High Five for Friday...

High Five for Friday...

Wow... Friday is here already! This week has flown by... only 4 weeks left of school! I haven't done a HF4F in a while, but this week has just been full of lovely things that are worthy of a high five. =) So, here they are... you can stop holding your breath now. =)

This is one of my very favorite birthday presents ever- the "starter set" of Nancy Drew books (which included two of my favorite Nancy books in the series) and the sweetest note attached. Claire and Rory are two of my friends from home, and they got me such a thoughtful and clever present! We share a love of books, classic movies, and all things Psych! Love you guys! =)

I LOVE this necklace Jonathan got me for my birthday. (I apologize for the heinous quality of this picture, but I couldn't find the necklace on Target's website. Aren't you shocked it's from Target??) I don't really own a "statement" necklace and this one is perfect. Not too crazy, lovely turquoise color, but much more bold than what I typically wear. And it's so versatile! I've been trying to educate Jonathan when it comes to the "cost per wear" philosophy; the more you wear an item, the more you defray the cost over time. (Aka: a $100 dress you wear once- $100. Not such a good deal. However, a $100 dress you wear 10 times in a year: $10 cost-per-wear price. Much better deal! It sounds good, anyway. =) So, I brought the necklace home and tried it on with a million different things. It looked great "dressy"- like with the bright coral dress I wore it with Sunday, but it also dressed up simple t-shirts in lots of colors. Can I treat turquoise like a neutral? Cause I am! I am going to work this necklace to death because I love it so much! =)

I got a new nail polish this week (I didn't realize 3/5 of this post was going to be birthday presents, but who cares?) It's called Tart Deco from Essie, and while it looks like more of a pastel in the picture, it's almost like a neon peach in person. Different for me (I've been sticking with gray, pale pink, or just a clear topcoat lately) but very pretty! Of course, no polish looks that super when applied by my inexpert (aka shaky) hand, but I do try. This one is a keeper!

I pinned this earlier in the week and while I'm not going to go off on a rant about the truth of it, I probably will in a future post. Simply put, let's view God's grace as a motivator to live for Him, not live as unholy as possible and then exclaim, "Yay, grace!" I'm SO tired of Christians doing that. But... I digress. I promised I wouldn't rant, so I won't. Just think about the truth of this picture, though. =)

Someone posted this picture of Papaw on Facebook this week and it just made me smile. He LOVED being the auctioneer at Faith's fall fundraiser every year, and he was so good at it! I can just hear him raising up the prices and joking around with people about spending more money! I am usually so busy that I don't let myself dwell on how much I miss him, but I have missed him like crazy the past few weeks. Some days I would give anything to run into their house and spill out every detail of my day to him, get his opinion, laugh at his witty comebacks, or watch him greet little kids at church. And... now I've got myself in tears. I miss this goose egg on wheels! 

That's all, folks! Have a super weekend! I know I will... a shopping trip date night in Raleigh in in the works. Woohoo!


Diet: THE 4-Letter Word...

Diet: THE 4-Letter Word...

There are a few topics that are universal- as in, they transcend culture, age, gender, etc. Love. Sorrow. Taxes. Pizza. Who can't relate these things? Well, as far as any normal person most of us are concerned, there is indeed one area that we can all identify with. It has generated millions of dollars in clubs, books, stores, and advertising. It is probably the single most broken New Year's Resolution ever. It has been the source of many tears and much frustration. No one likes it. Most people hate it. (If you like it, don't tell me. Please... I'd like to stay friends.) Anyway, only one thing could possibly fit this unflattering description.

DIET. (Ever notice the first 3 letters spell D-I-E?? Hardly a coincidence.) 

Haven't we all been on a diet at one time or another? Now, for all you little skinny people who can eat like horses and not gain a pound.... I'll try to contain my bitterness. Ha! Just kidding. I don't hate you... just your metabolism. Mine apparently went on vacation when I turned 19 and hasn't returned. Anywho, back to dieting. I remember when this was merely a word for other people. Older people. Couch potatoes, if you will. Or the unfortunate souls who actually had to "watch what they ate". (Don't we all do that anyway? When was the last time you saw someone eating blindfolded, other than on reality television?) If I gained a pound or two, I'd flip out and then in a couple days I'd be back to the same weight.
Truer words were never spoken. 

 Then one day I woke up and realized that someone had made my clothes smaller! Oh wait, those were my hips.

Ouch. Rude awakening.

The first step is always denial, right? So for the first couple of years after I lost my "food freedom", I just acted like everything was okay. Every so often I would get really depressed about and resolved to never touch Mountain Dew again, but (shockingly) that never lasted. It was like the Mountain Dew bottle would mockingly laugh at me, saying "We both know you'll be back!" (It was right... little nasty!) Even though I'd try to "do better" (aka eat the same things but feel a little guilty about it)... it never really worked out. 
You see, it's like this...

Story of my life.

Finally, about 6 months ago, I really got serious about losing weight. (At this point, I was going to have to replace half my skirts/dresses, and while you know I'm all for new clothes, it just didn't seem prudent to head down that road.) So, I decided that after Christmas, I was actually going to do something about it. (Famous last words!) But, first things first... 

Of course I couldn't start a diet before Christmas? Do I look like Ebenezer Scrooge? Talk about not making merry at Christmas... So, January 2nd I started the dreaded "thing".

The DIE-T. 

I definitely had my reservations. One of them being the fact that I have the self-control of... I don't know, something with no self-control. Another of them being that I was actually quite afraid of being hungry. Yes, I want to lose weight; no, I do not want to starve! (There's an actual emotion for this: hangry- aka, hungry + angry. It's not pretty.) And also, I seem to have self-diagnosed problem that involves the constant need to have my hand in a bag of chips. And a soda in the other hand. (And not diet soda. I could write an entire post about how much the taste of Diet Mountain Dew resembles poison.)

Pinterest didn't help, either. All these people posting pictures of people running, people with rock-hard abs, people eating rabbit food, people sweating. I do take comfort in the fact that 90% of those who pin these things don't actually run, have rock-hard abs, eat rabbit food, or sweat. (By the way, it's been said that sweat is fat crying. It's safe to say my fat is not a big cryer.) Oh and those pins: 

Bacon dipped in chocolate.

All these reservations definitely planted seeds of doubt in my dieting garden. But, this time I got smart and actually paid money to make myself miserable. (Weight Watchers, for those who are dying to know how I actually did the impossible and stayed with it for the past few months.) The points system wasn't too bad. I learned a few tricks early on to help me keep from feeling like a homeless waif nibbling on lettuce and crackers. 

Eat lots of zero point foods. Sure, you can go ahead and drink a soda, but you won't be able to eat again until Wednesday. Snacks are devil foods. You will never be able to enjoy a gravy biscuit from Bojangles again because they are like a gazillion points.

Etc., etc.

Oh, and don't be all like, "You're not fat! Blah blah blah..." because, scout's honor, it was really never about the way I looked. It truly was a concerted effort to save my current wardrobe and keep from having to purchase a whole bunch of new, bigger clothes. So really, it all goes back to the fact that I like a bargain, and I figured paying for a few months of Weight Watchers would be cheaper than a new wardobe. =) Oh, and I realized I was pickling my liver 32 ounces at a time.

At first, I didn't see any noticeable results. Unless crabbiness and deprivation are noticeable results. But I went a few weeks, feeling the same and also feeling that I was wasting my time and effort. 

Sorry, Babe.

Then I stepped on the scale and the first 5 pounds were gone. (I must confess, I danced around like a fool.) Before I knew it, the first 10 were gone. (Oh snap!) My Papaw used to say, "The joy is not in the doing, but in the having done." There is so much truth in that statement! I certainly did not enjoy doing Weight Watchers for 3 months, but losing a total of  13 pounds (and keeping it off, mostly =) is a most joyful thing. I really didn't think I could do it. And, apparently neither did my mother. How do I know this? Um, because after I had lost a few pounds she said, "Ash, I didn't think you could do it!"

Thanks, Mom. You are my rock.

Having lost weight is a great feeling. Trying on clothes that were tight and feeling that they're loose again is a great feeling. Is eating salad and applesauce for lunch every day a great feeling? Um, negative. But I'm glad I did it. Actually, I'm still eating salad. I even found a couple of diet drinks I like (Diet Wild Cherry Pepsi and Diet Sunkist, to be exact.) The only thing I've really "reverted" back to is drinking regular soda more often... what can I say? I'm only human. =) 

Oh, yeah... and I didn't even touch on working out. That's an entire post on its own. Let's just say, exercise and I are not friends. Every time I see someone post about "Great workout!", I'm like... eh, I need a nap. Sometime I'll actually accelerate my weight loss process by exercising regularly (more than a leisurely stroll around the playground every couple days.) I'm not counting on it, though. I get my workout by walking quickly around Target. =)

I'd love to know that I'm not alone in my feelings about this lovely topic. So, please do share your hatred similar thoughts about dieting. I'd love to chat about it some more! But not now... all this writing has made me hungry. =)


Turning the Big 2-3...

Turning the Big 2-3...

Is it childish that I still get really excited about my birthday? As in, I look forward to it for months and feel giddy the entire week before? In the spirit of accepting my quirks, as mentioned previously, I don't care if it's lame that I treat my birthday like a six-year-old does. My husband certainly doesn't share this mindset; he is a terrible bore when his own birthday rolls around, refusing to give me gift ideas (remember, he's big on "necessities") and lacking all birthday giddiness. He does, however, attempt to be excited about my birthday... and can't really help it. My enthusiasm is contagious! =) 

Anyway, this year I was still excited about my birthday (because of PRESENTS, duh!) but the whole getting a year older thing is losing its charm as I, well... get a year older. I know it's not a big deal, but 23 just sounds OLD. (I do realize that anyone older than me who reads this is shaking their heads in disgust. Just humor me.) Before long, I'll be in my "mid-twenties". How is this possible? I feel like I literally just graduated from high school and started college, and here I am approaching two years of marriage and nearly my entire first year of teaching finished. Again, I realize these aren't milestone accomplishments... it's just crazy to think that this much time has passed. When I was a teenager, 23 was an adult. Now, I feel like this.... 

22 was a hard but very important year for me. I graduated from college. I started teaching for the first time. I faced my fears and played the keyboard in church. (I know, not that big of a deal... but it was to me!) I lost my Papaw and my Mawmaw within 4 months of each other. I definitely learned more about waiting on the Lord and trusting Him than ever before. I also learned that God's timing is definitely not always what we expect! So, while I have experienced alot of "growing up" this year, I'm not sad that 22 is over.

Oh well, excuse my melancholia. I'm sure it's just my old age. =) Back to the birthday fun! We had a McNeese family dinner Thursday night, friends dinner Friday night, our own little party at Chickfila last night (I know, I'm a big spender!) and a Cordell/Sloan party today. And yes, I did request funfetti cake. Don't judge me! Of course, the best part of any birthday is presents! I got some clothes (good), money (better!), and Target gift cards (best! =). I found a BEAUTIFUL dress at Belk on clearance (duh) and also got a necklace at Target that I've been drooling over for months. Jonathan also got me some chicken minis (aka manna) for breakfast yesterday, so the day definitely started well! I also got lots of sweet facebook messages (thanks, facebook, for reminding everyone so I don't have to! =), texts, and calls (ever notice that NO ONE can make it through the entire birthday song without getting embarrassed and switching to a silly voice?) from friends and family. So fun!

Overall, turning 23 hasn't been too painful. At least maybe people will start thinking I'm older? Maybe? Yeah, I guess not. A stranger asked when I was finishing high school last week. (Don't worry; I resisted the urge to punch her. I think I sarcastically kindly informed her that to be in high school, I'd have to be in the 17th grade. =) 

It's been a great birthday weekend! Although, this is so true of me... 

Maybe one day I'll be able to gracefully stand while people sing happy birthday to me. For now, I manage to squirm and look uncomfortable the entire time. 

Have a super week, peeps! I will now shuffle to bed for my early, old-lady bedtime. =)


You Know You're a Teacher If...

You Know You're a Teacher If...

Over the past few months, I've realized that some of my quirks habits, opinions, and even feelings have changed, and this new behavior can only be attributed to the fact that I'm a teacher. Things that I've never done before are suddenly very important. Things that never bothered me suddenly drive me insane. And things that used to drive me insane I now ignore. (aka noise!) Some of these are sort of a joke but most are completely true! My teacher friends will definitely relate to this list! Enjoy my weirdness. =)

You Know You're a Teacher If...

- you forget to answer when someone calls you by your first name.
- you grab a huge wad of napkins at restaurants anticipating that someone will spill.
- you find yourself using phrases like "raise your hand," "sound it out," and "get to work" in conversation with adults. 
- you aren't phased at the sight of blood but the sound of a pencil sharpener puts your nerves on edge. 
- you constantly pick up trash wherever you go. 
- the perforated edge of notebook paper is the bane of your existence.
- your fingertips have lost all feeling from pushing pins in bulletin boards.
- you have heard every possible explanation under the sun to replace a simple, "Yes, I was talking."
- you expect other adults to call you "ma'am."
- you get secretly annoyed when you call on someone who isn't listening and they still get the right answer.
- you judge people by their cursive writing. 
- you don't categorize seasons by the weather but by which sport is being played.
- you can hear whispering or chewing from more than 10 feet away.
- you would rather walk across hot coals than prepare for a substitute, because it means writing in actual sentences and not the abbreviated code you use for yourself.
- you willingly share your time, knowledge, and help... But not your chocolate.
- you convince yourself that not eating a candy bar that student bought you will absolutely scar the child for life and you simply cannot have that guilt on your shoulders.
- you'll spend 8 hours at a stretch on bulletin boards but spending more than an hour on lesson plans feels like you've lost an entire day of life.
- if you could, you would outlaw Caprisuns because those awful little straw wrappers never make it to the trash can.
- you cannot make it through lunch without opening at least 3 drinks, estimating microwave time for at least 4 casseroles, and getting splattered with at least one can of Chef Boyardee.
- you've felt really clever about an classroom idea until you find the same thing in a Google search.
- you hope you don't unexpectedly die and have anyone look through your desk.... Or closet... Or podium. 
- you have seen miraculous healings take place in the time it takes to walk from the classroom to the playground.
- you have to remind yourself that you once thought losing a tooth was a big deal, too.
- you know that the "s" word and the "h" word stand for "stupid" and "hate".
- you refuse to call on someone who waves at you and barks like a sea lion.
- you consider a whistle a fashion accessory.
- even though you swore you'd never do it, you find yourself wearing "sensible shoes".
- you feel empowered by a red pen.
- you have to remind yourself that every printed publication is not a paper to grade for correct spelling and grammar.
- you have a song or rhyme for nearly any situation.
- you choose creative writing topics based on what you know will get the most amusing results.
- you realize the "death stare" you give your students isn't nearly as effective on your husband.
- you can listen to the most outlandish prayer requests without cracking a smile.
- you wake up feeling like you have a new lease on life when you realize it's Friday.
- you have learned that your most difficult students usually win awards for perfect attendance.
- you frequently exercise your right to have an extra recess.
- you've answered a question with, "Because I know everything/because I said so!" 
- you know that professional wrestlers have nothing on a playground kickball fight.
- you've sat on the floor in Target's dollar section scavenging through every  bin for one more matching jump rope to complete your Christmas gifts.
- your favorite holiday isn't Christmas, Easter, or Thanksgiving... It's Teacher Appreciation Week!
- you've spent more money on classroom decorations than you have on groceries in a month.
- you wish that, instead of an apple, the universal gift for teachers was Target gift cards.
- you recognize that scribbles can indeed be works of art.
- you find yourself feeling flattered when a student says you are the "best teacher ever", even though you know full well that he said the same thing to his teacher last year and the year before.
- you have no problem making a complete fool of yourself in order to better convey a story or character or idea.
- you know how many days, hours, and minutes are left until summer break begins.
- you know the difference between real tears and fake tears.
- you are able to read minds and actually do have eyes in the back of your head!
- you now understand that your job description includes counselor, psychiatrist, maid, referee, chef, scientist, historian, financier, coach, editor, negotiator, peacemaker, surgeon, librarian, theologian, mechanic, seamstress, cheerleader, author, translator, and warden.
- you wouldn't trade places with anyone in the world!

If you teach and have an item to add, please do! I would love to hear more, especially from those who have taught for longer than my 8 months! =)


For Those Who Are Discouraged...

For Those Who Are Discouraged...

First of all, let me go ahead and "apologize" that this post will be of a more serious nature. Although humor can be extremely uplifting (merry heart = medicine), sometimes other sources can be encouraging too. It seems lately that many people I know, both friends and family, have faced discouraging circumstances. Ministry problems, family problems, financial problems... These and more have always been prevalent, I suppose, but as I get older (all 23 years) I have become more aware of these problems. Most of you know that I have been known to write a poem or two in the last few years. (One gene that did make it from my dad to me). A couple weeks ago, after a conversation with someone hurting, the Lord laid these words on my heart. I have really hesitated to post this because I have never wanted to "showcase" my writing on here, but I through some different circumstances this week I've really felt like it was needed. I don't know what you or someone you love is going through, but God does!

He had faced Baal's prophets and called fire from above,
He'd fed a hungry widow and her son;
He'd worked so very hard for God and labored long in love,
But looked around for help and he found none.

After all the trials and the tests had come his way,
And things had really started getting tough,
Elijah couldn't bear to stand and fight another day,
He cried, "Lord take my life... it is enough!"

So God sent down an angel to give Elijah rest,
To strengthen and to feed his weary soul;
He knew His faithful prophet had given all His best,
And only Heaven's touch could make him whole.

For the years of ceaseless toil and attack from all around
Had finally overwhelmed this weary man;
When everything seems shaky, it's hard to stand your ground,
And it feels like no one else could understand.

God sent a great and mighty wind, but the answer wasn't there;
He sent an earthquake, too, but not a sound;
The refreshing peace and answers, the freedom from all care,
In a still, small voice was finally found.

So the prophet now is ready, his faith has been restored,
And with a strength renewed he starts again;
For now he knows he's not alone in service for the Lord,
And there's nowhere he can go God hasn't been.

God's business truly is the greatest one in all the world,
 But sometimes things don't go just as we planned.
Remember in those moments when the Devil's darts are hurled,
We're holding to our Savior's sovereign hand.

It may not make much sense to us; our finite minds can't see
The reasons for the trials that we face.
But His thoughts and ways are higher and His reason may just be
That His plan we'll learn to totally embrace.

But like Elijah, know that help is on the way,
Though it may not be a noisy, showy sign;
Sometimes God's awesome power is best put on display
Through a still, small voice that whispers, "You are mine."

We all know discouragement and life go hand in hand;
We face problems each and every day.
But remember that there is no wrong that can be done to you
That the things God does for you cannot outweigh.

Don't forget like that old prophet that God is in control,
He knows exactly who you are and what you need.
He's sending something to refresh your weak and weary soul;
In Him you'll find the power to succeed.

You're not alone, you never were; when it feels like no one's there, 
Just look beside you and you'll see His hand.
Sit back and watch as times of hardship and despair
Become the thing of beauty that He planned.


Being Me....

Being Me....

Recently my class sang a song at PTF called "Being Me". Although I got sick of became tired of the song after about a zillion practices, I did ponder on the words quite a bit (here I go, pondering again). One line said "I can always be myself better than anybody else, just being me." That really got me thinking. (Pretty big feat for a third grade PTF song.) 

We all have things about ourselves that we would like to change, right? Other people seem cooler, or smarter, or funnier, or prettier, or... "perfecter". (I know it should be more perfect, but I had to stay with the  "-er" theme... I'm a slave to parallelism.) Basically, most people are not okay with themselves at face value. While I'm all for self-improvement (especially if your "self" is really lame to start with!), I have decided in recent months that there are some things about myself that are simply not going to change, and I'm okay with that. Especially after I saw this little picture recently:

No matter what, there will always be things about myself that I don't like. (And this is all aside from dieting/weight issues... no one will ever be happy about that stuff! And if you are, I hate you I don't want to hear about it. =) But comparing myself to others, especially when it comes to things about myself I don't care for, is just pointless.

- I will never be a good public speaker. Like my alter ego, Mia Thermopolis, I am just not cut out for it.
"I will never be a public speaker... just call and tell him I want to be a mime."

When I posted a few weeks ago about my major stage fright issues, I didn't even touch on the fact that I literally get sick if I have to speak in front of people. I was asked recently to speak at my best friend's bridal shower. I am the matron of honor, and I said no. I know! I'm a despicable human being. But I knew that I would be so sick with nerves that I wouldn't even enjoy the shower. (That and the fact that with fewer than two years of marriage under my belt, I hardly felt qualified to address a gathering of married women about, well... marriage. I'm not quite an authority just yet.)

Anyway, I am NOT a public speaker. I can write speeches all day. I'll tell you what to say; I just can't say it. My shakes are exponentially worse when I'm speaking. Even my voice shakes. It's horrible. This used to really bother me... my dad's a preacher, and my mom is a speaker at ladies meetings all over the country. (No brag, just fact.) Couldn't some of their skills have rubbed off on me? Apparently not. I got the Mia, run off the stage with my hands over my mouth genes from some shallow trickle in the gene pool. Thanks, DNA. But I have just decided not to let it bother me. So what if I would rather be in the coffin than giving the eulogy? Let others speak. I will continue to blog and write and hide from all speaking opportunities.

-I will never be able to pass up a "good deal". Now, my definition of a good deal and other's definitions of a good deal are probably different. My defintion is at least 75% off. If there's no additional percentages off, forget it (unless it's just super cheap to start with.) Now, my husband and I have completely different schools of thought here. He doesn't care if it's reduced to practically nothing... "Do you need it?" What kind of question is that? Well, no. I do not. What does necessity have to do with shopping, anyway? About as much as being hungry as to do with eating... NOTHING. =) For now, I am firmly accepting of my deal-finding abilities (and I do believe they are a supernatural gift, not to be wasted.)

- I will never be able to go through an entire conversation without at least thinking, if not actually verbalizing, a movie quote in some form. I don't think that that's necessarily a bad thing anyway, but it's like something I can't turn off, even during, say, church, when I really shouldn't be quoting movies and making myself chuckle at inopportune times. The worst part is that I get really bothered when people don't "get" my quotes. My husband is the worst about this, although it's cute that now he tries really hard to at least pretend to guess which movie I'm quoting. Our family is so nerdy about it that some movie quotes have just worked their way into our everyday conversations. "Sometimes you just gotta cut a man loose." (Hoosiers) "I'm not happy, Bob." (The Incredibles... by the way, that's my dad's name in my phone.) "But what do I doooo?" (The Kid) "You crasy!" (Nacho Libre) And on and on I could go. I used to feel bad that a large percentage of my speaking was made up of movie quotes... but now I just feel proud of my freakish memory that records huge portions of film. =) I suppose other people have conversations that are just their own words, but how boring would that be?

-Finally, and this is the "truest" of them all... I have finally accepted the fact that I will never be known as a "sweet" person. I'm fairly certain that no one, in this universe, would ever be like, "Aw, Ashley's so sweet." It's ironic that two of my best friends in the world (Sara and Brook) are both your typical "What a sweet girl" girls. I guess that's why we get along... I am the salty to their sweet, so to speak. That used to bother me periodically... about... annually I would try to do a sort of personality paradigm shift and cleanse myself of my sarcasm. Of course, it never lasted (imagine that) because I just can't be something I'm not.

Now, before I go any further I have to say that I'm not advocating being a jerk (or any other bad kind of person) in the name of "That's just the way I am." Do not use this against me! "Oooo, Ashley says that I can accept my heinous sins because comparison is the thief of joy!" Um, no. I have known far too many people who have grown up to be little monsters because their entire lives people made the excuse for them, "That's just how she is." Well, if "how you are" is mean, or rude, or immature, or whatever, then you probably shouldn't accept it. Your joy won't be "thieved" if you're only comparing yourself to other morons. Just a thought. =)

Anyway, back to me the last point. I would never want anyone to think I'm mean (because I'm really not). So it might bother me if someone thought that, but one must always take my sarcasm in the way that it is intended, which is with humor and love.) Okay, maybe not love. But humor definitely. =)
Should it bother me that I'm not thought of as a "sweet girl"? The funny one. The sarcastic one. (Charming sarcasm, not biting sarcasm. I hope!) The wordy one. (Sorry about the length of this post!) But sweet? No. That's reserved for people who have a little better control of their verbal Print Preview. (Although, in my defense, I often feel that I am merely voicing the mental opinions of others. "That was terrible!" "Yeah, well, you were thinkin it!") My only regret is that this trait might keep me off the ladies meeting speaking circuit one day. (Bummer!)

Truthfully, not many people have made me feel this way. All my angst has been self-imposed, which is just silly, of course. So, rather than compare myself to my sweet friends, or my sappy mother, or my beautiful/talented/sweet sisters (you decide which is which... I wouldn't DREAM of differentiating!), or anyone else, I will continue to quiver at the thought of public speaking. I will proudly display my clearance prices. I will quote movies "so hard, it'll make your ancestors dizzy." (A little Mulan for you there.) I will keep reveling in my brand of humor, which I rather like, thank you. So what if I go all Mia-in-debate-class when asked to speak? So what if I spend all our money in $3 increments? So what if I have the mind of a little child and think in Disney quotes? So what if my first instict is sarcasm and not sugar? I'm ME. And I'm okay with that.
Those things make me... Ashley. If you have (harmless) quirks (and we all do!), just embrace them. My life has been simpler since I have!
And remember... "beee yourself!" (Sorry... Aladdin... just had to throw that in there!)

Happy Easter...

Happy Easter...

Easter is a great time of year. Unlike other religions (even though, I know, Christianity is not a religion), we get to celebrate the fact that our Savior is actually ALIVE! It's a rather exciting thought if you sit and ponder on it, really. (Not that I do a whole lot of "pondering"... before you conjure up images of me sitting around like this: 

But it really is mind-blowing to think that Jesus came to earth and died for us at all, let alone was able to rise again and promise to come back! Before you think about being "tolerant" of other religions, remember that their "gods" are dead. Ours isn't. Yep, revival is happening right here on this blog. 

So, now on to the other great parts about Easter. The non-spiritual, expensive, fattening parts.

One thing all girls love about Easter is that it is mandated (as the eleventh commandment) that we get a new outfit, or "an Easter dress". When I was little that meant matching hats, dresses, gloves, frilly socks, and purses for all four of us little Baines ladies. Now it means that my dear, sweet, cheap thrifty, couldn't-care-less-about-shopping husband has to endure this shopping experience. "But honey, it's my Easter outfit!" "Who cares? Easter is about the resurrection!" (That's the problem with marrying a preacher... you get a preached a sermon about the commercialization of Easter, the evils of the Easter bunny, the evils of Easter eggs, etc. Not really, but Jonathan really doesn't buy into the whole "Thou shalt buy an Easter dress" thing. Though, being a sweetheart, he does allow me to purchase one.) This year's search was a pain in the Easter egg... not for the outfit, but the accessories. Good grief! I almost gave up before finally running across a really pretty bracelet at Target last night. (Old Faithful, it never fails me!)

The other great part of Easter is the food! Since it's Easter tomorrow, I decided to whip up a little Easter treat today.

Nah, just kidding. I didn't make this super-adorable Peep and jelly bean cake. I wish I could say that I did, but I'm just not crafty this way. I'm pretty sure the Peeps would look more like roadkill by the time I was finished with it. Actually my mom (who is crafty and talented in the novelty cake department) made this. 

This was my Easter treat.

Chocolate oatmeal peanut butter cookies. (Aka no-bakes. Aka minimal effort required.)

Now, these cookies are not bright, egg-shaped, or pastel-colored. They're simply delicious, and I prepared them within 24 hours of Easter. That makes them an Easter treat in my book. And they're heavenly, no matter what the holiday. Now if only I can keep myself from eating all of them in one sitting. 

Seriously, be thankful tomorrow (and every day) that Jesus died for you, and even  more thankful He rose again! Happy Easter everyone!


High Five for Friday!

High Five for Friday!

This post is a little sad for me, because it's coming on the heels of spring break... meaning spring break is almost over and Monday we head back to school. (Boooo!!!) However, we did have a great time with my parents and my sister, April (the SMART one!) and my beautiful niece Leslie! So, here's my week in review.

How adorable is this? We had been shopping for a couple hours and Leslie had apparently become very relaxed in her car seat. I love this pose! She is so stinkin' cute... especially her little teeth when she's smiling. Adorable! 

I just love this still from this week's episode of Psych, "True Grits". Shawn and Jules (aka "Shules" to the die-hard fans) are too cute! "I am confident I did good police work." "I am sure you did, Jules, but we all make mistakes, right? So you put an innocent man behind bars for three years. I threw out the comics yesterday before Gus had a chance to read Foxtrot." 

I realize that this bowl looks like it's full of, well, mud... but actually it is the yummiest concoction known to man. Mamaw made chocolate gravy this morning! Yes, it is heavenly. If you haven't tried it, do not turn up your nose. You must try it! Sooooo good! (Despite this picture... not the best advertisement, I know.)

Although I am very upset with Amanda for withholding her children from a visit from me, I do not begrudge her the little getaway the Montepeque family got to take to Savannah this week. How these two could get any cuter is beyond me! I simply adore them!!!!

I pinned this earlier today because it made me laugh loudly! I feel that way all the time! Poor grammar, tights as pants, loud ringtones... okay, I'll save them for another post, perhaps.

Oh, and one thing I didn't get to include as a "high five" simply because I have no pictures yet is that I got a whole bunch of "house stuff" for our new place. Thanks to April for getting me some great stuff for my birthday and my mom for helping me pick out some pretty things too. (In case you haven't noticed, I'm not really the Martha Stewart type, so I need all the help I can get in the home decor department.) I can't wait to put it all together! 

I hope everyone's had a fabulous week, even if it wasn't your spring break! I know I enjoyed mine! Happy Friday, everyone!


Sisters, Sisters...

Sisters, Sisters...

Surely my family is not the only one to have danced around singing the song from White Christmas by the "Haynes Sisters" (actually Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen). This was one of my absolute favorite movies growing up and there is no telling how many times my sisters and I (and our cousins) would "perform" this song (usually for an unsuspecting Andrew... poor thing was the only boy around!) I'm not sure what we used to represent those big feather things... maybe a duster? We kids made our own fun back in the 90's. =)

Although countless books, articles, essays, stories, etc. have been written about sisters, there is a reason why. This relationship is something unique. (And no, I'm not talking the old-school L.Y.L.A.S.- "love you like a sister", which we all thought was soooo cool.) I have many friends that I love dearly but I don't love anyone quite like I love my sisters. I have three of them, actually. My poor dad wanted a boy so badly and the closest he got was me (because of my embarrassingly tomboyish tendencies for the first 14+ years of my life.) But anyway, he ended up with all females and those crazy girls are my favorite people in the world. It's kind of fun being known as one of "the Baines girls".

By the way, I'm not talking about brother-sister relationships. Sister-sister relationships are what are the most unique. How can you be so angry with someone with someone and be laughing hysterically with them moments later? I remember vividly an afternoon when someone stupidly decided to leave all of us home with Amanda in charge. She and April proceeded to fight (like, to the death) over a red sweater, which in retrospect was rather hideous. I'm talking pulling the sweater in opposite directions, yelling, threats of "I'm telling Mom!" (What's she going to do... cut it in half?) Or once, April told me (in a heated fight over a pink undershirt, if I remember correctly) that her children would not know their Aunt Ashley! Baha! I'm pretty sure Leslie just adores me. So, that one didn't really pan out. We fight over the dumbest stuff!

I went through a stage when every single thing that Amy did got on my nerves. Before you jump on my case, however, it should be made clear that Amy is the baby and thus the favorite. And while I love Mary Poppins, I kind of hate it because my mom (who, like Rebecca, has never concealed her favoritism for her youngest child) has always described Amy as "practically perfect in every way." Yes, it's nauseating. So, somewhere when I was around 4th or 5th grade and Amy was in 1st grade she really got on my nerves. Other than that, we've always gotten along famously. Hence, she was the maid of honor at my wedding. The only thing those other two slobs have ever done for me is give me beautiful nieces and a nephew. Ha! Just kidding...I loved them even before they had those adorable children! 

Having a sister offers some interesting scenarios. Case in point: unless your sizes/tastes differ VASTLY, you will fight over clothes. Case closed. Now, the unspoken laws of this practice indicate that 
1. You do not ever ask to borrow something that has been worn by the owner yet. 
2. You always ASK first. (That's a given.)
3. Bartering is an option but not a guarantee. 
4. No means no. End of story.
But see, in our house there was a little clothes bandit. "Hmmm... where's my white sweater? Where are my brown sandals?" Etc....) 
I won't mention which sister was the flagrant thief, but she looks alot like this little nasty! (Wearing my shirt, ironically!)

So, the clothes thing is just one problem. Fortunately, we were all far enough apart in age that we never fought over boys (like we needed that drama!). But I remember some fights that would make WrestleMania seem tame, all fought over clothes. Ah, sisters.

Something I love about having sisters is how different we are. Outsiders  some people say that we are all alike, and that our mannerisms, etc. are identical. I guess we sound a little bit alike. I don't really sit around comparing our mannerisms. But I do know that we are all quite unique. 

First there's Amanda. As I've said before, she is the Mozart of the family. Obnoxiously talented, especially on the piano, sings, speed-reads.... there's really nothing she can't do. (Except throw back a "hard drink"... that's another story. But my sisters will get it. I hate inside jokes, but that's a good one. I'll have to explain it sometime.) If there were ever the model oldest child, it's her. That's the problem... she grew up first and set the bar so blasted high in every area that none of us other losers could ever measure up! (Fortunately, she doesn't remind us of that.) Oh, and she actually enjoys exercise. That's not exactly an endearing quality. Anyway, my favorite thing about Amanda is that she is my best audience. I get my  best jokes when I'm with her, and she gives me the best reactions. (Is it bad that I think of the best stuff when we sit together in church? Then I feel particularly pleased if I can get her to laugh during a serious moment.) If I could, I'd be her jester full time. (So, we're different in that I am not uber-talented like she is. And I would rather chew off my arm than exercise.)

Then, April. (I'd add a picture, but it's already somewhere in this post... sorry, didn't mean to incriminate anyone. I seem to have a skirt missing!) Where to begin with April? Well, anyone who knows us would immediately identify her as "the pretty one". The one with curly hair. The airhead. (She really is smart. I saw her reading an American Girl book, which means she does chapter books now. With fewer pictures.) JUST KIDDING! She really isn't dumb. She's just a little slow on the draw, which makes my witty comebacks even wittier. It's like she processes them in slow motion. =) Seriously though, my favorite thing about April is that I am probably sillier with her than with anyone else. This week she's been in town visiting and I don't think I ever laugh harder than when I'm laughing at  with her. Ditziness aside, she has always ready to jump to my defense, usually in a shoot-first-ask-questions-later manner. But I'll take it, especially when it's not directed at me. =) (We are different because no one in any universe would be like, "Yeah, Ashley, you know... the pretty one." =)

I came next, but there's really no need to describe myself. So, I'll skip to the caboose, Amy. 

Isn't she adorable? Yes, I am a doting big sister. I guess because I think of her as 12 when she's actually about to turn 20. (That's a painful reality that means I am growing old.) Amy is my emo child. While most people think that she is a sweet fluffy little angel, I know the darkness that brews inside! Hahaha! Just kidding, but she really is the most emotionally complex little person. How does a girl obsessed with the Lord of the Rings trilogy have a Shabby Chic bedroom? I sense a dichotomy. Anyway, Amy is pretty much the other half of my brain sometimes. And the way that we're different is that she merely thinks everything that I actually say out loud. Oh, and she still says "mommy". Which is not acceptable. But she is probably "the good one", truthfully. And I need her to never get married so she can stay a baby. Is that okay? No, I guess not. But even when she is married I will depend on her to have a movie-quoting text session with me at any moment (or have a war of words on facebook!) 

Sisters are special; there's no way around it. You love them, despise them, pull their hair, steal their clothes, cry on their shoulders, call them late at night, text at all hours, unite against a common enemy (usually we choose Mom as our target!), pray for them, spoil their children... because they are the closest friend you will ever have. 

“Sister. She is your mirror, shining back at you with a world of possibilities. She is your witness, who sees you at your worst and best, and loves you anyway. She is your partner in crime, your midnight companion, someone who knows when you are smiling, even in the dark. She is your teacher, your defense attorney, your personal press agent, even your shrink. Some days, she's the reason you wish you were an only child.” (You know I couldn't end this on an entirely sappy note.)

 If you have a sister, be thankful! I have the three best sisters in the world. I smile because they're my sisters; I laugh because there's nothing they can do about it!