A Wonderful Christmas

I hope you all had the most wonderful Christmas. We had a fabulous day with family. Usually Amelia goes right to bed on Christmas Eve, but this year I think the excitement just got to her. She went to bed but couldn't fall asleep for hours. Santa came and left her some great things. Christmas morning we packed up all of our gifts and took them over to my grandma's to open with my family. I love how, even though we are all adults now, my sisters and I still all want to spend Christmas morning together. We went to my aunt and uncle's house later in the day and had an amazing dinner. We had a gift exchange and played games. It was an incredible day. The ornament pictured below (the third photo) was our gift from Amelia. She made it for us at school. It was my favorite part of our tree this year. 

Ashley Elizabeth

Elf on the Shelf Reindeer

It's that time of year when a tiny little elf dressed in red and white shows up at our home. Amelia gets so excited when Spirit comes back. I'm anxious to see what sort of mischief he will be up to this year. Our house is a lot smaller than in the past so he won't have as much room to cause trouble.

Yesterday he brought a new friend with him. Have you seen the Elf on the Shelf reindeer? He is cute. I wasn't quite sure what the story was about, but I figured Amelia would love him. We sat down tonight and read the book. It was really cute and reading it to her just made me appreciate the age she is at that much more. The book talks about how the reindeer comes with the elf, but he is different than the elf. She can snuggle him and give him love, unlike the elf who we can't touch. The book explains that on Christmas Eve, once she is asleep, the reindeer will turn into a real reindeer and leave our home to go help Santa. The little sparkle she got in her eyes when we read the story brought a smile to my face. She had to call my mom and sisters immediately to tell them about her new friend. If you are a family that has an elf visitor this time of year, you should check out the little reindeer.
This is not a sponsored post. I'm just sharing my opinion on the elf pet reindeer that is in our home this year. 
Ashley Elizabeth

Christmas Flashback in photos

One of my favorite things to do is look at old photos. It's always enjoyable. Here are a few Christmas photos from years back.
Erica and I
Getting Christmas trees has always been a fun family event
check out our hot velvet floral dresses that blend in with my Aunt's furniture
Erica and mom
Erica and I
Grace, Santa and I
Grace and I

And a photo from Amelia's first Christmas
Ashley Elizabeth

Christmas Trees and the Civil War

I love this time of year. We headed out Sunday to get our Christmas trees. I was supposed to downsize our tree this year since we are living in a significantly smaller home, but I sort of failed to do that. Thankfully we didn't have to bust out the chainsaw inside of the house this year to remove several feet of the tree (like last year). It fit perfectly and only takes up about 1/3 of our living room. Amelia's tree is so darling. Unfortunately this might be her final year with a real tree. Damn allergies.

How cute is she helping haul out her own tree!!

We went to the Civil War game this past weekend. It's the biggest rivalry game in Oregon college football. We cheer on Oregon State, but unfortunately the University of Oregon won. Even though it was ridiculously cold out and my coat and seat got barfed on by some overly drunk guy, the night was a blast. My mom, sisters and I all went and then my cousin and his girlfriend were there as well. We rode down together, went out to dinner and had a great time!

Amelia headed back to school on Monday after having 9 days off. I can't wait for her to be on Christmas break. I love having her around. This next week we will be decorating our house and doing some major crafting.

This month is an incredibly crazy one for us. Amelia has Nutcracker performances both Friday and Saturday this week and dance practice every day until then. Sunday we are doing a fun family thing which I plan to fully blog about. Oh, and my sister is getting married in less than two weeks! My baby sister is about to be a wife! Their wedding is going to be beautiful! I can't wait. So that's a quick recap of our weekend and the exciting things I'm looking forward to! 
Ashley Elizabeth

Giving Thanks every day of the year

I read this saying a couple of years ago and it is something that has stayed with me. There are so many things in this world that I take for granted and reading this really made me think about what I would do without all of the things that I have been blessed with. Even the small things. My daughter and I often pray together and I reference this saying when teaching her the importance of showing appreciation and giving thanks for what He has given us. I know praying isn't for everyone, but everyone should reflect on their lives and, in whatever way they choose, give thanks and be thankful.

As Thanksgiving approaches my social media feeds fill up with posts from friends and family members sharing what they are most thankful for. Reading their posts puts a smile on my face. Some of the things I read are funny, some are sweet, some pull at my heartstrings and some make me want to be a better person. Remember though that appreciating the things you have been given and giving thanks for the people, things, experiences, memories and lives we have shouldn't just happen once a year. Remember to be thankful every day. One day you might wake up without the blessings you had yesterday. Never take anything for granted. 

This year I have so many things to be thankful for. We've had both a wonderful year, and a somewhat difficult year. It is hard, in the midst of things not going our way, to not get bogged down with negative thoughts. A few times I had to step back and truly examine my life from an outsiders perspective and remember that I have an incredibly wonderful life. Things might not always happen the way I want them to, but I believe everything happens for a reason.

This holiday season I encourage each of you to tell those around you why you are thankful for them. Let them know how much they mean to you and what it is about them that makes you feel so blessed to have them in your life. Give to those less fortunate. Whether it's buying a stranger a cup of coffee, volunteering at a shelter or soup kitchen, buying a toy for a child who might not otherwise get one or donating food and clothes to those in need, do something nice for someone who might not have as much as you. Another thing I've read somewhere is that those with less are usually the first to give. I've witnessed this first hand. It is easy to help others and the outcome is so rewarding. You might just become the very thing they thank God for at night. 
Ashley Elizabeth

November thus far

Today we went to our first parent/teacher conference with Amelia. She is doing so well in school and her teacher had only great things to say about her. She's such a kind little girl and I was so glad to hear she gets along so well with every single kid in her class and always does what she is supposed to when she is supposed to. I am always proud of our girl, but hearing such wonderful compliments just made my heart happy. We're doing something right! She gets a day of crafting fun tomorrow as a treat for her excellent conference.

Have I ever mentioned how much I despise moving??? Well, I do. I hate it with a passion and we have moved twice in the past six months. We are finally all moved into the new house and I'm trying to get us unpacked as quickly as possible. Our current house is about half the size of the house we have been living in for the past couple of years, so a good majority of our stuff remains in storage. The bonus to this move is that we are closer to Amelia's school. It was a real drag driving back and forth five days a week. We have more down time, Amelia gets to sleep in and we are so close that I can drive back and forth quickly on days I volunteer.

Here is what we've been up to since my last post...

Mark and I celebrated 8 years of togetherness earlier this month. I love that man so much and I can't wait to see what our future has in store for us.

Erica, my cousin Deana, my cousin Kristin and I went to an OSU game. I love my beavers!!!

We went to an auction to benefit Amelia's school and it was amazing! Each class was asked to create a project that would be raffled off. This was Amelia's class project. Yes, kindergarten kids created this. Each child painted a different section. To say their teachers are incredibly artistic is an understatement. They are incredible!!! This lovely piece of artwork went for $2200.00!!!! Oh, and I forgot to mention that the auction theme was masquerade madness!! Yep, we got to wear masks and dress up in fancy clothes. It was held at a gorgeous golf course, the food was amazing and the money was flying out of the wallets... all for her school. A wonderful event!

So... I photographed a birth and it was the coolest! Well, the baby was born via c-section, but I got to be there in the recovery room and shot some gorgeous photos of this baby girl's first moments in this world. My jaw seriously hurt from smiling so much, no joke!

I also got to shoot my first maternity session. It was so fun! and I can't wait to see the baby girl when she arrives (she's past her due date).

I also took Amelia's fall photos. I'm really happy with how they turned out, even though it was the windiest day we've had in a very very long time. I'm in awe lately of how grown up she is looking. She is seriously gorgeous! and she is now missing two teeth.

Amelia has all week off and I'm so excited! I love having her home and I have some fun stuff planned for us. She has also been busy with Nutcracker rehearsals. I am so excited for this year's performance. She has two parts and we will get to see a little more of her on stage.

We brought Rudy to our house a few days after we moved. He has been so lovey and hasn't left us alone since. These two rub noses... cutest thing ever!

I'm excited for Thanksgiving. We have family coming into town that we haven't spent Thanksgiving with in years!! It is going to be so much fun. I hope you all enjoy spending time with your families!
Ashley Elizabeth

Bookfest in Bed

It's been a long time since I've shared some of our favorite books that Amelia and I have been reading. We try to read nightly and have so many books that we love. It makes me smile that Amelia is getting old enough to understand the more humorous books. She laughs so hard that she sometimes cries... and that makes my heart happy. I really recommend you check out these amazing reads and share them with your kids.

Dream Animals is such a cute little book. Amelia and I read it almost every single night. It's not a long story, or one with a complex story line, but we just love it. The illustrations are beautiful and the story is whimsical. I was excited when I learned this author is located in Portland, Oregon (local for us). Emily Winfield Martin has two other children's stories and I am eager to purchase those as well. I'm sure they will also be added to our list of regular reads.

When I saw this book in the clearance bin at JoAnn's I had to buy it. I mean, it has such a cute cover and was only $1.50. I was surprised at how sweet this story is. It's about an elderly woman who acts as a grandma figure to all of the neighborhood children. It has a unique ending that the kids will enjoy, but parents will understand the deeper meaning and maybe shed a tear.

Fancy Nancy stories are both cute and funny. Amelia has had Fancy Nancy books since she was born, but only recently became interested in them. Erica bought her a set of them that we read often. Definitely full of girly fun!

This book is just plain silly! If your child enjoys funny books, then I definitely recommend this one. There is a whole series of them, but this is the one we've read the most. Amelia enjoys it.

We've been venturing into some really big books with complex story lines. Amelia's class walks to the public library every week and the kids all get to check out books. I love that they are learning how to use the public library, and the selections she makes always surprise me. She usually chooses one or two children's stories (such as the ones I've shared) and then she chooses books that are more documentary style that I could see older children checking out. We've read all about historic horses, a man's journey into the wild to study wolves (National Geographic) and many more highly educational books. I really think it's important to encourage a child's love of reading from really early on.

What are some of your favorite children's books that you've recently read?

What are some books from your own childhood that you enjoyed?

Ashley Elizabeth

What happened to October?

October came and left in a flash. We had a great month, but our calendar was jam packed and I'm ready for things to calm down a bit (which won't be until sometime in January). I'm struggling with getting back to feeling normal again. I'm exhausted even when I'm sleeping. I'm sluggish and having a hard time focusing on things that need to be accomplished. And I really just wish there were three of me. My amazing cousin Deana reached out to me and gave wonderful advice on things I could do to feel better and Mark plans on prescribing me an herbal formula so I'm hopeful that things will start to change and I'll continue to be patient as my body recovers. I'm so thankful to all who have called, text, emailed and Facebook messaged me in regards to my miscarriage, and to those who continue to check in on us (you know who you are and I love you so much). It has been very difficult for me, more so than I tend to show, and to know that there are people out there praying for us and thinking about our family really touches my heart.

I haven't been around the blog much because of our hectic life so I thought I'd share some of my favorite October highlights today.

My mom bought a four game set of tickets to the Oregon State Beavers games and we went to our first game this month. It was so much fun! I had a blast with my mom and sisters and I'm looking forward to the other two games I am going to... one being the civil war game!!! Go Beavs!!!

My best friend came home for a visit!!! I always get so excited when she tells me she's coming. Fortunately I was taking her brother's senior photos the day after she arrived so I got to hang with her right away. She always has so many family members to catch up with, yet she always makes time for me. Honestly, she lives on the complete opposite side of the country and I see her more than friends who live here. Even without kids of her own she gets my life and that I have a little one who demands my time and attention, and she always makes sure to work with me and my schedule so we can catch up. She even planned a picnic tea party one time so that I didn't have to find a babysitter. Oh and I love getting texts like this.

Another major highlight of the month... I ordered a brand new camera!! Mine was old and my favorite lens decided to quit working, so I took a major leap into the world of Canon and said goodbye to my long time love of Sony dslrs. There is a slight learning curve, but I'm getting the hang of the new camera. Unfortunately we haven't had the best weather to test it out. Gotta love this Oregon rain. With the new camera came my official launch of my photography business and I'm so excited for this adventure. 

I chaperoned a field trip with Amelia's class. We hopped on public transportation and headed to the police station where the kids met with a judge and a police officer to learn about what all their jobs entail. It was very informative and the kids asked some really cute questions. They also loved the k9 that the police officer brought it. 

Everyone in our house came down with a nasty cold, and Amelia is still battling the cough. We've had to use the inhaler quite a bit and my poor girl hasn't been herself. Thankfully I see her improving so I'm hoping it will be gone soon. 

We finally got to see our little Kyler again. The last time we saw him was the last day I babysat him at the end of May. We have really missed that little guy, and I've really missed visiting with his mom. We all grabbed lunch one day and caught up. I can't believe how much he has changed in just the few months since I stopped watching him. Kids really do grow up too fast. 

Amelia's school was asking for a parent volunteer to photograph events and write articles on behalf of the school. Of course when I saw that I immediately volunteered... because I apparently don't volunteer enough? haha. I'm really excited that I'm able to be so involved at the school. In October alone I volunteered 17.25 hours (well, Mark did a couple of those)! The school is wonderful and I'm so happy with our experience in private school thus far. You'll probably see a post on this soon.

Halloween was a wonderful day. Amelia's school celebrated All Saints Day and the children dressed up as a saint of their choice. Amelia went as Saint Kateri and she looked darling. It helps that our family is Native American and my mom had a lot of accessories she could wear. She had originally wanted to be Zarina from the new Tinker Bell movie, but once she saw what her Indian costume was going to look like, she changed her mind. I was so thankful to only have to make one costume. I took photos at a school event that morning and then volunteered at the class party in the afternoon. It was fun visiting with the other parents and seeing how excited all of the kids were. We decided to trick-or-treat in my grandma's neighborhood and spent the evening with my family. It was a great day.

Mark and I have been taking advantage of the two weekdays he has off per month and have been going on day dates. It's nice to spend some time together. We haven't done that a lot lately and I have really enjoyed it. I'm sure once we move closer into Portland we will take my mom up on her offer to keep Amelia so we can go out in the evening once in a while. Amelia loves spending the night with my mom, and my mom loves having her spend the night so it's a win for everyone.

November is an even busier month. Every weekend is booked, and most weekdays have something marked on the calendar as well. We move this weekend. We have family photos. Amelia's school has a major fundraiser. We have football games to attend. I have some photography sessions booked. Amelia has ballet three times a week now to prepare for the Nutcracker performance. and I could keep going. I don't know how we are going to get it all done. Felling overwhelmed, but excited for everything coming up.

Ashley Elizabeth