a break.

Lee Brown Photography-18I have written and re-written this post in my head a dozen times. The long version. The short version. The dramatic version. The funny version. The I’m-having-an-identity-crisis version. The I’m-totally-burnt-out version.

I can’t decide what to write, so I’m just going to say this:

I’m taking a break from blogging.

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DO NOT PANIC. It’s just for the summer.

Two weeks ago, Coffee + Crumbs celebrated its one-year anniversary. The day felt worthy of a party, a celebration of some kind, a cupcake at the very least. Fun fact: did you know our content is currently being read in 160 countries? Like, regularly? I am super proud of what we have created and yet, this is only the beginning.

We have exciting things in the works: an online shop, a site makeover, a Top Secret dream that we are slowly pursuing. All of these things take time and energy and love, and I had to give up something to make room for them. This time, that something had to be this blog.

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It feels weird to just….let go. Even for the summer. It’s a long break, longer than I have ever taken, and it feels awkward. This blog is like free therapy for me. Who knows, I might go totally crazy without it.

For now, I’m simply going to take the summer. I’m going to dive deep into building Coffee + Crumbs into the best version of itself. I’m going to eat strawberries in the backyard and do yoga in the park and sleep with the windows open. I am going to dedicate some time to developing my photography business. I am going to breathe, I am going to rest, I am going to play with my kids and I am going to stop brainstorming blog post ideas at 2am.

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I am still going to write this summer (of course!), but with a different driving force: I want to write from a desire to whisper something meaningful, instead of writing from a self-imposed obligation to add to the noise.

This is only an experiment; it’s an opportunity to try something new, to take a break, to give myself space, to allow room to breathe and re-direct my energy into a few new goals.

This is not a dramatic goodbye forever, just a simple goodbye for now. I hope to be back in the fall.

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See you on Instagram?

***

Good blogs to read this summer:
Coffee + Crumbs / Design For Mankind / Shauna Niequist / Jen Hatmaker / C’est Christine / Sarah Bessey

*All photos by my fabulous friend Lee Brown

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a morning at home.

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Morning-4Morning-19I’ve been trying to take more photos at home. Just us, our everyday, the things I want to remember. The IKEA train set, the rocket ship pajamas, the coffee that’s been reheated four times. Carson’s crazy hair. Everett’s incessant need to connect all seventeen trains.

This is the good stuff, you know?

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the hard way.

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Photo by Lee Brown Photography

We had spent the entire morning getting ready for the gym. It sounds pathetic to admit that out loud, but I’m seven months into this two-kid gig, and it still takes us all morning to get ready for anything. Three people need to eat, three people need to get dressed, one person needs coffee, one person needs a diaper change, one person can’t find his Lightning McQueen, one person needs to nap. By the time we’re finally ready, someone has to pee again and it starts all over.

We had two errands to run: the bank and the gym. I had given fair warning, everyone knew what to expect. I’m not sure who was more excited, myself or Everett. He loves the gym daycare just about as much as I love being alone for an hour.

The car was adequately packed. I was wearing my favorite Nike shorts and my bright pink running shoes. My water bottle was full; my iPad was charged.

We were ready.

Everyone fawned over the kids at the bank, as they always do, and I deposited my two checks quickly. I held Carson on one hip while Everett hung out next to my leg. Right as we were leaving, one of the branch managers ran up to us and informed me that a new account I had just opened a few weeks prior required one more signature.

“It will just take a minute!” she promised.

I walked over to her desk with Carson in my arms, while Everett trailed behind us. At this particular bank, there were stuffed bears on each of the six desks. Everett—taking full advantage of my full hands—took it upon himself to grab each bear, carefully assembling them in a pile in the middle of the floor.

I watched this happen out of the corner of my eye while the pretty bank teller with perfect hair asked nonchalantly, “So, how’s your ‘business’ going?”

I’m sure I imagined her condescending tone. I’m sure I imagined her air quotes around the word “business.” But I was surrounded by people in suits and suddenly painfully aware of my Nike shorts and pink running shoes, the baby drooling on my shoulder and the toddler creating a mess in their quiet workspace.

“Oh….business is fine. Just fine!” I replied, “EVERETT. STOP THAT. Put those bears back right now.”

He looked at me innocently, “Huh?”

“Don’t ‘huh’ me. Put those bears back right now, we’re leaving,” I demanded.

And then he looked right at my face and uttered one little brave word: “No.”

Excusez-moi?

It is worth mentioning that I was the only customer in the bank and all eyes were on me. Everyone was waiting to see how I would handle this awkward situation. I marched over to Everett and the pile of bears, with Carson on my hip. I leaned down and grabbed his face and looked him straight in the eyes.

“Everett Hudson Gadd, you need to pick up those bears right now. We are leaving.”

He looked at me again, briefly paused, and defiantly said, “No.”

It might also be worth mentioning that I have encountered this scene probably five times since becoming a mom. Everett is generally very well behaved, especially in public. He is respectful and almost always follows instructions, so when things like this do happen, I am slightly dumbfounded. I was just as shocked as the gawking bank tellers, who were still waiting for me to make a move.

I could feel my face turning red as I moved Carson to my other hip and picked up the bears myself, furiously returning them to their desks. I calmly pulled Everett out of the bank by his arm while he cried and continued to make a scene. It was surely the most exciting thing the bank tellers saw that day.

The second we got settled in the car, I knew what I had to do.

“We’re NOT going to the gym,” I announced dramatically.

Everett wailed. And then he wailed louder. And then he screamed, “I WANNA GO TO THE GYM!!!!”

And then it was really settled.

The whole way home, we talked about The Incident. I explained over and over again that when we don’t listen to mommy, we don’t get to do fun things. He cried and cried and cried some more. I wanted to cry a little bit too.

We returned home barely twenty minutes after leaving it. Three people into the car, three people out of the car. Two car seats to buckle and unbuckle. All for seven miserable minutes and an embarrassing meltdown at the bank. We prepared all morning for that??!

He was still a mess. Three tantrums and three time-outs later, we landed in the backyard for some fresh air and a fresh perspective. It was over. Done. We all suffered the consequences, but I couldn’t help but feel like I had suffered the most. My hour of exercise, my hour to myself, was gone. Poof. This is motherhood, folks.

It would have been easy to go to the gym anyways. It would have been easy to stick the kids in childcare and take my much-desired break. It would have been easy to forget all about The Incident and stick to our original plan, ignoring what had happened.

But sometimes, we mothers have to do the hard thing, the thing that basically punishes all of us. He lost his reward, and as a result, I lost mine too. And while this was such a small thing (a moment of defiance! an hour at the gym!), I couldn’t help but foresee a future of discipline laid out in front of me.

I know I’m still new at this, but I believe there are going to be many, many times as a parent that I will be faced with an opportunity to choose the easy thing or the hard thing. Maybe the easy thing is staying at Disneyland, staying at the restaurant, breaking out a candy bribe and hoping for the best. Maybe it’s letting them watch TV anyways, use the computer anyways, drive the car anyways. The easy thing is usually the quick fix, the bandaid, the action that buys you more time and sanity, the thing that doesn’t punish the parent.

Sometimes you need to do things the easy way. We all have those days, myself included.

But I’m learning that when it comes to discipline and enforcing rules and gaining the respect of your children, sometimes you need to do things the hard way. The long way. Sometimes we have to skip the gym and leave the donut shop without eating our donuts. Sometimes we have to take the car keys away and drive our moody teenagers to school ourselves. And while it is unfortunate for the child who loses a reward or misses out on an opportunity, sometimes we, the parents, have to suffer as a result. I think we need to love our kids more than we love ourselves, and sometimes that looks like letting a teachable moment take precedent over our plans, our hobbies, our own precious time.

I’m trying to keep my eye on the prize. Someday this three year-old will be eight, and then eighteen. I pick my battles daily, and some days there are a lot of them. There is a time to let things go, and there is a time to stick to your guns. There is a time to settle and a time to follow through.

Because the thing is, all of these tiny moments add up. That one time we left the gym, that one time we left the donut shop, that one time I took the TV away, that one time I put Elmo on top of the refrigerator for 24 hours because someone threw him at the ceiling fan, again. These small actions add up to one big lesson: I am the mom and I love you enough to put forth the effort into raising you well. I mean what I say, and I say what I mean.

I can only hope and pray that five years from now, ten years from now, twenty years from now, doing the hard thing will pay off. I can only hope and pray that someday I will reap the harvest of all this work.

Come to think of it, maybe I already am.

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summer capsule wardrobe.

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woven shorts (Target) / denim rolled shorts (Anthropologie) / woven shorts (Target)
tribal print t-shirt (old, Nordstrom Rack) / Ella Moss romper (ThredUP) / grey pocket tee (Everlane)
denim jogger shorts (Gap) / lounge shorts (Target) / denim shorts (Gap)

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Madewell tank (ThredUP) / navy striped tank (Stitch Fix) / white button down tank (ThredUP)
black scalloped tank (Gap, similar) / denim vest (H&M) / polka dot blouse (old, American Rag)
cream blouse (Nordstrom Rack) / Madre tee (Riley & Co) / J. Crew tee (ThredUP)

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Free People tank (ThredUP) / grey knot tee (Gap) / tribal tank (ThredUP)
brown maxi (The Limited) / summer maxi (Anthropologie) / black maxi skirt (Nordstrom Rack)
teal dress (Nordstrom Rack) / black maxi dress (ThredUP) / grey maxi dress (ThredUP)

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drapey racerback (Banana Republic) / grey slouchy tee (Stitch Fix) / cream linen tank (Everlane)
ryan tank (Everlane) / Gap chambray shirt (ThredUP) / printed tank (Nordstrom Rack)
brown dress (ThredUP) / high-rise skinny jeans (American Eagle) / grey open cardigan (Anthropologie)

Shoes

striped flats (Target) / Naya wedges (Naya, similar) / chambray sandals (TOMS, similar)
Sam & Libby flip-flops (Target) / Ecuador sandals (Nisolo) / Sam & Libby flip-flops (Target)
TOMS (via Zulily) / Franco Sarto wedges (similar) / sandal wedge (similar)

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45 items. Boom.

A few notes…

1. This was my first time ordering from Everlane and I WILL NEVER BUY BASICS ANYWHERE ELSE. Everything fit like a dream, the quality is superb and I love their transparent pricing model. Cannot recommend them enough.

2. These shorts are ah-mazing. I happened to waltz into Target on a weeknight for hamburger buns and paper towels and lo and behold, all of the shorts were 40% off. On top of that, there was a Cartwheel deal for 25% off shorts (!), which means I spent exactly $18 on two pairs, WHAT. These shorts go with everything, they can be dressed up or dressed down, and they come in tons of colors.

3. I didn’t realize until this post that ThredUP purchases basically make up half my wardrobe. If you haven’t tried them yet, you can sign up here and get $10 off your first purchase. Warning: their site is a teeny bit addicting.

4. I’m still in the market for an easy breezy nursing-friendly shirtdress to add to this. I have my eye on this one, this one, or this one. Which one’s your fave?

p.s. the nursing-friendly spring capsule wardrobe & five benefits from the capsule wardrobe

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remember us.

Lee Brown PhotographyOn Saturday night we met my friend Lee at the river preserve for our annual family photos. We wrangled the kids, stashed the car with m&m bribes and emergency extra clothes, and hoped for the best. Being a photographer myself, I had scheduled the shoot during the golden hour, which of course coincides with bedtime. Call me crazy, but I’d rather deal with meltdowns than bad lighting.

Just like every year, I was quick to request photos of Brett and I as well. I like the reminder that our marriage is a separate entity, a force to be reckoned with. A few times throughout the evening, we strapped the boys in the stroller and ventured into tall grass just the two of us. For the most part, Everett and Carson sat and watched patiently, only occasionally crying out in boredom.

We tuned them out for five minutes and kept our eyes mostly on each other, purposefully and intentionally because even though we don’t always practice this perfectly, we want our kids to see Us.

“Us” being Brett and Ashlee, husband and wife, two people who still love each other after almost eleven years together.

It would be easy to let these kids swallow us whole if we let our guard down. They are young and needy right now, and it would be easy to save everything marriage-related for after bedtime. It would be easy to let them interrupt every conversation, to let them leave toys in our bedroom, to let them be in every single picture.

It would be easy to let them destroy Us on some days.

If we want our kids to respect our marriage, we have to let them see our marriage. We have to let them see our date nights, see us kiss in the kitchen, see us fight and make up. The only way they’re going to see Us is if we let them. Or, in the case of annual family photos, if we force them to watch from the sidelines.

Some days I think our marriage has never felt more difficult than it does right now. In this demanding phase of parenting two little kids, we have to fight for our marriage every single day—for quiet, for date nights, for intimacy of any kind. Our days are full and messy and exhausting and it’s all too easy to give our marriage the leftovers, the 2% of energy we have left at the end of the night.

We deserve better.

Some people might think it’s weird that we take family portraits every year, but I love documenting our kids at this age because they are changing so much. Last year, Carson was barely a peanut in my belly and now he’s eating butternut squash from a booster seat. In twenty years, it will be nice to look back at these pictures and remember this year, the year that Everett turned three and said the funniest things, the year that Carson rocked his gummy smile.

This was the year we became parents of two and it was damn hard and exhausting as hell, but look at us. We survived, we relayed, we fought and made up 200 times. We made mistakes and apologized and forgave each other and slammed a few doors and offered grace upon grace upon grace. We argued at 3am, watched our boys become best friends, and basically became parents all over again. We re-examined our expectations, had our fair share of living room therapy, and learned to love each other a little bit better.

It has not been easy. Some days the pressure and tension in this house could blow up the moon. But even on those days, somehow—by the grace of God—we find our way back.

And this is why I always ask for photos of just Brett and I.

Because in twenty years, when we look back at these pictures, I will be glad that we stopped for five minutes to remember Us.

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