140903-Ashley_Texas_014“Monday Mornings” aims to prove there is beauty in every mother’s morning, even if we need an outsider to see it. Thanks to a partnership with Allstate, I am flying lifestyle photographer Raquel Bianca across the US to document the morning routines of twelve mothers in five different cities. This is our first stop in Houston, Texas.

Ashley and her husband Nick are both full-time working parents who live just outside of Houston with their three-year-old Kaelan, their eight-month-old Evie, their dog Sully and two cats named Rudder and Lily.

140903-Ashley_Texas_007They have both lived in Texas their entire lives and Ashley says Texas pride plays a big role in their lives.

“When traveling abroad, I’ve been asked before where I’m from and it’s second nature to say ‘Texas’ instead of ‘America.’  I’m a history nerd so the history of Texas is so interesting to me.  We’re the only state to join the union as a soveriegn nation so that’s a big point of pride with a lot of Texans. Our economy and job market are great and the cost of living is low. I hope we raise our kids to exude that typical southern charm.”

140903-Ashley_Texas_010Ashley described her mornings as “rushed and busy”.

“My husband and I are so exhausted by the end of the day, we don’t feel like doing any morning prep at night. We sleep as late as possible and then do everything we need to in the morning.”

140903-Ashley_Texas_002Ashley says the only way they can accomplish this is by working as a 50/50 team.

“My husband helps with everything.  Actually, he’s the doer and I’m more the helper. We wake up at the same time, do everything together, and leave the house at the same time.  I think that’s what enables us to sleep as late as we do.”

Because they are so efficient with their time, Ashley was afraid their mornings lacked connectivity with their kids.

“Sometimes I wish we had mornings like you see on TV, where the breakfast table is set, OJ is in a glass decanter, eggs and bacon are on the table and everyone is happily sitting around chatting before they start the day.  But I realize that’s not possible for us. Because we let everyone sleep late, we don’t get to spend a ton of time with each other in the mornings, so I hope to see some quality interaction in the photos.”

Ashley and Nick get up together at 6:45am and start prepping for the day before the kids wake up.

140903-Ashley_Texas_001Nick always makes Kaelan’s lunch and washes bottles for Evie, while Ashley makes them both coffee and feeds the pets.

140903-Ashley_Texas_003It varies when the kids wake up, but on this morning, they were still asleep at 7am, so Ashley decided to make the bed.

140903-Ashley_Texas_004“When Nick saw me make the bed, he shook his head. I NEVER make the bed. Nick usually makes the bed and now he’s convinced the internet is going to think I’m the one who does it all the time.”

Ashley explained how Nick is the “proactive one” who does more of the housework.

“I tend to be a little messier, whereas Nick likes everything to be tidy – so it’s more important to him that it get done. He always says that if it weren’t for him, I’d have more shoes on the bedroom floor than in our closet.”

At 7:15am, the kids still weren’t awake so Ashley started to get herself ready.

140903-Ashley_Texas_005“I let the kids sleep until they are ready to wake whenever possible. If the kids are sleeping, it’s because their bodies need it and I don’t want to interrupt that. This means I don’t get much snuggle time or hang out time with them in the mornings, but I’m happy to let their little bodies recharge.”

Ashley woke up Kaelan at around 7:30am, when any later threatened to make everyone late.

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140903-Ashley_Texas_011Once Nick came upstairs to help with Kaelan, Ashley went to wake Evie.

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140903-Ashley_Texas_013Then Ashley got Evie changed, dressed and fed her medicine for a silent reflux issue she has had since she was three weeks old.

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140903-Ashley_Texas_020Kaelan eats breakfast at school so Ashley usually sets him up in front of the television while she feeds Evie her bottle. Nick takes this opportunity to get dressed.

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140903-Ashley_Texas_023“I sometimes allow the mommy guilt to set in that I’m using the TV as a babysitter, but I remind myself that he spends 8 hours at school with no TV.”

140903-Ashley_Texas_025When Evie is done with her bottle, Ashley takes her upstairs to play on the floor while she does a five minute make-up routine and a quick straightening with the flat iron.

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140903-Ashley_Texas_028“I’ll throw a few toys down for Evie and she plays with them for a bit, but ultimately ends up in our bathroom to play with the scale. It lights up blue so she’s fascinated with it. I just have to take care with my flat iron (she’ll make a bee-line to pull on the cord). But other than that, she’s perfectly content in there with us.”

140903-Ashley_Texas_029Ashley explains why she saves getting dressed for last.

“With three animals, pet fur is unavoidable. The last thing I do before we get ready to leave is put on my pants – and I still end up with pet fur everywhere!”

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140903-Ashley_Texas_031At 8am, they all pack up and get ready to go. Ashley and Nick work together to get everyone out the door at the same time.

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140903-Ashley_Texas_034“I feel very fortunate to have a husband who is present. Meaning, he’s not just there, he actually helps. I’ve had to get the kids ready alone on a rare morning when he’s out of town and it’s very fast-paced and kind of lonely. Sure, I have Kaelan to talk to and Evie to coo at, but it’s not the same as having Nick there in the morning. We don’t even talk that much, but his presence is very comforting.”

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140903-Ashley_Texas_036140903-Ashley_Texas_038Ashley says the final push out the door is the most stressful part of their morning.

140903-Ashley_Texas_039“We usually have five or six bags, two kids and us. The dog is racing in and out and we’re trying to keep the mosquitoes from going inside, but Kaelan is intent on leaving it open. We’re making sure the lights are off, the pantry door is shut, there is nothing out that Sully can chew on… Do I have my keys? Where are my sunglasses? It can be really chaotic so I try and laugh at it instead of getting frustrated.”

Finally, the team splits up— Nick takes Kaelan to school and Ashley takes Evie to her sitter, before they both head to their own jobs.

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140903-Ashley_Texas_042I asked Ashley what she thought of the photos.

“Looking through them I was saying ‘awwww’ quite a bit.  Maybe it’s because a photo is taking a moment and forever pushing pause. Our morning seems so much more calm and loving than I thought it would.”

Ashley went on to talk about moments in the photos she had been hoping to find.

“There’s one of me in Evie’s room where we’re looking at each other that really spoke to me.  I feel like we’re having a moment instead of me just getting her up and dressed. And another when I’m in the recliner feeding Evie, laughing pretty hard about something. I know we have entertaining moments, but I never realized I actually laugh at stuff like that.”

Ashley admitted there was one photo that wasn’t true to life.

“When Nick saw the picture of me making the bed, I think his exact word was ‘LIES!!!’ Ha! I literally never make the bed.”

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This post is part of the “Monday Mornings” series sponsored by Allstate. Every family has a special morning routine, and as we continue this journey of documenting different mothers across the country, it’s clear that there is beauty in all of our mornings. As the nation’s largest publicly held insurance company, Allstate is dedicated not only to protecting what matters most—but to guiding families to live the Good Life, every day.