February and March were wonderfully slow months for us. We really didn’t have much going on in regards to extra stuff on the calendar. Basketball season wrapped up. It was cold and I hibernate. They were two slow, easy-going, chill months. And then April hit.

Things are fast and furious around here. We are wrapping up our school year with our homeschool community. Three of my kids have huge memory challenges they are working towards. For those familiar with CC, I’ve got 2 doing Memory Master, 1 doing Grand Master (his second time to do it) and 2 doing Grammar Master. (Corbett is in Challenge) 

I won’t try to describe what all that is, other than to say our days are feeling SO LONG. I’m tired. They are tired. There have been lots of tears (from kids and mom). It isn’t a required thing for them to do the challenge, but I know they can each do it…we do it each year. Of course, the content of what they are learning is important to me, but the process is really why we are doing it. I want them to learn they can do hard things. I want them to know how to push past the desire to quit when everything in them wants to give up. I want them to learn to look at a mountain and not turn around, but realize they can climb it one step at a time. Perseverance. Grit. Determination. Fight.

My boys have all been forever changed by this process. My older daughter is experiencing it for her first time this year. Last week was full of tears for her. This week she is beginning to laugh and smile as she realizes she CAN DO IT! What a gift as a parent to watch it all play out. What a gift it is to see her brothers rally around her and cheer her on as she tackles each subject.

I am covered in maps, flash cards, kids and a dog all day. My youngest, on the other hand, is often found chilling in the hammock while the rest of us study. I’m trying really hard not to be jealous.
By the end of next week, the memory challenge will be over.

In the back of my mind I keep thinking, “I need to prepare for China.” I mentioned it on Instagram, but I don’t think I’ve share it here. We are headed to China! We board the plane the first of May and won’t be coming home until mid-July. 10 weeks in China!!

I’ll share more about why we are going and how we are going later. That is a big post to write and my mind can only deal with so much right now. Finish up school with kids and then plan to move to China for a couple months!

I need a nap. I guess it will have to wait for the plane!

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  • Oceana | Maps + Mandalas - Wow I had no idea that your trip to China was so long! Looking forward to hearing all about it!!


  • erin - China! What an adventure! I can’t wait to follow along. We traveled to Taiwan with our kids in December and can’t wait to go back.

  • JenW - I would love to hear your approach on encouraging the kids not to quit when it gets hard. It’s a lesson that my 7yo struggles with a LOT! I can only say I know he can do it (whatever it is) so many times…how do you get the kid to get out of their own way enough so see a glimmer of belief that they can do it?

  • jenw - I would love to hear your approach on encouraging the kids not to quit when it gets hard. It’s a lesson that my 7yo struggles with a LOT! I can only say I know he can do it (whatever it is) so many times…how do you get the kid to get out of their own way enough so see a glimmer of belief that they can do it?

  • Dana Marshall - I so needed to read this — I’m a CPA just a couple years into my career and “busy season” is NO JOKE. I read your blog when I need mental breaks from tax returns & financial statements (slash when I am daydreaming about being a cool mom of loads of kids that still does crossfit 😉 )

    So thank you for the reminder that is it good to push through things that are hard. Learning perseverance and endurance is not an easy road, but it is something the Lord wants to teach us and will help us persevere and push through things that are hard in the future.

    so thanks, you rock. i think you’re cool. fist bump.

  • susie - wow! 10 weeks! I hope you can blog every day there, it will be fun to read the blog.

  • Mindy - Wow. Memory masters all around. We’re finishing our third year of Foundations and haven’t done MM yet. No excuse, we need to do it next year. Is this something you require each year? Any tips?

  • Diane H - I am not familiar with memory masters but am so pleased to report that my homeschool children, a senior and an 8th grader both recited the complete book of James! Chapters 1-5!!! Starting at 1 and not stopping til the last verse of chapter 5. We do Bible memory each morning before we start our day. Usually doing 3 new verses a week and continuing to add onto the passage. It is worth it to hide God’s word in our hearts!

  • Torey - This is our 3rd year in CC and I’ve never heard of Grammar Master? I’ve only ever heard of Memory Master and Mega Memory Master (which I think is the same thing as Grand Master (all 3 cycles). Can you explain what Grammar Master is?

  • Tiffany - I want them to know how to push past the desire to quit when everything in them wants to give up. I want them to learn to look at a mountain and not turn around, but realize they can climb it one step at a time. Perseverance. Grit. Determination. Fight. – Inspirational words today, sharing with a family member who needs to hear them too. Have a good weekend!

  • Laura Kate McKee - I began reading your blog when you were in china waiting to meet Little One. Your story was one of many little things that bent our hearts toward adoption over the years. Well, we leave May 12 to go and bring home our Chinese son! We’ll be in Guangzhou May 14-26. My email address is laurakate.mckee@gmail.com – I’d love to swap travel/adoption stories. Also, my husband and I have lived in China so we may be able to help if you have questions about some of the places you are visiting.

Six years ago this month, my eldest/oldest/elder/older daughter…

Okay sidenote – the #1 grammar correction I receive on a regular basis is my use of “eldest/elder daughter” or “oldest/older daughter.” When I use “eldest/er,” someone suggests I should use “oldest/er”. When I use “oldest/er,” someone suggests I used “eldest/er.” I consulted the internet grammar gods and a few English teachers….the general consensus is I can use either to describe the daughter in our family that was born 2 years before the other daughter. There is also a ton of debate regarding this topic on the grammar boards of the internet gods. Let’s be honest – I’m doing good just posting these days. Please give me grace on my grammar mistakes – grammar is only one of my many shortcomings!  I guess I could go back to using nicknames for my kids or their ages. I’m going to go with older and will be sticking with it because I’m exhausted trying to figure out which one will make the least amount of people cringe. Grace…I need lots of grace!

Okay, back to the point of this post.

Six years ago this month, my older daughter broke her leg. Actually, she fractured her femur and it was a HUGE fracture. She ended up in traction in the hospital for over three weeks. At the time, she was a few months shy of her second birthday. I am still not sure how we made it so many weeks with an almost 2 year old, who was stuck on her back.

The entire duration of her stay she was on the pediatric oncology floor since she was there for a longer stay and wasn’t contagious. As we walked the halls we got to see other patients….little patients battling really big battles.

I thought of those patients and their families daily. I knew soon we’d leave and head back to our normal routine at home. In a few months it would be as if we were never there. Her stay in the hospital was long enough that I saw some kids leave and come back for chemo treatments. Little heads should be bald because of a bad haircut not because of a battle with cancer. Cancer sucks. I remember seeing one door with a “Transplant” sign taped to it. Thinking about the family on the other side of that door shattered my heart.

I couldn’t help but push my girl around the floor and wonder why we had it so good. There I was with a little girl singing If You’re Happy and You Know It while waving at nurses…other moms were praying their child would receive a much needed transplant or hoping that that round of chemo would work.


Six years later – I can’t keep her feet on the ground.Canopy-12During those three weeks, I left the hospital for a total of 30 minutes. Thankfully, many friends and family stopped by and changed up the pace of our days. I vividly remember the day my friend Anna stopped by my daughter’s room. Anna and I talked about the other patients on the floor – specifically the children battling cancer. Anna and I grieved for the parents and children on the floor. We could not imagine what life was like for the patients and their parents.

A couple weeks later Anna, who has three boys, received the news that her youngest son had a brain tumor.

A brain tumor.

The life neither of us could imagine was all the sudden Anna’s reality.

Over the next year of treatments and surgeries, Anna journaled. She filled 6 full 3-ring binders with journal entries, notes, and letters.  I’ve watched over the years as Anna has taken a deeply personal and heartbreaking experience and turned it into something to help other families. She recently published Canopy: A 366 Days For parents of critically ill children using the content of those binders. It is the book no one wants to write, but if you are a parent in that situation, I imagine you’d be grateful to be reminded you are not alone…to hear a voice that understands and has walked the road that stretches out in front of you.

Gabe, Anna’s youngest son, is now 5 years post-treatment, NED (No Evidence of Disease). Today, I am celebrating the life of a little boy I love and a woman I admire and respect.

Processed with VSCO with a6 presetAnna is not on social media. I can’t link to her blog or her Instagram account – they don’t exist. Neither does her Facebook fan page or Twitter account. She is a woman full of grace and dignity, who lives quietly serving those around her. She didn’t write this book for accolades. She didn’t write it to gain a following. She doesn’t have aspirations to make the NYT Bestseller list. She quietly published a book to help parents, who like her, find themselves in a life centered in a medical world that could be defined by fear, worry and despair. She wrote it to offer hope.

My desire is that none of you know someone who could use Canopy. However, I also know the reality of critical childhood illnesses and that, unfortunately, many of you are already thinking of another parent who could use this book.

If you would like more information on Canopy, it is currently available on Amazon.


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  • Jenny B. - Wow. I remember when Firecracker broke her leg. My middle is her same age, and I remember trying to / trying not to imagine him in her situation. Now, my youngest is almost 2, and I can imagine again how very difficult that would be. I think of all that you guys have been through, and I’m just amazed. I am guessing you don’t feel amazing, but you truly are. I know it is because of the Lord working through you. Thank you for sharing about your friend, Anna, and her book. I was so thankful to read that Gabe is now healthy. Wow.

  • Maria - “Grace…I need lots of grace!”

    Can’t help but smile, because my last name (and my family’s) is Grace 🙂

  • Glenda - Thank you for this information Ashley. God’s timing is always perfect. We have friends (who coincidentally are also Campbells!) dealing with the very same kind of cancer in their young grandson, and tomorrow is a big day for them. I just ordered the book.

  • Nancy Farmer - Grace….you’ve got it. Grammar is certainly not my strong point but caring is.

  • Byron - A very wonderful Orthodox priest responding to a comment on his blog: “We converts have many failings. Mine are legion.”


    It’s posts like this that remind me amazing parents (such as you and Chris, who raise up amazing kids) usually became amazing by going through immense trials. Blessings!

  • amber - I stopped by for the first time in quite a while:/, & this post made me cry! Gosh I remember when that sweet, rambunctious baby was tied down to a hospital bed. So crazy how time changes things so quickly!
    And thank you for sharing this book. We have a family in our church walking through some just awful, hard, terrible things & hopefully this will offer the tiniest hope to that mama’s weary heart.
    Also. Grammar? Haha! I’m just thankful you still post your faith-filled messages on here! Who cares what’s spelled right or said correctly. It’s all about the heart anyway! 🙂

  • Romina MacGibbon - i am so afraid of Cancer. And even more afraid that my kids can get it. When we become moms, we become so vulnerable for ever. I feel so strong and fragile at the same time. I also remember these photos from six years ago. I wasn’t a mom at that time, and now I see them with another eyes. It must have been so terrible. I never ever want to be in a hospital with my daughter. I don’t feel strong enough to cope with sickness, but when it happens, the strengh comes from within. I admire all the Anna’s out there.
    — Grammar? I’m from Argentina, I try my best! 🙂

  • Debbie H - OH MY – I had no idea this ever happened to Firecracker. I must have started following you soon after this. I cannot imagine this for a two year old, or her parents, or her siblings! You have risen another level for me on the admiration scale, and I’m not sure I thought that was possible.

    I too will order several of these books. There will be a time when I need one on my shelf to share, as I have many clients with small children, and well, the odds just suck. I’m also going to donate one to our Church Library.

    And SERIOUSLY! People comment on your GRAMMAR! hahaha PLEASE. The reference to elder is maybe more “midwest speak” as that was very common language to me always growing up. I am the eldest of 4 children in our family 🙂 Language use has so many regional applications.

    Hugs to you and your aging family! Crazy how they are changing. Especially your eldest! 🙂 Enjoy your upcoming travels! It will be a year to remember, and I will enjoy watching through what you share.

  • Chantel Klassen - Wow, this post just made me realize that I’ve been following you for over 6 years! Seems like a lifetime in the blog world. I remember reading your posts back when Firecracker (your older/oldest/elder/eldest daughter) broke her leg . . . and yes, in a place like that it’s easy to be thankful it was just a break.
    I can’t think of anyone I know that would benefit from Canopy just now but I’m tucking it in the back of my mind for future reference. So good to hear her little guy is doing well now! <3

  • Sapphire - I’m so pleased your friend has written this book. My 5 year old daughter doesn’t have cancer, but does have a serious heart defeat, 3 open heart surgeries later and she will need a heart transplant. the hospital life is a surreal one, and one not really discussed.

  • Seamingly Sarah - What a loving and sad gift for your friend to bring to the world. I am sure it is much needed. Thank you for sharing this with us.

  • Emily Bartnikowski - I remember those posts — and whenever I talk to my family about something you’ve posted I refer to you as “Firecracker’s mom.” Thank you for letting me know about the book. What a heartbreaking story with a happy ending!

    (And don’t worry about the grammar – English is confusing enough as it is!)

  • Jenny L. - My son who is now 23 broke his femur completely in half on a skateboard ramp at the age of 6. He was in our local hospital and then came home but spent the entire summer in a body cast and went back to school with crutches. We then had to take him over to Nemours Clinic in the central part of Florida and it was in that doctor’s office that I saw lots of kids with problems that didn’t come close to ours. His leg had healed short but the doc said it would improve with age and it did. It will cause him no problems as an adult. I had the same thoughts as you. The doctor was a lovely Christian man who must have been such a blessing to the parents of the children he was seeing. I would see the kids and their parents in the waiting room and my heart would break. It hurt so much when he broke his femur and I couldn’t imagine what it would be like for my child to have a permanent condition or a terminal one. So happy to hear that your friend’s story had a happy ending!

Today I am guest posting over on the Bought Beautifully blog about something new my family tried as a way to usher in our Easter celebrating. It involves beautiful wood eggs sourced from the hills of Gilead (50 miles from where the Easter story began). Aside from the uniqueness of the actual wood, the purchase of each egg helps support physically challenged, deaf and underprivileged artisans in the Holy Land.

You can find my post on the Bought Beautifully blog.


Today I also wanted to announce the most recent SnapShop lesson:

MegDuerksenCountless times I’ve watched students go through the SnapShop DSLR Course and quickly begin wading the waters of a starting a photography business. Running a photography business is not for everyone, it wasn’t for me. My friend Meg Duerksen has a story similar to mine – started a photography business at the request of friends and after a bit stepped away from that business to pursue things even more perfect for her unique design. I interviewed Meg about her journey and I hope it helps students who find themselves at a similar crossroads.

Registration includes access to all SnapShop content (used by over 3000 students since 2009), including: 

  • SnapShop DSLR Course (a $200 value)
  • SnapShop Phone Course (a $50 value)
  • Interviews & tips with leading photographers & bloggers
  • Course discussions
  • Additional lessons posted monthly by Ashley Ann and guests!

To register click here and use the code: UTS

Discount code is case sensitive and can be entered at checkout.  Subscriptions will renew for $5.00 monthly to maintain access to existing content and new lessons!  

To see a listing of all the lessons and courses included and a FAQ page answering common questions visit the SnapShop website.

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