Monday, November 19, 2012

The Colantuno Family

Earlier this fall, I spent a full day taking pictures of my life for a project I was a part of...and because it was my first year participating, I was assured that I would look back on the images and appreciate the glimpse it gave into who I was "back then." If I'm honest, I'm not convinced that my photos of putting on my makeup or going to Panera for dinner will ever tug on my heartstrings - my life these days can be fairly mundane. Today, I am not far enough removed from the ordeal to be able to feel nostalgic about those memories, yet I believe in the premise of the project and can't help but think of it when I look at these pictures of the Colantuno family.

We spent an afternoon walking in the park near their house and playing on Matthew's favorite playground. The only thing out of the ordinary about our afternoon was the camera that followed them. What you see in the pictures is an accurate snapshot of who they are and how they interact with each other...lots of love, big head-thrown-back laughs, bear hugs, spontaneous kisses, and boundless child-like energy. When I look at these pictures, I undoubtedly see a happy family. 

Although Nicole and Tom are, by nature, kind and joyful people, life has thrown some challenges into having a "normal" family existence. Matthew was born with end stage renal disease as a result of Posterior Urethral Valves (PUV), meaning that he needed a kidney transplant from the day he came into the world, and spent the first three months of his life in the NICU with ventilators and surgery being scary parts of daily life during that time. Tom selflessly donated a kidney to Matthew when Matthew was eighteen months old, and thankfully Matthew's body accepted it and he is thriving. Their beautiful journey of now over three years is chronicled on Nicole's blog, Our Life with the Boy, and is so filled with hope and courage that I shed more than a few tears bawled my eyes out when I read it at home after our photo session. 

I was especially touched by one recent post where Nicole mentioned that she tells Matthew that he will live a life that is happy, healthy, and that order. So much of their life as a family has been focused on taking one thing at a time and following medical procedures, so the order of things is important. I hope that in these pictures they see that happy and healthy are here. During this moment in time, their family was full of love and laughter...and joy at celebrating life together.

Nicole and Tom, I don't think your family will ever be "normal" because you all are extraordinary. Matthew and Stella are surrounded by strength, compassion, and friendship, among so many other wonderful qualities, and the daily effort that you have given to make life so full for them has not been for nothing. They are beautiful, intelligent, sweet-as-can-be kids, and they are most certainly mirrors of the unconditional love they receive from their parents. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for giving me a glimpse into these beautiful moments of your lives.

Stella just might be Matthew's favorite person in the whole wide world. He just adores her and she feels the same way about him. She plays with him and talks for him - she is a wonderful big sister.

A slight departure from traditional portraits, I loved this shot of Matthew that was taken through the grid on the floor of the playground equipment. Just for something a little different...

The curly slide provided endless amounts of fun...both going down and then walking back up.

And because this is the week of giving thanks, I just want to say that I am thankful for family. For my brand new husband and in-law family, for my been-through-it-all family, for my friends who have become family and clients who feel like family. I know that everybody says that they're thankful for family, but spending this time with the Colantuno's has been a reminder of just how important it is to celebrate those who love us and fight for us from the day we come into the world. We don't say thanks as often as we should, so at some point during the week, remember to tell these special people how much they mean to you!

Happy Thanksgiving...we have a lot to be thankful for!

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