So…thank you. Thank you for sharing your stories and for encouraging me on last Friday’s post. I am so often blown away by those of you that read this blog – the things some of you are walking through each day. The battles you are facing. The tears you are crying. The victories you are winning. It is so inspiring and humbling. Thank you for taking time out of your day to visit this random ole’ blog, but more than that thank you for taking the time to share with us a little bit of your story.

Thank you.

Last week Chris and I sneaked away for a couple days with our oldest to celebrate his tenth birthday. Instead of celebrating with a traditional party, we decided to start a Double Digit Getaway celebration – just Chris and I with the 10 year old.  This kid speaks a love language of time. I was pretty confident he’d be all for hanging out with mom & dad instead of doing a party. Thankfully, I was right. His younger siblings are already planning their adventures.

It was up to him what was on our agenda – he wanted swimming, bowling and hiking. No problem, son.

Chris bowled several strikes. He never bowls. How do you bowl strikes and never bowl? I can’t break 100.3.14doublegetaway-2

The next morning began with a swim. It was 49 degrees outside. I got my hair cut the day before, which means it was all soft and silky because a professional actually fixed it. I was really tempted to be very mom-ish and tell him I didn’t want to get my hair wet. It takes so long to dry my hair. But, that is being silly. So I splashed him hard (in the heated pool) and then it was all over. Bummer chlorine hair….not bummer to have fun with my guys.Processed with VSCOcam with s2 preset

After the hour it took to dry my hair, he wanted a big brunch. Brunch is my favorite meal too. We are two peas in a pod. We loaded up since we were headed out to hike anyway!3.14doublegetaway-4

I think it was a total toss up on who had the most fun: Chris, me or our son. Total toss up.3.14doublegetaway-53.14doublegetaway-73.14doublegetaway-8

Chris snapped these with his iPhone.

Processed with VSCOcam with s2 preset

We had an incredible time. We got to pick his brain. Talk about anything and everything. I have a feeling the time we spent together won’t soon be forgotten. Parenting is such a gift and joy. I wrote the following on instagram, I think I’ll end this post the same way.

Motherhood. One minute you are holding your tiny son for the first time, dreaming and wondering who he will be. The next minute he is a young man, leading you on a hike, telling you who he dreams and wonders he’ll be.

I’m thankful for special moments away with him, when I can hear those dreams and wonders. They pretty spectacular. Dream big son. We’ll be cheering you on!

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  • kimberly oyler - girlfriend! your hair is so long! are you sure you got it cut?

  • heather - my youngest is fast approaching his dd birthday….only a year to go :) but i LOVE this idea…actually teared up a bit thinking about how special this seems

    hopefully my son embraces this with the joy and excitement that yours did :)

    also the picture of you guys lifting that huge boulder made my morning lol

  • meg - You guys have such great ideas for honoring each of your kids! Totally tucking this idea away for the future!

  • Rachel V - Thank you for so much for sharing the joys of parenthood! As a young married woman thinking about starting a family in the near future, this is so exciting and encouraging to me. Recently I’ve felt discouraged and, quite honestly, terrified about parenthood because of the overwhelmingly negative comments heard from young parents. This was such a refreshingly positive and upbeat reminder of why I want to be a parent! Thanks for sharing your joy!!

  • Izzy - That looks like a great thing to do for a double-digit birthday! The scenery on the hike is beautiful… where did you go?

  • Janine - You’re such an amazing and inspiring mum! I’m taking down some many things-I-should-do-when-I’m-a-mum notes! :) Sending love from Singapore!

  • Angela - I absolutely love this idea of a dd date. What a wonderful tradition. Can’t wait to start it in 2 years.

  • andrea - Love, love, love the idea of a double digit getaway! I want to recommend the book Love Does by Bob Goff. I heard about the book at a woman’s retreat. It has become one of my favorite books. He took his children on some ultimate trips not only for their double digit getaway, but on other amazing character building trips. It is an easy read, and I know you’d love it!!! He is a Christian author and all proceeds from the book go to helping free children in Uganda.

  • ranee - I love love love this idea! though I love spending time with my whole crew, I am always surprised with how much fun it is to spend one on one time with my kids when I get the chance. beautiful pictures of your fun time together!

  • Jenna - Love the double digit birthday idea! Ever since I read Bob Goff’s book Love Does I’ve tucked it away in my brain for my kids. Such a great tradition to start with kids especially in a big family since you get so few moments of just you and them. Thanks for sharing you DD day!

  • Chrissy - Oh my goodness, I had tears with that last comment. I am home with my 7 week old son. I can’t imagine how fast the time will fly. He has already changed so much from his first days.

  • Mary - Love the Dust Bowl! Where was that hike? We’re always looking for good hiking spots nearby.

  • Emily - We have plans to do this with our boys when they turn 13 – but I won’t go. It’ll be all of the father-figures in their lives on a weekend campout answering the big questions and the little questions and generally bonding. Maybe at 10 we’ll go away and I’ll get to go, too. That would be swell. I’m so glad you had a great time!

  • Cynthia - Such a beautiful story!!! Thank you for sharing your musings. I look forward to them. You write so eloquently (something I struggle with) and intimately that I feel like I’m there with you having a one on one conversation. It’s amazing how quickly they grow. My babies are encroaching on 17 and I’m still having a hard time believing that! :)

  • Jen - Love this idea. My oldest will be 9 next month, and I’m totally storing this plan away for next year. Thank you for sharing!

  • normaleve - Great idea! We have twins turning 10 this year. I’m going to ask them if this is something they’d rather do than have a party!

  • Paige - LOVE this idea! Definitely going to apply when my oldest hits 10. I love how his boots look too big. Old but not so old.

  • danielle - Awesome idea! We try to incourage the boys to choose a fun day instead of a traditional party. I love going on trips for birthdays!

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - I am so, so thankful for motherhood. A true blessing that I will always cherish.

  • AshleyAnn - Emily – that is what we are doing for 13 too!

  • AshleyAnn - Mary – it was at Redbud Valley, in Catoosa

  • AshleyAnn - Jenna – it is in that book?! That book is on my reading list. I’ve heard so many great things about it!

  • AshleyAnn - Andrea – it is on my reading list, maybe I should bump it to the top!

  • AshleyAnn - Izzy – Redbud Valley in Catoosa

  • emmybrown - LOVE this! And, I don’t find your blog to be “random” at all….not in the sense that’s it’s my favorite blog about a very inspiring family! I love your daily posts! They are about life and living it to the fullest. It’s a fabulous example of what Jesus said he came to give and I love the look into your sweet experience of that. <3

  • Taylor - I love this idea of taking your kids out for their special birthday to do whatever they want. I’ll definitely keep this idea in mind when I have my own littles. Also, hats off to you for jumping in the pool and being that really cool mom everyone wants!


  • Molly - What a fun idea. I have hair that takes FOREVER to dry as well. A couple months ago I got a Keratin Complex treatment and now I can dry it in less than half of the original time and it looks great without actually having to style it. Might be something to think about. :-)

  • Maureen - Love that you did this. We did the same for our 3 kids when they graduated 8th grade/ turned 13. They each got to pick a get away for 3 days with just mom and dad. So fun just being with them one on one.

  • Double Digit Getaway {v. 1} » | Travel - […] Double Digit Getaway v. 1 » […]

  • Ashley - I needed to read those last two paragraphs today. We’re waiting to see if I’m pregnant with our first (unplanned…it’s terrifying and wonderful all at the same time. I’m a few days away from testing but I have a gut feeling like woah.) Whether or not I’m playing host to a little ball o’cells right now, it’s nice to be reminded of how awesome it’s going to be be. Thanks for unintentionally soothing a really scared potential mama-to-be. I’m looking forward to it, whenever it happens.

I get asked a lot of questions about my youngest daughter’s language skills after being born with a cleft lip and palate. Honestly, it is rough.  Really rough. Every child is so different, but with cleft affected kids there is a common bond of speech difficulties. Our daughter’s cleft lip was repaired when she was 19 months old and her palate was repaired when she was 2 years old. For every month that her lip and palate were un-repaired it set her back significantly in regards to learning how to use her lips, mouth and muscles to form proper speech.

She has a handful of words, similar to what a 1 year old can say. BUT – she understands everything. She is so smart. You can imagine how frustrating it is for her to understand and want to communicate, but to be unable to physically form the words she wants to say. We are doing lots of speech therapy (and signing), but it is still such slow hard road for her. As parents it is hard to watch her have to fight for everything – fight to learn to eat, fight to learn to speak, fight to overcome difficulties from her past. And yet, it is her fight, her tiny warrior spirit that defines her in so many ways.

A few weeks ago, the children’s pastor at our church shared a little bit of his story regarding being born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate.  He spoke of the difficult journey regarding speech and enduring being made fun of by his peers as a result. His story was so hard to hear for several reasons. However, his story ended with where he is today…a children’s pastor. A man that stands before groups of kids and adults all the time – speaking with clarity and confidence. He talked about how God took his greatest weakness and transformed it into a great strength.

One day my daughter will speak with clarity and confidence. One day others will not ask me, “What is she saying?” One day she will not cry out in frustration. One day speech therapy will be her past. I firmly believe God has great plans for her, plans that include her voice.

One day I’ll sit at the table with her and we’ll have a long conversation. I’ll hear her thoughts and her dreams and her voice. I’ll hear her.

The picture below is from a recent trip to the zoo. It reminds me so much of this stage. We know our girl so well. She is physically and emotionally here with us, yet there is also a part of her we haven’t gotten to know. Like her reflection, we can’t touch or hold it but we know it is there. It is a side of her we unlock a little bit at a time as we tackle communication skills. It is such a bittersweet journey to watch parts of her being – in a way – trapped inside. It is also beautiful when those parts break out little bit by little bit.


Each night she wraps her arms around my neck and in a way only Chris and I can understand she says, “Goodnight Momma, I love you.” And I know she is going to be just fine.

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  • Beth C - And I believe God is seeing everything this little warrior is doing & what she will do in her future and he is saying, “She will be just fine.”

  • Southern Gal - I believe through these difficulties will come great blessings. Your little warrior has just the right parents and family to see her through. Hugs.

  • Steph - That was so gorgeously written, as usual. Adoption never defines a person (adoptee here, everything we do doesn’t revolve around our placement!!) but it is so good and positive to see a beautiful little girl who ended up exactly where she needs to be to get the help she needs. Such a blessing.

    It’s funny, I’ve said a lot of what you just wrote about my own daughter. How she is so intelligent and understands everything but the words are trapped inside. How it is bittersweet to watch her frustration. How only we understand her. How beautiful it is to watch her bloom and click things into place and unlock her thoughts. But…my daughter is one. You’ve just humbled me and made my heart ache for you. I’m so grateful that my daughter is going through this in the easiest most natural way possible. I will be a thousand times more grateful and appreciative of that now.

    As a sidenote, she has physical limitations for which we have intensive therapy. She has a hard road ahead. That process brings up all the same feelings, but as I’m sure you know, it feels good to focus on her strengths and cheer every little victory. Your little warrior gives me hope. If little one can overcome all she has been handed at such a young age, I know mine can too!!

  • TheDenverPack - Our youngest daughter has had her own challenges and communication (and the ability to form words clearly) has been one of her largest. She’s now 13 years old, and we have a 30 minute drive to/from her school. It makes me smile the whole way as she’s so chatty because there were days (much like the ones you captured beautifully above) that I wanted so desperately to hear 1 word. Thank you for sharing.

  • Bird and Bambi - Your words and her story touching me every time! It is so beautiful to see your family helping her to be free, wonderful and amazing!

    Love from far away but still think about you!

  • the inadvertent farmer - I have learned through life’s difficulties that God uses them to teach us to depend on Him. If life were perfect, and we had no weaknesses, temptations, and trials we would miss the opportunity to develop a relationship that involves truly leaning on Him. Your sweet little warrior will be a stronger woman someday because of what she and God (and you) are overcoming right now. Now that will give you and she something truly amazing to talk about! Kim

  • Shelly Dennison - Love everything about this post! Our oldest has autism and is non-verbal so while we know he to is here mentally and physically .. we have not gotten to know him through his voice yet. Our youngest was born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate. His speech has come a long way and he now (at 5) talks enough to make up for his brother :) Thank you for sharing your journey with us!

  • Kathleen DeSouza - So many of your post have brought tears to my eyes.
    Even though we’ve never met I know we are sisters in the body of Christ.
    I feel like we are friends in real life- Celebrate with you and weep in your lost.
    I started reading your blog when I was pregnant with my first. He is turning four this year, and I have a two year old as well. My husband and I want two more, you give me so much joy- seeing you love your kids and love God.. It’s radiant. I want to be that kind of family/that kind of mom.
    God is doing amazing things- I am so grateful to see you waiting on The Lord for his promises!! It’s an incredible thing to witness and follow.
    You are a beckon of light to the lost.
    Your little girl is an answer to obedience.

    For whatever is born of God overcomes the world.
    And this is the victory that has overcome the world— our faith. (1 John 5:4)

    Stay faithful Momma!

  • Elena - My son is 5 and has Down syndrome as well as apraxia. My 20 month old daughter now can out talk him. He too, understands what is going on around him and gets extremely frustrated at times. Sometimes I feel like he’s mad that I can’t just read his mind. Even with his limited vocabulary, he is hysterical. He is outgoing and will chat it up with anyone he meets – even if they can’t understand a word he says. It pains me to watch him have to work so hard to reach every little milestone but in my heart I keep a vision of him as a teenager talking to me about all his favorite things. Thank you for sharing. It’s always nice to know there are others in this journey.

  • Heather - Ashley, I’m tearing up with your beautiful post. I’m so excited to be participating in PPA’s Celebration of Smiles event. One of my best friends growing up had a cleft lip and palate. Her second child was also born with one. As I do this event, know that Little One is on my heart, too. I am so excited that with just 10 mini-sessions, we can provide a cleft palate surgery. This post just blessed me immensely. Thank you, and Blessings!

  • Amy - My son has a speech impediment too, I understand the frustration. He is now 13 & has been in speech 10 years but is giving up. He makes straight A’s, tests at 11 & 12th grade levels but although he has his group of friends there are still those that make fun of him. Theres a few words I still can’t understand, and he adds letters to words and cannot spell to save his life lol. I’m worried about his future, He’s smart enough to be anything he wants, I hope for him his speech problems won’t prevent him from sounding professional. He didn’t have a cleft, he has speech apraxia that doesn’t appear to be getting any better with schools speech therapy and its $100 a session for private therapy. I’m so glad you wrote this article, there’s not to many to talk to about this.

  • lin - I tingled when i read ‘I firmly believe God has great plans for her, plans that include her voice.’ Amen! I believe that too, and I’m rooting for her, and for you Ashley. *hugs*

  • LuSu's Mama - Thank you so much! My baby is 22 months old and had her cleft palate surgery a year ago. My gratitude for sharing your faith and your hopeful words. How amazing all children are, especially in the ways that they triumph and surprise us.

  • Mary - Beautifully written. Thank you for sharing.

  • Taylor - I can only imagine how difficult and frustrating something like that can be for not only your sweet little baby girl, but you as a mother as well. You are so strong and your words are wonderful encouragement whether they directly apply to my life or not. You have a brave and strong little one on your hands, that’s for sure.


  • Stephanie - This is a wonderful tool for those who have speech delays. I work with kids every day who use this program and it is amazing! You may want to check it out! :o) proloquo2go

  • amber - What a precious, tiny gift you have. She will have a tremendous story one day. What a blessing that it includes your family. Wish I could squish that little lady. Thanks for sharing your great love of her with us.

  • MrsFun - I loved reading this. Every child is so different and faces different challenges. She will get there…. with the love and support you give her she will get there sooner.

  • Amy - This is beautiful. Something I’m sure she’ll read one day and take pride in. That you documented her inspiring journey. That you believed in her before you ever met her. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.

  • Emily - What great wonders await you from her little mind. And yay signing! (I’m a huge advocate of everyone everywhere being fluent in ASL – or their native sign language. :-) )

  • amy jupin - Good Lord, the tears won’t stop coming.
    Thank you for this beautiful post this morning–reading it feels like a warm hug.

  • Elizabeth Beattie - I understand exactly how you feel. My daughter is autistic. She is five years old and just recently said “mommy” and “I love you” for the first time. It’s magical. You are an amazing family and little one is so brave and strong. Sometimes it’s really hard when I know my daughter is trying to communicate and can’t tell me in words. She cries and sometimes hits herself. My heart breaks. But she is so smart and so beautiful and I know that she will be stronger for this part of her journey. “The Journey is the Thing” -Homer

  • Anastasia Curtin - What a nice post! Full of inspiration to never give up! She is a worrier indeed! Ashley, you are a great mom, keep believing and take one day at a time! God didn’t create a World in one day……

  • risa west - your blog inspires me constantly. you bring me to tears more often than not. i love your honesty and your faith. happy belated birthday to your son, and we are all rooting for your daughter, all of you really…

  • Amber - So glad you are choosing to look forward to what God is going to do, because he has big plans! I am a cleft palate/lip mama as well. She is beautiful!!

  • Jenni - My oldest son has been in speech therapy since he was 3. My youngest is 17 months and has not said a word. I hope it is a delay and not something else. It is so hard for a mom to think about her kids to struggle with anything I know I’m not alone in that. It is a part of their story. As we try to figure out about my youngest, I appreciate this more then you know:)

  • Brittany - What a beautiful post! You are wonderful parents and while the road may be long it’s amazing to see how far she has come. Thank you for sharing the journey with us. I love how God takes what we think is a weakness and turns it into a strength for His glory. Bless you for seeing past your current circumstances and imagining what might be. You are an inspiration!

  • Stoich91 - This truly is beautifully written! I guess it is helpful to remember all the deaf/mute/blind people in life who made incredible differences, like Helen Keller! What maters is not the eloquence of speech, but the beautiful spirit you’ve fostered. Even people who speak perfectly but are too shy to articulate themselves in adulthood end up being sometimes the most poetic and inspiring of all when they do talk. Thankful that her spirit is being fostered by such a loving God and family – the unlocking will come in time, and I hope we are all here to celebrate!! 😀

  • meg w - ashley,
    your words cut deep to my heart… three years ago, i gave birth to twin girls, one that took breath and one that was eternally asleep. our grief was overwhelming and my two year old son who was happy and vocal, lost his voice out of his own grief. only God’s grace carried us through helping him in his sorrow and giving him the courage to find his voice again. God bless you on this journey of healing.

  • Allison - beautiful post – had to grab the tissue for that one.

  • Natalie - Thank you so much for your honest and beautiful posts this week! Our family is in the midst of making decisions regarding home schooling and (separately) our adoption, and I am just so blessed by your sharing.

  • Catherine - Oh, I love this post. I have wondered many times but hadn’t put finger to keyboard to ask. Thank you for sharing these thoughts so beautifully.

  • Victoria / Justice Pirate - I think it is so wonderful that the children’s pastor at your church can totally understand your daughter as she grows and she can be able to know that she is not alone. I love what you wrote about what he stated. So cool!

  • shanna - I think it’s wonderful that your children have a mother who is so able to put her thoughts into words. I can only imagine the frustration parents must feel who are in the same situation you are in and not being able to find the words themselves, let alone for their children.
    But perhaps it’s something every parent grows in, trying to voice their children’s issues and problems they encounter.
    Still, you’re words are very well thought and gentle.

  • RaD - And maybe, just maybe, she’ll live up to her middle name!

  • Jenny B. - Beautiful! Last week, I took my 3rd grader on a field trip to the George Washington Carver National Monument near Diamond, MO. At a couple of spots on the grounds and in the museum, you can listen to radio recordings of GWC speaking. He had an odd sounding voice (possibly from having whooping cough as a child). The park ranger commented on how that his voice is a testament to what a great leader he was because even though he sounded strange, he was able to speak to large groups of people and was a beloved teacher.

  • Tina - I have read your blog for over a year and enjoy it so much. I have often thought about leaving a comment and today seems like a good day! My aunt had a cleft palate and lip repair. She is now in her 70’s. She is such a beautiful, kind, thoughtful person. Really, I could go on and on. My grandparents have passed away but I often wish I could talk to them about how they felt raising their first baby and making long journeys for multiple surgeries. It must not have been easy. I know others were not always kind to her but she doesn’t talk about that. Instead, she has taught her children. grandchildren, nieces, nephews and others the lessons she has learned along the way like to be kind to everyone. I am so thankful for her advice and Godly example. She is a gift to us and I thank God for her often. Good luck with your journey. I will keep you in my prayers.

  • Mary - You write so beautifully and I appreciate everything you share, because your story inspires me! This was absolutely moving. May the road ahead be filled with blessings for you and your special little girl.xo.

  • jody - Darlin’ Ashley,

    I am the momma of three, and the grandma of two. A teacher of 35 years. Don’t spend any time worrying, Honey. Letting Little One know she is normal, fine, and loved is all that matters. No excuses, no “…you’ll catch up…” You just keep giving her love and unconditional family.

    I believe, after all these years of doing what I’ve done and learning along the way, that all is well. All is well. Stuff is going on inside of this little person that we don’t get out here, but it is stuff that is making her make sense of everything, and make it so that she is able to move ahead. We’ll never get it, because who of us have gone through this? Reactive Attachment MAKES SENSE. Honestly, God bless her for having the strength to stick up for herself! She will speak just fine, and she will speak poetry and joy. She’ll simply do it when it’s her time. Actually, she already is–some of us are just to stupid to understand her.

    You are a wonder.

    I promise.

  • Darcie - Ashley – we discussed a little of this at the CW last August. My husband and I have traveled to Israel twice together, with an American tour guide that was born with a cleft lip and palate, and his story is probably similar to your Children’s Pastor. He never imagined that he would be speaking to large groups of people, leading them around the Holy Land and teaching them from Scripture. He was the kid everyone made fun of. And now, he’s had an impact on thousands upon thousands of travelers, teaching them about Scripture and making it come alive for them. How cool. And I know with parents like you and Chris, Little Sister will have an incredible story to share someday about where she came from, where she’s been and how she’s been perfectly designed. A joy to watch her grow!

  • Jenn - Love it

  • Brooke Leigh - My 3 1/2 year old daughter says a handful of words as well. She understands everything I say to her & can follow out tasks non-verbally. She’s had home speech therapy & is now in the school district twice a week. I long to hear a sentence, a phrase, anything more than a one word reply. Not because she’s “behind” but because I want to hear her beautiful voice & learn more about her thoughts. Our daughters voice will be heard, and they will move mountains.

  • Anna - Wow this is beautiful. What you are doing for her is beautiful what she is going for you is beautiful too. I had tears in my eyes reading this and that you sooo much for sharing. You guys have such a lovely relationship I pray that your lives together will be an adventure which brings joy and beauty to all those it touches.

  • Cynthia Contreras - This is such a beautiful post. Your daughter will speak just have faith. I have an 3 year old autistic little girl and she doesnt speak yet either but all her teachers are working hard to help her as well as our whole family. I too cant wait for the day to have a whole conversation with her and even to hear how her voice is going to be. I have dreams all the time that shes talking to me! She is such a smart little girl and I wouldnt trade her for any little girl in the world. Time is the key! Have faith and your daughter will talk! She’s amazing and so are you!

  • Janet @ ordinary mom - My daughter had significant language delays that she is still working on. Hers weren’t due to a cleft lip but were spectrum based we were told. She started school with an 80% gibberish language that only I could mostly understand. I too carried the fear that I would never hear her truly or know her. I wanted a glimpse inside.

    Happily 4 years later and her struggles are so minor that only I notice when she trips over certain phrasing. It’s amazing and such a gift to be able to ask her about her inner voice.

    It is hard to wait but you will get there. And these struggles will become just part of the journey.

  • Kimberly Dial - Ashley, thank you for sharing Little One. I have both laughed & cried as you’ve shared every mile of her journey. I believe she’ll accomplish great things in her life. Thank you again for sharing this awesome story :)

  • Katie - What a beautiful post!

  • Chantel - Ashley, your words made me tear up. This is absolutely beautiful!

  • Weekend Favorites « Jen Loves Kev - […] I am so touched by how Ashley shares stories about her daughter. So tender and raw. Love their […]

  • Ernie Treu - Praying for you and your girl :)

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - Thank you so much for sharing this journey. I am so thankful that you were placed in her path. You and Chris are such a wonderful foundation for her.

  • Sarah - I don’t know how you can look at that photo and just love her without ever meeting her. You can tell she is very wise and has a lot to ‘say,’ when the time is right.

  • Amber - I can so relate to this. Our 2 1/2 yo daughter spent her first 10 1/2 months in the ICU for a CHD. She had countless open heart surgeries, intubations, and spent most of the time laying in a hospital bed. She ended up developing a severe oral aversion and so has not learned how to eat or talk. She is also on par with a one year old, but very smart. She can point to what we are talking about, knows lots of sign language and song gestures. I too wonder what she is thinking…She has started to seem very frustrated when she can’t get her point across and instead of talking has taken to screaming or yelling. Speech therapy has not been helpful, so we are just trusting that she will decide to one day start talking and eating, with a lot of work and guidance on our parts, of course. Thank you for talking about this and opening your life to us, it makes one feel not so alone:)-Amber

  • Katie Smith - What a beautiful post. It touches my heart as my son has an expressive language delay and at 3 he struggles to communicate his thoughts and needs. Although he is making great gains, I connected so much to your desire to hear your daughters voice… what is going on in her head… what she has to say. I can’t wait for the day I will hear my son’s thoughts, ideas, dreams. That day will come for us!! :)

  • Rikki - So beautiful. She is so beautiful and your mothering spirit is just stunning. To have the strength, you, her, and your family – to accept, love, and embrace all that she is… it’s truly a blessing for each of you.

  • Keshia - Beautiful! The resilience of children is amazing. I have watched her blossom being apart of your family. I love “Little One” and her story.

  • christina larsen - Speech and language difficulties are a very real challenge in our home, as well. Olivia didn’t hear until she was 3 yrs old. She had her cochlear implant in Korea, then when we brought her home we did her second ear. Yes, she can hear. But because of all the years she couldn’t she has significant auditory processing difficulties. Things that we took for granted with our other children, are a challenge for her. She asks all the time, what something means. Even words she should have learned at the age of 3 or 4. We also do speech therapy. Her articulation has greatly improved in the 1.5 yrs that she has been doing it. She is easier to understand. I know that one day she will be speaking and everyone will hear her and understand her. It is just a challenge at times. Hang in there, it will come. I just wanted to share.

  • Nikki - Hello – I’m don’t usually comment on blogs…basically more of a stalker :) BUT, I just found your blog and fell in love instantly. I’m a photographer + mom of 5 (my 5th being adopted), too. Thanks for sharing your life and encouraging others along the way. If we were neighbors I’m sure we’d be the best of friends!

  • Noelle - My daughter was born with a submucosal cleft palate. We have seen speech therapists since she was 6 months old. Her ENT wanted to hold off on surgery until she was four. Last summer she had the repair surgery. She has done so much better over the course of the year and we are very proud of her strides. Lately, though, she has been falling into some of her old speech patterns and can be very difficult to understand. She wants to speak quickly like her friends and sisters but can’t.

    Reading your post was so encouraging. I understand all too well the frustration and sadness that a speech impediment can have. It seems so small but when you just can’t figure out what they’re trying to say it’s horrible. It’s hard to see them retreat because no one can understand them.

    But, today, you gave me hope. Thank you.

  • Abbie - This moved me to such sweet tears. I’m currently starting the journey to becoming a Speech Pathologist. I can’t wait for the day your Little One is talking right along with her sister and brothers. Such a sweet victory is headed her way!

  • Allison - precious

  • Emily - She is so beautiful! And one day she will fill you in on all her thoughts. You are amazing parents! Keep it up, she is blessed to have you as a momma as much are you are blessed to have her a little one.

  • Melissa - I so get you on this post. My older daughter has Down syndrome, and with it a significant speech delay. She too understands everything. She’s been signing since she was about a year old, but lately all she wants to do is talk and talk. There’s a lot of it I can understand, but even more that I can’t. She talks like me, with her hands waving everywhere, and I hope that one day I can understand all the stories that pour out of her.

  • beth - I’m a long-time reader and I’m not usually one to offer parenting advice to strangers but this is another blogger I follow and I thought her use of an iPad to support her child’s speech might be useful to you. (I realise your little one and hers are worlds apart in terms of their language delays but it might be useful)

  • AshleyAnn - Thank you Beth!!

  • Kimberlee Jost - Just catching up…
    I believe God is going to use her voice too, because he already is.

  • Sarah Lee - She will grow up to be a strong woman! She will get her ideas conveyed with much clarity and intelligence. I respect you for being such a strong and supportive mom. You have tekan a big step in getting her cleft lip and cleft palate treated. I recently happened to read a blog on cosmetic surgery whic spoke about the importance of getting cleft lips treated early. You have done your part, now leave the rest to God and wait for miracles to happen :)

  • elizabeth H - Little One is going to THRIVE! You can see love in her eyes!
    What a blessing she is!

One of my biggest concerns regarding tackling homeschooling was in the area of reading. I don’t know why the idea of teaching a child to read seemed so daunting. It might be due to my oldest son’s kindergarten teacher – she was amazing. And fun. And made reading so appealing to the kids. The ability to read opens so many doors for a child, for an adult. The power of reading can change a life. It changes many lives.

Seeing my boys read still blows my mind on most days, especially my younger two boys. It is such an incredible experience to watch a child go from learning to recognize letters and sounds to being able to read those same symbols on a page all jumbled line after line. It is simply amazing. If you are a parent or a teacher, I am sure you know what I mean!

My oldest has a deep love for reading. He wrote a paper this week about his favorite activity, which of course is reading. In it he quoted Helen Keller, “Reading is my utopia.” Her words ring so true for him. He is paving the way for his younger siblings. They follow his lead and are slowly discovering the joys between the covers of a book. It has not been an easy road. In fact, there were many days I thought my fears were coming true – that I could not teach my kids how to read. We’ve pressed on, we are still pressing on through frustrations.

My boys piled together yesterday with knights and detectives and a pig in a wig…and a little sister. Every day doesn’t look like this, but I am thankful for the few that do…the good days help me press on during the rough days.

This picture makes me laugh.  My oldest couldn’t handle not knowing what was going on in his brother’s book. He would read his brother’s book quickly, then read his own book while waiting for his brother to turn the page.

She likes to pretend to read for a few minutes…then she likes to distract. She is so funny – and she only has a handful of words. I can’t wait until her communication skills catch up with her personality. When she saw me pull out my camera, she wrapped her arm around his neck. I pretty much never ask my kids to pose, so it is really funny that she decided she should do this for a picture. She likes him….and she promptly wanted to see these pictures when I was done.3.14readers-43.14readers-53.14readers-63.14readers-73.14readers-83.14readers-9

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  • heather - the day i noticed my youngest reading for FUN not because he had to was one of the happiest i’ve ever had as a lover of the written word…i am glad i’m not alone finding that amazing :)

  • paige - i think it’s so cool how the big boys are seemingly unaware that you’re even there, with the camera no less & meanwhile, SHE is all about being in the moment as well. what cuties
    and yes, i love it when my girls choose to read. only a couple are voracious readers. one is just too social to sit still that long and deal with it and my youngest is finally finding books that she loves. thankfully.

  • Reesa Heilaman - I love reading your blog and watching your babies grow up!!! It seems like forever since you and Chris sat around my table with me and my brood on Sunday afternoons! But some days it seems like last week. You and Chris are such awesome parents! Glad we didn’t scare you off of having a large family, lol!!!!

  • Meg - The idea of teaching my kids ANY subject scares me! I guess that’s probably a fear any parent has going into home schooling.

  • Sandra - Ha! Little One is looking so much like her sister in those last few photos. Funny girls :)
    I love the reading pics of the boys! You become a better reader mainly through reading. They have a great teacher, I’m sure!

  • Gillian Hall - I love your blogs… the photos of your older two reading, totally engrossed in their books (or both books) is just fab. I love your world. Thank you for sharing, you are all of the wow adjectives!!x

  • jodi - Yes, yes and yes on the fear of teaching a child to read! I think Math scares most people, but as a math lover, that didn’t concern me at all…it was READING!! As someone who loves to read, I know how many doors it can open, and so want that for my children too! I am so thankful for good curriculum and what a powerful tool it’s been in teaching my oldest (finishing 1st grade this year). Every time I hear him read, I’m blown away at how much he’s learned and that I was the teacher…unbelievably amazing! Love seeing the pics of your boys reading & Little One too!

  • Heather - Love this! It fills my heart with gladness to my son enjoy reading so much and to watch him try and read back to us (he’s not even 2 yet, so he doesn’t know all the words, but can repeat some of his favorite book from memory). I’ve been an avid reader since I was small, so I love to see kids appreciate books and really dive into reading.

  • Lori - my little man is starting to really love books and it makes my heart burst when he asks to read all his books 9x each every night. I can’t help but happily oblige. i hope he loves words as much as your oldest. :)

  • angie - 2nd photo from the bottom – so funny!

    And yes, I wholeheartedly agree with everything you said about reading. It’s so easy to take for granted something like reading when there are so many in the world that don’t have the opportunity to ever learn! So sad. It’s such a gift. My daughter just yesterday asked to go to the library for new reads. I love watching her peruse the aisles and to see her excitement when she finds ones she wants to check out. I absolutely love story time before bed and that we can take turns reading to each other.

  • Susie - I always have a LOL moment when I see your kids in your photos. Specifically how they dress. I can never tell what the weather is outside! You must have a super heating system, because it’s early March and your #3 son is barefoot and in shorts! He’d fit in perfectly here in Israel!

    Nothing to do with their reading habits….which seem great from where I’m sitting:)

  • Susan - I so remember the days of fear as a new homeschooling mom but don’t be afraid. Go boldly into “formal teaching” because as parents, we are teachers. Amost everything our children learn from birth to school age is something they have learned from us as parents.
    One thing I learned is that reading parents produce reading children. So read to your children, but also let them observe you reading. It helps them realize that reading is how YOU are learning, even still. And that beyond learning, reading can be done for pure fun!

    What bit #2 on the foot? It looks like someone or something left a mark?! Ah, life with kids! Bliss!

    May God bless you and yours on this adventure called life!

  • AshleyAnn - Susan- It’s not a bite :)

  • Angela - My oldest is a reader too and I love it. The younger kids have just followed his lead and if there is ever down time they grab a book to read. It has made it easier on me to instill in all of them the love of reading. But the thought of homeschooling seems impossible. Way to go!

  • AnnMarie - I’m the oldest of eight kids. As a young kid, I was like most others – recess was my favorite subject and reading was mostly a bore. But that all changed in first grade when two girls in my class (who were reading on about a fifth-grade reading level) inspired me to read a certain book. I took it home to my mom and dad and announced I wanted to read it. It took roughly three months of reading with them every night after the other kids had gone to bed to finish it (and a special arrangement with the school librarian so I could keep it longer than two weeks), but I did it. Our family has been a book-crazy family ever since! To the point where grounding us from the library has been the most effective punishment our parents could give us, haha. The power of oldest children in setting the tone for the whole family is pretty strong. ^_^ I hope you have many more scenes like this while your kids are growing up!

  • Laura J - I remember the Hardy Boys era! Has your oldest tried Brian Jacques ‘Redwall’ series yet? My son was a huge reader too and loved them. They are more advanced reading(different dialects makes it trickier), but full of adventure. They made an animated tv series out of it that was very true to the story and very well done. My son also loved Brian Jacques other series ‘Castaways of the Flying Dutchman’. Maybe a bit scary yet for the littler guys, but I enjoyed that book too. I didn’t homeschool, but I used to read some of his favorites so we could discuss them. What wonderful days…. The good news is we still get to read the same book once in a while and discuss it!

  • heather - Your youngest is absolutely adorable! But I’ve got to say the pic of your oldest reading his brother’s book steals it for me. How flippin’ cute is that???

  • Jess Z. - I hope my children love to read as well (since I do!!), but it’s a scary challenge and one I’m not quite sure how to conquer. I hope my oldest (he’s only 5) loves to read like your oldest…imaginations can go anywhere when one reads books.

  • Kayla - Oh my goodness, the second picture from the bottom put the biggest smile on my face! Her little expression is too cute!!

  • Kimberly | Turning It Home - I became my son’s mother when he was already reading and now that my daughter is approaching reading age – I find myself nervous! My son was an early reader and today, at age 10, is a better reader than me! Which is ironic that you post this, since I just thought of asking you what books your son is into? I’m running out of good book suggestions for my son. :)

  • Eryn - She is SO CUTE! Love her little animated faces :)

  • Amy D - Thanks for sharing this… I think about taking my kids out of school one day and homeschooling, but the fear is so big for me too!!! Would you ever be able to share more about homeschooling, like what you guys do, how you balance several kids, the process in deciding on homeschooling? I hate how much of our day is just hurrying to get out the door, driving to and from school, and then a short time to play before it is time to tackle homework/dinner/bed. I’m still thinking about that post about how that is either one reason you chose homeschooling, or one awesome result, that your oldest has so much time to do the thing he loves most. Your blog and perspective on family & photographing your days is SUCH a blessing to me! Thanks again!

  • Cailan - We’re just taking off with reading here too! So now I’m curious what the boys are reading?

  • Maureen - These lovely photos were honey to my heart. My baby graduated 4 years ago,(!)which brought to a close 22 years of homeschooling for our family. I agree, reading, yikes!, every time. My oldest began on his own and was a rabid reader at 5. Each child was different, but our youngest, loved being read to but refused to learn. I took deep breaths and went with it. I read to him, his older siblings read to him and he did copy work, short sentences and scriptures. One day, out of the blue, he said, “Ok, mom, you can teach me to read now.” I was so relieved! When we sat down to start a book… he read it to me. Moral of story: Don’t sweat it if they balk. They are learning. For some kids the ‘formal’ teaching won’t work. Relax, wait, read, read, read, and let them write. It’ll happen.

  • Shelly Cunningham - I started homeschooling this year. Our twins are kindergartners, and I, too, have felt in awe as they have transitioned from letter sounds to reading words. Watching it feels magical. I cannot believe I taught them that!

  • Samantha - Ashley, thank you for sharing these moments of life with us, your readers. I often come on as a fellow mom of 3 boys to peek at what you’re creating or sharing or photographing. It’s a delight to see your boys reading together as our 7 & 10 year old do- of course, our eldest reads a page of his brothers book quickly and moves back to his own book! Loved that. I’ve been praying about homeschooling and asking the Lord to confirm to me His call and leading on this. Thank you for sharing your heart. You are refreshing and your ministry, your children and readers, are blessed by your outpouring. Agape sweet sister. Love from Southern California.

  • Alessandra - We are all avid readers in our family and I hope with all my strength that even the small J will love the books and that they can accompany him at every moment of his life, because there are books to play with in happy times, books in which to take refuge in moments of pain, books that help us understand and books that teach us to accept life.
    At the moment Snow White is at the top of the league, we have to read and re-read it constantly especially the part “… Mirror mirror on the wall who is the fairest of them all?”

    Adorable your little bookworms!

  • Erin Kloosterman - As a 9th grade English teacher, I felt like singing when I read your post! It’s so important to read, and I can definitely tell almost immediately which of my kids read outside of school and which do not. You can see the books reflected in their vocabulary, their reading comprehension, and their willingness to challenge themselves with new literature! Isn’t it great that something so fun, like escaping into another realm for a while, does so much to expand the brain?

    I know when we have kids, my husband can’t wait to introduce our kids to adventure stories like Hatchet, My Side of the Mountain, Sign of the Beaver, Julie of the Wolves, or Island of the Blue Dolphins. Maybe your oldest would be interested in those titles, if he hasn’t plowed through them all already! :)

  • Stephanie - omg… these pics are SOOOO cute! I love watching your daughter blossom within your family. With each picture you can see her growing more confident and you can really sense how comfortable, happy and LOVED she feels. It must be awesome to grow up with such cool brothers and sister.

  • Taylor - So adorable! I love those last pictures of you little ones together.


  • Julie - I used to feel the same – that reading is such joy and a gift I wanted to share with my children. Then God gave us our oldest – who has a learning difference that made reading incredibly hard for her. We didn’t catch on until well into second grade after most of the damage had been done to her confidence. Our second can read but has yet to find the joy I try to show them. And then there’s our third – who we’ve started before kindergarten with a therapist to avoid his sisters path. (And our 4th still speaks Chinese – I joked to our principal we have no idea about her.) Reading is pushed so hard now on little ones – and what I’ve had to learn painfully is despite all my efforts that it’s not what He has planned, and that’s ok. The bookworm in me has had to embrace the thought that reading is not everything (I can’t believe I just typed that!) I don’t have the answer as to what ireading means to my kids – but I pray that someday the tide will turn and it won’t be such a burden to them.

  • Christina - I can already see her personality shining through in those last few photos. I can just imagine the little girl she is going to be these next few years. I hear you on the reading part. My son is in kindergarten this year and I had thought about homeschooling, but ultimately decided not to since he’s an only child, and we do have an amazing school. But, that is what worried me most. I volunteer in the classroom two days a week and it’s been amazing to see the process of learning letters to reading words. It amazes me to see him reading this year.

  • Mary - I’m a high school English teacher. One of my favourite students-teacher moments is when I sit in front of my class during “silent reading time” and secretly watch my kids be immersed in a book they got to choose! It is totally magical and sometimes I just look at their faces and smile, knowing that I am giving them the opportunity to find joy in reading :)

  • Denise L. - The second-to-the-last photo caught me off guard. A bark of laughter escaped me. I am going to use it as a background on my laptop, if I may. I am going through a very difficult period in my 54-yr-old life (both parents have cancer right now) and I need as many joyful and positive things surrounding me as possible.

    I’ve said it before, the peace and joy and thought provoking things you bring up in this space are ways that He uses to feed me. Thanks so much for sharing, Chris and Ashley.

  • Lynne Pearce - Awesome photos! So great to see little ones enjoying books (and each other) :)

  • Tiffany - So great to see this post. I have a 10 year old son, 8 year old daughter and 3 year old son. I believe God has put on my heart to homeschool for some time now… however.. they are still in our neighborhood public school. God is making big changes in our life lately.. we will be building a home (with 2 acres) and moving out of the downtown okc neighborhood. Anyway… all this to say I am in need of courage. It scares me to think about pulling the kids out of all they have known. Strangely enough.. it seems God has been preparing their hearts. They both are so open to the idea. It truly is me who is lacking the courage. I just wanted to know if you had some bible verses that helped you in your decision… or any words of wisdom. I love your blog and it encourages me often. Blessings….

  • Paige Rodriguez - I just LOVE her little feet!!!

  • Danielle - I was pretty relieved when my boys learned to read, big weight off my shoulders! Adorable pictures!

  • Carrie - I love that he is reading over his shoulder. Two books at once. Genius. :)