There is one thing my kids ask me to give them more than anything else: my presence. Their biggest want comes in the form of

“Mommy will you…..

play with me,

push me on the swing,

cuddle with me,

help me,

color with me,

build with me,

watch me.”

It is all too easy for me to be too busy with things that I claim aren’t my priorities while not giving undivided attention to the ones that are my priorities. One more email, another load of laundry to fold, dishes to wash, Legos to pick up…there is always something I can give my attention to. My ‘to do’ list grows faster than I can check things off.

I want to do better at giving them my presence….it is what they really want. They want it more than anything I can buy at a store or make with my hands. I think it is the greatest gift I can give them…not because I am a fabulous mom, but because I am their mom. In all my failures, mistakes, screw-ups. In all my home runs, great moments and got it rights. I am their mom. That is enough for them. Isn’t it great to be loved by a child?!

(yes…my 6 year old is missing in these pics…he wasn’t home when we took them)

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  • Willeke - Thanks for sharing! I believe it is one of the most important things of being a parent!
    I really love reading your blog!

  • Corey Moortgat - Oh yes, this is absolutely my biggest struggle in life- so hard to let go of my own agenda to “be” with my kids. In fact, right now, being on the computer is part of that!! I think I’ll go help them with their morning chore chart instead! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Anna Marie - Definitely a post I needed this morning. I am SO bad about saying “hold on” or “just wait a minute”. Your post made me feel guilty but that is a good thing. Thanks for making me more aware.

  • Terri Lynne Barrington - My favorite of all your post. Thank you!

  • Lisa Johnson - Beautiful post Ashley. I now have 5 teens in my house, but the message is still the same. I want to BE there, look in their eyes, and hear their hearts. I am even more aware of the incredibly quick passing of time. Thanks for reminding me to slow down and soak it up.

  • Jess - Wow, just what I needed to hear this morning! My “wait a minutes” have gotten bad lately. Great job!

  • Sadie - You ALWAYS hit the nail on the head. I am so looking forward to my next 2 weeks off b/c I am going to forget about all the cleaning I could be doing, and think about what I NEED to be doing- loving on my kiddos. Thanks Ashley!

  • amanda torres - My favorite post thus far. Very true.

  • Jen - beautiful. the love of a child overcomes anything in this world, their love could stop time. thanks for sharing this today.

  • the whyte house - Thank you, Ashley!! Love this(and love the quote at the end).

  • hearttypat - you’re lucky, you’re deeply loved by FOUR kids!

  • Haylee - This is exactly what has been weighing on my mind lately. I came across a quote that instantly became one of my favorites. “In family relationships LOVE is really spelled TIME.” – Dieter F. Uchtdorf I now have it hanging as art in my house as the perfect reminder to step away from what I think is important at the time, and really see what is truly the important things in my life…. my children. Merry Christmas Ashley Ann!

  • Danielle - Beautiful! I really need to work on giving them myself more.

  • Mariah - All too true. Thanks for the reminder!

  • Lisa B - I can’t believe you made me cry before I’ve finished my coffee! Beautifully said and wonderful pictures!

  • Alba - I think I going to print you “not on my (yours & mine) wish list” and to tattoo it in my arm. not jocking. some days I am going to bed, I think that my most used frase in the afternoons is “hold on for a minute”. You are the most fabulous mum in the world because you are their mum, I think we all are.

  • mandi - Have you heard that song by Sara Groves- “Just one more thing”??? Made me think of this.
    The ONE piece of advice I like to give to all young mamas is this “enjoy your children”. you’ve captured that here…

  • Nicole - Makes me want to cry a little – I feel myself cringe inside everytime I say “just a second” or “i’ll be right there”. This is my goal for the holidays and for the new year without a doubt.

  • Amy D - Hi Ashley. This is possibly the first time I’ve commented on your blog for anything other than a giveaway! ๐Ÿ™‚ Is it weird to have a blogger as a role model? That’s what you are to me, in so many ways… giving, loving Jesus, just BEING with your kids (and admitting that you struggle with that) and your photography. LOVE it all. Thanks. I’m guilty of all the things that AREN’T on my kids’ wish lists. But my littlest one (22 mos) is going to keep me in check because he just figured out in his non-verbal way to ask me to play with him. And he is stubborn.

  • Krista Lund - i haven’t participated in Ali Edward’s One Word Project, but lately I’ve been thinking that if I do (or even if I don’t) my word is going to PRESENT. Spend more time with my girls (the chores can wait), enjoy the moment more (instead of worrying if I captured it on film) say Yes to my girls more (and No to other responsibilities).

    Great post as always!
    And adorable pics!

  • Amanda-ThriceBlessed - Great post, I agree 100%. And that is one of my most favorite quotes.

  • Stephanie - Thank you so much for sharing this very encouraging, very important message. Our son is already 7, he will be 8 next month. I find myself saying over and over how time flies. We have another little one on the way, I’m due in March, I am going to print out this blog and place it somewhere safe. This way I can read it over and over again when I have those “hold on a minute” moments. Nothing is more important than being there for your children. Thank you!

  • Kate - My grandmother cross-stitched that quote at the end for my little girl’s nursery, and I look at it every day. Helps me to remember to soak up each and every tear, hug, and smile.

  • Marie - I love that quote at the end…as i sit holding my baby. sometimes i just want her to get a little older so i can get more done. but she is my 3rd (probably the last one for us) and i need to be reminded that this amazing time will be gone in a flash. i need to enjoy my baby–in every stage, and forget about those cobwebs. for now.

  • Ruth - Ashley, I’ve really enjoyed your “what I want to give” series this week, and this one actually made me a little teary because I could relate to it so much. Thank you for the inspiration and food for though this week. You are a far better person than I could ever hope to be, but at least now I have something to shoot for next year. I hope you get the wonderful Christmas with your family that you deserve.

  • Theresa - Well put and good advice. I am looking forward to next week, no preschool, no swimming, just me and the girls.

    Love you blog, so beautiful!

    Theresa

  • ashlee - maybe im hormonal but this post totally made me cry!!! and smile at the same time:)

  • Kirra Sue - O! I just got all teary eyed.

  • Courtney - He’s been gently telling me this over and over, “BE PRESENT”…

    my goal this past year was, “be intentional”

    i think for 2011 it will be, “be present”

    thank you for spurring me on to be obedient to Him!

  • Brandi - I needed to hear this right before my Christmas break from school. I am going to soak up every minute I can while I am on break. THank you

  • crystal - I love this post!! I think this is on every mother’s mind. We all strive to be present. Thanks for sharing.

  • Julie - I LOVE the Hamilton quote. I feel like I missed out on so much with my older kids (a set of twin boys) because I was too busy. Now that I finally have another baby (8 years later) I am specifically making time to be there with him. The laundry may pile up, but he will be grown before I know it. And I don’t want to miss it this time.

  • Ruth V - I love the sentiment you share and I will be doing the same. It was only yesterday that my little one was a baby and today she is nearly two and looking like a proper little girl. I must snoodle her up while she still lets me!

  • Liz - I couldn’t agree with you more. In fact last week I got slammed because a mom on facebook was complaining and being sarcastic about her kids. She said mommy is closed come back tommorow. It hit my hard and upset me because no matter how tired I am or how much I need a break I would never say that to my kids. Well, all her friends jumped on and defended her saying I was a horrible person and she was a perfect mom because she homeschools her kids. IT blew up and I even had some people unfriend me. So it is refreshing to see that someone else feels the way I do. All they need is our undivided attention. That is all. There are times when they don’t need it and those are the times that we do things for ourselves and around the house. I have hard days with my kids sometimes but I try to never complain about it. They are precious gifts and every second counts.

  • Desiree - This is so true! It’s amazing how much this little person (my daughter) wants to be with me! She grabs my hand and pulls me along. She tells me to sit (on the floor, at the table, wherever she is). She comes into the kitchen just to say, Hi! You know how it is. I don’t know how I’m going to get ANY housework done once #2 comes along! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Amy - I love this post. “Isnโ€™t it great to be loved by a child?!” Thanks for the reminder that they ask for so little in exchange for so much (love)!

  • Carolyn - Thank you for this post – really well said. I am trying to remind myself that my daughter demanding all of my attention now, is such a brief moment in time. It will pass, and I need to appreciate it before she is off and into the world…You’re right, it certainly is great to be loved by a child!

  • Jenny B. - Thanks – I needed that reminder. Such a sweet poem. Cleaning isn’t usually what keeps me away from my kiddos (that would be the computer), but the sentiment is so true. Your photos are adorable!

  • Cheri - Long time reader first time comments poster. Thank you for this.

  • Carolv - I thought a lot about your post yesterday as I watched your words unfold in my life. I started off my day with an overwhelming to do list. I got through the first item whn I got a call fom my daughter and could hear my granddaughter playing in the background. I happened to be a few blocks from their house so I stopped by to see those two precious girls. Then off to complete the rest of my list. I do love checking off my list. I stopped back home to pick up some things before heading out again and my oldest surprised me and came home for the weekend. Suddenly my list became smaller. We hopped in the car with two of my other girls and went to grab some lunch. We ended up spending the day laughing, eating, shopping and having a great time. By the time we got back home the whole family was there. (There are nine of us including spouses and grandbaby.). We hung out until bed time. I didn’t get much of my list done, but I realized that it doesn’t matter how old your kids get, they always want your presence. I am grateful for that!

  • Melissa Deming - You are the cutest thing ever! what a great reminder!

  • tara - weeping.
    simply weeping.
    my biggest struggle. but i am proud to say that i am able to do this a lot of the time…however then i worry about what my mother in law thinks of the mountains of laundry…and the unmade beds!

  • jessica h - thanks again for an inspiring, encouraging post to just “be,” which is the most valuable thing we can offer those we love!!

  • Helen + Bill + Mirys from Brazil - Priceless!!!!

    You couldnt finish this “series” in a better way!

    “What you want to give” = we’ve read about.

    “Whatu you DO GIVE” = INSPIRATION!!!

    Mirys – mother of 2 adorable little musketters (that dont have pics like these!!! I get to do something about it!!! They DO grow to fast…)

  • Tiffany - that is a great poem you shared.

  • Becky - Hi,

    What a great post! This is so poignant, to so many Mothers. I love your ‘not on your kids wish list’, I want to put this on my wall to remind of this every day.
    Thank you for sharing this,
    Becky:)

  • Jocelyn - This post made me cry. It’s so sweet to be a mom and it’s wonderful to be reminded how sweet it is.

  • Goals & Ideas: Part II « - […] shared this poem at the end of her post, what I want to give: presence,ย  that she posted last week and it really made me realize that these goals are going to help me be […]

  • libby - Oh so very true! i adore this post. the pictures are so precious!

  • Giving Presence « One Small Happy Family - […] week, she did a series of posts called โ€œWhat I want to giveโ€.  This one particularly hit me.  Itโ€™s about giving her presence, about being there for her kids.  […]

  • Emily - I have to say this is one of my very favorite posts! It really had got me thinking about the way I mother from a child perspective and I realize I need to give even more of my presence. Thank you so much!

  • Jesica Whittington - Wow did this hit home! As I was reading it I was shushing my 4 yr old daughter who was interrupting my train of thought. She was asking me to watch her play with her Leap Pad. I quickly shared the post to my Facebook to come finish reading it later and jumped right in to play with her. Thanks for the reminder!

  • Jane - Children will not remember you for the material things that y ou provided, but for the feeling that you cherished them. Richard L. Evans

  • Christy Fitzwater - I just discovered your blog, and it’s beautiful. It makes me happy, and I can’t stop looking at it. Thank you for this gift.

Every now and then a surprise package will arrive on my doorstep or a friend will drop off an unexpected gift and I tear into it like a child. Receiving gifts is just plain fun. I’ve had a few surprise gifts lately and the bags they came in are sitting under the Christmas tree empty just because I like to look at the bags and be reminded of the thoughtfulness of friends.

To me the best gifts are the ones that reflect the giver…whether it is store bought or made by hand. When we found out FireCracker was a girl some close friends threw me a shower. Several of the girls gave me gifts that they had scoured etsy to find or made by hand….despite that many of them typically do not make gifts or shop on etsy. Their gifts to me reflected how well they know me. It was awesome. My all time favorite gifts are those that are fun for the recipient and benefits those in need.

Giving gifts is a big part of Christmas celebrations for most families. When I ponder what I want my kids to think and feel towards gift giving at Christmas a lot comes to mind, but mostly boils down to FUN. Giving gifts should be fun….it shouldn’t be a drain and one more thing to check off in the middle of a stressful season. However, that is typically how it ends up. I want my kids to have fun giving gifts and deciding what those gifts should be. Like so many things in life this is pretty easy for them….but harder for me.

I love making things. It is a part of me, however I am only recently stepping out and making things for other people. I’ve always been nervous to give handmade gifts…not wanting people to feel stuck with something they don’t like, but feeling the need to pretend they do because I am their friend. Honestly, this blog (your kind words about the projects I post here) has helped me gain confidence in giving handmade gifts.

Shopping for gifts is not fun for me, yet that is what I’ve typically always done. So this year I making more (not all). My kids have been watching me make a lot of gifts. We’ve talked a lot about who they are for and why I am making them. They’ve seen me covered in paint, glue & fabric…having fun. I don’t want to teach my kids that they have to make gifts for the gift to be special…I want to teach them to have fun when they give…whatever that looks like in regards to who they are.

So this year I am having fun with my little “handmade by” stamp (which was a surprise gift itself). I want to give my kids the example that giving gifts – this time of the year or any time – is an extension of who they are….and it can be so much fun. I’m not too good at giving gifts that really reflect the one I am giving it too, but I have a lot of friends that are…and they are teaching me….and one day I hope I am better and it rubs off on my kids. I really hope one of my kids decides their most enjoyable way to give as an adult is to randomly surprise their mom with Anthropologie gift cards. I’ll be a proud mom in that moment.

And if you are getting tired of all these ‘Deep thoughts with Ashley’ posts…I only have one more ๐Ÿ™‚

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  • Kirra Sue - Looks beautiful! ๐Ÿ˜‰ Loving these posts! I’m gonna make one of your cake plates for a friend this year- so excited!

  • Allie - What good timing — I have my white coffee mugs and my pebeo paint and squeezy bottles ready to [GULP] make something for the family gift exchange. It’s daunting, but at least I can always have my husband claim my little mugs if no one else likes them ๐Ÿ™‚
    Thank you for the daily inspiration and reminder to make these hectic days a little more meaningful for the munchkins.

  • amy - Your plates are absolutely amazing…holy cow they are gorgeous! I would be SO happy to be one of your family members and receive those!! Wowsers!

  • RachelC - well said. whether made or bought — the thought that goes in to each gift is what makes it so special for the one receiving and so fun for the one giving. There is nothing better than watching someone receive something special you picked out just for them.

  • Angie - Everything you make is amazing! Be proud of yourself: for your talents, for what you are instilling in your children. You are amazing and have every right to feel confident in your abilities. I have the project posted above on my to-do list. I know my mother would love it. Giving is better then receiving! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Heather - i dont think you should be nervous to give those plates as a gift.. they are lovely!!!! they make me happy just to look at photos of them ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Krista @ Blue Eyed Yonder - I adore handmade gifts and I’m head over heels for all the lovelies you’ve made. And the little mechanical pencil-looking topper on your paint bottle is genius! Keep the ‘deep thoughts with Ashley’ coming, they make me smile each day. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Seamingly Sarah - I love the thoughtful posts this week. Yet another reminder in this Christmas haze about what is really important. Thank you for taking the time to put these posts together.

  • Heather - I have been so inspired by your blog! I’ve handmade every gift this year for my family. I’ve made the aprons, the notebooks you made for the kids in Haiti, and I’ve attempted to make these plates. I check your blog everyday to get new ideas. When my husband and I were driving through Tulsa a couple of weeks ago, I tried to stalk you but my husband wouldn’t let me ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Sarah - i like the deep thought posts. always inspiring. I’ve been making a lot of handmade gifts the past couple of years. unfortunately, not everyone appreciates them so I have to pick and choose who to make things for. i personally would rather recieve a handmade gift then something someone just went to the store and bought. I know i’m in the minority on that thought but it’s true! i can’t wait until my son gets a little older and starts making me things in school.

  • mrs.magoo - Those plates came out gorgeous!!!!!!!! Wow. Totally impressed. I want them now ๐Ÿ™‚

  • call me Ana - Watching you making your own wonderful gifts made me a little bit jealous (but it is a good kind of jealousy…rsrs). I’ve always enjoyed making gifts and crafts. But for now I’m pretty stucked in a job which takes me all day long and it brings me no satisfaction at all…That’s too bad… So this year I’ll have to go shopping and that’s really annoying…But next year (and that is the most important new year’s decision for 2011) I’ll take over my life again and go back to be a crafter and a full time mom…That’s will be very pleasant and will bring back joy to my life again…Love your blog, your writings and your ideas…Keep going as such an inspiration…

  • amanda torres - I love your deep posts! It’s the only intelligible reading I do in the day. Educate me, man. Educate me!

  • Nicole - So true!
    Love the plates. I am in the process of making a set of plates for each of our childrenโ€™s godparents and grandparents. So each godparent will have a set of four plates that contains one โ€˜handprintโ€™ of each of our three children and the year. They donโ€™t look as clean and well-drawn as yours, but Iโ€™m thinking they will enjoy them. If I have a chance, Iโ€™ll try posting pics to your FB page when they are all done!!

  • Lindsay - I love those plates. I lOVE them! Did you literally just draw on them with the squeeze tube? I’m going to make a million sets of plates through 2011 and give them to EVERYONE for Christmas next year! You are SO creative!

  • Tammy - I like the deep thoughts! And I know several people who would be overjoyed to receive a handmade gift from you!! And we don’t even know each other… HAHA! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • sarah - Beautiful plates. I’m actually making some hot cocoa mugs using this technique as we speak. I’d been holding on to that exact Martha project too, when I saw your post awhile ago I had an ah ha moment and decided to make personalized hot cocoa mugs for my brother and his family (along with some home made hot cocoa mix and if I can muster the strength some home made marshmallows).

    That applicator bottle looks better. I’ve been using the pens, but perhaps I’ll check out the bottled paint and try that applicator.

  • ashlee - I toohope my kids will randomly sorprise me with Anthro gift cards, Starbucks gift cards would be nice as well. I love your posts…and i LOVE my bowl!!

  • Amanda - You made all those plates with all the little perfect dots?! Wow! I can’t wait to hear the story behind how those came together because they are beautiful. Happy Holidays to your lovely family.

  • meg duerksen - i have loved ALL of these posts!
    i love coming here and seeing a positive family working with intention at christmas.
    ashley you are an inspiration to so many women.
    keep up the good work.
    i love your handmade stamp….your ideas….your heart.
    you are fabulous!

  • Jessamy - I completely agree with Meg…
    You are fabulous! Beautiful post.

  • Helen + Bill + Mirys from Brazil - Why “just one more” post like this?????

    Why???????

    I was having so much fun (and inspiration for next year)!!!

    Have you seen my “serie of posts” too?
    It is at http://www.diariodos3mosqueteiros.blogspot.com
    Iยดm making a list of the 25 things that are most important in life and you canยดt live without it. A lot of friends are helping but I could certainly use MORE help!

    How about writing us?

    Kisses and blessings.
    Kisses for your lovely Aunt!

    Mirys from Brazil

  • Cassie - Don’t you LOVE Matilda Jane?? I actually modeled for one of the catalogues a couple years ago (random, I know). I can’t wait to have a girl someday to dress up in all of their goodies.

    I love, love, love your heart as a mama. It is so encouraging.

  • CharlaL - Loving the deep thoughts…I was SOOO stressed about Christmas, I make my self sick…I have shingles. Your Deep thoughts have been the EXACT breath of fresh air I needed! Thank you! Looking forward to tomorrow!

  • sarah j - i just have to echo all the other ladies…please don’t feel the need to apologize for all these lovely thoughts! it truly is an inspiration to see how INTENTIONAL you are about what you want to teach your kids. you’re making sure they don’t just grow up learning the status quo–and i think that will make them grow up to be world-changers, in whatever capacity God intends for them as unique and gifted individuals.

    i also especially love the reminder that christmas is only about stress if we let it be…and you are a refreshing example of how to shatter that stressful holiday existence!

  • OrangeFarmhouse - Maike - If you where my friend I would be angry NOT getting anything homemade…

  • kristy taylor - i’m trying more to make handmade thoughtful gifts, but feel nervous about it. ‘will i be viewed as taking the cheap route?’ keeps running through my head. there are those i know will appreciate the thought & effort that goes into a handmade gift, because it really would be easier to buy it & wrap it, but thinking about what’s perfect for that person is something i enjoy thoroughly!

    i’m planning on pushing on more in 2011! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Lindsey Jo - can i just tell you that i think you and your little family are just precious?

  • Leanne - oh my…I want those plates. you are seriously so talented!

  • Barbara G - Just for your information, I love these โ€˜Deep thoughts with Ashleyโ€™ posts. ๐Ÿ™‚
    And, I would actually buy plates like that…

    I love looking for and giving presents. And I love it when I’m with the person, while he or she unwraps their gift. It’s wonderful when they love it.

  • Carolyn - I like everything you post..well except the country music posts! I don’t know much about country music, and I don’t know who that singer you like is..Brad Somebody? ๐Ÿ™‚ sorry!! I guess I will use being from a different part of the world as my excuse! Anyways, keep up the deep thinking posts, because they are encouraging to read.
    P.S I have tried a couple of your DIY projects. They turned out really nice! I have also just ‘liked’ your blog on facebook, and I will add a couple of photos of the projects when I have more time…now back to Christmas present wrapping. (apologies for my rambling comment!)

  • Lila - I have really enjoyed these posts and even jotted down some notes about traditions I want to create with my future kids that have been inspired by what you have shared. I have the same handmade stamp and I love it. The plates looks beautiful!

  • Erin Lee - Keep the ‘deep thoughts with Ashley’ coming : ) I love the insight that come with the inspiration <3 Ooh and the plates are fabulous… I need to find porcelain paint in Korea!

  • hearttypat - i don’t think I’ll get tired of our posts!

  • Mindi - I love the plates. And this year I made a lot more of my gifts. Some were fun and some I was sick of by the time I was done with them. ๐Ÿ™‚ I would love a tutorial on how to make the plates.

  • sarah k - I’m definitely not tired of the “deep thoughts” posts. These thoughts are GOOD! I am inspired! And encouraged. Thank you!

    My kids are 4 1/2, almost 3, and just turned 1. I’m pretty sure we have a lot of training to do in order to help them understand the real meaning & right heart of Christmas…but your “what I want to give” posts are helping me shape my thoughts about what I want to give–whereas my thoughts had just been gravitating to what I wanted to give in terms of toys, etc. We’re still giving those things, of course, but I am inspired to think and work more toward the most important things I want to give.

    I’d kind of like to give all handmade next year. But with my kids’ ages, I’d better start now. Hmmm, yeah, right… ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Aubrey - I also would love to pass on the importance of time that invested in handmade gifts….but share in the hope of receiving Anthropologie gift cards too!!! I think I giggled outloud when I read that. Love it!

  • MelissaM - Yay! You got your Matilda Jane! I bet you are so excited. ๐Ÿ™‚