Lauren Monroe

She’s finally here. After taking her sweet time our little Lauren Monroe made her debut Friday, February 16. The last weeks were hard as I had unrealistic expectations she would arrive early since Hayden was on his due date and Leah was a week early. But the saying “all babies are different” couldn’t have been more true. She was definitely worth the wait but the waiting to be induced process was very emotional for me. The first night we were bumped I sat in my closet and cried. I was so uncomfortable and was just ready to be done. I wanted to get back to being mom again and start our new normal.

With both Hayden and Leah we did newborn photos and I love them but I often catch myself saying how badly we need home videos. Two family friends and sisters I babysat growing up, started their own videography business, Anna Grace Films, and recently started offering birth story / newborn videos. They filmed in a few phases to capture life before and after Lauren. In addition to photos, the video turned out perfect and being able to relive the memories has brought tears to my eyes and something we’ll cherish forever. And, now I want them to capture birthdays for us!

I can’t speak highly enough about Anna and Gracie. They have great attention to detail and incorporating pieces I wanted into the film. They are also two of the sweetest people and I’ve always said I hope my kids turn out to be as kind, fun and driven as them and their brother. My mom was good friends with their mom and encouraged me to babysit for them when I was just twelve. Mom knows best because over the years their family really treated me like their own and some of my best memories and lessons in life were made during my time with them.

 

Mommmmmm…

Sitting here over due with Baby #3, I can’t help but look back at this pregnancy and realize how many times I’d wished for my mom. This pregnancy has been way more mental than physical and while some of that has to do with the two little loves I have running around but also because I know that she is the one person who could truly relate. An experienced mom of three.

Entering into uncharted territory is always easier when someone you love and trust has paved a path. I can’t even begin to tell you how many days I’ve laid in bed a little longer while Joel got up with the kids or ducked away to my bed to just lay and cry, because I know if anyone could make me feel better in that moment it was her.

And those moments have put into perspective the hard days when the only word out of my kids mouth is “mom, mommy” on constant repeat…I remind myself that I would call for my mom if I could.

This entry was posted in Grief.

Playing dress up

A few posts back I shared my love for reworking family fashion but specifically my dad’s incredible collection of vintage track and road race shirts. I have to smile every time I put one on because as we’ve been cleaning out my parents house as my dad prepares to move I’ve found so many pictures of me as a toddler wearing those same shirts. But the love doesn’t stop there. Some of my mom and even Grandma Olson clothes have found a permanent place in my closet. The day we shot my race shirt collection, photographer Justin Meyer captured a few of my favorite outfits. THANK YOU  JUSTIN.

Mom’s vintage skirt that can also double as a strapless maxi dress if belted.

If it fits it stays is my motto and right now being pregnant not everything fits currently but it did within the last year so it qualifies.

Shortly after my mom passed away, my sisters and I tried to help Father Keith go through her side of the closet. This proved to be very difficult because we weren’t ready to let go of those memories. An outfit can take you back to a place in time and as we went through dresses, shirts and work out clothes, we did our best to divide up based on who wanted what and what fit who.  I walked away with some pieces that I can still see her in. And one skill my mom did really well was sewing. She made her wedding dress, made a lot of our clothes growing up, even Halloween costumes and duvets. Anything that she had made we kept and I’m pretty sure the skirt below is one she made.

I love how bright the colors have held up after years of washing.

It’s fun to feel like I’m still playing dress up in her closet by mixing and matching different items she wore often and incorporating them into my outfit.

Mom’s vintage Levi jeans.

Who doesn’t love highwaisted after having a baby belly.

Wearing my mom’s mom jeans as a mom is probably one of my proudest accomplishments. It’s like our own generations photo.

Handmade highwaist skirt by Grandma Olson (mom’s mom).

So I’m not encouraging you to be a hoarder of all things. Just encouraging you to think before you let go of something, especially if it was an item special to a loved one who is no longer here. These material items are just clothes but to me they will always be a part of my mom and that will always be in style.

Shop the looks:

Free People body suit (similar) | bald eagle necklace (similar)| Free People sheer crop top (similar) | Forever 21 scalloped crop top

 

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Grieving it all.

Each day I expected to grieve a little less, be a little more used to my mom not being here. Not being a phone call or hug away. But as I continue my grieving journey I’ve realized that it’s just always going to be here because as life continues new moments will inflict their own feelings.

My mom’s health began to significantly decline when my life was beginning to grow. This was hard for my twenty-four year old self to be okay with. How do I find out who I am without leaving her behind? She passed away two weeks after I started my first full-time job in a new state. I’ll never forget her face and our tears as I hugged her good-bye at my aunts wedding reception. She was reclined in her chair, so frail and sad…so unlike her. I remember walking out in tears because I knew that the mom I grew up with was really never going to be that way again. And looking back, I can still see her eyes and thinking this isn’t how it’s supposed to be.

Why didn’t we get the normal life of weekend visits to my apartment and seeing me live a grown up life? Watching me marry the love of my life, talking me through pregnancy concerns, reminding me to think before I speak and to take care of my self. But we don’t get to pick and this was the hand we were dealt. I know she was angry at the end. She was an extremely positive person but she was angry. She didn’t deserve that ending to her story.

And I think that is why I’m so committed to carrying on her memory every day. Because she deserves that. She deserves Grandkids who understand why we love Bald Eagles, and a memory garden filled with her favorite flowers. She more than deserves to feel our love all the way to heaven.

This rambling post is really because each new memory in life brings up those new feelings. We are expecting our third child and I’m met with a whole new set of emotions wishing she was here. Wanting to ask her how she handled three kids, if she had anxiety or depression during and after pregnancy…and how she did it all?

So ask your mom, or dad or whoever is super special to you these questions because you just never know. I’m left with this sweet card my dad found when he was cleaning out their house. We can’t remember why or when she wrote it, but I love that it’s so simple that a quick look can bring both tears and love.

 

 

Taking care of yourself

Standing by my dad at mom’s visitation I overheard him tell people and specifically to listen to their bodies. This caught  me off  guard but as he went on to explain my mom’s situation it really resonated with me. A big factor with mom’s initial diagnosis was that it was caught in the later stages, 3C to be exact. The next stage being the 4th and final stage. With ovarian cancer the symptoms are typically silent until it’s in the later stages.

Mom definitely had symptoms but we had no idea to even think of ovarian cancer. When she’d comment about her bloated stomach or how she just didn’t feel hungry much we’d just tease her. She’d visit family practice clinics but never thought to visit an OB. Often times she left these appointments feeling bad for bothering the doctor with something so minor – they would tell her she was just constipated, overthinking it or reaching menopause. I’d like to kick these people.

As women and just human beings we’re taught to tough it out but after watching my mom’s battle, seeing the changes my own body experienced during pregnancy and just with getting older, I’ve come to the realization that we have to be our own advocates. No one can tell you how you’re truly feeling. I love being proactive with my health. Whether that’s doctor visits or daily self-care, it’s something I try to prioritize.

And a big part of that is prevention and skin care. My skin changed a lot with each pregnancy and my dad’s voice would often pop into my head “listen to you body” and made me take my skincare to the next level. Enter the Ginzing Collection from Origins and Influenster.

I was given these products complimentary to test and I’m so glad. I love how vibrant they make my skin feel. It’s enhanced my pregnancy glow and made me feel like I’m doing my skin a favor in using it. The Refreshing Eye Cream to Brighten and Depuff is great for mornings where my eyes are extra tired. The Refreshing Scrub Cleanser and Energy Boosting Gel Moisturizer give that added freshness. I don’t wash my face every day, only days that I wear make up which is maybe once a week (maybe). Otherwise I just splash with water. But I always moisturize and this cream is an AM and PM cream which is more bang for your buck.

Definitely recommend trying these products and seeing what they can do for your skin. You’re welcome for the up close an personal no make up selfie. And if you haven’t joined Influenster I highly recommend. I’ve had an opportunity to test products from food, beauty, Victoria’s Secret activewear and more. It’s a great way to try new products and share it via social media.

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Leah-Kristi 1st BeyDay

Get in formation & celebrate our Queen Bee turning 1

I swear I blinked and our little diva turned one. In utero I decided her first birthday party was going to be a Beyonce-themed party. After seeing Queen Bee live at 32 weeks pregnant for my 30th birthday with Leah kicking the entire time and for how much our little Leah LOVES to dance to Beyonce, it proved a great choice.

Our Leah-Kristi is a strong-minded, kind little girl who loves to take chances, doesn’t slow down (unless a good song comes on) and is willing to try anything once (terrifying to a parent). Basically our version of Queen Bee.

After having Hayden-Keith I was so proud of what I had accomplished. My body carried, delivered and fed a beautiful little boy. When we miscarried before Leah’s pregnancy it really shocked my self-esteem. For me, music is a source of healing and listening to the empowering, uplifting and heartfelt songs from Beyonce I grieved that loss while embracing Leah’s pregnancy.

It’s amazing what we as women can do. And I want my daughter to know that.

Party details:

From the invites to the decor and food table a bit of Queen B was carried throughout – we even had fresh squeezed lemonade.  I’m all about details and incorporating meaning into a special day. Lots of that was poured into Leah’s party.

Invitations – A friend brought my idea to life and I couldn’t be happier. Incorporating FLAWLESS and LEMONADE into the theme because how can you pick between the two.

Fresh-squeezed lemonade – Growing up I babysat and worked concessions for a family who owned the local A&W. My parents and siblings all worked the IA State Fair, National Balloon Classic and other events for Larry McConnell. I’m a lemonade snob because of how good his lemonade is. And he was so nice to hook me up with a batch for the party. Thank you Larry!

Lemonade stand – Hayden-Keith was generous to share his lemonade/grocery store. And a nod to my McConnell concession days and Joel’s days at the Bird’s Nest.

Decor – Balloons, giant balloons, fresh flowers and Lemons. Done.

Outfit changes – Because every birthday girl should have two outfits. Queen Bee shirt w/lemon shorts and “Who Runs the World, Girls” black onesie from Vagabond Babe for cake eating.

Food – From “I don’t think you’re ready for this jelly” beans to “hot sauce in our egg bake”, Beyonce Hits were incorporated throughout. A big hit was my go to crock pot breakfast casserole from Kristin at Iowa Girl Eats.

Desserts – This is always the easiest place to highlight my mom, Leah’s Angel Grandma Kristi. Her baking is out of this world and I LOVE that her unique recipes fit perfectly into the day. She always made Lemon Bars for my birthday so Leah had that as well as her homemade Twinkie Recipe. Thank goodness I made both because Leah had a slight reaction to the egg in the lemon bars. Recipes to come soon.

Favors – Who doesn’t love leaving a party with gifts. Oriental Trading Company had cute lemonade themed cups, tattoos and scented bubbles.

Her party was FLAWLESS. We had so much fun celebrating our Queen Bee with family and friends. I love having a little girl. Not for the outfits and playing dress up, but because some day I hope Leah and I can share the same bond my mom and I have. I know how hard I love my mom and I always wanted a chance to know how the other side of that relationship felt. I pray my mom knows and can still see how much she is loved by her little girl.

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Reworking family fashion

Ever since I was little I’ve been obsessed with wearing my parents clothes. Old photos of me from toddler life sportin’ an oversized road race or track shirt and loving life. This is just part of me being an old soul but also because I just love my parents. My mom was a lover of vintage things or finding a use for anything. That “you’ll never know when you’ll need or want that mentality”. She didn’t get rid of anything and I find that in myself (sorry Joel).

Especially with clothes…styles come and go but some things just don’t fade. Plus I love mixing old with new and finding a way to make something seem new again. It’s a challenge that keeps me holding on to items I’ve had for years.

Knowing I wanted to share this with you all, I reached out to Justin Meyer, an insanely talented photographer, jack-of-all-trades and friend. He was so nice to help me capture some of my favorite parent and even grandparent hand-me-downs. It was a fun morning and I couldn’t be happier with how they turned out…thank you Justin!!

Florida Track Club singlet – historic track club Frank Shorter – US Olympian ’70 Marathon Gold Medalist & ’76 Marathon Silver Medalist was a member

Most of these shirts are older than me but I love how comfortable they are and how proud I am to wear them. My dad has hung up his running shoes and I didn’t get blessed with his speed, but wearing these shirts lets me pretend.

Stay tuned…outfits from my mom and grandma’s hand-me-downs coming soon. Shop the look below.

Father Keith’s homemade race shirt from Luther College late ’70s

Back of above shirt & my favorite part. Father Keith aka ELLY

One of my all-time favorite vintage track shirts. The sweater is not vintage but super comfy too.

Shop the look:

One teaspoon denim shorts | Zara denim jeans (similar)| Express duster cardigan (similar) | j.crew belt (similar) | Burberry eye glasses (similar) | Homemakers couch & chair | Crate and Barrel Bar cabinet

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Fear of the unknown

Friday I had the privilege of giving Father Keith an early Father’s Day gift – spending most of his day with me. It’s actually the other way around. It was so nice to get to hang out with him without distractions. We spent the day at a conference learning all the ins and outs of the health condition he battles.

Pulling into the parking lot and seeing the sign “Hope starts here” really resonated with me. As I fought back tears realizing I’d soon be face to face with fears of the unknown, I took that sign as not only a sign from God but from my mom. I couldn’t help but think back to her interview with a local news outlet discussing the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition-IA Chapter’s annual Break the Silence Run/Walk. Her message of hope just made me feel like in that moment, on Friday, my dad and I were where we should have been. Together, educating ourselves (and smuggling suckers from the vendor tables). Because all you can do is educate yourself and #sweets4life.

I actually listen to her interview often. I selfishly need to hear her voice and a verbal reminder of hope. And, ironically a couple weekends ago, we attended the Break the Silence run/walk in her honor. It was incredible to see all the people supporting their loved ones. It’s bittersweet attending without her but having her Grandkids and sister participate were a close second best.

How do you handle fears of the unknown? Do you like to be educated or are you stronger when you’re unsure?

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Just cancer.

“Your mom just has cancer. Not you.” I’ll never forget those words. When my mom was diagnosed someone told me this after I explained  how my life had changed, my values and priorities had shifted and I’d grown. The comment stopped in me in my tracks.

And while I can’t remember how I responded, I catch myself thinking back to that moment every once in a while. “Your mom has cancer, not you.”

True, my mom was diagnosed with stage 3C ovarian cancer, the kind that is past the point of easily being cured –  I was by all accounts healthy. But anyone who has lost or seen someone suffer a loss knows that while the patient does carry the heaviest burden – family and loved ones have their own struggles. How do you keep it together when your world is falling apart? You just do the best you can. And some days you have it together and others you don’t, but both are ok.

Some days will be fighting through the fears of the unknown, the questions of whether or not your recent phone call will be the last. Will they feel up to talking with you or having you visit that day? Who is going to talk to your siblings guidance counselors and make sure they don’t miss athletic events they simply cannot miss? How will you give the play-by-play of athletic games you don’t understand? Smiling when you can because you know that’s how they want to see you. Making the hospital or chemo/doctor visits your new place to visit and going for that hour run when you’re way out of shape because they just killed their chemo treatment and want to run.

And that is “just cancer.” It’s your dad sitting at your wedding by himself in a pew that he should be sharing with his fourth grade sweetheart. That is grief, that is loss and that is heartbreak – a different kind of heartbreak. It’s having your world flipped upside down. It’s bittersweet memories…always. It’s being afraid but smiling. It’s crying harder than you’ve ever cried and it’s realizing that you don’t have to keep it together. Things can fall and you can change. There will be good days and there will be hard days. And that is ok.

How do you cope with a the loss or fear of losing a loved one?

Through it all.

Happy Birthday to the person I simply cannot live without. The person who accepts all of my flaws, reminds me of them and challenges me to be the best version of myself. You make me want to be the best I can. And, you do that by being an incredible partner, co-parent and driving me crazy at the same time.

You came into my life when I needed you the most but had no idea I did. My heart was in a different place, my head was in another but you helped me piece it all together and come out smiling. So thank you. Thank you for helping me grieve the challenges life has dealt. The loss of my mom, our miscarriage, becoming new parents and everything in between. And while some days it can be so hard to smile, you remind me why I should. Why we should. The support you have provided to me since sending that first email has never wavered. And I love you for it.

You make me laugh and let me cry while just holding me up.

The first song is everything you are to me. And the second is how I will always explain falling in love with you (minute 2:52 I die). I tear up every time I hear them. My life, my smile and my heart are where they are because of you. Ending relationships, starting new ones, moving three times in two years, having two kids in three years, losing a baby, new jobs, family heartache – there is nothing we can’t overcome and that is something you’ve challenged me with since we met. Thank you for always having my heart.

And this blog is your present. You’re welcome, you said not to spend any $$.

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