tiny volcanoes on your face (let’s talk about acne).

I would never ever say I had great skin, but I definitely had good skin for most of my life. With the exception of PMS breakouts and a rough 7th grade, I was mostly in the clear. Literally.

And then one day, a few months shy of my 30th birthday, I woke up looking like a Proactive “before” picture.

I am not exaggerating—acne erupted on the bottom third of my face out of nowhere. And I’m not talking little zits, like the tiny flat harmless kind that can be covered with makeup. I’m talking monster zits, apocalypse zits, the kind of zits that are gigantic and painful and cannot be covered whatsoever even with eight pounds of concealer.

No time to waste, I ran to Target and bought every acne-clearing potion on the shelf. The acne shopping spree was followed by three eighteen hours of online research, which was both ironic and alarming considering that when my kids have a rash, I do one quick search on WebMD before diagnosing them with “nothing too worrisome.” I do not ever research illnesses or symptoms online because—more often than not—it leads to diagnosing myself with a brain tumor, and also anxiety.

But acne? I researched that subject to death. Every night. For HOURS.

What causes acne?
How do I get rid of acne?
How do I cover acne?
Acne cure
Acne soap
Acne cream
Acne before and after
Acne pill
Do I need Accutane?
Does Accutane make you depressed?
Which is worse: acne depression or Accutane depression?
Acne diet
Acne regimen
Acne celebrity regimen
How hormones affect acne
What is hormonal acne?
How do I cure hormonal acne?

And so on. And so forth. Like I said, I did this for hours.

Based on my research (and the fact that I had just gotten my first period after Carson and was in the process of weaning him), I was 90% sure I had hormonal acne, but I also didn’t want to have hormonal acne because everything I read online said over-the-counter treatments would not be able to treat hormonal acne.

Let me set the record straight. I am an over-the-counter type of gal. Doctor appointments and dentist appointments fall somewhere between “scrub the toilets” and “check voicemail” on my to-do list. Ain’t nobody got time for that. (Well, I suppose responsible adults who are successful at life and self-care probably have time for that but I fall into neither of those categories). I have not been to the dentist in a very long time. Because I would need to book a babysitter to go to the dentist and that feels super lame. Doctor: same. Eye doctor: same. Chiropractor: same. Dermatologist: same.

I have fantasies of my children going to elementary school where I can finally catch up on years worth of self care and responsible adulthood. Massage Monday. Teeth Cleaning Tuesday. Workout Wednesday. Thank-you-card-writing Thursday. Facial Friday.

Doesn’t that sound like a dream? I only have three years to go until this is a reality for me (if we don’t add another baby to the mix, oof). Hopefully I don’t gain fifty pounds and lose all my teeth before then.

But I digress.

Normally I’m an over-the-counter girl. If I can order it on Amazon prime, consider it done. And oh I ordered! I ordered so many things. I tried just about every over-the-counter acne potion on the market and they did NOTHING. Actually, that’s a lie. I think they made the acne angry.

(And in case you’re wondering, I also started washing my makeup brushes/drinking more water/cleaning my phone/washing my pillowcases/cutting back on dairy, and 12 other ideas from Google, all of which made not a lick of difference.)

Which is why, when my sweet friend Hilary from MOPS e-mailed me out of the blue one day offering to give me a complimentary facial at her spa, I almost cried.


And my facial was amazing. I walked into that spa on a regular Thursday night half-asleep after a long day with the kids and walked out feeling like a queen. Hilary was fantastic. We talked all about my acne and she reassured me we would figure it out together. I loved her. She was like my acne midwife.

I was still hesitant to see a dermatologist, partly because the optimistic side of me believed the acne would clear up on its own and partly because when could I go to the dermatologist? I can’t even make it to the dentist twice a year.

But the acne didn’t clear up on its own. And I started to feel…..depressed. My face was making me sad. I never wanted to see anyone. I could not leave the house without eight pounds of concealer all over my chin, and even then, I was incredibly self conscious. I didn’t want to be in any pictures. It was all so dramatic and lame and I confessed to my friends how horrible I felt, both about the state of my face and the fact that I could let something as dumb as acne bother me so much.

But man…..when your face is covered in tiny volcanoes, it’s really hard to ignore.

I finally caved and booked a dermatologist appointment at the Laser Skin and Surgery center. If Hilary (my esthetician) was like the acne midwife, the dermatologist was definitely the acne doctor. Acne midwives hug you and listen to you and smile at you and reassure you that it’s going to be okay. Acne doctors are no-nonsense. Acne doctors write prescriptions. She examined my face, asked me ten questions, and made a formal plan in two minutes (antibiotics! topical gel! retin-A! new skincare regimen! new makeup! new birth control!).

It was…..a lot. But I was at the end of the road and willing to try anything, so I took my little prescription sheets and paper bag full of instructions and ran out the door with a smile on my volcano-covered face.

HOPE. At last.

Sure enough, 10 weeks later, I was mostly cured. And today, my face looks like this:


(Pardon my crappy grainy cell phone pic, but you get the gist, yes? I wish I had had the forethought to take a “before” picture, but I didn’t, so just google “hormonal chin acne” and you’ll get a good idea of what I looked like three months ago.)


My skin is not 100% clear or perfect, but I have seen a 1,000x improvement from where it was. Other than a few tiny blemishes here and there, I haven’t seen a single monster zit in over a month.

This was the plan that worked for me:

*Three months of antibiotics (doxycycline)
*Acanya topical gel on breakouts
*Retin-A before bed (note: my face shed like snakeskin for a month adjusting to this)
*Off the mini-pill; start ortho tri cyclen (note: this made me nauseous the first week)
*Skincare routine: cetaphil morning and night; CeraVe AM / PM lotion
*Makeup overhaul: replaced everything in my makeup bag with new “oil-free” options.

Current makeup favorites:

Tarte Amazonian Clay Foundation (this stuff is AMAZING)
Tarte Amazonian Clay Bronzer
Urban Decay Makeup Setting Spray
Phsyician’s Formula Blushing Rose

Obviously, I hope this goes without saying: your skin is not my skin. Your face is not my face. Only your dermatologist can make a plan that’s right for you. If you’re looking for a dermatologist in Sacramento, I cannot recommend the staff at the Laser Skin & Surgery Center enough. Ask for Rebecca (acne doctor) and Hilary at the MediSpa (acne midwife). I OWE THEM MY FACE. And my confidence. If you tell them I sent you, they’ll give you 25% off a deep pore cleansing acne facial. Treat yourself!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 11 Comments

happy birthday, Everett!

Better late than never (my personal memory keeping mantra).

Can I confess something? Memory keeping stresses me the heck out. I have so many goals, so many ideas, so many plans……baby books, photo books, memory boxes. Everything is unfinished; I am always behind.

However. The one thing I have managed to do (albeit late, always) is put together a video of my kids on their birthday. My digital files are half organized, half plopped into a folder called To File, so I figure this way: if my house burns down, I’ll still have the best video clips of my kids’ childhoods saved in cohesive movies once a year. Thanks, Vimeo.

And with that, happy 4th birthday to my sweet Everett! He brought home a glowing report on his preschool evaluation, and just last week one of his teachers stopped me at drop-off to tell me what a joy it has been to have Everett in her class. I may have shed a tear (hey hormones).

Everett: you are a joy at preschool, you are a joy at home, you are a joy (almost) always. I love the sweet and considerate boy you are turning into, and could not be prouder of how wonderfully you’ve handled your role as big brother. You make every room brighter, and I pray you never stop saying “hi!” to strangers on the street. Your smile is contagious, and I love watching you interact with the world. I love you forever.

Everett Turns Four from Ashlee Gadd on Vimeo.

Song: And The Birds Sing by Tyrone Wells

Posted in love | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

on signing a book deal and eating chips on the carpet.

February 25, 2016

Today I signed a book deal for Coffee + Crumbs.

And then my child pooped on the grass in our backyard.

……this is a story about having it all.


People always say you should dress for the job you want, not the job you have. I have mixed feelings about that sentiment because the truth is: I really love wearing yoga pants every day.

However. On the rare occasion that I have a meeting scheduled, I typically put on real clothes. I always feel like Supermom when I’m wearing real clothes, as if the sheer act of wearing pants that button makes me more efficient. I race around the house sipping on coffee, getting everyone ready in five-minute spurts. You! Get your socks! Where’s your backpack? You! Get away from the curling iron! HOT HOT HOT DON’T TOUCH THAT!

I curl half my hair, then take a break to get a puzzle for the Velcro baby attached to my ankles. I curl the other half, then pack my bag: laptop, charger, wallet, phone, lipgloss, gum, day planner. Give one kid a yogurt pouch; brush the other kid’s teeth. Boom. We’re ready.

The babysitter arrives and Everett and I fly out the door on mission Get To Preschool On Time To Secure The Blue Bike (not the red bike, no mommy, I don’t like the red bike). I sign him in, kiss his cheek, and head off on mission Get Good Table At Coffee Shop (not near the bathroom, not under the AC, not next to the crazy man who watches loud YouTube videos).

The Starbucks barista knows me by name, which is sort of embarrassing but also makes me feel important in a pathetic sort of way.

“Hey Ashlee!” she smiles. She’s committed my high-maintenance order to memory, bless her (grande Americano, two pumps mocha, two pumps peppermint, shot of steamed milk on top – roll your eyes, I deserve it).

I set up camp at the community table to cram in as much work as possible in a 2.5 hour window. I spend half of that time with my bookkeeper, who informs me that I actually made money in 2015, which was very exciting for five whole minutes until I realized that I owed all of that money to the IRS (yay self-employment!). We talk about all sorts of official business – sales tax, shop reports, blah blah blah, we agree to meet again in a couple months and then she leaves.

Two minutes later, an e-mail hits my inbox. The E-mail. Finally. Official letterhead and everything. I celebrate in total silence, and contemplate telling the Starbucks barista about my Big News. She is nowhere to be found. It’s just me, at the community table, sitting next to a dude wearing headphones. Of course.

I carry the excitement home, and decide we should eat lunch outside to celebrate.

“It’s a beautiful day!” I tell the boys. “Let’s eat outside!”

I’m wearing pants that button, anything is possible today.

I prepare a quick lunch while they play on the patio, making sure to put Carson’s food on the orange plate and Everett’s lunch on the green plate.

“Mommy! I have to go potty!!”

I look outside and see Everett crossing his legs next to his scooter.

“Just go on the grass, honey! It’s fine!”

My phone rings; it’s my husband. I excitedly tell him about the book deal, about the fabulous meeting with the bookkeeper, about what a great day I’m having.


“Just a second, Ev, Mommy’s on the phone!”

“—but wait!”

“Mommy said just a……”

“—I went poop!”

Ummmmm, what?

I walk outside to find that Everett did, indeed, poop. Right outside on the grass. In broad daylight. Like a puppy……like it’s no big deal.

He pulls up his pants.

“Look, mommy! I pooped on the grass like Benjamin!”

I am too stunned to respond. A few weeks ago we had been at my friend Christina’s house for a play date. After playing in the backyard for a while, the boys informed us that Benjamin had pooped on the grass behind a bush. We never found evidence and thought they were lying.

I don’t know what to believe anymore.

I relay the story to Christina via text. She is mortified.

I take care of the poop and contemplate taking a picture of it on the grass to remind my husband that this is why I don’t want a dog. I’m dealing with enough poop inside the house; I don’t think I can handle any more.

Christina and I continue texting—I tell her about the book deal and suggest we celebrate that afternoon with Chipotle and margaritas. She offers to bring over the margarita supplies and I make a plan to order Chipotle through Postmates, a new delivery service in town.

I hop online and place an order for chips and salsa for us, and quesadillas for the kids, all to be delivered at 3pm. The plan was perfect: Chipotle would show up on my doorstep, we’d throw our kids in the trampoline, and clink margaritas on the patio in a tiny moment of celebration.

Cheers! I’d say.
To the book! She’d say.

At 3pm, a giant Chipotle bag appears on my doorstep like magic. I text Christina again to see if her kids are up from their naps.

Bad news. The kids are up, but Grace is running a fever. We’re not going to make it.

I stare at the Chipotle bag on the counter. Of course.

I tell her that I’m sorry, and that I’d swing by in a bit to drop off the kid meals and an order of chips and salsa. Everett climbs up in his chair and I put Carson in his booster seat, ripping the quesadilla into little bites for him. While I grab a drink from the fridge, Carson squeezes his chocolate milk out all over the floor (and all over himself).

“CARSON! NO!” I cry out but it’s too late.

I spend the next ten minutes wiping up spilled milk while my chips get cold and my drink gets warm. Once the kids are done eating, I send them into the living room to play so I can mop under the kitchen table. I can’t stand walking on a sticky floor.

I’m mid-mop, starting to sweat, when both kids start crying. I didn’t see what happened, but I’m assuming someone took a toy and someone hit back and now Carson is lying face down sobbing into the rug.

Really, guys? Today?

“That’s IT! Everyone outside! Into the trampoline, mommy needs a break!”

I grab a kid in each arm and use my foot to slide the screen door open.

“Five minutes in the trampoline. Go jump!”

My chips and salsa have been sitting on the kitchen counter for 45 minutes and my stomach is growling. I dump the kids in the trampoline and zip the net closed.

I retreat to the kitchen, grab my chips and soda (margarita would have been better) and head to my bedroom to watch the kids through our sliding glass door, which directly faces the trampoline.

I sit down on the floor of my bedroom and lean my body against the bed with my legs crossed in front of me, bag of chips in one hand and cup of salsa in the other.

Serenity now.

Not one minute later, Carson smashes his face against the trampoline net and starts sobbing. He wants to come back inside.

And I just……laugh. Out loud. To myself. This is my life. This is my loud, chaotic, trying-to-have-it-all, anything-but-professional, never-a-dull-moment, poop-on-the-grass, spilled-milk-everywhere, takes-45-minutes-to-eat-my-chips life.

Have you ever wondered what it looks like to “have it all”?

Because that, my friends, is how I celebrated on the day I signed my very first book deal. By eating Chipotle chips on the floor of my bedroom all by myself looking at this view:

IMG_2101 (1)

I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

The Magic of Motherhood is coming to bookstores near you, April 2017. More here.

P.s. Yesterday I turned in the manuscript and Christina and I made a plan to get frozen yogurt with the kids to celebrate. 20 minutes later, we realized we had gone to different frozen yogurt shops. True story. So I sat outside at Yogurtland celebrating with my kids, while she sat one mile away at Yo Yo Yogurt with her kids. I don’t even know.

Posted in be | Tagged , , , , | 19 Comments

slower than molasses.


Have you ever driven behind someone who is lost? You know they’re lost because they’re cruising ten miles under the speed limit, slowing down at each intersection before re-consulting their GPS.

This makes me absolutely crazy.

(I recently took a personality test that identified my main emotion as anger. Ha! Me? Angry? No. Couldn’t be. I am an eternal optimist! A dreamer! A cheerleader! People refer to me as “bubbly”! What in the world?)

A few weeks ago, I was driving behind someone who was lost and it took every ounce of self control to not scream out loud in my car.


Come to think of it…..trying to get out the door with two little children is kind of like driving behind someone who is lost.


We are late. All of the time. Every single time. Every single day.

One day last month, I was super proud of myself for getting to preschool five minutes early. Preschool starts at 9am and on very good days we get there around 9:04. So you can imagine my pride the day we strolled into the parking lot at 8:53. The doors weren’t even open yet for crying out loud. It was a whole new world.

I stepped out of the car and waved to a fellow preschool mom in the parking lot.

Oh hey! Nothing to see here! Just another prompt mom, dropping off her kid EARLY! No big deal!

I smiled.

And then I opened Everett’s door and realized he wasn’t wearing shoes. Carson was wearing shoes, the kid who was only in the car for the ride and didn’t even need to be wearing shoes. But Everett, the kid who was ready to run around a playground and ride a bike for the next hour during outdoor play, was only wearing socks.

Of course.


Both of my kids started walking when I was out of town. I bore witness to their first steps, but that was it. They’d take two steps here, four steps there, teetering around from the coffee table to the couch, an accomplishment that led me to clap and cheer as if I’d never seen anything more impressive in my entire life.

Then I left for Liberia for two weeks.
And Everett started walking.

Then I left for Palm Springs for a weekend.
And Carson started walking.

Before I left, I had seen maybe five steps from Everett. Probably seven steps from Carson. When I came back, they were practically running laps around the kitchen. There must be a psychological explanation there, right? Something about a mother not picking up her child for multiple days that prompts a sudden desire and animal-like instinct to move one foot in front of the other? Survival of the fittest and all that? I can totally see Carson conceding defeat: welp, momma’s not going to carry me around today so I guess I’ll have to start walking now. Humph.

The best part about your kids learning to walk is the novelty of it. No joke: for two straight weeks, Carson barely played with a single toy. Who wants to play with blocks when you can walk laps around the dining room table? It was amazing to see my Velcro baby not only becoming independent, but enjoying his independence, stumbling around the house with a giant grin on his face. I’d say I was 98% happy and 2% sad about it.

Of course, now he wants to walk everywhere. While he’s certainly gained some momentum since those first wobbly steps, he is still undeniably slow. He’s slow walking into the gym, slow walking into church, slow walking to the park. I used to carry him on my hip at my pace, which is naturally set to somewhere between quick and efficient.

….not anymore.

Nowadays, I feel like I’m constantly driving behind someone who is lost. I can’t make these kids move faster, I can’t go around them. I’m simply stuck in permanent slow mode.

But this is motherhood, you know? The only thing that goes fast around here are the years. Everything else is slow as molasses. These days, these sleepless nights, this whack-a-mole bedtime routine, that thirty-minute process of getting three people into the car with all the bags and all the things.

But if you stop and look closely, you will see a tiny bit of magic in that transformation. Slowly but surely, they’re growing into themselves. And so am I.

I just have to slow down to notice it once in a while.

This post was created in partnership with Lily Jade, makers of the most beautiful diaper bags ever.

The Lily Jade #storyofmotherhood Giveaway!

Posted in love | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

my valentines.

Valentines-4 Valentines-7 Valentines-8 Valentines-9 Valentines-11 Valentines-12And to think someday they will grow up and get married and someone else will call them valentines. SOB.

p.s. Real talk: Carson is 16 months old and I feel like we are just now getting the hang of two kids. I’m writing about sleep deprivation and marriage and co-parenting and grace over at Coffee + Crumbs today.

Posted in love | Tagged , , | 12 Comments