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.

 

 

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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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?

Horses and handheld memories

Since it’s almost the one year anniversary of our relocation to Iowa, I decided to put some personal touches throughout the house. I so admire people who are able to breathe life into a room with their style (The Makerista) because I just don’t have that talent.

But Hayden-Keith’s birthday seemed like a great deadline to give him a big boy room. When we moved he rocked transitioning from his crib to a queen bed. We made it seem like the crib didn’t move with us, so he was prepared ahead of Leah’s arrival. There were a few sleepless nights / weeks but he did great.

In my last post you saw the intensity of his love for horses. After one horse ride at a pumpkin patch he was hooked, and “Misty” has been his horse ever since. I’ve followed UrbanWalls for a while and since I didn’t want to commit to painting, their wall decals were perfect. After seeing local Iowa blogger, Nina and Cecilia (amazing) post on them, I decided to get some samples. UrbanWalls customer service was so nice and responsive, they recommend samples as the decals won’t work on heavy textured walls. The samples were sent quickly with no charge. Our walls are a bit textured but the decals held well. They were super easy to apply and they come off no problem. I was sold, placed my order for several sheets of “Misty” —  BUT rookie mistake — measure before ordering (yes they recommend this in the FAQs, but I was super cocky, guessed and now have several extra sheets).

The Small Horse Wall Decal was the missing piece to his unplanned “home on the range, wild west themed room” complete with a teepee. He loves it. To quote the cutie, “mom I love these Misty’s, thank you for hanging them.” Ugggh stay sweet forever please. And, seriously, if you’re considering adding some unique flare to a room, Urban Walls is where it’s at.

 

It’s funny how family heirlooms have a way of molding into a new generation. Growing up I remember my mom having a guitar – I have no idea why she had one. Never heard her play, but I made sure it didn’t get donated when we cleaned up my parents house. I hate getting rid of things, especially handheld memories. The guitar is now next to the teepee and Hayden-Keith thinks Angel Grandma Kristi gave it to him, which she totally did. Between the bald eagle photos, her old picnic basket next to his bed for books and the guitar, my mom is well represented in this room. The photo over his bed is actually a photo of Joel and I on our first trip to Scottsdale AZ, it’s a horrible picture for a canvas but has never made its way to the trash…again, I can find a use for anything.

Any tips for decorating with family heirlooms? Links below if you saw something you can’t live without.

Dresser | Teepee | Horse Decals | Frames | Lamp | Slippers | I’ll Love You Forever Canvas | Buffalo

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Sibling support

I’m in a few mom groups on Facebook and a mom posed the question of whether you can feel a family is complete after one child. They were debating having another but also felt good with one child and wanted other opinions.

So many factors go into that decision but I just felt compelled to comment with a perspective I unfortunately have had to realize and appreciate so young. Navigating grief can be really hard and it is definitely dependent on your situation but I can’t imagine my life now without my sisters. We didn’t always get along growing up – super competitive with each other and our parents (mainly mom’s time) and we’ve always loved each other but three girls wasn’t a walk in the park…I mean middle school years seriously.

A lot depends on family dynamic but I can’t imagine overcoming the last seven years as an only child. Sure friends and extended family offer their support, which has been great, but there is something comforting in knowing that two young women really actually do know how I feel because we are grieving the same person – OUR mom. She fostered great individual relationships with each one of us but it was and is challenging to find that new relationship and essentially our new sisterhood without our fearless leader.

My response to the question was basically this – As a new mom who lost a parent very young I’m so thankful for my siblings. Because good and bad days we’ve been able to help each other miss the one person we fought over (and still do some days). Now we get to direct all our smothering love at Papa Keith (formerly Father Keith). And who knows, my kids may grow up to not be best friends and talk occasionally or they may want to live down the street from each other and send their kids to the same school – who knows. But for me, I feel so much better knowing that they will have each other to make those decisions.

Due date come and gone.

Turns out I’m not the most consistent at posting and I have gained a whole new respect for dedicated bloggers since starting my own blog.

Today marks a hard day and really a day when I just want to call my mom. Today is the due date from our pregnancy that resulted in miscarriage.  It’s crazy to miss and love someone you have to wait to meet and it’s been comforting to hear of others who have gone through pregnancy loss just sad to know others have felt that same pain. In the sadness that haunts today, I’m blessed to feel the sweet kicks from our newest blessing due in July. Being pregnant after having a miscarriage has brought on a whole new mix of emotions but we continue to pray and remain hopeful as we continue the journey to grow our family.

Music is one of my favorite ways to cope. This song has brought me comfort in our pregnancy loss and especially these hard days when all I want is my mom. How do you get through the hard times?

 

All that you’ve missed but seen


Thank you so much for all the love, thoughts and messages regarding our last post. While our hearts are broken we know it’s not the end of our journey to grow our family and will just see where God takes us.

IMG_6787It’s officially been five years since the last day I got to talk, hug and love my mom in person. And it’s been really hard. It’s been harder than normal and I find myself tearing up really easy, just wishing I could call her. As I do each year, I took the day off to just spend some time with myself and her. I made sure to do things we would have done together or something she would have done in her every day like taking Lou for a run and baking her cut-out cookie recipe. Joel even helped me frost and decorate. Oh and I wore her turtleneck cropped wool sweater which I received compliments on (my sisters won’t believe it). My sister Catie and her manfriend Arlin came over and we ordered “terrible” Chinese. It was great. Continue reading →

1 in 4 is me.

This Wednesday will be five years since I last saw my beautiful mom alive. Each year it is always hard but this year hurts even worse. I think of all the times I’ve needed her here and all the things she’s missed out on.  Her shoulder to cry on and her hugs are something I wish I could have just one more time. Especially during the hard times like this past August when our journey to become a family of four (not counting Lou) was derailed when I started to miscarry at nine weeks; just two days before our nine week ultrasound appointment.

We found out we were pregnant right away. I remember being so excited and telling myself I would really make the most of this pregnancy. I was confident in my body’s ability to carry a healthy child full-term and had made it through a fairly uncomplicated labor and delivery (minus 36 hours of labor and a hematoma). After taking a few tests and thanking God for positive results, I shared the news with Joel and Hayden Keith. We were all so excited. Continue reading →