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 reads - Unbroken / The Rosie Project / The Opposite of Loneliness / Still Writing / Dad Is Fat

Wearing - Purple 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.

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.

the truth about traveling with a baby.

Two duffel bags. One diaper bag. One bag of diapers. One Moby wrap. One Ergo. One car seat. One stroller. Eight burp cloths. One Boppy. Apparently, this is what it takes for a family of three to go away for one night. We looked like a total circus when we showed up at the Bodega Bay Lodge for our "romantic" anniversary getaway.

Friends, I'm about to get real. Traveling with an infant is no joke. It's serious business. And, well, had I known how serious it was prior to booking our trip, I probably would have made different plans. Don't get me wrong---we had a nice time, but, it wasn't the same as our typical anniversary getaways. Duh Ashlee, you have a baby now! Well, yes, I know, but part of me thought it would still be a sweet, semi-romantic, semi-relaxing trip. Aaaaaannnnd, that didn't exactly turn out to be the case. I mean, how relaxed can you be when your baby wakes up at 5:00am and refuses to go back to sleep, causing you to leave the hotel immediately to avoid making your neighbors angry, and then, as it turns out, the entire town of Bodega Bay doesn't open until 8:00am so you're stuck driving around aimlessly while your baby finally decides to fall asleep again in the backseat? Not very relaxed I tell you. Not. Very. Relaxed.

We returned from our mini-vacation totally exhausted, and, well, in need of another vacation. The moral of the story (and my advice to all you future parents and new parents) is this: don't try to plan romantic weekend getaways with your almost three-month-old baby. The luggage, the long car trip, and the lack of sleep in a cozy hotel bed (torture!) is really not worth it. Send the baby to Grandma's house, get a couples massage, and enjoy a really nice dinner. It would be a much better use of your time and money.

*steps down from soap box*

All in all, the weekend wasn't a total bust. We watched the Olympics and took Everett on his first hike and first trip to the beach. We also made valuable use of our car time (while Ev was sleeping) and talked about our hopes and dreams for the next five years. While it wasn't the most romantic weekend in the history of Brett and Ashlee anniversary trips, it was our first little trip as a family of three and I'm happy to report that we survived. But next year? Everett's going to Grandma's house. For sure.

Mommas - have you mastered the art of traveling with an infant? We are taking Everett to Hawaii this November and I need all the tips I can get. Help!

p.s. I hate that this post about our anniversary contained so much whining, but I'm too lazy to write something different, so, here are a few mushy posts in case you're in the mood for something mushy:

an open letter to my husband on our five year anniversary heartache how I know Brett will be a good dad when I first understood the meaning of love

an open letter to my husband on our five year anniversary.

(because he deserves a little bit of public praise once in a while) B,

Five years ago today, we became husband and wife. At 25 and 21, we were just a couple of kids madly in love. We didn't know a lot back then, but we knew one thing for certain: we belonged together. And now, half a decade later, I can say with absolute certainty that the past five years have been the best of my entire life. I'm only 26 so maybe that's not saying very much, but I mean it all the same.

I don't tell you this as often as I should, but I love being your wife. In fact, I'm proud to be your wife. You continue to amaze me year after year with your ability to selflessly love me. Like just a few weeks ago when you left a whole bowl of uneaten cereal on the counter because we only had enough milk for one. You left for work without breakfast so I could still enjoy mine. Or like the time you gave me money from your cash envelope so I could get a pedicure after I spent my entire budget on who knows what. Or like just yesterday when you willingly woke up at 5:00am to go to work early so you could be home by 6:00 to watch Everett while I went out for the night.

You would do anything for me. You put up with me and my shenanigans, day in and day out. You even put up with me while I was pregnant for nine months, and for that, you deserve more than a blog post, you deserve a trophy.

You have supported me for five years through three jobs, and were always the first person to tell me to quit when I wasn't happy. You were the one telling me "you can" when I didn't think I could, the one telling me "you will" when I didn't think I would. You have supported my writing, my photography, and every other tiny venture I've taken on, all without blinking an eye or making me feel guilty once. I would not be where I am today, doing what I'm doing, chasing dreams, without you. That is a fact. You have been my rock, my coach in the corner, and my daily encouragement for five whole years. Thank you for believing in me, and for helping me believe in myself.

We're on a new adventure now, you and I, and there's nobody I'd rather be learning with than you. I love watching you with Everett, how sweet and attentive you are with him, calling him "goo-bear" and always being worried about every little thing.

You're an amazing dad, and an even better husband, which is saying a lot. Our marriage is far from perfect, but I honestly believe it's getting better and better with each passing day. Thank you for loving me the way that you do. Cheers to the second half of this decade, and many many more to come. I love you, Brett Gadd. Always have, always will.

-A