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.

“Mommy!”

“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.

labels, dreams, fears, and fuel.

where my heart resides

{ photo by Sarah Thornhill }

One of the weirdest things that has plagued me since becoming a mother is figuring out my label. I'm not even into labels, but it seems like every time I meet a new person or start chatting with another mom at the park, this question inevitably comes up:

So, do you stay home or.....?

Shortly after Everett was born, and my steady contract gig ended, I got into the habit of saying I was a stay-at-home mom. I don't know why I started saying that, since I was also running a photography business on the side, but it just seemed like an easy thing to say. After all, I was staying at home most of the time (see: wearing yoga pants covered in spit-up and eating cheetos like a boss).

Fast forward two years and I find myself still struggling with that question and those ridiculous labels. Stay-at-home mom. Work-at-home mom. Working mom. Part-time-working mom.

Two months ago, I started Coffee + Crumbs with high hopes and low expectations. I hoped it would be well received and that it would grow steadily into the place I dreamed it would be: an online community built on storytelling and me too's. I had tiny numbers in my head, small goals for us to reach by Christmastime.

And then we reached all of them in the first six weeks.

So I celebrated! I danced in my kitchen! I clinked my glass of iced tea to Everett's sippy cup in the backyard, saying "cheers" half a dozen times.

And then, being the hormonal pregnant mess that I am, I cried. Sobbed. Had a nervous breakdown. Had a second nervous breakdown. I scared Brett with all the crying, all the Freaking Out, all the incessant worrying.

While all of our numbers and goals were being met and surpassed, I started receiving an overwhelming amount of validation. E-mails. Texts. In-real-life conversations. Everyone was generous and forthcoming with compliments and feedback, affirming the idea and concept and all of the hard work behind the scenes.

I reveled in that validation for exactly five minutes before the panic set in.

That panic turned into fear and that fear turned into anxiety and that anxiety turned into a two hour cry-fest on my couch.

I was struggling. Drowning in e-mails and submissions and to-do lists that were never finished. I couldn't keep up with everything and felt like I was failing everyone. The higher our numbers climbed, the more pressure I felt to make it perfect. I was losing myself in perfectionism, and it wasn't pretty.

Something had to change, something had to give, and there weren't any easy answers. It's easy to talk about things like boundaries and delegating, but actually doing them is a whole other story.

And yet.

Smack in the middle of my nervous breakdown on the couch, I realized something.

My dreams for Coffee + Crumbs were only getting bigger.

The fear wasn't paralyzing me; in a way, it was fueling me. 

A podcast. An online shop. A beautiful hardcover book filled with our stories.

I can see all of it.

And while I have no idea where to start or how to get there, I know one thing for sure: I love what I see.

So I guess you can label me whatever you want. Right now I'm home with a toddler and another baby on the way, working my ass off during naptime and during twenty minute spurts while Curious George plays in the background. Nothing is easy; guilt follows me around like a puppy dog all day long. There's never enough time, nothing is ever finished, but nervous breakdowns aside.....I'm starting to believe this is right where I am supposed to be. Taking care of a toddler, bringing another sweet baby boy into the world, and attempting to create something meaningful for other mothers in the process.

In this season of life, this place of in-between and All The Big Dreams, motherhood fuels the content of my work, and the content of my work fuels the mother I am becoming. The lines are often blurred and while that feels impossibly hard on most days, I'm grateful I don't have to choose one or the other. I love being a mom, and I love the work that I'm doing. I'm making it all up as I go along, creating a dream job in between poopy diapers and cracker bribes. 

To hell with the labels; there is no label adequate for that.

It will not be easy, but this is only the beginning.

Cheers to leaning in.