Lots of capture the flag, soccer, football and basketball happening around our house. The girls have been far outnumbered – 3 to 7. If you count the dog, cat and hens then we outnumbered the boys. Truth be told, I kind of like it when the house is full of boys.

2.15boys-042.15boys-02In the midst of all the boys running around, I snuck away with my oldest daughter…to Target to go dress shopping.

My oldest son saw the sign, “Father/Daughter Dance Tickets on Sale Now”

I saw the sign, “Father/Daughter Dance Tickets on Sale Now”

Not knowing the other had seen the sign, we both told Chris about it. Everyone in our house knew that night was made for one little girl in our house.

Chris formally asked her to the dance and then we went shopping. She picked out about 8 dresses – from the big girl section (WHAT?!). As she tried them on, she had me video her twirling in each dress. Then she replayed the videos and determined which dress had the best spin. She was laughing. I was laughing. It was the most fun I’ve ever had shopping. I came home and told Chris I need another job just to make money to take her shopping all the time!2.15boys-01The big night came. Her little sister and I laughed the whole time we helped her get ready. The boys (brothers and friends) all made her feel special when she came out to meet her daddy.

2.15dance-012.15dance-022.15dance-03Chris said he barely got to dance with her. Something about her walking into the room and treating the night like a performance. I can’t picture that at all.2.15dance-052.15dance-06

Throughout the night Chris sent a couple pictures to us of her on the dance floor. As fun as it was to see her so happy, it was pretty awesome to watch her big brothers excited for her. I love that they made her feel so wonderful about the evening and encouraged her in it. My girls have no idea how good they have it with those boys as big brothers.

She is already talking about next year…and we are already reminding her that in a few years her little sister’s turn will come! Chris better keep his dancing shoes ready.

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  • Amy @thelittlefarmdiary - Such sweet, sweet memories Ashley. I’m totally sticking around your blog because that precious little daughter of yours is going to be quite the teenager! ;)

  • Brenna - LOVE this! The sweetness of your boys brought me to tears. Y’all are doing an amazing job to bring up such tender hearts.

  • Lakmali - Sweet !!!!! they both look awesome!!!!!!

  • Chris - So. Much. Joy. Thanks for making my morning!

  • Rebecca - Oh be still my heart. This fills my soul with happiness for future of our twin girls with their daddy. Even before we had children he would talk about how he wanted to take his future daughters on dates. I am so incredible lucky to have a husband that will show our daughters what it means to be a man. Thank you for the beautiful glimpse into my future :)

  • Debbie - Adorable! Thanks for sharing.

  • Nicole C - I’m 33 now and I still remember a father/daughter dance I went to. The photo I have from it helps, I just remember being there with my Dad. He still gives me up from work every Tuesday, to take me to lunch.

  • Tanya - This is so sweet in every way!
    (side note: my daughter just started shopping in the big girl section too, so when you wrote that I teared up – they grow so fast!)

  • Heather - Could it be any sweeter!! LOVE!

  • Karyn - Aw, you can just see her beautiful spirit bursting out of those photos! Daddy must have been so thrilled to be her date!

  • Diana - this is all kinds of adorable!

  • Andrea - Okay, I wish I knew you in real life. Every post about your daughter just reminds me of my daughter. I think they would be best friends (and hopefully we’d get along, too!). I also have to take pictures and videos of her in dresses so that she knows how much they twirl.

  • Erica - Oh my heart. These pictures are precious and what sweet memories!

  • Tracie M. - Performance! That’s exactly what happened when my husband took our daughter to their first daddy-daughter dance. He hardly got to dance with her at all!

    Beautiful pictures and such a precious time in her life.

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - So sweet! Firecracker, you look amazing!

  • Heather - Love this! The picture of her looking up at him melts my heart :)

  • Amy K. - I am highly embarrassed that I have NEVER chosen a dress based on its spin-ability… thanks to Firecracker, my priorities have been corrected. =)

  • candace - I love the backlighting on the basketball pics!

  • Shana - Beyond precious!!! Having a daddy to invest in your life is priceless!

  • Amy Cornwell - So precious!

  • Elise - Beautiful post!!! I love the look in her eyes!!!! You are such an encouragement!!! You are a blessing to so many moms that you may never meet!

  • Jakob - This post is amazing. There is many things that can be said. But the most of apperant of them all is that father´s heart for his child. It is beautiful, so beautiful, how happy they both look, the joy in his face. She is so blessed to have a father like that. Some thing many can only dream of and spend there whole life chasing after, she is blessed with that. That makes me both smile and cry, it is so moving. Chris is a great father and I just want to encourage you all. The boys is wonderful too, the way they encourage their sister. You have a way of beeing family that inspires. God bless all of you.

  • Krystin Robertson - So sweet! The shopping trip sounds hilarious!

  • Julie - You are so lucky to have such moments in your country…I love that concept and the way it is formalized..Love your daughter s face on the ” tango step” photo! It made me laugh so much!

becraftysnapshopWAsmI am excited to announce that in May, I will be joining my sister (Lesley Zellers) and two friends (Amanda Rydell & Sara Parsons) for a late afternoon of crafting and photography goodness! We will spend a few hours together in a cute barn in Friday Harbor, WA.

Both Amanda and Sara are contributors to my SnapShop: Phone course (I share several interviews with some of my favorite photographers – they are among those). It is fun to get to do something together in person instead of just online!

Each attendee will create and take home 3 inspiring projects. Along with crafting with Amanda, I will share simple ways to improve your phone photography and Lesley will demonstrate tips and tricks on creating chalk art.

The workshop will be limited to 20 participants. Registration opens today. For more information and to register, click here.

UPDATE 3:00PM US CENTRAL: The workshop is booked.


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  • mindy - I am dying that you guys will be in washinton. Its like a dream. But i am 6 hours away and thats not doable with 3 kiddos at home. One day I hope to meet all you beautiful ladies!

  • Krystle - How exciting! The San Juans are a beautiful area in Washington… if you have some extra time… check out Hurricane Ridge; it’s over on the peninsula, but definitely worth the trip! :) You would also like Annacortes, closer to the San Juans… small, little town with a yarn shop called “Not Your Grandma’s Yarn Store” :)

  • Carrie - Friday Harbor (on San Juan Island) is an incredible place! San Juan Island is one of my favorite places along with the other “San Juans” nearby! No need to travel far from there and see incredible beauty. I hope, hope, hope that you have beautiful weather! It is possible! Have a fabulous time! Would love to come, love to come! but baby is due then :)

  • AshleyAnn - Thanks for helping me out on the island name Carrie & Krystle! I corrected that :)

  • windie d - this sounds like such a fun weekend! but as it’s the day before my 1st anniversary (and i am in Colorado) not something i could do right now. Hope you get so many responses that you decide to do this again!

  • Dawn - Ashley!!! I am SO excited!! I just booked my ticket!! Cannot wait to meet you and be in this beautiful place! I had no idea when I woke up today that I would be booking a trip to the other side of the country! This will be an adventure of a lifetime and I couldn’t be more excited!! :-)

  • Carrie Rowe - ugh, I want to go so bad!!! You gals are amazing!

  • Sara S. - We just moved to Washington and we are only 2.5 hours away. It’s killing me because it is probably not in our budget and my baby is due one month before but maybe I can figure something out. ???? Dying to go!

  • Jennie - Oh! My! I live near Seattle, and would absolutely love to come, if only so I could meet you and your sister. :) I just have to see if I could work out the logistics…and I’m afraid it will fill up before I figure out if it’s possible (budget/timing concerns). But I would so love to meet you. Oh maybe- if you are flying into Seattle, and need a quick crossfit WOD on your way North, I know of a great box :)

  • Maca - Ohh my this sounds great! I would love to go! I love your work.


  • Caitlin E - Shoot! Sold out! If there’s a waiting list/last minute cancellation list, can I get on it? I LIVE in Washington, and it’s killing me that you’ll be so close!!!!

  • Natalie - Oh this would be so awesome to go to! You guys need to do another one closer to Kansas!!!

  • the inadvertent farmer - Ughhh…just got home from homeschool co-op and you are already booked! If you open it to more (or do another) let me know. I live in SW Washington and would have loved to join you! Kim

  • Stacey - Hi! I’ve been following your beautiful blog for awhile now and am soooo sad this is already full. Is there a wait list? I would absolutely LOVE to attend. Thanks so much!!!

  • Caroline Kelley - Is there a wait list? I just saw this and would love to attend!

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - what an awesome group of ladies! Have a great time!

  • Stephanie George - So wish I could have done this! Although I wish it had been a DSL class rather than iPhone so I could have justified the expense to my husband! I live in Kirkland, WA (just East of Seattle). It’ll be so crazy knowing you and your sister are nearby and that I don’t get to meet you! Looks like the workshop is already sold out; I’m happy for all who get to go. “Next time” you need to have a meet and greet or a weekend full of mini classes so more can attend! Don’t forget to share all the pictures when the time comes!

  • Samantha - Goodness, that would be my dream come true! Congrats to the lucky ladies who are going!

  • Donzel - Friday Harbor is still too far away! :-D Head east about 8 hours and you’ll strike gold.

  • Melissa @ Bless this Mess - If I weren’t going to be super pregnant I would come!! I hope you do these for the next few years because I so want to come!

  • Christy - When you and Lesley host in OK, count me in! ; )

I’ve never been extreme. I am more of an even, straight line….pretty much the same all the time.  My excited face actually looks a lot like my ‘this is good’ face and my ‘hmm, yeah I like that face”.  I’ll never forget standing next to Chris one evening when we were dating. We were looking at a beautiful sunset. All the sudden, Chris threw up his arms and yelled something about how amazing the sunset was. I remember looking over at him like he was so strange. I mean, of course the sunset was stunning, but who randomly yells stuff like that? In the middle of the dorm lobby? Chris does.

Just a straight line…every now and then there might be a little bump up or down on my line, but mainly a straight line.

I’ll always choose a t-shirt and jeans over the current fad.

I don’t make new year’s resolutions.

I’m just even. Moderation. No extremes in anything really (well, maybe Crossfit now depending on which family member you ask).

All that to say, a few weeks ago I thought I would try to eliminate sugar from my diet. I eat carbs. And dairy. And meat. And just about everything else…just in moderation (I also know many do not have those options, I have many close friends that must walk delicate roads with their diet out of necessity). Anyway, I decided I would see how it felt to eliminate sugar for a bit. I’m pretty attuned to my body, I’m healthier now than I was in high school or college, and I definitely don’t lack energy; it wasn’t a decision based on not feeling good. I just wanted to try it. It seemed like a good idea.

It was a terrible idea – but not for the reasons I expected. I don’t eat tons of sugar anyway, so I didn’t have any horrible cravings and I didn’t feel any different. At all. I did however miss baking. Namely, I missed baking cookies.

Halfway through my time without sugar the boys had friends over. I ALWAYS make chocolate chip cookies when my boys have friends over. It’s my thing. Only I couldn’t make them. I didn’t have the supplies on hand (on purpose). Sure there are no-sugar alternatives, but those aren’t MY cookies. Everything felt wrong.

And I remembered this extreme stuff – no sugar ever business – it is not me. I’m a straight, no extremes line that involves sugar & chocolate chips, especially when my house is full of little boys.

Extra little boys have been back in our house. This time I had my baking supplies stocked. Sugar in the house. All was good in my world again.

2.15cookies-012.15cookies-022.15cookies-032.15cookies-052.15cookies-072.15cookies-082.15cookies-092.15cookies-10The cookies also helped the fact that my water was shut off for about 8 hours. Our friends’ 3 boys are staying with us for a bit. So that means 6 little boys in my house…with no running water. No water. 6 boys. No toilets that flushed. 6 boys. Needless to say, I chose to ditch moderation and eat too much cookie dough.

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  • Lisa K - I am a straight line kinda girl too. This post made me smile the entire way through it! I look forward to reading your blog every morning. And every time I read one I end up thinking….. “If I knew Ashley in the real world, she is someone that I would love to call a friend.” Have a wonderful and blessed weekend :)

  • Izzy - The cookies look so good! Could you post the recipe?

  • Gretchen - It’s so good to know that others are similar to myself. This is completely ME. I have never even thought about making a New Year’s resolution. And I can’t stand the word DIET. Everything in moderation is definitely key for me. Your words are so true for me. I hear ya!

  • Paige E - Love this. In August of last year I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease. So no more gluten for me… ever. It has been very confusing because I like to bake for my guys. I want moderation in their lives. My life has always been extremes and I want something different for them. I’m so thankful my husband is the moderate. I strive to be more like him. Not just in food, but in life. I have two Boston Terriers, Tubby and Blue. When we go for walks Tubby just trots along, stopping to sniff when he wants to, and taking his time, just enjoying the walk. My Blue leans so far on the leash and halter that a lot of time he is basically walking on his back legs. He lunges ahead and side to side, never stopping to sniff, just wanting to go go go. Oh boy. God slapped me with that one. I want so much to be Tubby and not Blue! I’ve decided I will still bake for my boys. I will be careful and I, of course, will refrain. But I want them to remember good smells from my kitchen and real cookies with butter, sugar, flour and eggs. Isn’t God grand how he puts moderates and crazy people who yell about sunsets (that would be me) together for life?

  • amber - Amen sister, amen. Baking is relaxing & it makes everyone happy! Now, if I could get that moderation thing down, that would be helpful…I’m currently nursing my newest & all I want are cookies & brownies. Ugh. And yay! Ha ha!

  • dana - Eight boys and no water?? yikes! And by hearing you comment that there were no toilets to flush…I assume you are on well water? We are too…When the power goes out around here, most people think “oh no, no lights” …With 5 kids, i always think “oh no, no toilets!”…ah, perspective! I think even, straight lines are good..everything in moderation????…except homemade chocolate chip cookies

  • Sarah - I can’t tell you how nice it was to read this. It seems like more and more fear mongering is happening every day, food being one of the topics. I read on Facebook the other day, “EVERY BITE of food either feeds or fights disease.” That might be true…? But it makes everything seem like a black-and-white fork in the road where you can eat beets and live or eat cookies and die. Ha. Anyway, it’s nice to see someone admired and respected (whether you admit it or not!) say that moderation is okay. And now I will go make the banana bread I’ve been wanting but afraid to make for weeks.

  • lucia - I would just LOVE LOVE LOVE to know what camera, what lens and what photo editing you did to these pictures, it would be so helpful, I am struggling so much taking the kind pictures i want to take…
    Thank you!

  • Arlene - Me: mom of 5 grown children. Chocolate chip cookies (& other yummy treats) were made a couple times a week. I, too, loved everything about the baking–the fragrance, the eager hands grabbing warm cookies… Whenever they return home or we go to visit them, homemade treats are on the menu. Enjoy this precious time!

  • Heather - Oh Ashley, this made me sooooo happy! I am one of those non extreme kinda gals too who loves me my sugar & cookies too – yet all in moderation. AMEN! Funny how such a simple thing as hearing someone else express & give voice to your own internal thoughts so well can bring such joy & encouragement – thank you! You are a treasure indeed. I’ve not commented on anything till now but had to today (though I’ve read your blog for years & prayed you through many things, especially the adoption journey of ” Little One”) you have been such a breath of fresh air in my heart & life. – on this very cold wintery day in PA you have warmed my heart big time this week yet again. Giving thanks to the Lord for the blessing of you! Wish I could pop over & share some cookies with you.

  • jenn - I love this post. Straight line. I never really saw myself that way until my husnand pointed it out to me one day. I get this. Thanks for posting. Oh and cutting out sugar. I dont think I could do that. ;)

  • Cassie - I absolutely love this post! It is exactly how I do life. I eat everything, yet definitely in moderation. I don’t mind when people have allergies or special requests, I’m happy to accommodate, but I love being the person that can go anywhere and eat whatever is served. I always say everything in moderation – including moderation. Which means I can indulge every once in a while. :)

  • leiann - I love this post! This is totally me, too. I am a big believer in moderation and I’ve always been known to be the t-shirt and jeans girl, no matter what trend is trending. Also, can I just say that I LOVE the fact that you let your kids lick the beaters?!?!? That is by far the best part of baking chocolate chip cookies, especially with your mom. Raw eggs in moderation? Yes please! :)

  • Stephanie George - Lately I’ve been on a health kick and have really been trying to cut down on processed foods and sugar. I’ve been trying to do the same for my kids as well. But when I read that you always make cookies when your kids’ friends come over… it made me feel a little sad for my own kids! There is something wonderful about a plate of warm cookies, isn’t there? And I don’t ever make them. Maybe I’ll have to come up with some recipe that uses sugar in moderation so I can give my kids that carefree feeling of eating for pleasure. Happiness shouldn’t always depend on eating something sweet… but a treat certainly can put little kids in a great mood! (And as much exercise and outdoor time as your kids get… I bet they burn that sugar off as soon as it hits their mouths!)
    On another note – Firecracker looks older. How/why do they do that overnight?! Love your blog and am always so thankful for what you share of your life. You are a wonderful, imperfect mother and I’m always inspired by how much you teach your kids about history, art, beauty, life. Keep up the good work Mamma!

  • Krystal - It’s wonderful that you can recognize and accept yourself for who you are and be comfortable with it. So many of us struggle with that and the need to be like everyone else. I am a horrible extemeist when it comes to making everyone happy and that is my downfall. I get upset when my actions aren’t noticed or valued. Big birthday celebrations, decorating the house for special occassions, stuff like that. But as someone told me….who is to say ‘they’ want it. It’s true. I do what I think will make someone happy then get upset at them when they don’t show it. They may be happy but it may not be ‘their thing’ or they just might show their happiness in their own way. That doesn’t make them bad people. It doesn’t make me bad either for going overboard sometimes. What I have to do is not put expectations on others. That’s my fight right now…..to not be extreme in my expectations. That’s just my blarb…..now…..how about a recipe for those cookies ;)

  • Ashley - This made me smile:) I tried to make some healthy muffins this week with no sugar… they tasted like butt. Needless to say I like sugar too. And I’m cool with it:) Happy Friday friend!

  • Sarah - I admire that you stay true to who you are, there’s a lot to learn from that!

    My husband is the same way, even all the time. The same expression for most things, which if I’m being honest, confuses me. I’m a jump and shout type of person, so I’m perplexed at the(seemingly) lack of emotion that he exhibits. But it’s neat to see that difference in other people’s relationships as well. Opposites attract! :)

  • Debbie H - HA!!! I TOO have been attempting to do no sugar for some time now. And no gluten and limited carbs. Because I DO need energy, and clarity,and weight loss- all of it. Yesterday I caved and made choc. chip cookies for the first time in a long time. I can live without a lot, but not without cookies. Once in a while — it is okay to cave. I guess that will be MY moderation – except when they are here I am not moderate. But they will be gone soon. You do have a knack for hitting on the right topics at just the right moments! Hope the water is on soon! :) such great imagery.

  • Natalie - I love that you do this! What a great tradition for your kids. And I love your moderation! Reading your blog everyday is so refreshing, you truly have a gift with words and pictures. You could write about absolutely nothing and I would still be captivated. :)

  • Wilson - :o Hi! :D jejeje your blog is so interesting… I read that you’re a follower of Jesus :3 (me too, jeje). You’re an amazing photographer ;)

    God bless you!

    Saludos, desde Barranquilla – Colombia (Wilson Tovar).

  • kimberly oyler - this is always how i describe myself. i am a straight line unless someone mentions steak. then i get excited. i dread opening presents in front of people because i feel excited on the inside but never express it on the outside and then they’re like “why do you hate my present.” feels good to be understood. :)

  • Maureen - You are the real deal my friend! Could have written this post myself. I too have always baked to show my family love and comfort. Moderation is the key to most things in life. Homemade chocolate chip cookies should be a part of every kids childhood.

  • Krystina - That sounds so much like me! I’m always just a steady even and I don’t do really do diets of any kind. Until about 18 most ago when I got really sick and suddenly I had learned I was now fructose malabsorbant. So a lot of kinds of sugars got cut out. But the best kind stayed. The kind that allows me to make chocolate chip cookies. Because seriously, the best cookie is a chocolate chip cookie. I make those on my bad days. I’m not even much for a sweet tooth, those are just my weakness! And yours look delectable.

  • Jamie - Yes to everything you wrote. Yes!

  • RachelC - Well, this post is refreshing.

  • Jennifer - there are days that i read your blog and think- we should totally be friends. and then usually i don’t comment because i think it’s weird because i don’t actually know you and we live lots of miles away from each other. but today is not that day. our family is ironing out some changes in our diet for various reasons, but i am struggling with the loss of baking and making gloriously sugary treats for my family and others and the joy that it brings to me and them. thank you for sharing this; thank you for reminding me that moderation is key and that so many of our memories are wrapped up in the food we eat and the loving hands that prepare it. i made cookies today with no sugar- seriously they were not yummy. that’s not gonna happen again!