July 1, 2015

My Boys' Birthdays!

I love that Kurt and Liam's birthdays are one day apart! It makes for a very special season of celebrating every summer (my birthday and our anniversary are also in June!)! I wanted to do a special joint post about the "boys" in our family for their birthdays! 

Kurt is such a special, amazing person. He is truly a student of God's Word and his heroes include men like C.S. Lewis and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He loves to listen to audiobooks, but he always chooses works like the biographies of our founding fathers or the history of England (you know, light reading). He started to read an Economics textbook simply because he wanted to learn about economics recently. Yet he laughs at the most juvenile, simplistic things - ha! He is always wanting to learn, and that inspires me. 

The biggest thing that I see in Kurt for this season of life is his ministry mindset. He is passionate about wanting to grow authentic community (namely within our Lifegroup class), and it's been amazing to watch him lead. He loves teaching, and I really feel like he's in the zone of where God is using him in a big way. That leadership carries over at home, and he is so faithful to lead our family in a Bible time each night. The kids love that time together, and they don't realize it now, but those little 15 minute lessons are laying such an important foundation. 

Kurt is such a wonderful daddy to our little ones, and he ministers to me every day by helping me SO much. We love him with our whole hearts - Kurt, you are everything to us! 

Liam is turning 5 YEARS OLD today, on July 1!!! How is it possible that my little boy (15 months old when he came home) is now 5!?!? Liam, here's what you're up to:

-You are such a sweet, tenderhearted boy!! You are especially tender with Lynley. You love to give her hugs and kisses. Just last night, you were so worried that Daddy's birthday candles were too close to Lynley. You kept telling us to push it away from her - melted my heart! 

-You are so incredibly talented with Legos! You are so adept at creating your own masterpieces that are intricate and perfectly symmetrical. It blows our minds! We are amazed at how this dexterity is so clear, and we can't wait to see how that evolves. 

-You love leading the singing at our family Bible time! You and Sissy have your own little routine. Seeing you wave your arms like a conductor is so precious to me! 

-You love your older Sissy so very much! You two definitely have your moments, but overall I see a very sweet and loving relationship between you both. I love seeing you play and imagine together - especially lately, since Pinka and Uncle introduced you to SPY KIDS!

-You are VERY much into Ninja Turtles and Spiderman right now! We don't even really watch Ninja Turtles or really much Spiderman, but somehow I think every little boy just has a thing for those characters. :) 

-You're learning to pray, and we still help you (prompting to tell God what you're thankful for). It's so sweet to hear you talk to God and I'm so excited to see that relationship grow. 

-Daddy and I are continuing to learn your unique personality (just like your sisters). It's amazing how God intricately designs personality and innate inclinations. We want to parent you in the way that best reaches you, and I feel like this is the age where that starts to become more clear (that's what we saw with Evy, too). You are so special, and we are honored to be your Mommy and Daddy! 

Liam, there isn't a day that goes by that I don't take a minute and just pause to thank God for you. July 1, 2010 was the day that your Daddy started his new job here. We had just moved here from Mississippi and we were getting settled in. Little did we know that across the world a precious, adorable baby boy was born. Sometimes the enormity of that is almost too much for me to take. 

You love hearing me tell you about when I saw you for the first time and how I cried because I was so happy (you always ask me about that part!). I want you to always know how much we prayed for you, how much we ached for you, and how excited we were to finally hold you! But I also want you to always know that I feel an enormous weight on your birthday. I can't put an emotional label on it; but it's just a heaviness of what that day meant. You were brought into this world by someone else - and we cherish and honor her so much. This is such a special, special day - and I always want your birth mother and foster family to know what an amazing, bright, and happy little guy you are. You are such a treasure to us, Liam! I will always be here to listen and sometimes just dwell in the hard stuff with you. I am here to celebrate with you and just hold you whenever that's what you need (even when you're 18!). 

People often say that there's nothing like the relationship between a mother and son, and I agree. The other morning you got up really early, and I convinced you to come and lay down next to me in bed. I told you, "This is how we slept when we were in Korea," and you closed your little eyes and just nodded. Then you snuggled up closer to me, like you were acknowledging that your little heart felt something that you couldn't quite understand. I am so privileged to be your Mommy, Liam - to snuggle you, laugh with you, read books to you, and answer your hundreds of little questions throughout the day. I am so honored to know that you don't like your feet to be dirty, and to know the sound of your belly laugh. To wrap your birthday presents in Spiderman and Ninja Turtles wrapping paper and look in my rearview mirror to see a super hero-costumed boy sitting in the carseat. I get to do that with you. I get to be your MOM! Daddy and I so often say to each other how much we love you. You have been such a blessing in our lives, and we are so proud of our sweet 5-year-old boy!

To both of the boys in my life and in our little family - Happiest of Birthdays and know how loved you are by all of the Lancaster girls! 

June 29, 2015


And just like that, I turned 30 years old on June 19! I was really, really excited to turn 30. I love a fresh start, and a brand new decade came at the perfect time. I feel like I'm in a really good place of owning my faults (and working on them), examining who I am as a person, deepening my convictions by personal Bible study and prayer, and starting to really live out with my life what I have known in my head about the Lord almost my whole life (which isn't easy but incredibly worth it). 

I love settling in to my quirks and embracing the things that make me happy. I am slowly tackling areas of my life that need work. I'm celebrating relationships that mean the world to me. 

I feel like your 20's are (typically) spent making a ton of decisions, and then your 30's are spent experiencing the results of those decisions. I have made some really good decisions and some really not so good decisions over the last 30 years. That's life! I'm content with the fact that I'm continually in the process of handing my life minute by minute to the Lord and letting Him tell me what to do next. That sounds really "spiritual" and sometimes I get bugged when things sound like a Lifeway greeting card, but it's true. I really feel like I'm in a place of deep, deep trust with Him and that I really want to be transformed by the renewing of my mind (as it says in Romans 12). 

I had a wonderful birthday! Early in the week Kurt and I went to see My Fair Lady at the Muny in St. Louis (an outdoor theatre). It was also our anniversary celebration! The minute the overture began I had tears in my eyes because my grandfather introduced me to My Fair Lady when I was around Evy's age. I just thought of him and had a little moment in my heart with my grandparents. The show was wonderful, and it was nice to be out in a breezy summer evening!

I spent the middle of the week trying to get packed, because we were due to leave for Florida on my actual birthday. I was running around trying to get everything done. Kurt got home from work and said, "We have dinner reservations tonight." I was confused since we had just been to the Muny, but he told me he wanted us to go to dinner since we hadn't been able to eat out on our anniversary. We left for dinner and he wouldn't tell me the restaurant - he just said we hadn't been there before. I honestly didn't really think anything about it! We pulled up to a place downtown and when Kurt opened the door, I heard "SURPRISE!!!!!!!" I was absolutely floored - our Lifegroup had thrown me a surprise birthday party!!! 

I couldn't get over it because the girls were all wearing fascinators, and I noticed all of the British details right away! My friend Erin helped Kurt coordinate everything, and it was just so perfect! 

It was absolutely the best birthday, and I NEVER saw it coming! I was so surprised and the whole time I kept saying "I just can't believe this is for me!" I just appreciated it so much, and I felt so special! 

We spent my birthday driving part of the way to Florida to visit my brother, so that was a LOT of good family time - ha! My family brought my gifts to the beach so we could celebrate together, and it was wonderful having my brother there. We have missed him TERRIBLY! My big gift from Kurt was my first Pandora bracelet! Full disclosure: I had ZERO interest in Pandora until I saw that Disney was involved. WHAT. So of course it went on my wish list and Kurt got me a bracelet for my birthday! He and the kids gave me a couple of Disney charms and then my family gave me a couple more Disney charms. Definitely already addicted! It's fun having a little Disney with me wherever I go. :) I look forward to adding more charms! 

I'm still reflecting on what a happy birthday I had, and I know the memories will stay with me forever! I am so grateful for another year of life, and I can't wait to see what this decade holds for me! 

June 16, 2015

8 Years!

8 years ago was one of the happiest days of my life! Kurt and I committed our lives to each other and were married in a beautiful ceremony that was led by my dad and both of my grandfathers. I will never forget that day for so many reasons, but more importantly, it's the days AFTER our wedding that have been the most wonderful! 

In 8 years we've learned that marriage is hard work. It's a CHOICE. It's a daily commitment to putting yourself aside (which is REALLY HARD) and having the mindset that you're a team. It's continually learning about yourself and digging deep into your emotional stuff so that you can communicate WHY you tend to act a certain way or WHY you tend to respond as you do. It's choosing to spend time together and making it a priority. 

I could go on and on, but these past 8 years have been the best of my life. As I approach turning 30 in a few days (which I'm so excited about!), I've really been reflecting on the life I'm creating as an individual and the life Kurt and I are creating together. I'm so thankful for the man God chose to be my husband, and I'm so appreciate of how selfless he is. 

I wrote in Kurt's card. . .that if I took everything away - Kurt's career that we're so thankful for, our safe and secure home, and even our beautiful, precious 3 children - I would consider it a dream come true to simply be married to him. I married him without those things and at the core of it all, it's who he is as a person that blesses me beyond measure. 

I love you, Kurt! Happy Anniversary! 

June 11, 2015

Disney Playroom Art

Sometimes projects that are relatively simple and easy can take me so long to tackle. Why is that?! For instance, I bought a long shelf at Hobby Lobby MONTHS ago that I want to paint for Evy's room. We're going to put her Disney Princess Precious Moments Birthday Train on it (let's see how long of a title I can give to that train). It's a matter of me opening a can of paint that I ALREADY HAVE and slathering paint on it. Maybe it will get done when she completes her DPPMBT at the age of 12. 

However! I did get a little project done yesterday! We converted an extra upstairs laundry room into a little playroom for Lynley's toys. It's been a great little place for her to play, but to finish it off I really wanted to hang something to cover the ugly utility box in the room. (Sidenote: the utility box is not functioning - it was redone in another area of the house and only the ugly cover remains, so no hazards. We also plan on covering the 220v outlet you can see in the picture!)

The only thing I could think of was massive artwork, but 1. Everything was SO EXPENSIVE and 2. I didn't want a huge, heavy piece of art hanging there. I knew I wanted to do a nod to Disney. I decided that a large canvas would be the only way to cover wall (the utility box doesn't take up the whole wall, but for symmetry reasons I wanted the whole area covered). So then I considered doing a painting myself, but I don't like to hang anything I've done in my house (I don't know why, I just don't care for it and it feels too DIY to me?). Then it dawned on me: vinyl decal! 

I first measured my wall space to figure out what size canvas I would need. I ended up just searching on Amazon for dimensions that were close and found just the right size. I painted in a bright pink color with acrylic craft paint. 

Once I had my canvas in hand, I was able to search for a decal. I knew they could be made a large size so I went to Etsy and eventually found this shop. I looked at the measurements offered and was able to use a tape measure to visually see how it would fill the canvas. I ordered the castle decal in a metallic gold. 

And then I waited about 10 months. 

Because small projects don't get done around here. 

And I couldn't find the decal I had ordered because somehow it was taken to the catacombs of my basement. But we found it last week!

So that brings us to yesterday! I took my giant pink canvas and the newly-found decal and decided to tackle it during nap time.

Now, if you aren't familiar with applying vinyl decals, they can be really tedious. Not necessarily hard, but it takes patience. I recommend watching some tutorials on YouTube just to familiarize yourself with the process, especially since it's a one-shot deal. You can't peel and re-stick! 

I took my sweet time and the result was so worth it! It makes such a difference and it's just perfect! Lynley kept looking at it and I can tell she likes it. ;) This was a cost-efficient and pretty simple project that gives big impact! 

It's so fun to have Disney touches in the house! 

June 5, 2015

Rudolph Club Holiday Prep

So as I've shared a few times before, I'm a HUGE YouTube fan! I saw a YouTuber mention something called the Rudolph Club, which gives you small tasks each month to accomplish in getting ready for Christmas. I was intrigued, and once I looked at the site it seemed like such a good idea! I'm not sure that I'll stick to it religiously, but I really like having at least a loose outline of things I can be doing each month.

I'm getting caught up, but here are a few of the last few months' little tasks that I've accomplished:

January - Tie up loose ends and get all Christmas decorations put away. 
Last Christmas I did a major purge and got rid of anything I knew I didn't want anymore. I still had a lot of cheap ornaments and things from when we were first married and things like that. I kept things I really love and it felt great! However - the boxed up items had been sitting in the middle of my basement until just this past weekend! Kurt's parents were in town for Evy's recital and we really tackled the project. I'm happy to report that everything is now put away nicely and in an organized fashion!

February - Start a holiday letter.
I just did this a few minutes ago! We send out a letter each year with our Christmas card, and I always wish I had kept better little notes along the way to make the letter writing easier. So I did just what they recommended and started a Word document. Super easy and it makes so much sense!

March - Gift-Buying Strategy
The website recommends that whenever you buy someone's birthday gift, go ahead and buy their Christmas gift as well. I won't be doing this, because I really enjoy shopping starting in October/November - it's just part of the season for me! I also think people's interests can change and I like paying attention to what they're liking around the fall.

April - Plan holiday crafting. 
So I've realized something about myself. I really don't enjoy crafting that much! I think I THOUGHT I really liked to craft, but honestly it doesn't give me energy or bring me joy. Everyone has their thing! However, I do want to make sure that our Jesse Tree ornaments are ready (I just printed them out, cut them out and laminated them last year) and I'd like to make cuter cards for Advent activities than I had last year. I guess that falls into the "crafting" category! I'm going to see if I can get a head start on any of that.

May - Catalog Sales
The website recommends looking at catalogs for sale and clearance items (companies are usually anxious to get rid of stock during slow summer months), in case you see any gifts you'd like to pick up. This goes along with a previous point, but I don't buy this far ahead. They also suggested looking through magazines and catalogs for any inspiration you might find decor-wise. I HAVE done this with Pinterest - I love coming up with a holiday theme!

That catches me up! The 25th of each month is Rudolph Day (for some reason I just can't take that seriously whenever I type it), so the next one will be June 25th. It will be interesting to see if I feel more "ahead" by doing these little tasks. Every little bit helps!

May 27, 2015

Ashley Talks About: Lush Favorites

Is it just me, or is the month of May CRAZY? The best description for me is majorly shifting gears and finishing up a season to jump into another one. Between family celebrations, graduations, weddings, finishing school, and more - WHEW.

It feels good to breathe deep and welcome summer! I have lots of family happenings to share, but for now I just wanted to share a few favorites of mine lately from LUSH. :)

I'm pretty sure I've declared my love for LUSH before, but just in case I haven't - I LOVE LUSH! The last month or so I haven't been taking baths (I had gotten into taking a bath once or twice a week instead of just showering all the time), but I REALLY want to get back into that routine. I just love the bath bombs, bubble bars and bath melts! Apparently, my newfound love of baths is the word on the street - not one but TWO of my friends within the last week have called me when they were in Lush offering to buy me bath bombs (our nearest store is 1.5 hours away)!! That's friendship right there!

I've never gotten into other Lush products (I'm not crazy about the textures/smells), but this past weekend Kurt and I were in Chicago with some friends of ours. They invited us on their anniversary trip and it was our first time to travel anywhere with friends. It was so fun! There was a Lush store close to our hotel, and we went in to look. My friend Erin was over looking at bath bombs, and the next thing I knew a really intense salesgirl was pulling me by the arm over to their demonstration area. Now don't get me wrong, she was very nice, but she was REALLY wanting to show me her favorite products, and I somehow found my arms elbow-deep in a basin. The girl was really enthusiastic and also shared with me about her new online relationship ("I think we're dating right now"). It was a lot to take in, but the next thing I knew I heard myself say "Yes, I'll take some of the body conditioner" - because THE BODY CONDITIONER. This stuff is amazing! You put it on your skin in the bath or shower and rinse it off, and it leaves your skin SO SOFT. I never put lotion on after a bath or shower because it just always felt weird to me, but this leaves my skin feeling like I did put lotion on. I got the Rose Jam scent and it's a new favorite! So as chaotic as the shopping experience was, that girl is laughing all the way to the cash register. :)

I discovered the Lemony Flutter Cuticle Butter while watching one of my favorite YouTube channels, and it lives up to the hype! I have horrible cuticles and I'm always embarrassed at how they look. You only need a tiny dab of this stuff for all of your fingers, and it's wonderful! I noticed a difference right away!

If you've been wondering about Lush products, these would all be a great place to start! :)

May 20, 2015

Happy 2nd Birthday, Lynley Adele!

I can't BELIEVE that our littlest princess is turning 2 years old today!!! May 20, 2013 changed our lives forever in so many ways. It was one of my greatest experiences in learning to trust God (your delivery didn't go as planned, but I learned so much from it), and when you came into our lives, you added the perfect amount of cuteness, spunkiness and adorable personality!

Lynley, you are growing and doing SO MUCH! Here's what you've been up to:

-The number one thing I have to share is your absolute OBSESSION with GLASSES!!! ("Gasses!") It's literally like Where's Waldo. You can find glasses in ANY catalog, book, show, etc.! I have no idea where your obsession came from, but you have to wear glasses or goggles everywhere. It's so adorable!

-You are saying SO many cute things! "Oh my word!" "There you go!" "There it is!" "Oh no!" "Where [Daddy, Sissy, Brother, Mommy, etc.] go?" "I sorry, Mommy!" (This absolutely rips my heart out, and I never know why she thinks she needs to say she's sorry!)

-Your favorite place to be is OUTSIDE! You love to swing and climb and slide. I can't wait to see you play in the water this summer! I have to be diligent with the sunscreen because your little fair skin doesn't take the sun well!

-You LOVE wearing princess dress up shoes! They're never your size - always too big - but you walk around in those like you do it for a living. It's crazy! You get around so quickly in those heels it amazes me.

-You love to cuddle and rock. Evy didn't enjoy that quite as much, which is strange because overall she was a bit more mellow in personality. You're the feisty one, but you love to rock with Mommy. Melts my heart!

-You do great at church! You love your Sunday morning class and go right in. It's so cute to pick you up and see you having a great time!

-You've started singing "There's Just Something About That Name," just like your sister did. :)

- You so enjoy being with your Sissy and Brother! You follow them while they're playing and you feel so big sitting to eat with them at the picnic table. :)

-You've been so adorable during Bible time lately! You squint your little eyes to "pray" and it's just precious!

-You love to watch "Babysongs" (circa 1985 - Mommy watched it at your age!) and the songs are your absolute favorite! It's so cute to see you love the same show I did. You also enjoy the "Good Night, Sleep Tight" Kidsongs (also from the 80s). I've become SO NOSTALGIC about this particular video and I know I'll associate the songs with this exact few months of our lives for years to come. When the families all sing "Our House" I get misty-eyed because it's exactly how I feel.

I'll light the fire, you place the flowers in the vase that you bought today
Staring at the fire for hours and hours while I listen to you
Play your love songs all night long for me, only for me

Come to me now and rest your head for just five minutes, everything is good
Such a cozy room, the windows are illuminated by the evening
Sunshine through them, fiery gems for you, only for you

Our house is a very, very fine house with two cats in the yard, life used to be so hard,
Now everything is easy 'cause of you and our la, la, la...

Our house is a very, very fine house with two cats in the yard, life used to be so hard,
Now everything is easy 'cause of you and our

I'll light the fire, while you place the flowers in the vase that you bought today

I've found myself feeling exactly like that song lately. The life that we have together as a family is everything I dreamed of and more. Not because of things; just the love we have for each other in this season of all three of you being little. It's so meaningful to me. 

Lynley, you are such a joy to our family! I struggle to find the words to describe how I feel, but just know that you are loved so completely and so deeply (just like your sister and brother). We love the dynamic our family has right now; we're definitely in the season of "little ones" but the three of you make our world so beautiful, happy, and complete.

Your Daddy and I are so excited to watch you grow every day! This is such a fun stage, and we can't wait to see you grow into more of who God has created you to be. You are so much fun, so FUNNY, and so precious to us! We love you, our sweet little gift from God! Happy 2nd Birthday!

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