Monday, November 28, 2016

It Isn't Fair

Well, between leaving the month of thanks and entering the Christmas season, I've been getting a little introspective.

Plus, we've had a few rough months with Joshua. We're not sure if it's his normal cycle of huge growth, then plateau, then a bit of regression, repeat, or the fact that he had a huge transition into kindergarten.  But it doesn't matter how many times the cycle plays out, we always get discouraged between times of great strides.

And I think that 2016 has been a rough year for all of us: personally and collectively.  So as the year comes to a close, I have a couple of things for all of us to think about.

Stay with me. Really.

Several months ago a friend and I were lamenting about our sons' (different) special needs and she made the comment that it's not fair that our children deal with such challenges when others don't.  And at the time I agreed. But then I sat on that for awhile and I realized that it's not.  It's not fair that I live in a country where my son has access to therapy and education tailored to his needs.  It's not fair that he was born to parents able to provide for him; grandparents that champion him and spoil him as much as possible; friends and a church family that seek to understand him and love him the way he is.  There are many, many little Moroccan Joshuas that will never have any of those things.

And then, today in church our pastor referenced the passage wherein Jesus tells the Rich Man that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven.  I've always considered myself NOT a part of that crowd; the wealthy crowd. But you know what?  I so am.  In fact, almost every person reading this is a part of that crowd.  Wealthy by American standards?  No.  But by the world's standard, I am FILTHY, DRIPPING rich.  Not only do I have a warm home and soft beds for my kids to sleep in, but they have food in their tummies, and I'll be able to buy them presents for Christmas.  I know that for you guys I don't need to list all the facts about world poverty, but if you have any doubts as to how well off you are, go visit

So, yeah, that isn't fair either.

(I'm not going to go into all of the spiritual implications of the fact that I AM the rich man trying to get into heaven in this post.)

It's pretty much the same call we hear every year from spiritual and secular sources alike: Be Thankful! Tis the Season to Give! Jesus is the Reason for the Season! I guess I want to challenge each of you to look for the wealth in your own life, even when you're struggling month to month. Look for the thing in your life that isn't fair...(not "it isn't fair that I don't have a bigger house", but "it isn't fair that I have health insurance and others don't")

Will this make me a better person?  Not quite. But hopefully little by little during this Christmas season, I will dwell less on myself and the things I want, and more on Christ and serving others.

And you know, it would bless me so, so much if you would comment (on Facebook) the reason your life isn't fair.

P.S. Full disclosure, I totally don't have the upper hand on this situation of being thankful and not wanting more. After I watched our town's tree lighting the other night, I ducked into J.Crew's 40% off sale to buy not just a Christmas present for Joe, but a couple of things for myself.  (Would I be admitting this if not caught by the Borkholder family right outside the door?  Not sure.)

Friday, July 29, 2016

Well, They Left Us (You'll Be back)

The Stephensons pulled out of town earlier this month.  As I processed my anger over them leaving us, Mary liked to remind me that I previously left her.  Yes. I left her in Morocco with full-time house help, a huge house and backyard, and Southern California weather.  Boo hoo.

Us then:

Oh my word, look at those little people. 

When we left them, a tradition of a good-bye performance was established. I hesitate to post this because of my cackling in the background.  It's true. I don't have a lady-like laugh.

Matt serenades us:

We never dreamed in Morocco that we would soon have two years of four doors down from each other.  Such a gift.

Us now:

Joshua's still trying to get out of Joe's arms.

We serenade them:

Perhaps the best part is the children's commentary in the background/Scout's dancing.  And Hamilton fans, did you catch the comment about King George's song?

We love you crazy Stephensons.  Come back to us soon.  

Like really soon.

Friday, July 8, 2016

He's a Bloomin'

That Joshua boy.  He has done some big time blooming and growing in the last couple of months.

There are so many things we take for granted when it comes to early child development.  It's easy to think about in an abstract way, but we are face to face with it everyday watching Joshua and Scout (sister) develop side-by-side.

I've talked about this before, but it constantly amazes us how Scout learns so naturally.  She adds new words everyday.  She imitates us in actions and speech so effortlessly.  I haven't explicitly taught her anything in the way of numbers or colors and yet she observes and is starting to pick them up.  We are so, so grateful for her "normal" development thus far.

We recently potty-trained her.  That "we" being Mom and me.  Joe really lucked out on this one.  He was out of town for work and I had the genius, seriously, genius idea to do the main potty push while I had another adult with me at home all day.  Thanks Mom! And in the weeks following it has been such a huge difference from when we trained Joshua in the fall because SCOUT TELLS ME WHEN SHE NEEDS TO GO. Oh happy day.  It has made the process so much smoother.

Because Joshua has never told us.

We just take him periodically and hope for the best.  A lot of the time at home he will go to the bathroom by himself- we just have to listen for the clang of the toilet seat and come running to supervise.

But yesterday.  Yesterday!  Not only did he tell me (in his way) that he had to go, he GOT OUT OF THE POOL to do so.  His beloved pool! He volunteered!

He came out and grabbed my hand and started pulling me.  My first thought was that he wanted to go to the big pool where Daddy was, but then something made me check for potty.  I said,"Potty, Joshua?" and he said,"Poppy!"  And in this case I knew he was talking about the potty and not my dad.  So we ran in there and success! So proud.

And another concrete story of his recent growth:

Earlier today Joshua walked into my room and I said,"Hi Joshua!"  I'm not expecting anything back necessarily, but always modeling.  Always the one-sided conversation. I know from experience that it's sinking into that little head, even if I may not get anything back for months... years.

BUT.  He responded! Right away!

"Want some juice! Want some hot dog!"

I did a double take.  (Or double listen?)

For a few weeks he has been repeating "Want some juice" really well.  He has requested "juice" on his own for months. We are constantly providing scaffolding to get him to the next level of communication.  So when he says "Juice" we automatically say "Want some juice?".  We don't require him to say it, just let him hear it over and over.  I'm sure the next phase will be "I want some juice".

But the hot dog!  Oh, the hot dog! We have NEVER said the hot dog sentence that I know of.  And certainly not the 150x we've said the juice part. He made the connection on his own! YAAAAY Joshua!

Well, I jumped up and said OK! Juice and hot dog! and ran to the kitchen. Where I discovered we were out of hot dogs.  No, no, no!  I HAD to positively reinforce this big step!  I thought about calling Joe to get some at the store on the way home (not quick enough), cursed the Stephensons a little bit for not being 4 doors down with extra hot dogs, and then thankfully remembered that I had some hot dogs from Costco in the freezer.  Oh, joy of joys!!

Happy Mama, happy boy.  Boy that works so hard everyday; so much harder than most of us to communicate, process and interact.  We are so proud of him.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Oh Dad, Never Change

Many of you have met my Dad.

Don't have a picture of him alone.  So here we are.

And if you have known him for any amount of time you know that he is God-seeking, loving, honest, loyal, humble, generous, disciplined, basketball playing, hardworking, outgoing, and funny.

And when I say outgoing, I mean he has most likely made friends with every person he has ever stood in line next to: airport, post office, grocery store.  He might even find a way to chat up a person in the line for the toll both.

And the funny...well, that's what this post is mostly about.  The man can TELL A STORY.  I mean, really tell a story.  I've been hearing the same stories for years and they just keep getting better.  He has been keeping me in stitches since '86. (As far back as I know)

For years I've been wanting to write down his "sayings". And that's where my Uncle John enters the picture. "Uncle" John has been my dad's best friend since childhood.  Way too many of said stories above involve Uncle John.  These two have created more hijincks together than their moms and wives would care to remember.

(Those four women just nodded and rolled their eyes)

But through the years they have come up with/come across all sorts of sayings.  And the thing is, I'm not sure that anyone knows were Dad ends and Uncle John begins.  And I have to give credit where credit is due.  So, Uncle John, half of this post is dedicated to you.  I love you.

What follows is a list of the things (and some explanations of) I have heard them say over and over again. They make me smile every time.

1. That guy could talk a dog off a meat truck!  (he's convincing)

2. I was sweating like a cat burglar at a highway patrolmen's convention.

3. He's cooler than the other side of the pillow.  (My first memory of this statement was the night Uncle John met future husband Joe)

4. I was busier than a centipede doing a tap dance!!

5. That steak is as tender as my heart.

closely related to-

6. This steak is so tender I don't know how that cow stood up.  (They like steak)

7. We should have a good old fashioned windmill greasin'. (Similar to a barn raising or quilting bee)

8. I was so sore I needed 3 mirrors to see the muscles that hurt. (This was a new one last month after Dad attended an exercise class with me).

9.  That thing is like Six Flags in a box. (Referencing a piece of Ikea-like furniture that needs to be assembled)

10. I'm hungrier than a woodpecker in a steel mill!

11. I'm so tired I could sleep on top of a picket fence.

(#10 and #11 were used most frequently growing up)

12. They folded up like a cheap lawn chair.  (Something that doesn't work; someone that is pretending)

13. He was as erratic as a caffeinated squirrel.

14. That could've been curtains, maybe even DRAPES! (When something almost went horribly wrong)

And really, there are so many more that I can't put my finger on right this second.

But aren't they clever?

Dad and Uncle John in the upper right corner.

Dad, thanks for keeping me laughing all these years.  Laughing is my favorite! I love you so, so, so much.  Happy Father's Day!

xoxo, Ashleigh

p.s. This is also your card.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Me Too

Have you ever taken a leap and shared with someone, a friend or acquaintance, something that you're going through?  You were a little worried about opening yourself up, but took the risk. And the response from the other person?

Me Too.

I think those are some of the best words in the English language.

It could be as simple as, "I can't get my kid to poop on the potty!" to the tricky, "My husband and I are having problems."

Nothing could be more comforting than Me Too.  Someone understands.  You have a comrade in arms.  They may not have any more wisdom than you, any more of an idea of how to climb out of the trench, but what a blessing to find someone that is climbing with you.

It works for all ages:

"That kid at recess is bullying me." Me Too.
"I'm having a hard time with Calculus." Me Too.
"I really want to meet THE ONE." Me Too.
"I'm lonely in this new city." Me Too.
"I don't feel like being a mom today." Me Too.
"I'm so out of shape!". Me Too.
"I have a special needs child." Me Too
"I'm starting to need glasses to read." Me Too.
"My hip hurts." Me too.
"I'm really missing my spouse that has passed." Me Too.

I'm not talking about bringing up a reason to gossip or slander.  But a chance to share, to encourage.  It might be just grieving with one another about a stage of life, or laughing about the same.  Maybe someone has an idea or two about how to help (this is not the time to get all bossy/know-it-all).  A sincere Me Too has been a balm to my soul more times than I can count.  And for me, it usually comes with a big sigh of relief.  A giant exhale.

Although not everyone you come across is going to be a "Me Too." Some people are going to be an "I've Truly Been There."

And here's where I segue into talking about cross-generational friendships. I recently read a fabulous book about the blessing of friendships across all ages and seasons of life by one of my favorite writers/bloggers, Sophie Hudson.

It's called Giddy Up, Eunice.
Here shown with my beloved Ira Glass mug and dying cilantro.

First of all, isn't that just the best title for a book?  That alone made me want to read it.

Through hilarious stories and a few relationships found in the bible, Sophie reminds us that we women need each other.  She shows us why and the how-to.  (It's not that hard or fancy)

A couple of quotes that stuck with me:

"At every age and stage of life, women need other women who will listen, confirm, teach, bless, and pray."

"What we have in common far exceeds any perceived generational differences."

"You can't underestimate the impact of women working together for the good of the generation behind them."

So yes, in-the-same-season-of-life friendships are very important.  But there can be such a richness in having relationships with women that are ahead of us in life, and behind us.

There have been many women in my life that have reached back and unofficially mentored me, been my friend, and truthfully, put up with me during hard times.  I want to give a quick shoutout to those current women in my life, to recognize you and say thank you.  Whether you are 5 years older or 20, you are so precious to me.  Some of you have been at it with me for years and years, some of you for just months.  My mom and Joe's mom, Donnette, are top of the list.  They don't have to be; I can't imagine everyone's mothers are.  But I am so lucky for the way they pour into me.   Abi Byrd and Carole Hernandez for picking me out of the crowd at church and seeing and loving me so well. And last but not least, Mary Bilbo.  Yes you: such an encourager and example. Honorable mention goes to Gail Price and Jane Sumner.  Because I know from our brief times together that if we lived closer this would be our relationship.

I encourage all of you to seek out these types of friendships; there is so much to gain from women who have gone before us: wisdom, encouragement, laughter.  Don't miss out.

And then, as Sophie says in her book, let's not forget the girls behind us either.  Because they need us too.

If you are interested in Giddy Up, you can find it here. You will be so glad you read it.

*Side note: There are many, many wonderful friendships that do no include "Me Too"s.  Obviously.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Three On the Run

When I was a kid, my mom would tape* random Walt Disney movies for us to watch and re-watch later. While on a walk this week with my 3, I thought of that title and that it probably applied here.  I can't remember who the 3 were, and what or whom they were running from, but the title "Three on the Run*" will always be stuck in my head along with "Runaway Elephant", The Shaggy Dog Adventures, and "The Moonspinners".

It was the first time I've taken all 3 kids on a walk by myself.  Oh man, that sounds yuck.  Or at least it feels yuck to me.  I've basically been waiting for Baby A (hereafter known as "Scout", Joe's nickname for her), to be old enough to follow along with the crowd with minimal help from me.  Because my other friend, Joshua, age 5, still needs a lot of attention in this department.  He's going to zig, zag, sit down in the middle of plants, run, jump and maybe get out into the street.

But now Scout rides a balance bike.  Like a boss, I might add. And can follow G on his scooter.  So that frees me up to walk holding Joshua's hand.  We stayed in our little neighborhood and didn't go far, but it was a good first outing.

And even though it was a successful walk, it still made me sad. Joshua was happy to be the only one holding my hand and walking with me, but I could tell a part of him wanted to be riding something too.  It's not for lack of trying: we've bought him his own scooter and tried him on the balance bike, but he just can't focus long enough OR doesn't have the skills to ride anything yet.  Not sure which.

It's kind of like when all the kids (including the Stephensons) are playing chase or wrestling and he stands on the outside giggling and looking with longing.  He desperately wants to be included but just doesn't have the skills to jump in and play with them.  And when I say "skills" I'm not talking about running or jumping; I mean the social skills to join in. He can do it if we facilitate, which we usually do, and then he blends right in and has a blast.

And so on walks like this, I start getting down that all of my children can't just jump on their scooters and sail off together.  That Scout isn't trying to keep up with 2 brothers instead of just the 1.  That G doesn't have a sibling peer. That there are many activities that I sub-consciously keep in an absolute no-go category.

Wallow, wallow, wallow.

Always back here.  It's a constant battle to instead remember all the reasons I'm grateful for our family just the way it is, and Joshua just the way he is.  Because I truly am. Our family is the perfect one that God has given us and I trust His plan for us WAY more than I trust mine.

But speaking of running, did you ever have a time when one of your children escaped out into the neighborhood buck naked?  Without you knowing?  I'm guessing I'm not the only one here...please?? I was upstairs getting dressed the other morning when a neighbor of mine hollered from downstairs, "Ashleigh, Joshua's at the playground!"  Bless her heart, she didn't mention the naked part.  He's never been one to leave the house.  Or I should say, my house.  He left Mary's recently and her adrenaline still hasn't recovered from it.

Anyhow, I ran out there and he had already made it to the top of the playground equipment (it's across the parking lot and down a sidewalk).  And clearly thought the whole situation was hilarious.  He slid down the slide, I caught him and marched him back home.  And made a resolution that we were done with nakedness; even in the house.  (We got into this habit while potty training)

What struck me was that I wasn't so upset that I had "lost" him, this happens with some regularity as he is quiet and quick,  but I was embarrassed that he was naked in front of the whole neighborhood.  MOTHER OF THE YEAR, people.

So happy weekend, we're locked up tight around here.  NO ESCAPEES!

Scout on her bike.

Joshua CLOTHED at the playground.

*side note 1: Does anyone else my age or older still use the word "tape" when referring to recording something?

*side note 2: My curiosity got the best of me and I looked it up: something to do with dog sledding.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

I Don't Really Have A Title

I think I maybe, just may be, am thinking about, considering, believing I may be able to start blogging again.

The main reason is this:

I FINISHED RENEWING MY TEACHING LICENSE.  This has been no small feat for an unemployed teacher who has been at home for 7 years.  It was blood, sweat, tears, and a lot of my own money.  And really, it took up any time I had to sit down at the computer.

*Side note 1: I was going to include a picture of the certificate here. But I honestly have no idea how to blur out all the personal information.  And don't want to take the time to figure it out.

*Side note 2: I have no immediate plans to return to teaching, but have worked too hard passing all those licensure tests in Texas, South Carolina and then Virginia to give up my certification.  You will have to pry it from my cold, dead hands.

So here we are.  (Let's not think about the fact that I have to do it again in 5 years) (And especially not think about the fact that G will be 12 the next time I do this).

Honestly, I'm not sure where to start.  Except one story about Joshua comes immediately to mind.

His spontaneous speech has continued to improve and he routinely uses words to request things he wants: juice, cracker, chips, bar, open and....shower.  He LOVES to take showers. At times it's even his coping mechanism.  If he's playing the iPad and it runs out of battery he'll cry for a minute and then walk straight to the shower.

The other night I was upstairs getting ready to go to our church's evening service.  He came in the room, looked me straight in the eye and in his growly little deep voice said, "Shower."

Me: Not right now sweetie, we're about to go to church.
Joshua: (still looking deeply in my eyes) Shower.
Me: Joshua, we're going to church.  No shower.
Joshua: Shower.
Me: All done with shower.  After church.
Joshua: Shower.
Me:OK. Shower. But real quick!!!

At speech therapy the other day.

It's hard to find the right balance of affirming/rewarding his communication and saying no, because we don't have time to take a shower or he's already had 50 chips or 5 cookies.  But we're so proud of him.

Baby (Toddler) A is quite the hoot these days!  She's even been trying to sneak in the word "Mom" here and there.  I keep telling her I only answer to "Mommy" or "Mama".

The winter was not as long nor as dark for our family (or DC) as it has been the last 2 years, so that was such a relief.  However, I feel that "Spring" is getting us back with its wet and cold.  At least it's beautiful outside and we can slip out for walks and the playground here and there.

Throwing rocks into the pond behind our house.  Notice the rain boots. Also, Joshua has a nice follow through.
I picked up a free double jogging stroller with huge wheels on the side of the road the other night. We have one already, but Joshua is WAY too heavy to push up hills; the wheels just aren't big enough. But with my current love of walking, it's nice to be able to take the 2 littles out with me. Bonus: Joshua has to spend time sitting really close to Baby A, so it's like tolerance therapy!

The other major happening around here is that we are gearing up for our dear Stephensons to leave us. They head back overseas this summer and it will be a huge change for all of us.  I try not to think about it too often because it makes me ill.  It will be a new era for sure.  (Also, I'm going to have to start cooking for my family again Every. Single. Night. What is up with that?!)

So that's it.  I always have trouble ending these things, so I may try a new strategy:

The End.