Book Reviews, Motherhood

The Magic of Motherhood: A Book Review

Discovering Coffee and Crumbs

I don’t remember how I stumbled across Ashlee Gadd’s beautiful internet space she’s dubbed Coffee and Crumbs, but I do remember it was love at first sight. The site’s essays are poignant, hilarious, inspiring, and faith-filled. I read about a birth mother’s forever-love for the child she’d place for adoption, a mother’s mixed emotions over seeing her baby grow up, another mother’s insightful essay on raising bicultural children. The essays run the gamut of what it means to be a mother and – for me anyway – Coffee and Crumbs is a sacred place. When I saw Ashlee’s announcement regarding the debut of her book The Magic of Motherhood: The Good Stuff, the Hard Stuff, and Everything in Between I knew I had to get it.

My wonderful mother gifted it to me for Mother’s Day. Then summer happened. Life happened. Motherhood happened. But once Elle went back to school, I grabbed ahold of my book and savored each essay. Some made me cry happy tears, some sad tears. Some essays were almost lyrical in their tone, others were conversational.

Summed up, I feel this book is a perfect snapshot of all the many ways motherhood can be manifested.

The Magic of Motherhood by Ashlee Gadd and the writers of Coffee and Crumbs is a beautiful snapshot of the many different motherhood journeys. Click to read my review at

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The Magic of Motherhood

Below you can read my summaries of 10 of the 33 essays that lingered with me the longest, coming back time and time again to remind me motherhood is hard, rewarding, confusing, sorrowful, and the greatest joy I’ll ever have the privilege of experiencing. I hope these summaries help you see why The Magic of Motherhood needs a place on your bookshelf as well.

I will say that these essays are focused on young motherhood. There aren’t any battles with angsty teenagers or concerns over basement-dwelling adult children here – The Magic of Motherhood focuses on the worry and joy of newborns, toddlers, and young kids who teach, inspire, and stretch us just as we’re starting out on our motherhood journey.

“Asking for Help” by Lesley Miller

Do you know how the (good) cashiers at the grocery store will ask if you’d like help out to your car with your cartful of groceries? Have you ever accepted their offer and said, “yes”? In “Asking for Help” a mother – exhausted from her 2nd pregnancy and with a young toddler in tow – does exactly that. The lesson she learns about letting others help is inspiring. Next time you’re at the grocery store – exhausted, sick, in pain, or otherwise just not feeling it – perhaps you’ll find yourself saying “yes” as well.

“The Glitter and the Glue” by Anna Quinlan

In this essayist’s family, the father is the glitter and the mother is the glue. Now, my husband was a little offended by this analogy when I told him about it. But deep down, we both know it’s true. Being the mom is more than just knowing who the kids’ pediatrician is, what clothes size the toddler is currently in, and whose house your kids is playing at before dinnertime. Being the mom is about being the glue – the unglamorous, sometimes annoying sticky stuff that takes a bunch of pieces and creates an entirely new whole. Fathers can (and should) be glue-y too, and it’s not this essayist’s point that fathers can’t or shouldn’t be. But when you think about family traditions, milestone moments, and who want to call during times of joy and crisis, it might just be Mom.

“Bad Math” by April Hoss

This is a tear-jerker of an essay, chronicling the essayist’s failure at math by how many pregnancies she’s had and how many living children she has. April does a beautiful job of sharing how she realized we are all, in fact, stories that continue to develop over, through, and with the trials we face.

“Profile of a Superhero” by Callie R. Feyen

A magic of motherhood, in my opinion, is learning to see ourselves as we really are: terribly inadequate and awesomely mighty at the very same time. We can use those superpowers to help our children discover their own strengths and learn from their own weaknesses to become humble and mighty individuals themselves. This is exactly the theme of Callie’s essay as she reflects on a conversation with her 7-year-old daughter.

“Trust and Forgotten Lunches” by Lesley Miller

Isn’t it so intimidating when you realize how much these little people trust us? In Lesley’s essay, “Trust and Forgotten Lunches,” Lesley is a little late bringing her preschooler her special Starbucks lunch. All the other kids have started to eat and the teacher has even offered some of her lunch to the preschooler. But the preschooler turns down the offer, not worried a single bit, fully trusting her mother would be there soon.

I know letting down my kids is inevitable. I’ve been late picking Elle up from school, missed signing her homework packet, and forgotten to wash her favorite outfit for a special day. But even though I’ve been less-than-perfect, my 10-year-old Elle still has absolute trust in me.

Lesley’s essay reminded me to have as much trust in myself as my kids (and my Heavenly Father) do.

“A Sky Full of Grace” by Ashlee Gadd

Along with letting down our kids, we will eventually make mistakes in our motherhood. Accusing a truly innocent sibling of hitting his brother. Yelling when your kids forget her homework for the 3rd time in a row. Letting your toddler fall down the stairs she just learned to crawl up because you just wanted one moment alone to pee. You know, mistakes.

Ashlee’s mistake involves a beautiful sunset, a smartphone camera, and a stroller. All ended well, but she beat herself up over her mistake. Reviewing the incident with her kind-hearted husband, she realized her mistake wasn’t as dangerous as she had initially thought it to be. Time, a loving husband, and a clearer view of what happened allowed her a more forgiving perspective on her mistake.

Grace is defined as the enabling power of Jesus Christ. Grace is what we as mothers need to forgive ourselves for our inevitable mistakes.

“You are more than your worst day.

“You are more than your biggest mistake.”

-Ashlee Gadd, The Magic of Motherhood

“A Break in the Clouds” by Katie Blackburn

When I began researching Elle’s symptoms last year that eventually led to a diagnosis of ADHD, inattentive type, I was often overwhelmed. Her symptoms could be so contradictory at times. We could hold a deep conversation about the gospel or relationships one day and she’d have trouble remembering the last thing I said the next.

“People tell me that I’ll learning a lot in this season, in these weeks and months of mental Ping-Pong, back and forth between “something is wrong” and “everything will be fine.”

-Katie Blackburn, The Magic of Motherhood

During my own season of research and “mental Ping-Pong,” I learned a lot about trusting God, praying with real intent, and hoping.

“Climbing Mountains” by Elena Krause

“Infertility is suspended grief for a funeral that hasn’t happened yet.”

-Elena Krause, The Magic of Motherhood

Elena is speaking my language when she says infertility is suspended grief. Preparations for the funeral just last and last, for weeks and then months and then years. Meeting new people or catching up with old friends, infertility can be the elephant in the room that everyone just wishes would go away – and become a baby.

Our 6-year battle with secondary infertility was exactly like that. And now that we have our miracle baby, the old grief returns when comments like “wow! such a big age gap” and “you’re smart to space them out so much” come up. (And yes, I’ve gotten both numerous times.)

The mountain climbing analogy also perfectly fits infertility. There are beautiful vistas of peace; growth; and closeness to spouse, family, and friends, but it is still an exhausting excursion. And there’s never any guarantee you’ll reach the summit in this lifetime.

This, too, is part of motherhood.

“Still Us” by Ashlee Gadd

“It’s 3:26 a.m., and the baby is crying.” That’s how this essay begins – and I bet we can all imagine some version of what comes after.

Focusing on your marriage after introducing children can be tough. You grew together so far as boyfriend and girlfriend, then husband and wife. “Father” and “mother” are titles so different than your previous ones that it can take time to settle into them.

There can be growing pains. (In Ashlee’s case, these can manifest themselves as she punches her sleeping husband’s arm to let him know it’s his turn to take care of the baby.) But there can also be forgiveness, reconciliation, and growth.

At the end of the day, when the kids have grown up and have lives and families of their own, it’ll just be me and Adam. I can’t wait until then to continue building my relationship with him. So, through toddler tantrums, homework help, and never-ending exhaustion, I need to maintain an active focus on us.

“Reckless” by April Hoss

Another story of loss, April shares how hard it was to accept her fourth pregnancy after three consecutive miscarriages. In a discussion with her husband on how difficult it was to truly accept and hope in this fourth pregnancy, her husband helped her realize that all love is reckless.

April leans on her faith to accept this pregnancy – however it ends up – relying on the story of a loving father and his demon-possessed son. (See Mark 9:14-29.) The father’s secondary plea to receive help for his own unbelief becomes April’s.

“Help my hopelessness, my unbelief.”

-April Hoss, The Magic of Motherhood

Motherhood is messy business. It’s sorrow and joy wrapped up in a little face that looks at you with infinite trust and love. Motherhood can take all of you and leave you with more than you ever had in the first place. It requires a constant supply of hope and faith.

Motherhood Is a Journey

In my experience, motherhood is a journey rather than a destination. There is no motherhood box to check off when you finally have that child in your life you’ve loved since before you knew they existed. The Magic of Motherhood exposes little bits and pieces of many mothers’ journeys and that is exactly why I love it.

Have you read The Magic of Motherhood? Share your thoughts on it below.

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