Growing up I always wished for a summer birthday so I could have a pool party. One year my parents let me celebrate early and I got that pool party. The other years my parents got creative and helped me enjoy my October birthday. In 3rd grade they closed off the kitchen and filled jars with eyeballs (peeled grapes), brains (spaghetti), and much more. Then my friends and I came in blindfolded and guessed the contents. Obviously I had fun with it…that was a long time ago for me to remember it so clearly. Another birthday we had a costume contest and my mom sewed me a 1/2 man, 1/2 woman costume. It was pretty cool. In college Chris would drive me out to random small Oklahoma towns to visit the coolest pumpkin patches for my birthday. I have always loved pumpkin patches…especially those small Oklahoma town ones that don’t have all the commercial aspects to it. However, with 4 little ones driving that long just isn’t fun….meeting up with friends at a great local patch is much better at this stage of life.

For some reason this picture makes me think of what they will look like as teenagers…puffy jacket vest and fleece pullover. Gosh they are so handsome!1009pumpkin-01

This is the best picture from the day.  Littlest Brother had just fed a goat from his hands. He liked it.1009pumpkin-02


Later that evening Biggest Brother decided he was ready to paint his pumpkin. I admit I tried every excuse and great idea possible to try to convince him to wait until the next day…when there would be plenty of natural light flooding through our windows. He didn’t buy it and I conceded…and used my flash. I wanted one picture of all four together, so Baby Sister got plopped onto the table. She liked it. It is surprising no one tried painting her.1009pumpkin-051009pumpkin-06

A work of art. Not to be too sappy (that’s Chris’ job), but nothing reminds me of God’s creativity more than looking at my kids…works of art.1009pumpkin-07

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  • Alba - littlest brother is a potential artist, either with the yogurt either with the colours.

  • Jeannette Swan - The pumpkin patch is one of my all time favorite things to do!

  • Trinity - We love the pumpkin patch! Too bad we didn’t see yall there this year. Have you ever been to a corn maze? The boys would like it…there are some great ones around here, but the drive is kind of long.

  • bopha - very cute! we love the pumpkin patch too, the picture of rett is priceless.

  • Trina - So cute! I love your photos. Just curious – what sort of paint do you use for little kids – I have a 2 year old and would love to try this!

  • Rachel - That’s funny that you always wanted a summer birthday….I always wanted a fall birthday….I guess it’s the classic case of “the grass is always greener.” Little sister looks just like you and Leslie in the picture where she is on the table….wow…first time I have seen that in her. I love the pumpkin painting assembly line…

  • amanda torres - I love looking at pictures of your family! Everyone is so stinkin cute. You just want to jump in there and squeeze the fire out of those cheeks.

  • Megan Anderson - I love your pictures and was wondering what actions if any that you use in photoshop. I’m looking to get new ones and like the coloring in your photos. So if you wouldn’t mind shoot me an email and let me know! Thanks in advance. Megan

  • Megan Anderson - Oh especially your black and whites!

  • Jennifer B. - Did you happen to knit or crochet the hat that your baby girl is wearing? If so, could you possibly share the pattern? It’s so adorable! And as always, the photos are amazing.

  • Colette Amey - Your pictures are all so great! How do you avoid getting the shadow behind people when you use a flash? It seems like whenever I use a flash inside I get the shadow. Maybe I just don’t have bright enough lights in my house? Any tips? I’m also curious about your photoshop actions. Thanks!

  • AshleyAnn - Trinity…nope, no corn maze visit yet…maybe soon

    Trina…this is just acrylic paint which was a battle to keep out of Littlest Brother’s mouth, they do make edible paint which is less worrisome

    Megan & Colette: I use some Kevin Kubota actions and Totally Rad Actions. Usually several mixed together. The Black and Whites are usually with a Kubota warming B&W conversion. For inside flash I bounce it off the ceiling to avoid the shadows.

    Jennifer: The hat was a gift from a friend. She bought it off etsy, but the link to the store doesn’t work. I’ll try to have my friend find it again. A lot of people ask about that hat.

  • alli magee - I have to say this, nothing makes me want to have more babies than seeing the photos of your family. I have a little 11 month girl and she is a full time job these days (crawling!), I have no idea how you manage with 4, but you do and you do it beautifully. how old is little brother? I adore all the pictures of his belly, it’s the best!

    Thanks for sharing your family with us, and making my ovaries ACHE!

  • Meagan - Don’t you just love Carmichael’s???!!! (I assume that’s where you were…) That place makes for some great pictures! It’s my favorite punkin’ patch! I admire so much how you let your kids get so dirty and make such a mess. I wish I could relax and let go a little more…kids need to be creative…and messy…

  • Julia Leinen - love the pumpkin patch pictures! It was great to see you and your family there. I only wish my pics could turn out as great as yours! : ) it was very sunny that morning and my kids are both squinting- how did you avoid that?

  • AshleyAnn - Julia: To avoid the squinting I had them look at me if their faces were shaded or if the sun was in their eyes I just took candids where they weren’t looking at me. You can tell in the first pic that they are squinting a bit…

  • AshleyAnn - Alli: Littlest Brother is 19 months old…I love his belly too!

I was feeding Littlest Brother some yogurt and suddenly Baby Sister needed something. I sat the yogurt down and as I reached for her, Littlest Brother reached for his food. In a matter of seconds he was covered in yogurt and happily feeding himself. Since he was already a mess I just let him finish it up while I took a few pictures of him. Now here’s the deal. This should have never happened. I know better….if you have toddlers or preschoolers that love yogurt you know how messy it can be….1009straw-011009straw-021009straw-03

Now here’s why it shouldn’t have happened. I’ll never forget the day I learned one of the greatest mommy skills. I was sitting at Red Robin after church with our friends Adam and Liz. Liz and I were both first time moms and we both had boys that had just turned one…and we both had brought yogurt for their lunch. There I was trying to juggle adult conversation while spoon feeding Biggest Brother yogurt – which was still making a mess. AND there was Liz, enjoying her lunch and conversation while her son happily ate his yogurt mess free. My life as a mom changed that day. Thank you Liz! I don’t share parenting advice because quite frankly the minute I tell you something about parenting you’ll see me at Target the next day with 2 screaming kids and an open box of animal crackers trying to calm them down. However, I will pass along what Liz taught me that day….PUT A STRAW IN THE YOGURT TOP. Genius. Thanks Liz!1009straw-04

(Yes, that is just adult yogurt. We’ve tried the kid versions, but my kids have bigger appetites than those small containers…

and I just use a short straw that came with a sippy cup)

Do you have any fun genius mom tips…leave them in the comment box…

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  • Jill R - Genius! We have had MANY self-feeding yogurt messes at our house. I love the straw idea! Thanks for sharing.

  • Jeannette Swan - Wow, that is great advice…never thought of it. Only by about age 2 does a kid eat yogurt relatively mess free! The pictures are great though.

  • Christy - Awesome idea! Thanks

  • Alba - really good tip! but how funny is experimentation mum ;-) though is not funny for the mum who has to clean it. and I think it goes with the genes, I have one really clean one, and the second, the-extra-super-messy-boy who loves to apply yogurt on his hair whenever you don’t look at him. Life is hard ;-)

  • monica - I would have never thought of using a straw ! Liz is a genius !
    My daughter is 8 and still is a messy eater ( she gets it from her mama I’m afraid ). I might even try this with her using a crazy straw – fun and she would love to wear the same shirt after a meal ! Thank you for sharing and I’ll be reading for further suggestions.

  • Miranda - Just wanted to let you know that I have SO fallen in love with your blog. Your blog made the list of happy places I’ve found during my “Mono Vacation”. Thanks and nice to find you!

  • Rondell Jenkins - All that baby need is a wetnap. That’s what I use after I eat my wings down at the Spices Tamales and Wings.

  • Jill J - Well, that IS genius. I wish I had that advise when my kids were that young. I don’t know if my idea is genius, and maybe everyone already does it, but I lift the two top edges of juice boxes to give them “wings.” (There are two folded down flaps at the top of the box.) My kids know to hold the box by the “wings” so the juice doesn’t squirt out through the straw when it’s full. I don’t buy a lot of those, but we usually get them for road trips.

  • Dina - just found your blog after following a link from your diy pallet/bed @ designsponge…gorgeous! after just a few moments perusing here i notice a few similarities from the get go: we both love JC, both have 4 kids, i’m turning 30 next month, and share a love for photography. granted, you’re a little ahead of me in age (by a few months), a lot ahead of me in photography, but still… ;) oh, and the header pic with the shoes? i have one very similar to that which i’ll have to dig out later today!

    beautiful pictures, beautiful family. congratulations! i’ll be returning here again soon!

  • patti - wow, that is awesome and i’m totally trying it next time i feed my 2 year old yogurt. she still makes a big mess with the spoon! thanks for sharing!

  • nichole - I use a large pizza cutter to *quickly* cut food for tiny fingers into small pieces. I did it one day to cut up waffles and the rest is history :)

  • Heather - Ashley, thanks so much for sharing your life and photos. I get so much inspiration from your photography. This is a great tip and I’m drawing a blank on a “genius” mommy tip, but the one thing that has helped me so much is teaching my kids to use a fork at age 1…they eat better and don’t get as messy.

  • Valerie - This isn’t genius, and I can’t take credit for this because I read it somewhere (but can’t remember where), but for popsicles, I have an old plastic lid in a drawer that I cut an “x” in the middle of. Insert the popsicle stick through it, and voila! An instant base to catch all the drips.

  • Sophie - I should try this!
    I turned seventeen last week and I still can’t eat yogurt without spilling it somehow!

    Thanks for the tip, Ashley (:

  • Casey - that’s an awesome idea! even my non baby kids would love this!

  • Emily Lusk - What a great idea! I would of never thought of that! It sounds like a good one to take with you when you are eating out!!

  • Mandy Metcalf - I love the mess! Yogurt in China actually comes with a straw! It IS genius!

  • Gina O. - This just changed my life!!!! Thanks Ashley! Btw….baby #2 is due in April!


We have a lot of beautiful quilts in our home….none of which I made. My Grandmas and my Aunt Sandy are phenomenal quilters. Each of my kids has several quilts created specifically for them. They will be treasured heirlooms for generations to come. I recently acquired my mom’s old sewing machine and have been playing around with it. Over the last few months I have had the urge to make a very simple quilt. It seems like a daunting process, but nonetheless I am going to tackle it. Any day now I should be recieving the fabric I won and I wasn’t sure what I would be making with it. I now know! A bit back I came across these pictures at Craft Hope (which I found via made)…1009crafthope-111009crafthope-21

This one….precious1009crafthope-31009crafthope-41009crafthope-51009crafthope-6

I’ve been doing some work with Little Dresses for Africa and you might remember this party I had for them. Well I have been looking at other things I could do related to craftivism and was estatic to find Craft Hope. “Craft Hope is a faith-based, love inspired project designed to share handmade crafts with those less fortunate.  It is our hope to combine our love for crafting and desire to help others into a project to make a difference around the world. (quote from website)”

Craft Hope has done several projects….sock monkeys for a preschool burn camp, dolls for an orphanage, blankets, toys, burp cloths…..and more. The newest project was just announced. It will be creating quilts for homeless children in Michigan. I am excited to participate. You can find more information by visiting the Craft Hope blog. I’ll keep you updated on my quilt! If you participate in this project please let me know. I would REALLY love to hear how many of you read this blog and then go on to do something! Remember, I’ve never quilted before either!

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  • Anna Joy - Hi Ashley! I’ve been reading your blog for a couple months now and just love reading about you and your family! I have an 11 month little boy and I can relate about being a mom who wants to inspire creativity in her home. I checked out Craft Hope and I am definitely participating! I can’t wait to get started :) Thanks for letting us know.

  • Kelly - Oh I have a quilt I started almost 15 years ago, and never finished. It will be perfect for this project! Thank you for sharing. I’ll let you know when I finish… and hopefully I’ll I’ll blog about it.

  • pamela - this is grea! i’m actually starting a little dresses for africa group at the school i teach at. i am a high school teacher at st. mary’s high school and we have a group of students called SAVE (Students Against a Violent Earth). i will be teaching them to sew and provide the sewing machines. i think it will be a lot of fun! thanks for the idea and spreading the word about such great causes.

  • Christian T - I really want to participate. I have never sewn a quilt, but the web site said it will finish them for you if you put together the squares! I have so much “extra” fabric laying around that is perfect for a quilt! I think I will start tonight… Thanks for the idea and the link.

  • Valerie - Yay for you! I have participated in Craft Hope since project #2 — the dolls you pictured above. In fact, somewhere on my blog you could find a pic of “Esperanza” that I made (yes, I named her). I’m so glad you’ll be doing this! I was wondering when the next project would be announced, so thanks for the head’s up. I’ll go and sign up right now. :)

  • rachel denbow - YES! I’ve seen those images on flickr but didn’t know the source or the ongoing projects they offered. I think I might give this one a try if I can make some room in the to do list because it’s such an easy way to contribute to someone who needs something special in their life. Thanks for pointing this out, Ashley. I’ve tweeted about it and will post and link up soon.


  • Lindsey P - This is such a great idea! Have you heard of Project Linus? It is also an awesome project :)

  • jade - yay! thanks for helping to spread the word. so glad you joined us!!!

  • Meagan - Awesome, Ashley! I would LOVE to do that too! I’ll check out the website. Maybe I’ll get ambitious…

  • stephanie -

    I completed my quilt – thanks for highlighting this opportunity!