The Wonder Inside of the Crazy // #MySignatureMoments

April 29, 2016

Thank you ACME for sponsoring this post. Check out the new Signature family of brands from ACME, with more than 4,000 Signature products available and a 100% money-back guarantee.

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Can we just stop for a second and talk about how crazy the past couple of months have been? Maybe it was retrograde? Maybe it was just me? Anyway… on top of the really big life changes that I’ve been going through (and will talk about one day) there’s been all sorts of other craziness. Namely, that plague that I wrote about in my last post ended up lasting for three weeks! In fact, Roman is still hanging on to a bit of a cough. I mean, we’ve all had colds before, but three weeks, going on four?! For real?

I finally took Roman to the doctor on Tuesday. Even though I knew we were all on the right path, I just couldn’t stand the thought of it being something more and letting it go untreated. Sure enough, the pediatrician confirmed that it really was just a lingering cold from hell and that he should be back to 100% soon.

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On top of that craziness, I had an unfortunate series of events that led to me having a tooth pulled last week. Recovery from that has been slow-going and just a general pain in the… jaw.

At any rate, things have been stable for a few days now and I’m just starting to come up for air. It’s amazing how far “out of the game” my head goes when me and the babies are under the weather. While we were sick, I truly had to put life on hold. All of the big, pressing issues that have been weighing me down for the past few months were pushed to the wayside. Not to worry, however, they were all here waiting with a vengeance as soon as the dust settled.

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In an effort to regroup, I took the quick drive up north to my parents summer home in the woods. One of the things that I love about coming up here is stopping into the grocery store and stocking up on our favorite foods & snacks. We always stop into the local ACME right before we hit the final stretch of drive into the campgrounds. By the time we get here, the babies are ready to tear into something delicious–usually graham crackers or something sweet, if I’m being honest. (Can you blame them, though?) 😉

So since I already love ACME, I was really excited when I was invited to try out their NEW Signature line that includes more than 4,000 items–from coffee to juice, soup to cereal, fresh produce to fried chicken, and delicious prepared foods to trusted home staples–all with a 100% money back guarantee.

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We’ve spent the past couple of days taking long walks in the woods and picnicking by the lake. Signature graham crackers and apple juice have been a welcome addition to the babies’ afternoons. And, Mama has been happy to add a little bit of extra sweetness to her afternoon tea, as well.

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Cheers to products that we can love from stores that we can trust. To celebrate the new line, ACME invites shoppers to join in the conversation by sharing Signature stories, photos and videos online using #MySignatureMoments. I’m also really excited to be giving away a $25 gift card to ACME to one lucky reader. Use the giveaway widget below to enter. See terms and conditions for details.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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No matter how crazy life gets, I’m so grateful to have these little, peaceful moments to sit back, take stock, and be grateful. Even when it’s really hard to find, there is always a bit of wonder & beauty tucked inside of the insanity somewhere. If you don’t see it yet, keep looking.

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I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

A Spring Plague, Blossoms, and New Endings

April 12, 2016

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“We cannot start over, but we can begin now, and make a new ending.”

It’s been an interesting couple of weeks. Spring started to bloom and then a cold wave came in. It killed most of the early spring flowers and blossoming trees. It was so sad to see the colors freeze over, turn brown, and shrivel away. A cruel trick of mother nature. At the same time, the babies and I came down with a spring cold (see also: plague from hell). It’s been nearly a week straight of sore throats, fevers, constant coughing, and noses that just won’t stop running.

It’s been a little rough, consisting of bottomless cups of hot tea for mama and the occasional frozen pizza for lunch. But I keep telling myself, “Whatever works.” There’s plenty of time for the pursuit of perfection. Sometimes life is more just about surviving each day and making it through until bedtime by the sheer grace of God alone.

Despite all of that, the sun came out today and it was warm enough for a nice long walk. And what do you know, just as soon as that warm sunshine started hitting the earth again, new blossoms began to open up where the old ones had fallen away. So we got out and enjoyed it, runny noses and all.

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Pink & Gold Princess Party // Marina Grace Turns One!

April 7, 2016

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On March 20th, 2016 my sweet girl turned one-year-old. We celebrated the day before with a great big pink and gold princess birthday party. It was such a fun and beautiful day. Our family and closest friends were with us to celebrate. We had great food, lots of love, and lots of fun. My baby girl is blessed to be surrounded by a family that loves her so very much.

I spent nine months planning her special day and her pink and gold princess party. I really wanted it to be a true celebration of her first year of her life–a celebration fit for my gorgeous Princess Marina Grace. I spent a lot of time searching for all of the perfect pieces for the day. From the venue, to the catering, to her outfit–every detail was carefully planned out with love and intention.

A few of my favorite details:

  • Each child’s place setting came with a special treat–a magic wand for the girls and a golden sword for the boys
  • Adults were greeted at their place settings by a piece of baby’s breath tucked into a handwritten name tag, placed on gorgeous handmade napkins from Dot & Army
  • The centerpieces were designed by me & assembled by Ringwood Florist. There were several different flowers in various shades of pink–including Geraldine roses, Eucalyptus, and wax flowers.
  • I didn’t like any of the vase options for the centerpieces. So I went with a square glass vase and then went to work on a little DIY project. I painted each vase with modge podge and then poured on gold sparkles. I’m obsessed with how they turned out
  • Marina’s high chair was an antique that I found on Craiglist. I had my dad spray paint it white
  • The cookies were from Flourish Sweet Shop, the smash cake was from Cake & Cupcakes, and my best friend made the cupcakes
  • All of the catering was done by Kim’s Cafe & Catering. I designed cute little, tent cards for each food item to go with the princess theme, such as “Princess Pasta Salad” and “Beauty & the Beast Burgers”
  • All of the printed items were designed by me and printed by my friends at Printing Images
  • My hair & makup were done by my insanely talented friend, Gabrielle of Total Indulgence Salon
  • The day was captured by our absolutely incredible photography team–Stolen Glimpses. I can’t say enough good things about Leda & Jeff and their gorgeous work. Taking off my photographer hat for a day and allowing someone else to capture the special moments in my life is always a hard thing. Stolen Glimpses nailed it

The day was a dream come true. Everything came together and I couldn’t be more grateful for the love & generosity that surrounded my sweet girl. I hope that one day she will look back at the pictures and see how truly loved she was from the very start.

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More photographs from the day can be viewed here: Marina’s First Birthday Party Gallery.

Letting go.

April 5, 2016

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“Most things will be okay eventually,
but not everything will be.
Sometimes you’ll put up a good fight and lose.
Sometimes you’ll hold on really hard
and realize there is no choice but to let go.
Acceptance is a small, quiet room.”
–Cheryl Strayed

Sometimes I feel that I am dealing with more than a human soul should have to bear. I grasp in the darkness for a light at the end of the tunnel. Sometimes I fumble madly, overcome by fear. I think, how can a body withstand this?

But there is light in my days. There is light that I haven’t yet come to terms with. A fleeting glimmer that I wonder, at moments — Is it real? Sometimes, in the warmth of it, I stop and actually ask out loud, “Am I dreaming?” The reality of something beautiful contrasted against the pain is almost too much. Like sitting in a dark room for years and then being suddenly cast out into the harsh light of noonday, a cloudless sky, the brightest fire of the sun.

I turn toward faith. I shut my ego down and ask the divine to fill my spirit. I become an empty vessel, begging to be filled. I pray: Lord take away my fear and replace it with courage. Lord, take away my anger and replace it with kindness. Lord, take away my frustration and replace it with patience. Lord, take away my hurt and replace it with peace.

These are my prayers — whispered over and over to God. I know that these pains that I feel are messengers. I listen to them. I beg that the Universe turns them to sweetness. I can’t do it on my own. That’s the one thing that I am certain of. My God hasn’t failed me yet and I know that He won’t fail me now.

When I feel like I can’t go on any further, I turn to my breathing. Just take one breath and then another. If I can do that, I can keep going. And I do. And I will.

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Mommy & Me Session with Jessica & Gabriella

March 30, 2016

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A few weeks ago, I shot this Mommy & Me session at one of my favorite lakes. Jessica & sweet, little Gabriella were a joy to work with. The love between mother & daughter is a love like no other. It was such an honor to capture these moments.

If you’re interested in booking a session with me, I would love to work with you. Email me at denabotbyl {@} gmail {.} com.

Room Design // Dreaming of Botanicals

March 8, 2016

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Later this year, I’ll be redecorating a couple of spaces in my home. Namely, Marina’s nursery and my office. In the meantime, these spaces are stuck being uninspiring — to say the least. That doesn’t stop me from daydreaming and planning for the redesign, however.

In the past few years, I’ve developed a deep love for vintage style prints featuring botanicals, animals, and insects. There is something very nostalgic about them to me. I think they remind me of my elementary school science books. I’ll definitely be decorating one of the two spaces in this theme. If I do it in Marina’s room, it will be a soft woodland feel. If I do it in my office, it will be a bohemian, earthy feel with lots of plants and macrame.

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I’ve got my eye on several pieces. I love this local flora rug from Land of Nod for a nursery. This gorgeous bee pillow from Tesco would be perfect in a nursery or an office. Tesco has a bunch of lovely pillows and throws. I’m also a bit obsessed with this hanging chair from Anthropologie. How perfect would that be for cozying into to read or write? I think I’d never leave my office again.

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These last, drawn-out months of winter and cold weather are starting to get to me. There’s no doubt that I’m just on the verge of spring fever. It’s no wonder I’m feeling the home design itch at the moment. Since these re-designs are a way off, I suppose I had better get started on my spring cleaning to keep me busy until then.

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Image credits: Illustration 1 // Illustration 2 // Illustration 3

Spring Forward

March 4, 2016

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We’re just a week or so away from daylight savings & spring and I can’t even begin to say what that means to me. But of course, I’m going to try.

  • It means that we’re about to gain an hour of daylight.
  • It means that I survived this winter that I was certain would drag me down and kill me.
  • It means that we all survived Marina’s first year!
  • It means that I’m just on the cusp of altering my life in inexplicable, wonderful ways.
  • It means that we won’t be trapped much longer.
  • It means everything, just everything.


March is the bridge month. It’s the in between. I welcome it with open arms. It will carry us across the river into the warmth, away from the cold and the dark, and into the light. My heart races a little bit just thinking about it. All of the good that is on the way–sunshine, adventure, excitement, love.

Life can be so hard. So very hard. But after the storm, the sun always comes out once again. That’s what March means to me. I’ve seen crocuses popping up and even though it snowed–yet again–this morning, all of the flowers are there, just waiting to burst through the dirt. They’re there, just waiting.

Dealing with Toxic People: Poor Listeners

February 29, 2016

Over the years, I’ve been blessed with the “fortune” of knowing a few toxic individuals. The best things to come from these relationships are the gifts of: patience, understanding, and wisdom. On your end, of course. 😉

It has taken me a lifetime to learn some effective techniques for dealing with emotional toxicity. I’ve decided to share my wisdom with the world. These lessons are painful and hard-earned, but if I can spare even one person the pain of learning the hard way, it will make my own suffering all-the-more worth it. It will also help me in my own journey of healing.

I am going to break up this series — Dealing with Toxic People — into several parts. I could (and just might) write an entire book on the topic, but today I’m going to start with one of the things that seem to affect almost all toxic people — poor listening skills.

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Indeed, toxic individuals are almost always poor listeners. It is a part of what makes them toxic. Now, do not be confused here. Toxic people have no trouble hearing. In fact, they hear quite well. You will find that they are quite adept at hearing and will often hear what you say so intently that they will later use your very own words against you — distorted to the point that they are nearly unrecognizable — but your words all the same.

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There is a trick to effectively coping with the poor listening skills of toxic people. It is to understand the difference between listening and hearing. These are, in fact, two very different things.

Hearing is the simple act of perceiving sounds with your ears.

Listening, however, is more complex. It involves actively hearing and paying attention to what the other person is saying to you. It involves quieting your own mind, while you truly listen to what the other person says. Your mind is quiet. You are reserving judgment. You are not waiting for your opportunity to cut the other person off and break into the conversation with your own thoughts. You are just listening.

Once you recognize what constitutes good listening, it will be easy to identify poor listening. When you can recognize something for exactly what it is, you have already won half the battle in effectively coping.

The next half of the battle is about how you respond to poor listening. First, you must accept that you cannot change people. If someone is a poor listener, it is very likely that he or she will always be a poor listener. Now, accept that and rest in the knowledge that while you cannot change the way that others act, you can change the way that you react.

So, how should you react? Here is my golden, hard-earned wisdom. When someone is not listening to you, your body’s natural response is to get emotional. You will instinctively feel upset, hurt, angry, and frustrated. Your heart may start to race, your breathing will become quick. Your head may even start to hurt as you find yourself desperately trying to get out your thoughts, feelings, and emotions while the other person is continually cutting you off, failing to hear you, and twisting your words.

The key to deal with this is that you must act non-emotionally. Shut off all of those emotional instincts of frustration. Intentionally slow your breathing. Remain calm. Speak slowly and carefully. Say what you have to say and nothing more. Do not allow the other person to bully or pressure you into speeding up your speech, stuttering, or saying something that you regret. Say what you intended to say, how you intended to say it, and nothing more.

In extreme cases, if the person refuses to let you speak, simply walk away and come back to the conversation at a later time, when emotions have cooled. Another option is to write an email or letter when you have calmed down. Walking away from the conversation entirely is another option, but that is only if you intend to cut the toxic person out of your life entirely. Otherwise, it is important to express yourself and/or resolve conflicts eventually so that things do not pile up, later leading to resentment or explosions.

To recap, the most important tip that I can give you for dealing with toxic people is to always rely on logic (your brain) rather than emotion (your heart). This is especially true, when it comes to dealing with poor listeners. It is not an easy thing to accomplish. Our natural instinct is always to react with emotion — Fight or Flight. Toxic people know this and they depend on the fact that you will react with emotion.

When you get emotional, they get the upper hand. You can take back control by remaining calm and logical. When you do this, the toxic person will basically short-circuit. They don’t know how to handle it. When you refuse to engage in their negativity, most times they will either: A. be forced to join you on a level of rationality and respect; or B. (the more likely case) they will get frustrated that they can’t engage/abuse you, and they will walk away. Either situation is better than the alternative, which is you getting frustrated, or worse.

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I hope that you will use this technique to help you cope with the toxic people in your life. Whether it is a coworker, a spouse, a parent, or someone else — dealing with toxic people is never easy. Unfortunately, toxic people are very adept at hiding their toxic traits and kind people are very good at overlooking them. Therefore, you may find yourself deeply enmeshed in a toxic relationship, friendship, or work situation before you even realize what is going on.

It is never too late to learn how to cope with toxicity. It is also important to remember that you can always find a way out of toxic relationships. Even if you feel trapped, know that your situation is never hopeless. Keep educating yourself and keep moving in the right direction.

I hope that you have found this post to be useful. If so, please let me know in the comments and I will write some more posts on the topic of dealing with toxic people.

HALT: A Simple Reminder for Self-Care

February 27, 2016

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So many times in life, we discover that the little things really are the big things. As I wrote in my last post, I’ve been going through some major life changes and they’re far from little. But what I’ve noticed is that although the big things are always looming in the back of my heart — it’s the little things that tend to have the most bearing on my mood.

Throughout the day, there are times that I feel irritated, stressed, anxious, or just “off.” I’m sure that you have those moments, too. Often times, these feelings are a simple result of lack of self-care. Life gets in the way, we focus on doing the ten thousand things that need doing, and self-care falls to the bottom of the list.

Lately, I’ve been having more of these moments than usual. So I’ve started making an extra effort to be mindful. Recently I stumbled across the acronym HALT which stands for: Hungry? Angry? Lonely? Tired? Four simple questions that I can ask myself when I’m feeling off. Stopping to pause and ask myself these questions almost always leads to the root of the problem.

  • If I’m hungry (or thirsty), a snack, meal, glass of water or tea can fix things instantly.
  • If I’m angry (or sad or scared), I identify the thought that is causing my feelings. I quickly assess whether there is a quick fix and if not, I pray that my anger, sadness, and fear be replaced with acceptance and love.
  • If I’m lonely, I pause to speak with God; read a bible verse; or call/text a friend. (Side note: For moms with little ones, I don’t recommend seeking more time with your children to cure loneliness. Motherhood is nearly synonymous with loneliness and even though we love our babies dearly, most of the time, the loneliness of motherhood can only be cured by adult interaction.
  • If I’m tired, well, this one is a bit tricky for me at the moment. There are lots of nice solutions to exhaustion such as going to bed earlier, waking later, taking a nap, or meditating. Unfortunately, these things aren’t always possible, especially for mothers of little ones, but if at all possible — rest. If you can’t, take an extra long shower and have another cup of strong tea. 😉

These things seem simple, but frequently stopping to check in with myself, goes a long way. Self-care is critical, especially when we’re going through difficult times.

Take care of yourself, friends. I’m sending you love & light.

D.

heart spill // february

February 24, 2016

Be brave.

I’m tired and sad in a heartbreaking way. I think perhaps I shouldn’t be writing this today. After all, I felt fine yesterday. But perhaps I only felt fine for a little while at a time. Perhaps, I really am just sad and tired. And that’s okay.

My life has been turned upside down recently. A series of long anticipated events coming together, a perfect storm, if you will. And now I’m existing in an inexplicable state of chaos, a stepping stone from one place to another, limbo, purgatory.

On top of all the things that I can’t talk about, there’s the mothering. Marina is about to turn one and while things are far better than they once were, she’s still about as needy as any one-year-old you could dream up. Roman is good and sweet, but he’s a few months away from turning three and he needs so much. He craves constant interaction, conversation, learning, activity. He craves everything. He’s just exploding with wonder & curiosity — and it’s beautiful but it’s devastatingly exhausting.

Marina is sleeping on her own, but she is up between two and four times each night, needing to comfort nurse back to sleep. I’ve tried letting her cry — I have no mercy at this point, but she will cry endlessly. She has a force of will unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed. It’s difficult now. But I believe that it will serve her well later in life.

I’m not apt to self pity. I’m not prone to negativity. I’ve spent half a lifetime learning to see the positive in everything. I’m always one to pick myself up by my bootstraps, make a plan, and take action. Fuck sitting around in a stew of misery, you know. But lately, things have deteriorated so severely that I’m rendered nearly helpless.

It’s like I’m constantly standing on a skateboard over a gorge. It’s taking every shred of strength and energy to keep myself upright, to stop the board from slipping out from under me so that I tumble down and break every bone in my body or worse.

I know, I know, it sounds dramatic and extreme. But it’s where I’m at. Once again I’m writing in metaphors, unable to talk about the reality of what I’m going through. But that’s been a theme in my life for a long while.

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On the other hand, I have to be true to myself. And even though I’m sad and exhausted to my very core, my true self still focuses on the light at the end of the tunnel. I know it’s there. I know it’s waiting. I know that the night is darkest just before the dawn.

My ‘word’ for 2016 is bravery and I’ll be damned if I am anything but brave this year. I’m facing all of my demons head on and slaying them one by one. And even when I am scared, even when I don’t feel brave at all, you can bet that I will put on my bravest face and keep on trudging forward. That’s what I’ve been doing and that’s what I will keep doing.

D.

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