Meet Virginia~ Colorado Springs Children Photographer

You just sang the song in your head, didn't you?  I did too... every time I see a picture of her I do.  But that's okay.  Mama said it doesn't bother them.  She's named after her wonderful grandmother so it's a good name (and an awesome song, I think!). This sweet little thing is near and dear to my heart.  Her mom and I have been friends since we were 15 years old... so... what's that, like, 10 years? ;)  We went to EFY together, roomed together for a few years in college, and have had multiple roommate reunions over the years.  I LOVE her mama!  Like, TONS!  She has grown into such an amazing woman, who married an amazing man, and together they made an amazingly cute little person!

A few weeks ago, Laurie was in town with her husband on business so she decided to head down and see me.  We hadn't planned on doing pictures but while she was en route I called her and offered.  We took pictures for all of 15 minutes and I got 40 {FORTY} amazing images.  Virginia was a DREAM to take pictures of and between her happy attitude, my kids who very willingly stood my and made her giggle, and my reflector, we made short work of our impromptu shoot in my family room.  If only ALL shoots were this easy!!!


Her darling headband is by Design Stash.

She's the most kissable thing ever!

This picture... I heart it.

Reflectors. A Photographer's Best Friend~ Colorado Springs Children Photographer

Reflectors are UH-MAZING.  Seriously.  I pink puffy heart mine.  It makes a world of difference when you are in a low light situation or backlighting someone and you just want a little more light on their face.  I wanted to get an offical reflector for a long time.  I used a big piece of white foam board that worked fine but it didn't give my images the kick I wanted them to have.  So, I finally took the not-too-pricey (photographically speaking) and took the plunge.  This is the one that I had heard was great.  So, that's what I got.  Honeslty, I don't use the stand a ton because I haven't had to so far, but I'm glad I have it.  I still need to get more comfortable with using it ON the stand.  It takes me a while to get it to point the direction I want it to when I use the stand but I'm fairly confident that it's user eror.  ;)  I also got these little suckers because I live in the Windy City... no... not Chi-town.  The Windy City that doesn't get credit for the name it truely deserves.  Colorado Springs, Colorado.  I would hate for my reflector to fall down and smack someone in the face.  Then I'd have to do extra editing.  ;) I haven't had my reflector forever but from what I have seen for my personal preference, I like the gold side when i'm bouncing ambient lighting because it's still really soft.  But if someone is backlit I like the white side.  It takes that harder light and makes it a little softer and not quite as yellow/gold.  But ask me again in a year and I may sing a different tune.

I know I have used my little model here before but she holds still, she's cooperative, and she is only in school 1/2 day so she's around more.  These pictures are completely straight off my camera.  I haven't done anything to either of them.  The only difference is that in the second one I used a reflector.  The camera settings are the exact same.  They were taken about 30 seconds apart.  In the one with the reflector I put the reflector on my leg (which was propped up on the couch to my right so the reflector had something to lean against) and pointed it towards her.  I could see it in actino and could point it right where I wanted it  to get exactly what I wanted.  I have put arrows on the image that have been greatly affected by the reflector.  The ones that are easy to miss but are super important are her catchlights.  Catchlights are those little bits of light in her eyeballs that breathe life into the picture.  Even her teeth look better!!!

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I really enjoy having my reflector and encourage anyone who is serious about photography to invest in a good one.  This one works just a touch better than my foam one.  ;)

Sisters~ Colorado Springs Children Photographer

I just adore these girls.  They are not only beautiful but they have the sweetest personalities.  I had a lot of fun taking pictures of them.  The older two babysit my kiddos from time to time and the sweet youngest one, showing off her baptism dress, is a good friend of Carter's.  They have been in the same class since Kindergarten.  We were lucky enough, in the dead of winter, to have a nice day to take pictures on as well as finding a location that didn't look as dead as it actually was.  :) beautiful colorado springs teen colorado springs baptism dress colorado springs beautiful teen colorado springs girl colorado springs sisters colorado springs tween coloradospringssmilingtween

Capturing the *Real* Smile~ Colorado Springs Candid Photographer

I cannot express how many times I have told my little goofballs to give me a real smile... at which time they proceed to give me their widest, cheesiest, nostriliest grin.  Ugh. It.  Drives.  Me.  Batty.

I mean, I don't blame them.  The only thing that is more in their face than my big camera is my iPhone camera.  I can't help it.  What if one moment of their lives goes by and I DON'T get a picture of it?!?  (Right??  Doesn't that sound like a tragedy?)  ;)  I am for sure a lover of candid images.  I love the pictures that show how people are.  The ones that tell a story.  Do I always get them?  No.  But I try to.  I know that every mom out there wants the cookie cutter sit and smile image of their child.  And guess what I have hanging in my house?  Cookie cutter images of my children smiling.  But I also have images that capture a moment in time.  One that I may have allowed to fade if left just to my aging brain to remember.  I love detail shots.  I love shots that people look at and go, "Oh wow!  You can just tell how much they adore each other" even though not every single tooth in the subject's mouth is showing.

That being said, HOW do you get those image?  How do you get kids, big or small, to get rid of that cheesy grin and show you that sweet, sincere smile they have when they are laughing or when they are listening to ther mom tell them how much they are loved?  THAT smile.  How do you get that?  I have come up with a few ideas that seem to work on kids of all ages.  Not all of these ideas are socially acceptable and I'm sure I've had a mom want to flick me on the nose from time to time... but I think that feeling passes when I show them super killer shots of their kids *real* smile.

fake smiles









I have a few tricks up my sleeve that I use when I'm taking pictures of kiddos, whether they are mine or not.  I have picked them up all over the place: reading articles, friends, other photographers I have gone shooting with, but mostly from being a goofy mom.  Like most other mamas out there, I will do just about ANYTHING to bring a smile to my child's face and hear a giggle escape their little lips.  (Think "Friends" epidose where Ross and Rachel sing "I Like Big Butts" to their newborn just to make her laugh.)

1.  If mom and dad are NOT in the picture have them stand WHERE YOU WANT THE CHILD TO LOOK and be silly.  If you want the child looking at the camera, tell mom to cozy up to the top of your head.  If you want the little one to be looking a little to the right, have Mom and Dad stand there.  Just be sure they aren't blocking your light.  They don't know any better.  ;)

2.  Throw a ball up.  You can get balls that make noises when they bounce, balls with texture, balls that light up, balls that make an annoying noise that kids will undoubtedly think is funny.  With this one you do need to make sure you set ground rules though.  "I'm going to throw this SUPER cool ball but you need to make sure to stay super still or the ball can't leave my hand."  Or something like that.

3.  Have a contest to see who can make the most annoying noise.  Or the loudest laugh.  Or the silliest laugh.   This one, shockingly works really well with adults as well.  Often times when I'm trying to get men to stop giving me a smile that looks like it belongs on nothing short of their drivers license, I will use this one.  Then, of course with the camera ready, I will make a VERY odd sound or obnoxious laugh.  Gets them every time.  The child (or grown man) will relax and laugh because they realize you are a complete idiot.  (In my case they are not incorrect.)

4.  If you have a remote for your camera have your camera set up and do a little dance for the little tyke.  If you don't, make Mom do it.  The goofier the dance the better the laughs.

5.  (This one of one of my top go-to's.)  Make up words to a song they know well.  For example, my kids love and adore Phineas and Ferb.  Whenever I'm trying to get a smile out of them I change the words to something completely and utterly wrong.  Or, my girls love "Princess and the Popstar" (don't ask).   So I will sing that song at top volume in a completely vabrato filled voice.  Or in a super goofy voice.  Even with the correct words you can make them laugh at their favorite song.  You will also get a few different, very snap-worthy, pictures out of this one.

6.  Call then the wrong name.  "Hey Gertrude!"  Or call their family members the wrong name.  Pointing at Dad, "Is that your mom?"

7.  Have them tell you a joke.  Often times my children's jokes make absolutely zero sense.  BUT, they think their own jokes are hilarious.  So, try it.  I bet they have a good one they're dying to share.  And, then, of course, cue your over-the-top laugh.  I also will have a page on my phone pulled up with jokes that I can tell them.  They are always very silly jokes that a three year old will get.  I also ask Mom and Dad to laugh along so that the little one will laugh.  (I will do this with teens that are just a bit uncomfortable in front of the camera as well.  They laugh because it is just so dorky.)

8.  Old Faithful: "Don't Smile!"  Now, with this one you have to know your audience.  I did this a few years ago with my adorable little niece and she promptly burst into tears.  Oops.  I only see her every now and again so I didn't know that she was super sensative.  I felt really, and I mean REALLY, bad.  But, *normally* it works.

9.  With older kids and teens, play the "Who's the cute boy/girl in your class?" card.  Or ask about their boy/girl friend.

10.  Play a (stationary) game (unless you're ready to chase!).  Peek-a-boo is a good one with little kids.  Have them try to scare you, and, obviously act very scared when they holler "BOO!" at you.  If they're fairly small then you can play the "Where's your hair/belly button/ear/ eye" game.  They'd love to show you everything they've learned as soon as they are comfortable with you.  If Mom and Dad are there then they can do something like "Here comes the bee!!"  And then come at them slowly (long enough for them to giggle with anticipation and for you to snap a few pictures).

11.  If mom has brought along their prized posession (a Lightsaber or a puppy they always sleep with) have them show that off.  That will get them to give you a nice sweet smile because they love whatever it is that Mom found worthy of making an appearance in picture.

12. And for the grand finale, make every bathroom noise and say every bathroom word you can think of.  Fart.  Pee.  Poop.  Toot.  All of them.  These ones are ALWAYS winners with little kids.  Moms?  Uhhh... not so much.  But, to me, it's worth it.  I usually throw out a bathroom sound and then say, "Eeew!  Was that your mom?"  Or, "Sick!  Did you HEAR that?!?"  It works.  Promise.

I must say, these tricks are fairly obvious and common but that's because they work.  They are good ones to keep in your back pocket.  Like I mentioned above, make sure you know your audience.  Don't come off too strong right off the bat or they're going to be scared of you.  I'm sure there are a million other ways to get kiddos to shoot you that million dollar grin without it looking canned but these are just the ones that I have found work for ME.

Two Whole Years~ Colorado Springs Children Photographer

leukemia boy colorado springs I'm back!  I know... can you even believe it?  It's been a LONG time coming but my new website and blog are up and going without a million bugs and WITH my old blogs.  I can't believe how hard it was to get everything back to how I wanted it.  (That's a whole other story I won't go into right now...)

Anyways, it's great timing because today is Carter's TWO YEAR ANNIVERSARY!!!  I canNOT believe that it's been TWO entire years since  I got this horrific phone call.  It all seems like a dream now.  It seems like it happened yesterday and like it happened a lifetime ago at the same time.  Our lives have changed so drastically.  It's been two entire years since I have gone to sleep NOT worrying about my son's health.  It's been two entire years since Bryan and I have NOT talked about childhood cancer.  It's been two entire years since we haven't had daily concern about how this is affecting our daughters.  It's been two entire years since we took our little, tiny seemingly healthy boy into the hospital thinking about how on earth we were going to explain to him that he had cancer... and wondering how much detail to give him, not sure if he would grow up to tell people about his experience.

I can say, without a shadow of a doubt that our family is stronger because of what we have been through.  We rely heavily on each other (we rely even on the girls, believe it or not).  We rely more heavily on faith.  Without our knowledge of eternal families and angels and prayer, I think I'd be much more of a wreck than I currently am.

There are still days (frequently) that I cry because of what Carter is going through.  I don't know that it will ever get "easy".  Most of the time we are use to what we are going through.  Sometimes, we are even grateful.  And always we are at peace with it.

In the past year Carter has been hospitalized three times.  (One time we were on vacation in Utah!!)  He has had countless shots, tons of X-Rays, several Priesthood blessings (including one from President Uchtdorf!!), had his chemo held more than I like to think about, had numerous G.I. issues, had a bit of a rough summer, and has struggled through Maintenance, when most children thrive.

But, all that being said, he is doing great.  His attitude is amazing.  He deals with his lot with maturity and peace.  He loves going to chemo and never complains about taking his nightly oral chemo.  We are all use to his steroid cheeks and the ever changing side-affects.  We thank our Father in Heaven every day for our health, including Carter's, because as I have said a million times before, it could be SO much worse.  He WILL beat this.  Next May I will write a post that is titled "Carter is Officially Cancer Free!!" and I CANNOT wait for that day to come!  He's such a fighter and God truly chose wisely when he gave him this trial.

Seems only appropriate that he got to spend the day down at the clinic getting his big monthly dose of chemo today, on his two year mark.  We took the kids to breakfast to celebrate and tonight we will have spaghetti and donuts, as he has requested.  :)

ALL getting accessed colorado springs colorado springs blood draw colorado springs leukemia boy playing xbox little boy in hospital colorado springs sterile colorado springs


Our Boy ~ Colorado Springs Children Photographer

Carter is one of the most amazing people I have ever met in my life.  When I think about how lucky we are to call him his parents I just nearly pee my pants!  He's so brave.  He has gone through more in the last 17 months than I have been through my entire life.  He truly takes things like a man.  I VERY rarely see him get frustrated or down about his lot in life.  He's optimistic.  He's brilliant.  He's so darn cute without those front teeth.  He knows he's not s physically able as his friends to do things but tries to keep things in perspective. ("I know someday I will be able to ride my bike and play sports.")

Sometimes I watch what he goes through and I cry with him or for him.  Watching him struggle breaks my heart.  Not being able to take it away from him breaks it even more.  He is mature beyond his years (I'm sure I will need to be reminded of this when he's a crazy teenager) and an absolute joy to have him around.  I can't image our lives any other way than the way they are now.


Those steroid cheeks are a way of life for him.  They will eventually (in over two years) go back to normal.  When I see pictures of him like this it doesn't even look like him.  But his smile is still Carter's smile and his eyes still twinkle like they always have.

This is my Glimpses 52 Image for the week for Chic Critique  Forum.

I Can't Believe She's THREE!!~ Colorado Springs Children Photographer

This little girl keeps me on my toes.  That's not a secret.  But she is an amazing little person.  She's bright.  She's REALLY funny.  She's insanely independent (Bryan likes to use the word "driven").  She's clever.  She's got some serious spice.  She's strangely strong.  And she's ours for eternity.  Even though she has two more years before she leaves for kindergarten I am already dreading the day she skips off to her classroom, lunchbox in hand, leaving her mom to do the ugly cry in the hallway.  I never want that day to come. I am having these pictures be my Glimpses 52 Project submission for the week for Chic Critique.


My Little Miss~ Colorado Springs Children Photographer

I am the slackerest slacker ever!  It's been WAAAAAAY too long since I've blogged.... why?  Because I'm lame... and busy...  and I have three kids... at home... because it's summer... so I'm busy... and we've been vacationing.... but mostly because I'm super lame.

This is my Chic Critique Glimpses 52 image for the week.  First one I've done for WELL over a month... so embarrassing.  But I HAVE been taking pictures.  Does that make the fact that I've been M.I.A. any better?


Exploring~ Pikes Peak Children Photographer

It seems like every time my parents come up it's because something major has happened  (and I don't mean that in a good way). They don't get to come up "just because" all that often and when they do it's only for a few days.  I prefer their visits to be a week long... or longer.  :)  This time was close: 5 days.  Hey!  We'll take it! We spent Memorial Day up in the mountains exploring and getting some beautiful fresh air.  I think spending the day in the mountains with Bryan and my kids (and any other family that may be in town) is probably my most favorite thing to do.  It always feels like we are completely alone... like we have an entire world to discover.  This day was no exception.

This is my Glimpses 52 Chic Critique submission for the week... just barely squeaked it in!

Karate Kid~ Colorado Springs Children Photographer

A few months ago we put Carter into Kenpo Karate.  He's be interested in Karate (what little boy isn't) forever!  We opted for things like soccer and basketball to encourage all different kinds of sports.  Since he's been sick and has little to no energy, we thought karate would be a good way to strengthen his leg muscles and get him into some sort of sport.  He's really loving it and it's offered at our community center by a 3rd degree black belt. His teacher's name is Miss Natalie and she's great with Carter and the other little boy in the class.  We practice during the week and after a few months of lessons and practicing he was ready to test for his yellow belt.

He did great and got his yellow belt.  Addilyn has also decided that karate would be much more fun than dance and has opted to quit dance and start karate next month once she turns 5.  I'm excited for her.  Here's hoping that she'll get good enough to fight all those boys off in a few ( like 25) years!

The most rewarding thing for me is to see him getting stronger.  He's still MUCH weaker than the other kid in his class (who is a year younger than him) but most of his weakness is in his legs, and karate is a lot of leg work.  So, any improvement is great.  He's doing so amazing, and, as always, we are so stinking proud of him!

This is my Glimpses 52 Project picture for Chic Critique this week.

Love Notes~ Colorado Springs Photographer

What mama in the world doesn't love a little Love Note from their little ones?  (I see no one has raised her hand...)  Moms love notes.  They love ones that are just scribbles when our babies are just wee ones.  We love ones that are full of misspellings when they are learning to write.  Even though I'm not there yet, I'm sure I'll love ones when they are off at college and missions.  And, while I have quite some time before this one, I'm sure I'll love ones when they are married and parents themselves stating that I WAS right all those years ago when they thought I was a complete buffoon.  :) This love note is special.  It's written on the back of a note pad.  You know when you use all the paper and there's just that piece of  cardboard on the back of it that you just chuck?  Except this one isn't garbage.  Carter wrote us this note and set it on our bathroom counter about a week before he was diagnosed.  As bad as it is to admit, I wasn't planning on keeping it.  I hadn't gotten around to throwing it away when we were faced with our son maybe not living a full, long, healthy life.  At that moment, that little piece of garbage became one of my most prized possessions.  It's been on my mirror since then and every day it makes me smile and thank our Lord for letting us fight this fight.  

Side note: the note above that is a VERY sweet card from my bestest friend.  She's amazing and has had a rough go the past few months.  I heart her and I'll keep her note forever and ever along with Carter's.

Chic Critique Forum Glimpses 52 picture for the week.

A Year In~ Colorado Springs Children Photographer

One Year.  It's been an entire year since we took our sweet little tired 5 year old to the hospital.  An entire year since we were told by a doctor, who we would grow very close to very quickly, that we would get use to our "new normal".  An entire year since we had to call family and close friends and tell them of the battle we had ahead.  An entire year since I spent hour after hour sobbing and searching for faith, relying on everything I had been taught since a baby.  An entire year since we had to explain to Carter that a good part of his childhood would be filled with hospital visits, pokes in the port (oh- had to explain to him what that was-- after it was explained to us), pokes in the arm, pokes in the finger.  An entire year since I started giving myself internal pep talks, reminding myself that I CAN do this and I'll do it with a smile on my face, dang it!  (At least in public. :))  An entire year since we were faced with the realization that we would have to FIGHT to keep our son alive. And what a year it has been!!!  I would like to say that the biggest thing we have learned over the course of the last 365 day (or is is 366 days since it's leap year?) are facts about Leukemia.  Don't get me wrong; I've learned more about Leukemia than I EVER thought I would know.  But we have also learned so so SO much more.

~We have learned how to lean on each other.

~We have learned to rely on God and exercise our faith.

~We have learned that it's ok to be served (this was a hard one for me... I think all us mommies want to be Super-Moms).

~We've learned that we can drive to the hospital with our eyes closed (don't worry... we don't do it... just sayin' we could if we wanted to).

~We have learned how to unaccess his port at home.

~We have learned how to give him chemotheropy through his port on more than one occasion.

~We have been to the ER 4 times.... or is it 5?  We have taken advantage of having a radiologist as a neighbor in order to get discharged from the hospital faster.  (Don't look at me like that!  You would too if you were a frequent flier over there.  And he doesn't mind!)  *** Tangent Coming*** The most recent time into the ER is right now.  Carter woke up with  fever of 104 so off we went.  (It was Bryan's turn.  I took the girls to church.)  Don't worry, they are on their way home right now. They think it was just a random virus that in a normal person would have passed without even being noticed.

~Carter has been poked (this is a guess on the low end) at LEAST 75 times between the port, arm, and finger.  (Usually arm or port.)  (Bryan thinks it's closer to 100.)

~We have learned that we are loved by so many people.  We have people follow his story that don't know him or us all that well.  We are prayed for by people everywhere.  Nothing warms my heart like hearing my friends tell me that their little ones pray for Carter.  So sweet!

~We have learned that PRAYERS ARE HEARD!  They are answered.  We have a very loving Father in Heaven that is healing our son.  I am not taking credit away from science.  For the first time in my life I actually APPRECIATE science. (I stand corrected to my 16 year old self who hated science more than words.)  But, at the end of the day, God decides.  The ball is in HIS court.  If he wants our baby to live, he will (and he WILL!).  If it's his time to go home (it's NOT!) then that's what is going to happen at the end of all this.

We have grown closer to close friends, gained an entire new circle of friends at the Pediatric Oncology Clinic, and cried more than one time to our moms.  (Ok, I've done the crying... to both moms... :))  We have grown to love Dr. Cook and Dr. Reaves so very much for the interest that have taken in this journey we are taking as a family and the unconditional love they have shown Carter... and the patience they have shown me. :)  Our family is closer than it was a year ago.  Our marriage is stronger than it was a year ago (and it was already pretty awesome, all thanks to Bryan).  We hug our babies tighter.  We tease Carter about how we are going to poke his port.  We tease Addilyn about how we should shave her head like  Carter's (was) so they look more alike.  We have planned our super awesome Make-A-Wish trip (first week of this December!!!).  We have witnessed the merciful hand of God.  We think it's funny that our two year old knows that "Cawter at chemo."  We are the proud owners of a DS (SWORE I'd never let my kids have one) that Carter can only play at chemo.

In short (who am I kidding?  This post is anything but short) it has been quite a year.  And we have survived it!  That in itself is something to be proud of.  We are use to our new life.  We enjoy our time together.  We have adjusted and are loving our lives.  We thank our Father in Heaven daily for the health that we have and for how well Carter is handling this.  We are thankful that THIS is our trial and not something else.  There are so many things that could have happened that I don't think I could have survived.  (Although I don't think I would have said we could have survived this.)

We love our life!  We love our battle and we love our Savior, Father in Heaven, and guardian angels (oh yes, they DO exist!!) for helping us face this day after day.  Carter is the toughest little guy around. He tougher than any football player in the world in my book!

Side Note:  I had big plans to take some pictures of Carter today playing Legos and being a "normal" little boy... but plans changed.  So, we have pictures of him passed out on my bed because as he declared to Bryan on the way home from the hospital, "Dad, I'm gunna find the first soft thing I come to when I get inside and take a nap!"

This is my Glimpses 52 Project for this week for Chic Critique Forum.

The Middle Child~ Colorado Springs Children Photographer

This child.  Where do I even begin?  She's an angel.  She's the sweetest thing ever.  She is so caring and compassionate with just the right touch of sass.  I wish I could clone her a hundred times over and pass her out to friends and family for Christmas presents.  We are so very lucky to have her be part of our eternal family.  Don't you just want to kiss her face off?  (Katie Brown!)  Because I do.  In fact, I'm going to.  Right now.

This is my Chic Critique Forum post for this week's Glimpses 52 Project.  LOVE that place.  Have you seen their new magazine?  It's SO awesome!!!

Potty Training~ Colorado Springs Children Photographer

This is my youngest.  She's awesome.  And she's 2 1/2.  She's been potty trained since she was 23 months old.  (We were in an apartment and I wanted her peeing on THAT carpet and NOT on the new floors in the home we built.)   But, because she's a bit of a firecracker we wanted to keep her in her crib for as long as possible so she was stayed sleeping in diapers.  Lazy of us?  Perhaps.  Keeping our sanity in tact?  Most definitely. But now she's out of the crib and in her big girl bed (or "gi-gil bed").  So, away with the diapers (oh happy day!).  But, like a lot of things with parenting, it was a double edge sword.  She's up at the PRE-crack of dawn daily coming in and announcing "Goo Marnin'!" at the top of her little red-headed lungs.  Annoying?  Perhaps.  Cute?  Most definitely.

So, short story made long, we are really trying to push the whole "you can do this all by yourself" thing in reference to going to the bathroom, taking off her little undies, and putting them back on.  It's a LOOOONG process for her and often times her legs end up in the same hole or everything is backwards and in-side-out.  But, if this allows us to sleep until 7 then it sounds like a pretty fool-proof plan to me!  She's so darn cute and while it is truly the end of the diaper era at our place, I was doing the happy jig when I passed all the diapers along to a dear friend who still needs them around.  (Did I snicker when I did this? Perhaps. Was I absolutely over the moon about it?  Most definitely.)


Glimpses 52 Project for the week for the Chic Critique Forum.

Our Own Miracle~ Colorado Springs Cancer Photographer

**Note: this is long. Deal with it. My blog. My miracle. I can be long-winded if I want. :)**

You always hear about those amazing miracles that happen to people. You read about them. People share experiences in church. But this week was OUR turn. We've had a rough year. Usually, it's fine. But let's be honest. No one wants their little boy to be diagnosed with cancer. And when that horrific thing DOES happen, you think "Surely the dear Lord wouldn't give us any more trials. Surely THIS is all we can handle and still actually function."

Well, this week our world turned up-side-down all over again.  A few weeks ago I was chatting with Carter's oncologist, Dr. Reaves, about his very uncooperative liver.  She suggested we test him for Hepatitis C.  She followed this suggestion with, "I'm SURE he doesn't have it. But let's just cross it off the list."  I agreed, giving it no more than a fleeting thought.

Fast forward a week, she called me to let me know about his current liver counts and then told me his Hep C test came back in the "Gray Zone".  That means that is wasn't negative.... wasn't necessarily positive, but it wasn't negative.  She said we would retest him when he came back in in a few days, reassuring me that it was merely a mistake.  After all, he doesn't shoot up (we keep the drug use to chemo drugs :)), he's not having sex (that we are aware of :)), I was pretty darn sure I don't have it so he couldn't have been born with it, and the chances of him getting it from a blood transfusion are anywhere between 1 in 2 million to 1 in 10 million.  So, surely it was a mistake. 

Fast forward again to Monday night, February 13th.  We were dropping Valentine's off to my kid's best friends (Chelsea and her kids).  They wanted to play for a minute so we went in.  While we were there (I'm so glad I was with her and not alone since Bryan was working), Dr. Reaves called me with some VERY unexpected news. "His Hepatitis C test came back positive. I am so sorry."  We asked if there could be ANY mistake?  Could it be a false positive?  No.  He had (basically) 2 positive tests.  One non-negative and one positive. There was no mistake. Then it got even worse.  Dr. Reaves continued, "If he DID get this from a transfusion, we need to be safe and test him for HIV."  Raise your hand if your 6 year old has been tested for HIV... no one?  So we're alone on that one?

We were STUNNED.  How could this have happened?  Who dropped the ball here?  What kind of irresponsible _____ (fill in any nasty word you want there) would donate DIRTY blood?  Who is responsible for RUINING my child's life?  Cancer goes away.  Hep C? That doesn't.  Immediately, Bryan did as much research as he could. I cried.  And cried.  And cried.  Then I cried some more.
Bryan and I were both a little mad.  What kind of God would do this to our little boy who has already been to hell and back in the last 11 months?  Why would God give us this trial on top of what we are already dealing with?  Why would He give CARTER this trial?  Would Carter give it to his wife?  His children?  Would he even be alive long enough for that to happen?  What would take him?  Liver cancer? Liver disease?  And how long until that happened?  And all of this because someone was irresponsible.
The anger went away.  Quickly.  The sadness did not.  I cried all Monday night.  I woke up and laid in bed and cried more on Tuesday morning.  I wanted answers.  We prayed and prayed and prayed.  And not just any prayers.  We prayed for a straight up miracle.  We didn't ask for a miracle with the cancer.  I knew before they told me for sure that it was cancer that he had cancer and that we would have to see it through to the end.  I knew cancer was our battle to fight.  I told Bryan that we couldn't be angry with God if we wanted him to heal our son.  Bryan had given Carter a blessing on Monday night.  It was a good one.
By Tuesday evening we had some statistics that were more reassuring.  We felt peace.  Not because of the stats but because we knew everything would be ok.  We weren't sure what "ok" meant.  We just knew things would work out the way they were suppose to.  We asked our siblings, parents, Bishop, and Relief Society President to join us in a fast on Wednesday.   We asked them to fast for a miracle.
We know God loves us.  We have NEVER doubted that.  We know he hears our prayers.  We know he is there.  But we also know that things are on HIS terms.  If it is not meant for our little boy to be healed, then he won't.  And we were also ok with that.  We were ok with however this was going to work out.   We had no choice, once again, but to put our son's life in the hands of our loving Father in Heaven.
Before anyone knew (even our siblings) the Bishop had texted Bryan. He said he had been thinking of our family and wanted to check in. We knew that was the Lord's way of telling us that He was there; that he was hearing our desperate prayers.  The Bishop was in tune and listening to the spirit and I am SO grateful that he listened and texted Bryan.  That attention and little prompting was something we needed to know that He was there for us.
Wednesday was long.  We waited patiently for test results for Bryan and myself.  (We went with Carter to get tested on Tuesday evening. We wanted to make sure Bryan and I didn't have it- therefore giving it to Carter- and Carter's test was being sent to Mayo Clinic to see how concentrated the virus was in his body. It's called a Viral Load test.)
We continued to feel peaceful and informed those who absolutely had to know... his teacher, the school nurse... people like that. The list was limited. We didn't know what kind of beast we were dealing with quite yet so we wanted to keep things quiet until we did.
We had a lot of answers from the Internet. By this point we knew that the chances of him passing it to his wife were less than 1%.  Even if she DID get it, the chances of their children getting it at birth were less than 5%.  Even if they ended up with it, the chances of their little bodies fighting it off by the time they were 2 was very good.  We also knew that the chance of him getting liver disease and then a liver transplant were only about 25%. We knew that his chances of it morphing into liver cancer in about 20 years were only about 4%. All of this was very encouraging.
However, we also knew that only about 15% of normal, HEALTHY people are able to fight if off with or without the use of chemotherapy.  Yep.  Treatment for HepatitisC is 48 weeks of intense chemo.  And it's super nasty stuff. Interferon. It's for sure going to make him sick and often times they wait until the kids are teens to even treat it because of how sick it makes them.  Because of his cancer, Carter's chances of fighting it off were about 0%.  His immune system is pretty much nonexistent.  Wasn't going to happen.  Not while he was getting treated for his cancer, anyway.  We also knew that he more than likely wouldn't be able to start the treatment until after his cancer is completely gone.  We would be taking weekly trips to Denver.  He gets a daily pill and interferon through an IV each week.  (Hopefully they just leave his port in and use that?)
Thursday Bryan and I went in to see Dr. Reaves. We had a million questions. When would treatment start?  When would we find out what strain of Hep C it was?  What were the chances of his body just fighting this off by itself? Why hasn't the chemotherapy, which had killed nearly everything in his body-including him- killed the hepatitis?  Could we be compensated?  We don't want the money right now, but what if his family needs it?  What if he can't get medical insurance?  And who in their right mind will give him life insurance?  And how on earth is his wife suppose to pay for a funeral?  For those reasons, we wanted money. 
Dr. Reaves didn't have a ton of answers. (We knew she wouldn't. She was referring us to a pediatrichepatologist in Denver.)  She DID, however, have mine and Bryan's test results back.  Negative.  Carter for sure got hepatitis from a blood transfusion.  Unreal.  She was hoping that by early next week we would have Carter's test results in and we could move forward with how to get him the help he needed.  She also knew at that point that his HIV test was negative.  Phew.  
My parents flew up Wednesday night to help us get through this.  We were sitting around trying to get our mind off things late Thursday night (10:15) when my phone rang.  It was Dr. Reaves.  She had his test results (much earlier than she thought she would).  I put her on speaker because I knew that Bryan would have different questions than I would.  To our complete astonishment, they were NEGATIVE. There was NO sign of active hepatitis C virus in his body.  It was a miracle. It was the sheer grace of God.  We were, once again, completely stunned and speechless.
His immune-deficient, sick, suffering little body had miraculously fought off this hepatitis C.  This should NOT have happened.  Carter has been in the most intense part of his chemotherapy.  This disease should have thrived in his body.  Dr. Reaves is as stunned as we are. She has no scientific explanation.  She has a million questions.  She wants to run more tests and see if he has the antibodies for it. (Antibodies are the leftovers... kind of like the immunity for it.  He would only have that if he had Hep C at some point. This could for sure be what flagged the tests in the first place.)
To say we feel blessed is the biggest understatement ever.  Calling Bryan's parents and telling them... calling my sweet Grandma and telling her the whole story... telling our siblings that their fasting and prayers had been answered.  Telling sweet Carter that his liver was going to be ok... it was all so rewarding.  After a year of so many lows and a few highs, having news like this to share is so wonderful.  I wanted to call CNN and tell them!
We know the angels around us went to bat for us.  We know they pleaded our case to our Father in Heaven.  I know one of those angels was my grandpa.  I had an out loud conversation through my tear-stained eyes on Tuesday morning begging him to go ask Heavenly Father face to face to heal my little boy; to not make him suffer more than he already has.  I know he did that.  I know he, along with Bryan's grandfathers went and talked some sense into God. :) (Although, I'm sure the sense was already there... :))
We celebrated! We celebrated our child NOT having Hepatitis C.  We celebrated him NOT having HIV.  We celebrated him ONLY having cancer.  What a wonderful, miraculous thing!  Our Father in Heaven loves us.  He knows us.  He DOES hear our prayers.  And he DOES answer them... sometimes He even answers them the way you want them answered.  We are so grateful to have our little boy with us still and to have him only have ONE disease.  YAY!

This is my weekly Chic Critique Forum Glimpses 52 picture, by the way. 

Budding Cheerleader~ Colorado Springs Children Photographer

Little Miss A went to the local high school for a cheer camp.  She had THE best time!  The cheerleaders (whom she had met before when Carter was honored at one of the football games) adored her and she, straight faced, told me, "Mom, when I grow up I want to be a cheerleader!"  Oh my... Later that night they got to go to the boys basketball game and preform at 1/2 time.  There wasn't a shy bone in that girl's body!  Look out world!  They were also earning money for Beast Cancer which is so wonderful!!  Any way we can fight any kind of cancer is great with me!  (Plus, that meant that her shirt was pink... bonus.)

This was for sure the highlight of our weekend so I'm turning it in for my Glimpses 52 on the Chic Critique Forum.

Seriously?!~ Colorado Springs Children Photographer

We have ran full speed to meeting our medical deductible.  And I mean, SPRINTING towards it.  Carter managed to fall off our kitchen table bench on Saturday, breaking his ulna at his elbow.  Yep.  Broken elbow.  As my brother so rightly put it, "It's about time he has a normal little boy experiance."  Yup.  Agreed.

When Carter takes his monthly steroids his bones weaken.  The steroids make his bone marrow release all of their white bood cells into the blood stream so they kinda start over empty creating new ones.  (I'm not a doctor- shocked, right?- but if I understand it correctly, that's what happens.)  Hence the weak bones.  The pediatric orthopedic sergeon said it certainly isn't out of the question for Carter to break another bone before he's done with treatment.  Awesome.  Just what a parent wants to hear.

The good news is he only has the cast on for three weeks.

The even better news?  IT GLOWS IN THE DARK!  True story.  Carter couldn't decide between the green (which nearly glows all on it's own) and the glow in the dark.  So, the tech suggested he do green with a glow int he dark candy cane stripe.  JACKPOT!  So, on our way we were sent with the coolest cast around.  And, in case you're wondering on weather or not it really does glow, the answer is YES.  Quite well, in fact.  Like, I hope it doesn't keep him up at night.  But, he's a happy camper and headed to school with three different colored sharpies in hand for all his friends and teachers to sign it.

Because this has taken up a nice chunk of my week, I decided to make this my Glimpses 52 project for the week on Chic Critique Forum.  Next week, I am vowing to NO Carter in my Glimpses project.  He's getting the boot.  That kid just needs to stay out of trouble long enough for me to take pictures of his sisters!


Pokes~ Colorado Springs Children Photographer

As I mentioned last week, I'm starting to do the Glimpses 52 project on the Chic Critique Forum.  Just any ol' "glimpse" from my daily life.  These pictures are a very real, and now normal, part of my daily life.  I have taken pictures of Carter at the clinic before.  But I don't know why I haven't taken more.  This will be a part of his life that he will never, EVER forget.  Something that will be a big part of him forever.  So, I need to start taking more pictures of it!  After all, May 16, 2014 will be here before we know it and we will have a cancer-free household!  ;)