Parenting often feels like a guessing game to me. Like all kids, mine are so different. What one kid needs is totally different from the other. What speaks to one doesn’t speak to another. It keeps me on my toes trying to figure out how to parent five kids with such different personalities and needs. I asked my eight year old if I could share a story about how he has overcome some fears and embraced the way God made him. He said it is a good story and it was okay for me to share.

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This kid is funny. He has a gift for making people laugh in a way that is just clean humor (as opposed to potty humor like his brothers!). He can share humor in a way that doesn’t make fun of others or cause others pain. It is an ability that is unique to him in our family. The problem was he would be crushed when people laughed at him. Last year we joined a homeshool group that included the kids giving weekly presentations to their peers. For months, he has bravely given his presentations, but not without great struggle. He told me his greatest fear was messing up and people laughing at him.

Goodness that broke me heart. It was especially tricky to navigate because he is just so funny and witty.

We began talking about how humor is such a needed part of our world. I shared with him great comedians and stories of how laughter brings healing to the hurting. We talked about how God shaped him in such a unique way to bring joy to others through his humor. Being able to bring laughter to others in a pure form that is not at the expense of others is so rare. Slowly, he began seeing the difference in being laughed at out of meanness and being laughed at because has a gift of humor.

Slowly, he began gaining confidence and allowing himself to share his humor while welcoming the laughter.

He still isn’t a big fan of presentations, but he is beginning to embrace the laughter of others and his skill at evoking that laughter.

When his cousin wanted the Frozen party, he decided he wanted to surprise her by showing up as Olaf. It seems like a simple thing, but it was so huge for me to watch. On his own initiative he wanted to share his gift and bring about the laughter of others. He worked the crowd and delighted his cousin. He offered lots of free hugs and didn’t cower when everyone laughed.7.14olaf-0027.14olaf-0047.14olaf-005I am so incredibly proud of him and the journey he has been on over the last year. The world needs more laughter – good, fun humor. I’ve never gone to bed thinking, “Man, I sure wish I hadn’t laughed so much today.” I’m thankful he brings the gift of laughter to our home and that he is starting to embrace the beautiful way he was made. He has a gift and it is a joy watching him grow in it.

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  • jodi - Beautiful – what a gift for him to give his cousin, especially with the backstory! Precious!

  • Michelle - He is one beautiful soul. Treasure.

  • Meg - So sweet. I love seeing our little dude’s personalities coming out too! He sounds like such a sweet kid with a huge heart!

  • Lisa | Winter Heights - Love this, Ashley. You always give me so much to think and pray about as a new mama. And those head shots are just precious of your boy.

  • Yanet - Goodness, he’s handsome!!

  • Carrie - You must be so proud of him. Please tell him ‘way to go,’ and thank him for letting you share his story. :) It’s encouraging!

  • MIchelle - Ashley, I absolutely love this post. I always marvel at your beautiful family. Your children are spectacular in each of their own ways. I always look forward to reading new posts and gratefully take in new pictures of your gorgeous children, but its always your middle son that has me giggling, with his funny expressions and mannerisms.
    You are right, I can’t think of one person that has admitted to regretting laughing too much in one day…there is no such thing. Laughter is joyous, and your son brings much joy in the mornings when I read your posts.
    I’m glad he has a wonderful mom like you to teach him to embrace his gifts…not everyone has that kind of talent. Some WISH they had it. I married a funny man for a reason, I LOVE to laugh and my husband is just fantastic. Its never a dull moment. I hope your son continues to embrace his gift and spread joy everywhere he goes.
    I hope he knows that it was very brave and inspiring to share his story with us, please thank him on my behalf.

  • Sandy C - He was right, that’s a good story! Laughing at someone’s sense of humor is so different than laughing to make fun of someone. Looks like he pulled of a great Olaf!!

  • Liz - That. Is. Adorable. Soooo awesome!

    If you are ever looking for a good, clean comedic influence, you should check out Matt Falk. He is a clean comedian originally from my neck of the woods (Manitoba, Canada).

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - Yes! The world absolutely needs clean humor. It is so important to know that we don’t have to resort to hurting others or being inappropriate to make people laugh. Good, clean humor is a gift!

  • Honeybee Mama - Oh this is so, so sweet. You always make me cry! Parenting is so, so hard, and it is such a sweet blessing when we get to watch our children experience triumph!

  • Tara - Jerry Seinfeld has a documentary called Comedian which is an amazing look at how even the most successful comedian has a lot of insecurities and works ultra hard at his craft. It might not be appropriate for your son’s age (I watched it many years ago) but you could probably find parts to show him. It might really make an impact especially if he understands how successful Jerry Seinfeld has been and how for even him, being “funny” is a struggle. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0328962/

  • Megan - I love the way your approached this challenge! We discussed this very topic a few months ago and I used the book Daniel’s’ Duck to illustrate the difference between laughing to cause pain and laughing because one is delighted!

  • Jenni - The gift of a sensitive heart, both perceptive and cautious. You are parenting him well. Celebrating victories is awesome.

  • Sarah Pratt - A boy after my own heart! What a blessing to have in your family!

  • Susan - What a beautiful boy. You can see the gentleness on his face. God has blessed you abundantly with all your children; #2 is an old soul with a heart of joy!

  • kelli - I love this! I always appreciate the way you enjoy each of your children’s uniqueness. You seem to easily accept them (and yourself) where they are, and that example is an encouragement to me to do the same. Thanks for sharing this, and way to go, big 8-year-old! I love how you loved on your cousin for her big day!

  • Dena - Ashley, How kind of your son to allow you to share his story. He’s not alone in that fear. My son was sensitive that way at that age also. Would get upset and cry if anyone laughed at something he said. At 10 now he’s gotten over it for the most part.

  • Andrea Berglin - I have an 8 year old that looks so much like your son that my son thought he was looking at a picture of himself when he was looking at a picture of your son! He loves nature, and is the funniest member of our family. He also gets upset when people laugh, even when he tells a joke. My son will be happy to know he also shares this trait with his “twin”. And hopefully it will help him with his own fears of being laughed at.

  • Anna - Thanks for sharing! A beautiful story. It touched my heart, especially because my 8 year old is going through the same struggle with his gift for humor.

  • Maria - Ashley, your posts almost always bring me to tears –happy tears.

    Seeing the way your family grows together is endearing, as well as was seeing you show how beautiful and kind you are while you were in Ghana. Keep bringing those happy tears to our lives!

    By the way, your boy looks so much like your sister!

  • Diana - So sweet!

  • kimberly oyler - please stop making me cry in public places. what a gift.

  • Taylor - So very sweet! I have my sister’s wedding coming up this weekend and I’ve been so nervous for my maid of honor speech (see, I’m in my twenties and I still struggle with being in front of people!) but I decided to use humor as bumpers for my anxiety. So far, it’s making me feel a lot better and I’m hoping it works the day it is most important. I hope he has fun continuing to make people laugh!

    xoxo
    Taylor

  • Emily - I am so glad he’s learning to embrace his inner comedian. We do need more laughter in the world. I’ve had the kind of year that’s filled me with anxiety and I’ve found myself seeking out funny writing and shows to soothe my soul. I know your boys are big fans of Calvin and Hobbes (as am I) and I re-read the entire series to help get us through our move. And now I want to go watch “Make ‘em Laugh” from Singing in the Rain. Good times.

    Also – he is growing into quite a handsome young man!

  • Sally - Ashley, you have such a wonderful insight into your children’s talents and their hearts. This is a beautiful post!

  • Monique - I really loved today’s post; thanks for sharing! I have a little one with a gift for music, but is incredibly shy! He so badly wants to play for others, and yet is terrified they will laugh at him. It was good to read that lots of encouragement to be who God made your son to be has helped him face his fears :)

  • Nicole L. - I loved this post! I also have a daughter that is inherently funny. She doesn’t like it when we laugh ‘at her’. I have tried many times to explain how much we enjoy the things she says and does and we aren’t laughing to be mean to her. I am going to have to try explaining it again using some of your reasoning!

  • kris saia - The photo of that back-bending hug made me laugh. You made my day… as usual.

  • Emily - That is such a sweet story. I love how you embrace each child’s unique gifts. These are precious pictures! You continue to inspire and encourage!

  • Amy - I love this post. I have a funny, yet sensitive little man. He gets so upset when people laugh, but he is just so sweet he brings laughter out in many. I am happy to see how your son is embracing this. The Olaf thing was great. Thanks for sharing.

  • lorieannbell - I am so proud of him!!!! He does indeed have a beautiful gift and I love seeing him share his gift in front of others! Many will laugh with him…..all will learn from him!

  • Julie B - Thank you so much for sharing this story. And thank him for me too. My 5 year old son is deeply struggling with the same thing. He is terrified of being laughed at and truly doesn’t understand the difference in making people laugh and people laughing at you. I’m going to use some of your wisdom to chat wit him about honing and owning his gift of humor.

  • ellen patton - You are an amazing mom and I’m so glad you share so much of your life.

  • Kimberly - When you shared about criticism, it reminded me of JJ Heller’s song “You are Loved”…have you seen the music video?

  • Haley - I love this story so much!

  • Stephanie George - LOVE the first and last picture of him. So handsome!

  • Rikki - This warms my heart so much. What a gift… A blessing for your boy.

  • AndreaB - Ashley you speak the most beautiful words over and of your children – so encouraging to hear as a new mom myself, I hope I’m able to be as thoughtful and encouraging to mine as you are to yours. Thanks for sharing!

  • Nichole Young - That was a beautiful story! I wish I didn’t think potty humor was so funny, but I do. I have a 10 year old boy’s sense of humor I guess.

  • AshleyAnn - Nichole….I think it is too :)

  • Amy K. - I thought it was awesome that he was willing to dress up as Olaf before I read this… now I think he’s a total rock star!!!

  • haverlee - This is great. I struggle with this with Dawson, about him hating when people laugh at him. I’ve had many talks with him about the fact that he’s bringing me joy and making me happy. But it’s so helpful to know that your son didn’t really “get it” until he was 7. And it’s also helpful to know that most of your boy just rely on potty jokes! I’m always saying to my oldest, “you can still be funny without being rude and crude!” I’m guessing that’ll take another 20 years to sink in ;)

  • tara pollard pakosta - tell your boy, I think he’s AMAZING!
    and extremely handsome too!
    what a GREAT kid~!
    tara

  • Laura - It is a great story! My favorite line is “I asked my 8 yr old if I could share this story?” In a world of oversharing I love that you respect your son that way! Thank you both for sharing who you are!

My sweet niece turned four over the weekend. I love being an aunt and it just gets better and better.  My sister has been planning a big Frozen birthday party for months now. She’s been cutting snowflakes out of doilies, gathering huge marshmallows for a snowball fight, and coming up with all kinds of cute ideas for her girl – who has had her little heart set on a Frozen party since she first saw the movie. An unexpected surgery meant the rest of us kind of forced Lesley to try to rest and let us take over the party. We moved it to my house and tried to make it worthy of all the planning she had been doing.
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The birthday girl got a handmade Elsa dress from my mom. Her little sister was Anna. Braids were requested by all the girls.7.14frozen-0027.14frozen-004My youngest niece has started calling me “Washy” – if I can figure out a way to keep her calling me that forever I will.7.14frozen-0057.14frozen-007We basically covered things in white and sparkles. Lots of fake snow and cotton balls all over the place. Lesley made ‘snowball’ cupcakes – cute and delicious, of course.7.14frozen-0087.14frozen-0107.14frozen-011My mom and the boys cut out a TON of snowflakes.7.14frozen-013She’s especially sweet on her great grandpa. He’s pretty sweet on her too.7.14frozen-015Guess which little girl is a little version of her momma?7.14frozen-016

Olaf (my eight year old) surprised the birthday girl with a special appearance. He tried passing out lots of warm hugs.7.14frozen-0177.14frozen-0187.14frozen-019

Our girls are now 2, 3, 4, & 5. It is pretty wonderful to get to see them grow up together. I don’t take it for granted and I am looking forward to many years watching our girls together. Happy birthday Sweet P – you are dearly loved and incredibly cherished!

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  • dana - what a blessing to have cousins close in age! Mine each have a cousin their same age…even as young adults they remain close ??

  • Amy Espinosa - Yep, I’m officially jealous! I am an only child making for no nieces or nephews, but I fixed that problem for the next generation I had FOUR. That way, my littles WILL be able to enjoy all that family! What a perfect party that was!

  • Amanda Madl - Happy birthday Sweet P! They are all absolutely adorable :)

  • Mek - Happy Birthday Sweet P :) Very beautiful girls, all of them, and look at how tall Little One is now… compared to the days when she just reached home!

  • Debbie C - This is so sweet! Your studio is so perfect for kid parties! My daughter would swoon over a Frozen party (well I guess almost every little girl would). :)

  • Lisa - Oh my goodness!! This is by far the best Frozen party I’ve seen. Absolutely precious.

  • Taylor - I’ve seen a lot of little ones doing the Frozen theme for their birthday this year. You ladies did a fantastic job! Olaf was a nice touch. ;)

    xoxo
    Taylor

  • Jamie - Seriously adorable, especially Olaf!

  • kimberly oyler - hey washy, that picture of the 4 girls at the top is beautiful. like woah, beautiful. also, if you want your niece to continue calling you washy, enlist the entire family to start calling you that. one of my nieces gave us all nicknames and all the babies born after her have started calling us by those names. now she is going into 5th grade and she still calls me hima. there is hope!

  • Angela - Olaf. I cannot handle this. He is precious and hilarious for dressing up for those girls!

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - I have no idea why – but I am bawling at this post :) The dresses, the braids, healing, sweetness, and Olaf.

    It just doesn’t get any better than this. Love you all!

  • Sherry - I think your family probably has so many beautiful, memorable moments, but this one will easily scoot to the top.

  • Kristin S - You can totally get Washy to stick.

    My best friend’s kids call me Aunt Kriddie because the oldest couldn’t say Aunt Kristin. They still correct people who call me Aunt Kristin.

  • krystal - Hilarious! As I think my 5 year old son would be jealous! Along with my 13 year old students (boys and girls). The movie sure has made an impact.

    Cute party and it made my heart melt seeing your son dressed as Olaf. :)

  • Candice - When I was little I couldn’t say my aunts name- Shelia- and I called her SheShe- To this day it is her name in our family. Aunts are a special gift! I am always encouraged when I read your blog. I love your transparency!

  • Denise L. - Little One’s great-grandpa looks a like a very sweet-natured guy. Wish my only grandfather was still around. This is one of the best ever posts. (And that is after bawling over the beautiful New Well post last week!)So much going on here; surgery, nick-name, sewing & hair-braiding grandmother, team work & snowflakes, planning, pitching in, loving support from family, beautifully real children, summertime fun, movie inspiration, great photography (as always) and celebration of Sweet P!

    And you know what? I would very much like to know what the fabric is that you used on the couch pillows grandpa is sitting against – so bright and cheery! Need to make some for my parents who both have been battling cancer for 7 months now and are getting pretty weary and need a note of cheer in their everyday lives.

    Blessings and you and yours!
    Denise L.

  • AshleyAnn - Denise – it is actually a Pottery Barn duvet cover from about 10 years ago…I cut it up to make pillows. Thank you for your kind words :)

  • Candace - Would you mind sharing where those adorable beverage dispensers came from?

  • AshleyAnn - Candace – they are both from Target

  • Carolyn - My oldest niece named me Dundee. We are still trying to figure that out. :-) But you will be happy to know she is now 29 and giving birth to her second child this coming Monday…and I’m still Dundee. My cup runneth over.

I have this little girl….full of spunk, adventure and life.

She’s rough and delicate.

Tender and sassy.

Like all my kids, she is constantly teaching me. Last week was my first full week at home this summer! We were able to spend some time at a friend’s pool and my girl taught me once again. Instead of just jumping off the diving board, she would close her eyes and jump as high as she could. Her eyes stayed closed until she went under the water. She told me it feels more fun to hit the water with her eyes closed. She likes the unexpected. She delights in the adventure and anticipation of not knowing what happens next (unless we are in the car…then she wants to know exactly when the trip will end).

Watching her jump off over and over again with her eyes closed, it was like a breath of fresh air. Too often I want to know what comes next. I plan my day. I have my lists. I have my ‘to-dos’. When the unexpected enters my day, too often I cringe instead of embracing it. I want to learn to embrace the unexpected – I’ll probably find so much fun and adventure there. And goodness knows…I like adventure!

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  • Jac - Such beautiful words!

  • Amy Espinosa - I know you must be soaking in all that’s home right now! Your spirit must be so very renewed after your adventure. Enjoy home! Beautiful images by the way!

  • Kathi - I love her arms raised….in surrender to what is next!

  • Sarah - I think the most surprising part about parenting has been how much I have to learn from my children. Love these pictures!

  • Kim - That second image! WOW!

  • Josie - Photo of your daughter – raising her arms high – just amazing …… truly truly amazing!!

  • danielle - I love the last shot! So amazing!

  • Renata - What a beautiful sentiment to start the week. Sometimes we do need to just jump in with our eyes closed and in order to see what is supposed to come our way.

  • Rachel G. - This reminds me of the song, Oceans ( Where Feet May Fail). How visual, and beautiful. Beautiful pictures!

  • Sarah - I love the freedom in the second picture. The arms extended. The droplets of water coming from her legs and feet.The bathing suit ruffles flapping like wings….. What beauty!!

    Thanks for the posts from Africa. Keep raising your voice to share the moments that you were blessed to experience. I have followed NURU – a company that brings clean water to Africa. Your words, stories, and raw emotions make the stories that much more powerful. All glory to God for allowing you the opportunity to go, for a husband like Chris who can be home with the kids, and for many new friends whose stories you are now able to tell.

    THANK YOU for allowing us to be a small part of your journey!

  • kimberly oyler - beautiful. and that bokeh.. wow.

  • Sprite - Wow… this is so inspiring!

  • Diana - Wonderful, precious reminder.

  • Monica - The last picture is beautiful and amazing! Her personality will do great things like you. She is a wonderful girl!

  • nikki - I am in love with the picture of her jumping! BEAUTIFUL! And I completely know what you mean. Thank her for the reminder :)

  • Rikki - The photo of her mid jump is hands down, my new favorite! What a gal!!

  • emily@everydaymom - I love this! Beautiful photos and beautiful thoughts!

  • Debbie H - ME TOOOO!! I LOVE that 2nd photo! I’d love a copy of that in my own house to just smile and embrace and remember daily what life should and can be! So terrific, Ashley! And she is really special. All of your kids emote their emotions so clearly in your photos. Thanks so much for sharing! Makes my day to see your posts and IG’s. :) (And Leslie’s too) Mine are older now — and I LOVE the photos of when they were younger / without so much attitude and visions of what they think they should be projecting. Enjoy the stages you have!!! Pure!

  • Cheryl - Your daughter is simply delightful. I love love love that second photo of her mid-air. It’s perfectly depicts what we should all do … jump into life with our eyes closed and a smile on our faces.

  • Lori - Ditto on that second photo! You take the most amazing pictures, but this is one of my very favorites. Complete joyful surrender and faith! I’m a chronic planner too, but love this reminder to embrace the adventure in spontaneous joy.

  • Rita - My daughter Ryan (The Blooming Thread) because of a testimony I shared at church on Sunday…and I’m glad she did. I’ll read and r-read this over and over again. Thanks for sharing!

  • Shelly Cunningham - Such an amazing lesson from such a little girl. Thank you for sharing.

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - Oh firecracker. You teach me new things!

  • Dana - Oh goodness, that second photo took my breath away and now I have tears streaming down my face. My daughter is the same age and she has a similar spirit. I am so moved and inspired. Thank you Ashley and Firecracker!!! xoxox

  • susie - I think having lists and to-do’s for us helps our kids be more adventurous… Then they don’t have to worry about where the next meal is coming! So don’t be to hard on yourself!