the first year of motherhood.

Posted on: Friday, August 7, 2015

The First Year of Motherhood | Ann-Marie Loves

Tomorrow my baby will be ONE.

I know everyone says the first year flies by in the blink of an eye, but I really had no clue just how right they were until I lived it myself. I still distinctly remember the way it felt to be pregnant with her. I remember the nervous / excited energy I felt as I was admitted to the hospital on that Thursday afternoon. I remember seeing her face for the first time and trying to comprehend that she was mine. I remember bringing her home and feeling the reality of motherhood quickly sink in. It’s been a really good year. The hardest year of my life, hands down, but also a really good year.

Here are the biggest lessons I’ve learned as a first-time mom over the past 365 days:

Trust that you will rise to the occasion. The logistics of giving birth (ouch), and learning to breastfeed (ouch again), and not sleeping through the night for an entire year (super ouch) are majorly daunting. There were many times that I could hardly wrap my brain around the tasks at hand, but somehow, some way, I rose to the occasion and continued to do so day after day, night after night. Trust that your body and your instincts will not steer you in the wrong direction.

It’s harder and easier than you could ever imagine. I swear that I am constantly reflecting on this simple statement. I honestly thought that working from home while watching a small baby would be fairly simple (“I’ll just work when the baby sleeps!”), but it turned out to be way trickier than I could have predicted. Briar has never been a consistent sleeper for naps or at night, so finding a good balance between work and motherhood has been my biggest challenge thus far. On the other hand, I thought that it would be a huge production every time I had to leave the house with the baby in tow, but it’s actually pretty easy! She’s a great little traveler and I enjoy having her as my sidekick wherever we go. Needless to say, motherhood is full of surprises at every turn!

Get outside every single day. In those first few weeks (and months!), it’s all too easy to get bogged down in the nonstop care of a newborn and lose track of the outside world. I found that getting fresh air at least once a day, whether it was for a long walk (my favorite) or just a quick stroll to grab coffee, was not only a necessity for my mental health, but it did — and continues to do — wonders for Briar, too. Those walls start to close in on you pretty fast if you stay cooped up inside for too long.

The baby fever doesn’t go away. From the day we brought Briar home the hospital, I’ve had crazy baby fever for more babies! I think the whole experience of growing a baby, having a baby, and then watching that child grow into a little person is so intoxicating that I can’t help but want to do it over and over again! (The sleepless nights, however…not so much.)

Take the classes. John and I took a few different classes offered by our hospital prior to Briar’s arrival and we both loved them. It’s not so much that you’ll remember everything or that you’ll be an inadequate parent if you skip out, but it was nice for us to immerse ourselves in baby culture with other soon-to-be-parents. Plus, on our breaks we ate at the amazing (and amazingly cheap!) cafeteria. Win win ;)

Do what works for YOU. There’s so much societal pressure to be a “perfect” mom and to do everything “right,” but really, what does that even mean?! Since we are all approaching life from a different perspective, it’s impossible for us to follow the same path as individuals, much less as mothers. Follow your own trail and figure out what works best for you and your baby. No comparisons necessary.

Ask for help. Don’t be a hero. Ask for help OFTEN. You need that break, not only so you can recharge your own batteries but so you can be more present and engaged with your baby as well.

It just gets better and better (seriously!). For the past couple of weeks, I’ve had momentary pangs of sadness over the fact that Briar is almost a toddler and no longer my tiny little newborn. But for the most part, I LOVE each new phase even more than the last. When she laughed for the first time, I thought it would never get any better. And then she started crawling! And saying words! And now walking! Watching her morph into a real human with distinct opinions and a strong personality has been a total JOY. I can’t wait to see what’s next!

I am so happy / proud / overwhelmed with love for my Briar Bear. Happy birthday, baby girl!

camera love.

Posted on: Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Camera Love | Ann-Marie Loves

This past weekend I got to play with this amazing workhorse of a camera and this fantastic zoom lens and I. WAS. OBSESSED. I took as many photos as I could (mostly of my favorite moving target) and decided that I need this camera in my life permanently.

Camera Love | Ann-Marie LovesCamera Love | Ann-Marie LovesCamera Love | Ann-Marie LovesCamera Love | Ann-Marie LovesCamera Love | Ann-Marie LovesCamera Love | Ann-Marie Loves

And speaking of my favorite moving target, she will be one on Saturday. ONE. I don’t know if I should laugh or cry?

want what you want.

Posted on: Thursday, July 30, 2015

Want What You Want | Ann-Marie Loves

Yesterday I took myself on a solo date to my favorite coffee shop in my favorite city (I’ll give you one guess where that is!), listened to inspiring podcast episodes (this one, this one, and this one), and really allowed myself to dig deep. In doing so, I came to the startling realization that IT IS OKAY to want what we want. In fact, if we don’t acknowledge our deepest desires, how in the world will they ever come true?! When I think back on my life, there have been a few key moments where I am positive that I manifested my dreams. For example!

– After I graduated college at the onset of the recession (when I couldn’t even get a seasonal part-time job at the mall!), I was hell-bent on working in the scrapbooking industry. I had absolutely no idea how it would happen or what I would even do or how I could possibly find work in a Utah-based industry when I was a California resident. But everyday I would go on walks while listening to The Secret on my iPod (2009, y’all) and imagine being paid to play with paper until I could literally feel it in my bones. Fast forward to July 2010 and I was living in Orem, Utah and working as an in-house scrapbooker / product designer at American Crafts.

– I have always dreamed and journaled and talked about living in two of my favorite cities: San Diego and Pasadena. Both of those dreams have come to fruition.

– And finally, at the beginning of my senior year in high school, I kept a post-it note on my shelf (where I would see it as I put on my makeup everyday) with the Christina Aguilera lyric: “day by day, I’m going to get my way.” Within a matter of weeks, I started dating John (now my husband!) and a few months later, I was accepted into my college of choice.

I know this all sounds hokey and woo-woo and quite possibly, huge coincidences, but I truly believe that our thoughts create our reality. I’ve spent way too many days over the past year caught up in a fog of fearfulness and uncertainty. There have been some particularly dark moments where I could barely get out of bed, I was so terrified of what was around the corner. Having a baby in my life has filled my heart with more joy and pride than I could have ever dreamed (seriously, I could burst at any moment), but it has also brought a lot of my inner demons to the surface. I’ve gotten lost in the mindset of “this is not how it’s supposed to be” or “I should be at x-place by now and I’m only at y-place.” While I still have lots of work to do, my focus is much clearer now. I’m finally allowing myself to want what I want and to be completely at peace with those desires, no matter what others may think of them.


This our life, you guys! We have to open ourselves up to the possibility that AMAZING THINGS WILL HAPPEN if we work hard and trust that the universe has our back.

Have you ever manifested any of your dreams? I’d love to hear about it!

adventures at underwood farms.

Posted on: Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Adventures at Underwood Farms | Ann-Marie Loves

Having grown up in Ventura County, I’ve been on many a trip to Underwood Farms in Moorpark. However, it had been years since my last visit and Briar had never been before, so John and I (along with Jamie, Kareem, and Luna!) decided it was high time to revisit the farm. We had an awesome time (despite the heat) exploring the grounds, visiting the animals (how amazing is that horse!), and digging in the fields for ripe strawberries and olallieberries. Sadly, Briar was developing a double ear infection that day (unbeknownst to us at the time), so she wasn’t her normal cheery self. But that’s okay…we’ll be back for Halloween festivities come October!

Adventures at Underwood Farms | Ann-Marie Loves

Adventures at Underwood Farms | Ann-Marie Loves

Adventures at Underwood Farms | Ann-Marie Loves

Adventures at Underwood Farms | Ann-Marie Loves

Adventures at Underwood Farms | Ann-Marie Loves

Adventures at Underwood Farms | Ann-Marie Loves

Adventures at Underwood Farms | Ann-Marie Loves

diy cheerios necklace for baby.

Posted on: Friday, July 24, 2015

DIY Cheerios Necklace for Babies | Ann-Marie Loves

If your baby is anything like my baby, she likes to snack. A LOT. From the time we introduced Briar to solid foods, she was pretty adamant about taking matters into her own hands (literally) and feeding herself. While this was frustrating at first, I’ve learned to view it as a huge help (I can eat my food while she eats hers!) and an amazing way to foster self-sufficiency.

Most of the time, I can plop Briar in her high chair, place her meal in bite-size pieces on her tray, and let her happily munch away. But when we are out and about or when she’s stuck in her car seat for an extended period of time, it’s not so easy to let her feed herself. The solution: Cheerios necklaces!

DIY Cheerios Necklace for Babies | Ann-Marie Loves

The supplies are pretty self-explanatory: Cheerios, twine, and scissors. Just string the Cheerios onto the twine until you feel like you have provided your baby with a decent sized snack and then tie a knot and place it over your baby’s head. If I know we are going to be out for awhile, I like to make a couple of necklaces so I can swap them out as need be.

DIY Cheerios Necklace for Babies | Ann-Marie Loves

It didn’t take much convincing to get Briar on this bandwagon — she’s a believer!

handmade greeting cards.

Posted on: Thursday, July 23, 2015

Handmade Greeting Cards Using Dear Lizzy Products | Ann-Marie Loves

As much as I LOVE well-designed greeting cards (especially of the letterpress variety!), I will almost always resort to making a card by hand versus buying one in a store. It’s just something I have always done and I will probably always do, as I’m more than happy to sit down with my favorite paper supplies and craft up a love note for my favorite people! Here are three cards I made for the special women in my life in celebration of this past Mother’s Day:

Handmade Greeting Cards Using Dear Lizzy Products | Ann-Marie Loves Handmade Greeting Cards Using Dear Lizzy Products | Ann-Marie Loves
Handmade Greeting Cards Using Dear Lizzy Products | Ann-Marie Loves Handmade Greeting Cards Using Dear Lizzy Products | Ann-Marie Loves
Handmade Greeting Cards Using Dear Lizzy Products | Ann-Marie Loves Handmade Greeting Cards Using Dear Lizzy Products | Ann-Marie Loves

Supplies: Dear Lizzy Serendipity Patterned Paper Pad // Dear Lizzy Serendipity Sticker Roll // Dear Lizzy Serendipity Puffy Stickers // Dear Lizzy Serendipity Pleather Bows // Dear Lizzy Fine and Dandy Sticker Roll // Multicolored Chipboard Thickers // Gold Foil Thickers // Craft Scissors // Tape Runner

I look forward to the day that I can recruit Briar to help me make cards and show our nearest and dearest just how much we love them :)

workspace wednesday | work hard, reward hard.

Posted on: Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Workspace Wednesday | Work Hard, Reward Hard | Ann-Marie Loves

Yesterday at the gym, with the song lyric “work hard, play hard” echoing through the speakers, I started to wonder if there is any truth to the concept of work / life balance.  As much as I love to work hard and then crash into bed at night knowing that I gave a project every last bit of my energy, that type of lifestyle is just not realistic for the long haul. Balancing a freelance career while caring for an eleven month old full-time is downright exhausting on every single level: mentally, physically, creatively, and emotionally. (Oh, how I thought it would be easier!). I’ve spent WAY too much time over the past year beating myself up for not being able to give 100% of myself to every facet of my life. So after much soul-searching, I have come to the conclusion that I need to cut myself some slack and build rewards into my day, whether or not I’ve checked every last item off of my to-do list.

Here are a few ways that I build rewards into my day:

– taking a favorite workout class at the gym

– leaving Briar with her amazing grandparents for a few hours

– reconnecting with my husband on a Friday night date

– crawling into bed (relatively) early so I can watch Keeping Up With the Kardashians on my iPad

– taking impromptu field trips (last Thursday, Briar and I went to Santa Barbara for the day with my mom — so fun!)

– going for walks at sunset while listening to a good podcast and pushing Briar in her stroller

– drinking good coffee in the morning

– drinking good red wine at night

– sleeping in on weekends while John gets up early with Briar

If you’ve been beating yourself up for not being more, doing more, or accomplishing more, consider this your permission slip to RELAX. We are all doing our best and we are all doing just fine :)

as of late | july edition.

Posted on: Tuesday, July 14, 2015

As of Late | July Edition | Ann-Marie Loves

Serious Sally on the Fourth of July – ha!

Spending many an afternoon in my parents’ pool with my little fish. My “mom” bathing suit sure is getting a lot of good use!

Enjoying weekly e-mails from Hannah Brencher. She is killing it with the inspiration vibes.

Loving Hey Claire’s YouTube channel. Even though I’m not much for makeup tutorials, I love her storytelling abilities and her clean aesthetic. (P.S. I made a cameo in Amy’s video!)

Wearing one of two outfits most days: this neon pink workout top with leggings or any shirt with my Anthro lounge pants. I’m a work at home mom, guys. Comfort is KING.

Feeling more tired now than I was when Briar was a newborn; the only difference is I’ve become much more adept at pushing through the exhaustion! She’s still waking up 1-2 times a night (LORD BEER ME STRENGTH), so it’s safe to say I haven’t had a full night of sleep in almost a year. Oh em gee.

Listening to Totally Mommy nonstop. It’s my new podcast jam.

Dreaming of taking Briar on a bike ride…while protecting her noggin with this watermelon helmet!

Combing Pinterest and Instagram for birthday party ideas. I can never get enough!

Craving a really good fictional read that I can get lost in. Any suggestions?

Feeling so grateful to all of you who have purchased my new (and old!) digital stamps. It’s so fun to think that my designs are continuing to live on!

Enjoying golden hour walks with my best gal and my iPhone close at hand so I can capture all the gorgeous flowers in bloom!

Thinking back on this time last year when I was “willing” Briar to make her appearance on dates that I thought would make for pretty-sounding birthdays: July 14th, July 22nd, or her due date, July 26th. Of course, she didn’t arrive until AUGUST 8TH, but now I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Scouting out amazing photo locations for future shoots. If you or anyone you know is in need of a photographer, send me an e-mail! :)

briar’s first birthday | invitation progress.

Posted on: Monday, July 13, 2015

Hand-lettered Birthday Invitations | Ann-Marie Loves

This past weekend was a big one. There was a sprained ankle (Mine! Zumba! Gah!), first steps for Briar (I’M SO PROUD I COULD EXPLODE), and lots of fun working on my almost-one year old’s birthday party invitations! It’s hard to believe that in just a few short weeks, Briar will have made a full trip around the sun. I could swear we just brought her home from the hospital?

Hand-lettered Birthday Invitations | Ann-Marie Loves

But instead of wallowing in the fact that my baby is getting older, I am focusing on all the fun things ahead. Namely, birthday crafting! For the invitations, I’m jumping on the hand-lettering bandwagon and pairing my handwriting with a little watercoloring. (There will also be a photo involved, if only I could just get her to stay in one place for five seconds…)

Hand-lettered Birthday Invitations | Ann-Marie Loves

I’m pretty sure I could write out her name all day, everyday. I used to FILL notebooks with lettering just because I loved playing with my handwriting and trying out different words in different ways (anyone else?). The thing about hand-lettering is that I need a marker with a wide tip to achieve my best look, so I busted out my forgotten Copic markers and went to town. Those markers are expensive but they really do work like a dream.

Hand-lettered Birthday Invitations | Ann-Marie Loves

I also had a great time creating full page watercolor washes to use as a background texture. I am by no means an expert painter, but I do find it to be incredibly relaxing, especially with a fun podcast on in the background.

Hand-lettered Birthday Invitations | Ann-Marie Loves

I’ve already scanned in all of my favorite samples of the lettering and watercoloring (using this method!) and I am so excited to pair them together to create a finished product. Stay tuned for more party updates coming soon!

briar’s scrapbook | part five.

Posted on: Friday, July 10, 2015

Baby Scrapbook | A Beautiful Mess Messy Book | Ann-Marie Espinoza

So here’s why I love digital stamps: this entire spread, from start to finish, took twenty minutes. Twenty. THAT’S IT. In fact, the hardest part was choosing which photos to use…! When I first started scrapbooking, the concept of “digital scrapbooking” could not have been less appealing to me. I mean, who would want to their supplies to be on the computer? Wasn’t the tangibility of traditional scrapbooking where all the joy of the hobby lived? But as the years have passed, I’ve come to think of myself more as a hybrid scrapbooker. While I still love physical products and shuffling papers between my hands and holding a tangible layout before my eyes, there’s definitely something to be said about using the computer to streamline and expedite my scrapbooking process. I love adding titles or journaling to my photo BEFORE I print it; not only does it expedite the situation but it also looks good. The minimalist graphic designer in me love love loves it.

For these two pages, I used my new (or should I say old?) digital brushes to add titles where I saw fit. Here’s how it all turned out:

Baby Scrapbook | A Beautiful Mess Messy Book | Ann-Marie Espinoza
Baby Scrapbook | A Beautiful Mess Messy Book | Ann-Marie Espinoza

Photo by La Rousse Photo

Lord knows I love a massive photo, so for this page, I sized one of my favorite images to 8 x 10,” added a pink gradient and the “Let’s Go On Adventures” brush to the top, and then mounted it onto a sheet of patterned paper. Couldn’t have been easier!

Supplies: BasicGrey Aurora Paper // Yellow Washi Tape // Aurora Die Cut Tag // Amy Tangerine Heart Sticker // Greatest Hits Digital Brushes

Baby Scrapbook | A Beautiful Mess Messy Book | Ann-Marie Espinoza
Baby Scrapbook | A Beautiful Mess Messy Book | Ann-Marie Espinoza

For the second page, I used a mix of photos (when did my baby get so big?!) and digital brushes, with a few physical embellishments as well. It’s funny…I designed most of these rubber stamps-turned-digital brushes waaaay before Briar was born, but now the sentiments are SO FITTING for our parent / child relationship. I love how that works.

Supplies: Greatest Hits Digital Brushes // Amy Tangerine Epoxy Stickers // Amy Tangerine Die Cut “Love”

So maybe I was wrong about the whole digital scrapbooking thing way back when I was a newb; now I can’t imagine my style without the computer close at hand!

P.S. Part One, Part Two, Part Three, and Part Four of Briar’s scrapbook album!

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