Archive for Feb 2012
I met my friend Danielle when we were 5 years old and in ballet class together. She lived down the street from my cousin, and we would occasionally all play together. We became close in high school, spending early morning hanging out in the halls because her dad was a teacher there and my dad dropped me off on the way to his job as a teacher at another high school.
We went our separate ways after high school: she to college at NC State, me to college in Virginia. But we kept in touch by mail (remember the days when you actually had to write a letter by hand and put it in the mail? With a stamp?!). She met her husband at NC State and got married while still in college. I remember going to her baby shower a few years after we had both graduated. She was absolutely happy in the way only a soon-to-be mom can be.
We kept in touch primarily with Christmas cards for the next few years, complete with pictures of her precious son, Eric. We saw each other in 2002 at our 15 year high school reunion, soon after the birth of her daughter, McKenna. Time slipped past, as it has a way of doing while in the midst of raising young children and despite our intentions of trying to get the kids together when she visited her parents in Maryland, we never got our calendars to synch.
A few years later, I received her Christmas letter and it contained devastating news: her son, who had been having visual issues and some learning difficulties, had been diagnosed with Juvenile Batten Disease. Batten disease is a neuro-degenerative disorder that can occur in children of parents who both are carriers for the gene. It is very rare, affecting between 2 and 4 children in 100,000 live births.
Children with Batten disease will progressively lose their sight and their motor skills. They will have increasing mental impairments, seizures and will eventually become blind, bedridden, and unable to communicate. Right now, it is always fatal. A parent of a Batten child once described it like being blind, epileptic, and autistic as well as having ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Children with Juvenile Batten Disease will usually pass away in their late teens or early twenties.
Can you imagine? I have to be honest that I have no idea how she copes with this information on a daily basis and continues to remain a strong Christian with a keen (sometimes twisted!) sense of humor. How do you carry on with daily life, caring for yourself, your home, your child with the disease, your children who don’t have the disease?
We got together the spring of 2007, after I moved to North Carolina to scrapbook together and to participate in the Our Boys 5K, a local event sponsored by a family in Concord, NC with two sons who had been recently diagnosed with Batten. Can you imagine that? Two children with this cruel disease? It is hard enough to comprehend having one child affected by something like this, but two? How do you do that?
Danielle had recently had a third child, a daughter. She was tested while pregnant and they found that this child was a carrier, like Danielle and Chris, but would not have any symptoms. While we were scrapping, she mentioned that she had some concerns about her second child, but had not yet gotten her tested because she wanted a little more time of “normalcy” with her. I tried to reassure her that she was probably just fine.
The following year her worries were confirmed that McKenna also had Juvenile Batten Disease.
My heart broke for her family. I wanted to do something, but didn’t really know what I could do that would make any difference. I made donations to the Batten Disease Support and Research Association (BDSRA), and supported a friend who ran in the Our Boys 5K, and posted information about Batten on my personal blog and Facebook. Nothing seemed enough, though.
This year I’m stepping up my game and with the support of the Lowden and Hawkins families doing a fund raiser of my own: Family Photos for Batten Disease. I will be offering a day of mini-sessions on March 17, 2012 at the gorgeous Hunting Creek Farms in Hamptonville, NC (Thank you to Kisten Hunter and her family for allowing us to use their farm). The Farm has a huge, finished barn, a covered porch area with rockers and a stone fireplace, and positively oozes with atmosphere–seriously go check them out if you are looking for somewhere to have an event! For $175 families will have a 30-minute mini session and will receive a DVD with 8-10 edited images for their personal use. In addition, all participants will be able to participate in my professional print lab program that allows them to obtain their prints at my direct cost from a professional-quality photo lab.
All proceeds from the day will be given to BDSRA, so your fee for the session is also tax-deductible.
Help me make a difference. Contact me as soon as possible to reserve your preferred time for this special day.
One of my favorite spots to take photos on Lake Norman is at Stutts Marina. Not only is it close to home, it offers a lot of variety in locations for the pictures. And the sun sets in just the right place to give me some gorgeous light in the evenings! We decided to take advantage of this location for Brayden’s Little Sprouts 10 month session.
When we arrived, we were a little surprised to find some large construction vehicles there as the marina was doing some upgrades. I asked Amanda if she wanted to go to another nearby lake spot, but we decided that the big dump trucks actually would be an appropriate background for some of his pictures since he absolutely loves trucks!
His mom brought two outfits so that his pictures would show a little more of his personality. We started with his classic overalls, then stripped down to his diaper with the hat and socks, took a quick diaper change and snack break, and then put on his play clothes. He has grown so much since I saw him last! He is a crawling machine and he is on the verge of walking. It is so fun getting to see these babies grow!
His smile was absolutely contagious! But trying to keep the hat from his first outfit on his head was quite a challenge… taking it off was just too much fun. Playing with the classic Tonka dump truck that I brought to our session was fun too, but the best part was when we sat him in the soft dirt by the real dump truck. He could not stop picking it up by the handful, and squeezing it, and there was nothing that any of us could do to catch his attention to look up towards me–he was simply not going to be distracted!
Have I ever mentioned that I absolutely love photographing newborns?
They are more challenging to photograph than a lot of my subjects:
- they often need to eat,
- or have their diaper changed,
- the room needs to be kept so warm that I’m generally sweating,
- I’ve been pooped and peed on so many times that I now pack at least 3 shirts to change into, just in case…
- and they are tiny, little humans who you need to treat carefully and with respect for their needs and more importantly their safety.
But in spite of the challenges, they are truly my favorites. I am touched every single time by their newness, their innocence, and what an absolute miracle they are. I remember when my son was born, my OB (who was the oldest doctor in the practice and had delivered thousands of babies) remarked that he is amazed every single time and counted himself blessed to be in the presence of one of God’s miracles at each delivery. That’s pretty much how I feel about photographing these little ones!
Nicholas was a little older than most of my newborns, just a little over 2 weeks old, and he was a BIG little guy! Okay, that’s a little contradictory, but you know what I mean. He had also gotten used to s-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g out, so those curled up types of poses just weren’t working for him.
Can you believe all that hair?! His big sister and his momma have the same gorgeous, thick, dark hair.
During our session, he was an absolute angel with only a few peeps when he woke up to be fed.
During one of his awake times, we brought his enthusiastic big sister upstairs for a few pictures with her new little brother. Amanda is only 2 years old, and she was utterly fascinated by her new baby. Her parents were a bit nervous about trying to have her hold him, so when she flopped herself down next to him, I just went with that!
While mom was taking care of feeding Nicholas and freshening up his diaper, I got to chat for a bit with Amanda. She is such a doll!
Just a few more little bits of delicious newborness:
I was so struck by his sweet little ears! Love that fine fuzz on his face…
I think this picture of Nicholas’ hand, nesting in his mom’s, nesting in his dad’s is one of my favorites from this session. I love seeing just how tiny these newborns are, and comparing them with their parents makes for a great contrast.
Thank you for the honor of documenting this time for the newest member of your family!
I love getting to watch my Little Sprouts babies grow during their first year–it is amazing how quickly they change! I got together with the O family for our 3rd session just before Christmas. Catherine has become a little ham! She is curious, and smiley, and mobile.
I so love photographing this family because while they like some posed-type pictures, their preference, like mine, is for what is described by some people as “lifestyle” photos, and by others as “camera unaware.” These are the types of photographs to which I refer when I say that “real life happens between the poses.” These are the pictures that capture your family interacting with each other in an authentic way. In my personal experience, these are the types of photos that when we look at them in the future bring back a true wealth of memories. And isn’t that why we take photographs?