Yesterday I shared about raising up a bunch of readers, ones who can read for hours a day because their daily schedules are very light and filled with ample unscheduled time. While they sprawl about the house reading, it is far too seldom that I find myself doing the same. When I do pick up a book, it is usually with a specific purpose in mind – growing, research, education. Sounds fun, right? The truth is I love to learn and research. When I make the time to read, I would rather be learning than escaping. I have a feeling the time will come again when I curl up with a book just to escape.

Yesterday I shared about what the boys are reading, today I thought I would share my most recent book list. I’m currently reading China’s Hidden Children by Kay Ann Johnson.

6.16books-01It is a hard book to read. Hard content to digest. Hard emotionally. And hard in the sense it is written like a research paper more than a light story. It is also a book I think is extremely important for any Chinese adoptive parent to read.

“Until recently, most accounts of international adoption from China have been written by or for international adoptive parents, who in turn, pass on the account as they know it to their adopted children. The voices and perspectives of Chinese birth parents, those who lost the children adopted by others, are largely absent. Also absent in these accounts, indeed wholly invisible, is another group in China that is crucial to this history, the Chinese adoptive parents of children.” (Johnson, 1-2)

Over the last few years the majority of books I read are related to the stories of birth families in China, birth planning laws in China and Chinese adoption laws. I feel a strong sense of responsibility to learn as much as I can regarding the cultural, political and social forces at work in China in the years surrounding my youngest daughter’s birth. I will not be another American mindlessly saying, “Oh the Chinese do not value women that is why so many girls are abandoned,” or “because of the one-child policy Chinese parents only want sons.” Those statements are broad and quite often simply not true and cause great harm. I don’t want further perpetuate general statements about a culture and people that are not based on research and truth, but to do that I must learn. I owe it to my daughter.

Instead of creating a fairy tale story for my daughter about things that I do not actually know, I will research. I will learn facts and I will acknowledge the things I do not know. While she is young, I’m read all the books I can get my hands on related to these topics, no matter how hard they are for me or how much they break my heart and call into question beliefs I once held. My reading these days is not light.

Along those lines here are the last few books I’ve worked through (or am working through):

6.16books-02The Good Women of China

Silent Tears

China’s Hidden Children

Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother (another important read, not pictured)

When Helping Hurts

Too Small To Ignore

Operation Christmas Child

Each of these books have challenged me to think deeply about hard topics. The last two (Too Small To Ignore and Operation Christmas Child) are not related to China. Those two allow me to further understand and get glimpses at two non-profits we support as a family (Compassion International and Samaritan’s Purse). My book list sure isn’t for everyone, but for those interested in these topics – I highly recommend them all.

That being said…I do have other books I’m ‘reading’, well more like thumbing through frequently.

6.16books-03On the totally opposite end of the reading spectrum is the other books I like to pick up often. Obviously, they are much lighter reading! These are inspiring books to have around in regards to creating spaces in my home.

Design*Sponge at Home

Homespun Style

Pretty Pastel Style

My wish list in this genre:

A Nesting Place

The New Bohemians

There are TONS of books I would like to read. Many recommended by friends and other bloggers. I have a lists in nearly every genre, but for now my reading is pretty intentional in regards to gaining knowledge, understanding and wisdom to prepare me for the years ahead as I dive into conversations with my youngest daughter. When I read outside of this topic, it is usually a book with the kids. I’m covering a lot of old classics with them, which are pretty fun to read again as an adult.

What are your favorite current books?




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  • Melanie - Our pastor recommended “When Helping Hurts” before our mission trip to Haiti several years ago. It opened my eyes and heart to the many complicated issues behind the poverty and suffering in our world. I think it forced me to reckon with God and myself why I felt called to go. If you are feeling called to the mission field in any way, this book is for you! It is not a light, easy read though…it makes you think:)

  • Laura J - I saw this book and thought of you and your crew: Give Your Child the World: Raising Globally Minded Kids One Book at a Time. Also look for Mr. Putter and Tabby books at the library. I think your girls would like them. They are funny and charming and have positive views of senior citizens which doesn’t happen as often as I think it should. I suspect your boys might stay to listen if they “happened to be nearby”.

  • Krystle - The Nesting Place is a great read – it focused a lot on finding contentment in where you are and in the imperfections. I really found that comforting and freeing! :)

  • Sophia - You’d love “Wild Swans”. It’s not about adoption but intimately covers China’s recent history, which, of course has had an impact and creates the backdrop for your daughter’s background.

  • Jenn - i read the nesting place last year and really enjoyed it. i just picked it up from the library but would love to own it too. bread and wine was good. so was grace for the good girl. i really love fiction and escaping but have been surprised to find the nonfiction books that creep into my list of book each year. i just started prayer by richard foster. and see the timothy keller has one named prayer as well that i may have to get my hands on. i did a reading challenge this year and one of the challenges was a book recommended by your bff or spouse. i told my hubby and he said sacred parenting my gary thomas so i will be diving into that one too

  • Tiffany - I’ve been reading on audible lately, and listening to non-fiction for the first time in my life and have found them enjoyable. Mostly books by Malcolm Gladwell, now I’m listening to The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg…

  • Danielle Huddleston - I am reading a heavy subject also, The open-hearted way to Open Adoption. I feel like my heart has been through a wringer but it is an important read for me.

  • Hannah - I purchased The Nesting Place when it first came out and I was not disappointed. It really spoke to my heart and changed my perspective on my home and decorating style.

    I’ve mostly been reading parenting books recently. Currently I’m reading “Don’t Make Me Count to Three!” A Mom’s Look at Heart Oriented Discipline. So far its a very easy read and I’m getting a lot out of it.

  • Sarah - If you haven’t seen it, there is a beautiful children’s picture book called Born from the Heart, about adopting a child. I am not adoptive parent so I don’t have that perspective but it was a great story about how all children are born in their parents hearts.

  • kris saia - I’m in the middle of “Quiet” by Susan Cain…non-fiction about being an introvert. Every third page, I fist pump! Such interesting reading for someone like me … a shy introvert. There is such value placed today on being bold and outspoken … I feel vindicated by every page! :)

  • Angela - I really gain so many great ideas surrounding adoption from this blog. My husband and I would like to adopt one day, though probably from within our Texas county, but I really clean a lot of information and ideas from you. Thanks.

    As for books I’m reading, I’m not… I have a 2.5 year old and a 5-week old, which sucks up my free time. Prior to my daughter’s birth, however, I was reading The Collapse of Parenting by Dr. Leonard Sax, and I have in the queue Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv.

  • Byron - Hmmm, reading.

    Just finished “For the Life of the World” by Alexander Schmemann. Excellent book. Just started C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy. So far, quite good. Lewis is an amazing writer. I find my self simply enjoying reading good writing!

    For recommendations:

    Everyday Saints and Other Stories by Archimandrite Tikhon – not heavy reading but very uplifting and entertaining. Divided into easily digested chapters.

    King Leopold’s Ghost by Adam Hochschild. An incredible historical account of Belgium’s genocidal activity in the Congo and the first human rights movement of the 20th century that resulted from it.

    The Alienist by Caleb Carr. Historical fiction set in the early 1900s. I always recommend this one and Silverlock by John Myers Myers. The latter is a fantasy set in the Commonwealth of Letters. Fun read.

    As a side note, your children might find Hal Foster’s Prince Valiant fascinating. I’m still amazed by it. A fantastic blend of history and fantasy, with great art and storytelling. Just a thought.

  • AshleyAnn - Kris – I’m going to have to read that one!

  • marie - Thanks for sharing these books. My daughter has been researching adoption in China for a couple years. We both look forward to reading some of them.
    Also, I have a copy of The Nesting Place I don’t need. I’d love to send it to you…if you’d like it.

  • Jenn l - Thank you for sharing this list. I am a newly adoptive mom (we brought our son home this past December) of a boy from China.

  • Beccy - As an adoptive mom of a son from China, and having family who has lived many years in China – I also recommend Wild Swans. It unlocked Chinese culture and history for me in a way nothing else did as it follows multiple generations of one family through a lot of historical events. It gave me a much better context to interpret our experiences we had while in China and to understand some of the issues arising in current events. It is non-fiction.

  • AshleyAnn - Beccy – thank you for that recommendation!

  • Kimberly Dial - Your list is intense … Yikes! Mine is def less intense but fitting for this stage in my life. It includes God Is Able by Pricilla Shirer (so awesome & uplifting!), Lioness Arising by Lisa Bevere, Audacious by Beth Moore and for a little fictional take me away reading Angels Walking by Karen Kingsbury. Thanks for sharing. I love hearing what’s in everyone else’s nightstand reading stack!

  • Betsy - I am an adoptee — I just commend you for the way you choose such books to read in order to bless your daughter. So beautiful. As for good books, I just finished ‘Follow Me’ by David Platt and can’t stop thinking and talking about it. So inspiring and thought-provoking. I think you would also like ‘Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands’ by Paul Tripp. I’m currently reading ‘Prayer’ by Tim Keller and ‘Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys’ by Stephen James and David Thomas. All very good! And thought I’d just mention that my husband works for Samaritan’s Purse in their International Projects Department here at headquarters in Boone, NC! It’s neat to hear that you’re reading the OCC book — we have many friends here who work in that department!

reading1The last few years I’ve been making a virtual collection on Instagram of pictures of my kids reading using a hashtag. If hashtags are a bit foreign to you – basically, when I share a photo of one of my kids reading I add #Campbell7NoseStuckInABook When I add that hashtag, it adds the photo to a collection of photos with the same hashtag. I use hashtags for personal collections quite often. It is fun to look back and see certain themes!

Each time I post pictures of the kids reading, I am asked about what books they like to read. With 5 kids, there are 5 different preferences related to books. My oldest has definitely set the tone for our home regarding helping everyone else see books as a retreat and reading as fun. I’m so grateful for his unintentional leadership in this area.

6.16books-04We make a trip to the library almost every week. I’ve learned if I keep a basket of library books out in the living room, my kids end up reading more often. When they get bored, they see the basket and pick up a book. When we go to the library, I pretty much let them pick out whatever they want (that is age and theme appropriate).

Many of you have asked what my kids like to read, so I asked the boys for a few recommendations.6.16books-05I asked my oldest to pull out a few of his favorite books, ones he would recommend to other kids his age. These were the top of his list (not all pictured)

The Hardy Boys series

The War of the Worlds

Oliver Twist

Young Fu

The Cat of Bubastes

Wonder (I bought this one based on recommendations from a few parents of cleft affected kids. I read it first and then we discussed it. He has re-read it several times.)

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda

Gregor the Overlander (the whole series)

Spy Camp

6.16books-08My 10 year old does not LOVE to read. He reads every day, but only a few times a week will go pick up a book without my prompting. When I asked him his favorites, he said:

The Little House on the Prairie Series

The Great Illustrated Classics Series (he really liked the ones pictured)

Animal Encyclopedia

6.16books-07My 8 year old has recently become a big fan of reading. His favorites are:

The Magic Tree House Series

Nate the Great

Tom Sawyer

White Fang

He also tends to pick up the books his brothers sit down and reads those.

The girls are not reading much on their own yet. Typically, I read chapter books to them and my 6 year old daughter reads shorter books to me. Both girls have been using Red Apple Reading online to improve their reading skills. I’ve seen a ton of progress with each of them through that program.

Lastly, I am often asked about how I pick what books the kids read. I don’t. I buy a lot of books (for homeschool) based on reading lists from other parents I trust. I buy most of the classics to have on hand too. When we head to the library and they pick out books, I try to do a quick internet search if I have a concern. My oldest son reads an entire book almost every day. I could never keep up with him. We talk about the books he reads and the topics discussed. Every parent is so different regarding what they allow their children to read. I think you have to find what works best for you and your kids.

Here are a few of my favorite resources for reading lists and book recommendations.

The Read-Aloud Handbook (Trelease) – this is a great resource to get ideas for books to read-aloud and books I want to recommend for my kids. A lot of the books I end up buying to have on hand for all the kids are ones I chose based on what I found in this book.

A Half Hundred Acre Wood – Each summer I scour her old posts and pdf reading lists. I narrow down the books I want to use for each of my kids. These lists coincide for Classical Conversations families, but the books listed are so good. If you do not do Classical Conversations, just ignore that part and look at book titles. It takes some digging, so I usually set aside a few hours and make lots of notes. I wrote more about this process in this older post.

Ambleside Online – I could use this far more than I do. You can find reading lists for various topics and grade levels. It is such a great resource when I want to find books for the kids to read that tie into what we are learning about in ‘class’.

book4Our home school schedule definitely allows for ample time to read every day. My kids get bored daily, so they pick up a book. Talking with friends whose kids are in more traditional school settings, I know the extra reading time can be difficult to find. I don’t have any advice or wisdom in that regard. If any of you have tips for how you encourage reading despite very full schedules for your kids, please share your insight – I know many would appreciate it!





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  • Colette - My son (9) is not a big reader despite my best efforts but a reading programme used here (U.K.) called paired reading has helped a lot. It encourages a love of books even in reluctant or struggling readers. You sit with your child for 10 minutes a day, preferably same time, same place and if possible undisturbed! Choose a book together but it needs to be a slightly higher level than your child’s ability. You the adult begin to read aloud and when your child feels confident they tap your arm and you allow them to take over. You are there to help with challenging words but it really helps with fluency and overall confidence in reading. I have also found highly animated books have encouraged my son to read because he loves art and drawing. The 13 Storey Tree House books were very popular for this reason. Hope this helps parents in the traditional school setting.

  • Dawn Ritchie - Thank you so much for this list.

  • JenW - Yay! I am a huge reader and trying to pass that along to my boy. New book lists are wonderful!

    You might suggest A Wrinkle In Time to your oldest two boys. It’s simply wonderful. And does your family read the Chronicles of Narnia?

  • AshleyAnn - Yes!!! They all liked A Wrinkle in Time and the Chronicles of Narnia. I just asked them for some favorites of their most recent reads, otherwise the list would never end!

  • AshleyAnn - Those are great ideas! Thank you for sharing Colette :)

  • Tiffany A. Nelson - Thanks for the website recommendation, timing is perfect for keeping those brains thinking during Summer. I am in awe that your oldest reads almost a book a day – mind blown!

  • Sarah A - Oldest-kid-book-lovers unite – I could absolutely read a book a day, and I stay up way too late doing so for days on end when I accidentally get too many fiction books from the library. Growing up, I remember that our hometown library had a book limit (I wish I could remember what it was – probably 10 books at a time?) but they always let me exceed it because if I *only* checked out 10 books I’d have to come back in three or four days to get more. I’m currently re-reading a lot of kids’ and YA classics and loving them. It’s such a different perspective to read as an adult, and the writing is fabulous. (Just added Oliver Twist and Wonder to the list based on your son’s recommendation – today’s library day!!) I recently enjoyed Bridge to Terabithia and Where the Red Fern Grows, though both are hard books. My kids are all little (6, 3, and 2) so I am hoping they learn to love books as I do. We brought home 44 books the last time we went to the library (I use the stroller to wheel the stack around as we all add to it, haha) so I think they’re on a good start. :-) I love seeing the pictures of your kids reading.

  • Emily Bartnikowski - Thank you so much! We’re reading through the Stink books (Judy Moody’s little brother) and I just picked up Sideways Stories from Wayside school, but the summer is long and there are so many books to read!

    Also, I’m going to check out red apple reading – perhaps a bit of practice over the summer will keep the cobwebs at bay. Thank you!

  • Jenn - thank you for posting this
    my almost 9 year old son love the magic tree house books. i think he is on book #26
    i love how they grow up with the kids
    i am excited for my daughter to read them one day
    my son has just liked watching little house on the prairie so i need to get the book for him. white fang and the three musketeers are good suggestions. spy camp looks fun. good to remember for when he is a bit older.
    my daughter just started reading the usborne book series Billie B brown. They may be a fun book for Firecracker to read. here is a link to the set of 15 but you can buy them individually as well. they are super cute

  • Kathie M. - I love it! We go to the library quite often and the boys love reading. Jack more than Atticus but we just take time before bed to read short stories and sometimes two or three depending on if we head to bed a bit early or not. We try to do it daily. Weekends are often when we visit the library so there are times we spend the afternoons reading while we have lunch or are just hanging out at the house. I love the hashtag idea too. I am going to start using that more! I have a few but I love it.

  • MC - Thank you so much for sharing! You gave me a couple of ideas for my ten year old.

  • AshleyAnn - Jenn – thank you for those suggestions!

  • GB - My son is 11 and has really enjoyed the “Land of Stories” books.

  • Dawn - Sarah Mackenzie over at Read Aloud Revival has a great book list (and podcasts) as well! Going to check out your book list links now :)

  • Christine - I love posts about what kids are reading, and especially at different ages. Thanks for listing them so thoroughly. We’re hard pressed to find books that appeal to my 4- and 5-yo equally, but I keep trying. The Kingdom of Wrenly series works for us, as does The Littles series (remember that one? old….) I’ve flagged a few of your kids’ recs for future use.

  • Krystle - I love reading – it’s something my 7 year old hasn’t quite picked up yet. I’m hoping.
    When my kids (7 and 5) as to play video games, the 7 year old has to read 2 books to her brother prior to the console being turned on. We’re mostly at the easy-reader stage, but it works well. Sibling bonding, reading, work for what they want! :)

  • Betty - hi AshleyAnn! thank you for your blog in general and your book recommendations today! i have twin 4 year olds and we read a lot but i haven’t done any educational computer work with them. when i linked over to red apple reading it sparked a memory from my teaching days and i remember hearing gen ed teachers speak highly of it. can you tell me what kind of structure you use for red apple reading, please? do your kids use it each day for a certain amount of time? at a certain time of day? on the big mac or an ipad? thanks!

  • betty - another idea/question: i was just thinking that if the kids love it, perhaps i could use red apple reading as a reward when they finish other things that are more like chores or work? do your girls love it enough to use it that way? thanks!

  • Jamie - The Read-Aloud Revival by Sarah MacKenzie is WONDERFUL! I like her podcasts and have learned about so many great books through her. I heard her speak at a conference a couple of months ago and she is such a delight.

  • Melissa Carr - That’s funny… two of my favorite blogs posted about the same topic within a day of each other!

  • Irene Wiranata - Hi Ashley, would you mind sharing a few of your fave books for toddlers? My girl is one year old and I would love to encourage her to like reading :) Thanks!

  • Betty - Hi, Irene! Here are some of our favorite toddler books!
    I love you because you’re you
    I love you, too!
    I love you, stinky face
    I love you through and through
    Mama loves you
    Read Aloud Bible Stories by lindvall
    Frog and Toad by Lobel
    A camping spree with mr magee by van dusen
    10 minutes til bedtime and goodnight gorilla by peggy rathman (look for characters from goodnight gorilla & other rathman books hiding in 10 minutes til bedtime – so cute!)
    My First little house books
    The McDuff Stories by Rosemary Wells
    the Parable of the lily (seasonal series of 4) by liz curtis higgs
    Love you Forever
    ERic Carle
    Richard Scarry
    Corduroy series by don freeman
    Sandra Boynton
    The little engine that could
    Bear snores on (series)

  • Yolanda - Wonder is one of my most favorite books that I have ever read. It’s one of the few books that made me ugly cry. My daughter read it last year and loved it as well.

    As for strategies for getting kids to read who are in traditional school days, my best recommendation is to read aloud as a family regularly. For our family, friends that has been the Harry Potter series. I also try to model reading. I read often. I talk about the books I’m reading with my daughter. I read in front of her. The more she watches me reading if fun, the more fun she thinks reading is.

  • Katie Thomassen - GREGOR THE OVERLAND ROCKS!!! I read the first one after my son put it down one day and I promptly went out and bought the series. LOVED that book series. Did he read and of The City of Ember series? Another one that I stole from my kids…

  • Tobi - Isn’t watching your kids read just the best?! Your boys remind me of my own three boys in a lot of ways. I have a book I’ll bet your family would love – Summer of the Monkeys, by Wilson Rawls (author of Where the Red Fern Grows). I read it because I heard it was a great adventure story – and it is. But the ending surprised me–sibling love, character-development, wrench-a-mama’s-heart moment–to the point where I ugly cried when I read it out loud to my 5th grade classroom. It’s great!

    Also, for busy families, stash a few books in the car and read on the way to/from school and activities. It might curb some of the car whining and wrestling…

  • Cassidy - I always somehow made time to read during school, but as I got older, it got harder. I will say that sometimes we had “reading suppers”. Instead of talking at dinnertime, we’d all read something different. It was fun and while I’m a huge fan of dinner conversation, books are nice, too. (:

  • Heather McDonald - Land of Stories is a great series! Is your oldest familiar with all the fairy tales? I just read the first one and I’m on to the second. I try reading books that my fifth graders would read and ones I know they would love. I’m reading A Fish in a Tree right now…if he loved Wonder, he and you will sure to love this book! It’s all about kindness and showing acceptance. I love it even more than Wonder. It will surely be my first read aloud next year. Also, Hour of the Bees! Another great read that you all would love. Love Lindsay Edgar’s writing.

  • Angie Webb - Thanks so much for the book recommendations. My daughter loves anything about spies so when I saw the Spy Camp book and I immediately borrowed them from our local library. She’s had her nose in that book ever since… love it!!

  • Jessica - I’m so glad you posted these book lists! My oldest son just finished The Wizard of Oz book series and was looking for some new books to read. I had no idea there were so many books written about Oz (did you?), but it’s an incredibly creative and entertaining series!

Yesterday, I shared a few images from the Be Crafty I helped host at The Farm Chicks Show earlier this month. A highlight of the workshop was the opportunity to meet Jess (Shop Sweet Lulu) and Serena (The Farm Chicks) in person.

I’ve worked with Jess on various parties the last few years. Her shop is my favorite for finding adorable decorations – not to mention giant balloons! It was so good to finally put a face and voice to her name. I told her I want to come visit her brick and mortar shop – and just sit in it for a while.

Serena blew me away with her attention to detail and organization. The Farm Chicks Show is huge. She was juggling thousands of attendees and 300+ vendors. Each time I saw her, she was moving with grace and a smile on her face. She never came across frazzled or rushed. If you get the chance, read about her story growing up on her blog. She is inspiring and so gifted at what she does.

Jess | Sara | Amanda | Serena | Lesley | Me

BeCrafty-113A key component of Be Crafty Workshops is supporting and sharing small businesses through swag bags. With 150 women in attendance, that is a lot of items for small businesses to send along. Many shops sent a handful of items and the swag bags included a various mix. So much cute stuff!

BeCrafty-Sponsors1. Home Again Creative 2. Happy Socks 3. Be Crafty Workshops 4. Emily Steffen 5. Paint and Prose 6. Katy Girl Designs 7. West Pine Company 8. Noonday Collection 9. Recipe For Crazy 10. Rebecca Parsons 11. Pebble 12. Prospect + Ash 13. PaperWorks 14. Rainy Day Colors 15. The Doo Bob Shop 16. Dear Hazel 17. Freed Outfittersย  18. Gingiber 19. Pen and Paint 20. The Simple Farm 21. For the Love of Joy 22. The Mason Bar Co. 23. Fit Chic Headbands 24. Gracelaced 25. The Belle and Beau 26. Maggie Holmes / American Crafts 27. Big White Farmhouse 28. Bumblelou

FancyThatDesignHouseDespite our best efforts to get all the swag included in that group shot – we missed one. Fancy That Design House also provided adorable prints to many of our attendees. Be sure to check out her shop too!

We also had a few giveaways at each workshop….BeCrafty-10Giveaway Sponsors included (clockwise from top left): Kelsey Davis Design | Simply Rosie Photography | American Crafts | Sugar Blossom |Paisley Sproutsย  | Rebekah Gough Jewelry | The Felt Flower Shop

The pillow cover below is from Paisley Sprouts (linked above, you can’t see it in the wrapping paper).

BeCrafty-35I would also like to thank our other event sponsors:

Behr Paint

Shop Sweet Lulu (you can use the code FARMCHICKS to get 15% off!)

North Star Balloons


Flower Bar Co.

Amanda is holding a giveaway on her Instagram account for a sampling of some of the swag items. Be sure to click over there to enter!








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  • Ashley@ Big White Farmhouse - We were so honored to be a small part of that awesome day!

  • Brianne @ West Pine Company - We loved being a little part of such a wonderful event! Thank you for including us!

  • Stacey - Looks like amazing bags ? Ashley, it does look like the link for pebble is broken. A missing ‘t’ I think :)

  • AshleyAnn - Thanks Stacey for letting me know!