“But friendship is precious, not only in the shade, but in the sunshine of life;

and thanks to a benevolent arrangement of things,the great part of life is sunshine.”

-Thomas Jefferson

Our family is surrounded by some pretty incredible friends, some old – some new, all treasured. After our daughter arrived some dear friends from our church community group arranged for us to gain a lot of weight not to have to worry about preparing meals for a while. Someone knocked on our door every night for 2 weeks delivering dinner. We have never ate so good! I wanted to get a picture of all the meals to one day show our girl the love surrounding her family when she was born. Evidently we are a hungry bunch and I only remembered to take a picture of a about a third of the food….thanks guys!

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  • Jeannette Swan - You are hilarious!

  • Tess S. - what wonderful friends you must have!

  • amanda torres - How thoughtful! Not doubt you would do the exact somae for someone else though. It makes you want to keep having babies so you can have that TLC show, and maintain a well fed diet!

  • sheridan - I’m always amazed and thankful for family, friends and CHURCH! I have no clue how those w/out a church make it. So glad you got the cookie to yourself-you deserve it! Also was that an edible arrangement in the picture? We got one of after Austin was born and I’m still drooling thinking about!

  • diane - Hideaway pizza….yum! I am with you on the cookie cake, I could eat a whole one by myself and enjoy every bite of it immensely.

  • christina larsen - Yummy, Yummy. All of that looked wonderful, however, the cookie cake would have been devoured by ME, too. I love the frosting on the cookie.

  • Carla - you must have some experienced cooks in your church! how very thoughtful.

    just thought i’d let you know i hosted my own little dresses for Africa party yesterday, and it went so well. thanks again for the inspiration!

  • Traci - Wow! You are really blessed. We do 5 days….I can’t imagine getting 2 weeks worth of meals!!! I was so glad to find Hideaway expanded, it was quite the journey to Stillwater just to get their pizza…lol. Have you tried the new one in BA? I could stare at the mural boards all day! Lovin’ your blog!

Three weeks ago I was struggling with the transition from calling him a ‘baby’ to a ‘toddler’. In fact the night before his little sister was born, Chris caught me in his room crying while I watched him sleep. Chris smiled at me and said, “He’ll always be your baby boy.” Since the ‘newborn baby sister’ arrived it has been fun to watch all the boys shower her with affection in their own ways. This guy has been the most fun. We have got to see a side of him that we didn’t know existed before. He pours out almost all his affection solely on her. The front of her onesies stay wet from his continuous kisses – he is crazy about her…and I love it.

(for you SnapShop girls I am posting settings on these too)

ISO 400, f/3.5, 1/100

He knows he can’t sit ON her, so he gets as close as possible

ISO 400, f/3.5, 1/100

Big Brother and Biggest Brother have introduced him to bugs this summer. He LOVES bugs. We were eating spinach enchiladas for lunch one day and he was convinced the pieces of spinach were bugs. Here he is checking out the “bugs”…it was the first time I heard him actually say “bug” too.

all the ones below: ISO 320, f/3.5, 1/125

Naturally, even though he was convinced I had given him a plate of bugs he had no problem eating them.

Yes, he eats with an adult fork…his big brothers do, so he thinks he should too

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  • april foss - Do all your pictures have to be so dang good:) I always love your photos. 4 kids, is quite the handful! I have 5 and wonder what the heck I am doing, every single day! Love your stories:)

  • Lori Danelle - So sweet! I have 2 little girls and it seems there’s a similar age span in mine and your youngest two—17 months apart. It seemed so surreal to be having a baby while I still had a baby! But to watch the affection showered on the little one was wonderful. Sometimes it was done with such enthusiasm that I was afraid for her and other times she would be so gentle.

    Our big sister refuses to use a “baby” fork as well. She’s a big girl. :)

  • Erin J. - He loves his baby girl! Thanks for the settings!

  • rachel - So adorable! I only have 2 children, but I cried by my daughter’s bedside the night before I was induced with my son…knowing that things would never be the same and my baby was not going to be my baby anymore…your pictures are so wonderful…it must be so fun to have 4 little ones running around!!!

  • Katie H. - I told you there would always be something special between them. I am living proof (with my bro)!

  • christina larsen - So sweet.

  • sharon - he is so cute! I wish that babies don’t grow up so fast!

  • Jill R - I love these pictures because he reminds me so much of my own little E, right down to the facial expressions (and the love for bugs).

  • patti - so cute! i cried like a baby a couple nights before my second was born. i let my then 2 1/2 year old first little girl sleep in our bed and i held her and cried. she’s still my baby. she’s now 4 and her little sister is almost 2. it’s amazing the love siblings can show for one another at such a young age. i’m sure there will be spats as they get older, but i’m enjoying the love for the moment. :)

  • Melissa - What a cutie, Ashley! Love the spinach story! Thank you so much for posting the settings!

  • Natasha Perryman - Hi,
    I know you are out for the week, (and have 4 kids) so I am not expecting you to get back to me pronto. But I would like to pick your mom brain.
    My question is, What are some things you do with the kiddos while cooking dinner?
    I have a 14 month old and 3 1/2 year old and Avi Joy does help cook, but I need some new ideas of what other moms do during this time with all the kiddos??
    Any ideas from you??
    Thank you!
    p.s. and oh the crying knowing your little baby wasn’t going to be the baby anymore- so sweet.

  • amanda torres - Littlest Brother is SO precious!

  • Jeannette Swan - Love it! He is precious with her. It is neat to see how the siblings interact at different ages. How cute on the “bugs”, I can’t believe he ate spinach enchiladas…Corban hardly eats anything and he is almost 2!

    Since you brought up SnapShop…I have been wanting to ask you if you would know why I have a hard time getting crisp pictures, even when I increase the f/stop (that’s what it’s called, right?) most of my pics are fuzzy. The lighting may look just right, but nothing is crisp. You don’t have to comment, just thought I would ask while I was thinking of it.

  • Tess S. - how precious! what a beautiful family you have!

  • julie williams - So, you know I’m not a big comment poster…but OMG! Everett sitting ever so closely beside Breese is seriously the most adorable thing!!! They are so precious!!!

Growing up I always enjoyed reading. I own every book in ‘The Gymnasts’ book series (Go Evergreen Gymnastics Academy) – just writing that makes me want to flash back to the 80s and read them again. Anyway my reading barely exists these days, but I do have some current favorites. Not only do I love what is on the inside of each of these books, but their covers are just too pretty to be stored on a bookshelf. I love the colors and sans serif fonts:)I picked up Amanda Blake Soule’s “The Creative Family” off Amazon a while back. It so resonated with me. Here’s a short exert:

“I began to notice that when I was able to fit a bit of creating into my day, I was more centered, at peace and fulfilled. All those things made me a calmer, more patient, and more mindful parent….I was determined to find a way to make creativity a part of my life as a mother.” – Amanda Blake Soule

Several of you have left comments asking about my schedule and how I find time to be creative. For me it is a crucial part of who I am, so to put that aside because my schedule as a mom is CRAZY would be giving up a huge part of me. To give that up would also mean I wouldn’t and couldn’t be the mom I am designed to be. Is it hard to find the time? YES!!, but it is so important for me and my family that I make it happen…I can nurse a baby, feed a toddler and cut scrapbooking paper at the same time. I think we all find ways to make the things most important to us happen. Creative projects are also such a fun way to spend time with my kids. Often I have something I want to make and I look for way to tweak it a bit so the boys can create something too.

Along those lines one of my other favorite books right now is Martha Stewart’s Encyclopedia of Crafts. It is seriously one of the greatest books ever written – whether you are a Martha fan or not. I am making it a goal to try every project in the book over the course of the remainder of 2009 and 2010. My crazy life makes it difficult to always think of projects, so when I don’t have the energy to think of something I pick out a project from this book over the weekend, buy the supplies, then try it out over the course of the week. Planning ahead is crucial for me.

Finally is Amy Butler’s Midwest Modern. I can flip through this book for hours just looking at the gorgeous pictures. I also truly enjoyed reading about what inspires Amy and so on. I’d kind of like to cut out the pages and frame them they are just so pretty….

I know this book list is not deep, political, or religious – but hey I have 4 very small children, my mind is too shot for deep books right now! Though I didn’t agree with everything in it, I will say “The Creative Family” was thought provoking, challenging, and encouraging for me – but that is for me and the way I am made. The visual arts have always been a core part of who I am (Fine Arts was one of my majors in college…I took so many pottery classes I nearly have a major in it too) so to give that up now that I am a mom would just be sad.

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  • Marina - I haven’t read the pictured books, BUT ‘The Gymnasts’ series was the best EVER, LOL! I wish I’d kept mine. Something you can share with little B as she grows up!

  • christina larsen - Thanks for sharing those book ideas. I really enjoy Martha Stewart’s ideas and have always wanted to do some of them. Maybe I can look at getting that book and start being creative.

  • rachel denbow - Haven’t ever looked into Martha Stewart’s Encyclopedia but since Brett is now working at Border’s and can check out books like it’s a library, it may come home for a little while! I have one of Amy Butler’s pattern books and have always been infatuated with her fabrics and most of the projects. She never disappoints me.

    The Creative Family is another I was more interested in the theory behind making the effort and showing your kids how rich their lives can be through tradition and exploring crafts and their imagination but not as thrilled with all of the examples. However, I admire Amanda for the ability to put these books together while raising kids well and have always enjoyed her blog.

    I love how you validated creative time and experiences in your life and love that even when it seems like there is so much to do, spending time doing what makes you feel alive and excited is still a valuable part of being a healthy woman and mother. It freaks me out a little to know that our rhythm is going to change again soon and that we’ll all have to shift with it and I feel like I’m grieving the loss of some of that time that I have now but your posts are kind of reminding me that it can still be a part of daily life. It’s all about rearranging and fitting it in. Because we need to.

    Oh, Ashley. Some day we should do coffee.

  • amanda torres - I am seriously cracking up! I have that exact same series. I used to have them in my classroom and was secretly hurt when I would suggest them to my students and they would snub their noses. They didn’t know what they are missing. Right now they are packed up in my ‘children’s classics’ box in the attic awaiting Miss Addison!

  • PamperingBeki - Three great books by three of my favorite ladies!

  • DIY {decoupage children’s hanger} » ashleyannphotography.com - […] you read my post on my current favorite books, then you saw that I am making it a goal to go through Martha […]