My grandparents front yard has been full of peonies for as long as I can remember. I always wanted to cut them to bring the home, but grandpa was protective of grandma’s flowers. However, every year on Mother’s Day he always cut one and gave to them all the girls in the family. As a young girl, I always felt so special to get a Mother’s Day peony – even though I was obviously not a mother. The year I became a mother getting that peony was all the more memorable.

Every year on Mother’s Day for as long as I can remember.

My grandma passed away on Mother’s Day six years ago. I can hardly believe it has been that long. I can hardly believe it has only been that long. I miss her terribly.

This was our first Mother’s Day without grandpa too. In the weeks leading up to this weekend, I thought a lot about that annual peony. I’m so grateful for traditions, but when traditions end it can be painful. In the next few months there will be an estate sale, my grandparents house will be sold, the front yard will belong to someone else. Growing up is hard.

My family gathered at my house this year for Mother’s Day. My aunt walked in with a big bouquet of grandma’s peonies. My aunt is awesome like that. I think it would have made grandpa happy to see us enjoying them again – though he might have gotten a little riled up that we got more than one each! When I see a peony, I’ll forever think of my grandparents. It will forever me among my very favorite flowers.
5.14peony-1My grandparents were master gardeners. My dad and sister are carrying on that legacy. I’m trying, but I tend to grow kids better than I grow plants. Anyway, my dad made his famous strawberry homemade ice cream. Grandma & Grandpa would have also loved the way he fed his granddaughter (my niece).5.14peony-35.14peony-45.14peony-55.14peony-6Grandma never met any of her great granddaughters, but I am sure she would have had lots of fun with them. They all have a bit of her sassy spunk.

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  • Leila - Oh — I’m glad you got a big bouquet of those peonies! You should seriously consider digging up the peonies from their garden — peonies divide easily. You can take some of each one and they will still be there on the property. Look up how to do it.
    Plant them in your own yard (but not near the house or other flowers, as they attract ants and fungus) to enjoy. They are not hard to grow!

  • Marsha - You need to transplant a section of grandpa’s peonies before the home is sold! Good old fashioned peonies like the ones pictured above are virtually impossible to die. As long as you can get them through the early months of transplant shock they will thrive forever. Around here some people mow them down after blossoming and they still come back every year and bloom (not me though). They are blooming on abandoned farm sites where they virtually have had no care for decades.
    These memories are too precious not to at least try – take a spade and divide a clump in half digging as deep as you can to get as many roots as possible. When transplanting be careful you do not have air pockets around the roots, so water in the soil as you fill it in. Also they do not like to be planted too deep. Plant them so the top is even in the soil and the same depth as at your grandparents house.

  • Anastasia Curtin - Oh Ashley, I am with you on that….Whenever I see a peony, I remember my grandpa, he was a terrific gardener, we all are trying to carry on the legacy but non of us can master it the way he did.

  • Shannon Fox - I was going to say the same as the other girls. Peonies divide easily and are quite easy to grow. Please, please divide them and grow some at your own home. You deserve to have grandmas flowers for years to come. My own grandma divided he peonies and gave some to my mom over 20 years ago. They’re flourishing in both yards and still so beautiful. My absolute favorite flowers.

  • SueY - Yes please try to transplant part of the peonies. 10 years ago we transplanted part of my father-in-law’s gorgeous camilla bush after he passed away. It had been started years before when he was a boy by his father on a farm in Fresno, CA. His father had cross bred the plant that resulted in a beautiful unique flower. It was then transplanted again each time my in-laws would move. Now it lives in San Diego and has provided a wonderful topic of discussion in the garden with my children and now my young grandchildren. :)

  • Sundee - My mom transplanted Missouri Peonies to New Hampshire. We never cu them either, but I photograph them every spring…never the same photo.

  • Sandy - My mom is a peony lover, and she takes them with her as she moves. She has some from her grandmother’s garden too. While taking them all wouldn’t necessarily be fair to the new owners, a mother’s day peony plant could give you a way to carry on your own tradition, and transplanting them while they are closer to blooming lets you find them more easily! Just a thought!

  • Seamingly Sarah - I love peonies too. We had one big bush of them at our first house and I was always liberal with cutting them and bringing a bouquet inside. But there were always the ants crawling all over them and then I’d have ants in house. But they were so beautiful and smelled so wonderful that it was worth the extra ants. We have three small plan tinge of peonies at our new house now. I’m hoping they turn out just as beautifully.

  • Tammy - Yes, yes, yes, dig them up and share them among your family! They might skip blooming a year before they settle in to their new homes, but it would be a crying shame if y’all left them there. There is no plant on Earth easier to grow.

    If they were Master Gardeners, they probably have a yard full of other things that you should take, too!

  • Janine - I see I wasn’t the only one with this idea – Dig up the peonies. The old ones are so much nicer than the new ones at the store. Each one of the granddaughters can have a plant at their house. The new owners will be none the wiser that peonies used to live there.

  • Taylor - Glad you had a wonderful mother’s day! Beautiful flowers & a beautiful story.


  • Margy - Yes! Dig them up before the house is sold! They divide well, so you can leave some with the home and take just a small bit of each kind. I am NOT a gardener. I’ve killed bamboo…but we have a peony bush from my husband’s grandmother’s house that we’ve moved to two houses with us & will continue to take with us if we move again. We even moved mid-summer once and they came right back the next year. I don’t give them any special attention & they just thrive. My favorite flower. You won’t regret it. Even a small cluster will bring a smile when you see that flower pop next year!

  • Jenny L. - When my daughter was a little girl she was obsessed with flowers. We used to stop on the side of the road just so she could pick them when we were traveling. Her second job just before she went to college was a floral designer. Peonies became her favorite flower. About 4 years ago, we went to Maine to visit a friend, and when she saw the peonies growing in the front yard, I thought she was going to jump out of her skin. You get lots of flowers and greenery in Florida but everything grows too fast and seems to have imperfections compared to the flowers further north. I was amazed how perfect all the flowers in Maine were. How lucky you have been to have that experience with your grandparents. I know you have and always will cherish it.

  • Tara - I hope you are able to transplant a split of the peony for your yard! I took a shoot from my grandparent’s grapevine when my grandmother passed away, and I can’t tell you the joy it brings to enjoy it with my daughters who never got to meet these great grandparents! I get to share a bit of Grandma Betty and Grandpa Joe with my girls! What beautiful memories you share!

  • Diana - What lovely memories of your grandparents! My Grandma just passed away in October and I still think of her so often, miss her so much. Grandparents are such special people.

  • Laura J - Ashley Ann, babies come from Heaven! Of course your Grandma met her great granddaughters-she met them first!

  • Jen Nichols - Hi Ashley! I just had a question about your beautiful bookcases–I know they are from Ikea, but I can’t find the post where you mentioned the exact name of them. Do you like them? I’m moving into a brand-new home, and don’t know if I should use these like you have, or wait and save up for actual built-ins. I’m also worried about saggy shelves–I have a LOT of books! Any advice about them would be hugely appreciated!!!! :)

  • Eva - Those peonies are beautiful! And what a wonderful tradition for the ladies in your family to be a part of, even before becoming moms. Those photos of your niece eating ice cream are pretty stinkin’ cute too. I hope you had a wonderful Mother’s Day.

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - Oh, what a special, special aunt! I bet heaven is so thankful for the new gardens that are flourishing up there!

  • Lisa Johnson - Ashley, it’s been way too long since I’ve commented, but I still read and LOVE all your posts. I love this precious tradition and memory. My first granddaughter is due next month and my peonies finally bloomed beautifully this year. I may have to implement your dear Grandpa’s tradition for my girls :) This year, in a moment of horticultural optimism, we cut many of the buds right before they were ready to pop and have put them in the fridge hoping to delay their bloom for a couple of weeks. A florist friend told us it might work and we have another daughter’s wedding on May 31st. I’m not sure it will work but we are giving it a shot :) Thank you as always for your inspiring posts. I have loved watching your family grow up!

  • Jenn - so fantastic.
    love everything about this post
    my grandmothers flowers are roses and azaleas. they yard is always beautiful and I love visiting. they are far away now (or maybe i am) and i miss them every day but i love when i get to visit and spend time with them.

  • Helen - You have the most beautiful blog I have ever seen. Honestly.

  • Kristin - Everyone has already said the important thing that I wanted to share about dividing the peonies but I’ll chime in & agree. Something that means that much is worth the work to carry on the tradition for the next generation.

    We had them in our front yard as I was growing up & I bought my first house because the first peek at the backyard greeted me with an array of beautiful white peonies. I’ll be planting them at my new home too because I’ve decided peonies are what makes it home for me.

  • Kathleen - Can you transplant peonies?
    My mom has carried a hydrangea plant from my grandmothers
    flower bed- she also has transplanted my great grandmothers beloved
    Iris’ I now I have iris’ in my front flower bed, it’s a sweet thing to have something that was hers.

    Move one of those plants to your parents before you sell the house!

  • Haverlee - Sheesh, this nearly brought me to tears. Families like yours are such a beautiful thing to me because I had nothing of the sort growing up. My husband’s grandma is the closest grandparent I’ve had and the one who’s death I will feel the most when the time comes. I love all of the traditions y’all have and are passing down. What a legacy your grandparents have left.

That is an award-winning title right there. Goodness, this blog is so random!

I was talking to a friend recently about the lack of diy-ing going on in my life right now. There are days I want so badly to start a project – and finish it. There was a time not that long ago that this blog was full of crafty ideas. I don’t post many these days because I’m not doing many and, well, there is pinterest – a endless abyss of ideas too many of us pin and don’t make. These days I am watching and helping my kids create. One day they won’t need so much help. In many ways, that day is already here.

Yesterday I stepped back and watched my kids pull out supplies and just start making things with a friend. Stickers. Markers. Paper. Popsicle sticks. Hot glue. It is pretty awesome to watch. Even more awesome is they can clean up their mess now! ISO 250, 1/125, f/2.8
5.14studio-1ISO 250, 1/160, f/2.85.14studio-2ISO 250, 1/125, f/2.8ISO 250, 1/160, f/2.85.14studio-3

All of my guys are getting their ‘summer’ haircuts next week (per their request). I’m going to make this guy take lots of Mother’s Day pictures with me this weekend with his shaggy locks I love. ISO 250, 1/160, f/2.85.14studio-5Two things – this guy can build anything with wood sticks and a hot glue gun. I can see him as an incredible architect one day. I’ll remind him of his glue gun days. Secondly, I bought rings. Usually they are outside, but it was raining yecsterday. They aren’t as pretty as craft supplies, but I turn 35 in the fall and made a few physical goals for myself. Also, I got stitches for the first time last night. The stitches were not related to having rings hanging over a concrete floor:)

ISO 250, 1/160, f/2.8ISO 250, 1/100, f/2.85.14studio-7Happy Friday!!

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  • Kaitlyn - I see many muscle ups in your future 😉

  • Cathy Shealy - OK you left us hanging (no pun intended) with the stitches comment…..what did you do? Hope you heal quickly.

  • AshleyAnn - Kaitlyn- if I can get one by my birthday I’ll celebrate!

  • Bambi - Kids being able to clean up after themeselvs really does sound great :-)

    Thanks so much and have a wonderful weekend:


  • Bernie - I admit to having a Pinterest board titled “Crafts I Dont Have Time For”…..

  • Amy Espinosa - I get that. You’re not turning out so many projects lately. There is a time when we are beginning the process of collecting, re-doing, and making new things for our home, and then there comes the time when we are at a good stopping place, and we are satisfied with our work {at least for a time ;)}. I’m in that spot right now too. Enjoy those kids. Enjoy passing on to them your love of color and crafts!

  • Nell-Ann - You may think your not diying right now .But your doing the best diying your children !!!

  • Emily - Ouch! Stitches! I hope you heal up quickly!

    Also – my oldest is a budding architect/engineer, too. He’s on 4, but I’m thinking this summer is the perfect time to introduce him to popsicle sticks and a glue gun. Good thinking!

  • jenny - i know just what you mean! it takes so much for me to start and finish a project… oy! i have spent the last ten years having babies… but we are not having anymore babies… and my youngest is three now. we are on the cusp of a big shift in family life… and i am so excited for it!!

  • natalie - I stumbled upon your blog several years ago when I was looking for diy paper airplanes for my nb son. I stayed up for hours late into the night looking through your archives. I love when you diy, but I love your randomness too! Your blog is perfect the way it is! My kids are 4.5 and 1.5 now and I don’t get to do as much as I used to either. “It won’t be like this for long”, that’s good and bad. You are a great mother!

  • Addie - My son has totally been into the glue gun lately! I even bought him his own for Easter!

  • Alecia - Hope you are okay!! Don’t cut his hair – it is so adorable!

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - Oh my goodness – I hope you are ok :) I hope the stitches were also not related to hot glue guns, scissors, or Popsicles.


  • mindy t - Oh man crossfit is so addicting! I have a whole gym in my garage even though I go to the box 5 days a week. Its awesome to be able to just walk a few steps and throw some weight around.

  • Linda - My girls are grown now, but they still list one if their favorite things when they were young as being our “art cabinet”—a low cabinet in our kitchen filled with art supplies. They could pull them out and use them whenever they wanted, as long as they kept them on the hard kitchen floor. My daughter is expecting my first grandchild now and I can’t wait to set up an art cabinet in my house for him, as well!

  • Maegan - How is this the first time you’ve ever had stitches?! 😉

  • Heidi S. - Your new cabinet along the wall is beautiful!

  • amy cornwell - I feel the same way about crafting…I don’t know the last time I crafted for fun. It’s such a shame. Seasons of life I guess. totally cool about your goals for yourself and that they involve having rings – love that about you. Happy Mother’s Day!

  • Seamingly Sarah - I can’t even imagine what kind of goals you’ve set for yourself that involve rings! Good luck. My first stitches came when I was 20 something and had my thyroid remove. Not really an adventurous story, but my surgeon was AWESOME! =)

  • Stoich91 - Stitches!? Nooo!! What the whilly? 2 thumbs up for creative kids, and also 22 thumbs up for not finishing… BOOO why??

  • Helen - These pictures make me want a big family! 😉

A couple years ago the terms “special needs” and “orphanage” were things I would have said I cared about, but they weren’t personal. They weren’t words that struck a deep chord in me at a gut level. And then that all changed. My daughter was considered “special needs” because she was born with a cleft lip and palate. She had needs that were different than other kids. Honestly though, all my kids have needs that are different than other kids. Quite frankly, it is probably a term that could describe us all.

Several years back I remember reading about the opening of Maria’s Big House of Hope. It was built in honor of Steven and Mary Beth Chapman’s daughter – Maria Sue. It is a huge (six-story, 60,000 square foot) orphanage that provides medial care and houses orphans in China with special needs. The bright blue with painted clouds building is a beckon of hope and healing for many children.

I’ve been to orphanages in a few countries, China included. Not all orphanages are the same. Not all care is the same. Over the years I followed various stories out of Maria’s Big House of Hope, including the compassionate care given to so many children that lives were cut far too short. I’ve also followed stories of incredible healing when all hope seemed lost.

Chris and I have a friend, Chris Wheeler, who works for Show Hope. According to my Chris, Chris Wheeler is “one of my most favorite people.” His parents have actually become dear friends in our lives over the last few years. They have stood by us when we traveled to China and supported us through two big surgeries. This week Sevenly’s chosen charity is ShowHope, so naturally I wanted to take advantage of partnering with them again.

Maria’s Big House of Hope

5.14sevenly-5The staff and children at Maria’s Big House of Hope, well, I am guessing they would call each other ‘family’. Our friend who works at a local shelter – she would tell you those kids are her family. My other friend would tell you her sons’ birth moms are family. The kind woman at the gold & silver shop that talked to my grandpa every morning – she called him family.  Family is more than blood. Family is family. When you have it, you just know it.
5.14sevenly-1This week if you’d like to learn more, I’d encourage you to check out Show Hope’s website – click here to visit Show Hope

Below are some of the Sevenly products benefiting Show Hope this week. – click here to visit Sevenly


There are 7 people living in my house right now. To the outside world we are simply a family of 7. But if you ask us, our family is so much bigger than those who share our last names. I’m so thankful for family and I’m thankful I have a big one. One of the Sevenly shirts this week says, “Be someone who makes someone else look forward to tomorrow.” So good. I’m going to chew on that for a while…

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  • Maegan - Ashley, I know you always do such a great job featuring wonderful charities, but I was super excited to see this post. I know I’ve told you before, but one of our dearest friends is the doctor at Maria’s, and their whole family lives there. They are an amazing family, and I couldn’t think of anyone better to be there caring and loving on those children.

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - Thank you so much for bringing our attention to this cause! Love you.

  • Meg - Yay! I love these shirts! Everybody in our little family got one a few weeks ago!

  • Rebecca @ Oak & Elm - Oh man! Those shirts are awesome! I’m definitely ordering one for each of my small family. We’re currently in the throws of fighting and trying our hardest to get to keep and adopt the sweet little baby girl we’ve been raising for the past 7 months, and since she was born.

  • Misty - Oh I’m so on board with this one! Show Hope gave us a grant for our adoption costs. We are currently waiting to bring home our 3 1/2 year old son from Bulgaria. We’re only a few months out from traveling to bring him home. Thank you so much for sharing this. And thank you Show Hope for all that you do!

  • windie d - I love ShowHope and have been a sponsor for many years. I decided to become a sponsor becaUse I have a niece & nephew that are adopted; I love the idea of helping kids find their forever home!

    Its exciting to see another way to help! thanks so much for sharing.

  • Annemieke - I ordered a print Ashley and can’t wait until they have the “start where you are” print back in stock. I want to contribute to so many charities and I am having such a hard time deciding where to focus so I tend to get stuck. Thank you for making me decide today!

  • Jenn - family is family
    i love that
    there are four people that live in my house but my family is much bigger. i have some in washington state, louisiana, and some going to Papua New Guinea soon. i love how family expands to more than just those that live under your roof. love reading your story and you love for family.
    Be someone who makes someone else look forward to tomorrow. i love that.

  • amber - I just ordered one of those shits today! Love Show Hope…& the Chapman family. :)

  • Julie Moore - We live in brentwood and our kids are in school with the Chapmans – absolutely love Show Hope! Looks like I’ll be making my first Sevenly purchase this week. Thanks for the info – so great when worlds collide online.

  • the inadvertent farmer - Ordered my rainbow ‘Family is More than Blood’ t-shirt a few days ago! My adopted daughter is not from overseas but my heart is with all children that need forever families. Thanks for supporting such great charity. Kim

  • April - I’ve been a Show Hope sponsor for years and years. I was able to volunteer for Show Hope at an SCC concert a while ago. I had a dad, who was also a fellow volunteer, look me in the eyes, shake my hand and thank me for giving to to Show Hope because now he had his little girl home in his arms forever. I’ll never forget that moment. Love Show Hope!

  • Carol Spenst - I LOVE the Wheelers! Thanks for featuring such a great organization.

  • Becky Z - I love every post you write, but tonight was a new experience. I was reading along until I got to the part about Chris Wheeler. I gasped, and said to my husband, “You have a friend named Chris Wheeler, right? He works with orphan care, right?” And he said yes. And two of my very unconnected worlds- my husband, and blogs- collided. So fun! If you talk to him and think of it, tell him Craig Zuithoff says hi! :)

  • Kimberlee Jost - That necklace on you—a big yes!
    Okay, now for the real stuff…
    don’t ever stop sharing this stuff. Thank you for putting it out there for all of our hearts to process and share. That gift goes on and on.