Last night I stood over the sink washing dishes – again.

We have a schedule where the kids help with meal clean up, but there are still many nights that dinner dishes get piled up.

I didn’t have a very good attitude about it. It was a long day and I really just wanted to sit down.

As I washed dishes, my mind wandered back to being a new mom. I remember feeling so overwhelmed. The dishes piled up then and it was only three of us. It felt just as hard then to get it all done as it does now. It was just as hard. As a new mom I remember a friend telling me about a website that recommended always cleaning your sink until it shined before you go to bed. The idea was that even if everything else was in disarray, the sink shined and welcomed you in the morning. It made so much sense to me then. Burp clothes and other baby stuff piled up, but I usually went to bed with a shiny sink. It felt like such a huge accomplishment and it was.

A shiny sink at night has stuck with me 5 kids later. Very rarely do we go to bed with dishes in the sink. It still feels like such a huge accomplishment and it really is so nice to wake up to.

I imagine one day having a shiny sink at night won’t feel like such a big deal. My wee ones won’t be so wee….and won’t need any help or assistance knocking out dinner dishes! Then there will be a season were there simply are not as many dishes piled in my sink each night.

Today will be full. Dishes will pile up. I’ll stand over my sink again tonight, washing and dreaming of sitting down. I’ll try to have a good attitude about it, but I’ll probably be tired and just wish I had a magic dish-washing fairy. But before the day ends, I’ll empty that sink. And then I’ll start it all over tomorrow.

There is a lot for me to learn at the kitchen sink. The gifts that all those dirty dishes represent – people, time, food, resources, conversations – are gifts that make life so sweet. And then there is the reminder with every clean sink in the evening, I get a fresh start…a shiny new day in the morning.



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  • Rosa MLuna - All I have to say is: Thank you, Ashley. God bless you.

  • Michelle - I love this post. I have grown up with same philosophy about a shining sink at night, and now I’m married with kids and it is how we still do it. It has become somewhat of a ritual, and although I dread it some nights, there are nights like those after a birthday party where my husband and I are washing and drying dishes reminiscing about the day just gone.

  • Jenn - what a beautiful perspective. “people, time, food, resources, conversation.” I love that. (the reason our sinks are full) last night I went to bed with a non-shiny sink. there was a lot going on coming back after a weekend of camping(which was great) I like a shiny sink. I may try for that more often. thanks for your post. :)

  • Luann - “Thank God For Dirty Dishes”

    Author Unknown

    Thank God for dirty dishes;
    They have a tale to tell.
    While others may go hungry,
    We’re eating very well
    With home, health, and happiness,
    I shouldn’t want to fuss;
    By the stack of evidence,
    God’s been very good to us.

    I’m 58 years old. My mom posted this above the sink when I was about 10 years old. Some days I really resented that poem but it has stuck with me ever since.

  • Angela - You may have already seen it, but Glennon from Momastery has a hilarious but convicting post about the normal, every day things in her kitchen. :) There is so much for which to be thankful, even the small and the mundane. Thanks for this post.

  • Bernie - I think it was “Fly lady” or something like that with the shiny sink. I thought it was a great idea too, until I was getting up to 20 e-mails per day on cleaning tips! I quickly unsubscribed. My sink may not be shiny before I go to bed, but at least it is empty!

  • Debbie - Thank you for such a beautiful post.

  • Kitty - What a great word. And a great motivation to tackle those dishes as unto The Lord.

  • Amy - Thanks for the encouragement this morning!

  • Molly - i am so with you on this. i really try not to complain about dirty dishes and dirty clothes because they really do mean we are so blessed. just sometimes those blessings are so overwhelming. the shiny sink is a good one. we try to do that in our house too. because waking up to a sink full of dirty dishes is just no good.

  • ranee - this was such a great post for me to read today…a girl who also has an aversion to finishing those dishes–and a family of five with no dishwasher. :) I feel the same way about doing the dishes before bed, but this reminder gave me renewed perspective about the whole process.

  • Susie - At least you did them! Last night I didn’t do the dishes so now I have to do yesterday’s work today. :/
    Oh well at least I got the bedrooms cleaned- they are usually the last things to get done. :)

  • Tiffany - I really, really hate washing dishes. I always hated it. But some of my favorite childhood memories relate to drying dishes while my mom washed them. (I got to pick either washing or drying-and-putting-away; I always picked the latter.) Her mind would wander, and that’s when I learned she used to ride her horse to her grandma’s neighboring farm, that her grandma always put too much sugar in cookies (my mom thought it was to spoil the grandkids, but we later discussed a family history of diabetes–oops!), what high school was like for her, how her best friend used to rubber band her bellbottom jeans to ride bike, etc. These are things you don’t think to tell someone in the busy parts of day-to-day life, so even though I still hate dishes, I am so thankful for that quiet time of reflection with my mom. Hopefully dishes will eventually have a silver lining for you, too!

  • Amábile - It always amazes me how you turn these simple chores into beautiful thoughts, Ashley. You’re a blessing!

  • mary - thank you for this. perspective – what a beautiful thing. :)

  • Ashleigh - I love a made bed. A bed made in the morning is that tiny accomplishment.

    After my husband wakes up, it’s the thing I run to do. I fix the bottom sheet that inevitably pulls up, straighten out the flat sheet, fluff the bed pillows and pull the comforter over …. just…. right. Then I grab the square pillows and the other long pillows and put them nicely on. I walk over to our bedroom window and open up the curtains.

    It’s a beautiful little accomplishment and so nice to see throughout the day. My house my be a disaster elsewhere but when I crawl into bed at night, I am happy, cozy and accomplished.

    Thanks for sharing your story! It’s good to know I’m not alone.

  • Shannon - I remember that website…I think it’s called Flylady. It has really good tips for methodically cleaning your house without becoming overwhelmed.

  • elizabeth H - I could write this post time.after.time.after.time.
    This is such a glimpse into my life & my heart; you’ve written it perfectly.
    treasure you!

  • Dina - I find that washing my dishes to be very therapeutic. I wash them everyday. I have a dish washer but it’s nice after my son goes to bed to reflect on the day. My husband is on a deployment so it’s just the two of us right now but it’s amazing how much a child can create so many dishes in a day. Beautiful and well written post!

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - My mamma has the same rule. ;) She is here this week and my sink is empty. It is such a blessing.

  • Kristin Howe - This is a poem I have had glued in my 44-year old Betty Crocker cookbook (which is, quite literally, held together with grey duct tape) for a big chunk of those 44 years. Because it has been there so long, I can not remember the source.

    Thank God for dirty dishes.
    They have a story to tell.
    While others may be hungry,
    We are eating well.
    With home, health and happiness,
    I shouldn’t want to miss.
    By this great stack of evidence,
    God’s been good to us.

  • Sarah - Beautiful. And so needed today, thanks. I always leave your blog better than I came.

  • Cathy - Doing the dishes is the thing my husband and I fight about the most. It is supposed to be his thing, but he only thinks they need to be done when we have no clean dishes/pots/pans left. This drives me nuts!! So I usually end up washing them, but am so angry while doing them. After reading this yesterday, which I agree with, I love a clean sink, clean counters and a bed made, I went home from work, cooked dinner and then washed all the dishes with a kind, thankful heart. Thank you for this!!

  • Karli - Just last night I finally cleaned up all the surfaces in my kitchen. I don’t have kids but I’ve just been letting things go. This morning when I came out to a cleaned up kitchen it made me smile. It was so pleasant to be awake and have a shiny sink again. :)

    Also something about that picture really resonates with me. I could stare at it for a long time. When I see the picture, it’s that good feeling you get when the house is quiet, the house is picked up and you can go to bed feeling like something was big accomplished. It brings warm fuzzies after a frazzled day.

    Great post. :)

  • maverickmom4 - I love having a clean sink before turning out the lights. It’s like making your bed in the morning the room seems like it’s almost 70% cleaner. I sometimes too have a bad attitude about cleaning, but then I realize that once the mess stops then I know the nest will be empty. It’s kind of a bittersweet relationship. I can really relate to this post, so thankyou.

  • KimW - THIS is why I love your blog, Ashley. Such perspective — just yesterday I was complaining to my husband and 2 kids about the piles of dishes on the counter and in the sink… you are so right and I try to remind myself all the time that one day the house will be quiet and our kids won’t want to spend as much time with us and the sink will be less full and that makes me so sad to think about!! Love my days and evenings full of kids and now I will look at my sink full of dishes and smile :)

  • DeAnne - So true and what great perspective on life. Our daughters are grown and out of the house. We are at the season of life when there aren’t many dishes to be washed and when there are, it doesn’t take long! Longing for the day when the kids are all home and the dishes are all dirty! :) Be blessed where you are, and don’t miss the messages God is giving us just at the right time in our season of life.

  • MC - I love your words of wisdom… but I love even more that awesome picture of your sink! :)

  • Topaz - What a beautiful post. It really is sometimes about feeling we accomplished something. Anything. It’s something we can count on and no matter what happened around us that day, we did something. We finished something. We accomplished something, something concrete that we can see and touch. Love your beautiful blog.

  • Julia - Ashley, thank you for this! I’m a junior in college, and it has been a really overwhelming semester for me. Everything is piling up and in the last week I’ve been really discouraged. I was touched by your words. As I read I thought about how my mom always starts the day with a shiny sink too, and then I got to the end, with the picture. We have the same sink at my house at home. And it just made me cry. It was like the Lord knew I needed a reminder to keep my focus on Him and to just do what I can everyday, and it came from a place that’s like home.
    Sorry this was long and rambly, but I just wanted you to know that this was a blessing.
    Julia B.

  • AshleyAnn - Thank you Julia for sharing that with me. You are right – do what you can everyday, you’ll make it through this season!

  • gbeilfuss - I am at that “only three of us” stage right now. But I remember when I was growing up we had a sign in our kitchen. I like to remember it now when my dishes pile up. It read…

    “Thank God for dirty dishes, they have a tale to tell, while others may go hungry, we’re doing very well. With home and health and happiness, I shouldn’t want to fuss, for by this stack of evidence, God’s been very good to us.”

    Sometimes my evidence doesn’t go away before bedtime, but either way, I agree that seeing the good in things is really the only way to live. Thanks for the reminder!

  • gbeilfuss - Hehe. Just saw that several other people had posted this same poem. For the record, I think the sign in our kitchen when I was growing up was left by the previous owners of our home, who would have been the last members of the family who build it by hand. I guess good sayings stick with us don’t they?

Sign language is becoming an integral part of our home and family.

Our youngest daughter is talking more and more each day – both with her words and with her hands.

We are using ASL to give her the tools to communicate with her hands what her voice is working so hard to accomplish. Speech is going to be a long road we’ll walk together. My dear friend Cindy is teaching us a substantial amount regarding sign language. Her youngest daughter is deaf and she graciously repeats sign after sign to me as I try to learn. She recently printed and laminated cards for her own home, labeling everyday items with visual images of the sign for those items. Thoughtfully, she made me copies. My home is now labeled. As a family, we are working on our signing vocabulary.10.14signing-0210.14signing-04The most beautiful part of it all is watching my youngest daughter delight over signing. She LOVES it. As she finds new labels around the house, she’ll stop and practice what she sees. I wish labeling our home was something I had thought of earlier. I am so grateful for a friend that stepped in and offered help. Priceless friends step in and help in ways you don’t always realize you need help.

Not all of her signs are perfect, she is three after all. However, it is so incredible how fast she picks up the more difficult signs…so fun to watch her light up in this way.10.14signing-0610.14signing-0710.14signing-0810.14signing-1010.14signing-1210.14signing-13

“All Done”10.14signing-14

Her favorite signs are “help”, “jump”, “swing”, “Grandma”, “Grandpa”,  “Lamby”, and “Beary”…she made up the last two, but we’ve all learned them.

When my youngest daughter sees Cindy, she uses the sign for “Wow!” Cindy signs “Wow!” a lot…she is always encouraging others. I love that my daughter picked up on that and now refers to Cindy with the sign “Wow!”. If you know Cindy, you know that is a very appropriate sign to describe her.

Thank you Cindy…for helping us help our girl find her words.

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  • Joanne Burrows - WOW!

  • Steph - Jeez Louise I shouldn’t be crying this early in the morning! Her joy shines through in your photos! This is so exciting, my toddler is just starting to really talk and is babbling for the first time ever (never did as a baby) and it is fascinating to watch language emerge in a little person. I can imagine the thrill is tenfold in your house with your little one replacing her frustration with pride! Best of luck on the awesome journey and thanks so much for sharing!

  • Joy - Her signs may not be perfect but I understood them all! She is so expressive. It is, for sure, a “WOW” post!

  • Michelle Hill - this post has me delighted. I took ASL in high school and college and it was an absolute blast to learn. Your kids must love learning it as well! I can even understand some of the signs she is doing in the pics…she is phenomenal!
    I remember my ASL teacher telling us stories about her daughters signing with their deaf aunt. The aunt would ask in sign “what do you want for breakfast” and the daughter (5 years old) would finger spell back “chyreeos” (cheerios) and the aunt would be like “…huh??”. So cute! Thank you for sharing her journey with us, it is very inspirational and encouraging.

  • Emily - This makes me so happy! I LOVE ASL (and am trying to teach my sons while I learn myself.) We have a bunch of the Signing Time dvds, but the idea of labeling the house with words *and* signs is a great idea! Can Cindy-Wow share where she got those cards?

  • Anna @ A Good Home - What beauty here! When I think of the tiny shy creature you brought home from China and look at who she has become, I can hardly believe the transformation. God is so good, and I’ve loved seeing her blossom into the girl he made her to be. Thanks for letting us peek into your world :)

  • Amber - This is amazing! When I learned ASL, it really helped to watch allyballybabe on youtube! She does proper ASL versions of songs and it’s nice to see how she translates it and an easy way to pick up some of the vocab and sentence structure (as an adult!). I’m so glad your little one is finding a way to express herself easier and I’m sure more “wows” will be there every day!

  • Kelsey - I love this! My youngest has Down syndrome and signing has been so vital for us. It let’s us know what she knows and what she wants even though her mouth can’t tell us yet. Her signs for “go” and “turtle” are my absolute favorites!

  • danielle - That is so beautiful. I wish I remember more from when I took it as a child.

  • Elena - My son has Down syndrome and apraxia and even at 6, speech is still a struggle. We LOVE the Signing Time videos – the song really help reinforce the new signs. They have some on Netflix and our library has a big selection too.

  • Tammy - She has always loved her hands, and I bet she is thrilled to be able to use them to communicate!

    This post made my day, thank you for sharing it with us.

  • Annie - My first degree is in photography – my second is my master’s in Deaf and hard of Hearing education. If you needed a resource, a website or if you’d like copies of the many resources I have I can copy and mail to you – please let me know. Maybe I can share something with you as you have shared with me on this page……..

  • Kimberlee Jost - I am signing WOW right now!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Lisa K - I have always been fascinated by sign language. I taught myself a lot when I was younger…. but when my children were babies we signed a lot!!! They picked it up so easily and could communicate when they were too young to talk.

  • Crystal - I love this post! It really brought tears to my eyes, I love the labels. I would like a set for our house.

  • Michelle Davies - My oldest son is deaf as well. The best thing we made for him at that age was a “Family” book. It had photos of everyone he knew, with their names, both printed and signed below them. Then he could “talk” about anyone he wanted and learn their names as well.

  • Kaylan McCord - Love this!!! I especially love the cards all over so your whole family can learn. It’s the coming together as a family to help one that makes me get all teary. :)

  • Diana - Oh this is awesome!! How exciting it must be for her to communicate!

  • Tracy R. - Boy does she sparkle!

  • chantelle - Hi Ashley,

    I know you will gets tons of advice/tips but when it comes to kids I can never get enough info! Just use your Mommy filter!

    I have used Baby Signing Time with my boys and students. Love it. It is easy to watch, songs are great and the whole family can learn it together.

    U tube videos are great but the DVD 1 and 2 are outstanding.

    As a teacher ( I have my masters in ed psyc and spec ed) I have used this class wide for years.

    I love your blog. I keep asking my husband to find a job out where you live so we can have a huge yard and chickens! (but do you have to eat them or are they pets?)



  • Theresa - You probably have heard of “Signing Time” DVDs-they are a great series of DVDs with music for children learning sign language. I am a speech-language therapist and recommend them to my families. They have them at our local library. Good luck!!!!

  • Heather - My oldest, he’s 11 now, didn’t talk until he was 2. We used sign language until he was about 3. He had close to 100 words he signed to us. He even ended made up some signs on his own. We were actually talking about it last night. Good luck.

  • Trisha - Love this so much. Thank you for sharing the beautiful journey of your youngest daughter. She’s blossoming every day.

  • Lauren - Hi Ashley,
    Firstly, I adore the joy on little ones face in these photos. Absolutely Priceless!

    I am a Kindergarten teacher in Canada and was curious to know if your friend Cindy is able to share where she got the ASL images? (the ASL hands signing are so child friendly) I have a little student that would really benefit from labeling like this in our classroom environment. We have already started using ASL in our daily routines as much as possible and ALL students are really benefiting from it. It really is a lot of learning (for me), but it’s all worth it to see the progression and joy on this little students face, her social interactions with her peers have just sky rocketed. :)

    Many thanks for any help you or Cindy can share,

  • jen - All the kids in my family have loved Signing Time videos. You will love the music and the music and signs combine in a way that makes it easy to remember. Check out Rachel Coleman.

    My dd is cleft affected and did not have a palate repair til she was two. Signing was great! Hang in there, at age ten after 5 repairs, no one who meets her believes that her language was unintelligible in kindergarten.

    This will happen for you :)

  • erin - i just canNOT get over how expressive her EYES are in these photos!

    also, that Cindy friend is a TREASURE. friends like that are golden. you’ve been blessed.


  • kimberly oyler - 2 things: 1. i love her hair like that. 2. what was your method for editing these pictures? they’re beautiful.

  • Kath - Absolutely beautiful post. Your girl is so gorgeous and looks so happy in each photo.

  • Maureen - I am a Montessori teacher in a public school. I regularly have children who are hearing impaired in my class. I have a sign language interpreter but the labels would be helpful for the children who hear communicate better with the students with HI. I have some labels I have created but it is hard to find good pics of the signing. Would Cindy be willing to share her sources? Thank you.

  • Libbe - How wonderful! I can see the joy in your daughter’s face! My husband and I have talked about brushing up on our signing (and definitely adding to it) to help our new little one who is still in China. He is cleft affected, too.

  • christina larsen - I’m so happy that she can communicate with her family! Wow! Seems an appropriate word!

  • sarah - So happy for your family, your daughter is beautiful and turning into such a little lady. I love the pillow behind her, where is it from?

  • Meaghan - I love your blog and I think I love your posts about this little girl the most. I love seeing how much she’s growing in part because of her amazing family.

  • Lisa - Beautiful pictures! My daughters are learning ASL and we are bringing home a little boy from Haiti soon (I hope!) and would love to put some cards up around our house too. Wondered if she would share where she got them too. Thanks!

  • Cathy - This is so great! Love that she is learning sign and so is your family. Her hair in pig tails is so cute!

  • Dina - My 3 year old still signs all done and happy! It’s so cute. He dropped his signs as soon as he really started using his words. I love sign it’s great to help kids communicate!

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - Oh Yay! That’s my girl! My third grade teacher taught us some ASL. We were to deliver our end of year projects using ASL only. I decided to sign a Sandi Patti song (Face to Face) and I was so proud of myself at 8 years old. It’s funny what you remember, isn’t it!

  • Lisa - Oh my, such a smart girl! We are right there with you. It agree…when our little loves are working SO hard to get those sounds out of their mouths, it is nice to have signing to give them a little more ease in communicating. I’d love to have these signs for our home too if your friend is willing to share something we could print.

  • Jenn L - Thank you for sharing this! We are in the middle of adopting our son from China. He will be 2 1/2 when we bring him home this summer. My other children are 6, 4, and 22 months (the current baby of our house and our son in China are actually 10 days apart!) and someone just suggested to me today that he may benefit greatly from sign language, so that he can communicate with us and we can communicate with him while he learns English. Your blog actually really helped us find our son, it is a huge God story, one that is too big to write here!

  • Sarah Pluister - I just LOVE your blog, photos, your heart, etc. I have a silly question though. Where did you get your blue cans that you store markers, colored pencils, etc.? They look like the perfect size. Thank you!!

  • joy - she looks so healthy and happy. you are doing an amazing job.

  • AshleyAnn - Sarah – they are from IKEA…they come silver, I spray painted them.

  • AshleyAnn - Jenn – I think you need to email me that story one day! (info at ashleyannphotography dot com)

  • Beth - Snapshop student here. This post encourages me so much! I need my friends as I parent my teens as well and hearing this from you warms my heart. My sister, from India, was born with a moderate cleft lip and palate. She did not have eating issues when she came to us at nine months. Your little one has a special place in my heart tho, as I remember.

  • Zoe - Hi, AshelyAnn! I appreciate you and the messages you bring me. I’ve been reading for about three years and I think this might be my first comment, lol.

    My favorite ASL website is because it has lots of cool information and a video library of lessons as well as a video dictionary of signs.

    You and yours are in my prayers!

  • Amy - Yay Little one! Her eyes are absolutely beaming with joy!

mpixHalloweenThis week Mpix invited a few photographers to share costume related photo tips on the Mpix blog…I shared a tip related to capturing your kids in a place that compliments the costume….

10.14campbellcostumesCLICK HERE to read the post on the Mpix blog

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  • Rolanda Smith - What a breath of fresh air your blog is. I would love to live in a space such as yours and I have been feeling this way more and more. One day God willing.