Marina Grace @ Ten-Months-Old

February 8, 2016

Princess Marina Grace // livelovesimple.com

It’s been a little while since my last Marina update. I have a bit of guilt over the fact that I haven’t been meticulously jotting down her milestones and doing strict monthly updates for her the way that I did with Roman.

During my first pregnancy, I was getting my hair done for my maternity photographs. Next to me in the salon, there was an older woman. She asked what the occasion was and I told her. She scoffed, saying something along the lines of, “Oh you’re doing that now, but you won’t be doing anything the second time around.” She said it in a way that really devalued second pregnancies, and second babies even. It really upset me at the time. It still does, actually.

Princess Marina Grace // livelovesimple.com

What I wish she would have said is that there will be a lot less time the second time around — it won’t mean that you love your second baby any less. It will be harder. You’ll be stretched thinner. The pain and the joy of motherhood will be multiplied by two. So you might not get maternity pictures taken the second time around. You might not get around to making detailed monthly updates the second time around. But your heart will swell & stretch to make room for two and the love that you feel for each of them will be wonderful, and equal, boundless beyond measure.

So, yes, Marina Grace is ten-months-old. The great big whopping milestone that happened this past month is that she started sleeping in her crib. Actually, she started sleeping in her crib on January 1st, 2016 — 19 days before she turned ten-months-old. For her first ten months (as we all know!) she wouldn’t sleep well anywhere except in my arms. And thus, there she slept — morning, noon, and night for ten months.

Princess Marina Grace // livelovesimple.com

The change all came about because we thought that she had a cavity. When her first tooth came in, it was discolored. I immediately assumed that co-sleeping and nursing around the clock was to blame. In a panic, for fear that all of her teeth would soon be rotting out of her skull, I made the decision to sleep train her immediately.

We got a toddler bed for Roman and moved him in there. I emptied my office and we moved the crib in there, officially turning it into Marina’s room. I knew that sleep training her wasn’t going to be easy, after all, I would have done it sooner if it was. But I was resolute and I knew that because of her stubborn nature, my only option was to stick with it and be “ruthless.” As cruel as that sounds, she had slept in my arms all night, every night for ten months… so I’m not exactly a cruel mother. 😉

On a related topic, my breastfeeding moms support group stands against “crying it out” and has a strict ban on any discussion of the subject. That really pisses me off. It makes me (and every mother that allows their baby to cry for even a short period of time) sound like a super villain and I hate it. But that’s a subject for another day.

Princess Marina Grace // livelovesimple.com

Anyway, in order to “save her teeth” I made the decision and I was determined to stick to it. Gratefully, the whole thing was much less traumatizing than I anticipated. She never cried for more than a half hour and I would frequently go in to soothe and comfort her. Eventually she got with the program and within a few days she was sleeping at night and napping on her own. There really aren’t even words to explain how much it changed my life. I had free hands & arms for an additional ~16 hours a day. It was, and is, glorious. She still wakes to nurse between one and four times each night, but that’s a small price to pay and I’m so grateful for how well it all worked out.

She seems to be getting much better sleep now that she is sleeping on her own. She has become such a calmer, more relaxed & happy baby. It’s truly amazing.

The interesting part of the whole story is that a week after we finished sleep training, I finally took her to the dentist. It turned out that she did not, in fact, have a cavity. Actually she has a rare type of bacteria in her plaque called chromogenic bacteria. Simply put, we all have bacteria in our saliva. Most of us have bacteria that turns our plaque yellow. Chromogenic bacteria, on the other hand, turns plaque brown.

So the dentist simply scraped the plaque off of Marina’s tooth (the same amount of plaque that everyone has) and her tooth was shiny and white. It’s not a serious condition and there’s no telling how long it will last, could be forever. I’m just happy that she doesn’t have a cavity. The other benefit of the whole thing was that it “forced” me to sleep train her, which I may not have done if it weren’t for my fear over the non-existent cavity.

Princess Marina Grace // livelovesimple.com

Other than that, things are moving right along. She’s developing and growing just beautifully. She crawls at lightning speeds. She pulls herself up to standing. She picks up little bits of food and feeds herself. She says “Mama” and “Papa.” She dances to music. She claps when we cheer. She wants to play with everything that her brother plays with. She’s a great eater. She loves to be held by her Mama and when I’m around, it’s pretty much all she wants. However, when I’m not around she’s gotten very independent and plays on her own nicely.

Princess Marina Grace // livelovesimple.com

And on and on and on it goes. She’ll be a year old in a little less than two months and it’s really quite extraordinary. I find myself cherishing her growth and the easiness of life now that she’s gotten past her “colic” and is sleeping on her own. At the same time, I am often overcome by grief when I realize just how big she has gotten and that her babyhood is rapidly slipping away like sand through my fingers.

Mostly she is beautiful and sweet and smart and funny and I am so very grateful that she is mine.

I took this set of photographs for her birthday party invitations. Her “Princess Party” will be here before I know it. Ahhhhh!

Roman James @ Two Years & Eight Months

January 13, 2016

Roman James // livelovesimple.com

Roman James // livelovesimple.com

Roman James // livelovesimple.com

Roman James // livelovesimple.com

Two years and eight months… sweet as ever. Brilliant, strong, patient, loving, funny, handsome. God blessed me when he made me your Mama, Roman James. You have so much potential and I pray that I am doing things right. You deserve the sun and the moon and the stars, my sweet boy. Thank you for being the sunshine in my days. Thank you for being the reason that I smile. Thank you for being mine. You’ll never know, dear, how much I love you.

Roman James // livelovesimple.com

Roman James // livelovesimple.com

Roman James // livelovesimple.com

Roman James // livelovesimple.com

Roman James // livelovesimple.com

Roman James // livelovesimple.com

Roman James // livelovesimple.com

Roman James // livelovesimple.com

Roman James // livelovesimple.com

Roman James // livelovesimple.com

Roman’s gorgeous hat – c/o Blue Corduroy

My Resolutions // 2016

January 3, 2016

watercolor sky // livelovesimple.com

For the past few years, the trend seems to be to declare that one “doesn’t do resolutions.” There’s been a whole lot of jumping on the bandwagon that says, new year resolutions are silly and we should strive to be our best selves, always. (Hell, I wrote a whole post on this topic several years back.) However, I like to swim against the tide. So I’ve decided to ring in twenty-sixteen with a resolution.

Also: You get what you focus on, so focus on what you want.

Take care of my skin. // I’m not sure whether good skin has to do with taking care of it (keeping it clean, moisturizer, out of the sun) or whether it’s purely genetic. I’ve heard good arguments on both sides. However, as long as you’re keeping your skincare routine simple & natural, I feel like it can’t do any damage. So if it does good, then all the better.

I’m grateful to say that I was blessed with great skin. I’ve never struggled with breakouts or any other skin concerns. Still, at thirty-one, even great skin begins to age.

Although my skincare routine has changed over the years, since having babies, it’s been nearly nonexistent. I wash my face in the shower every other day and I load up my face with coconut oil when I get out.

My goal is to begin using a moisturizing and lifting night cream. I’ll report back with a review in a few weeks.

watercolor sky // livelovesimple.com

Do something new each month. // My life has become almost entirely monotonous. I crave adventure, new experiences, and magic. It’s what makes my heart sing. And yet, I can’t even tell you when is the last time I did something wonderful & new.

I’ve used having babies and having a lack of adventure-seeking companions as excuses for far too long. I’ve started creating a little list of adventures that I’m planning for the coming year. It needs its own post. I’ll share it here soon. Six of the list items will be things that I plan to do with the babies and six will be things that I plan to do alone. (…Wait. Doing stuff? Alone? Who am I??)

watercolor sky // livelovesimple.com

Others. // 1. Drink more water–I’m going to start a gallon per day challenge tomorrow. 2. Stop waiting for a sign–I’ve spent a lot of time this past year praying to God for a sign, for guidance. This year it’s time to shape my fate instead of being governed by it. (Side note: Fortune favors the bold. Bravery is “my word” for 2016, but more about that another time.) 3. Photography–I’ve got a bunch of photography-related goals for the year including a series of self-portraits and a special landscape shoot.

So how about you? Are you about making resolutions or do you try to set goals throughout the year without giving much heed to the turn of the calendar? In any case, I’d love to hear your big plans & goals for 2016.

D.

Christmas Morning 2015 // Happy New Year!

January 1, 2016

Christmas Morning / livelovesimple.com

Christmas Morning / livelovesimple.com

Christmas Morning / livelovesimple.com

Christmas Morning / livelovesimple.com

Christmas Morning / livelovesimple.com

Christmas Morning / livelovesimple.com

Christmas Morning / livelovesimple.com

Christmas Morning / livelovesimple.com

Christmas Morning / livelovesimple.com

Christmas Morning / livelovesimple.com

Christmas Morning / livelovesimple.com

Christmas Morning / livelovesimple.com

Christmas Morning / livelovesimple.com

Christmas Morning / livelovesimple.com

Christmas Morning / livelovesimple.com

Christmas Morning / livelovesimple.com

Christmas Morning / livelovesimple.com

Christmas Morning / livelovesimple.com

Christmas Morning / livelovesimple.com

Just a few snaps from Christmas morning. I hope that you had a beautiful holiday season, friends. It’s 2016–which is really difficult for me to grasp because I still feel like 1990 was just ten years ago! But such is life.

Here’s wishing that the coming year is full of peace, magic, growth, and joy for all of us. ♥

Holiday Gift-Giving with MyRegistry.com

December 22, 2015

gifts // livelovesimple.comTypically, I try to get home before dark at this time of year. Lugging the babies and all of their stuff inside in the dark is a challenge. But these past few weeks, I just can’t help but to stay out after the sun sets. Driving through town and looking out at the twinkling Christmas lights fills my heart with bounding joy.

The holiday season brings with it the sweetest, golden warmth. One of my favorite parts of the holidays is gift-giving. I’ve gone through love/hate cycles when it comes to giving gifts. When I was younger, I cherished the act of exchanging gifts with friends & family. I really enjoyed receiving gifts back then. The anticipation of unwrapping something picked out especially for me was always a thrill. Later on, when I was hardcore into my minimalist phase, I fell out of love with the idea of gift-giving. In fact, I loathed it. I hated buying into the consumerism frenzy that the holidays can sadly become.

Today, however, I have finally found a balance. I started my holiday shopping early this year. It gave me a lot of time to pick out meaningful gifts. I also put effort toward buying handmade, local, or sustainable gifts. Buying meaningful gifts from businesses that I’m happy to support has made holiday gift-giving joyful for me once again.

Speaking of gift-giving, myself and a few of my family members have decided to start using registries for the holidays, birthdays, and special occasions. Last winter, when we received an invitation to my nephew’s birthday party, I saw that my sister-in-law had tucked a registry card into the envelope. I was so excited to see it! Picking out perfect gifts can be a struggle, but browsing a registry gives me a great idea of wants, needs, and likes. I still like to pick out some off registry surprise gifts, but being able to include something that I know the recipient is sure to love, is a relief and it makes shopping on a deadline such a breeze.

My favorite online registry is My Registry. It allows you to add gifts from any store in the world. You just put the “Add to MyRegistry” button on your bookmarks bar. Then, click the button to add a gift to your registry or wish list. They also have an app that lets you use your phone as a barcode scanner to find the best price before buying or adding any item to your gift list — even when you’re away from the computer. The world becomes your virtual department store.

I have a bunch of friends who are currently pregnant — yay! finally! — and I’ve been recommending the “My Baby Registry” to all of them.

And with that, I am off to go start wrapping. Wish me luck. Happy gift-giving & receiving, friends. xo

This post is in partnership with MyRegistry.com. Thank you for supporting the companies that help to support my creative endeavors.

heart spill // december

December 21, 2015

He saved me.

A few months ago, I returned to therapy after nearly ten years away. I’m seeing the therapist who changed my life all of those years ago. I’d been trying to handle “it all” on my own for a very long time. Then one day I broke down and said, enough. A weight was lifted from me then.

That’s the beauty of surrender, isn’t it?

You say– I can’t do this on my own. I need help.

And that’s okay.

Therapy was hard in the beginning. I had to twist out pieces of my life and hold them up into the light. It’s a painful process. It’s been slow going, but it’s going.

I’ve been listening to Elizabeth Gilbert’s podcast series, Magic Lessons, and in the season finale, she interviewed Brené Brown. In the interview, Brené talked about being a creative and sharing. She said that when she’s going through something painful, she doesn’t write about it. She doesn’t write about it until after she has healed. She said that sharing it before she is healed would be a disservice to herself and to her readers. The wounds are still too raw as we move through the processes of coping and eventually healing.

That’s where I’m at. I haven’t yet begun to heal. I’m still in survival mode.

I’m not sure if I agree with Brené, though. I think that there is an importance in sharing as we move through pain. There is beauty and value in rawness. But I do agree that we must be ready. It’s so important that we don’t throw ourselves into sharing too soon.

During therapy yesterday, we spent a lot of time talking about guilt, self-forgiveness, and self-grace. After a lot of digging, we came around to an enormous crux, an earth-shattering (for me) revelation about how I’ve been treating myself and how it’s been damaging me.

It was as though we had been digging and digging these months. Then suddenly—CLUNK—the metal of my shovel hammered hard into the roof of a buried chest. We pulled it out into the light.

As I was leaving her office, I said–I really need to focus now. I need to put everything else aside and focus on forgiving myself, on giving myself grace.

She told me to speak to myself the way that I would speak to my children–with unconditional love & forgiveness. It’s such a hard thing to do, but it’s time for me to do it.

An answered prayer.
At times, I’ve witnessed my prayers answered with such specificity that it’s startling. Back in August, I returned to the church where I attended Sunday school as a girl. Every time I go into that building, my heart swells. I always want to be there more often, do more, give more. I volunteered to redesign our church website and to manage our Facebook page. In doing these things, I thought how much I’d love to do more, perhaps even to get a job within our church. But it’s a small church and as far as I knew, there was no staff. I continued volunteering and cherished my time at services & fellowship.

Last week, after a particularly stressful day at home, I told M. that I’m going to get a part-time job. Some days, being a stay-at-home-mom sucks the life out of me. I haven’t spent a single day away from my children in the last three years. Such closeness brings with it incredible joy, but — let’s be real — a lot of suffering, too.

I’ve been feeling this itch to have some space of my own and a part-time job would be such a blessing. Time away from home, away from the babies, away from the never ending to-do list of domesticity. Even a “commute” seems like a novel thing to me. Time in the car alone? Without a toddler whining and an infant screaming? What a treat!

One night last week, I woke up to use the bathroom. I stumbled across the living room with Marina in one arm and my phone flashlight in the other. I looked down to check the time and saw that I had a message from our pastor. She said that our church secretary is moving away and that the position needed to be filled. As she was writing up the job description, a light bulb went on, and she thought of me. Within a couple of days, we had worked out the details and the rest is history.

Ask and it shall be given.
Seek and you shall find.
Knock and the door shall be opened.

// Matthew 7:7

Forgive me if this post is a bit scattered, friends. I’ve just been wanting to check in. For so long, my blog has been almost entirely about the babies & motherhood. I’m not sure where I’m headed in this space next, but I do know that I’m doing a lot of self/heart work during this season of my life. Sharing bits of the process through writing always feels right in my soul.

I’ll be back tomorrow with a sponsored post and then I’ll check in to share some of our holiday celebrations soon. I’m sending you lots of love & hopes that your holiday celebrations are full of every light, peace, and joy.

D.

Christmas Card // 2015

December 14, 2015

Christmas Card 2015 // livelovesimple.com

Christmas Card 2015 // livelovesimple.com

The above two images make up our 2015 family Christmas card. This year, I decided to do something silly and included an outtake on the back of the card. Plus, altogether it does a great job of capturing our lives at present — sweet & silly on one side, and bat-shit crazy on the other.

Here are a bunch more shots from our Christmas shoot. My goodness, how I love these babies of mine.

Christmas Card 2015 // livelovesimple.com

Christmas Card 2015 // livelovesimple.com

Christmas Card 2015 // livelovesimple.com

Christmas Card 2015 // livelovesimple.com

Christmas Card 2015 // livelovesimple.com

Christmas Card 2015 // livelovesimple.com

Christmas Card 2015 // livelovesimple.com

Christmas Card 2015 // livelovesimple.com

Christmas Card 2015 // livelovesimple.com

Christmas Card 2015 // livelovesimple.com

Christmas Card 2015 // livelovesimple.com

Christmas Card 2015 // livelovesimple.com

Christmas Card 2015 // livelovesimple.com

Christmas Card 2015 // livelovesimple.com

Christmas Card 2015 // livelovesimple.com

Christmas Card 2015 // livelovesimple.com

Christmas Card 2015 // livelovesimple.com

Christmas Card 2015 // livelovesimple.com

Christmas Card 2015 // livelovesimple.com

Christmas Card 2015 // livelovesimple.com

Christmas Card 2015 // livelovesimple.com

Christmas Card 2015 // livelovesimple.com

Christmas Card 2015 // livelovesimple.com

Christmas Card 2015 // livelovesimple.com

Christmas Card 2015 // livelovesimple.com

Christmas Card 2015 // livelovesimple.com

Christmas Card 2015 // livelovesimple.com

I hope that you are having the merriest & brightest holiday season, friends. xo

Marina Grace at Seven Months

December 7, 2015

livelovesimple.com

I slept on the couch, with Roman in my arms, for his first three months of life. I always felt a pang of embarrassment when I explained that to people. Sharing it made me insecure. I failed at getting him to sleep on his own, so I had to sleep on the couch… with him in my arms… for three. whole. months. I always said it like it was this great big crazy deal. I figured people wouldn’t be as shocked if I made it clear upfront that I knew it was crazy.

Now, I look back and laugh. Marina is eight-a-half-months-old. Last night, and every night since her birth, I slept on the couch, with her in my arms. Eight months and counting, folks.

livelovesimple.com

livelovesimple.com

The difference is that now I don’t talk about it with shame or shock. It is what it is. Marina is what she is and I’m a different woman now than I was before she was born. Roman was my sweet, easy, mellow entry into motherhood. Marina was my rough & tumble, wild, challenging second lap around the course.

For seven months, she cried for eight hours a day or more. Every single day. I’m not sure what else to say about it. Honestly, I think that I have slight PTSD from the experience. That’s not a joke.

livelovesimple.com

livelovesimple.com

But it’s over now. I mean, she’s still one of the most high needs eight-month-olds you’ll ever meet, but the daily doses of eight+ hours of screaming are behind us. The days of barely holding onto my sanity, the days of crying myself to sleep, the days of desperately praying to God to make it stop. They’re all behind us. I’m so grateful.

livelovesimple.com

livelovesimple.com

livelovesimple.com

She’s turned into such a funny little doll these days. Yes, still high-needs, but worlds away from her infant days. It’s amazing. I’m so damned in love with my baby girl. I’m a little sad that her infanthood had to be such a shit show, but that’s life and it truly makes the sweetness of the present all the sweeter.

livelovesimple.com

livelovesimple.com

livelovesimple.com

We took these photographs awhile back now. I’m crazy behind on life and it will be that way for a long time, I imagine. In fact, that may just be my new normal. The days of neat, organized monthly updates (like I did through Roman’s first year) are long gone. Today life is crazy and it’s a lot more about surviving than it is about “neat, organized” anything.

livelovesimple.com

livelovesimple.com

But… I love it. I really do. The thing is that I know how quickly it goes now. Roman turned into a little boy right before my eyes. Sometimes I look at his baby pictures and I’m just like, “Shit. Wait. Wasn’t that, like, yesterday?”

I know just how quickly he went from the sweet baby in my arms to the big boy that I can barely hold. I also know that he will just as quickly go from preschool to high school to college.

livelovesimple.com

livelovesimple.com

I guess what I’m getting to is that nights on the couch with Marina are hard. But I’m not rushing them. Roman used to love to sleep with me and today, I couldn’t get him to sleep with me if I tried. (Who am I kidding? I have tried!) So it’s alright, Marina Grace. It’s alright if you’ll only sleep on the couch, in my arms, for awhile longer. And it’s alright if you still scream like heck most of the time because you want my constant attention, too.

livelovesimple.com

I know that these days are numbered. I know that they’re some of the most trying of my life, but I love them all the same. You’re the baby girl that I spent a lifetime dreaming of. Stay little. Stay needy. I’m not wishing these days away, my sweet love.

livelovesimple.com

Thank you to my friend, Erin, for snapping these photographs of me & my girl. xo

heart spill // november

November 18, 2015

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november // livelovesimple.com

november // livelovesimple.com

november // livelovesimple.com

november // livelovesimple.com

november // livelovesimple.com

november // livelovesimple.com

november // livelovesimple.com

november // livelovesimple.com

november // livelovesimple.com

november // livelovesimple.com

november // livelovesimple.com

november // livelovesimple.com

november // livelovesimple.com

november // livelovesimple.com

My heart is preparing itself for winter. I find myself wondering how I will survive. These seasons of my life are the hardest and the most full of wonder that I will ever know.

There is the solitude of marriage; the solitude of motherhood; the solitude of snow, just on the horizon.

How will I go on?

The days are long and hard. The darkness comes too early, again. I think, “This, too, shall pass.” Although the little voice that lives in my heart says, “No. Stay. Freeze here, time. Don’t let them grow. Don’t let them leave me.”

The season of my life has turned. I used to live with the fear of losing romantic love, afraid of loneliness in that way. Now I live in with fear of my children growing away from me. Still babies, but I’ve been taught for a lifetime how quickly it will pass. And even as the hands of the clock drag slowly through these saddest hours–I know now. My baby is a little boy already.

I live with it. The ache of knowing the very preciousness of these moments. It pulls at me. Weights me down, like grief.

Have faith, old heart. After night comes day. After winter comes spring.

Now & Then // Mama & Me

November 3, 2015

Now & Then // livelovesimple.com

Mommy & Dena
Mama & Marina

One of the very special things that I’ve been waiting to do since before she was born.

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