Ashley and the Tale of the Red Balloon

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I got my first tattoo when I was a freshman in college. It was small — a tiny little star with rainbow stardust, on the side of my right ankle.  I was about a week into school, on my own, 3 hours away from my parents.  My first attempt at being a rebel.

A rebel.. one who gets a tiny star with rainbow stardust tattoo.

My second tattoo was the one that would change my life. And, it was completely random. Unplanned. Ironically enough, that’s what made it so magical.

I went with a group of friends who were going to get tattoos.  We spent about an hour in the parlor, looking around. Going back and forth on whether they were going to do it or not.  Eventually, both friends decided against getting one.

“What!?” I exclaimed. “We literally spent all this time here, and no one is getting a tattoo?!”

They shuffled their feet and mumbled under their breath, obviously still debating, but ultimately deciding it was best to wait before permanently marking their bodies.

“Well, I mean.. we’re here. So, maybe I’ll just get one.” I said, trying to act way more confident than I actually was.

“What? What would you even get?” My taller friend was attempting to call my bluff.

“I don’t know.. maybe I’ll just get a red balloon or something.”

“Why a red balloon?” asked my other shorter friend.

“Why not?”

30 minutes later, I walked out of the tattoo parlor with a fresh red balloon tattooed on my left calf. It was simple, a red balloon with a black string. No muss, no fuss. It didn’t need any.

There were a few days afterward where I secretly questioned why I got it. A red balloon? Of all the things to get tattooed, I chose a red balloon?! So strange.. At that point I didn’t have the same affinity for balloons as I do now. It had no meaning, no significance. It was really just a spur of the moment decision that would eventually mean everything to me.

The randomness, the “spur of the moment” decision, the “giving no fucks” attitude, the impulsivity.. that wasn’t really my style.  I’m known to be very type-A: a planner, a to-do list maker, a thinker, a high-expectations-of-yourself-and-everyone-else overachiever. The split moment impulse to get a red balloon tattoo was one of the more spontaneous things I had done in my life to that point — and I did it without much thought or contemplation. As the days, months, years passed since getting it — of all the tattoos I have, that one gives me the most joy.  It gives me life.

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The red balloon is such a great reminder for myself of important life lessons.

  • Sometimes the best parts of life are unplanned and unpredictable. And that’s okay!!
  • It’s all about the little things.  Take time to appreciate the little things, for one day you will wake up and realize all the little things were actually the big things that make life so wonderful.
  • When life throws challenges your way, pick yourself up and rise like a balloon.
  • Smile. Just smile.
  • Every little thing is gonna be alright.
  • When everyone else is finding joy in bursting your balloons, don’t let them. You are stronger than you think.
  • Fear can be two things: Fear Everything And Run — or — Face Everything And Rise.  Choose to rise.
  • You will rise by lifting others. So lift up with your whole heart and let them go.
  • “If one wants to rise like a hot air balloon, one must cut the wires and let go of the weight that hold back the true potential.”

As I’ve grown older, the balloon has become such a happiness boost for me. A muse. A hope.  I eventually added in the word “Hope” into the string of the balloon — again.. a reminder. Don’t lose your hope, don’t let it break — it can be fragile, it can get twisted, knotted, cut-off. Cherish it, and keep them high.

“Nobody can be uncheered with a balloon.” — Winnie the Pooh.  Preach, Winnie. Preach.

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Friends, your life is like a balloon. If you never let yourself go, you will never know how high you can rise. Da Vinci said, “Once you have flown, you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you long to return.” You’ve seen my descent, now watch my rising.

Ain’t nobody gonna burst my balloons anymore. I am in control of how high I rise. And the sky is limitless.

Fuck the haters, love the lovers, and rise above.

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Ashley: reinvented.

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Life has a funny way of teaching you things you never knew you needed to learn.

At the beginning of 2016, I chose a one word theme for the year — something to help keep me motivated, something to drive me and my decisions, something BIGGER than resolutions that are notorious for being broken time and time again.  I chose growth.  Growth.

Growth –  noun.

  • the process of growing.

Growing – verb

  • to become better or improved in some way

I’ve always been the type of person who had expectations of how my life would go, or plans on how it would all work out in the end.  By choosing the word “growth” this year, my expectations were that I would gain insight into different aspects of my life to live a little happier. I was seeking that “passion” in my career that everyone talks about when they say “living the dream” or “love what you do, you never work a day in your life.”  I was seeking that “drive” when it came to living a healthier lifestyle, becoming “fit” mentally, physically, emotionally. I was looking to find more sunshine and rainbows, even in the mundane “everyday” routinized activities we “have” to do. Talk less, smile more. Become a better “me” so I can be better in every other role I fill.
I had no idea how much “growing” I would actually have to do this year.

How much work I needed to do, not just in the areas I wrote above — but in areas I didn’t even know needed help.

Or did I know but refused to believe it? Or did I know but just was too blind to actually see it?  Was my heart confusing my head, or was my head telling my heart different things to protect it from getting broken?

Will I ever know?

Does it even matter now, at this point?

I’m not sure I believe in the adage “Everything happens for a reason.”  I believe that everything happens the way it is supposed to, whether there is a reason or not. I’m still trying to wrap my head (and heart) around the “not needing to understand reasons or lack of reasons” part, but I’m working on it.

Someone wise once told me, “Everyday is another opportunity to turn it all around.” I believe that. We have one life, one chance, one moment, one breath, one body, one mind, one soul. Now is the time, the time is now.

Remember. Stop crying in the corner of the kitchen. Pick up your pieces.  Dust off your shoulders.  Breathe in, slowly let it out.

Remember. Smile from your liver. Stop, Cancel Cancel. Everyday is another opportunity it turn it all around.

Remember. 10 miles, barefoot. Stronger than you think. Move forward. Look back, but only to enjoy the memories and then let them go.

Remember. 26 breaths per minute. Take another one. One foot in front of the other. One more mile ran. One more sad song. “How does it feel?”

Remember. “I’m not in love with you anymore, I’m in love with someone else.” “Eat. Workout. Clean yourself up.” Supernova. Everyday is another opportunity to turn it all around.

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mber. “Today is going to be a great day. The sun is shining, a few clouds in the sky. And today is going to be a great day.” “God, please help me.” Send me love and light, and drop it.

Remember. She’s looking to you. She deserves it. She is everything. She will learn from you how to get through the seemingly impossible. Find rainbows everyday.

Remember. “They will be lining up at your door.” Columbia. Afternoon movies and bookstores. Falling more in love with the city that never sleeps. Can’t start a new chapter when you keep rereading the old ones.

Remember. Prospect. Central. Try new things. Talk less, smile more. Move forward, with me. Everyday is another opportunity to turn it all around.

Remember. Just remember.

 

You’ve got this. Don’t you forget it.

Find rainbows everyday.  When you are living the best version of yourself, you inspire others to live the best versions of themselves. Love the person you’ve become because you fought to become her. Sometimes the negative things that happen in our lives put us directly on the path to the BEST things that will ever happen to us.

Growth.

Ashley: Reinvented.

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Quick Update!

Hi friends!

Whoa, it has been TOO LONG! Here’s a quick update of what has been going on in our world:

About a month ago, Ella turned 2.5.  It’s almost as if to the DAY she turned 2.5, she’s gone kinda crazy.  I never wanted to believe in the phrase “Terrible Twos” because — well, I mean, she’s adorable, how could she ever be TERRIBLE?  But, alas — I’m in a constant state of learning, and there have been several moments over the past few weeks that weren’t exactly… great. Sometimes the tantrums are short lived and easy to manage, but those other times… phew!

It also appears that Ella has now hit a sleep regression period that feels like it is slowly killing me.  We’ve been extremely lucky in her short life so far — she’s been an excellent sleeper!  I’ve always hated telling people that she started sleeping through the night after about 2 weeks of bringing her home — but it’s true.  Now, she won’t fall asleep unless you are laying with her.  After about 3 hours of sleep, she wakes up, and either comes to get me to lay with her in her bed, or crawls into our bed.  Some nights, this is completely okay, because she actually sleeps.  Other nights, its a toss-and-turn-all-night-pillow-fight that leaves both Raux and I feeling exhausted.  Lately, it feels like that latter is becoming the norm — and most days I feel like a walking zombie trying to push through until bedtime, so we can do this dance all over again.

Despite everything though, I must say that I’m grateful for this opportunity to grow through these challenges.  I know it may sound silly — but in reality, things could be much worse.  I know the world is big and she’s two, so these changes are just a natural progression of growing up for her — and I’m thankful that I get to be here to help her through it.  Plus, it’s a fantastic opportunity for me to progress in my own growth, and patience training. 😉

Other than our sleep struggles and attitude adjustments with Ella, we’ve just been pretty busy lately!  I’ve been consistently working out at least 5-6 times a week, and have been incorporating more runs into my regime for marathon training.  We also have added on two upcoming side projects — both are fitness related and super fun.  More details soon!

I’m hoping to balance out my crazy a little better in the next few weeks, and make more time for writing on here.  Ideally, I want to get back to posting 2-3 week — and I’m looking forward to sharing all the exciting happenings with you all soon as they continue to develop!

If you don’t follow me  on IG or FB — please do!  I’m constantly adding amazing pictures and fun stuff on those pages, moreso than on here. Let’s keep connected! 🙂

Hope everyone has a fantastic weekend!

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A Love Letter (or, A Tale of Desperation from a Sleep Deprived Momma)

Oh, you.  I remember you.  So well, in fact.  You were like a dream — in fact, I embraced you with that notion in mind.  Dream.

You know how they say hindsight is 20/20?  I fear that when I had you in my life, I took you for granted.  I didn’t give you the appreciation you deserved.  You had been there, pretty much since the beginning.  When others were doubting they would ever see you again in those early weeks/months, I would stand back and say nothing.  A slight smile would curl at the end of my lips, because.. I was confident in US.  I knew all the work, the scheduling, the routines we had built were solid.  We were a team.  We made it work.  We MADE it.. 2.5 years of greatness.  I thought the hard times were behind us, and we had persevered with grace, dignity. We were unstoppable.

I didn’t tell you that enough.  I didn’t express my gratitude enough.  I didn’t remind you that you are beautiful. I didn’t let you know how much you meant to me.

I wasted time.  I piddled away valuable minutes, hours. Time that I will never get back.  Time that we could’ve spent together.

People warned me about this.  People said this could happen — but I refused to believe it.  People told me when you were there I needed to take advantage of every opportunity to be with you — but I didn’t.  I found other things to occupy my time — wasteful things.  Irrelevant things.  If I wasn’t with you, I could’ve been productive, at least.  But I wasn’t.

I fear things may never be the same. You are distant now.  You come and go, sporadically — sometimes you are here, sometimes you are gone.  Sometimes I force being with you, and it hurts — like I’m trying to hold on to something that wants to be let go.

I’m finding myself going to extremes to have you stay.  I bought new sheets — did you notice?  New pillow? New blanket?  It’s fun colors and super soft — I thought you would like it.  Did you see I upgraded us to a new BIGGER bed?  I thought that would be a welcome change compared to the squeaky crib mattress, or pile of pillows and blankets on the floor.  I’m sure it was hurting your back as much as it was hurting mine.  I did this all with you in mind.  I did this all for you.  For us.  So we could be together again — on a consistent, regular basis.  Like we used to be.

As much as it hurts, I understand that this is happening. I get it.  I mean, she’s growing up.  This is part of life — and I’m sure these past three weeks of missing you aren’t going to be the last ones we have for the next 18 years — or forever.

But, in case I forget to tell you.  In case I fail to mention.  In case we never see each other again —

I love you.  I miss you.  Please come back.  I promise I’ll be better, I’ll treat YOU better.

You. Complete. Me.

Longingly yours,

Ashley (aka the sleepless momma who is currently going through sleep regression with a cranky and tantrumy  2.5 year old –and is dog-tired and can’t help but focus on all that is lost — sleep.)

For reference: 🙂

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We’re back!

Ahh, friends!  We are back!

I spent a week trying to figure out how to transfer my sweet little blog from a .com to a .org hosting — and made a complete mess of things!  Can you believe it? 😉  However, finding the silver lining — I’ve learned so much more about how to run this page — and am excited for more changes in the near future.

Meanwhile, as this mess unfolded.. here are some pretty cool accomplishments our little family made in the past two weeks (with some pictures!):

  • We are in full force potty-training mode!  Because of this, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to keep clothes on this child — she wants to be naked ALL.THE.TIME.
  • I have two special projects I’m currently working on that are almost near completion — both are creatively based, which is SO awesome!  One of the projects was supposed to launch last weekend, but we ran into a few bumps along the way — technology 1, Ashley 0. I’m hoping for a June 1 launch for (at least) one of them.
  • My Granny turned 80 last week!  That is so incredible to me — and she’s my hero.
  • Ella went on her first slip-n-slide! She loved it — and so did we!

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  • We are experiencing a bit of 2.5 year old sleep regression — that I’m learning is because of her two year old molars coming in.  Seems the little girls only wants to fall asleep with one of us in her room with her — and she sneaks into our bed in the middle of the night.  I’m still not 100% this is the best decision, but I’m enjoying the extra snuggles while I have them.
  • I failed Whole 30 this month — but I’m already starting to meal plan for June!  Plus, this month we tried out Hello Fresh, and holy-tasty-food!  I’ve been REALLY enjoying every meal I’ve made so far, and they are fairly healthy for you — bonus!
  • Ella’s language has been EXPLODING — she’s definitely made it to the “Mockingbird” stage. She’s growing up — which makes me so incredibly happy and sad at the same time.  Oh, and did I mention we visited her potential preschool — yeah. I cried.
  • We were super lucky to have a DATE NIGHT (well… it was more of an afternoon, but still!).  Raux and I went to see one of our friends in a show, then went to check out the new Town Center area of Disney Springs.  Even got to hang out with “Auntie K” and enjoy some delicious food and cocktails.  “MOM ON THE LOOSE!” Really, though — it was a blast.  And, we waited in line for 30 minutes for a cupcake, which was silly — but worth it! 🙂

I’m so happy to have the blog BACK up and running!  We are currently working on changing up the appearance, so look for some changes coming soon!

Happy Monday!

Tot School: Week 5

Hi friends!

Week five of Tot School is a wrap — and as always, we had so much fun!

This week, we only had a short amount of time to have the littles together — so our lesson was condensed into fewer activities, but allowing more time within those activities for learning.  I wanted to focus the entire day on talking about Springtime, but we ended up covering “Spring” at the end of the day, and spending a bit more time on colors and letter recognition.  The little ones seemed to be a bit all over the place, and their attention spans were very short — so we had to improvise 😉

Here was the week 5 lesson plan:

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We started the day off with a Color Review activity that was super fun — but did require a little bit of prep!  I secretly raided Ella’s toys to find a variety of different small toys in all the colors of the rainbow, plus brown, black, and white. I made sure to have at least 3-4 toys of each color, and then mixed them up in a small plastic bin.  Then, I gathered all of the matching colors of construction paper, and laid out the paper on the floor in a circle.  All of the littles sat on the floor, and I would lift out a toy, and say “What color is this?” Whoever answered correctly first, got the toy — but they had to place the toy on the matching colored paper.  It was a bit rough in the beginning, but once they got it — they loved it.  Ella particularly loved it — we have now included this game into our daily play. 🙂

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After our color review, we moved into the kitchen for fun “Do-A-Dot” activities. Since Week 4 we focused on A, B, and C — this week, we focused on D, E, and F.  We dotted the letters by themselves (you can find the templates we used here), and also did the “Spot and Dot” activity we did last week — which was awesome and the kids really enjoyed it (as well as the proud mommas!).  You can find the “Spot and Dot” worksheets here.  The littles LOVE their Do-A-Dot markers, or as most of them call it “Colors” or “Painting.” Purchasing these markers has been a huge help with our tot school — highly recommended!

After our Do-A-Dots, we did a special painting activity.  All of our toddlers know their names and the letter their names start with — so when I was out piddling away at Michaels, I found some chipboard letters in each of their first initials on clearance, and I thought, “TOT SCHOOL!”  The only letter they were missing was the letter “E” — of course! 😉  But, instead of doing a letter for Ella, we let her paint a shape that looked like a ticket — that we will then write her full name on.

We used Crayola Washable Paint, and let the kids go to town painting their letters — after we made them say what each one was out loud.  It was great practice for them to remember their friends names — as well as practice of letter recognition outside of the repetition of the Alphabet song.

Painting was so much fun — but whew! What a mess 😉  We cleaned up, and our last activity of the day was going to be talking about spring, flowers, and actually putting our hands in dirt to plant our own little pots of daisies.  For a snack, I made “dirt cups” with chocolate pudding and crushed oreos — so we decided it was a better idea to eat our dessert AFTER we plant our flowers, to avoid having the kids eating real dirt thinking it was a treat.  #momwin

We found these mini pots with seeds at our local Target in the $1 section.  Each little one got to plant two pots — one with daisy seeds, one with poppy seeds.  They all had fun playing in the dirt, for sure — I think once they are a bit older they will understand what we were actually doing.  They are learning, though — and so are we 🙂 I absolutely love the look Ella has on her face in the first picture below — she’s like “Hey man.. whatchu guys doing…..?” LOL

And, of course — everyone’s favorite part of the day was our dessert treat.  Even the Mommies enjoyed this one! 😉  At first, the kids were like — eww, we are going to eat dirt?? But, in the end, I think they enjoyed it.

Week Six was supposed to be last week — but scheduling conflicts prevented us Mommies from coordinating on a day together.  However, Ella Grey is just so in love with school and learning.  There isn’t a day that goes by where she isn’t grabbing my hand to sit with her as I quiz her with flashcards on her numbers and letters.  She knows her ABCs, she can count to 25, and is great with her colors and shapes.  It’s amazing to watch her grow and learn — seems like everyday there is something new!

I’m planning to expand on our once a week “tot school” lessons with our friends, and include a weekly lesson plan of the activities I’m doing with just Ella — so be on the lookout, friends!  The greatest gift you can give your child (aside from love, of course) is an opportunity for growth and learning. And, she’s soaking everything up like a sponge right now — so let’s set goals, let’s continue to learn, and let’s get to it!

Do you have any amazing homeschool, preschool, or “tot school” activities you are doing with your little one?  PLEASE SHARE!  I’m always on the hunt for “gold” when it comes to new and exciting ways to teach Ella.  I’d be so appreciative 🙂

Drop me a comment below, or check me out on Facebook and Instagram!

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Whole 30: Week Two Meal Plan

Happy Monday, friends!

I hope everyone had a lovely Mother’s Day — I spent the day relaxing and enjoying some snuggles with my sweet Ella, and my amazing husband surprised me by putting together the new pull-up/dip bar in the garage!  He knows the way to my heart, for sure! 😉

So, last week I started Whole 30 — and because I’m completely transparent with you all, I’ll tell you — it wasn’t that difficult in the beginning of the week, but I caved into a few treats over the weekend.  Now, I could name off a list of excuses — but I won’t.  Truth is, it’s a mental thing that I need to work on, and even though I have all the control — I let a craving get the best of me.  I’m better than that, and I’m worth more than that — so here’s to week two (or.. week one redux?), feeling more fired up and determined!

Meals last week were AWESOME.  I tried some new things, including making a delicious steak salad that I ended up making again last night for Mother’s Day, because it was that DANG good. 🙂  I also tried Turkey Meatballs for the first time, which were tasty!  I didn’t get to make the Zucchini Taco Boats last week, so I will be making them this week instead. I’ve made a mental note to take pictures of the dinners I make to recap for next week.  The only real picture I got last week was of my turkey meatballs — which were delicious, but I wish I had more pics to share with you!

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Workouts were also really good last week, although I took TWO rest days (whaaaattt)!  So unlike me!  But, they were amazing and NEEDED — I’ve been working really hard for the past few months, so I don’t feel too guilty for needing to relax.

This week, it’s back to the grindstone!  On top of the planned meals, I’ve scheduled three run days with the girls, plus going to Body Back and Stroller Strides.  I’m also yearning to break in the pull-up bar, so I’m sure I’ll be in there at least 3 times this week too!

Here’s the meal plan for week two:

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The only meal that isn’t 100% Whole 30 on this week’s plan is the Mediterranean Bean Salad (no Beans on Whole 30!).  To make it Whole 30, I’m incorporating GREEN BEANS (which are Whole 30 approved!) instead of the traditional limas.  It will essentially be like the Veggie Salad I already make and love, except without the extra veggies and I may throw some chicken on there for fun! 😉 Also, the Chicken Curry will be made with Whole 30 compliant Coconut Milk.

Breakfasts this week will continue to include lots and lots of EGGS (I’m on an egg kick lately!).  Snacks will continue to be a variety of fruit, veggie strips, and almonds — but I noticed last week that I was better when I prepped them in advance.  So, this week, I plan to cut up some fruit for grab-and-go, and bag up some veggies — this way, NO EXCUSES!  Also, last week I assumed I’d make extra of each dinner so I could have these dishes for lunch too, but I didn’t.  I’m going to do that this week, as well as incorporate some boiled eggs, celery sticks and almond butter, and quick salads to the mix.

I will say, I did pretty good with eliminating the sugar, as well as not eating past 9PM.  This surprised me — and I’m going to continue doing this this week, as well! 🙂

Let’s have a kick-ass week, friends!

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