Mount Vernon, Ohio / Columbus, Ohio Family Photographer || I Hope You Don't Mind

Last year, I wrote about Lacie entering her last year of Pre-K and capturing her memories. (You can read that post HERE) I explained how the days were winding down towards her last day and soon, she would start her first days of Kindergarten. 

Last week, Lacie stayed home from Pre-K and I explained to her that we were going to kindergarten registration. Riding in our SUV, the tires hit the gravel of the school's side parking lot and that's when it happened. I got really really anxious and nervous for her. I could feel all the nervousness in the air between her and I and in this tiny, sweet voice she said, 'Mommy, I can't do this. I'm so nervous. What if they're mean to me?' 

I'll never forget this moment. 

I turned around and I said, 'I'm a little nervous too. But it's ok. I know they're really nice but in case something goes wrong, there is always an exit door. We've got each other.' We got out, walking toward the school and on that walk it was like her body was like a magnet to the car and I was fighting a slight pull back to her safe space. But once we entered, it was fine. We were greeted by the secretary, PTO, the school nurse.... We met one of the kindergarten teachers who was as warm and welcoming as the summer sun. They made us feel both at ease and it made me feel better about the 6 year journey we were about to embark on with the elementary school.

But today, today is a whole different story. Today, my sweet baby 'graduates' from Pre-K. She'll wear her cap and gown, her daddy and grandmas will be looking at her proudly during the ceremony while I sit with camera in one hand, our 3 month old son Leo in the other. And I will weep. (Because if you don't know me by now, I am highly experienced and trained in the famous 'Oprah-ugly-cry')

I'll first be weeping over the fact that Leo will soon, too soon, be to this point in his life. Time, the bitter wench that she is, will steal away the days that make him so small and innocent. That's the easy part to get over. But then comes the real hard stuff. Jonathan and I were just 19 years old when we brought this beautiful baby into the world. In her lifetime we have lived in my parent's basement, had several jobs, built a business, bought a home... Just us, our tribe of three. (And now recently upgraded to the Cook crew of four!) 

Jonathan and I have stood side by side, holding hands and staying so strong throughout these years. We wondered if we were doing it right, if we were providing the best, at one point, we thought we were going to lose Lacie. When she was 18 months old, I had a day off and she stayed home from daycare. Jon had gone to work and Lacie was so sweet to let me sleep in. She woke up around 9 that morning but when I walked into her room I was horrified. My sweet girl was standing up in her crib covered in bruises. I brought her to the bathroom and looked her over, gave her a bath so see if it was marker maybe? But then I noticed the petechiae all over her body. When you google that with '18 month old' you get results like 'childhood cancer' and 'leukemia'. I remember putting Lacie back in her crib for a moment, stepping into my walk in closet and calling me mom BAWLING. We went to urgent care where things got worse. They pricked Lacie's finger and 5 minutes later the doctor came back, put his hand on my shoulder and said 'We are going to advise that you take her to Children's as soon as possible. We have called there for you and a room will be ready. I wish you all the best.' with that look... the look of sympathy. It still sickens my stomach to this day. We went to Children's, transferred from room to room, sat in the ER, pinned my sweet girl down for blood samples. It was a literal hell. The last part was the worst. The nurse said 'Follow me.' and we made our way to an elevator. To the 12th floor. We were greeted by a giant wooden bunny statue holding flowers. The smug smile on that bunny's face in that moment made me want to kick it in the head. I was so bitter at what we were going through. The nurse opened the door to the unit and my heart broke. I knew where we were. The small, bald heads of children walking down the halls... It was the oncology floor and I had never felt more ashamed to have hair. I remember when we got to the room, I just wanted to cut all my hair off. I didn't deserve it. Those babies did. We sat for hours wondering what the test results would be. We were told that she had a white blood cell count of 2,000 when normal was 180,000. My baby sat in a large white crib with plastic all around it for 'isolation' purposes. I thought about the days we may not get to experience like the day we get to celebrate today and I always wondered if we would make it. 

The 12th floor of Nationwide Children's Hospital iPhone image shot by Jonathan Cook of ENV Photography

The 12th floor of Nationwide Children's Hospital
iPhone image shot by Jonathan Cook of ENV Photography

Lacie ended up being diagnosed with ITP. It's a rare immune system disorder that was treated with high doses of steroids. She lives so perfectly, so healthy and we are so thankful. She will always have the 'phantom' of ITP in her system but have yet to ever have any other problems with it. (Thank you Jesus! We pray to never see ITP again!) 

We aren't a family that celebrates mediocrity but you can see why today is a big deal for us. So I hope you don't mind that today, we take the afternoon off. I hope you don't mind that we celebrate the success of our sweet girl, her hard work and intelligent mind. But most of all, I truly hope you don't mind that I shared this with you. There are some of you who weathered these years with me. You allowed me to cancel sessions when Lacie was sick, allowed her to tag along at sessions during the early days.... You have watched her grow with us and I feel that some of you have a love for Lacie as I do. She knows my clients, she sees your faces on mommy's computer while I edit and she knows that you, along with her, make my life complete. So thank you for always asking about her, including her, and celebrating her through this wild journey you've shared with us. You're more than clients and we wouldn't have it any other way. <3