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…

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.

laura loves… november edition
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‘Tis the season for Christmas cards to be sent out to family and friends! We used ours to make a very special announcement, but ever since we sent them, I’ve felt like we weren’t being totally honest, and have been wanting to share the whole truth. Finding the courage and the right words have been a challenge.

Long story short: we are expecting another baby girl in March, and we are also expecting our time with her to be very limited.

Longer story below..

The night we took these photos, we were so eager for the next day when we would find out if baby number three was a boy or a girl at our 22-week ultrasound.
We brought the kids with so that they could be part of the excitement, and Elodie could barely hide her smile when she found out she was getting a baby sister! Lance whisked the kids away while I finished the ultrasound, and I laid there for almost an hour, watching her spin and kick and try to suck her hand. Babies are such a miracle!
Then, after the ultrasound when my doctor came into the room, our lives turned upside-down. The doctor had tears in her eyes, and the first thing she said was, “I’m so sorry.”
It turns out that our beautiful baby girl has Trisomy 18, and if she does make it through delivery, her time with us will be very limited.
It’s been a difficult reality to grasp. We are trying to live life as normally as possible, but it’s just not the same. We’re not rearranging the house to make a nursery. I’m not searching for all the cute baby girl clothes. We’re just waiting to see what happens next, praying we’ll get to meet her alive. We savor every kick we feel and heartbeat we hear, but still we know we’ll have to say goodbye before we’re ready.
All we ask for this Christmas is a little prayer. A prayer of hope for the best possible outcome, and for the strength to make the most of these next few months. Thank you, friends!

 

laura loves… october edition
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All of a sudden, the kids no longer need me to play with them! Most mornings after breakfast, they play so well with each other all the way until lunch and nap time! I love hearing their silly little conversations and their belly laughs from another room. But at the same time, I’m all, ‘what do I do with all this free time?!’ This month, we got to spend some quality time with both sets of the kids’ grandparents, even surprising my dad for a belated 70th birthday party! I’m still dreaming of the homemade German Chocolate pound cake we made.

For Halloween this year, I dressed the kids up as us – Elodie the photographer, and Milo the park manager. They still don’t know about trick or treating, so we just get dressed, take some pictures, and call it good! :-)