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The Pioneer Woman Mercantile

Happy June!  We declared the last week a “staycation” to just be a family and refresh during this really difficult season. It was interrupted by Chloe ending up with strep throat, but we made the most of it.

Today, I wanted to share some about The Pioneer Woman Mercantile. I feel really blessed because I was able to go TWICE last week!! My mom-in-law and I had been planning a trip for a while, and we went early Wednesday morning. We were some of the only people in there, and were completely shocked! The weather was beautiful.

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The store itself is very cute. It is full of lots of fun odds and ends, vintage dishes, Drummond Ranch gear, and some cute clothes/accessories. I did not eat at the restaurant, but I have heard that the food is very good.

Upstairs is the best part. The bakery! I had some of her delicious cinnamon rolls for breakfast. You can’t go wrong with cinnamon rolls and a latte.

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My second trip, I was able to take my mom and dad to visit! We got REALLY lucky and went on a day where they were doing lodge tours. We picked up directions and headed to Drummond Ranch. Pictures cannot adequately show how beautiful everything was.

The view was incredible. During the drive back to the lodge, there are countless wild horses. We were in awe. The lodge itself is beautiful. We all commented on how we would love to live in a place like that.

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I couldn’t pass up the chance to take a selfie with Walter!!

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If you ever get the chance to go, you MUST. Pawhuska, OK is beautiful. The town is so quaint with lots of little shops and places to eat. I feel really blessed to live close enough that we are talking about taking the kids soon!

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Here is a panoramic picture of the view from the lodge. The pictures just don’t do justice. It is so incredibly generous of the Drummond’s to open up their home the way they did.

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Osage Hills State Park

During another part of our so-called “staycation”, packed up and headed to Osage Hills. This is a beautiful park with hiking trails, picnic tables, playgrounds, camping, etc. Entrance to the park is free.

We packed up a picnic lunch to eat once we arrived. We picked a nice shady table, and ate some sandwiches and chips.

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We decided to hike a familiar trail. It is short enough that Harper was able to walk on her own- which thrills her to no end.

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At the end of this trail is water that is perfect for playing in. The water was much higher than the last time we visited, due to an insane amount of rain this spring. So, we were more cautious with the girls. Most of the water is not very deep, and the waterfalls are small and beautiful.

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Isn’t it just beautiful?! I could stay there forever.

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If you are into hiking or doing anything outside, I highly recommend that you get yourself a pair of Chacos!! I was able to stand on the slimy rocks in the water without slipping at all. They dried quickly and have a lot of support. {I’ve also heard that Tevas are great.}

 

If you are ever in Northeastern Oklahoma, I highly recommend checking Osage Hills out!!

 

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Splashing into Summer

Do you like that cheesy title? You’re welcome.

We officially have daddy all to ourselves for a short time. We are trying to make the most of our time together, and not focus on the overwhelming stress looming overhead. This week is supposed to be stormy the whole time.. if that isn’t a perfect picture of our lives, I don’t know what is.

We had a fun weekend and took advantage of the sun and heat.

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We live within walking distance of  this free splash pad. We drove because it was absurdly hot, and nobody wants cranky kids showing up to the splash pad! It is so fun to watch the kids go from timid and afraid of getting wet to letting buckets of water get dumped on their heads.

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Monday, we decided to put a little pool up in the yard so we can enjoy the water any time it’s not storming.

Does anyone else HATE the sunscreen routine?! haha! It is super important to Scott and I to keep the girls protected; especially since Addi had a pre-cancerous mole removed last year. We got this brand (specifically this and this) and I am excited to try it out once our current tube is gone. I have heard that it actually rubs in easily, which is pretty rare for a natural sunscreen. I am mostly excited to {hopefully} kill two birds with one stone by using the bug repellent sunscreen.

Tomorrow, I am heading to The Merc with my mom-in-law bright and early. Ree is opening up the ranch for tours this week! I keep hoping to run into her at Walmart since she shops at ours. It hasn’t happened yet, but I am pretty focused on my list when I am at the store. ha! I’ve probably walked right past her and had no idea.

I’m also trying to plan Scott’s 30th birthday that is on Sunday!! I won’t share any of my plans on here in the off chance that he reads this. But, I am trying to make it special! I love him tons.

Happy Tuesday, friends! I hope it’s sunny where you are!

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How I Earn Free Products

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This post is for everyone- not just bloggers. Any time I share a box full of goodies that I got for free, I get a ton of questions on how I got them. I figured that I would just put together a post of what I do so that you can have the same opportunities. Some of them require work, so that is why I say “earn” free products.

Moms Meet: This one is new to me. It’s a program that is run by Kiwi Magazine. You can sign up to become a Mom Ambassador and apply for different programs. This program is great because Kiwi is a natural/eco-friendly family magazine, so the products are organic and mostly good for you.  I recently was selected for a Baby Mum-Mums program. Here is what they sent me- FOR FREE. I didn’t pay shipping. I just had to do what was required of me.

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(Please excuse the terrible quality photo. It’s the only one I have of it.) Those boxes were for my family to keep, and the huge bags were all to share along with coupons. Awesome, right?! Since you do have to apply, you aren’t guaranteed to be selected- just FYI. You can also do different activities to earn rewards points. I just redeemed points for a free allergy-friendly cookbook!

House Party: This is another website where you apply to host various house parties. They send you everything you need and you just invite your friends.  I have done  Seventh Generation Healthy Baby, Huggies potty training, Kikkoman, Fairlife, and Dunkin Donuts parties. I’ve applied to SO many more than that. It’s really awesome because they send you tons of free products and samples when you get selected. You can also apply to be a chatterbox for other products. When you are a chatterbox, you get sent a new product on the market to talk about on social media. I recently got sent a new Kleenex product to try and share about! I apply to them all. I’ve been doing this since 2013.

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Swagbucks: This isn’t so much about free products, but free gift cards. I have shared about it before, but I’ll always share. It takes a while to get the hang of it, but once you do it’s so easy. I have earned HUNDREDS of dollars in Amazon/Target/Paypal gift cards. This is what we use to buy birthday and Christmas presents. It’s a blessing.

Hip2Save is a great place to find out what companies are offering freebies. This is where there is not work required. It’s typically just free samples; though sometimes they are full sized products. I love it because Collin finds EVERYTHING. She also shares how you can combine coupons/app offers to get free or practically free things at the grocery store. Basically, if you want to become great a couponing- she is your girl!

 

I will add to this post if I think of any others, or find any other programs. I earn extra Swagbucks if you sign up through my link. Any other program, I don’t earn a thing. I share because I am super grateful for the opportunities that these companies have given me. It’s really fun to try new products and get to bless other people with them!

Are there any that you would add to this list? I’m sure there are some that I am missing.

Have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend. Let us never forget the sacrifices that were made so that we can have our freedoms.

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Slime and Sunshine

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We made slime! I know that this has been a huge trend all year, but I haven’t had the time for it. I haven’t had the energy for it either, to be completely honest.

We used:
1 cup of glue and 1 cup of water mixed together. Next, I mixed in red and blue sparkles. Then, I added 1 cup of liquid starch. It immediately changes consistency, so you have to get your hands in there and work it out. I kept playing with it until the liquid was all mixed in. I’m also storing it in a cleaned out yogurt container so that I can just throw it away when the time comes. Make sure to have your kiddos wash their hands after playing with it each time. (This is a nap time toy because I’m afraid Harper would eat it.)

WARNING: glitter gets on every surface of everything even though it is mixed into this goop.

It is so wonderful having everyone well again. They still are a little grumpy, but so much better. They were so excited to go to Mimi and Papa’s house for lunch on Sunday. Papa even blew bubbles with them outside!

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The weather has been beautiful here. We’ve had some cooler days that allowed me to open up the windows and let the breeze in. It’s wonderfully sunny, which is a nice change from the dreary weeks we had before.

Yesterday was our last day with the C3 teens. It was very bittersweet. They are an amazing group of young adults who are going to do amazing things for Jesus. Our worship leader led campfire style last night. All of the teens and adult helpers sat around singing, and it was beautiful. It was a wonderful way to close this chapter in our lives. I am forever grateful.

I hope that your week has been full of sunshine as well. Maybe slime isn’t your thing, so I’ll hope for sunshine. 😉

 

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Black & White Amazon Nursery

I love the monochromatic look. I love black and white baby and kid rooms, but they  usually are full of completely out-of-my-price-range products. I thought I’d put together a list of really awesome black and white products from Amazon so your nursery can look like this without breaking the bank.

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swaddles // crib sheets // changing pad covers // cloud crib sheet // boppy cover // pacifier clips  // burp cloths // storage baskets // laundry hamper // humidifier (worth every penny) // sleep sack // crib // swaddle wrap // house tissue box cover // hedgehog night light //

 

Amazon is my favorite way to shop. I love using Swagbucks to earn Amazon gift cards– which really helps me stay on budget. That is how I was able to buy some new things when I was pregnant with Harper.  We all know that babies are expensive, and I hope this helps you find some great baby items on a budget!

 

All Amazon links are affiliate links. This does not change the cost of your item, but a small portion of your purchase does go to me. Thank you for supporting me as I support my family.

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encouragement · family life · ministry

Six Days

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We are just 6 days from uncharted territory. We surrendered our lives to Jesus as teenagers, and have lived in surrender ever since.

Scott and I have been serving in full-time ministry since he graduated from college 8 years ago. Every day of the last 8 years I have been “youth pastor’s wife” or “ministry wife”. (Yes, I know ministry is wherever you are and whatever you are doing.)

Sunday is our last day on staff at CCC. Any time God has called us away from a church, He has always opened a door just in time for us to go from one to the next. That has not been the case this round.

This is completely new. I feel like a huge chunk of my identity is being stripped away from me. It’s painful and feels a little scary. It could be months or years before God decides to open another door.

This whole ministry journey has been a roller coaster. It is painful. People say hurtful things. People gossip. You live your life in a fishbowl and any tiny slip up in your life can be blown out of proportion. You can be betrayed by someone that you thought loved you.

On the flip side, people also love on you and pray for you when you are hurting. When your entire family is sick and you feel like you can’t do it anymore, people bring food to your home. You get to see people come to know Christ. You see people declare that they are going to give up their drug addiction. We have seen teenagers go from Jr. High personalities to mature young adults sold out for Jesus. You see lives completely changed and transformed- and THAT is why we continue doing ministry! It is an honor to be used by God in this way.

We are in a painful season of this journey. We are being put through the fire for refinement. How I react is an example to my children as to how you go through trials in your life. I have to show them that God will carry us through. I also can show them that emotions are ok. It is okay to cry when you are hurting. What we do with our emotions is what matters.

I listened to this song yesterday and sobbed.

“As I walk this great unknown
questions come and questions go
Was there purpose for the pain?
Did I cry these tears in vain?

I don’t want to live in fear
I want to trust that you are near
Trust your grace can be seen
In both triumph and tragedy”

Scott has started applying for local jobs outside of ministry and my heart hurts for him.

We are trying to figure out the logistics of being able to find jobs to pay bills while also still being able to candidate at churches whenever opportunities arise; all with one car. We are doing exactly what God wants us doing at this time; even if it is not at all what we want.

We trust God through everything, but that does not mean that it won’t be painful or hard. God never promised us an easy life, He only said that we would never be forsaken.

“Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” Hebrews 13:5

 

 

 

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Catching Up

Happy, Friday!!

I thought this week may never end. Good grief, it has been a rough one!! Scott is finally well. The kiddos are still sick, but I think we are coming to the end of it! Hooray!!!!

Harper lost her glasses a few weeks ago. We have torn the house/garage/car apart and cannot find them. I ordered a new pair last week, and they came in  yesterday. Since we still have sick kids, I went alone and picked them up.

It was a glorious 45 minute-one-way drive full of silence. I ran into Target to get new toothbrushes and enjoy a few minutes alone. I had to make it a quick trip since the weather was about to turn bad.

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Just about everything at Target is adorable right now. Oh, to have a limitless bank account. haha!

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Their dollar bin always has some great educational buys. I found this felt alphabet chart and picked it up. All of the girls were having fun with it today. I love when learning is fun. It should be fun.

 

Also, how cute are her new glasses?!

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She picked the color, and I think it’s so fun!!

One week from Sunday is Scott’s last day on staff at CCC. It’s really bittersweet. It’s also terrifying. We haven’t gone a day without being in full-time ministry since June of 2009. I can’t wait to see what God is doing in all of this.

 

I hope that you all have a happy and healthy weekend!!!

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Motherhood is

Motherhood is hard. It’s so, so hard.

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As you know, my youngest two have been down with strep. Well, they weren’t getting better. In fact, they have been getting worse. We took a trip to the doctor (again..) today. Addi has an ear infection and has to have breathing treatments due to some wheezing.

Harper is still a bit of a mystery. Everything looks and sounds good. Other than the insane amount of hives that she broke out in an hour before her appointment. She had to have a LOT of bloodwork done. Poor girl is dehydrated from not eating or drinking, so they had a really hard time with it. She cried a lot. I fought tears. Addi is scarred for life I am sure. (They always get really energetic at the doctor’s office because there are new toys to play with.)

To add to the fun, my husband is also incredibly sick.

I have been doing load after load of laundry, cleaning surfaces of everything daily, making meals for people with zero appetite, and trying to stay afloat. I am unwashed. I have averaged eating one meal per day. I am so physically exhausted from not sitting. I’m mentally exhausted from worrying about everyone being so ill. I’m emotionally exhausted because, darnet, I am tired of bad things happening. It all captures motherhood so perfectly. The battles will be different, but the feelings are the same.

You know what, though. Motherhood is also really rewarding.

Chloe has been well. She has been such a trooper through her sisters getting boatloads more attention than she has. She has been keeping herself entertained by painting and building lego houses. She has helped out so much with anything she is asked to do. She even hand washed dishes the other day without being asked. I see her having compassion on her sisters, and my heart swells. I hear her praying that her sisters and daddy will be healed. I see Addi picking out stickers from the doctor for Chloe, instead of herself. These kids are so darn great, and I so often overlook that because I get caught up in the mundane.

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Never mind that man mess behind the curtain Chloe.

Mama, if you are in a valley, I see you.  I hear you. It’s hard. It feels like it’s never going to end. (Seriously, is it?) It will end eventually. It can’t rain forever. I am nowhere near perfect at this. But I have been writing down a short phrase at the top of my to do list. FIND THE GOOD. There is always SOMETHING good. Motherhood is good.

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A Letter to my Mom

Dear Mom,

We obviously need more pictures together. I guess that is what we get when we combine two people who hate being in front of the camera.

I cannot even figure out where to start. You mean so much to me that I can’t seem to put it into words. My mind is racing in a thousand directions with all that I want to say. Hopefully I can make some sense of it.

I am so thankful that God gave me you to be my mom for all of these years. You are the perfect example of strength and courage. You face all of life’s hardships head on without fear.  Your positive attitude is contagious, and I always leave a conversation with you feeling much better. We laugh until we cry- flaring nostrils and all. 😉

Not only have you fought alongside Dad, but you have fought your own hard battles that too often go unrecognized. You fought through immeasurable amounts of pain. You are a fighter, and I don’t think you are told that often enough. You are inspiring.

As a kid, if my birthday and mother’s day fell on the same day, you would always refuse to celebrate your day. That is just one small example of your selflessness. You are one of the most selfless people that I know. You always put your needs and wants behind everyone else. {I do hope that you look out for you also.} I hope that someone is taking some time to spoil you.

I am so thankful for a mom who took the time to teach me so many life skills. You prepared me for real life; even though that didn’t stop me from crying every day when I went off to college.

You have never hesitated to drop everything to be by my side or on the phone when I needed you. I guess I will always need my mom though. I am sure you know that by the amount of phone calls you get with me asking question after question.

I know that I never fully appreciated the sacrifices that you made every day for me; for all of us. It wasn’t until I became a mother that I realized the depth of your love for us. It wasn’t until I became a mother that I realized how much you really did sacrifice.

You were nurse, taxi driver, maid, teacher, chef, and on and on and on. You came to every performance I ever had. I wonder if you ever got a weekend to yourself between the three of us and show choir/band/track/cross country… and the early years of cheerleading. You supported us through all of it.

Mom, I could never express my gratitude. You mean the world to me. I love you so much. Thank you for being my mama.

Love,
Ashley

 

If you are grieving this Mother’s Day- over the loss of a child or the loss of your mother- know that I hold you in my prayers. You are not forgotten. This video is beautiful.