everyday adventures PART II
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It almost feels like we’ve been given the gift of time. If we don’t celebrate and cherish our lives together now, when will we?

To sum up my last blog post… losing our daughter, Cecilia, has opened our hearts to the fact that our time here on earth is so precious (and short). So, we’re living out the adventures we’ve been meaning to do, and savoring the smaller, daily adventures in a new/refreshed/heartfelt way.

Now, what does this mean for you?

I still love documenting love. I’m still photographing weddings, elopements, engagements, and life in general. 

I’m also finally taking the leap in to creating videos. It’s been something I’ve wanted to do for a while, and even though parts of it still scare me, I’m willing to lean in to the learning curve in order to document honest, authentic, everyday adventures in a new-to-me way. While this process (and end product) won’t be perfect, they will definitely be memorable – and that’s what good adventures should be, right?

So, tell me! What does your everyday adventure look like? Hiking a new trail on your day off? Chasing toddlers around? Do you have a garden of your own (tell me your secrets)? Do you love making dinner together? I want to help you document that! (And then stay for dinner, if what you love is to cook. ;-)) Think of it like a home video that you and your loved ones all get to be in.

One of the sweetest couples I’ve had the honor of photographing let me follow them along as they went kayaking on their favorite Black Hills lake – Center Lake in Custer State Park. Here is the video (and some photos, because I will never stop photographing) from that afternoon. 

Enjoy!

everyday adventures PART I
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Towards the end of last year, I knew 2019 was going to be different. We were expecting our third child, and I didn’t have many weddings booked. I sort of shrugged it off, and figured God must want me to spend a lot of time ‘just being’ with the kids.

Then, in November, we found out that our growing baby had Trisomy 18 and wasn’t going to be with us for very long. All of a sudden, the only thing I wanted was to ‘just be’ with the kids. I didn’t care about how empty my calendar looked or what was happening on social media. All that mattered was our family and how we were going to get through this together.

Cecilia’s birth and death were very sudden, and while I mourned, I was so thankful for the support system around us. I felt like that dolphin whose baby died, and she and the rest of the pod took turns carrying it as they kept swimming. I didn’t have Cecilia’s body to hold, but our friends took turns carrying that weight of sorrow and walked alongside us as we moved forward.

“Yet something astounding happens amid this turmoil… our lives continue. Moments pile into a day, days into a week, and our lives continue on. There is a mysterious, unassuming tenacity to hope that lives beneath the rubble. This tenacious hope is Spirit-filled. God has placed this power in the depths of every human heart.” -Sr. Maria Kim Bui

The death of our child is not something we will ever get over. Cecilia is as much a part of us as any big life moment we’ve had together – meeting in college, moving to the Black Hills, getting married here… every moment we’ve had together, big or small, has made us who we are.

Losing Cecilia has made me want to be a better mother to our kids here on earth, a better wife to my husband, a better friend and person overall. I want to soak up as many moments with my family possible. I want to share the love we were given with anyone willing to receive it. I want to go on adventures instead of just thinking about them – even if they’re just small, everyday adventures.

So, what does all this mean for us? As of right now, we’re maximizing our time at home, preparing for our garden while catching snowflakes on our tongues. (Yes, it’s snowing in May. We’ve learned to appreciate what we are given on a daily basis.) We are also planning a bunch of family day-cations, making our weekends a bit more exciting.

The most obvious adventures for us are enjoying the outdoors – rain or snow or slush or sunshine!

Not-so-obvious adventures, like comforting each other in public restrooms, and cheering each other on while mastering new skills, make me a proud mama.

We almost always notice the dinosaurs when we’re in Rapid City, but one Sunday after church, we went up and met each one personally! It was such a fun adventure that the kids keep asking when we can do it again!

More indoor adventures… relaxing in a tote box, climbing at the Custer State Park Visitor Center, getting dizzy on a sit-n-spin, and nap-time bed head from adventuring so hard.

One of my highly-anticipated adventures: gardening!

Keeping Cecilia in our hearts and on our minds as we celebrate each day.

We wouldn’t be the adventurers we are if we took life too seriously!

And finally, what does all this adventuring and free time on my calendar mean for you? Stay tuned…

dustin + cahri ENGAGED!!
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Dustin proposed to Cahri while ice fishing in the middle of January, so when they wanted to come to Custer State Park for their engagement photos, I was happy we could incorporate some frozen lakes! This was the ‘warmest’ day in February, but it was still so windy – making us feel so, so cold (but it was hard to be too mad about it the way the snowflakes swirled around us like nature’s sprinkles)!!

They both enjoy doing anything outdoors, so here are Dustin and Cahri – braving the cold + wind all for the sake of announcing this exciting time of their lives!! Enjoy!

A new goal of mine for 2019 is to show more of my favorite ‘moments’ from each session instead of saving them for the end of the year. Because really, the ‘moments’ are what we hang on to and treasure the most.

For example, the way Dustin looks at Cahri – I imagine he has looked at her this way many times, maybe even making her weak in the knees early on in their relationship. That kind, genuine look of love.

So, Cahri, this one’s for you. I hope that in 30+ years you will look over at Dustin and see him looking back at you this same way. :-)

studio lb BEST OF 2018
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2018 was another year full of sweet, fun-loving couples who savored every moment of their wedding day, and also didn’t take themselves too seriously (my favorite combination).

Every January, I put together my favorite images from the previous year. This January, we were busy with doctor appointments and praying for calm hearts, while preparing to meet our daughter who was diagnosed with Trisomy 18. Then, she surprised us by arriving a month and a half early on February 1st. Our days were filled with so many mixed emotions. Joy that we got to meet her and love on her, sorrow that we had to let her go so soon, and confusion as to how to move on.

During that confusing time of mixed emotions, I received so many lovely messages from the couples I have photographed. I always feel connected to the couples who trust me to document their wedding (we spend a decent amount of time together – bonding is bound to happen), but when they turned to me with their love and support these past couple of months, I felt such an overwhelming sense of love.

These couples I photograph are more than ‘just weddings.’ They are preparing for and celebrating the first day of their marriage. They are lovely human beings who care deeply about their family and friends, and they simply want to gather and enjoy the day together.

My two main goals for my couples is to document their life as it’s happening, *and* to create some lovely portraits for them to treasure and show their children and grandchildren. So here is my ‘best of 2018’ – the moments, the portraits, and everything in between. Enjoy!!

First up, Michael + Rebecca’s first look that lasted 68 seconds. Go ahead, give someone you love a hug for 68 seconds and see how good it feels!!


David + Marcy traveled to the Black Hills for a fun weekend full of hiking, and they agreed to meet up for a second engagement session. So much fun!!


This anniversary session still has me on cloud nine – who wants to hike up here with me this summer?

The way the breeze wanted in on Thomas + Alicia’s snuggle!! Sometimes portraits turn into moments with the help of mother nature. :-)

It rained all day this day, so we got creative and ducked inside any building that had lovely windows. I love this little portrait/moment they had together!

Another ‘portrait turned moment’ – after these two said their vows, we took off for some portraits (which is also great for a bride and groom to focus on each other instead of reception details). We pulled up to the lake and we were caught in an instant downpour!! We waited in the car for it to let up (I told you about that wedding day bonding! ;-)), but as we walked to the water, another little shower came through and created this magic.

And now, we’ll move over to engagement photos. Yes, it’s a time to ‘get good pictures for save the date cards’ but it’s also to showcase a couple in their natural state. Happy, in love, goofy, carefree. I hope you see that in these next few photos! :-)

I told Eric + Brianna to walk to that spot in the sunshine and ‘do a little dance’ – this is what they came up with!! So perfectly them!! Haha!!

Before Lex + Heidi’s engagement session, I asked them a few ‘get to know you’ questions. One was, ‘What quality do you love most about each other?’ Her response was how he made her feel safe and secure. Throughout their session, I kept waiting for this moment to happen naturally – Lex’s arm around Heidi’s shoulders. Holding her safe and secure as they walked along. :-)

Did I mention I like to capture the goofy side of couples? ;-)

The *most* natural they could be – fishing!!

Now, I don’t post a lot of detail photos unless I know the meaning or significance behind it… this heart-shaped ring bowl was hand-carved by the groom, and he surprised his bride with it on their wedding day!

On to the wedding day portraits and moments. First looks are always full of emotions, and I enjoy watching each one unfold!!

And then there was this first look with Amy and her dad. I love their identical reactions – speechless, crying, then laughing!

Now, to the next part of the day – bride and groom portraits! I always give my couples plenty of time and space for their first look, because I never want to cut that moment short. So, after I’ve gotten a wave or a ‘so… what’s next?’ we do a few portraits before the family and wedding party join in.

This ‘portrait’ is not a portrait. They eloped last winter in their backyard, and hired me to photograph some portraits and their reception. But I did something a little sneaky. I got a copy of their vows from a mutual friend of ours, and had them re-read them in this storefront (tucked away from the non-stop rain). My favorite line was how they vowed to love each other in sunshine and rain. They read these vows for the first time in the winter, and now again in the rain. (Who’s getting misty eyed? Just me? Sure, okay.)

By the time I’ve walked around with my couples, most of the wedding party/family have gathered for group photos. But sometimes… we wait… Haha!! I feel like Lex and his twin brother have been in this situation more than once in their lives!!

Waiting for everyone to arrive and get organized is also a great time for candids with the littlest wedding party members! :-)

… and sometimes the littlest don’t want to be in any photos…

Then there was that one time I forced a groom’s brother to stand closer than he was comfortable and it resulted in a very awkward, hilarious moment that I hope they all remember forever.

Who tooted? Haha!!!!

Okay, okay, back to some sweet moments! The ceremony always brings out all the emotions!

Yes, this next images is from a styled elopement, and yes Mary Maisey-Ireland is this invested in every single couple I have seen her work with!

After the ceremony, it’s easy to see how relaxed my couples are. The ‘hard part’ (saying their vows out loud in front of everyone) is over, and the rest of the day is just for fun! And, the light is lovely. ;-)

As you can see, portraits can be beautiful *and* fun! Now, moving on to the reception and dance… This little man is the groom’s nephew, and he turned seven the same day his uncle got married. That night was part wedding reception, part birthday party, and it was totally perfect!

I still love that Gina’s grandfather said the meal blessing for both her and her sister’s wedding a few years ago!

Mike + Becca didn’t have a dance after their morning wedding, so after their guests got settled in at the reception, they snuck back outside and danced to a song playing on Mike’s phone in his jacket pocket.

You’re probably thinking, ‘there’s nothing super special about this photo,’ and maybe you’re right, but I love it so much because I have another picture of these two dancing *just like this* at her sister’s wedding a few years ago, before they were engaged.

One thing I love about first dances is how a bride and groom hold each other naturally. They are so wrapped up in the moment, they don’t have time to think about ‘what to do with their hands,’ and it ends up being one of the most beautiful, genuine moments of a wedding day.

…and then there’s these ‘jazz hands’ from when Mike + Becca finished their ‘first dance.’ Hahaha!!

I also love the variation in mother/son and father/daughter dances. Marcy and her dad picked a classic country song, and swayed back and forth on the dance floor, with a few of these spins (just like my husband does with our four-year-old daughter) mixed in.

Brianna Mae and her dad picked a faster-paced song, providing the perfect tempo for a jitterbug and other fun moves. :-)

But this moment will forever be a favorite – Marcy dancing with her dad, looking up to her mother and daughter in heaven. *all the heart strings being pulled*

Heidi said she’s always been a grandpa’s girl, so when I saw them dancing as I was packing up my gear, I knew I had to quickly put it back up to catch this moment!

To all the couples planning their wedding dance, ask your DJ about doing a ‘generations dance’ – each and every married couple gets on the dance floor, and the DJ narrows the group down to the couple who has been married the longest. It’s a great excuse for all those husbands to ask their wives to dance (because they were basically told to ;-)), and it’s a lovely way to honor the couples who have been through ‘for better or worse.’

Dance off!! I’ve never seen a dance quite like John + Natalie’s – so many sweet moves!!

Lastly, something a little ‘new’ – some family photos I’ve had the honor of being a part of this past year. I don’t really consider myself a newborn or family photographer, but it’s so heartwarming to see my brides and grooms become parents and experience a new kind of ‘best day ever.’ For example, watching a ‘bride and groom’ hold a newborn and watch their toddler find joy in throwing rocks into a stream on a cool summer evening. Doesn’t that sound like a ‘best day ever’ kind of day to you?

Skinny newborn legs in daddy’s hand!

Mama snuggles are just the best.

Going through my favorites from the past year – I clearly have a thing for baby toes!!

Lastly… Walter the cat!! I’ve been to his house a few times, but I hadn’t actually seen him in over a year. When he came out from his hiding spot, baby Freya and I were both so excited!!

Whew! I think that’s all… for now… I had such a hard time narrowing these down! There are so many more sweet + funny moments from 2018, I’ll probably share more on my Facebook or Instagram accounts (because as anyone I’ve ever photographed knows, when I say I’m done, what I really mean is I’m not done and I just can’t help myself when it comes to good photos)!!

laura loves… Cecilia Christine
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So much has happened since our last little (huge) life update. I don’t even know where to start, so I’ll pick up where we left off.

After we found out that our baby girl likely had Trisomy 18, we were sent to a specialist to confirm those findings, and to also monitor her growth via ultrasound. We got to see her sweet little cheeks, her tiny ears, her clenched fists, her cleft lip, her feet that always kicked me on the upper right side of my tummy.

Even though we knew her life could be complicated and short, she was still our beautiful baby girl on that ultrasound screen. She was so, so active, and she had her daddy’s large hat size just like her brother and sister – she even looked like both of them from certain angles.

We’ve experienced such an array of emotions.

Joy – Watching her rub her eyes and hide her face from the ultrasound technician. Watching Elodie’s eyes light up when she felt her sister kicking.

Confusion – Wondering how exactly her diagnosis would affect her. Some Trisomy 18 babies don’t make it through delivery. Some live for a few hours, days, weeks (probably with lots of help in the NICU). Some of the stronger ones live for months and even years (probably needing oxygen and/or feeding tubes). There was just no way of knowing her needs until she got here, but we had to try and prepare ourselves for every possible situation.

Sorrow – Just the thought of not being able to meet her alive broke my heart. 

Finally, at 33 weeks along in the pregnancy, baby girl decided it was time. Time for us to meet her and to stop worrying about all the ‘what if’s.

On Thursday, January 31st, in the evening, we checked in to the hospital and I labored through the night. We met with the neonatologists to discuss our wishes for baby girl. We prayed we would get to meet her alive and that she could meet her big sister and brother. We rested as much as we could. We decided on her name.

At 7:56am on February 1st, Cecilia Christine was born. She was given oxygen as the neonatologist declared her heartbeat not strong enough to intervene. She made the decision for us.

She was here, and she wanted nothing but our love and comfort.

We held her, we kissed her, Elodie counted all her fingers and toes. I couldn’t believe how much hair she had. Our priest was there to baptize and confirm her. My good friend Amy was there to photograph every single moment for us to cherish forever. 

At 10:15am they could no longer hear her heartbeat. We continued to hold her and love on her all day until it was time to send her to the funeral home, and we went back to our home to rest.

The next two days were a blur as family members traveled to be with us, and Elodie and Milo fought colds. There’s nothing that will bring you back to reality faster than caring for your other children!!

On Monday, we celebrated Cecilia’s short, perfect life at her funeral, surrounded by family, close friends, and co-workers. We picked readings that gave us strength and showed us God’s love in times of hardship. We had four priests who have been so dear to us on our journey both before and during our time with Cecilia. Fr. Brian Christensen, who was there with us in the delivery room, Fr. Matt Fallgren, who we see most every weekend in Hermosa, Fr. Michel Mulloy, who helped us prepare for marriage and also baptized Elodie, and Fr. Paul Rutten, who knew us in college and presided at our wedding.

At the burial, the sun peeked out, and the tiniest snowflakes sprinkled us all as we prayed over Cecilia’s body one last time. If you look to the West while standing at her grave, you’ll see a beautiful, sweeping view of the Black Hills. As lovely of a view that it is, I know her view in and from Heaven is even greater.

Thank you all for your love and support.

Thank you to our doctors and nurses who gave us comfort and confidence before and during our hospital stay.

Thank you to our ultrasound technicians who gave us the gift of seeing her so active and taking extra pictures of her sweet face.

Thank you to all who were able to join us on Monday to celebrate Cecilia’s life.

Thank you to all who continue to be with us and pray for us as we find our ‘new normal.’

While we will always miss our third child, we know that God’s plan is good, and we are so thankful to have had the time with Cecilia that we did. As we held our tiny, motionless baby in our arms, we understood that we didn’t have to worry about her anymore. She knew nothing but love, and as her heart beat for the last time, she was brought to the One whose love is greater.