the hard way.

Lee Brown Photography-1

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.”


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.

Lee Brown Photography-43

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summer capsule wardrobe.

Summer Capsule  Where My Heart Resides

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)

Summer Capsule2  Where My Heart Resides

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)

Summer Capsule3  Where My Heart Resides

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)

Summer Capsule4  Where My Heart Resides

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)


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)


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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what’s for dinner?

Blue Apron-1

Can we talk about outsourcing for a minute?

I hate meal planning with every fiber of my being. There. I said it. I wish I didn’t hate meal planning so much, but I just….do. Every Sunday afternoon we go to Trader Joe’s and grocery shop for the week. I get the same staples: bread, cheese, chocolate, etc. I throw in a few items just in case I feel inspired—meat, a single red pepper, some cilantro. Surely I can make something with cilantro? I always assume that if I have food in my kitchen, I can whip up a few meals during the week.

But I never have the right ingredients to make…..anything substantial. I remember the pasta, but forget the pasta sauce. I remember the chicken and limes, but forget the tortillas. Basically, I am super unorganized when it comes to grocery shopping and I am too lazy/exhausted to drag my two children to the store again during the witching hour. Mommas, you feel me?

(Also, this is why sometimes we eat scrambled eggs for dinner.)

The best part about Blue Apron is that they do all the hard work for you. Meal planning? Done. Grocery shopping? Done. Searching for a good recipe (aka 42 minutes scrolling Pinterest)? Done.

You just open the box, and cook. Voila!

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Blue Apron just launched in Texas, and now delivers to most of the US. The food ships in a refrigerated box so everything stays fresh until you open it. They offer a wide variety of recipes and are adding new dishes to their menu every week. No meal plans, no grocery shopping, no wasted food.

Ready to sign up? The first 25 readers will get two free meals on their first Blue Apron order! Just click here to get started.

This post is sponsored by Blue Apron. Thank you for supporting the businesses who contribute to my babysitting/coffee fund. 
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cool baby products you should know about.

Cool Baby Things

Clockwise from top:

1. The Eclipse by Cotton Rainbow. How genius is this? A car seat and stroller blanket that won’t blow away, thanks to (removable) weighted corners. It’s made from 100% breathable cotton, and features a cute peek-a-boo window that you can leave open or closed. Perfect for sunny outings this summer! Fun fact: the two girls who created this graduated from my alma mater, UC Davis. Go Aggies! Use promo code ASHLEEHEART for 10% off (expires July 1st and they’re low on grey so get em while they’re hot!).

2. Aden + Anais Wearable Blanket. We are constantly trying to figure out if Carson is too hot or too cold when he’s sleeping. In the winter, we used the Halo sleepsack and I never thought twice about it, but now the weather is a bit fickle. Our house is usually roasting in the late afternoon, but completely cools down in the middle of the night. Carson goes to bed at 6:30pm and our house is pretty warm around that time. These wearable blankets are made from 100% cotton muslim and they are super breathable, so he doesn’t get too hot when we put him down. Plus, let’s be honest, they’re cute.

3. Fisher Price Booster Seat. Here are my thoughts on high chairs: I hate high chairs. They are big and obnoxious and take up tons of space. I love booster seats because you just plop them on a chair and you’re done. We bought this exact same booster seat for Everett when he was six months old. He is now THREE and he still sits in it for every meal. You guys. It’s $25. Come on. The best part? When you’re having company over, you can just take it off the chair and stuff it in the closet if you need the extra space! We’ve done that a few times when hosting parties, etc, and I love how small and compact these seats are. Traveling with your family? Throw it in the car! Boom. Highly, highly recommend.

4. Green Toys My First Stacker. Carson is still learning how to sit up, and nothing keeps his perfectly postured attention like these stacking cups. I put a blanket on the floor, sandwich Carson in a boppy pillow, and put these right in front of him. He’s good for 20-30 minutes, which is like an hour in mom-land.

5. Zoli Baby Buzz Electric Nail Trimmer. File this one under Things I Wish I Had With My First Baby. Cutting your baby’s fingernails is an arduous, miserable, infuriating process. I love to procrastinate this chore as long as humanly possible, pretending to ignore the fact that my kid has actual talons, until he eventually swipes my cheek and turns me into Scarface. You, too? Fret no more. This electric nail trimmer is super easy to use, safe for baby, and it’s even fun for big brothers to watch. True story: we made a whole afternoon out of trimming Carson’s nails last week. This is my life now folks, mom of two right here just trying to survive the afternoons. I like to pull out all the stops.

6. Hudson-Mint Teething Necklace. My friend Rachel started Chewable Charm last year and the business has blown up. I am so proud of her! I have three of these teething necklaces and just started wearing them last week, much to Carson’s excitement. He doesn’t have any teeth yet but he loves to chew/bite/grab the beads. (p.s. I also have this teething necklace and love it!)

7. Zoli Gummy Sticks. YOU GUYS. If you have been searching for the perfect teething toy, you need not look any further. These gum massagers are EVERYTHING. Two for $10! You cannot beat that price! Carson is holding one of these in his hands at all times. They are fan-freaking-tastic. Tell your friends.

Any baby products making your life easier these days? Do tell.

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