A collection of recent phone favorites….6.15phone-01Rango & Tango – the bearded dragons we are pet sitting || Chris decided he wants a picture like this every Father’s Day || a random empty day at the city pool || reading in his loft || a feature in Tulsa Kids magazine (May issue) || Fishing at grandpa’s || pool day || blue toenails from a date with Nana and my Paisley Sprouts pillow || Crossfit Kids camp || going for a basket || summer night || reading and cereal – everyday || my last kiddie pool swimmer || pinning crafts for her birthday party || more pool || waiting on the kids || helping me decorate for family pictures || pet sitting a puppy

Most of those are also on my Instagram with the full captions, but I like have a few here to look back on down the road.

In other news, I wrote an article featuring photography tips in the July/August issue of Entertain Decorate Celebrate magazine. It is always fun watching the kids find articles I write (well, more like the pictures).6.15phone-136.15phone-146.15phone-16And since I had him somewhat still for 5 seconds, I managed to get him to look at my camera!6.15phone-186.15phone-19Those bumpy edged new adult teeth and tiny freckles – they get me every time.

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  • Beth Hess - im taking so many pictures with my phone this spring and early summer. I wanted to let you know I’m thinking of you often thanks to my snap shop workshop! It has been so much fun. Thank you!

  • Debbie H - haha. Somehow I’ll always see the batman logo in that cute close up mouth. Adorable.

  • Karen Davis - my seven, almost eight year old… same thing, bumpy teeth and freckles… she melts my heart.

  • Jana Taft - I so enjoy your blog. I’m a very amateur photographer, yet extremely addicted to my little point and shoot camera. EVERYTHING is a picture to me, and I think that’s because I love being a wife, a mom, and a Nama to eight grandkiddos. There are so many beautiful moments to capture. I’m grateful for the ability to point and shoot those moments, and all of the beauty God has created. Love all the “moments” in this post. So sweet!

  • kate - Is Poppy still with us???

  • jenny - i love the way you write about your kids :) what a great collection of photos, and congrats on the article!

I had zero plans on posting about this, but a friend told me it would be a good idea. I recently shared with her a ‘proposal’ my boys wrote and my counter offer. With her suggestion, I’ll share it here today for those of you that might be in the same boat. This boat is called ‘My boys want to play video games all the time and it makes me crazy!”

My boys know I have zero tolerance or patience for the behavior that can result from their video game time. My kids get a limited amount of tech time each day…iPads, Netflix, etc. I’m not anti-technology, but I am not a fan of a lot of what happens in our home as a result of technology some days. I would rather hear “I’m bored” ten times a day than deal with the arguments that result from tech time.

All that to say, my boys have been wanting an Xbox. Sitting at the table eating breakfast one morning, a paper was slid across the table to me. It was titled, “Our Humble Proposal”. I started to read it, but the font size was HUGE. The grammar scary. The punctuation atrocious. (this coming from a mom that isn’t great at those things anyway – it was that bad!) So, I slid it right back across the table and told them they had a lot of work to do before I would read their proposal. Inside I was smiling at their joint effort.

A few drafts later, and with some help from their video game loving dad, the proposal was in an acceptable form.

6.15xbox-01Together they drafted rules. As I read through their rules it was evident they were thinking, “What makes mom the most upset? Let’s write rules to avoid those things.” I was pretty impressed with what they came up with and the joint effort they put into their entire plan for convincing me to let them buy and Xbox.6.15xbox-02After making them sweat it out a week, one morning I slid my counter proposal across the breakfast table to them….6.15xbox-036.15xbox-04I’ve already used the “Mom has free rights to turn off the Xbox at anytime” several times. And a few times certain boys have lost their privilege of playing. However, overall their proposal has been working out well for all. I’m not sure that it has brought more peace and harmony to our house, but they are making a valiant effort.6.15xbox-05I’m sure the rules will change. We will all learn and grow a little from this. Do any of you have tips or tricks that help you navigate video games in your home? Share your knowledge!

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  • sarah - This is awesome! What a fantastic way to teach your boys..and keep your sanity! We have an xbox, but its my husband’s and he only plays once a week and after the kids are in bed (gotta have rules for him too! Haha) We mostly use it other times to stream Netflix. actually, its nice because on that night I get to do what I want (craft, movie, read, etc) without feeling bad for not spending time with him. This plan has worked for about 8 yrs now! He does let the kids play every once in awhile, but the moment they argue, Mom turns it off. I totally agree on the behavior thing! There is a complete difference once kids have been playing awhile and I don’t like it either. It’s crazy to me how such a small thing turns kids ugly, but it totally does!

  • RachelC - Love this. Especially the end, “The Xbox counts as tech time.” Very important not to have any ambiguity when drafting contracts. :)

  • Haley - Their proposal is so adorable! What a great family effort. You guys should get some kind of dancing game. We had just dance on our 360 with kinect and we spent many hours practicing our ‘dance’ skills and giggling.

  • Jenw - Thanks for making this post! It’s always helpful to see how other parents with the same core values approach different topics. We’ve successfully dodged the video games thus far with our almost 6yo. I suspect that with school we’ll begin to hear requests for gaming. Sigh.

  • Debbie - Collaborating on a proposal is such a valuable tool they can apply in their future. I take my hat off to them for working so hard to represent their cause. You are doing a great job!

  • Corey Moortgat - Oh, yes, the dreaded tech issue. In our house, we call it “screen time”. I love your boys’ well-thought-out negotiation. That’s something I may consider here, should our system stop working. I’ve come up with something new for the summer in our house, and it’s working fairly well so far. My kids need to earn 10 points in order to have 1/2 hour screen time. They can earn points for various chores or for being kind/helpful to others. And they need to pay 4 points in order to watch someone else do screen time, if they are not playing themselves. Like I said, it’s been working pretty well, and it’s been especially nice for me watching them scramble around to do chores and be nice to each other to earn points!!

  • Annie - This too is a battle at our house and I fought having an Xbox for a long time, but we agreed, after our 10 yr. old raised enough money to buy one. His sister doesn’t have much interest, so we don’t have to deal with the fighting. We are trying to figure out how to help him balance is time, as he has a tendency to be addicted to his video games. We are trying
    these summertime rules: no screen time until… You have read for 20 minutes; you have written your paragraph for the day and/or done your math problem of the day, you have checked your room, to be sure it is cleaned, (bed, clothes, papers); you have done at least one chore.
    I noticed you have some requirements before Xbox, as well. I would love to know what they are!

  • erin - Thank you so much for sharing this and keeping it real! It is nice to know that even in your family boys are boys and want video games.

    I too hate the idea of video games, but I have an almost 6 yr old who wants to play video games so badly. I am sure that at some point we too will cave. I love the outlining of rules and expectation before playing. Hopefully everyone can stick t their end of the bargain!

  • Rachel - My husband is in the video game industry (he helps produce those video games) so thank you for letting them play!

    Our boys are older (17, 13, 10) and I believe a very important clause to the contract may be to *never turn off someone else’s video game without saving their progress. I cannot tell you how many arguments have started because another family member maliciously switches off the Xbox without saving, causing the game to restart (and all their–ha, ha–hard earned progress on the game evaporates). I think even mom can respect this rule, in my opinion. It’s more civilized to all agree to save the games :)

    Also, just as an aside, even though my husband is in gaming, none of my boys, even the oldest teens, play any of the shooter games. We still don’t have any games with blood at our house! We allowed Halo for my son to play with his friends online, but he got bored of it really quickly. They still love the sports games (NB2K15 etc). We really like Portal.

  • stephany - love this. we have had a video game console in the house for years…Wii, Xbox (for a short time), and now PS4. this summer, i was afraid of screen time getting way out of control, so i formed rules like yours. before screen time the need to complete 20 minutes of working on a learning packet, 20 minutes of reading, morning responsibilities, a chore, and 40 minutes of playing, creating, or crafting. i also give them 8 screen time tickets on monday…each ticket is worth 30 minutes of screen time. they share their screen time, meaning if one of them uses a ticket, the other can also have screen time of their choice (or they can choose not to). after 30 minutes they can choose to use one more ticket or turn off the game and play with another ticket later. they can also earn additional tickets by doing extra chores, completing extra learning packets, reading, or listening and obeying in public (i let them know when they have a chance to earn this one). every monday they start fresh with tickets.

  • Betsy - I too resisted the call of the Xbox for as long as possible. Ours ended up a joint gift from Aunts and Uncles one Christmas. During the school year my boys each get 30 minutes on Saturday mornings to play. Last summer (our first with the box), I started a token system. They each get 4 tokens worth 30 minutes each every Monday morning for the week. Monday ends up being video game day and then I don’t have to think about it at all for the rest of the week.

  • Molly - love this!! I am so with you on the technology stuff. I really don’t mind it but it causes fights and I just can’t handle that!

  • Andrea - Thanks for posting this. I have 3 boys as well, they have a wii, 2 DS and an ipad. During the school year they are only allowed screen time on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. An hour per day. Now that it’s summer, I’m allowing them an hour per day after they finish their chores and summer workbook pages. We used to take video games away completely over the summer, but my oldest is going into 6th grade and is very responsible so I decided to let them this summer.

  • Alice H - Love this!! You are a good mom. I don’t really have any tips for you because you seem to have it all worked out!

  • Lisa - This is great, Ashley. Thanks for sharing. I have a question, hearing that many people only give their kids such a small amount of tech time, how do you do this? My boy is 2 1/2 and he is at home being cared for by a few different sitters while my husband and I work. We have created various stations for him to play with (play-doh, painting, baby pool, bubbles, toys/books in his room) but he can move quickly from one thing to the next leaving down time. We’re about to add a little one to the mix due in a few months which I’m sure having a sibling will help. Just curious how you’ve accomplished this especially with your little one. :))

  • Erica - gah! I adore you, I adore your beautiful family, but they are BOYS. Lego loving boys would be aching for mine craft!
    I understand that you’re an adult, but you utilise technology in many ways on most days (blogging, Insta, photo editing, possibly shopping, bill paying, email etc). Some of this you do out of necessity, some as a source of income, but definitely some just for pure enjoyment and down time.
    Life is about variety, a healthy mix of many activities. Your boys spend hours playing in the yard, hiking, reading, caring for animals, using their imaginations, participating in sports. They are wonderful to their little sisters. I’m sure they have their moments, but they are some great kids you have there – let them have some fun of their choosing. There are learning opportunities in every situation, you’ll find plenty with the Xbox without having to be so ‘Hitler’ with the rules.
    I don’t think I’ve ever disagreed with one of your posts before in all these years! Buying an Xbox does not make you a bad parent, and not buying one does not make you a good parent!
    Do the girls get 8 minutes on the sewing machine? Or 8 minutes baking?
    There is not one single thing about an Xbox that interests me, but my children and healthy, friendly, polite, active, hard working, well mannered etc. They play outside always. They’ll turn a cardboard box into a fort then a boat then a robot then a sled. Time on a gaming machine is not going to fry their brains!!
    Please reconsider loosening up, they are only young for such a short time!
    I also predict that in the very near future you will be blown away impressed by the masterpieces they will create on mine craft. Yes – CREATE!

  • Kaylee - I think it’s actually wise to let them have an xbox. Here’s my reasoning: I just finished college 2 years ago. Assuming that your sons will move out and live on their own (or more likely with roommates) at some point in time, they’ll most likely have the opportunity to play video games there. I think it’s important for them to learn balance while they’re young so they’re not that guy sitting in his dorm room playing video games ALL NIGHT LONG (I knew a few of those). My brother played often as a kid (he could have 30 minutes a day, because it’s actually pretty difficult to play for less than that and still have enough time to actually progress in the game), but now he’s 22 and plays only occasionally. My husband is the same way. We have an xbox, but he probably plays once a month or less. I think if video games were something new to them and they had the freedom to play for whatever length of time they wanted, they’d probably play too much. But since they’ve grown up with video games, they’re not a novelty and they’ve already learned balance. Just my two cents. :)

  • Jenny B. - I’m SO glad you posted this. Thank you for sharing! I was doing OK with keeping the Wii use to a reasonable level a few weeks ago, but now that we have a new baby, it has gotten out of control. My youngest will literally play Wii ALL DAY LONG if I let him, and some days (OK, maybe most days if I’m being honest), I don’t have the energy to make him turn it off. And then when my oldest wants to play also… oh, the arguing. And the whining. And the really stinky attitudes and disrespectful behavior. Ugh. And they are not even playing any games that might promote bad behavior. I think they get tired of playing it, but the games are continuous, and they just don’t know when to stop. Anyway, your boys came up with some great guidelines. I am going to show this post to my boys and start talking about what we can change to make our home more peaceful and fun.

    P.S. I am so impressed that they came to you with a proposal. You are doing a lot of things right, Mama! 😉

  • brooke - i’m sooooo glad to hear we are not the only ones who do not like dealing with video games. My son kind of turns into a monster if he plays too long. We finally made the rule that he could only play on Fridays! Best rule ever for us! Now I only have to heAr the video game noise one day, and he’s no longer obsessed like he used to be!

  • Christin - I love this! Thanks for sharing!

  • the inadvertent farmer - Lol…as a mama of 4 boys this hits home! My oldest three that are now in their 20’s worked all summer one year to buy an Xbox. I totally understand the frustration as a mom trying to constantly be a referee, time keeper…bad guy (when yet again I said “no” to another game I don’t approve of)!

    All this to say that number 4 boys (who is 8) has been told no video game system. The reason is I’m old, tired, and have no patience for these shenanigans!

    Besides having sons that are now married and seeing their wives’ frustration over their gaming habits I want littlest boy to develop other interests.

    Your kids are learning good negotiation skills and I’m impressed by their proposal. I just hope there is more peace in your household than was in mine!

    Oh…and yes he thinks I’m the meanest mom in the world. Therefore I’ve done my job, lol! Kim

  • Oceana - This is such a good idea. I wish that more parents would put these rules down. In fact, I wish my parents had when my brothers banded together into a (then Nintendo 64) gaming monster. There went the peace and quiet of our house!


  • Jay - Just curious, how do they each have $80 of their own money? Saved from Christmas/birthdays?

  • AshleyAnn - Jay – Yes, they all save…money from gifts, earning, etc.

  • Jess - My mom defeated this by refusing any video game system in the house save for an old Atari. It wasn’t until I was in high school that my dad broke down and let us have a playstation!

    Maybe Ratchet and Clank as an alternative? Several problem solving puzzles and while there is shooting, it’s mostly against robots.

    Good luck navigating these new waters!

  • RaD - We implement very similar rules in our home. On school days, there is no screen time until after 7:00 pm. Non-school days they get an automatic 1 hour if they have completed their tasks.

    I was reading somewhere recently that a mom allowed her kids to have free-reign on the devices provided that they did everything on their list first. Their list was a bit longer than yours (and mine!) but it included Bible time, exercise, and 45 minutes of creative time, which could be anything from coloring/painting/drawing, to playing with the dog, to outdoor play to… well, whatever you considered creative. I liked those things and plan to implement them too.

    She says she’s been doing it for 2 years now and it has worked out well. Sometimes they don’t even go for the screen immediately after completing everything because they are enjoying their book, or enjoying their craft, or enjoying each other.

    Her kids are older than yours (and mine, but not by too much) so it’s something to think about as they get older and need to begin to manage some of their own time.

    I’m not completely off-leash yet with my kids and their screen times and probably never will entirely be, but the time is getting closer as my kids enter their teen years, that they begin to take some of the responsibility of managing themselves and the pluses and minuses that being in front of a screen all day, or not, bring to our lives.

  • Sarah - Those rules they presented…smart kiddos who know their mom well! I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels the way you do. :)

  • Rosalind - Thanks for posting, some great tips!!

  • Michelle - I appreciate you sharing this with us SO much. I work in healthcare and I get so many city/urban children in my office who are on the computer, TV or game console for hours at a time. Their parents actually complain to me about the amount of time spent on the “screen”. with your blog post and some other comments your readers have generously shared, I feel better prepared to help them propose a plan that makes them both happy and healthy!
    Again, so happy you shared this with us. Thank you!

  • Kaitlyn Bright - I loved reading their proposal and laughed out loud. That is some serious sneaking and conspiring and I love it! I am right there with you on video games. My 8 year old son plays the Wii for about 30 minutes a week and I am going to keep embracing that for as long as I can :/

  • bethanyblntn - I totally know what “battle” your talking about. Though we only have a two year old as our only child (so far) I see it all the time in other households.
    Luckily for us we never had tv. We do have an xbox but have talked about selling it since we almost never use it. Hubby and I only go on the computers in the evening or when our little one is napping so screen time is still slim to none for him ( I do play playlists on it with the screen turned off for him sometimes though).
    For us, we decided that if its not educational (like documentaries or school classes) he doesn’t really need to see it.
    I know that’s a lot more regulated than most, but, it works for us. I’m so happy to see your boys putting forth genuine effort for the things they want though. What good parents they all have :) and that they are getting along with it all! that is awesome!

  • Jelena - A nice insight into this topic from your perspective! Thanks for sharing, its always nice to see how other people do it.
    Our oldest is only 5, so we are not dealing with x-box yet and honestly I have no idea how it will go later on. I have a suspicion though, that I will most likely implement ‘Hitler’ rules for it.

  • Tobi - We allow 20 mn of tech time on any device (we have a lot of different ones) per kid per day. If they choose to play together, they get a little more time (I’d rather they play 30 mn with a brother than watch/play 40 mn). I’ve trained them to set a timer and they know that when the timer dings, they may finish their level, but then they must immediately turn it off. They don’t have to ask permission and I rarely have to police it. In the summers, I’ve added a 10 mn “bonus turn” each day if all of their laundry is folded and put away. Best. Idea. Ever. My laundry baskets are emptied daily!

  • Jaime - I am love everything you did in this situation. Look at all your kids learned. How to write, work as a team, creatively pursue their target audience, work towards a goal, humble themselves to authority, I could go on. Well done mom! Such a great example on how to capture so many teaching moments in what some of us, including myself, would just go buy the stupid Xbox.

  • christi - Viva Pinata (any but Party Animals), Bomberman, EDF, Thrillville, Worms (either one), Portal 2, Rayman Origins, Castle Crashers, any Lego Game, Sonic and Sega All Star Racing Transformed (like Mario Kart w/ Sonic characters). Some great options for multiplayer kid-friendly games. Also… four controllers? Buy rechargeable battery packs!

  • Valerie - I think it is interesting to see what other Moms are doing with the gaming thing. I have two boys and I am dead-set against gaming of any kind because my husband is a complete gaming addict. He works nights, so the bulk of his playing time is on his off days when we are asleep or the boys are in bed, but I am astounded by the amount of time that goes to waste with games! The phone, the tablet, the PS! Ugh. The thought of all that time dedicated to games is actually painful to me…so many more productive things that could be done. It has always been an irritant. I don’t know how I’ll handle it when the kids are in school and surrounded by others who do get to play. I guess we’ll see! There’s always more to learn, isn’t there?!

    Thanks for sharing your take, anyway. Good for them putting together a well-thought out proposal!

We spend pretty much every night (and day for that matter) at home. Spring – fall, most of our meals happen around our picnic table. Chris and I will often linger a little longer at the table while kids run around. We look around and talk about all the things we would love to do to our home and yard. We have about 2 acres in the middle of town. When we were beginning the process of buying our home, we would sneak over and sit on the back porch (no one lived in the house!). Sitting on the porch we dreamed of what it would be like to raise a family here – kids and friends filling the field.

I know it often looks like we are out in the country, but we are actually in a really wonderful location to make the most of our town and still feel like we are away from the crowds too. It is a perfect location for an introvert girl that married a highly extroverted boy.

Our yard is one of my favorite places. While I am grateful for all that it is, I still dream about all it could be one day. When it comes to our yard, all my ideas center around hospitality and creating a home that makes others feel like they can take a deep breath and just be themselves. No expectations. No pretending. Just come on in, be you, share your story,  and be here with us.

My “Outdoors” pinterest board is full of ideas. Things I want to do in my backyard. Huge tables to fit all our guests. Twinkle lights. A swimming pool. Flowers. Lots of flowers. Comfy seats and hanging plants…


Top Row: Carlaaston.com ||  Buzzfeed  || via BestPicker

Second Row: Jenny Darling || A Bryan Photo || norskeinteriorblogger

Third Row: (Looking for original source) || (Looking for original source) || Keltainen talo rannalla

Fourth Row: 79 ideas || Better Homes and Gardens || Simply Seleta

Right now our yard looks more like this – a picnic table and a small inflatable pool…but there is always a steady flow of people and lots of room for running around.

6.15yard-01Every now and then I sit at our picnic table and think about what I can’t see (all those pinterest board pictures) instead of what I can see. Sometimes I am tempted to think that to host people well in my home I need some of that stuff – the big tables and twinkly lights and cute potted flowers everywhere. Sometimes I read articles or blog posts on how to be a better hostess and I walk away thinking about all the things I don’t do and all the stuff I don’t have.

But deep down, I know it isn’t the stuff that makes others feel comfortable around my table.

Honestly, I’m not even sure what it is that makes others feel comfortable…but there are always extra people in our home so that tells me it can’t be about having all the right stuff.

I decided last week to keep track of how many people came through my front door starting Monday and ending Saturday. 39 people (and 2 bearded dragons and one rat). We didn’t have any parties or big events. A couple of those were planned visits, most were spur of the moment stops by. Friends that see my laundry and don’t look twice. Family that deals with a dog that we are still training not to jump (she loves people). Guests that eat eggs and biscuits for dinner with us because I didn’t plan dinner and a game of Ticket to Ride distracted us all.

39 people that simply by coming through my front door told me it isn’t about a pinterest-worthy backyard. It isn’t about how well I cook. It isn’t even about having a clean house. As much as I still want those things (and I think they are perfectly fine to have), while I am waiting for the yard of my dreams I’m going to keep making sure my front door and back door are always open.

My boys heard me talking a little while back about some of the things I wanted to do in our backyard and how it can be hard to wait for things when they aren’t in the budget. They asked me how much I would need to begin some of the projects. I gave them a number. They immediately gave eachother that look that I knew they were about to go empty their banks to make their mom’s backyard dream come true.

I smiled at them, encouraged their generous hearts, but told them we’ll just wait together. We’ll wait for my dream backyard with an open front door and chocolate chips cookies for their friends.

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  • Michelle - I loved this post! I struggle with hosting and making people feel at home; I’m usually a nervous wreck. You should share some tidbits about how you host because I’m sure there are good reasons all those guests love visiting you!

  • Anniken - With all that space i would have wanted a fireplace outdoors with lots of comfortable chairs.. And cute pillows. So i could gather all my friends and talk all night long… (But maybe thats not a good idea… I have no idea on what kind of weather you have). But for me the most important is that i have room for many guest even if it gets a little chaotic. Dreams are so fun to have and when they sometimes come true… What joy!
    A lot of chairs is often all you need… And cookies never hurts!

  • Jessica - i am very familiar with this “waiting to host” feeling. Except, unlike you, I have bought into it for the most part. We have been living in a rental home since we got married almost 8 years ago. We started the first years with no money to make the house what we wanted. Then we started looking for a house (and having babies) so we didn’t want to update. Now we’re about to have our fifth baby any day and I still have been so hesitant to host. But the good news is that we just bought a new house, after years of searching, waiting, and praying, praying, praying. Your hospitality has always been an encouragement to me and I look forward to putting it into practice now that we will have a house that better suits guests. Thank you! It helps to be reminded that things won’t have to be perfect before we start having visitors.

  • Jessica R - These pictures are beautiful – but so is your yard as it is. My backyard is terraced and the old owners did a beautiful job of landscaping it, but I dream of wide open spaces for running and gardening, like you have. And that story about your sweet boys brought tears to my eyes! You are growing far more important and beautiful things than flowers :) Thank you as always for the inspiration!

  • Paige E - LOVE this! I used to let my home and yard actually keep me from having people over. My Mom has the entertainment extrodinare gene and I didn’t get it. But then I realized, we do get togethers very differently, each really cool in its own way. I realized both of us foster a feeling more than an event. And that has become more important to me. I have more weeds than grass, I also have a blow up ring pool on its last season with leaks and dirt stains, my house is tiny compared to most, my carpet wrinkles are large enough to use as a football tee, my deck is warped and my furniture has rips from my pups. But I hope to foster a welcoming, kick your shoes off, pull up a lawn chair and lets just hang out with a cold drink atmosphere. And the feedback I get is its just that way. One day I may have a nice patio or new flooring. But I can’t wait for that to do life with people. God provided exactly what we have and I’m determined to be grateful and share it with others regardless. I’m not ashamed of Him or what he has given. GREAT post, Ashley!

  • Cathy - This is a wonderful wonderful post! The past few weeks I have been consciously praying for contentment with what I have. Which is still more than I need, but I find myself dreaming of pinterest worthy things. Then I read this and am reminding of my prayer of contentment and to be patient to wait for these things. They will come in their due time, and if not….we are a happy fun family anyway! Thank you for reminding me where my focus should be this week and always!

  • Megan - We are in this place right now, too. We made ourselves make a list of the things we actually needed to start having a weekly open meal at our house, and it boiled down to me cleaning the carpets and getting a few more chairs. Those are easy, and we can do them this week, so no more excuses! The other stuff, like curtains for the sunroom, new floors, different coffee table, beautified backyard, etc, can wait.

  • Jennifer G - Thank you for this post! I get so caught up in the vision for our dream house that the imperfections get exaggerated in my mind. My husband and I too made a list of the bare minimum it would take for us to be content with having that open door policy, hopefully we can accomplish them soon.

    Like Michelle, I’m curious about how you host…the rare times we have visitors it is for a party or “event” and I would love to have more impromptu dinners, playdates, and chats over coffee. I’d love to hear how you foster that!

  • Anna Eney - As an introverted person myself, married to another one of those highly extroverted men :), I would love to hear how you still cultivate a spirit of hospitality and an open door for all to come in and enjoy your home. My husband and I just bought a house and I want to have an open door for others to stop by but it has been a little draining at times…always having others popping in at random times. My husband on the other hand would fill out house to the brim with others 24/7 if he could! Do you have any tips or tricks for me on how to cultivate hospitality while still finding quiet in your home? (other than praying for grace and a loving heart)


  • christina larsen - All those pictures look dreamy in their own right…but I think your field with the picnic table under that big tree looks just as dreamy! I’m a country girl and I see the openness and space you have. Perspective…Any time you would like to have me over coffee, I would consider it a blessing!

  • marie - This is a lovely post! The thing I love most about it, is that you’ve learned this truth as a young woman. I turned 60 this year, and this is something I’ve struggled with for a long time. Always worrying that things aren’t quite Pinterest perfect…how silly is that!
    Anyways…this post blessed me. I hope my daughters feel like you do! I hope they keep their front doors open while waiting for their dreams to come true!

    I’m sorry…I commented twice. First time was on the wrong post. :(

  • momto2lovelies - Oh how I would love to drop by and hang out with you. To be myself, to share my story, to just be present. I completely agree with you – all those hospitality things would be nice to have, but they don’t really matter as much as the heart of the host <3

  • Nancy - Ashley….While I am a 51 year old single woman, I read your post and often think, I wish she were my mom. I know it sounds insane, but you create beauty and security for your family which is something we all long for. My incredibly beautiful mother (inside and out) passed away when I was only 21. My dad passed away five years ago. I guess I sort of have an orphan mentality and what I long for is open land, a picnic table, the chaos of kids,and warm chocolate chip cookies. Really, that’s all you need. Jesus must smile on you all the live long day! To me, you ARE living the Pinterest worthy life. And if you want to adopt one more, this 51 year old kid would move in in a heartbeat. Sending you a hug from Maryland.

  • Caroline - Oh my Ashley, I would very much love to visit your beautiful home and lovely children!! And also to meet my idol – YOU!
    I love reading all your very genuine posts, all the beautiful things you shared and even though your blog changed a lot over the years since I read it (before firecracker was born) I felt nothing really changed. you are still the same real beautiful Ashley and I love everything that you write about!!

    Thank you for being an inspiration!!!

  • esther - This was a timely and helpful post. Thank you!

  • Meghan - Your blog is an inspiration to live and love fully. Thank you for sharing!

  • Moriah - Thanks for the reminder that what we have is enough. I think the world of possibilities is so fun, but taking a step back and seeing that what we need is right in front of us and that is so refreshing. Love your blog, from a long time reader. :-)

  • Jelena - I loved this post, you completely nailed it! And I am envious you had so many people come for a visit in just a week. I am not even sure that many people even know where I live.

  • Jenn - i love this
    i love how honest you are with your feelings
    i have those same feelings when it comes to hosting. i would like to host family and friends more but feel like i am inadequate in doing it or not prepared when really i just want people to come and feel at home. thank you for sharing

  • Jenny B. - Wow! 39 people! That’s pretty amazing. I once heard a friend, who is a little older and wiser than I, reminisce about how she and her husband used to host their Sunday School class, and that their house was so small, they always had people crammed everywhere, sitting on piano benches and laundry hampers. The friends came because of the people who lived there, and the house really didn’t matter at all. I think it is a rare gift to be the kind of person people are drawn to. I can tell that you don’t take it for granted, but see it as part of your life’s work. On another note, I grew up on 2 acres in the middle of town, and it was absolutely wonderful. I totally took it for granted as a kid, though. I had no idea what a treasure that place was.

  • Kelly - Soo much this post makes me want to say! I LOVE that there were 39 people through your door! Makes me want to “up my game” but also be prayerful about if that is my idea or His. I am in a place of simplifying and quieting and I do feel that is from Him so maybe the people can wait just a bit. :) I agree with you about the outdoor pinterest boards. We have had a family habit this month of getting outside – with a goal of ten minutes but we usually stay out longer – doing stuff in the yard/garden and also just being. I have “bonded” more with my outside more than I have any year since we have owned this house (this is our fifth summer). It feels good. It feels holy in some aspects. Sometimes it is random weeding and just trying to keep up and sometimes it is trying to implement some representation of one of my “outside” pins using what I have available. Blessings on your waiting and dreaming and also on your right now! Oh and I don’t know if this is your “thing” but I have had a guest book since I got my own apt. right out of college. Back then as a single, I had EVERYONE sign it if they walked through the door and it was/is so fun to read. Now things are more lax but it is still fun to see who we have through different seasons! It’s fun to make a new book too as one fills up, each book kind of representing the place we are in as a family. Kelly

  • Elise - Beautiful!!! I love your blog, and look forward to reading about the world through your lenses. It encourages me to see the world beyond my own home, while still nurturing the little ones in my home. Love, love, love your blog!!!

  • Lorena Barnes - you had me in tears just then …. tears of confession … so true. I’m constantly thinking of those things … the wants. thanks so much for reminding me what really matters!

  • Natalie - Such a great reminder. Your words are as beautiful as your pictures!

  • Helen - How pleasant… peaceful words… peaceful place. :)

  • Julie - I love your house! And there is nothing wrong with biscuits and eggs for dinner!

  • Sarah H - I love your blog. This was a beautiful post. I agree. Sometimes I feel like our home will never be done or ready to host. But your post was a wonderful reminder. Keep on keeping on!

  • rachel p - Thank you for such a sweet and beautiful reminder!!! Although my *house* may not look exactly as I want it to, it’s the warmth and love of my *home* that really matters. :)

  • Kimberly - I love this!! When I get frustrated with our place/yard…I remind myself of my favorite memories of meals shared when I was a kid….

    All of the meals at my grandparent’s house w/the cousins. (Looking back, the food was terrible)

    That one night going over to a family’s house after church for late night cheap bread and cheap cheese grilled cheese sandwiches. I felt welcome! And the late time made it feel magical. (And as a result of the conversation, my parents moved our family to Brazil for a year.)

    Dinner at a friend’s house that I now recognize as plain chicken, white rice, and frozen peas. Just being welcome at their table made the food taste so amazing.

    Another friend who came from a family of eight- I don’t remember the food, but I remember LOVING the magic of dinnertime. So many ideas and conversation and passing the food. I loved being welcome.

    All this to say, we’re hosting friends this Sunday and grilling hot dogs. Nothin fancy, just “You’re welcome here with us.”

  • Kelly - Amazing post! I feel the same way about my yard at times. You have the real idea and meaning about being hospitable. Wish I lived close by…. I’d bring eggs and biscuits .??

  • Alicia - Ashley, I have NO tree in my back yard. None. I’ve prayed and asked god for a backyard with a tree more times than I can count. Your yard IS my Pinterest yard – hehehe :)

  • Ang - The only thing I would have changed about the hospitality we received is if I hadn’t lost by one stinkin’ point. Chris should really work on that. Everything else was just perfect! =)

  • Sharissa - Love what you have to say about hospitality. It encourages me to make more of an effort, as I am an introvert, also. And we love Ticket to Ride at our house! It’s always a good idea!

  • Jenny - I would love to hear how you foster the open door policy. I want to be the house that all the kids hang out at and people are stopping by, but I just can’t seem to go about it. My kids are young still (5,3,1) and it seems so hard to invite others over because most people don’t have three and they all seem a little overwhelmed by the crazy. I’m always so worried about what people are thinking! I would love to hear any thoughts you have!

  • jenny - oh! i love those thoughtful moments! my kids have offered up their savings to me before and it’s always such a proud moment as a mother. i am thankful for this post. i can’t tell you how many times i have been in the same boat. sitting… thinking about the changes i want to make and what it will take to get there. sometimes… feeling i shouldn’t invite people over because it’s not ready. it is so important to remember that although those things will be fun and beautiful… they are certainly not important… and certainly not what people visit for :) it really makes me feel connected to you seeing that you have all of those same thoughts… for some odd reason… i suppose it’s your gorgeous/adorable home… i just never pictured you having any of those thoughts. i am very excited though… to see your dream yard come together some day :)

  • Shannon White - I love love love this post!!! Thanks so much for sharing. :-)