I want to live in the reality that my days are numbered, not out of fear but out of a yearning to be wise with my time, words, and actions. Inspired by a friend, I’ve been making sure the kids have pictures of me with each of them – pictures of what their childhood looks like WITH me – pictures that tell the story of the joy I have in being their mom. I’ve been creating personal photo books for each of them (just me and each kid) of goofy selfies and self-timer photos. I hope as they thumb the pages they each see the overwhelming love I have for them, my unique relationship with each of them and how much I simply like being WITH them.

personalcollections
This weekend I published SnapShop lesson with more of the how & why I am creating photo collections with each of my kids. || Use the code WITHME for $10 off your SnapShop registration. Code expires 12/12/16.

Register for SnapShop Here

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Looking for a gift idea for older kids that like strategy games….I’ve got one today!

I couple weeks ago I got an email from fellow blogger Kristen Howerton. In it she talked about how her neighbor (a 16 year old boy who lives across the street from her) created a board game, Andromeda Fight League. Her email was along the lines of what she posted to her blog:

“My friend’s son has created a game that I really believe in, and if you have teens or a spouse who is into gaming, it’s a great gift option. Noah Massaro lives across the street from me. He’s a smart and creative 16-year-old who loves fantasy and gaming. His parents, however, were frustrated with some of the elements of fantasy gaming . . . violence, hyper-sexuality, and an emphasis on screen-time or zoning out. Noah is home-schooled, and his parents encouraged him to try his hand at creating a board-game . . . one that combines the magic of fantasy, the strategy of chess and that avoids blood and gore or scantily-clad characters.”

Kristen asked if fellow bloggers would be interested in checking out the game and posting a review as a way to support Noah. I’m a sucker for young entreprenuers, not to mention the description of the game seemed like something my boys would really enjoy!

The game arrived and my heart sank a little as I opened the box. It looked so overwhelming to me. I didn’t know where to begin and honestly, my type of game is Phase 10. However, the boys in this house – I knew this was right up their alley. I told them I could’t help them figure it out, so they needed to work together.

afl-01The game is designed to be 2-player, but it also has a 4-player option. The boys had a few friends over and in no time they all had the game figured out. We’ve had it for about a week now and it is in almost constant play.
afl-03afl-04afl-05afl-06Since I haven’t played, there is no way I can write an accurate review of the game other than, “My boys haven’t stopped playing since they opened the box!” I asked my guys to share their thoughts on the game – it will give you a better idea if you have kids in their age range.

Thoughts from my 8 year old:

“I really liked this game. It is one of my favorite games. One of my favorite players was Stun Master because he can hit players from two spaces away and stun players for two turns. One of my favorite magic cards is Fighter Lives Again. This game is really fun with three and four players. I really liked this game because it is a strategy game and I also like to play it with friends.”

Thoughts from my 10 year old:

“I thought this was an awesome game. It was really fun, especially for four players. At the beginning, I thought this was a really complicated game, but once we got sucked in it wasn’t that complicated. My favorite player was probably Black Magician because he can attack from two spaces away and has a lot of magic. The maps were really fun, especially the teleporters. Most of the time when I won it was from the magic card Seismic Shift. This is my favorite game that I have ever played. It was really fun because it is a lot like chess and you have to have a strategy.”

Thoughts from my 12 year old:

“I enjoyed this game. It seemed complicated but we soon got the hang of it. If you like strategy this is the game for you. Each player has a different ability and can use it in different ways. You can use magic cards in different ways to change the game. My two favorite magic cards are, Double Lighting Strike, and Lucky. You can make the game evenly matched. Once you start playing it, you can’t really stop. It is really addictive. The layout of the game is designed very well. My three favorite characters are Attack Robot, Earthquake Sorcerer, and Shining Dragon. If you enjoy fun strategy board games. This game is for you.”

Before their friends left, they asked me where we got the game and if I would tell their moms about it. I really can’t tell you much more about the game in regards to a technical gamer reviewer…this is a mom review! You can find more specifics on the game on the AFL website and Google search for reviews by the gaming industry.

afl-08

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  • sarah morgan - oh wow! my son is almost 8 and I think this might be a HUGE hit in our house. i’ll be checking this game out for sure. Thanks Ashley!

  • Shannon - Pretty sure my two boys will go crazy for this game! Thanks for sharing – I am going to click over to check it out now

  • Denise L. - Thank you! I have been stumped for a gift for my son-in-law. I didn’t want to give him, yet again, another set of Magic Cards. I just ordered the game for him from Amazon.

  • Seamingly Sarah - I love it when kids are empowered and supported to create like this! And it does sound fun. I don’t know if my kids are that into games to try it out. I wonder if just 8 year olds can handle it, or if they need older kids to play with them? Thanks for showcasing this.

  • MC - THis is awesome! My 10 year old wants to start playing this kind of role playing games but I am so lost. We recently bought a game advertised as a “beginner’s set” but it was soooo complicated. Plus I turned out to be an awful game master! 🙂 This sounds so much simpler. I like that only 2 can play, you don’t need a crowd of people. Thanks for this post!!

  • Danielle - This looks awesome. My boys love strategy and would love this!

  • Oceana | Maps & Mandalas - If it’s strategy that you’re looking for, I would suggest Risk. Another great board game, it requires quite a lot of forward thinking but still runs with an element of chance because you use dice. Even though it’s based on the concept of invading and conquering a map, there’s no violence to it. My brothers and I were all big into board games, and our risk games would sometimes stretch for days!

  • Byron - As a big boardgamer, I approve this post! 😀

    If you ever want boardgame/cardgame recommendations, just ask. LoL!

  • Carla - Hi Ashley,
    I had a smile when I saw the name of this game. AFL in Australia is the ‘Australian Football League’ and it’s massive. I tried clicking on both of your links embedded in the post and neither worked. I’m now wondering if maybe the young man who created this is having some tradmark issues with aflgame.com? Could just be a glitch at my end but the name (AFL) just rang so many bells to me! The board game looks amazing, a real feat. Glad all your menfolk are enjoying it.

  • April Duncan - Ashley, I’m writing this as one of passion as a mother and zeal for the Lord Jesus Christ.I pray it will be received as something that will encourage you to search the scriptures and inquire of the LORD on what I am about to say.The Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth if we are willing to seek him(his word) early.When we study the word, it judges us, corrects us and encourages us to walk in his righteousness, if we have ears to hear. All of his word is written in the love of Christ Jesus.Just as we love our children to teach and correct them.
    What is an enchanter? A person who uses spells or magic. A sorcerer or a wizard.
    What is Magic? The use of means(as charms or spells)believed to have supernatural power over natural forces.What is a dragon? a huge serpent. What does the bible say about these things?
    Revelation 2:20,”The dragon, that old serpent, is the Devil and Satan.Genesis tells us about that old serpent, and the deception that took place there.”Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by them.I am the Lord your God.” Leviticus 19:31.Even if we think we are not worshiping these things, we should have no regard for them and certainly no fellowship with these things.We defile ourselves,they are unclean.if we are called by his name, we are to be set apart for him.To have our mind on the spiritual things of God and not the things of darkness, and of the world.The deception here is that darkness can be used for good.”And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.”2 Corinthians 2: 14. We have to be discerning in these times, where evil is called good, and good is called evil; where darkness is put for light, and light for darkness;and bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter.(Isaiah 5:20) These things can open up doors to other elements of the spiritual realm, that we would never want our children to be involved in.
    “This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not the truth.But if we walk in the light as he is in the light,we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his son cleanseth us from all sin”
    1 John 1:5-7.”And hereby we do know that we know him,if we keep his commandments.”1 John 2:3.If we choose to not be a doer of the word and a hearer of the word only, then we are in rebellion and the Bible says in 1 Samuel 15:23, that rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft.
    Witchcraft is a work of the flesh, in which we shall not inherit the kingdom of God.(Galatians 5:19-25)It’s an abomination.( Deuteronomy 18:10-13)We are not to learn the way of the heathen.(Jeremiah 10:1-4)We must not think that the Old Testament is irrelevant today, for” Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8. We are the temple of God.(1 Corinthians 3:16-20)Be ye holy, for I am holy.(1 Peter 1:16) See, with the Lord there can be no mixture of the clean and the unclean.That is what the Old Testament teaches us and what the entire word teaches us.We can have no fellowship with devils. “Ye cannot drink of the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils…(1 Corinthians 10:20-22)”A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.” James 1:8
    Ashley, we as Christians and especially parents must ask the Lord for more of a fear of the Lord, because it is the beginning of wisdom.(Psalm 111:10)
    The fear of the Lord is clean.(Psalm 19:9)
    Knowledge of the holy is understanding.(Proverbs 9:10)
    The fear of the Lord is to hate evil.(Proverbs 8:13)
    Abstain from all appearance of evil.(1 Thessalonians 5:22)
    The word of God has been misconstrued and so watered down that God and his word is not revered the way it should be. I know that even this is fulfilling biblical prophecy, but I am led of the Lord to stand for God and to warn his people.This game and other games like this, is full of demonic activity no matter how harmless it may seem.
    I pray you do not take my word for it or even dismiss this, but that you and your husband would take it to the Word of God and prayer.

  • MC - Ahh, they don’t ship to Canada 🙁 Luckily I have a sister who lives in the US. It will never come in time for Christmas but that’s ok.
    Thanks again for posting this. I love you random blog (as you call it). I love the warmth that comes from all your posts, and how you reflect real life in a big family, with all its joys and struggles. I love how you are honest and acknowledge needing your quiet time in the morning. Thank you.

  • AshleyAnn - Thank you for that encouragement MC. This blog does feel random, but I don’t think I’d enjoy writing if I tried to stick with a theme! I appreciate you sharing your perspective of this blog and my writing – your words are a gift – thank you for using them to speak life to me.

  • AshleyAnn - Carla – the links are working for me. I’m not sure what is going on there…maybe Australia is blocking it 🙂

  • AshleyAnn - Oceana – the boys already are big fans of Risk! They also like Ticket To Ride. If you have any other suggestions, please share!

  • AshleyAnn - Sarah – my 8 year old and his 8 year old friend played it just fine. I think they might need someone older (who likes these types of games) to help them understand how to get started. Once they figured it out, they were totally fine on their own.

  • Susan - That looks like a great game – right up my nephews’ alley. Sadly, as someone above mentioned, it isn’t available in Canada.

    Maybe next year! 😀

Fleece hoodies and shorts…typically Campbell attire for Christmas tree shopping. We headed out for my favorite way to kick off the Christmas season.  I am always amazed how much things change each year. From November to December I often don’t notice the changes happening in front of my on a daily basis. Coming out to the tree farm want watching the kids repeat an annual tradition seems to highlight the ways they have grown and changed.

In all my dreams of a white tree, I’m just too loyal to traditions I treasure. I told the kids I wanted to decorate the tree like this, but they pulled out their random ornaments too fast. THEN THEY LEFT ME ALONE TO FINISH. I’m going to stock pile silk flowers this year!
christmastree-02
christmastree-05christmastree-04The girls wanted to help, but it was just a little too hard. Despite Corbett’s best efforts to help them, ultimately he took down the tree.christmastree-06register-01The 2016 family photo…also called, “The number of kids didn’t change, but Ashley’s hair did again.”
christmastree-07christmastree-08
christmastree-09christmastree-10christmastree-112007- 2016 – wow.
christmastreeyears

It is incredible how kids have grown so much and Chris and I haven’t aged a day. Oh wait…guess pictures prove that wrong. The truth is I’ll take all the wrinkle lines and gray hairs of aging over the notion of freezing time. What a gift it is to get another year with these that I love so deeply. Kids getting older. Smile lines getting deeper. Change happening in front of me. All a gift. All graces I don’t deserve.

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  • Tricia H - Why not start a Momma’s Tree tradition? Find a space for a tree (like a corner of the master bedroom or the loft), it can be a small tree (like a topper or even a live tree that gets planted later) and decorate it the way you want to, every year!

  • Jennifer Winston - Great post! I love the flashback photos. I was thinking of you guys this week as I pulled out my past years Christmas cards. Always love yours ?? Hoping to visit sometime soon!!

  • Cathy S. - OMGoodness! I was particularly stuck by how mature your oldest son looks in the recent pictures. Fun flashback of past pics and seeing how the kids have grown and how you and Chris has not aged.

  • Jen L. - Hi Ashley – I’m curious about your last line in the blog post. “All graces I don’t deserve.” I’m curious if you heard one of your children saying “I don’t deserve all this” how you might respond. Wondering, Jen

  • AshleyAnn - Jen – Well, I would probably try to dive into a deeper discussion with them and look to see why/what led them to say that and go from there. Over the last few years I’ve walked alongside several friends who have lost children, spouses, friends and family. I’ve watched friends lose their homes to fires and other natural disasters. I read the news about mothers watching their children starve as their country is under attack. So much devastation and loss – none of it makes sense and none of it is ‘deserved’ just as I’ve done nothing to ‘deserve’ getting to watch my children grow, to have the freedom to go buy a Christmas tree, to not worry about if my home will be bombed as we sleep tonight. For me recognizing that makes me both more aware of the loss and difficulties others face and also more aware of things I might otherwise take for granted – like the simple act of having all my children with me to buy a Christmas tree. These are all things we talk about on a regular basis in our home, so any conversation related to that concept would already be a natural discussion. I’m not sure if that makes sense at all. My wording might not reflect what I am trying to communicate in the best way.

  • Arlene - I especially love the photo of father and son carrying the girls on their backs. How wonderful to see Corbett imitating his dad. I’m sure there are countless pictures of this throughout each day. What a gift!

  • Carrie Campbell - Wonderful tradition! I appreciate your thoughtful reflections and showing the pictures of time changing. Your oldest does look like a teen now!! Also, can’t believe you’ve had Arley for so long. I guess I’ve followed your blog for a while now, but it seems like yesterday. Best wishes to ya’ll!

  • Anne Eicher - What amazes me in the flashback pictures is that little one is already in 5 of them! Seems like a year ago I was aching for you as I read your posts about waiting for her to “come home”! What a beautiful family! And I am blessed far beyond what I deserve too… We sing a song that has the words,”It’s not at all what I deserve… It’s all because of love”… One of my favorite songs!

  • AshleyAnn - I didn’t get cards made this year – totally dropped that ball! I always love yours too!

  • Samantha Lee - LOVE that you guys keep up with this tradition every year – and jealous you actually get to cut down your own tree. Your oldest is looking so GROWN, and your puppy – I’m dying.
    http://www.wonderlandsam.com

  • Meredith Nicoletti - I love this tradition! Your oldest looks SO grown up!

  • Byron - Wonderful tradition! And Chris’ hair never changed at all….

  • Jenny B. - I echo Anne’s sentiments! I can’t believe it’s been so many years that you’ve been a family of 7! Also, I forgot how young Firecracker was when you brought Little One home. I think I remember all of these pictures, and I just can’t believe it’s been so long. Time is flying!

  • Caroline Lim - Wow!
    I cant believe I read your blog from when you were pregnant with your older daughter! And you were guessing/hoping it could just be another boy. That’s so long ago! It felt like I was part of your family’s journey, especially the adoption journey. It did have a lot of impact on me. Suvh a beautiful family you have!

    To a more beautiful year ahead!

  • Emily Bartnikowski - This is responding to your comment in the post itself about taking aging over freezing time, and then also to your comment about watching so much loss that isn’t deserved in contrast to so much abundance and safety that isn’t any more deserved — I agree 100%

    A few years ago a friend of mine lost her daughter to cancer — she turned 6 the day she was diagnosed and was gone 4 months later. My oldest son will turn 7 next year and I am both jumping for joy and constantly reminded of her loss. I don’t get sad over the baby things I pack away or the outgrown clothes and toys we donate — but I will weep when he blows out 7 candles. What did we do to deserve such abundance in our lives? 7 candles! How blessed we are.

    Thank you for sharing – as always. Merry Christmas!

  • Kimberly Oyler - can’t believe you forgot to wear that flower sweater again this year!! 😉 2 years in a row!

  • AshleyAnn - Kimberly – I actually pulled it out and almost wore it…then I decided not to. Maybe I should have!

  • AshleyAnn - Emily – I have a very similar experience as you…friends who lost kids that were the same age as a couple of mine. They have taught me so much about the beauty of watching kids age. Thank you for always being a sweet encouragement to me here.

  • Jen - So, so fun!!! I love seeing how your kiddos have grown. Aaaanndddd, kinda freaking out because your oldest now looks like a teen! I have 4 kiddos (3 boys and a little girl) 10, 8, 6 and 4. You have helped me develop a different perspective about having older kids! Thanks for sharing your heart and all your crazy. Merry Christmas!

  • AshleyAnn - Thanks Jen! It is so weird for me too. Sometimes I look over at him and do a double take. I mean when did he get so huge?!!! He will officially be a teen in 81 days. Not that I am counting though 😉

  • Salomon Chaussures - I can’t believe it’s been so many years that you’ve been a family of 7! Also, I forgot how young Firecracker was when you brought Little One home.