Friday, January 30, 2015

Grin Kids Trip to Disney (PART THREE)

Day two we headed to the Magic Kingdom. Carter was so excited he was the first one out of bed and ready to go. He rarely gets excited about things so this was a very big deal. 

The blue pass around his neck was also given to us when we got there.
 I have no other way to describe it than a golden ticket! It was like the ultimate fast pass.
As soon as we walked up to any ride, show, character we were immediately brought to the front of the line!
We had a little chat with TJ when we got off the bus.
Photo Credit: Angus Lamond

We rode on a big boat over to the Magic Kingdom.

This wasn't only my kids first time at Disney World, my husband and I had never been either. Walking in and seeing that castle was just the most surreal moment. Sounds crazy, but the reality of this amazing trip didn't hit me until that moment. I was overwhelmed with excitement for my kids, and yes probably cried a little! 

Every day that we were there we stayed with the big group until lunch time, then were able to break off on our own. The first thing we did with the group is gather around Cinderella's castle to take a big group photo then individual photos with Ace & TJ and the rest of the show.

The whole Grin Kids Group.
Photo Credit: Angus Lamond

My family with the Ace & TJ crew. My little one was already wiped out clearly!
Photo Credit: Angus Lamond

My big one was not amused by all the waiting! 
After the pictures we head to our first ride, The monsters inc laugh factory. Which was awesome, made all three of my kids laugh. It's rare that they all find the same things funny. 

After that ride, we saw a show then were sent off on our own, we spent the rest of the day exploring the magic kingdom. It was just amazing. To be able to enjoy all parts of the park with all three kids was so nice. My kids are pretty far apart in age (2,6,10) so I was kind of worried about that. But they all loved it, and all of them got to ride rides, even my littlest one. He's a super tall two year old. Since the kids were given autograph books they really wanted to meet as many characters as possible. The little one was not having it, they were just too big and scary for him. So most of the time he stayed a little ways back while one of us took the two older kids up to the character.

The Haunted Mansion. Seriously the COOLEST ride. 

There were some rides he was just too little for.
 So while everyone else went on space mountain, he and I took a little break,


Over the next few days we park hopped over to the Animal Kingdom, where we saw the amazing Lion King show. I am pretty sure it was my little ones favorite. Then went on a safari. Most of the animals were sleeping so that was just kinda blah. I was lucky enough to meet an online friend and her kids for the first time while we were there as well. I've known her for 6+ years and had never met in person! We were hot and exhausted so we head back to our hotel and went swimming for the afternoon.

Us on the safari! My husband is the hot guy in the back in the gray t-shirt.
 They gave us shirts to wear every day, but the day we went to the Animal Kingdom
he HAD to wear his "I'm a Beast" shirt.

The next day we started out at Hollywood Studios. We got to see the Indiana Jones show and a Muppet's show. Then we went off to meet some characters!

That's me.

Staring contest with Mike.
      Then we found a shop with a name that my husband said "was in my native language"

I was born in New York and moved to North Carolina when I was almost a teenager.
My husband was born and raised here. 

Later that night we decided to go back to the Magic Kingdom. I am so happy we did. There is nothing like seeing Disney at night. Just so so magical. Thanks to Carter's "golden ticket" we had front row seats for the Electrical parade. We all loved that so much.

This photo with Elsa was absolutely the top moment of our entire trip for a number of reasons. Not only because the little girl in me was screaming with excitement that there were REAL Disney princesses in the room. And thanks to Carter's "golden ticket" we barely waited a few minutes to see Elsa and Anna, AND it was INSIDE Cinderella's castle that we got to meet them! He rarely shows much emotion because of his Autism, so this smile and this moment, was just <3 p="">

That day was just the longest most exhausting day of my life I think! We got back to the hotel and that magical Disney sleep happened, these kids were WORN OUT. 

Every day we were there when we returned to our hotel at the end of the night there was goody bags full of snacks and presents for all the kids from Ace & TJ and the Grin kids. It was so nice to come back to that surprise every day! 
These were our presents on the last night, a homemade blanket with Carter's name on it,
 a framed autographed picture of our family with Ace &TJ,
and a drawing by Disney artist Heather Worley.

The next day we packed up and boarded the buses to head home. Again, the buses drove us straight to the airplane, we were checked by security as we got on to the plane. My boy doesn't like big crowds so I loved doing this rather than navigating airport chaos! 

When we got back to Charlotte, we got off the plane and went to pick up our luggage. And right there by the luggage area was Ace & TJ's last gift to all the Grin Kids families. A big table with pizza for everyone to take home for lunch! 

This trip was the most amazing gift anyone could have given us. With everything Carter has been through it was nice to see some good happen to him. Its wonderful that Ace & TJ spend their time raising money to take these deserving kids and their families on a trip of a lifetime. I don't think we could ever thank them enough.

You can find PART ONE of this series HERE

I hope you enjoyed my little blog series and photos! To see more of my work or book a session you can check out my facebook page HERE.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Grin Kids trip to Disney World (PART TWO)

Today we'll fast forward to the awesome Day ONE of our trip. We arrived at the airport a little before lunch time. I was crazy nervous because I HATE to fly. I had only done it one time before this trip and it was awful. I had vowed to never fly again. But someone sends your family on a trip to Disney World, you get your butt on that plane. We checked our luggage and went off to our gate. At the gate we still had more than an hour before boarding. They had so much fun planned for everyone. There were mascots from every local team there, local police and fire fighters, some cheerleaders, and of course Ace & TJ. They started playing music so all the kids and mascots danced together. My crazy red head kept challenging them to a dance off. 

My big one taking it all in. He kinda hates large crowds so we stayed over in a corner
until he was more comfortable to move around. 

Time to board the plane! First they had everyone take a group photo...
Photo Credit: Angus Lamond

Then they had everyone line up. They called each of the grin kids names out one by one, like they were stars on a red carpet. They made every kid feel so special.

Right after this picture they handed my boy a bag of Tasty Kake treats. He was in heaven!
Photo Credit: Angus Lamond 

Once we were on the plane they had a goody bag in each of the kids seats. Not just our grin kids, but even bags for their siblings! Inside were cookies, candies, a stuffed animal, and several other treats. After everyone was seated the plane started down the path to take off and I can't remember what it was called, but there were people spraying hoses of water like a water salute over the plane. Which my kids thought was really cool.
Photo Credit: Angus Lamond

On the plane they brought around lunch, then cookies, then candy, then ice cream sandwiches. We were stuffed! All that in a less than 90 min flight! We got to Florida and the plane did a flyover of Disney World. 

Once we landed there were buses waiting for us, like right next to the plane waiting for us, we were checked by security right off the plane so we didn't have to go through anymore airport stress. Which was GREAT! We were then loaded on the buses to head to our hotel, The All Star Movie Resort. and we had a police escort to get there!

How cool is that?
Photo Credit: Angus Lamond

 We got to the hotel and were greeted by the Grin Kids Staff, they had our magic bands, meal cards,  mickey dollars for souvenirs and bags of goodies for us. 

Here is my family, the littlest is hidden behind his daddy.
Photo Credit: Angus Lamond

We had a little down time to relax and unpack, then it was back to the buses for a very special dinner in Epcot. There the kids were all given autograph books, and soon after were able to use them when Goofy, Minnie, and Mickey arrived just to see them! 

My little one was freaking out at this point, half scared to death of these giant creatures, the other half of him
was overwhelmed to be standing next to his favorites, "the mouses!"
Photo Credit: Angus Lamond.

After dinner we were escorted to a private viewing area to watch the amazing IllumiNations: Relections of Earth fireworks show. It was honestly the most amazing fireworks I had ever seen.

Then we all headed back to the hotel to sleep, it felt like the longest day ever! All three (four if you count my husband) kids pretty much fell asleep as soon as their heads hit the pillow. 

I hadn't planned on this being more than one blog post, much less a series of blog posts. But the magic of the trip was really in all the little things they did for us. So I want to be sure I capture every bit of it! 

To book a session or see more of my work head on over and like my facebook page HERE

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** I write this blog mainly to share my own photography, but with three kids at Disney World and not my best camera I didn't get too much of a chance. So some of the photos you are seeing were done by the Grin Kids Photographer Mr. Angus Lamond**

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Grin Kids trip to Disney World (PART ONE)

Have you ever dreamt about the perfect vacation? Ever thought about the ultimate vacation you could take your family on but knew deep down you'd never, ever be able to afford something like that?
This is the story about the ultimate vacation my family went on this year, and about the amazing people who provided it for us.

I have been listening to this radio morning show for years and years. Ace & TJ are the hosts. Every year I would listen and hear about their Grin Kids charity, It is a charity that they put together, where they raise money to take terminal and chronically disabled children and their families on an all expense paid trip to Disney world. You can read more about their wonderful charity HERE.

How does this apply to my family? Well, when my oldest son was 5 years old he started having a lot of headaches and walking kinda clumsy. We took him to the doctor and he just kinda chalked it up to the severe seasonal allergies he has. Then in just 7 days his eyes went from completely normal to completely turned inward towards his nose. Back to the doctor we went, he ran and bunch of hand eye sort of tests, walking in a straight line, follow my finger... Then he said we should get an MRI just to make sure everything was ok. Everything wasn't. We had the MRI on the morning of November 12th, 2009, by 3:00 that day we got a call from our family doctor that he wanted us to come in for the results. They don't ask you to come to the office for good news let me tell you. It was then we found out that our boy had a brain tumor. The other things we were told in that office that day I don't like to talk about, but the future wasn't looking good. We were immediately sent to Duke, which is considered one of the best hospitals in the world for this sort of thing. It was about 3 hours from our home. They were waiting for us when we got there. He was admitted to the Pediatric ICU and started on steroids to decrease the swelling, Less than 12 hours later he was in for his first brain surgery having it removed. This part of the story is rather long, so I'll just skip to the highlights. 
The doctor, Dr. Herbert Fuchs, our superhero, removed the tumor and we found out a few days later it was benign. Thank God. About 6 months after that day we had to take our son back to Duke for his MRI check up. During that MRI they found that the tumor had grown back. So he had the same surgery all over again, now he was 6. The new tumor growth was also benign. 

Carter is now almost 11 years old, he has been tumor free for nearly 5 years. We still travel to Duke every summer for him to get an MRI and have a yearly checkup with his surgeon. (This post just reminded me I need to call and make his 2015 appt!) He will have to get MRI's every year until he is 16 years old, after that I don't really know about that yet. 

6-8 months after his second brain surgery he was diagnosed with Autism. Don't ask me if they are connected, I don't know. I don't think so though. Autism has been difficult, especially the last few years. 

Around last February I was listening to Ace & TJ and heard them mention that they were taking applications for their new year of the Grin Kids. I filled one out and sent it in. Total long shot, there were so many people, so many deserving kids and families. I had honestly forgotten I filled that out and sent it in until the end of July. I was scrolling facebook and I saw a post from the GRIN KIDS, and it said something about how they had informed a lot of people if they were chosen for the trip. I didn't get a call so I just thought, oh well. Maybe next year. Two days later I was in my kitchen washing dishes and I heard my phone ring, I ran in the room just in time to see my 2 year old throw my phone behind the couch. I missed the call and spent the next 15 min moving my giant couch out of the way and retrieving my phone. I called the number back and got a machine. I had a gut feeling that I needed that call. A couple minutes later my phone rang, and on the other end of the phone was the sweet voice of Liana Weller, who I believe is the head of the Grin Kids organization. She told me that Carter had been chosen to go on the Grin Kids trip to Disney World, and that our whole family was going with him. I believe I said something like "SHUT UP!!!" then dissolved into a puddle of tears...

I would share the video of us telling our children they were going to Disney World...But its too crazy, Carter said "But how can you afford that?! Wait Now I won't have perfect attendance!!" Then ole crazypants said something about it being dumb. I think he was just mad that we weren't going right that second. 

Stay tuned for Part two tomorrow, all about our trip!

This is my boy's very first MRI. You can clearly see the tumor there in white. 

Here he is right after his first brain surgery. 
This is him now :)

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Wooten Family

When I was twelve years old I moved to North Carolina from New York. I didn't know anyone and had no friends. I was just that new girl with the weird accent. Until I met Kim. Kim is the very first friend I made here. I bet she doesn't even know that to this day. She was the first person who sat down and talked to me and gave me a chance. From that point on she was my go to friend for every problem, any gossip, or homework help I needed. 
Since we graduated High School, we both kinda went our separate ways for a while, getting married and having kids. We ran into each other only once every few years. I made some dresses for her little girl several years ago, and that was the last time I saw her until this past Sunday. Our lives are a little different now, there are less people around. But as soon as I saw her it was like no time had passed at all. It's hard to believe it's been 20 years since that day we first met in 7th grade! 
We met up Sunday for some family photos at the most beautiful old mill. Only parts of it are still standing but that only made it better I think. Down the path from the mill there was a rocky creek that we also used for some photos. We explored the ins and outs of the mill and the creek for a while, then head across the street to a one lane bridge that was no longer in use. The bridge ran over the creek, and had this really cool metal structure around it. It was a little too wobbly for my liking, so I got some quick photos and got the heck off that bridge! 
Lastly, we drove a few miles down the road to this gorgeous open field, that was surrounded by trees. It was a beautiful day, I think the temp was in the mid 50's. The sky was blue, blue, blue, with really puffy white clouds. Just perfect. As soon as we got there the kids ran until we couldn't see them any more. Kim and I used that opportunity for her to change outfits and us to catch up a little. 
We finished up our photo session by taking a bunch of photos up and down the field. Kim and C raced a little. Then her and A got some hugs in. 
It was a beautiful, fun day. I'm so glad I got this chance to reconnect with my friend.

Here are the photos from our day together! 

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Monday, January 12, 2015

Baby Shower for Baby Wesley

I've posted photos I've taken of my friend Abby before on the blog. They were some maternity shots, and photos for her Christmas card....

I think it turned out so cute! 
A few weeks ago I received a super cute invitation for her baby shower. When I saw her she mentioned that if I wanted to bring my camera to the shower that would be cool. So of course I did, I'd do anything for Abby :)
Yesterday was shower day! You can tell Abby has a big family and is so loved by that family and her friends. There were soooo many people there! Baby Wesley is so lucky to have so many people that care for him already! 

I also peeked into his nursery to take a few photos. Abby and Daniel have done a great job decorating it for their little rock star. You can already tell that baby is going to be the best dressed baby in town!

Now it's time for the party photos!

"Look! I have claws!"

Party Planner Dana

Party Planner Nikki

Abby, the mommy to be 

Cute photos! I wonder who did those?! ;)

This is only a small portion of the gifts!

The little ladies having their own party 

SO much good food!

The next photos you'll probably see me post from Abby will probably be on baby day! I plan on being there for the big day and documenting everything up to...and after...:) Unless it snows before then. Then we have plans to do some maternity shots in the snow! But we do live in North Carolina, so I really doubt that's gonna happen!

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