Life Lessons:
Ashli Christoval

Are you happy at the moment?

Yes, I’m happy. But “happy” is defined so differently these days, now that I’m an official grown-up. I now understand that “happy” doesn’t mean I have to be running on all four cylinders with everything going my way. I’m happiest when I feel like I’m generally moving forward and there is harmony in our household.

If you could go back and say anything to your 16-year-old self now – what would it be? 

Stop crying! I was so emotional at that time, and I was really hard on myself. It’s shocking how self-centered we are at 16-years-old. I was the egghead, creative-type black girl in a predominantly white school. I thought that I was the weirdo with weird hair and that everyone was judging me. The truth is that I am a weirdo and I do have weird hair, but those have become two of my greatest assets! And as far as people judging me – they weren’t. They were all rooting for me (and my aspirations), actually.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned this year?

This year I learned to take my career and myself more seriously. I originally started this business as something to do part-time, so I didn’t really think it was a “real” business and didn’t consider myself a professional. I would say, “Oh, I’m a music teacher,” and leave it at that, instead of building myself up.

Once, I was going over some things with my choreographer, and turned to her suddenly and said, “Oh my gosh. This is real.” She looked at me with a puzzled look on her face and said, “Um, yeah! I wouldn’t be here if this wasn’t real.” That was an epiphany for me. Everyone else was taking me seriously. Now it’s my turn.

A funny thing happens when you carry your vision proudly. Other people want to carry it too!

What do you most want to achieve in the next 12 months?

I have a lot of great things coming up this year for teachers and families. First of all, our second album, Home, will be released this year! For teachers, I have a really fun workshop, YOU Can Play Ukulele, teaching teachers how to play ukulele and how use it in the classroom. I’m also writing easy-to-use, music-based preschool curriculum.  For families, we’re ready to rock with our Leaping Lizards Family Concert. So, here are my professional goals:

  • Release our album, Home, in April 2013 (on time!)
  • Teach 50 teachers how to play ukulele
  • Help ten preschools integrate music into their curriculum
  • Perform ten concerts for families!!

Personally, I only have one goal: I have to learn to balance it all, or I’m going to collapse!

What’s your secret to happiness? 

Road trips. Long ones. Like, cross-country. Sometimes, you just gotta get away. I have the best family in the world and we travel really well together. My husband and I are both workaholics (we prefer to think of it as make-aholics!), so we have to leave the work far behind or we’ll just burn the candle at both ends. Hitting the road helps us get closer and gain some perspective. We usually get to see a lot of family on the road, too, which reminds us of what’s important.

What one ritual or practice keeps you grounded?

Honestly, reading with my kids is the most rewarding part of my day.

What’s your biggest regret?

I should have NEVER dropped out of college. Going back to school while trying to run a business and a household was just plain nuts (but totally worth it).

What’s the most important lesson you’ve taught your kid(s)?

Respect. I really believe that teaching respect for others is a lost art these days. When people spend time with my kids, they always comment on how kind and respectful they are. My five-year-old, Lincoln, really takes ownership of this. He loves to greet homeless people and say, “Hello, Sir! Nice to see you!” They always look shocked which usually makes me cry, because no one ever speaks to them. I believe that respect, that is, love, is a foundational key to success.

What bad habit would you most like to change about yourself? 

I get analysis paralysis. I need to learn to make decisions quickly and to trust myself.

Aside from motherhood/fatherhood and marriage what are you most proud of in your life?

Number one on my bucket list has always been to get paid to sing. With Leaping Lizards Music, that is literally my full-time job. Now, it ain’t easy (ha!), but I am definitely living out a dream.

When were you happiest?

At the risk of sounding cliché, everyday brings new blessings. I could say that I was happy at 19, but I was also broke, clueless, and I had now idea how much motherhood would change my life for the better. So, I say that I happy right now, looking forward to what’s coming next.

What ten words best describe you? 

Loud, ambitious, goofy, honest, motherly, musical, artsy, thrifty, granola, and professional (Wink, wink. Ha!)

Ashli Christoval, better known as Miss Ashli, is a celebrated early childhood music educator and songwriter, and founder of Leaping Lizards Music. She works personally with young children and trains educators, using music as a powerful tool for development.  After having two children of her own, Miss Ashli set out to develop an interactive music program that would tap into the potential of education through music. Miss Ashli enchants children (and grown-ups!) with puppetry, storytelling, call-and-response techniques, and the traditions of cultures around the world.

Miss Ashli has 14 years of experience in early childhood education and 10 years experience in performing arts, including the highly acclaimed Orange County High School of the Arts. She is a professionally trained singer and actor and holds degree in Early Childhood Education from Saddleback College. She lives with her husband, Brock, and young sons, Ellington and Lincoln, in Orange County, California.