Earlier this year, I held a contest leading up to Mother’s Day, inviting dads, sons and daughters to submit an entry nominating the Mom in their life to win a prize and Mother's Day gift from JGP. It was high stakes: the grand prize being a family storytelling session and everything that comes with it. Entries would be judged on authenticity, sentimentality, thoughtfulness and originality, and the judges would be: my mom, mother-in-law, sister, and sister-in-law. It was pretty cool to see the nominations come in, and the judges were overwhelmed with the sweet stories and clever words all the contest participants had to say honoring their nominees. It was nearly impossible for them to select only one grand prize winner -- in fact my mother-in-law jokingly told me she wants me to just do a free session for everyone. But one entry had a bit of that "extra special" to it. Enter, Owen, age 15.
I'll let his entry speak for itself. I hope Owen and Robyn don't mind...
"My brother and I are very, very blessed to have such a loving, caring mom in our lives. Not a day goes by when we don't need and appreciate the effort and time my mom pours into us. Constantly, my mother is by our side, helping us accomplish the most basic tasks and the most complicated, from tying shoes to giving loving advice. What makes my mom so unique is how she helps Luke and I manage our long term medical issues, with Luke's Down Syndrome and my juvenile arthritis. Dealing with ten different specialist doctors and scheduling multiple therapy appointments a week is no easy feat, proving our mom is a real advocate of our personal care. At times, we make things difficult, and can put up a fight when it comes to obeying and honoring her, but in the end, we love our mother all the more for being willing to nurture us through those struggles. I'm not the best communicator when it comes to thankfulness or gratefulness, but my mother deserves all the honor in the world for being such a kind, caring, guiding parent that Luke and I are truly, truly blessed to have. Words can't describe how much I respect and love my mother for being there for me since day one. Thank you, Mom, for loving us always!"
Not only was Owen the only non-adult child to nominate his Mom without any prompting or cahoots with dad or grandparents, his thoughtful and well-written note had us all crying.
From the moment my judges announced the winner to me, I was sooooo excited to work with the W Family. It took some serious calendaring, but after summer came and went, we got a session scheduled and I will remember it forever!
Some things I'd like to note from my time with the W family:
Particularly as I was photographing the documentary/storytelling portion, it struck me that Robyn maybe has no idea how gorgeous she is, or at least she doesn’t walk around like she knows she’s so stunning, and if I may assert, she actually maybe felt even a little uncomfortable in front of the camera at first. Maybe that’s a symptom of busy mom-life, we don’t have time to be preoccupied with our own assessment of what we see in the mirror, we just keep on doin the thing. Some women, like Robyn, just are naturally beautiful. I told myself I would capture an image of her that would make her say “wow I’m a total babe.” I hope I did. (I know Lance already knows that she’s a babe, because. look at her, she’s a total babe.)
Owen as a big brother was loving and helpful and just simply wonderful to Luke and his folks. He breaks every single negative stereotype that anyone could ever have about teenaged boys these days. And he had such a great attitude about being photographed with his family (sometimes the teenaged boys really make me work for it!). I am going to take some notes from Robyn and Lance on parenting boys before my own little guy gets too big.
I wished I had been able to write down every word that Luke said to me. Mark my words I have never had such thorough and constant conversation during a storytelling session as I did with him. He was inquisitive, and sincerely interested in me, and my family, and my hobbies, and my favorite things; and he had tons to share about his own interests and knowledge. He was continually polite, and excited, and oh so very funny. I would hang out with that kid all the time.
Luke's face, as he was thumbing through his baby book and telling me his story, when he tenderly stopped and asked me why was I crying.
As a part of what I do for a living, I look at people’s facial expressions, like, a lot. Generally, parents smile a real joy kind of smile as they watch their children do cute things. I can tell this kind of smile from a posed or manufactured smile because there's a way that the lower part of their eyes will squint up and make that joy crease on the sides of their faces. I noticed on this day, that Lance’s smile is that way -- that squint in the lower eye joyful and true kind of smile -- in all of his smiles. I think that's pretty cool and I think he's a pretty great dad.
I made a mental note that I need to introduce my kids to Apples to Apples soon.
How they sent me home with pizza for my own family.
How when I sent Robyn a few pictures the next day as a sneak peek, she was so thrilled with the images and told me that they've literally never had a professional photographer do their pictures because they weren't sure how Luke would do, but that I had instantly developed rapport with him, and thanked me for everything. That I was able to gift this experience to them and that they loved it as much as I did made my heart swell so big I could have burst.
When I formally thanked Owen over dinner for nominating his mom and instigating this opportunity for all of us to work together, he didn't miss a beat and just said 'well, my mom is awesome and she deserves to win all the contests.'
Yes she is awesome. And I'm glad she won my contest.
W Family, it was truly my pleasure to work with you guys and I hope you treasure these images forever!
Another note: It just so happens that October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month. If you have been blessed to spend any time with someone who has Down Syndrome, I hope you'll share a story with someone, and on social media, you can use the hashtag #LifeIsBetterWithYou.
*Session Type: A Family Story, Session Time: two and a half hours, Gallery Images: >150*