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.

when love is a relay.

For Brett. Puerto Vallarta-9

 

We are driving the same drive we have driven hundreds of times, 90+ miles from here to there, mostly freeway, always stop and go traffic through the city of Davis. It is gloomy and cloudy and the skies are every shade of grey, which is not fitting at all, actually.

It is Easter.

Everett starts to whine, and then cry, and in 10 seconds his face turns green and I know exactly what is happening.

"Get off, we need to pull over!" I yell, followed by a more peaceful, "It's okay buddy, you're okay, it's okay, it's okay."

Alas, we are too late, and chunks are flying out of his mouth.

Carson is screaming his head off, as he normally does during stop-and-go traffic. Brett flies across three lanes and we get off on the next exit. Farmland and a single gas station. That'll do.

We pull into a parking spot and it starts to rain (because sometimes life is like a movie).

Brett hops out immediately to tend to Everett and for the first time that day, I realize it is unseasonably cold. The wind howls and rattles the car back and forth, while my husband of seven years wipes vomit off our firstborn.

I un-click my seatbelt and unbuckle Carson, who is still screaming, and, as it turns out, is covered in spit-up himself.

"I don't suppose we have a change of clothes for Ev?" Brett asks.

"I think there's a sweater back there somewhere," I reply.

I console Carson with a two-minute nursing session. Brett stands in the rain, droplets staining his shirt, and changes Everett out of his barf shirt into the spare sweater. Both of them hop into the front seat, across from Carson and I.

And we look at each other and we laugh because there was nothing else to do but laugh. Everett chimes in with a giggle, and Carson smiles. The car rocks ever so slightly with the wave of the wind while raindrops pelt the windshield.

And we sit there, parked at the gas station on Easter Sunday, all four of us huddled in the front seat, limbs crammed together, listening to the rain and trying to ignore the scent of vomit permeating the car.

This is our life.

***

I've been thinking about how my marriage has changed since having our second baby. We are more tired, of course. There is more laundry to do, more dishes, more baths to give, less of us to go around. We are in man-to-man defense mode most of the time.

You take this kid, I'll take that one. You feed this kid, I'll feed that one.

There is no break, no time to sit, no time to relax. We are always doing something: feeding kids, changing kids, bathing kids, cleaning up spit-up, cleaning up pee, cleaning up toys, cleaning up yogurt, you get the idea. It's ironic how much time we spend cleaning, given that our house is a complete disaster on most days.

We split the responsibilities as best we can. We negotiate time away and we negotiate the chores and we try very very hard not to complain.

Do you want to do dishes or bedtime? Do you want to do baths or laundry? Do you want to go grocery shopping or watch the kids?

It's a cycle, and it never stops. We're two ships passing in the night, half asleep with blue-eyed children in our arms. We're learning the ins and outs of our own exhaustion, our own debilitating frustration, our own shortcomings as parents. We're learning to read each other better, to understand the different types of tired, to notice the I-can't-do-this-anymore looks on each other's faces.

Right now, parenting feels like a giant relay race with no end in sight. We're simply running different stretches at different times, but the race never stops. We're taking turns and running till it hurts, until we need a break, until we're running so fast we can't breathe. And then, when we simply can't go any further, when our knees are about to give out, we tag each other.

Tag. You're it. 

And then it's my turn and I'm running and I'm not stopping and I'm pouring the Cheerios and cleaning up the yogurt and breastfeeding and trying not to yell. I'm behind on everything: work, e-mails, gifts, thank you's, meal planning, laundry, 40 pieces of unopened mail. I'm reading books and doing finger puppets and changing diapers and giving time-outs and I'm going going going with sweat dripping down my face, heart pounding out of my chest, and then it is 6:07pm and my knees are about to give out.

Tag. You're it. 

And then he's running and he's not stopping and he's wrestling and playing catch and tickling baby feet and giving baths. He's exhausted from his day, his job, his stress, the overwhelming burden and privilege to provide for a family of four. He's warming bottles and reading more books and doing dishes and he's going going going, fire in his lungs, and then it is 8:24pm and his legs are done.

Tag. You're it. 

And somedays we have barely said anything to each other aside from hi, how was your day, it was fine, how was yours, it was fine, the kids did _____ and it made me laugh and the kids did _____ and it made me angry and I'm so tired, are you tired? When will we not be so tired?

We ignore the piles of mail, the to-do's that aren't done, and opt to collapse on the couch instead. He finds the Netflix binge du jour while I set up my breast pump and we watch TV with the familiar sound of milk filling bottles in the background.

We go to bed too late, as always, he sets the alarm and I turn on the oscillating fan, and our bodies melt into the mattress side by side. We rest, for just a moment, before the next stretch of running, which comes only a few hours later at 3:02am. Every single night at 3:02am I get up and start running, because it's my turn, while he dreams until 6:47am, and then it's his.

Back and forth, round and round, we're on the hamster wheel that never stops. We're learning to love each other in stolen glances, in midnight whispers, in hamstring stretches and water breaks. A lot of the time it feels like we're parenting separately, running separately, resting separately. I never knew co-parenting could feel this isolated, this exhausting, this lonely in our own house. It feels like we're running in two different directions with two different kids, doing two different things, only stopping occasionally to check in with each other: are you okay?

We're seven months in and I still feel like we're in survival mode, like this is harder than it's supposed to be and we never have enough help and how is my baby still not sleeping through the night? I think a lot of people would say that the transition from zero kids to one kid was The Hardest but my truth is the opposite---zero to one was a breeze compared to this. And zero to one was not a breeze. I think about all the families with three young kids, and four young kids, and five young kids, and I'm just dumbfounded. How are they not drowning?

I have to believe that this is a phase, that this too shall pass, that pretty soon things will click into place and parenting two young children won't feel so stressful and chaotic and physically draining. But the truth is: I really miss running together. I miss parenting side by side.

We'll get back there, eventually, I think. I hope.

For now, I just need to keep reminding myself: even though we're not always running at the same time, we're still running the same race, and we're on the same team, chasing the same prize, and damn---there's nobody I'd rather relay with than him.

sometimes someone needs to cry.

WMHR-1 I am getting really good at doing things with one hand. Just yesterday I was holding Carson with one arm while assisting Everett on the potty while also catching up with a friend on speakerphone.

Being a mom to two kids feels a bit like being an octopus (I would imagine). All my limbs are constantly doing things, holding people, helping pull up pants, cutting cheese slices, velcro-ing shoes. I'm moving, always moving, helping someone with something. My arms move without thought, both fluidly and jerkily, as I try not to drop a sippy cup or even worse, a child.

I'm five months into this gig of being outnumbered, and for a while now, I've been trying to meet All The Needs. I've enforced time outs while breastfeeding and I've assembled lego cars while changing a diaper. I've opened fruit pouches and sang songs and wiped boogers, all while holding a baby. I've done my best to tend to both kids at the same time to avoid one of them crying/whining/fussing/melting into a puddle of pathetic on the floor.

But the thing is, sometimes I have to pee. And sometimes I have to eat a sandwich to keep from getting hangry. And sometimes someone is going to cry. I have two hands and two arms and while I'm using them both a good 95% of the day, sometimes I cannot help everyone all at once.

Sometimes Everett is going to get the banana yogurt because we're all out of strawberry, and he will cry. Sometimes Carson is not going to have his diaper changed right away, and he will cry. Sometimes they don't want to take baths or ride in the car or go down for naps and they will cry, cry, cry. Sometimes a day will be excruciatingly difficult, and, well, I might cry too.

When Brett went back to work after Carson was born, I remember being overwhelmed by the amount of crying. It seemed like someone was always crying, and the house was forcibly loud. You start to tune it out, eventually, but that noise can hurt your ears after a while.

Much like anything else in motherhood, you just have to accept it -- it being the thing that drives you momentarily crazy. You have to ride the wave instead of pushing against it, because the wave is bigger than you and it's always going to win. Even though these kids weigh a combined 42 pounds, on most days, they feel bigger than me. Louder than me. More forceful than me.

My ears aren't necessarily happy about it, but I'm learning to accept the noise. Nobody is going to faint from the wrong flavor yogurt. I'm pretty sure babies don't suffer longterm if they have to occasionally wait ten minutes to nurse.

I guess you could say we're all in touch with our emotions in this house.

If you need to have a good cry, as we all sometimes do, feel free to come on over. Chances are, one of us will probably join you.

inconvenient.

I somehow made it 2.5 years as a mom without so much as even acknowledging their existence. Scratch that---one time I almost got ran over by a couple of kids in the freezer aisle who came barreling past the frozen meatballs, whizzing by me with a blur of metal. I'm talking about the Trader Joes tiny shopping carts.

You know the ones. They're meant for kids to use. I'm not sure for what purpose, to teach children how to steer a cart? To teach them how to grocery shop? To annoy every single other person in the store?

I think Everett noticed them once and inquired innocently, "Momma, what's dat?"

I responded like I usually do when I simply can't be bothered with something as inconvenient as tiny shopping carts.

"Those are shopping carts, buddy! Maybe next time."

He asked if we could buy grapes and that was that. (I am going to miss his toddler attention span when he gets older.)

But I digress.

It was a foggy Wednesday morning and it had been a rough week. When I say rough, I mean there had been an incident involving diarrhea in the car seat. I repeat: Diarrhea. In. The. Car. Seat. We were all a little on edge, we were all tired. We were all sick of potty training and sick of the crummy weather.

We were out of milk and cheese and cereal and even though the idea of grocery shopping with two kids gives me anxiety, I decided to suck it up because I was hungry for cheese and we had nothing better to do. So I packed up the kids and the 84 things required for us to leave the house and off we went.

I don't know if it was the fog or the Sam Smith song playing on the radio or what, but something came over me in the parking lot.

Today's going to be the day, I thought to myself.

It's tiny shopping cart day. (cue dramatic music)

I've been thinking a lot about inconvenience lately, and how bothered I am when things are inconvenient. Getting two kids in and out of two car seats every time I need to run a simple errand? Inconvenient. Spending 45 minutes every day playing whack-a-mole to get two kids to go down for a nap at the same time? Inconvenient. Needing to pack 84 things every time we leave the house so we are prepared for things like diarrhea in the car seat? SO VERY INCONVENIENT.

If I'm being totally 100% honest right now, just taking care of two children every day is pretty inconvenient. Don't get me wrong, my children are miracles and I love them more than life itself but let's call a spade a spade: everything is harder to do with a toddler and infant in tow.

I don't always have a great attitude about it. I sigh loudly and I lose my patience often. I hate that about myself, and I've been thinking about how I can change (both my perspective and actions).

So on that foggy Wednesday morning, I decided to embrace the inconvenience. I mean, why the heck not? Grocery shopping with two kids is already a ton of work. It's already going to take twice as long as it would if I was there alone. Why not turn an otherwise boring errand into a grand adventure for at least one of my kids?

As soon as I fished the tiny shopping cart out of the line-up, Everett's face lit up like a Christmas tree. He felt so grown-up and proud pushing his very own cart up and down the aisles. We stopped at the produce section and I let him pick which color grapes. I started filling his cart with all his favorite snacks: bananas, granola bars, carrot applesauce, cheese sandwich crackers. He trailed right behind me the entire time grinning ear to ear. He almost crashed into two different people, saying "Whoa! Watch out!" each time. I'm sure they appreciated that (good thing he's cute).

When we went up to the checkout counter, he handed every single thing---one by one---to the cashier, naming each item.

"Yogurt!"

"Pouches!"

"Nanas!"

"Cheesy crackers!"

Bless her heart, she let him empty his whole cart. As soon as it was empty, Everett turned to me and said, "Momma, I put it back."

He wheeled his cart back over to the line-up and much to my surprise, perfectly shoved it into the other carts, just as he had seen me do dozens of times. The cashier seemed equally impressed, and handed Everett a sheet of stickers.

As we packed everything and everyone back into the car, I asked him if he had a good time grocery shopping.

"Dat was fun, momma! I wanna do it again."

And you know what? It was fun. It was so fun that for a minute there, I totally forgot it was inconvenient.

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you just had a baby.

To: myself, and anyone else who needs to read this. Ashlee

You just had a baby.

I know your jeans don't fit. It sucks. I know you tried on seventeen pairs at Nordstrom Rack last week and almost cried in the dressing room. I know you went to Gap after that and tried on fourteen other pairs and almost cried in that dressing room. I know the only thing you bought that day was a pair of sweatpants and a loose white t-shirt. It's okay.

You just had a baby.

I know your to-do list is never finished. I know you're worried about things like savings accounts and college funds and life insurance and making a will. You don't need to do any of those things today. You'll do them soon enough.

You just had a baby.

I know you're trying to balance your dream job (which pays nothing, yet), and your regular job (which pays a little), and trying to figure out how to pay for daycare and how to find a daycare and how to not feel guilty about using a daycare. I know more than anything right now, you want help with your super active toddler who needs to run run run while you need to sit sit sit and breastfeed, again. It's okay.

You just had a baby.

I know you're trying to figure out how to cook meals that are not scrambled eggs and how to stop running out of milk at the end of the week and how to get your toddler to poop in the potty. I know you secretly just want 100 hours of babysitting so you can make a baby book and create a meal plan and go to Costco and organize your closet and shave your legs and write overdue thank you cards and clean off your desktop and cut your fingernails and vacuum every room and maybe, just maybe, watch a movie? With popcorn? And milk duds? It's okay to wish for those things.

You just had a baby.

I know everyone is starting Whole30 and making 25 resolutions and setting goals and choosing One Word for the year. I know you're eating peanut butter cups in the bathroom and making resolutions you don't even think you'll keep and trying to think of One Word that isn't SURVIVE but it's the One Word you keep coming back to because damn, this two-kid thing is hard.

I know you're exhausted. And frustrated. And overwhelmed. And sleep deprived. And thankful. And grateful. And happy. And tired.

You just had a baby.

I know everything feels undone. I know being a grown-up sucks. I know your house is a mess. I know you have writer's block. I know you feel behind. I know you wish you were superwoman. I know. I know.

But.

You just had a baby.

So, let's stop pretending like that didn't just happen. And let's give you some grace and permission.

You don't have to answer every e-mail, every text, or every invitation that comes your way. You don't have to keep your house clean or make fancy dinners this week or plan your family vacation for the year. You don't have to take your toddler to the dentist or figure out how to save for college right now.

Let it be.

Eat a bagel. Heck, eat two bagels. Let your baby nap on your chest. Pretend to be a dinosaur with your toddler. Go to Target by yourself and look at all the things. Watch Parenthood and cry a little. Go to brunch with your friends. Rest.

You're fine.

And when you go to bed tonight thinking of the 63 items left on your to-do list, feeling unaccomplished and disappointed in yourself, I want you to repeat after me.

I. Just. Had. A. Baby.

A baby!

Relax. You're doing great.

Love, Me.

is it worth it?

It started with potty training. (It always starts with potty training, yes?)

We began on a Monday, planning to take full advantage of the rainy weather. Our house was stocked: juice boxes, salty snacks, tons of fiber, and two brand new packs of Cars undies. Bring it on.

At the risk of being that mom blogger, this is what I really want to say about potty training: the potty training was easy; the poop training is a whole different story. It’s all fun and games until your toddler gets constipated.

Moving on.

Picture this: Brett and I stuck in the house for an entire week with a toddler peeing on the floor and a newborn that needs to nurse every two hours and so much rain and so much laundry and nobody is sleeping well and is it okay to give your toddler a laxative?

I’m an optimist; always have been, maybe always will be. When I read a book about running a 3-day potty training bootcamp, I assume we will be done potty training in 3 days, maybe 4 or 5 at the most. We needed to be done quickly because on day 5, we had big plans—The Polar Express. We had dropped a serious chunk of change on tickets months ago. It was going to be our Big Family Christmas Experience: a one hour train ride to the North Pole, a visit with Santa, cookies and hot chocolate, and our best friends in tow. All the ingredients for a magical evening.

Poor planning on our part meant that on Polar Express day, Everett was still potty training and Carson was due for his two-month shots.

The day was sheer chaos, as you can imagine. Everett had a tummy ache and in a moment of preventative panic, we decided to put him back in a diaper so he wouldn’t have an accident onboard a one-hour train ride with no bathroom. Anytime Carson was awake, he was screaming like a banshee.

We left the house late, as usual, and our process of getting into the car was worthy of reality television. Sometimes I wish we had a nanny cam set up in our garage to capture the pure shitshow that is our family trying to leave the house with two kids.

While Brett put both kids in the car, I triple checked the diaper bag: burp cloths, diapers, pacifier, Solly wrap, extra change of clothes for both kids, sippy cup for Ev, snacks, wallet, phone. Check check check. I could hear Everett whining from the car for his hot wheels jeep because he simply cannot function with less than four toys in the carseat with him.

Forgot a jacket for Everett. Forgot a sweater for myself.

Back inside. Back inside.

My phone had 20% battery, need the USB charger. Back inside.

(Heaven forbid my phone dies and I no longer have the ability to capture these impending magical memories.)

Carson woke up screaming bloody murder, red face, hyperventilating. Need Tylenol stat. Back inside.

Where’s the syringe? We have no syringe? What happened to our medicine syringe?! WHY ARE WE SO UNPREPARED FOR LIFE AT THIS VERY MOMENT?

We pulled out of the driveway as Everett was crying and Carson was screaming. Brett and I looked at each other and laughed, not because anything was funny but because everything was stressful in a way that makes you laugh awkwardly as a coping mechanism. This better be worth it, I thought to myself.

We parked in the structure and started walking towards the ticket station. It was cold and just starting to rain and Everett was complaining that his tummy hurt and Carson was squirming in the wrap, attached to me with a permanent “shhhhhh” streaming from my lips. Our friends showed up and saved the day with a syringe, like drug dealers only better.

Once aboard the train, we all got settled. There were children everywhere. I shouldn’t be allowed to say this because I am a mother but when there are children everywhere, I want to evacuate. This is how I know I am not meant to be a preschool teacher or a childcare worker or even a nanny for more than three children. Our train was very, very loud.

30 minutes later we arrived at the "North Pole". Carson was starting to fuss so I rocked my body back and forth, holding him close in the wrap and shushing him as best I could. I looked over to my right just in time to see Everett with his hands pressed against the window, taking in the sights. When Santa came into view he started waving in that adorable way that toddlers do, shaking his entire arm back and forth with excitement.

“Hi Santa! Hi Santa!” he said over and over again.

I stared at him, desperately trying to see Santa from his perspective. I tried to see the magic that he saw. The innocence. The belief. For two minutes, I forgot all about potty training and the rain and Carson’s shots and the drama of us leaving the house. For two whole minutes, I watched the world through my toddler’s eyes and my heart skipped a beat watching pretend snow fall over pretend elves wrapping pretend presents.

And then those two minutes were over.

And then Carson lost his mind. The only thing worse than a screaming baby is a screaming baby in a confined space, such as a train. I frantically ripped him out of the wrap, attempting to unwrap fabric from my body while simultaneously unsnapping my bra strap and arranging the nursing cover around my neck.

Santa was on the train now, walking down the aisle passing out bells. He nonchalantly threw two at me and made a joke about me having my hands full.

Getting off the train was just as much work as getting on it. Can you take the diaper bag? Don’t forget Ev’s blanket. I need to get the wrap back on. Is that your sweater? Where’s my phone?

We walked back to the car and Everett started to cry, complaining of a tummy ache again. Carson screamed while I wrestled him into the carseat. I wish I could scream sometimes and get away with it.

Brett and I climbed into the car last, exhausted and hungry.

What do you want for dinner?

I don’t care.

I’m hungry.

Me too.

Should we stop and get something?

With the kids melting down in the backseat? No.

We lament over everything: the potty training, our empty fridge at home, the diaper bag that is never properly packed. I tell him that sometimes I am tired of life feeling so hard. That in the grand scheme of things, our life isn’t hard, but that taking care of a toddler and a newborn is a special kind of difficult. I feel like I spend hours and hours and hours trying to get us to wherever we need to be, just so we can be there for 30 minutes and not fall apart. It feels like it takes all day to prepare for something like The Polar Express just so I can watch my toddler wave to Santa for two whole minutes.

And I am left with the burning question: is it worth it?

Truth be told, it would be a lot easier to stay home and turn on the TV than go anywhere with two kids. It would be much easier to be permanent homebodies, only leaving the house for an occasional run to Chipotle when necessary.

But what kind of life is that?

And this is where being a parent becomes tricky because when you are a parent, you live an entirely different reality from your child. When I talk to Everett about The Polar Express, he remembers going on a choo choo in his jammies and eating a cookie and seeing Santa. And to him, it was perfect. He doesn’t remember (or care) that it was chaos getting in the car. He doesn’t remember or care that his baby brother was screaming half the night. He probably doesn’t even remember that he had a tummy ache. Those two minutes of magic that I witnessed? Those two minutes were the whole night for Ev.

And maybe that's just what parenting is in this season. Maybe this is what life will be like for the next couple of years raising two small children who seem to need something every second of every day. Maybe I will spend 95% of our days working and preparing and cleaning and packing and checking and double checking and triple checking that damn diaper bag. All so that we can have 5% magic in our lives.

Is it worth it?

You tell me.

on time, two kids, and the importance of marveling.

Lee Brown Photography -34"It’s almost as if I had no concept of time prior to having children. I’ve spent my whole life waiting for the next stage, the next season that was surely going to be better than the present. The grass was always greener on the other side---in the future. I spent all of high school dreaming of college and all of college dreaming of my career. I spent all of my years dating dreaming of marriage and all of my marriage dreaming of babies. Dreaming, always dreaming, of what’s next and what’s to come.

And now, for the first time in my whole life, I’m not dreaming of what’s next. Because I know the season on the horizon; I know what’s next. And what’s next is me not having babies anymore. It’s a body that is done being pregnant, done birthing babies, finished breastfeeding forever. That thought haunts me in a hundred different ways.

Because as exhausted as I am today, right now this minute, pouring every ounce of myself into this newborn and toddler, wiping spit-up off my shirt and emptying that stupid dishwasher for the eighth time this week, I cannot even begin to imagine a life without babies."

....read the rest over at Coffee + Crumbs today.

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.