you will be different.

A letter to my pre-mom self.-1-2

“You will be different. You will see parts of yourself that are unrecognizable, brought only to the surface by the sheer fact that another human is suddenly dependent on you for everything. You will be anxious, you will worry, you will feel overprotective like you have never felt before. You will simultaneously need space and not need space because all you want to do is be alone and also never leave your baby with anyone else. You will uncover a plethora of mom-related judgements that were hiding in your heart all along, and one by one they will fall by the wayside as you realize just how hard and messy and glorious this calling of motherhood actually is. You will learn to love fiercely and wildly without expectations, and for the first time in your whole life, your heart will default to selflessness—a part of you that always existed but was buried deep down inside—waiting for this moment, this change, this baby, this occasion to rise.”

….over at Coffee + Crumbs today, sharing a letter to my pre-mom self.

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things are about to get busy up in here.

toddler busy bag

Last summer I visited my friend Lesley shortly after her second baby Owen was born. We sat on her couch chit-chatting about life and motherhood, when he started to cry. As she got ready to nurse him, her toddler Anna promptly asked for the “nursing bag”. Lesley nodded in approval and minutes later Anna reappeared with a special bag full of toys and books that she only had access to while Lesley was breastfeeding. And then she sat on the floor, quietly, while Lesley nursed and we continued to talk.

Brilliant.

Likewise, we have a special bin of toys in Everett’s closet that he is only allowed to play with during independent play time. And let me tell you: there is something magical about toys that are only available some of the time. Every morning when I pull that bin out, Everett’s face lights up like he’s never seen those toys before. He picks a few handfuls to dump into his crib, and plays for 30-45 minutes in his room by himself.

Magic I tell you.

Now that we’re 12 weeks out from adding another baby to our clan (!!!), I’m starting to get our ducks in a row. We’ve got a nursery to decorate, a toddler bed to transition into, and a nursing bag to create.

Here’s what I have planned for ours so far:

1. Drawstring backpack ($5.60) – Simple, multi-functional, classic. And you can’t beat the price.

2. Finger puppets ($4.99) – These are just plain cute. Great for encouraging imaginative play.

3. Shape puzzle ($10) – Everett is obsessed with puzzles, and I love that this one teaches shapes and colors. Plus, it’s the perfect size for our little bag. Use promo code wmHEARTr for 10% off and check out Becky’s blog here

4. Wooden tow truck ($40) – If there is one thing we can never have enough of, it’s toy cars and trucks. This little set comes with a tow truck, car, and two little “passengers” to add to the fun. Best of all? They’re handcrafted in the good ole USA. Use promo code SUMMER10 for 10% off any purchase through the end of August. 

5. Touch and feel flashcards ($8.99) – We have the “first words” version of these flashcards and Everett still loves them one year later. Another set would be a guaranteed win.

6. String-a-farm ($12.99) – Encourages fine motor skills and manual dexterity, plus you can just play with the animals individually. Cute, cute.

7. Classic ball and cup game ($6) – I’m not sure if Everett would be able to do this, but his athletic ability and hand/eye coordination never ceases to amaze me. At any rate, he’d have a blast trying. Handcrafted in the USA and available in multiple colors (from all natural dyes). Use promo code GADD10 for 10% your purchase. 

8. Wooden balancing game ($18) – Helps build intuition about weight, balance, and motion. You pick your own animals and wood (so many options!). Handcrafted in USA from American hardwood. Use promo code “Ashlee” for 10% off through the end of August. 

9. Latches board ($21.08) – Everyone I know who has one of these, raves about it. Plus it’s the #1 bestseller in “pegged puzzles” on Amazon so I’m sold.

Any other ideas for a busy bag? Do tell. 

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the not-so-terrible twos.

52 Project | Where My Heart Resides-3 Everyone warned me about the terrible twos. Moms at the grocery store. Total strangers at the post office.

Every time someone asked Everett’s age and I answered, I received the same response:

“Oooooh, the terrible twos! Watch out! I hope you’re ready!”

I awkwardly smiled back, as I usually do when I receive unwanted, unsolicited advice or warnings of any kind.

Because here’s the deal….

My kid is two, and he’s not terrible. 

Sure, we have terrible moments and occasional terrible tantrums and sometimes even terrible days (we’ve had a few recently), but to sum him up in all his two year-old toddlerhood glory as being “terrible” would be a truly unfair assessment.

Case in point:

Every morning, my two year-old asks me if we can go “bye bye”. He brings me his shoes with no destination in mind, no grand plan or ulterior motive. He simply wants to have an adventure. And whether we end up at the park or the bank, he is equally pleased, and says, “Dat was fun!” as we walk back to the car.

My two year-old’s favorite phrase is “Dat cool!” and he uses it unceasingly over the smallest of things. See a tractor on the road? Dat cool! Watch momma crack an egg over a mixing bowl? Dat cool! Watch daddy turn on the ceiling fan? Dat cool! 

Everything is cool to a two year-old. My confidence has never been so abundant.

My two year-old loves to play Sleeping Beauty. I pretend to be asleep until he kisses me, at which point I wake up and yell “GOOD MORNING!” while he bursts into a fit of giggles. We can play this game for 45 minutes straight and it makes him laugh every time.

My two year-old loves hot wheels and toy balls and jumping on the bed and being outside. He says “wow!” a dozen times a day, constantly amazed by simple sights that anyone older than two would find boring or irrelevant. He sings in the car, loudly, and dances without inhibition. He runs everywhere and gallops regularly, happy to use his skinny legs to their full capacity.

My two year-old says “hi” to every single person he sees, and will wave at them and repeat his greeting until he gets a response. Sometimes it breaks my heart a little bit when people don’t hear him, but he never seems bothered by an unreciprocated greeting. He just says “hi” to the next person he sees, and the person after that, and the person after that.

Two is fun. Two is all about learning words and learning how the world works and learning how to communicate your needs and desires. I’m sure there are some terrible two year-olds out there, just like there are some terrible three year-olds, and some terrible seventeen year-olds, and some terrible forty-five year olds.

But today, I’d like to speak up in defense of two year-olds.

They’re not all bad.
They’re not all terrible.

In fact, mine is pretty great.

So the next time you find yourself in the grocery store standing behind a momma with a two year-old in the shopping cart, be kind to her and try this instead: “Two? Dat cool!”

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puerto vallarta.

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Messy buns and sunscreen every day; dresses and date night makeup every night. Tacos. All the tacos. Chips and salsa galoreRoom service every morning: coffee and eggs and french toast and bacon and more coffee.

We read books. We ignored the jellyfish warning and swam in the ocean. We danced in the pool and enjoyed dinners without negotiating a grapes to grilled cheese ratio. And for five days and four nights, I remembered. I remembered what it feels like to be lazy, to be spontaneous, to be free, to be romantic. I remembered how wonderful it feels to put on a dress and spend thirty minutes applying makeup and hairspray to look good for my husband.

It was a vacation. A real, true vacation. The kind where you come home and you’re happy and well rested and (most importantly) tan.

In the end, we were ready to come home of course. You can only be away from your child for so long before you start to miss them so much your insides get tangled. And on the fifth day, our insides were tangled. We boarded the plane still smelling like sunscreen and held hands during takeoff. “Happy anniversary,” he said to me.

And a happy anniversary it was.

Here’s to our seven years of marriage, our ten years of love, and decades of adventures ahead of us.

_________________

We recommend:

AccommodationsThe Westin Resort & Spa in Puerto Vallarta

Beach readsUnbroken / The Rosie Project / The Opposite of Loneliness / Still Writing / Dad Is Fat

WearingPurple dressDate night LBD / Peony maternity swimsuit

_________________

p.s. This week I’m chatting on Elise Gets Crafty about work/life balance – listen here!

p.s.s Republished one of my favorite shorter blog posts on C+C this week, read it here.

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what i’ve learned after a decade of loving him.

Where my heart resides-2

Brett and I have officially been together for ten years.

!!!

To write about this decade seems trite, because I know I cannot do justice with words what my heart would say about all the things I’ve learned, all the mistakes I’ve made, all the ways I continue to be surprised by Brett and the fact that he wakes up every morning and chooses to love me before pouring a bowl of cereal and turning on ESPN.

It’s amazing, really, to love and be loved by someone for ten whole years. 

I’ve witnessed our love grow from infatuation to the kind of love where you see someone for who they really are—faults and all—and still love them in spite of those flaws. I can remember a time where I thought Brett had no faults at all, and he probably thought the same of me (maybe not, mine are more obvious). It was short-lived of course, in those few months and maybe even years leading up to our wedding where we basically thought the other person was perfect in every way and aren’t we so lucky to have found each other?

I think we had been married for exactly two weeks when I realized just how imperfect Brett was. He probably started noticing my faults on day two of marriage because let’s be honest: I was real selfish back then.

Our first year of marriage was hard. We argued a lot, bickered a lot, gave each other the silent treatment a lot. I slammed a few doors and cried somewhat regularly. I’m sure some people would say that maybe we weren’t ready to get married at the ripe ages of 21 and 25 but to them I say, who is ever really ready to get married? What human is ever truly prepared to dive headfirst into selflessness and sacrifice?

We survived the first year. The second year was better. We adjusted to living together and created a routine that mostly revolved around frozen yogurt and reality TV shows and conversations about expectations. I learned to give him space when he came home from work and he learned to listen without giving advice. He accepted the fact that I never replace the toilet paper roll and I got used to the way he always gets water in the toothpaste cap. I vacuumed, he took out the trash, we each folded our own laundry. He helped me make this blog. I baked him chocolate chip cookies.

The hard thing about getting married young is that you’re not only promising to love someone for the rest of your life; you’re promising to love the person they will become for the rest of your life. 

I’m sure this goes without saying, but my 18 year-old self and my 28 year-old self are quite, quite different. Brett’s 22 year-old self and 32 year-old self might as well be completely different people. Together we have morphed into new, grownup versions of ourselves: chasing dreams, succeeding and failing, experiencing identity crises every other year. We’ve lived out our entire twenties together, and how strange and wonderful it has been to do that as a team.

Together we have bought and sold a house, made two babies, and set up life insurance like a couple of responsible adults. We’ve traveled to Greece and New York and Las Vegas and Hawaii and learned how to share space in the same suitcase. We’ve experienced life and death and everything in between and learned how to love each other through the peaks of our greatest moments and through the trenches of devastating grief. Our marriage has survived every arrow thrown between us, thanks to God’s grace and living room therapy (and real therapy once or twice).

We’ve witnessed miracles together, watched two pink lines appear on two pregnancy tests together, and cried together as our first son entered the world. We’ve watched each other become parents—an experience that at times, feels otherworldly.

We’ve seen our brightest mountains and darkest valleys in this decade, but when I think of the past ten years as a whole, I see mostly love and hard work. Because despite what you see outside this house, behind closed doors it is hard work to love someone every single day for ten years. It is hard work to put on a smile and ignore that crusty plate over there and apologize and forgive and stay up until 2am talking about your relationship when your relationship needs to be talked about. It is hard work to offer grace again and again, and again, and then again.

We are learning as we go, and it’s safe to say that over the course of a decade, we’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned that sometimes you need to go to bed angry, despite what everyone told me before I got married. I call BS on that advice and offer the following instead: sometimes you need eight hours of sleep and the perspective of a pink sunrise in the morning to realize just how ridiculous that fight was. I’ve learned that our fights are rarely ever, ever about the dishes, they are always about Something Bigger than dishes. I’ve learned that appreciation—verbal and otherwise—go a long, long way in marriage. You cannot say “thank you” enough. You cannot say “I love you” enough. You cannot show your partner how grateful you are for their existence, their help, their support, their unconditional love, enough. The act of expressing appreciation is limitless, and yet there is always a shortage.

I’ve learned that marriage exposes you, brings sin to the surface, and forces you to confront all the things about yourself you’d rather keep locked away in a sock drawer for all of eternity. I never realized how hard I was to love until I married someone who loved all the rotten, selfish, stubborn parts of me.

I can think of a lot of things I’ve done right in this marriage, but I can think of more things that I’ve done wrong. Maybe Brett can say the same (you’ll have to ask him).

But despite those wrongdoings and mistakes, despite the arguments and slammed doors, despite the harsh words we have said in times of anger and desperation, at the very core of our relationship, there is still love. There is friendship. There is hope and affection and honesty. I hate to oversimplify it, but sometimes simple is best.

Ten years later, in its simplest form: we still love each other. We’re still standing in the kitchen with our hands intertwined, our toddler in the high chair and another baby kicking in my belly. We’re still laughing at each other and laughing at ourselves and dreaming big dreams for this family of ours.

And as I look around the room before he leaves for work, with crumbs littered on the floor and a stack of unopened mail sitting on the counter and all of the exhausting adultness of our lives so very prevalent, I cannot help but smile and be grateful for all it.

Here’s to another ten years, Brett. Thank you for choosing to love me every day. Thank you for leaving me the last of the milk, for putting gas in my car every Tuesday morning, for fixing my blog every time it needs to be fixed, for picking up Chipotle when I cannot fathom cooking, and for the million other tiny things you do for me. I love you today, tomorrow, forever.

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