I am a stick it out kind of girl. If I start something, I finish it. However….I’m done. Really there are only 4 posts left for this month, but I just can’t handle being confined any longer. Kudos to bloggers who have monthly themes. I salute you. I am not one of you…guess there is too much of a free spirit in me.

Before we ditched Oklahoma, I took advantage of some warm weather to carve our pumpkins outside this year. I had no idea I’d be returning from Wonderful Land to 70 & 80 degree weather. I guess it was Oklahoma’s way of being nice to me upon my return. I have a lot of great memories of watching my dad carve pumpkins when I was growing up. He is pretty much amazing at it. The kids and I set to work on our pumpkin…

I made the mistake of asking the older boys what kind of pumpkin they wanted. They said “the Lego Batman Scarecrow”. Not just a lego, not just a batman, not just a lego batman…a Lego Batman Scarecrow. What is the world is that? I had to look it up online. I am a laptop girl for reasons like this.

These two were more interested in the Lego Batman Scarecrow’s guts.

We left it on the back porch and forgot about it…until we returned from our trip. Gross Lego Batman Scarecrow welcomed us. I really wish the squash bugs hadn’t destroyed all the pumpkins I planted this year….I could spend all day carving pumpkins…not Lego Batman Scarecrow pumpkins. When we got back I had a bad attitude (still kind of do) towards fall in general. I usually look forward to the pumpkin patch, but the beach stole that from me. I sucked it up and pretended to be a big girl…we took the kids to the pumpkin patch. At least they got to wear flipflops with their jeans. And they are pretty cute with shirts on.

FireCracker came too, but she was with her daddy running around while the big boys were testing their strength and toughness.

Photo Tip: I gathered from my Hawaii photo tips that you all like to see mistakes. Well I don’t mind showing them. Here Big Brother is in ‘jail’ at the pumpkin patch. What is something very simple that could have been done to improve this picture?

Answer: Included both of his eyes. This is an example of getting an non-posed photo and not having a chance to retake it. I could have stepped to the left just a bit and I would have captured both of his eyes. However, there are times with photographing my children that my motto is “You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.”

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  • Amy - for what it is worth, i have enjoyed the October 10 in 10 theme this month! :-)

  • Jill R - I love firecracker in her wonder woman shirt. It is especially ironic because her mom is a real life wonder woman!

  • RachelC - I like the lego batman scarecrow. Very spooky! Oh, and you should be nicer to Oklahoma. :)

  • laura - hahaha….love that you’re willing to ditch the ten in ten. i mean, i enjoyed it, but ya gotta do what ya gotta do:).

  • Ruth - LOL. I admire your tenacity. The 10 in 10 theme was great, and I really enjoyed all the guest posts, but I’m glad to see you back to “normal.” And the pumpkin is hilarious. We haven’t even attempted our pumpkin yet this year, but I’m pretty sure my prissy girly-girl 4 year old will a.) refuse to touch it, for fear of getting her hands dirty and b.) want a princess-fairy-ballerina (or want to paint it pink.) My #2 daughter is almost the exact age (and personality, from the sounds of it) as Firecracker & I’m pretty sure next year, when she’s old enough to have an opinion, she’ll want something along the lines of a superhero-cowboy-monster truck.

  • Amy Holgersen - Dude, I think you need to have a post just on your adorable hats and links on where to snag some, cause me wanty!

    XO

  • Danielle - hey neighbor! Went to that same pumpkin patch a few weeks ago. The boys loved all the animals! I had never been to one so it was a surprise to me how much there was to do!

  • giozi - Your pumpkin is really great :)
    A big kiss. these day I don’t have much time.

  • lauren - I’ve been a total lurker for months, but I had to come out and say that I think I’ll have to steal your motto – only it would apply to our whole life with our kids, not just photography!

  • Haley - I Love the free spirit of your blog! I also really get that bad mood, I thought being off work for 10 days and being in Hawaii would rejuvenate me for work…..I think it actually made it harder cause I just want to live at the beach in Hawaii :)

  • Heather - the photo of the two littlests talking over pumpkin guts is awesome. i can just imagine the conversation. :)

  • susie whyte - so does ‘lego batman scarecrow’ roughly translate into ‘oscar the grouch’? totally looks like a relative of his. haha.

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - That is my favorite motto! I have to say it daily to my babies (10 and 7). Have a wonderful day!

  • Shannon Phillips - You make me laugh. I don’t think that us readers mind much that you ditched your theme. We just want to see your amazing creativity and beautiful photographs. I am pretty sure that your family is about the cutest bunch I have ever known.

    FYI: I don’t care how busy I am, I am taking time out of my day today to do an Ashley Ann inspired craft. I thought you’d be proud. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Jane - Love the pumpkin! I too find your “bad example” pictures to be incredibly helpful. But, as you say, with small children, you take what you can get. They’re not cooperative and sometimes it’s better to have a few pictures (albeit not perfectly composed) from an event or just something they’re doing vs. having none at all. Don’t fret about conforming to a theme or anything like that. Your blog is so fantastic that it doesn’t need anything like that to keep readers’ interest! Do it for fun, but definitely don’t feel like it’s a must.

  • Sarah - Loving all of the phototips! At least you got an eye. I usually get running away from me or looking at something else while trying to cheese it up! Ha!

  • amanda torres - You are Superwoman! I’ve always suspected it, but the pumpkin seals the deal. You can do amazing things. I also love Firecreacker’s shirt. LOVE IT!

  • Michelle - You are a priority on my “to do list” each day no matter what! I like you’re no-theme-themed blog, always creative, morally inspiring, keeps me coming back for more!

  • Chelsea - Oh my goodness, the Lego Batman Scarecrow, that’s going to be my son someday. That made me laugh so hard. Of course they would ask for that specific design, you did a terrific job carving the pumpkin, and it looks like the pumpkin patch was a lot of fun. Happy Halloween!

  • mandi - hahaha!
    i can never stick with a theme either. i tried really hard to stick with my theme of fair trade friday for the month of october (this is fair trade month). so yeah- that’s just on fridays. but i kept forgetting, or i’d get really excited and post something on a monday instead. so- i hear ya on that one.

    my dad is the best pumpkin carver too. we got to carve it up with him last weekend and had lots of fun!

  • Mara - I know you like to stick to you 50 and 85 mm lenses. But which did you use for the first shot. I feel like it is impossible to get that far away from my subjects with my 50 mm. I know you have no time to answer such trivial questions but I am considering a new lens and I can’t decide between a 35 or 85 mm. I am always so blown away by your pictures but I can’t figure out how you manage to fit all the kids into the shot. I have a hard enough time with my two and a 50 mm.

  • ashley jensen - I personally like being able to see that even professional photographers take picutres that dont always turn out. Makes us ametures feel ok about screwing up! The before and after photos are a huge help for me!

  • Rachel - Okay, so do you use the salad spinner to clean the gunk off of the pumpkin seeds? Brilliant! I must try that!

  • Heather - i always enjoy your posts and dont think you need a theme each month. :) was the lego batman scarecrow a consensus or did each want something different lol??

    one good thing about fall and winter.. starbucks pumpkin spice and ginger bread lattes.. mmmhmm!!!

  • Heather - oh and totally random.. but i was wishing i had some boys of my own who loved legos this week. i went to target and saw harry potter legos! unfortunately i feel 25 is much too old to purchase them for myself. :)

  • jessica h - It’s ok that you couldn’t stick to your theme, Ashley :) I am like that, too; I totally understand!!

    so…you used your salad spinner to divide up the seeds & guts! brilliant! do you guys ever roast the seeds??

  • Seamingly Sarah - That is a well said motto! I try to keep the same thing in mind when going through and editting/deleting all the photos I upload from the camera.

  • Erica Buchanan - Love the pumpkin….KOOL! Your an awesome mom! My girl’s would love that pumpking and they are 14 and 9.-erica

  • Nichole - Your little girl makes me laugh nearly every time I visit your site. Her personality just shines. I love it! Your little boys are also too cute. :)

It was asked…on Friday’s post why I did not have my father-in-law take the photo of us sitting in front of the surfboards. I had the angle and everything set up before he came over. For him to take the photo I set up for he would have had to lay on the ground. I didn’t want to ask him to do that. I could have done the normal angle of him standing up and looking down at us or us standing…but then that would not have been the picture I wanted!

There are some things in life you can prepare for and some you cannot. When we boarded the plane to Hawaii I had 2 kid backpacks full of snacks, games, activities and fully loaded iphones (from a friend). I also had my backpack filled to the brim with more food and changes of clothes. I was prepared. We left early in the morning after everyone got a full night’s sleep. The 8 hour flight was long, but not horrible. In fact when we landed several people stopped us to say how great our kids were and how many of them did not even realize there were 3 little boys on the plane. MIRACLE. They saw FireCracker a lot, but didn’t hear her too much. The saving grace on the flight over was well rested kids prior to boarding and an iphone for each boy loaded with movies and games. Thanks Jeremy! FireCracker took one 30 minute nap the whole time, none of the boys slept. Yuck.

We landed and forced everyone to adopt the new time zone as if it was our old one. There is 5 hour time difference….so when we landed at 7pm Hawaii time, it was really midnight our time. That was rough. The next day 3 of our 4 kids were pretty much adjusted…since they didn’t sleep a wink on the plane that helped. One of our four kids had a very rough start to the trip.

And then he got rest and my enjoyable to be around son returned. He takes after his mommy….I’m pretty grumpy with no sleep too.

Eventually our trip came to an end and we had to return home. We had a late afternoon flight which meant our youngest 2 did not get naps before boarding the plane. Bad Move. The day before we left I realized FireCracker was cutting all 4 molars and one more top tooth. PANIC. So, the flight home wasn’t great. It wasn’t good. It wasn’t bad. It was horrible. If we could have let FireCracker cry just for 10 minutes she would have fallen asleep, but you can’t let a baby cry on a confined plane. I did let her cry once…we cried together in the airplane bathroom at 2:35am. I sat back down, looked at Chris and said, “We aren’t doing this again until she is at least 3.”

Then we landed at 5am for a 3 hour layover. All of our kids had slept about 2 hours in the last 24 hours. The gate attendant liked kids and joyfully gave our sleep deprived children balloons to play with. Great. 4 kids. No sleep. Balloon volleyball in the airport terminal. Lots of fighting. Lots of whining. Lots of thrilled passengers nearby (which I think 2 might read this blog….2 ladies traveling with a little girl?). We relocated to an empty terminal. I hadn’t got ANY sleep in over 24 hours at that point. Did I mention I am not fun to be around when I don’t get sleep?

So here are just a few travel tips from me:

1. Take a late afternoon or evening flight with young kids. Getting a full night’s rest before the flight is more guaranteed than sleeping on the plane.

2. Pack lots and lots of food.

3. Pack cups with lids, so your kids can have drinks from the attendants but not in the short cups they hand out.

4. Bendaroos – thanks Cindy & Angie

5. ipods & iphones filled with movies and apps (below is a list of apps my kids liked)

6. When you arrive at the hotel and the front desk gives each of your kids an inflatable beach ball. Don’t inflate them. Boys + beach balls + small quarters = yelling, even if you aren’t a yeller.

7. Read the comments from this post….tons of great ideas we used. Thanks!

The names of apps for kids our 1 & 2 year olds liked, you’ll have to search the apps store:

Bab bab lite

Baby Lite

Baby Piano

Look Baby!

Baby Flash Cards

AnimalMatch

Match-a-Roo Zoo

AniMatch

Colors

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  • Holly - Brave, brave Mommy! Sounds like you did everything right though. I love looking through your vacation pics, which is saying something, I don’t even like looking at mine most of time. On our next vacation, can you come with us and bring your camera? Flight’s on us! Heck, I’ll even let you pick the location!

  • amanda torres - Oh my! The little montage of Bigger Brother is great. I am the same way. No sleep will yield ugly fruit from me. What amazing memories from this trip.

  • Rebecca - This makes me tired and frazzled just reading it. I know you had a wonderful trip, but I also hope you are enjoying to be back home after your return flight story. “Good to go, good to come home.”

  • Nicole - Poor little buddy! Such cute pics – any hope for an online SnapShop in the near future?! Pretty please??

  • ashley jensen - Ah, the joys of tired children. I always find myself laughing at some point in time when my daughter(3) has a meltdown. It helps keep my frustration in check and the faces she makes with that little whiney voice is just too cute not to smile about sometimes!

  • anne c - wow you and chris are so brave! I probably would have locked myself in the bathroom and cried for sure! at least until I couldn’t stand the smell or claustrophobia took over. thanks for sharing your vacation experience with us!

  • emily anderson - you survived! yah!

  • purejoy - stunningly beautiful photosโ€ฆ but then that’s not really a surprise. you traveling with so many young’unsโ€ฆ bravery personified. you should get some kind of award. brilliant to bring iphones fully loaded with activities.

  • Heather - i’m so glad that flight was on the way home instead of the other way around. and i’m so glad you share the real deal with us so we know our kiddos aren’t the only ones that are a bit crabby without sleep ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Michelle - When we’re travelling, there always seem to be one point when I want to hide from my entire family – even the cute ones. I take comfort in knowing that I’ll never see any of my fellow passengers EVER AGAIN! No matter how hairy things get, I don’t have to bump into any of them in the supermarket the next day.

  • Jane - Ashley, you are way more brave than I am. Traveling 3 hours on a direct flight for us to Florida with an 18 month old and 6 year old was challenging enough. Great tips!

  • Lindsay - ha ha. I didn’t think you’d really answer my question in a blog post! Totally understand the angle thing. I probably wouldn’t ask my father-in-law to lay on the ground either…mainly because he might not be able to get back up. :)
    Love your blog. I check it every day and it just makes me smile.

  • Leanne - It is so hard to keep everyone happy all the time, especially other people on the plane when you have an unhappy little one. You are truly brave! good job.

  • chantelle - Ha! I said the same thing to my hubby when our little boy was 18 months old coming from Florida to Saskatchewan, 2 flights and over 10 hours of travel not including 11 hour (unexpected) lay over! We had travelled once a month before that-when he’s 4 is my next trip out of cold Canada! (even though my hubby tries bribing me with warm places I’m sticking to it!) We call bendaroos wiki sticks here, LOVE the neon colours!

  • kristiina - The flight home is always harder–they’re exhausted from the vacation, etc etc. I’m so impressed that you all made it–I’m sure Chris’ family was thrilled and so cool that you got to share your first ‘home’ with your kids.

    Thanks for sharing the highs and the lows-I can relate to those lows…and we only have a four hour flight a few times a year with two kids LOL

  • Meaghan - Hi! Don’t think I’ve ever commented here, but I love your blog! Just a quick question…are you saying it is better to fly out in the morning, AFTER the good night’s sleep? (sorry, I am easily confused ๐Ÿ˜‰ I want to know because we are taking our 4-year-old and just-turned-2-year-old on a plane to Ireland in the spring, and I am a bit nervous! Thanks for sharing all of your great and adorable ideas!

  • Becki - Sooooo…in 8 days I am taking my 11 week old on a 9 hour flight to London. It’s an overnight flight, so I’m hoping she just sleeps (she already sleeps through the night, so fingers crossed)!
    I’m super nervous, tho. Super nervous.

  • Milanie - The photography on this site is gorgeous, truly. What fun! On another note entirely – your kids app list is great! When you’re looking for more kids apps, make sure to visit LunchboxReviews.Com. Lunchbox collects, categorizes and rates apps for toddlers, preschoolers and young children. Our user and critics ratings are pulled from multiple review sites so that parents get a well-rounded picture of potential app purchases.:) LunchboxReviews.Com :)

  • Lisa - Your pics make me want to haul all 5 of my sweet kiddos back to Hawaii to see our old stompin’ grounds – My hubby is back in HI right now for three weeks and these pics are makin’ me a bit jealous! You’re a trooper for making that trip with your sweet kids in tow. Looks like you had a wonderful time!

Normally this post will take place at the beginning of the month, but this has been a crazy month! I know you have all noticed the new sponsor sidebar and I hope you have found yourself enjoying their stores. Several of the stores have been long time favorites of mine….the others are new favorites. I wanted to take a moment to highlight those stores and express my appreciation for the step of faith in being the first official sponsors on Under the Sycamore.

I must admit while making the little etsy mini below I made a purchase from one of the stores. The item was so cute and after highlighting it I decided I wanted it more than I wanted to share it with you. I’ll show you it later! Sorry, I am mean like that.

Thank you to:

banana papers * Lovies * Snugars * Gracious May

Elle’s Studio

If you are interested in being a sponsor for November you will need to contact me within the next few days. Christmas is right around the corner…I’d love to share your shop with my readers. You can contact me via this blog (contact button) to request detailed information regarding advertising & giveaways on Under the Sycamore.

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  • pink bridesmaid dresses - That little adorable baby girl is breathtaking. Hope you share the little trinket you kept to yourself soon. What a great post.

  • Shannon{photos by shannon} - omg those gracious may shoes kill me!! Why haven’t I gotten a pair yet?? Maybe because my daughter is 2 1/2 and rough! I do have a neice coming any day now but I am selfish! I might just have to get a pair and save them for “if” I have another girl someday!! The other stuff is great too!!!!