Every Act of Love

Rope Heart

I often find myself believing the false idea that a gesture has to be BIG to be enough. But the truth is that we can make a difference with every act of love. I want to find ways to involve my kids and foster compassionate hearts in them. I’m thankful to be surrounded by kind and loving people who are always offering great examples, whether or not they even realize it.

I wrote a new post over at Turning Pages that includes a few simple ideas to involve the kids in acts of compassion for our neighbors. There are SO many ways to show love. I’d love for you to come over and get involved in the comments by sharing some of YOUR ideas. Especially during this time of year, we’re always hoping for new ideas to bless our community. Click here to join the conversation: http://ashleydoylepooser.com/2014/11/17/every-act-of-love/.

Seven Thoughts on Morning Sickness

(image courtesy of Victor Habbick/freedigitalphotos.net)

(image courtesy of Victor Habbick/freedigitalphotos.net)

Ahhhh morning sickness.  A rite of passage of every mom-to-be.  I have a love-hate relationship with it because on one hand, I’m miserable.  On the other?  It’s a great sign that everything is progressing.

As the weeks slowly pass and the nausea remains every minute of every day, I’ve had a few thoughts on the subject.

1. Food choices are disposable.  Something might sound good to me but only once.  After I’ve eaten it, it’s dead to me and I never want to see it again.  Yes, my poor patient saint of a husband, I know I was able to eat soup yesterday but today?  Today, soup is the devil.  Options are becoming very few and far between.  The best restaurant choice ever during this magical time of pregnancy is a tapas place.  Eat half of one dish and once it’s dead to you, have something different.  Noche in Atlanta saved the day a couple of weeks ago.  (I had the Trailer Park Taco and the Fried Green Tomatoes without the goat cheese – They were delicious.)

2. Cooking and cleaning are torture.  If you needed to extract sensitive information from a mom with morning sickness, just have her brown some ground turkey or clean the toilet.  I would cave in an embarrassingly short amount of time, tell you whatever you wanted to know, and beg for mercy.  Ground turkey is dead to me.  I’m so thankful that my husband isn’t having a bad attitude about the current state of our house.  Or at least he’s keeping it to himself.  Smart man.  Not his first rodeo.

3. There are eleventy million different food commercials.  And don’t even get me started on all the different shows.  Flipping through the channels and accidentally coming across Bizarre Foods is not fun.  Oh no.  Things you never noticed until each one induces the gag reflex.

4. Go ahead and trade in the purse for a diaper bag.  Yes, you still have seven months before you need it but at least half of the stuff is for you.  I have my emergency go bag that includes a travel toothbrush with toothpaste, mouthwash, sanitizing wipes, and some gum.  I’ve also tried the sea bands on the wrists (didn’t work), preggie pops (didn’t work), ginger (didn’t work), alcohol swabs under the nose (actually worked temporarily but I’m not sure how many of my brain cells I might have sacrificed with that one), Phenergan (didn’t work but I slept okay), and Zofran (ding ding ding – we have a winner – kinda).

5. You want what you can’t have.  I think there could be a deeper philosophical discussion on this one but I don’t feel like it.   Suddenly, I only want to eat Publix subs, sushi, brie, smoked salmon dip, and goat cheese.  I couldn’t have cared less if I had any of that food before but now that I can’t have them?  Ohhhh they sound so delicious.

6. Enjoy the two week grace period.  There is usually about two weeks from the time you have a positive home pregnancy test and when the morning sickness kicks in.  Enjoy that time.  It passes quickly.  Deep clean all the things that will gross you out later.  Toilets, fridge, etc.  Cook up a storm.  I wish I had thought to make up some freezer meals ahead of time.

7. It forces you to admit weakness and ask for help.  I am so bad about asking for help.  So.  Bad.  Which makes it really hard once baby arrives and little lives might actually depend on you admitting you need some help.  When you have those days when the Zofran has betrayed you and you can’t get up off the bathroom floor and the kids are running amuck and will be needing to eat dinner and you can barely type a text without passing out, you are forced to cry uncle and ask for help.  It’s good practice for later.  Or life in general.

Do you have any thoughts on morning sickness or any tried and true remedies that gave you some relief?  I’d love to hear them!!  Share them in the comments so we can all add to our go bags.

ICYMI – Life Changed. Another Stinker Baby?!

Announcement SBIf you missed our huge news (and I just don’t know how you might have missed the earth shaking a bit – oh wait – that was just for us)…

I am PREGNANT!

Whaaaaaaaaaat?  Craziness!!

It’s actually been a huge roller coaster.

Long story very short: We were pregnant, we were shocked, we were excited, we miscarried, we were heartbroken, oh wait maybe not, we were left wondering and afraid to hope, we were pregnant after all, we were thrilled and grateful.  I wrote about the roller coaster and all the raw emotions that come with that crazy ride on my other blog and I’d love for you to check it out – ashleydoylepooser.com.

We had decided early on that we weren’t going to tell anyone our news because oh-my-goodness-what-if-something-went-wrong?  And then it did.  And we asked for prayers as we waited for things to progress.  But then things went right again.  And we couldn’t not update our friends and family.  And then it seemed like a lot of people knew.  And it also seemed like why not?

I was most excited to tell our kids.  They have periodically begged us for a baby off and on over the last couple of years.  I would tell them it was up to God and they’d have to talk to him about it.  Well.  I guess they did.

So I made them adorable Big Brother and Big Sister shirts.  We took them out to lunch with my sister and parents and gave them their shirts.  I stood back and waited for the happy tears and squeals like all the other kids on YouTube.  I was secretly hoping we’d be the next viral video and get some ad revenue coming in.  We could definitely use it!  Baby needs a…well…baby needs everything actually.

Instead of a revenue-producing goldmine, we got blank stares.  Jake tried to explain a bit further – “Mom’s having a baby!”

Grace: “Again?!”  (She was actually excited, though.)  Caleb: “Tell the truth…  Is this a dream?  Can we go home now?”  (He was most definitely not excited.)

I started looking for a phone number for the Exasperated Big Brother from YouTube to form a support group for less-than-thrilled big sibs.

But then Caleb came around and became super supportive.  So super supportive, I’m about to start calling him Granny.  He randomly checks in on me.  ”Mom?  Are you allowed to drink that kind of water when you’re having a baby?”  Or “Mom, make good food choices to help make sure the baby survives.”  He is so sweet!

Grace will just randomly bust out with “We’re having a BABY!”  But the best was when she told her Sunday School teachers, “My mommy is really sick but it’s a secret.”  They probably thought I had some deadly disease.  She wants to wear her Big Sister shirt 24/7.  I hope she is still this excited if she ends up sharing a room.

They’ve asked us where the baby will sleep.  Ummmmm.  Welllll.  Ahhhh.  Hmmmm.  At least we know for the first few months, baby will sleep in Mama and Daddy’s room.  After that will be a surprise!  ’Cause we sure don’t know right now.

We’re also not sure what baby will sleep IN because the very last of our baby stuff was hauled away over a year ago.  We have zero baby stuff.  Oh and I gave away all my maternity clothes because I sure won’t be needing those!  Ha!  I should be freaking out right now but I’m not.  It’ll come together.  Somehow!  We’ve had a friend offer to pass down a carseat/stroller and another offered her crib.  Bless them!  We might have to start naming this kid after them.

So in summary -
We’re having a baby!  We have no stuff!  I heart Zofran!

It’ll all be okay.

 

 

Erin Condren Life Planner




Last month, I found myself in a bit of a self-induced panic.  I had a thousand and one things to schedule for July and August but my planner ended in June.

Between homeschool schedules, doctor appointments, eleventy thousand meetings and activities to schedule for the upcoming MOPS year, schedules for both of Jake’s jobs (that are different every week – the schedules, not the jobs – ha), church activities, and now some of Jake’s music gigs, too – I needed a planner that could basically sprout arms and hold my hand as I tried to organize this crazy life.

After doing a ton of research, I kept coming back to the Erin Condren Life Planners.  They cost a little bit more than the planners you can find at Walmart but it is so incredibly personalized, I could almost see the arms growing.  Plus, I won’t need to buy another planner until 2016!

I was able to choose a pattern (and then change my mind five times), choose any color combination I wanted (and then change my mind twelve times), choose any kind of personalization I wanted (and then change my mind twice), and finally hit the order button.  Then some wonderful, creative, talented person in southern California with the initials KB began to design my planner just the way I wanted it.

Once I placed my order, it was given the status of “pending” and this lasted for about a week.  It updated to “invoice to print” and then “printing” in about half a day.  It was in “printed” mode for a day and then it went very quickly through “in production,” “quality control” and “shipped.”  I got my happy e-mail with my tracking number soon after.

With the recent launch, the orders came in fast and furious.  These poor people must have been working nonstop for the past few weeks trying to meet all the orders perfectly.  I’ve heard some tales about orders being delayed or some mistakes being made or customer service being slow to respond.  I can’t speak to the experiences of others but my experience was perfect.  When I placed my order, I was given an expected ship date.  My planner was sent on its merry way to me just one day later than the estimated date.

As soon as FedEx had it, I began stalking the tracking updates like a kid watching Santa on Christmas Eve radar.  The tracking updates only happen when the packages are scanned in a hub so I got really tired of seeing Bloomington, CA for days on end.  But finally, it arrived in Ellenwood, GA and made its way south.  I spent the morning listening for the sleigh bells (truck engines).

It arrived right on time and exactly as I ordered it!  Want to know more about what to expect from the Erin Condren Life Planner 2014-2015?  Check out my pictures down there.

Obviously, I’m in love with this new organizational tool.  This purpose of this post was just to share how cool this product is and how helpful it’s going to be.  I used my own moolah to purchase the products (forgoing having my hair done, nails done, or buying new clothes but whatevs…Worth it).  Erin Condren did not ask me to write this nor does she know me from Adam.  But!  If you think the Life Planner might be for you, I do have a link to share with you.  When you register an account with Erin Condren, you will get a $10 coupon code to use on your first order.  When you place your first order, it will also send me a $10 coupon code.  Win-Win!  Here’s that link:  https://www.erincondren.com/referral/invite/ashleypooser0108

EClifeplanner 1

After looking forward to your new planner, it was awesome to see how much thought went into making the presentation and packaging just as adorable as everything else. You want to look carefully at everything because there are $25 in coupon codes in there, too! Surprise!

EClifeplanner 2

Everything came out just as I hoped! I went with the Scales pattern. The background color is Seafoam and the pattern color is white. Instead of first name on top and last name on bottom, I put my full name on top and a quote on bottom. “Enjoy the journey.”

EClifeplanner 3

New for this year is the removable perpetual calendar. This tucks neatly into a pocket inside the planner and is a great reference for birthdays and anniversaries. In 2016, instead of copying them all down again, I’ll just move this to my new planner. I love efficiency.

EClifeplanner 4

Also included with your new Life Planner is a sampling of awesome labels. There are gift labels that showcase some of Erin Condren’s adorable colors and patterns. They would be great for birthday gifts or a hostess gift. There are also a few labels that match my planner and are personalized with my name. Love them!

EClifeplanner 5

Along with the included stickers to label appointments (doctor, dentist, birthday, vacation, etc) and the blank stickers that can be used however you wish, I ordered a sheet of personalized stickers. This will help me keep track of all of my MOPS meetings, activities, and events for this year. I have stickers for MOPS General, MOPS Steering, and MOPS Activities. Awesome feature of the stickers? They’re removable! If your schedule changes, just gently peel them up and move it!

 

Turning Pages

Change is scary.

But exciting.

It’s scariting. Or excary. Or something.

I’m nervous.

I started this blog, Stinker Babies, in April of 2010. It felt right and seemed to be a good fit for a few years. But for the last year, I’ve been feeling like we’ve been outgrowing the name, Stinker Babies. My life has changed, my plans have changed, my goals have changed. I feel like I want my blog to change and grow with me, as a mom and as a wanna-be writer.

So may I humbly introduce my new home on the web: AshleyDoylePooser.com.

My blog name is Turning Pages and there is a post up over there that explains why I chose that particular name. I also transferred a few of the most recent Stinker Babies posts just to make it feel more like home.

I hope you’ll still feel welcome. I would love for you to stick around and see how this all comes together (or doesn’t)!

Life is an adventure!  I hope you’ll come along on this one!

turning pages header2 formerly stinker babies

10 Signs Your Dental Appointment Is Not Going Well

Image courtesy of patrisyu / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of patrisyu / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

1. When you call to make your appointment, the receptionist says she’ll have to get your file from storage.

 

2. When the hygienist asks when you last had your teeth cleaned, she asks you to repeat your answer.  Twice.

 

3. After your x-rays are done, every staff member you speak to asks you (again) if you have dental insurance.

 

4. You knew they were going to ask how often you floss and you’re pretty sure last night and this morning don’t count as “daily.”

 

5. Once you sit in the chair and open wide, the hygienist leaves to go get more tools.

 

6. When she’s ready to begin cleaning your teeth, she applies numbing gel.  To everything.

 

7. At the first sound of the scraper, you remember why you considered going to that “anxiety-free” dentist across town.

 

8. The hygienist says, “Ooops.”  And then starts rinsing and sucking, rinsing and sucking.

 

9. When you’re about ready to check out, she hands you information on their payment plan.

 

10. The receptionist is looking over the hygienist’s notes and says, “Ouch.  You don’t have to go to work today, do you?”

 

***************************************************************************

Take it from me, folks.  Go see your dentist every six months.  If the dentist makes you nervous and you put it off (like someone else I know…ahem…me), it’s just worse when you finally have to go.  Thankfully, nothing major is needed but…Ohhhh man.  I’m not looking forward to this gel wearing off.
Dental Appt Pin

The Talk

c by the treeIt started like every other night.  It could have been any other ordinary day.  Any at all.  The same instructions had been given.  The same teeth-brushing arguments, both pro and con, had been repeated.  The blessed melatonin had been given.  We sat down and pulled open the devotion book but we never read past the date – April 2nd.

Before I even realized what I was saying, I asked the kids if they knew that it was World Autism Awareness Day.  They looked interested and were being exceptionally angelic at the moment.  So I took it a little bit further.  ”You’ve heard the word, ‘autism,’ many times.  But do you know what it means?”  They shook their heads and wanted to know more.

It was happening.  We had anticipated this moment for four years.  When would we tell him about his autism?  How would we tell him?  We decided on the gradual method of slowly, bit by bit and inch by inch, laying down the groundwork.  We wanted them to have a firm foundation in knowing that everyone is different and that is a beautiful thing.  We wanted them to be solid on the fact that God has created each and every one of us so beautifully and wondrously and intricately and intentionally.  We wanted them to have the practice of loving others and seeing past differences to the heart and soul.

Years of anticipating this moment, sometimes eagerly and sometimes anxiously, and it was here.  Even in those first few moments, I was unsure if I should shut it down.  Jake was still at work.  He was missing this milestone.  But the ball was rolling and it was rolling down a steep hill.  It felt right to allow it to continue on its path.  Wherever it led.

We talked about what ASD is and how it can make some things easier and others more challenging.  I told them about some common experiences among those who live life on the spectrum.  And I simply asked if it sounded like anyone we might know.  I could see his wheels turning.  I showed them the episode of Arthur (“When George Met Carl”) and within 35 seconds, it happened.

And right there, right smack in the middle of our messy living room with the laundry piled high and the dinner dishes still on the table and the trash waiting to be taken out, with us and the dog all squished together on the couch, it happened.  It started with his eyes.  They looked brighter.  After five or so minutes, his face had changed.  He looked older somehow.  By the time the video was over, he was eagerly asking, “Mom?  Do I have ASD?”

I took a shaky breath and said confidently – no wait – I said proudly, “Yes, buddy.  You do.  What do you think about that?”

And he knew.

And just. like. it happened to us when we received his diagnosis, his life began flashing before his eyes.  He was seeing it all with a fresh understanding.  His filter had changed.

And he understood.

And he told me about how the things, the hard things, he now knows were the challenging parts of his ASD.  And we talked about how far he’s come.  And how much he’s overcome.  And how he has done the hard things and how he can continue to do the hard things.

And he was proud.

And, you guys?  We are so beyond proud to be his family.

Savannah Smiles

savannah smiles pin

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There is no place on earth like Savannah.  It is, by far, my favorite city that I’ve ever visited.  Full of grace and charm, quirky characters, and tons of history, this place has it all.  I’ve been three times during the last 12 years and there are still things on my list to do!  Most recently, Jake and I were able to go and celebrate, ummm, either our 10th wedding anniversary 10 months late, our 11th anniversary two months early, or my birthday.  I’m going with all of the above!  I wanted to share some of our adventures, tips, and tricks with you so you can fall in love with Savannah, too!

Hotel
This was the first choice we needed to make.  There are so many excellent hotels in the Savannah area.  The first thing we needed to be sure of was that we were staying in the historic district.  We wanted to be able to walk downstairs and be in the middle of it all.  After pricing out several options and mapping them out, we went with the Holiday Inn Express Historic District.  This was the absolute best choice for us and we will most likely stay there every time we visit Savannah.  The rates were extremely comparable to other hotels in the area and even cheaper than most.  Located on East Bay Street, you are within walking distance to just about everything you want to do and see.  The hotel is beautiful, clean, and the room was plenty roomy enough for the two of us.  It included a mini fridge and a microwave which was really convenient for any of those amazing Southern cuisine leftovers.   As if you wouldn’t eat it all the first time.  The continental breakfast had plenty of choices, including hot eggs, sausage, bacon, and biscuits.

sunset bridge view from savannah hotel - blog

View from hotel window

Tips:
Reserve, request, beg, whatever you need to do to get a River View Room.  These are located on the higher floors and are removed from the street noise.  The views are absolutely incredible.  We were able to see the Talmadge Bridge and all kinds of boats and ships traveling up and down the Savannah River.  Just gorgeous!

To avoid the pricey parking rate (which every hotel has), park just next door in the public parking garage.  It is literally just next to the hotel valet and we paid half the price!

Take advantage of the rooftop pool and spa.  But don’t wait too late.  We went in January and forgot our swimsuits.  We still wanted to check out the views, but we waited too late and the pool was closed for the evening.  This means the door to the roof is locked up tight, so no stargazing after hours.

Connect with your hotel on social media before your stay.  I found our hotel on Facebook (click here for Holiday Inn Express Savannah Historic District) and made a point to write on their wall.  I wrote something like, “Hi!  My husband and I will be celebrating our anniversary with you next weekend and we were wondering what we should be sure to do while staying in Savannah!”  They not only responded with great suggestions, but they noted in the reservation system that we were celebrating our anniversary.  When we checked in, they had a free bottle of wine waiting for us.  The customer service was excellent!  This was also a great way to keep up with what was happening around town during our stay.  For example, down by the riverfront, they have fireworks to celebrate the First Friday every month.  Fun!

Behind the scenes at Moon River Brewing Company - Trick of the light or something else?  You decide!  =)

Behind the scenes at Moon River Brewing Company – Trick of the light or something else? You decide! =)

Ghost Tour
One of the most popular things to do on a Savannah getaway is to join up with a Ghost Tour.  No matter how you feel about the supernatural, these tours are always a favorite way to learn more about the local history, the legends, and the cultural stories.  Known as one of the most spirited cities in the country, in more ways than one, there are tons of different tour companies offering to share Savannah’s secrets.  Having done a couple of walking tours in the past, we decided to switch it up this time.  We decided on a Pub Tour with Tara Haunted Tours.  Voted Best Savannah Ghost Tour by Southern Living for 2011 and 2013, we were not disappointed.  Our guide, Chad, was very knowledgable about Savannah’s history, architecture, and folklore.  Tours run about 2 hours and are scheduled nightly.  Reservations are required, so book online before you go!

Tips:
Schedule your pub tour for your first night.  This way, you’ll get a great overview of places you’ll want to check out before leaving town.  After our tour was over, we headed back to one of the stops (Zunzi’s) to have dessert (the brownies are homemade and to die for) and listen to some amazing live music.

Get to your meeting location early.  We met at McDonough’s Irish Pub to depart with our group.  Jake and I walked down an hour early and had a delicious dinner while waiting for our group.  If you go, order this Southern twist on a classic: the Bacon, Lettuce, and Fried Green Tomato.  YUM!

Bring your camera and ask questions!  Your guide will have tons of stories and knowledge about Savannah.  They love sharing their wisdom with you.  Most guides have day jobs and truly just enjoy sharing their city with visitors.  Chat with the other folks on the tour.  You never know who you’ll meet!  Most of all, relax and enjoy!

Forsythe Park Fountain

Forsythe Park Fountain

Trolley Tour
One of the easiest ways to see Savannah is on a Trolley Tour.  Yes, you’ll walk around town with a brightly colored sticker on your shirt and people will immediately know you’re a tourist.  But it’s okay here.  Savannah loves her guests!  Sometimes that sticker will get you a discount or two, as well!

Tips:
A higher price does not mean a better tour.  We decided to go with Oglethorpe Tours.  They’ve won several awards and have been featured on the Travel Channel and CNN Travel, but they are also the cheapest tour in town.

Take advantage of the On-Off Option.  With Oglethorpe Tours, they came and picked us up at our hotel and drove us to the ticket office to board the trolley.  We then enjoyed a very educational and entertaining 90-minute tour of the historic district.  Our guide was hilarious.  A Savannah native, she will tell you honestly what to avoid and what not to miss.  After the main tour, you can use Oglethorpe Tours like your own personal taxi service.  They have at least a dozen designated stops around town and are just a phone call away.  This is fantastic for those places you want to visit that are a just a bit further than you have time to walk.

Double up!  Most tour companies offer a variety of package options.  You can pair your trolley tour with tons of other choices: ghost tours, riverboat tours, historic home or museum tours.  If you already know you’d like to see some of these, you’ll end up saving money by getting the package!

savannah riverboat viewfinder - blog

Savannah River Queen heading up the Savannah River

 

Riverboat Tour
Thanks to a very thoughtful Christmas gift, we had the opportunity to see Savannah from a new perspective!  We boarded the Savannah River Queen for a one hour sightseeing excursion up and down the Savannah River.  It was a great opportunity to grab some photos!  They offer all kinds of cruises, including dinner, lunch, gospel, and murder mystery!

Tips:
Book online and save a few dollars with the online discount!

If you’d like to see Savannah from the river but don’t want to spend the money on a riverboat cruise, try taking one of the Savannah Belles Ferries!  They’re FREE.  With a few landing sites, you can hop a ferry and cross the river to the convention center or the Westin Resort and Spa.  Walk around, grab some photos, and hop the ferry back over to the action!

Dining
Oh the Places You’ll Go! could have been Dr. Suess’ ode to Savannah restaurants.  There are so many great choices and you’ve probably already heard of many of them.  We had another Christmas gift that allowed us to have a fancy dinner to celebrate our anniversary.  We wanted to do this on Saturday night so we’d have time to pretty up a bit.  We walked just around the corner from our hotel to what just might be my favorite restaurant.  Ever.  The Olde Pink House is literally just that- an old pink house.  It was built in 1771 and was originally the governor’s mansion during colonial times.  Each room in the house has been transformed into a separate dining room.  We had a beautiful table for two in front of one of the fireplaces.  The staff encourage you to wander about when you’re finished with your meal.  Once you’ve explored the house, you’ll be able to request in which area you’d like be seated on your next visit.  Jake and I decided we’d like to try the upstairs front room next time.  It’s smaller and more cozy and intimate.  The servers are very knowledgable about the history of the home and the menu is incredible.  A very gourmet twist on Southern classics!  If you go, save room for dessert!  The house specialty was absolutely incredible.  The Praline Basket is a homemade almond and pecan basket filled with vanilla bean ice cream, mango citrus sorbet, and seasonal fruit.

The Olde Pink House

The Olde Pink House

Tips:
Wherever you decide to dine, make reservations!  Especially on weekends or holidays.  Many places provide online reservation systems now so it’s super easy to get a table on the go.  You do not want to be left out in the cold looking through the windows at all the delicious goodness.

Hype does not equal quality.  Just because there is a line of tourists around the block does not mean it is the best restaurant.  The locals will tell you to skip The Lady and Sons.  According to one of our tour guides, “If you wanna support Paula, go buy a coffee mug from the souvenir shop.  Do not spend that much money on a small buffet that has canned veggies on it.”

Do hit up Mrs. Wilkes’ Boarding House for lunch.  We were incredibly disappointed that this was closed during our stay for renovations.  I’m sure they’re back to normal by now, so here are the tips from the locals: Skip breakfast.  Get in line by about 10:30 and you should make it in for the 11 a.m. sitting.  Served family style, it’s been said that it’s like Granny’s house on Thanksgiving on steroids.

Stay Up Late!
Jake and I love music.  We love to sing and we’re total goofballs.  The most fun we had on the entire trip was at Savannah Smiles dueling piano bar.  Swapping out every half hour, the performers are always fresh and energized.  They are extremely talented, hilarious, and entertaining.  With a little tip and a song title, you can have your requests played.  With a little more money and a note on a napkin, you can have a message written on the big stage mirrors.  At least until someone pays a bit more money to replace it.  Savannah Smiles can get a little rowdy if there’s a special occasion and your grandmother might blush at some of the antics, but all in all is a great time!

Tips:
If you are the type that would be mortified by being called on stage and put in silly situations, do not let on that it’s your birthday, anniversary, or bachelorette party.  If you enjoy that sort of thing, then by all means – VIDEO for blackmail material.

Think outside the box!  Your requests will get played sooner if you branch out from the typical Piano Man/Elton John/Neil Diamond selections.  Our requests not only got played quickly, but were also complimented by the performers.  Yay us!  (If you’re curious, the requests were Hey Ya! and Blurred Lines.)

If you like to sit, get there early.  We arrived at about 10:30ish and there was not a seat to be had.  They do have standing room in the bar area, but with coats and phones and wallets, it was WAY more comfortable once we found a table.  I also just noticed they take reservations.  That would have been good to know!

Bring cash.  It’s a $5 cover (I think) and unless you’re at a table, it’s a cash bar.  Once you’re seated, you can start a tab with a debit or credit card.  There are also some food options on the menu for snacks.

The Most Important Tip of All: Pack a bag and GO!  Get to Savannah ASAP.  I’m already counting the days until we go back.

Mommy Fail: Teacher Gift Edition

Mommy Fail Teacher Gift pin

Has enough time passed for us to safely talk about Christmas shopping without breaking into a cold sweat?  I hope so.  Because have I got an embarrassing story for you!

Anyone with children in school can tell you that there’s a special kind of pressure that comes with choosing the right gift for your child’s teacher.  You want to show your appreciation.  You want to find something unique that will stand out from the dozens of coffee mugs or pencil wreaths.  And thanks to Pinterest, that is getting more and more difficult.

At the beginning of the year, we received a list of the teachers’ favorites from our very helpful room mother.  I obsessed over the list for a week.  How could I combine some of those favorites into a unique and thoughtful gift, thus proving our undying love for the teachers?

One of the teachers, Mrs. A., listed her favorite flower as herbs and said she enjoyed cooking.  The other teacher, Mrs. C., said she really enjoyed gardening.  I was thinking along those lines when my sister offered a genius idea.  My sister, a teacher herself, mentioned that one of her favorite gifts from a student was a rosemary tree.  She was able to use it when cooking, it looked adorable, and her house smelled terrific.

I was sold!  Our town had just welcomed its first Trader Joe’s and I had heard that would be a great place to start looking for the perfect gift.  When I rushed over on the morning of the party, there was a huge display out front.  A big sign labeled “ROSEMARY” stood in front of half a dozen rows of beautiful potted trees in festive wooden boxes.  I was wishing that my cold medicine would kick in enough to enjoy the wonderful smell of fresh rosemary that I had heard so much about.

I picked out some yummy cookies to go with the trees, then went next door to find some cute Christmas ribbon to decorate the rosemary trees.  I was trying hard to stay humble even while imagining the oohs and ahhs our gift was sure to earn.  It was a lot like the scene from The Christmas Story when Ralphie imagines the teacher grading his essay on the Red Ryder Beebee Gun.

I walked into the Christmas party in Grace’s class, proudly carrying the decorated rosemary trees.  I enjoyed the games and fun with the kiddos for the next half hour, trying not to burst with pride.  On our way out, I made sure to mention to the teachers that I had left their gifts on the table.  ”It’s just a little something.  A rosemary tree!”  I probably sounded like a hyped up five-year-old girl seeking overly enthusiastic approval from a family friend.

About a week later, we were visiting my sister’s house for some Christmas festivities.  She pointed out her rosemary tree and asked me if I had decided to go with that idea.  At least, I think that’s what she asked.  Halfway through her question, I had completely stopped listening.

“Ummmm.  That’s a rosemary tree?!”

My stomach dropped.

That was so not the same tree I bought for the teachers.  I frantically googled images of trees sold at Trader Joe’s until I found the adorable little wooden boxes holding the cheerful little CEDAR trees.

Now.  As much as I try to be real with people, I will admit to occasionally enjoying a few minutes of people assuming certain things about me before I inadvertently prove them wrong.  For example, I’ll let people assume I’m a decent cook until it comes time for me to bring something to a pot luck.  Or in this case, show how little I know about ingredients.

Suddenly, I had this horrible vision of the teachers.  My mind’s eye saw them happily cooking Christmas dinner, using fresh clippings from the trees, serving their families dinner, and everyone ending up in the hospital from some crazy food poisoning.  I shot off a desperate e-mail to Mrs. A and Mrs. C and prayed they had been laughing at poor dumb me for the last week and not flavoring their food with cedar.

Thankfully, that was the case.  Yay me.  Huge mommy fail.

Next year, it’s gift cards for everyone.

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I Once Was Lost

I don’t remember when it happened.

One day, I just realized that I didn’t do it anymore.

I couldn’t remember the last time I had prayed aloud.

Well.  There were the bedtime prayers and meal blessings with the kids.  But other than that?  It just didn’t happen anymore.

I’m not sure why.  With church or small group or Bible study always going on, there were plenty of opportunities.  I would just sit there, though, with the weight of the pause pressing on my shoulders and the heat of the moment burning my cheeks.

It’s not like I thought my friends or church family would jump to their feet, laughing and pointing at me.  Why was I so self-conscious?

ash mountain top

Once upon a time, I was an adventurer.  Once upon a time, I was fearless.  Each day was lived to the fullest.  Carpe diem and viva la vie boheme and all that.

Once upon a time, I climbed mountains and flew across oceans.  I had a passion and I wanted to offer it to the world.  I prayed aloud all the time.  In the arms of my dearest friends and with complete strangers at the next gas pump.

Somewhere along the way, that fire quieted down until only embers were left.

I think I got lost in the haze of day-to-day.  Over the last decade, my adventures have consisted of navigating Walmart without getting our faces on the evening news.  The only mountains I’ve climbed lately are the lofty peaks in the laundry room that I have to step on to get to the dryer.

When I became a mother, I think I hit the pause button and entered some kind of self-imposed hiatus on me.

My life now focused on sleep schedules and potty training, supporting my husband through nursing school, encouraging him in his music ministry, arranging the therapy schedules, and somehow making sure each one felt loved and validated.

Moms.  You get what I’m saying.  It’s in our nature to give and give and give to our families.

And that is part of what makes a mom so fiercely beautiful.  It works until the time comes when we have nothing left of ourselves to give.

That is where I was two weeks ago.  Drained.  Short-tempered.  Exhausted.  Spiritually parched.  Easily frustrated.

I was getting everything in place for me to go to a leadership conference.  I was pretty nervous because no one else from my MOPS group could go with me.  I would be on my own, not knowing a single one of the few thousand other moms that would be there.

And a funny thing happened.

It started slowly with just a glimpse here and there on the flight to Kansas City.  Then the flashes came more frequently until, on the second day of the conference, I caught my reflection in a Starbucks window.

It was me.  Me me.  I saw it in my eyes and heard it in my laugh.

I left home with a heavy cloak of expectations tied tight around my shoulders.  But there at MOMcon, it was a blank canvas.  No one knew me.  They didn’t expect anything of me.  I wasn’t “supposed” to be acting or speaking a certain way to fulfill the roles of Jake’s wife and the kids’ mom.

I was Ashley.  The cloak had been dropped somewhere along the way.

It could have been the result of any one of the amazing speakers (Beth Moore, Jen Hatmaker, Lysa TerKeurst, Kathi Lipp, Elisa Morgan, Alexandra Kuykendall).  It could have something to do with the empowering workshops offered.  It may have been the new friendships forming.

I think it had to be all of that but with the key element of an incredibly rare experience of being totally on my own with no expectations.

I once was lost.  But now I’m found.

I’m Ashley.

And if you see me at the gas station, be prepared.  I’ll be the crazy lady who drops the pump to run over and pray for you.  You might want to avoid eye contact.