October is Down Syndrome Awareness month and I wanted you to meet a little friend of mine who is rocking that extra chromosome.
His big sisters go to school with my kids so I’ve known his family for several years now but it actually wasn’t until about six years ago that I got to know his mama really. She was pregnant with Jase when her oldest daughter and my son were paired together on a school project. She was also just learning that the baby she was carrying possibly had down syndrome.
Everyone wants a happy and healthy baby and when you are facing the possibility that your baby might not be “healthy” it can be hard. But over the months I was privileged to watch Christi and her family not only come to terms with the diagnosis but to have a deep joy in the gift of their son. They navigated the uncertainty with grace and a deep faith that God was at work. Certainly there are challenges that come with that extra chromosome but Jase and his family rise to meet them every time.
I feel in love with him the first time I met him with those beautiful blue eyes and his red hair. Over the last five years I have been able to take his pictures on different occasions and I can honestly say it is a special delight every single time. His smile and sweet spunky personality just pulls you in.
One of the best things born out of Jase’s diagnosis has been the creation of Genes of Joy, a non profit organization whose goal is to establish a community rich in support for those families touched by DS, provide resources for those families, as well as to raise awareness about down syndrome. It has been wildly successful with an annual buddy walk and respite days that serve the community. They also provide baskets through local hospitals to the families of babies born with ds that are full of resources and contact information so they don’t have to feel overwhelmed or alone. How great is that?
It has been such a blessing to be a part of Jase’s life and to see how his family has leaned into his diagnosis and look for ways to help others who also walk this journey. There is joy and delight and an abundance of love and grace that spills over.
Down syndrome will affect 1 in every 700 babies born in the United States. Children born with DS will go through all of the milestones typical to any child…they just meet them at a different pace. As adults with DS they have jobs, manage relationships and navigate life just like everyone else. They might have some additional things to cope with but with love and support from their families and communities they are just as important and contribute just as much to society as “normal” people.
Indeed us normal people are better off for having such resilient and determined friends in our lives.
I love when things come together in a neat and tidy circle. As I started back with photography I spent considerable time thinking about what kind of work I wanted to do, the types of sessions, the business I wanted to create. One of the the ideas that is deeply rooted in these musings is a desire to celebrate motherhood and femininity. The idea of doing mother and child sessions is certainly not a new one but one I want to keep crafting and developing. Thankfully I have friends that are willing to indulge me in this work and back in May I was able to share a few different sessions of this sort with two of them being sisters-in-law.
Because I like those neat and tidy circles, when I found out Chrisann, another McGee family mama, was going to be visiting I crossed my fingers that we would be able to do a mother and child session with her. I was conflicted over asking because I know time with her family is precious and I didn’t want to take away from that but she was agreeable and we made it happen and oh, dear goodness, I am so glad we did!
I have photographed Chrisann many times over the years in family pictures, some engagement pictures, and we even did a sunrise bridal session so there was something particularly fun about getting to photograph her in this stage of life too.
Just look at how precious her babies are!
I have other pictures of Sophia smiling but this particular shot just stops me in my tracks.
And Jonathon is just a great big chunk of love! His happy gets all over his face when he smiles and you just want to eat him up.
Elisabeth Elliot said that the process of shaping a child shapes the mother as well. Chrisann, motherhood is shaping you in beautiful ways and your children are precious. Thank you for letting us spend this time together so that my McGee mama circle is closed.
Sometimes the best sessions happen spur of the moment, without lots of planning and opportunity to overthink things. At least that seems to be the way it works when trying to do pictures with my own children.
The other afternoon rain was coming and the cloud cover does what it does and made for some gorgeous light. (Never decide against taking pictures because it’s cloudy. That is actually the most incredible time to do them because it creates a giant softbox and the light is fabulous.) I grabbed a dress and hat and handed them off to my daughter to put on and we left twenty minutes later.
I pass by this yard near our neighborhood frequently and love the look of the blooming crepe myrtles and picket fence. I had actually driven past it that day and it is what inspired the sudden desire to do some pictures. Abigail is past the point of being horrified or embarrassed that I will stop at random spots and ask a total stranger if I can take pictures on their property. I think she trusts me after the photo success at the abandoned greenhouse we did months ago. I’ll be sharing those on Thursday.
With teenagers it can be a tricky to move them away from what I call the instagram face. There is a certain look that social media cultivates that I like to move past as quickly as possible so I can get to real laughs and personality. I can’t remember what I said that made her laugh but I think this is one of my favorite pictures of her.
This was also a good opportunity for me to practice using my 50mm lens. The nifty fifty it’s called because of its affordability and capability. It is a work horse of a lens and for most of my photography life it was my only lens. Since my beloved got me my dream lens for Christmas though it has been collecting dust and I realised I needed to practice with it some. Different lenses do different things and I want to have a variety of tools at my disposal so that the images I create for myself and clients don’t get stale or repetitive.
It still hadn’t started raining so we headed to a field beside our church where I had noticed yet more crepe myrtles blooming.
We started on the back end of the property where the trees are but eventually made our way up near the road. There’s a small building there that has been everything from a fresh seafood store (oh, the smell in those days!) to a candy shop to a southern home cooking restaurant. It has been empty for quite a while now but a couple of months back we noticed an antique car had been parked beside it. I would love to know the story behind it because it made a fantastic prop.
All in all we had some fun mother/daughter time and I got to brush up on some skills. A total win win situation.
One of my favorite blessings in Scripture is found in Psalm 128 and it came to mind as I edited these images, particularly the final verse…“May you see your children’s children!”
What a special delight grandchildren must be and what a special delight it is for me to photograph this special relationship. There is something incredible and amazing about being a parent and from what my friends who have moved into that phase tell me grandchildren are just even more of that incredible amazingness.
These friends are blessed to be the grandparents to the four precious kiddos who are all a part of the Week of Edgar. I think they enjoy them, don’t you?
Can I just point out how well the girls did keeping their eyes trained on me and their sweet smiles while the shenanigans were taken place with the two little guys? And there were shenanigans! But my goodness, those littel fellas are adorable!
We did manage to get some really lovely portraits of the six of them together though. I really hope I get to do more of these grandparent/grandchildren sessions. There are precious few pictures of my grandparents much less ones of me and my sisters with them. What a treasure to be able to look back on these and see portraits from a time in our lives that we don’t really remember that well as we get older!
Once I knew we had gotten “the” shot the girls were off and playing so what else was there to do other than little those two young men work at getting their legs under them?
I love how fat both their little feet are! And I also think it is great that they are so close in age and can grow up as the best of friends.