daddy's home.

brett & ev-1 Sometimes when I look at Everett, I can see the tiny wheels spinning in his head, brain working at full speed trying to figure out cause and effect and all that jazz.

If I push this button, the batmobile will make a noise! If I stack this cup on top of that cup, together they will make a tower! If I stand on my box of blocks, I can climb on top of the coffee table!

He's learning stuff, which never ceases to amaze me, because all things considered, I'm not really teaching him a whole lot. Sure we read and name things out loud and sometimes I show him how to do stuff, but for the most part, Ev is figuring out the way the world works all by himself.

What an incredible and terrifying realization.

Yesterday he picked up the remote control, pointed it at the TV, and pushed the red button to turn it on. Say what?! I have certainly not taught my one year old how to operate the television, but there he was, confident as all heck, raising the remote control (which is as big as his arm) straight at the TV like he had been using it his entire life.

Where did my baby go?

He's not talking yet, but he babbles constantly, often with confidence. I'm noticing that even though I can't understand him, he understands me. He knows when I say we're going "bye bye" that we're about to leave the house, and he knows when I say "night night" that it's time for a nap. He knows "bath" and "time to brush your teeth!" and "ew, poop!" and a handful of other words.

But my favorite of all of these is one of the first phrases he learned: "daddy's home!"

For the past year, every day when Brett gets home from work and I hear the garage door open, I look at Everett and smile as big as I can, and say with excitement, "Ev! Daddy's home!!!"

And no matter where we are in the house, in a bedroom or in the kitchen or sitting on the floor playing with blocks, Everett's eyes quickly turn towards the door in joyful anticipation. He usually starts to giggle and semi-hyperventilate. Brett walks through the door and says, "Where's my boy?!" as Everett squeals with delight. He practically pushes himself away from me to jump into Brett's arms.

Every day, it's as if they haven't seen each other in months, when in fact it's only been 9 or 10 hours. And every day I think to myself, this. I don't ever want to forget this. I don't ever want Everett to not be excited when Brett comes home from work. I'm sure someday he'll be a moody teenager and won't care about anything at all, especially the whereabouts of his parents, but for now, for today, and for as long as I can, we will do this. We will sit on the floor together staring at the garage door with smiles on our faces waiting for daddy to make his grand entrance.

Everett, if I only manage to teach you one thing before your second birthday, I want it to be this: daddy coming home from work is worth celebrating. He's worth all the smiles and giggles and hyperventilating your little heart can stand.

an ode to our first little house.

Ode to Our First House | Where My Heart Resides
(Disclaimer: this post is long, but our house deserves it.)

I still remember the day we came home from our honeymoon with tanned faces and full, happy hearts. We excitedly put away new dishes and towels, filling up cabinets and drawers with wedding gifts. I made room for Brett in the closet, generously offering 1/8 of the space I had occupied during the nine months I lived here alone while attending UC Davis.

This was our first home.

This is where we learned the weird things that you can only know about a person after living with them, like how Brett always gets water in the toothpaste cap and how I never replace the toilet paper roll. It was here in this house that we learned how to be married, for better and for worse and everything in between. This is where we kissed against the kitchen cabinets and threw socks at each other from across the bed, laughing till we cried on the carpet floor over something I've now forgotten.

It was here in this house that we learned how to manage our expectations and priorities, balance our finances and goals, communicate openly and honestly, and love each other well.

It was here in this house that we spent many nights curled up on the couch watching reruns of The Office, munching on popcorn with our legs tightly intertwined. This is where we talked about our hopes and dreams late at night in the darkness of our bedroom, planning for our future and discussing things like Greece and babies and retirement. This is where---early in our marriage---we created Dance Parties In The Bathroom, a tradition that will surely remain with us wherever we may go.

It was here in this house that we stood in the kitchen and cooked meals together: spaghetti with meatballs, stir fry, turkey burgers, rosemary lemon chicken, Parmesan risotto, grilled cheese with tomato soup. We found our groove, our tastes, our standard weekly rotation. This is where I learned how to garden in our tiny backyard, reaping the fruits of my labor for the first time in the summer of 2011 in the form of fresh lettuce, carrots, squash, zucchini, and miniature strawberries. This is where we hosted our first Thanksgiving, eight of us crammed around the table bumping elbows as we passed the butter.

It was here in this house that I started chasing my dreams of becoming a writer and a photographer. I stayed up late writing blog posts and researching camera lenses while Brett helped me redesign my blog a dozen times. We sat in the office side by side, him with his iMac and me with my MacBook Pro, working on this blog and my photography site for weeks on end. It was here in this house that I took a leap of faith and started Ashlee Gadd Creative. This house is where I work, every day, while Everett naps.

It was here in this house that I took my first pregnancy test and learned of Everett's existence. We stood in the bathroom in happy disbelief, hugging tightly and thanking God for the tiny miracle inside my belly. This is where we prepared for his arrival---arranging furniture and bookshelves, painting globes and cutting maps, folding onesies and assembling strollers. We sat on the couch perusing baby name books, and it was here in our living room on a cold November evening that we chose the name Everett. In December we stood in the middle of our kitchen surrounded by friends and family as we cut through a bright blue cake, confirming what my mother's intuition already knew: our baby was a boy. Everyone cheered and clapped and we drank peach champagne in celebration. This is where I spent nine long months being pregnant, working from bed in my sweatpants with my laptop and a full bag of Cheetos.

It was here in this house that we attempted to turn Everett from the breech position to the head-down position without success. We propped an ironing board against a chair and I lied on it upside down for 30 minutes at a time with frozen fried rice on the top of my belly and a heating pad at the bottom. This is where we spent the night before my scheduled c-section, down on our knees in prayer, equally full of anticipation and fear.

This was Everett's first home.

It was here in this house that Everett smiled for the first time, laughed for the first time, crawled for the first time. This is where we learned about the challenges of sleep deprivation and projectile vomiting, and where we first experienced the joy of watching the world through Everett's eyes.

It was here, standing in the front yard, that we learned that Brett's dad had passed away. This is where we both broke down crying, where we hugged each other tightly with Everett sandwiched in between us, and I prayed harder than I've ever prayed before. This is where we grieved, and continue to grieve, and through the grace and love of God, have slowly started to heal.

It was here in this house that we have grown closer, made mistakes, offered forgiveness, and learned what marriage is all about. We have spilled secrets and fears, yelled and screamed, cried from both sadness and laughter. This house has seen us at our best and seen us at our worst.

But I know that if these walls could talk, they would only tell tales of love. Real, rich, beautiful love.

May our next house be just as good, just as warm, and just as willing to graciously capture the next chapter of our story.

one foot in front of the other.

I've been dreading this day for a long, long time. For more reasons than one, but mostly because I knew Brett would be broken. Even as I type this, I feel inadequate, because I know I cannot explain in words the loss and sorrow he feels right now. Last night Brett said to me, "How are we supposed to move on from this? I'm not ready to move on."

The memorial service is over. The calls and texts have slowed down. People are back to work, chatting about the incessant heat and whining about anything and everything on social media. If I've learned one thing this past week, it's that social media should be avoided in a time of grief. You will never notice how much people complain about dumb things more than when you're grieving about something of actual importance. I had to take a break because if I heard one more person whining about the weather, or that Starbucks misspelled their name, or that they didn't feel like working out, I was going to scream. Note to self: don't complain on the Internet. I have never realized how completely and utterly obnoxious it is.

How do we move on from here? I don't have the answers. I have no idea, really. I guess we'll pick up tacos tonight, like we always do on Tuesdays. We'll give Everett a bath and sing Twinkle Twinkle before placing him in his crib and kissing him goodnight. We'll crawl into bed and talk about our days, and of course, we'll talk about Gene. We'll call Brett's mom to check in on her and see what she needs from us.

And then, we'll wake up tomorrow and we'll do it all over again. We'll put one foot in front of the other and take care of ourselves and take care of Everett.

We'll remember. We'll cry. We'll tell stories. We'll pray. Tonight, tomorrow, six months from now, twenty years from now. We'll work on our marriage and try to be better parents and have more babies and teach them all to play basketball. Why? Because that's what Gene would have wanted us to do.

So, that's what we're going to do.

for gene.

Gene Gadd December 15, 1931 - September 22, 2012


“Did you know that Brett shot 92% from the free throw line?”

Gene smiled at me from across the couch, his bright blue eyes twinkling. They matched his blue cotton shirt, tucked carefully into a pair of crisp khaki pants.

I had only known Gene for two weeks, and this was the third time he had rattled off Brett’s impressive free throw stats.

“Really?” I asked innocently. “I had no idea, Gene!”

I turned to Brett. “Did you play basketball in high school or something?”

Brett smiled. “A little,” he answered playfully.

Gene stared at me, not quite sure if we were joking or not. To be on the safe side, he reminded me of some of Brett’s other impressive basketball stats, just to make sure I knew exactly how lucky I was to be dating him.

As if I didn’t know.

Gene and I had this same conversation almost every time we saw each other during the first year that Brett and I dated. He bragged about Brett, I pretended I had no idea that Brett played basketball, and then he bragged some more. On our wedding day, Gene’s entire toast was about Brett. He told basketball stories and spouted off sports highlights, making sure everyone in the room, including my entire family, knew of Brett’s accomplishments. Gene took every possible opportunity to remind me how blessed I was to be marrying his son.

Gene always said he wanted to live long enough to see Brett become a dad. Last week after Gene’s passing, a friend wrote to me, “Good fathers raise good fathers." That statement could not be truer for Gene and Brett. Nobody could have done a better job of raising the father of my child than Gene Gadd.

And for that Gene, I will never be able to thank you enough. See you in Heaven.


dear future baby.

(disclaimer: I am not, I repeat not, pregnant.) Dear future baby,

I have been thinking about you a lot lately. Perhaps because four of my friends are pregnant, or maybe because we just crossed another item off our pre-baby bucket list. Oh well, it doesn't really matter why....I just wanted you to know that I was thinking about you today.

I was daydreaming and wondering what you'll be like. Wondering if you'll be a boy and be great at sports like your dad. Or if you'll be a girl and have long eyelashes like I do. Maybe you'll like to write, or maybe you'll love music. Either way, you're going to be so smart—I just know it.

Sometimes I wonder what it will be like to hold you, and just stare at you for hours. I know you'll be so perfect that I won't be able to take my eyes off of you. I can't wait for that day. I can't wait for the day when I am less selfish because I am too busy caring for and loving you to worry about anything else. You are going to change me, in a good way.

I have no idea when to expect you, and that's okay. I just wanted you to know that I think about you often, and I pray for you too. I pray that I will be a good mom to you someday, and that Brett will be a good dad. I pray that you will always see the love that we have for each other, and the love that we have for you.

Until then, your dad and I will be enjoying this time to ourselves. We are seeking out adventures, laughing a lot, and learning lessons we need to learn before you get here. We are very much in love and can't wait to meet you someday.

Know that you are already loved.