the idea of shooting q-tips from straws ill have to remember that!!

  • Aubrey - Have you tried enrolling her in a children’s choir?

  • Amy - I teach preschool we were talking about weather and we put paint blobs on our paper and used straws to blow the paint – like a wind storm. We also blew cotton balls.

  • Caitlin - Make a track on the floor with painter’s tape, race cotton balls through the track by blowing at them through straws. A great way to get siblings involved and practice that blowing!

  • Lisa-Marie - My students LOVE to make “goop”.. (about equal parts blue bottle laundry starch, and white glue.. if it’s to stringy add glue, if it’s to sticky add starch.. just mix and mix, it will come together)… We first grab our container of dried markers (you know, the ones they left the lids off of..).. and dot away.. the moisture in the goo will make the markers work!! We make pictures and stretch them.. then after this, we grab the straws.. if you take a blob and stick the straw in it, lightly pinch the goo around the straw and blow, you can make HUGE bubbles or balloons as my kiddos call the big ones! My special needs preschoolers can make it work! They love it and will spend a long time doing the whole process.

  • Jenny - We had a speech therapist for our son for a while. She had us pour salt on the table and then use the p sound to blow it across the table. You can use a cotton ball too. It requires some blowing to make it work. He still wants to play every time we go to a restaurant!

  • Heidi - Ashley, I played this game when I was a kid where you sit across the table from one another with a straw, and try to blow a cotton ball off the other end – like soccer or hockey. You could even add a little ‘goal’ bucket or something if you wanted to! Since it’s done in pairs, I think it could be fun for your group :-)

  • tessa - As I was setting up this project for my kids, I thought of you and this post. :)

  • Tara - My kids love getting a cup and putting dishwashing liquid in it, then sitting it in a bowl and seeing how high they can get the bubbles to grow in, up and over the cup and bowl. I prefer this activity to be done outside! 😉

  • Jennifer Jamen - Hi! My son has been going to weekly OT for about 4 years. He has serious oral motor challenges and she uses different exercises with him every week. I’m always amazed at the different activities that she has for him. I pinned a bunch that he has done:

  • Anna - Hi! SLP student here, an activity I recently discovered is blowing a 4 by 4 inch piece of tissue paper against a wall for as long as possible. It would be fun to tell the kids they are stronger than gravity (even if just for a few seconds) by showing how tissue paper falls without any pressure holding it in place. You could possibly teach speech and science together.