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Ashley

Family

Traveling the Road Less Traveled: Adoption Update

We had a call about a placement for adoption last weekend. We were ecstatic. We jumped through hoops to get our work stuff covered, make plans to take our children out of school for the day, hired a pet sitter, packed our bags and drove seven hours to Texas. Our adrenaline was through the roof! This was the call we had been waiting for. We were SO hopeful and enthusiastic to meet our match.

But it just didn’t work out.

The whole entire story isn’t ours to tell. It involves a child and his family.

The story is covered in a great deal of grief and pain. The emotion we just dove into was all over the place, from joyous to the deepest basement of sadness, and that’s just it, we dove RIGHT into it. We were a mess last week. And honestly we still are.

We are doubting our adoption journey. We are hugging our bio children tighter.  We are finding a way to regroup and move forward. I never knew how hard adoption would be.

Sure I knew the paperwork was hard. I knew the waiting was hard. But I never knew the emotion that a failed match would bring.

A friend of mine said this to me this week: “It’s emotional because it’s emotions you’ve never experienced! It opened my eyes up to a whole different world… so many people hurting and needing love!” And that exactly sums up everything I’m feeling about ALL of it right now.

For our friends that have been praying- thank you! Can we ask you to keep praying? We had a glimpse into the life of a boy on his journey to find his forever family and he needs your prayers even more than we do.

 

Family

Roughing it at a Horse Farm

Hey hey! We are well into summer and I’ve had a little hiatus from this site. Honestly I thought summer would be a time of relaxation but it’s been busier than ever. Last month we visited a horse farm and we had the best time. I wanted to share our experience if you’d like to see!

I found the farm on www.farmstayus.com, a site housing farm stay experiences and guest ranches. We wanted to be close to the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee, but we also wanted to have access to restaurants and entertainment in case we wanted to escape the work life of the farm.

We made the drive from Memphis to our first stop Knoxville, a city we’ve never visited, so we stayed one night to explore the town. One of the benefits of the Knoxville visit was stopping at their Trader Joe’s for groceries- we don’t have one yet in Memphis and we are extremely jealous. We hit a few spots near the downtown area including the playground and observatory tower where we caught a panorama view of the city and lots of rocks to climb on.

We also got in a good family workout in the hotel gym!

How amazing is this milkshake? The kids were pretty stoked about it and then, after lunch, they got to run through one of the fountains before we made our way to the horse farm right outside of Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

The farm is a working farm with a breathtaking view of the Smoky Mountains.

We grabbed the keys to our cabin, set down our luggage (After getting some goats out of our truck! They had made their way into the vehicle upon seeing open doors while we unloaded luggage). We met the owner at her truck for some post afternoon work.

We loaded into her pick-up truck with supplies that included horse food, vitamins pooper scoopers and manure bucket and started making the round to visit her four stable stops to get to work. This routine occurs twice a day, mornings at 6:00 am and afternoons at 5:30 pm. Guests are are encouraged to participate in farm chores but it’s not mandatory.

On our second day my husband and son were signed up for a half day ride so we headed out at 6 am for chores, similar to the ones we had completed the evening before. When we finished those, it was time to get the horses ready for the ride. This included brushing the horses, picking dirt out of their hooves, and saddling them up. Finally my son and husband took off with the owner and her helper, voicing out a few “yehaws” by our cabin so my daughter and I could wave them on for the start of their journey. This was my sons first ride and he absolutely loved it! My daughter even got a short ride in at the end of their session, just down the long driveway, and she was so happy to be included.

The next day we headed over to Gatlinburg where we hiked one of the short trails to Laurel Falls. We saw lots of bugs and insects and the people ahead of us saw a mamma bear and her cub. There’s so much to do in Gatlinburg but we really wanted to experience the Smoky Mountains in all of its beauty.

On day three at the farm my son wanted to ride again so I agreed to be his riding buddy. We left at 6 am to do our farm chores and headed out for our ride where we directed our horses under short tree limbs, over rocky stream paths, and around snakes! We played games around barrels and put leaves on the backs of our horses to see which horse could steadily keep their leaf on their backside.

After our ride we went into Gatlinburg again to check out an aquarium, ride the Ferris wheel, grab some pizza, and check out the local shops.

During our stay, I should mention that we also got lots of time with the other animals, including the donkeys, goats, a pig, bunnies, chickens, cats and of course, the horses. We were instructed to keep our dinner scraps and feed them to the animals after dinner.

At one point my daughter was feeding the mamma goat some of the goat pellets and the goat was being finicky, wouldn’t take the food from her hand, but would eat it out of mine. We gave the feeding another try, and to my surprise, that mamma goat head-butted my daughter right in her forehead. My daughter wasn’t hurt physically, but she loves animals and her feelings were extremely bruised. She became so angry that she blasted that goat with all the profanities a two-year-old can possibly have in their vocabulary and she vowed that she wouldn’t be feeding that goat her dinner leftovers for the rest of the trip! We laughed and laughed about her boldness standing up for herself against that goat.

Before we left, we grabbed some memory cards from the little store on property, which featured actual pictures of all the animals on the property. We also snagged a coloring book which doubled as instructions for safely dealing with horses. My kids are still looking at the memory card pictures of all their animal friends from our trip.

Overall, we had such a fun vacation. It rained every day that we were there, but the rain never dampened our plans. The weather seemed to lighten up at exactly the right times whenever we had plans outdoors. The trip was relatively inexpensive, a reasonable drive from home, and the accommodations were perfect. Our kids can’t wait to head back to visit again. My son did so well with his two-day horse riding lessons that we are considering enrolling him in lessons here at home.

Have you been vacationing this summer? How have you been relaxing this summer?

 

 

 

 

Family, Uncategorized

Friday Favorites {5.17.18}

Hey hey, it’s Friday! We have graduations, end of work fiscal year crunch and last week of school all crammed into the next few days- whew! I’m ready for pool weather and vacation, and selfishly I can’t wait to take the week off from making school lunches.

This week I’m sharing my favorites! Take a look if you’d like to see.

There is nothing more that I love than a clean home. That’s why I love, love Clean Mama! Follow her on Instagram too and she’ll get you inspired to clean your house from top to bottom through her daily and weekly challenges.

I think I’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating. I am totally and completely sucked into the world traveler bloggers- the ones who sell everything they own and travel the world. Right now my favorite family is the Bucket List Family and they recently posted a new enlightening, but extremely frightening, video of the father swimming with tiger sharks (uncaged). Would you do it?

The royal wedding is this weekend- eek! Are you watching? Here’s a cheat sheet on the royal family tree with details on the succession line. And just in case you’re looking for a hat to celebrate the occasion, here are the Biggest and Best Royal Wedding hats of all time.

Isn’t this one interesting?

 

This summer we are taking the kids to their first waterpark- they’re finally old enough. Check out this list of the best waterparks around the US.

Doesn’t this slide in the Enchanted Forest Water Safari look like so much fun!

Plus, what a cute kids 4th of July shirt! I’m ready to put all the things red, white and blue in my shopping cart and run full speed into a vacation sunset.

Finally, if you’re staying home for Memorial week, check out Real Simple’s tips for having a staycation.

Have a fun weekend!

~Ashley

Family, Uncategorized

Be a Piece of Our Puzzle

Adoption is puzzling so this fundraiser is fitting! We are home study approved and waiting to complete our family with one more child through adoption. Right now we’re on the list with an agency in Texas and preparing for placement with a fundraiser, because ya’ll adoption is expensive! With fees upwards of $40,000 or more, and an unpaid maternity, due to medical leave being out of the equation with adoption, we thought we’d put together a fun fundraiser. We could get a call about our child any day!

We can’t wait to bring baby P home from Texas, so a Tennessee state puzzle was the perfect fit since we just love our state.

Here’s how it works:

  • Purchase a puzzle piece
  • We’ll put your name on the back of the piece you’ve purchased
  • When the puzzle is complete, we will frame it and hang it in the baby’s room
  • Puzzle pieces are $30 and if you’d like to contribute you can make payment to our YouCaring page or through paypal. If you’re interested in making a large contribution, email me directly and we can work to accommodate a tax receipt.

The puzzle has 150 pieces and we have 145 left to sell!

We can’t wait for this child to be loved on by our community of friends and family and we’re excitedly awaiting our match and placement.

XO ~Ashley

PS: Why we’re adopting.

PSS: Our adoption profile book.

Family

What do you do on maternity leave?

A few years ago when I had my daughter I was able to take a four month maternity leave, the maximum allowed leave for my state. It was glorious, exhausting, and much needed quality time, not only with my newborn, but with both my kids.

A lot of people asked me, “What did you do? Didn’t you get bored?” I contemplated my maternity leave “expidition” for a few months. Enter the maternity bucket list- a loose list of accomplishments I’d set out to achieve over the four month entirety.

41 countries rank higher than the US in the paid maternity leave department. Estonia rocks the charts with residents receiving 87 weeks of paid maternity leave- that’s over a year-and-a-half of paid leave!

”The U.S. is the only country among 41 nations that does not mandate any paid leave for new parents, according to data compiled by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The smallest amount of paid leave required in any of the other 40 nations is about two months.”-pewresearch.org

Since I set out to fund my leave almost entirely (my work and short term medical leave covered roughly 6 weeks of my time), it was important to me that I had a handle on how I spent my time.

My bucket list was a compilation of activities that I had a hard time getting to as a working mom along with activities that would stimulate my new baby and my toddler, but with additional bonus time for me. I also added some mom things that were otherwise hard to pull-off while I was working (i.e. making a Valentine treat bag for my son’s entire toddler class and bringing homemade treats to class parties).

I made lunch and coffee dates with friends about two days a week. I joined a gym when my infant was six weeks old and exercised every day at the same time for an hour (the childcare was amazing and they rocked my baby for the full hour while I worked my booty off losing all my baby weight). I went to the library and checked out kids’ books and read them out loud to my baby at home. The variety of books kept me engaged and I’d always heard talking to your baby had encouraging benefits. It was also glorious not rushing out of the house on the days I kept my oldest home from school. On these days I scheduled lounge days and made a point to stay put inside. I have fond memories of my time off- it was such a sweet time that I’ll never get back. I really enjoyed those four months and I had no regrets about missing out on something I would’ve wanted to accomplish because I had my list! I’m always encouraging moms that can afford it to take their full leave time!

Here’s a rough outline of my bucket list. Obviously, we accomplished some of these things after my postpartum medical time, because a few list items require more activity than others.

How did you spend your maternity leave? Did you make a list?

~Ashley

  • Go to the Zoo
  • Start a baby book for my daughter
  • Go to the Library (I read a LOT of books to my infant over maternity leave)
  • Join and go to the gym (free childcare)
  • Organize closets in the house
  • Meet friends for lunch and coffee
  • Join a mom’s group
  • Read
  • Organize my toddler’s artwork
  • Use Panera order ahead
  • Visit the best coffee shops in the city
  • Learn how to make a new dish
  • Get the kids passports
  • Make homeless care packages
  • Stock the freezer with premade meals to utilize when I return to work
  • Stock up on breast milk
  • Make Valentine treat bags
  • Take lots of walks around the city
Uncategorized

The Perfect Group Gift

It’s the end of the school year, and these I’m always running to the store or shopping online for some sort of gift- teachers, graduates, boss’ birthday, birthday parties. End of the year work and school gifts can be especially tricky. Who coordinates and how much should you collect? It can be a real head scratcher. This year, I signed up to be my son’s class mom, and low and behold, I realized this December that that I was responsible for coordinating fifteen Christmas gifts for teachers, assistants, and aftercare teachers on top of my regular Christmas shopping. It had me feeling a tad bit overwhelmed.

Then when my son’s teacher recently announced her retirement, I remembered a fun way to coordinate a gift- group favorites! One person coordinates the basket and asks others to bring one of their favorite items. You can stick with a theme, such as favorite food or favorite beauty product, or you can make it more general, just bring your favorite item. Friends or co-workers bring the items and the organizer assembles the basket, displaying all the favorites together from the team, and viola- simple group gift is complete. It’s an easy idea because a lot of times you’re all stocked up on your favorite items and tend to have extra, or your favorites are right along your weekly path (can be found along your weekly shopping trip or at a nearby store). No one person gets stuck holding the bag on coming up with the idea or being responsible for the shopping.

One year for Christmas we organized a favorite’s basket for a boss complete with a container of homemade pancake mix, favorite nuts, cloth napkins, a notebook and some delicate cookies from Brussels. Our boss loved it and she said she tasked her teenage girls with making the pancakes for the family on Christmas morning.

Next time you’re having headache about organizing a group gift, propose a favorite’s basket.

Food & Wine, Uncategorized

Friday Favorites {5.4.18}

Hey hey it’s Friday! And this weekend it’s Cinco de Mayo so what could be better than an excuse to eat tacos and drink margs? We’re having friends over for dinner and I’m praying the weather is magical. Here are some fun/interesting things around the web that I’m currently loving. I hope that wherever you are, your weekend plans are just as magical.

Since it’s Cinco de Mayo I thought I’d share two of my favorite recipes. These margaritas and these barbacoa tacos are helping me live my best life.

Just in case you were wondering: Do hats cause baldness?

What??? They are banning sunscreen in Hawaii!

Memphis, TN (our hometown) made the list, amoungst other spots, of top places to visit in May!

We have been watching Planet Earth on Netflix with the kids- my daughter asks 1.5 million questions about all the animals. She also narrates the entire show. (now the monkey is climbing, oh wait, now he is jumping- hehe).

Also, I cannot stop watching Narcos. Can’t stop! I was mildly obsessed with Pablo Escobar’s life before the show, but now I can’t stop googling him. (No one else googles moderate to extreme psycho killers and kidnappers when they can’t sleep? Just me then?)

I’m also reading this book.

Memphis debuted it’s first food hall a few months ago. Do you have one in your hometown? Think Eataly in New York. Here are a few new ones that opened over the last few years- 17 Most Anticipated Food Halls.

A food hall is “a far cry from the suburban shopping mall food courts that hit their stride in the 1970s and are now falling into decline, these multi-faceted, typically indoor markets showcasing a variety of local food vendors and artisans have long been a tradition in Europe — and they’re finally hitting it big in America.”– Eater online magazine.

 

I had my first nutella cookie this week- honestly I don’t know how life was worth living before that moment. Here’s a fun nutella cookie recipe I’ll be trying.

And here’s a little bit of life lately that I shared earlier this week.

Have a lovely weekend.

~Ashley

 

 

Uncategorized

Life Lately {4.30.18}

Hey hey (sad face) it’s Monday. We had such a beautiful weekend and we hated for it to end.
Here’s a little bit about what we’ve been up to if you’d like to see…
Baseball has been rained out almost every weekend, and on the off weekends the fields have been wet, BUT my son finally had his first game and my husband made his debut as a coach. My daughter and I cheered them on!
We made the most of the sunny weather and had a little picnic at the park, played some corn hole, followed later by ice cream.
The kids are obsessed with picking flowers (ahem weeds) and putting them in their hair.

We have a birds nest in my son’s favorite climbing tree. Downfall, he can’t climb the tree, but the upside is the kids have seen the eggs hatch into birds and we get to check out feeding time while the mother bird works her butt off finding worms for her little family. My son keeps asking- “where’s the daddy bird???” I mean honestly, where is that guy?
We went to our first baseball game of the season, and the kids got high-fives and waves from the Redbirds mascot Rocky.
 
We rode the new carousel at the Memphis Children’s Museum (which is actually a restored antique).
We booked our next vacation on a farm. My son is getting stoked about horse-back-riding and my daughter can’t wait to see the bunny farm.
Earlier this month, we checked out the Memphis ballet production of Peter Pan, and the kids won’t stop talking about. (So much so, we ended up watching the movie Hook last week and now they’re more obsessed). We get all these questions (daily): Where is Captain Hook, what happened to his hand, why does the crocodile make that ticking sound, can you believe the crocodile ate Captain Hook???
We have been taking advantage of “kids eat free” spots in Memphis.
(Belly Acres- Kids Eat Free Wednesdays)
Finally, my husband and I had a date night where we got to sleep in our own house for the evening (and sleep IN the next morning) without kids! We tried out a new spot for drinks- Carolina Watershed and we love it!
       
That pretty much sums up our life lately. We are so happy our weather here is starting to act springlike. Only a few more weeks of school and its summer!
Career & Resources, Family, Uncategorized

Friday Favorites {4.27.18}

Happy weekend. What are you up to? We have a new rock wall gym in our town and I’m dying to try it. The last time I’ve been rock wall climbing was in college- we used to have on in our campus gym. Have you been climbing?

We just signed up for Filter Easy and our filter came yesterday! We have not changed our air filter in over a year- eeks! It is time!

Building a business from the ground up is for the birds 

Have you tried trunk club? My husband and I both ordered a box this month. Amongst other things, these shoes were in his trunk and this dress was in mine!

How pretty is this hoop wreath?

We just booked our next vacation on a farm– would you do it?

Now that it’s Friday- what ticked you off this week?

AND we have this family movie on repeat- it’s so cute! We can’t stop watching it- makes me want to travel to Mexico again- pronto!

Finally, the article that made me cry happy tears. Human compassion at its finest.

Are you up to anything fun this weekend? I hope it’s a great one!

Family, Food & Wine, Uncategorized

Get Your Farm On

We are exploring vacations and I stumbled upon this site: www.farmstayus.com

A few years ago we actually stayed on a bee farm in Big Sur, California and it was one of the greatest vacations we’ve ever booked.

Every morning we woke up to peek outside and watch the bee workers outside in their large white, head-to-toe, beekeeper attire, tending to their early morning duties. Each evening we watched the sun set while we overlooked the Pacific Ocean from our elevated deck chairs just off the side deck of our living area. And during the day we spent our time hiking, and exploring and hoping into eco-friendly restaurants and delicious hometown bakeries.

We received fresh eggs and honey, composted our waste for the chickens, picked fresh lemons, limes and oranges, and walked the redwood forest trail on the property, a path the owners had cleared themselves. Perched on the claw foot tub, was a homemade bar of lavender soap that filled the entire cottage with an unforgettable, invigorating, aroma.I’m not so sure our experience will be the same at another farm, but we’re anxious to experience nature, let the kids interact with animals, and help educate them on some of the practices that help bring food to our table.

Would you farm on your next vacation? Where would you go?