I’ve been transferring pictures from my phone and camera to my computer and came across a couple I knew I wanted to have here too. While we were out of town for Christmas, we stayed with Chris’ family at a location with a pool. My youngest has so much hair. The only way she can swim without getting wrapped up in it is if I give her braids on both sides. One day we let her wet braids dry to she could have big, wavy hair a day.

I don’t ask my kids to pose for me very often. I’d say about 5% of the pictures I take of them are ones I ask them to pose, which directly increases their willingness to pose when I do ask (at least that is the case for the boys). My daughters both are always up for smiling for my camera.

My youngest was bouncing around with her big, wavy hair and I asked her if I could snap a picture or two of her. It was so cold outside, but I knew the light would be so much better than the low indoor light. We quickly stepped outside and took about 60 seconds to snap a couple pictures.

The first two are completely her poses. It cracked me up – she has obviously been watching her sister!

1-17-031-17-01I asked her if she had any other poses she wanted to do before we ran back inside to get warm. The first two are such beautiful photos of her and she looks far too old in them to me. Her final pose was much more reflective of her personality!1-17-02Happy Monday friends!

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  • Beth Dutton - I agree, Ashley! When I first saw this picture (on Instagram?) I thought, “Is she that old already?” SO beautiful, though.

  • Kathie M. - She is way too cute!! I used to have hair just like that and miss those days!! Gorgeous <3

  • Maureen - Oh my, she is sooo beautiful. Oh, my heart!

  • Debi - love the hair, she looks so grown up. she’s such a pretty girl.

  • Debbie C - I love these pictures of her! She is getting so big, becoming a little lady! Beautiful!

  • Byron Henderson - Crazy cute! (And crazy). 😉

  • Tammy - My stars, she could be a model! She is stunning.

  • Dena - Beautiful girl

  • ellen patton - She’s spunky!!

I was sitting in my living room with a friend recently and she commented that there were plants everywhere. I think I might have replaced all the pictures with plants! Though I’ve liked the empty wall space, I think I’m ready to add a few pictures back up.

Processed with VSCO with a6 presetPlants in my house last far longer than plants outside my house. I think it is the whole out of sight, out of mind thing. I’ve been asked how I keep plants alive in my house. Most of my plants are in small pots without holes (so water doesn’t get everywhere). My large plants are in pots with holes and drainage containers.

I thought I would share how I pot my smaller plants and succulents.

I use 3 things:

  • clay pellets
  • the pot/planter
  • the plant

plantlady-01Those little pellets have been the life saver for my indoor plants. I place them in the bottom of the pot and then put the plant on top. If I need to add a little extra dirt, I do. The pellets allow for drainage in the pot. I just have to be careful not to over water too much.plantlady-02My sister got me this little planter for my birthday. Turns out it is actually a pencil holder, but I’m going with planter. It was fun trying to decide what kind of plant to put in it. So many options – tall plant for tall hair, bushy plant for big hair, etc. I went with String of Pearls, so she will have long, funky hair one day. She sits right by the kitchen sink and keeps me company when I’m washing dishes. It is hard not to smile when I look over, so it makes being at the sink a little more enjoyable!


I’m often asked how I keep indoor plants alive. I am not an expert. I’m sure I do a lot of things wrong, but here are my tried and true tips:

My indoor plant tips:

  • Pay attention to if the plant needs light, if so place it near a window
  • Don’t water too often. I water every 7-10 days…and just a tiny bit
  • Use plant food. I found tropical plant food on Amazon.
  • Sing to them everyday. My plants prefer Brad Paisley and some Taylor Swift mixed in. Find what your plants like and belt it out.
  • Just kidding on that last tip – really, I just stick them somewhere and water (with plant food) every week or so.

My sources:


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  • Mary Lynn - Thank you! I love plants, but havn’t attempted them much in my years of toddlers, also our house doesn’t have a lot of great light & the spots by the windows are most accessible to little people. But our youngest is 3 now, I got my first indoor plant (in a long time) at IKEA… and it’s still alive! So I am anxious to get more now! You’ve inspired me! Maybe I just need to look for plants that don’t need much light? They really exist? So you leave them right where they are & water with what, a little watering can? And you said you give them plant food with every watering? Sorry so many questions. I’m excited! So glad to know about the clay pellets!

  • Tiffany - Did not know about the pellets, I usually steal rocks from the lawn. The string of pearls is a really pretty plant, btw.

  • Katie Thomassen - I was just “gifted” a sink exactly like yours and I LOVE IT!!! Marks, scuffs and all. It was definitely a booger to get into place though, talk about heavy!!! We had it placed as well as we could and it was still hung up on one corner so my husband went out to the shop to get a tool to jimmy it in and as he was walking by the kitchen window it suddenly fell into place with a HUGE crash. He was a little miffed that I hadn’t waited for him but I hadn’t touched it, it was just ready to be home!! I was just glad my fingers and toes were all out of the way!
    The only thing that makes me sad is the thought of leaving it behind one day when we eventually downsize 🙁

  • Amy - I love having plants inside! Unfortunately my palm tree isn’t liking this Minnesota winter, even tho its indoors. It’s turning white lol! I love my desert plants tho so I may have to stick with just cacti…. Any tips for that palm?

  • AshleyAnn - Honestly, I just water it once a week. I mix a little liquid tropical plant food in the water, but that is it!

  • Kimberlee Jost - You crack me up. I know you’re not actually kidding about Brad Paisley.

  • Diana - I need this help/encouragement/advice! My house plants don’t look super promising…

  • AshleyAnn - Kimberlee – you are, of course, correct about that!

  • Mary Lynn - Can you tell me what brand of plant food you like? I haven’t had success with your Amazon link : ( Do you just use the tropical for all plants?

  • AshleyAnn - Mary Lynn – I use this one: https://www.amazon.com/Dyna-Gro-DYFOL008-Foliage-Pro-11/dp/B003SUT6VS/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1487196356&sr=8-2&keywords=tropical+plant+food

    I use about 1 teaspoon per galloon water. I use it on all my plants.

For all its simple traditions and near standstill pace, the week of Christmas is one of my favorites. We basically just lay around the house together and try to stay warm. I’m a fan of simple traditions, which is a huge part of our Christmas week too. The most anticipated night of the year for my kids is Christmas Adam (Adam comes before Eve) when we all sleep under the Christmas tree. The boys drag all the mattresses down and get the living room filled up with soft places to land. The girls and I get cheese and chocolate fondue ready. Everyone looks forward to opening a few gifts, watching a movie and I soak in seeing all my people snuggled up around me.

choosejoy-01choosejoy-02choosejoy-03choosejoy-04choosejoy-05choosejoy-06choosejoy-07choosejoy-08choosejoy-09choosejoy-10Christmas Adam is my night to sit back with a big smile and relish it all, except when I can’t. I actually do not remember anything from this night. Chris took all those photos, so I could see what I missed.

While my crew was celebrating one of our favorite Christmas traditions, I was curled up off to the side. Knocked out from heavy pain meds and hoping to pass a kidney stone.
choosejoy-11The week before Christmas I came down with a bad sinus infection. Two days later I was in the ER for a kidney stone. It took 7 days and everything under the sun (water, apple cider vinegar, dandelion, oils, etc.) to get it to pass. Sidenote: kidney stone pain is no joke! All of our Christmas celebrating (family dinners, travel to see extended family, etc), I was trying to manage pain enough to be semi-present with my crew. Eventually, the kidney stone passed and the sinus infection returned.

I’m never sick. I can’t even remember the last time I went to a doctor for an illness. It had to be at least 8 years ago. In a matter of 2.5 weeks, I had a sinus infection, kidney stone and another sinus infection.

I can honestly say I don’t think I ever take my health for granted. Watching friends battle chronic and fatal illnesses, I am keenly aware of what a gift being healthy is. I’m committed to working out and eating a balanced diet, not so I can lose weight or look a certain way, but simply because I CAN. To be strong and able is something I don’t take for granted and something I don’t want to steward poorly. I have the ability to jump over things, lift weights, and move my body, so goodness I am going to do those things while I can. I don’t think I will ever look back and think, “Man, I sure wish I hadn’t been intentional about staying active.”

Laying in bed the last few weeks, my mind kept returning to the fact that my illnesses were temporary. I’ve been thinking a lot of my friend Lindsey, who is battling Lyme disease. Though she struggles everyday to get out of bed, she uses her gifts and talents to bring hope to others through Bottles of Tears. She wants others facing the similar battles to know they are not alone and that God sees them. Though I don’t take my health for granted, the last few weeks did open my eyes to what it feels like to be stuck in bed in pain and hear laughter down the hall. My heart broke for those whose reality involves long battles with chronic illnesses and pain. The last few weeks they have laid heavy on my heart and mind. If that is you – I am so sorry. I can’t begin to imagine your reality, but a couple weeks stuck in my bed makes my heart hurt for you. I don’t have eloquent words and am fumbling through even the ones I’m typing here. Simply said – I know you are out there and I pray you are surrounded by those that love you and allow you to feel seen and loved.

It is a new year. If you have legs that can move – go move them. If you have arms that can lift – go make them strong. If you have feet that can run – go play tag with a kid or two. Get moving because YOU CAN and that is one of the greatest gifts you have ever been given.

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  • Diana - Glad to hear you are feeling better but what a huge bummer to feel like that over the holidays! I so appreciated your challenge to keep moving while we can…I’ve had two foot surgeries that kept me mostly couch ridden for weeks and it’s always a good reminder to use my feet while I can! I know what it’s like all too well not to have that privilege.

  • Lindsey Claire - Love this tradition idea, and love your heart and encouragement at the end for those on either end of the health spectrum!

  • Laura Ah Mow - That’s been me for the last five years and I am always grateful when friends tell me exactly what you just said. It’s comforting and I guess it reminds me that I’m stronger than I realize sometimes. So thank you. So glad you are feeling better.

  • Southern Gal - I love your tradition. I am so glad you are better. Your perspective is spot on. I always think about those who are struggling with long illnesses or chronic pain when I have some little something that is hurting. You’re right though – kidney stone pain is excruciating. I was 8 months pregnant with my third baby when it hit me and hung on for weeks. My poor daughter inherited the same “kidney stone while pregnant” syndrome for her last two pregnancies.

  • Gillian Currie - I love your Christmas Adam! That made me smile. Your heart had been beautifully shared with this post…. And very encouraging… Thanx for sharing.

  • Ramona - Oh my! Happy New Year!! I checked your site several times these holidays to see if there’s something new because my girls like to see your posts. We had awful holidays as well, we were all quite very sick, except for hubbs, he’s never sick. We missed ALL church programs because of it. My oldest prepared a lot, many choir rehersals, many new pretty outfits, all in vain. It sucks. You are right, health IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING!

  • Sherry - Thank you. I’ve had chronic illnesses for 43 of my 55 years and I work at not letting their symptoms/side effects define my life or outlook but often it’s trully work to live positively and carry on with living life. It is “wind beneath my wings” to have friends and family who Get It and understand the struggle but don’t point out my limitations but celebrate my efforts to “be there” as much as I can be. Very few people are able to get it without living it and I so appreciate this post.

  • Byron Henderson - I was happy to see you well this week! I’m even happier now (you look miserable in that picture). Wonderful Christmas tradition and your family pictures are always a treat (as is your family as a whole).

    I think the best thing we can do for those that suffer is to be present; to help them carry their suffering. Praying that God blesses your family and friends with good health this New Year!

  • Jasmine Ryan - Your post is a breath of fresh air to me today! It is so refreshing to see someone count the blessings of health and the ability to eat right and exercise. A few years ago I was praying in the sauna at the gym on a day that I almost didn’t go, and felt completely overtaken by the need to thank God for the ability to exercise. Like fall-on-your-face-and-cry-out in gratitude overtaken. Since then, I started suffering from Chronic Lyme Disease and it is difficult to get out of bed most days. And Jesus ministers to me from the empty chair next to my recliner just as strongly as He did from the empty bench in that sauna. I will check out your friend’s website! I too have found that I am able to pour out from this position of suffering even more than I could before this illness. For me, it’s with words. Grateful for yours today!

  • Donzel - I’m glad that you are feeling more like normal, my friend who was hospitalized with the kidney stone hasn’t yet been discharged. I’m hoping she’ll be home soon!

  • Hannah - I really appreciate your post and your sentiments. I spent two years sick going to doctor after doctor and finally found out I have hydrocephalus. I just had surgery for it early December to help but it’s still going to be a journey to health. Glad you’re feeling better. It’s miserable being down and out.

  • susie - I agree! I have had a cold and I am 36 weeks pregnant and feeling like I wish I could run and jump! I feel bad for people who have cronic sicknesses, I get sick for one day and it’s not fun. I could even get up and clean.

  • Jovita - I love that you celebrate Christmas Adam! All of my favourite Christmas memories are of being camped out with my cousins on the living room floor as well – it’s definitely something you hold on to! I’m so sorry to hear about your illness, but I’m glad that God brought you through it. Thanks for sharing and continuing to be an encouragement!

  • Wski - Dear Ashley, you are so true..And I really admire your perseverance..Can you make a blog post about your diet ? I just start doing a bit of sport one year ago and I still struggle with the fact of going to the gym. I am curious about your diet as I don’t know how to start and where. Thank you for all!

  • Mary - Amen, sister!

  • Rachel - Oh, I feel you! This was my Christmas to New Year’s week two years ago– kidney stones are the worst! If childbirth is a 10 (ok, an 11), kidney stones are a definite 9. Awful. I’m so glad you are feeling better, and I thank you for the reminder of just how precious our, and our loved ones, health really is.

  • Elizabeth H - Awww Ashley, I’m SO,SO sorry to hear of your kidney stones!!
    My brother had numerous, pain filled weeks w/ them and I often am thankful that I haven’t experienced them.
    Your statement “If you’ve got legs that can move-move them
    If you’ve got arms that can lift-go make them strong
    If you have feet that can run-go play
    Get moving bc ((YOU CAN))” … is SUCH great encouraging truth!
    Praying that you’re back to normal life soon!