The Signs of Valentine’s Day

Chicago Professional Photographer | Sharon Gaietto Photography

When I think of Valentine’s Day a few words come to mind. So, as I perused my photos on Facebook, I picked out a few images, 44 to be exact. Why 44? It was my 44th birthday, yesterday.

Hearts

Hugs

Kisses

Candy

Flowers

Last but not least, Love!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

She Was Thrown a Curveball and Hit it Out of the Park | 8 years old and Diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes

Chicago Photographer | Sharon Gaietto Photography

Being a photographer, I am hired to capture happy and joyous events in a family’s life. I also document the memorable moments in my own family’s life. Even if those memorable moments may not be the most joyous or happiest.

Tomorrow, it will be a year since I was sitting in the doctor’s office and she said, “Your daughter is diabetic.” I can’t say I was surprised, the signs were all there, but I still found myself overwhelmed with sadness. I felt responsible, like I had done something wrong. I wasn’t sure what I did, but I felt like something could have been done differently to prevent this diagnosis. The call to my husband, telling him to meet us at the emergency room, was hard to decipher at times, through the sniffling and tears. I found being strong for my daughter, at this time, was impossible.

Let’s rewind a bit, to the beginning, when we first realized something was not right. It started in October, numerous trips to the bathroom after going to bed. Once, twice, sometimes three times, we would hear the bathroom door squeak as it was closed shut. There were some nights when she didn’t make it to the bathroom and we were awoken to a request for clean bedsheets. I found myself feeling more annoyed, then concerned. I chalked it up to, too much water before bedtime. There was a well check-up coming up in November. I was going to make sure to mention something to the doctor.

Then there were other changes occurring. My 8 year old daughter was eating more then me and at times putting her dad’s appetite to shame. There were countless meals, where she asked for seconds and thirds. At times we would turn her requests down, believing she wasn’t giving her stomach enough time to let her brain now she was full. The most alarming thing about the increase in appetite, was the fact she was actually losing weight.

My mind began to wander. I began to think the worse. I know it sounds crazy, but I feared a brain tumor. Was there something going on in her brain, possibly affecting her hypothalamus? Was it cancer? Is this the reason she was losing weight? I was hoping her upcoming doctor’s appointment would answer some questions. I prayed my diagnosis was completely off the mark.

The day we went for the well check-up, we saw a resident doctor. After hearing my concerns and my daughter’s symptoms, she said that they would run some blood work and check for diabetes and any possible thyroid issues. I was concerned, but happy we would be getting some answers.  After the resident left to discuss the case with the attending doctor, they both came back to our room. The resident doctor had decided that they would hold off on the blood work. He thought that my daughter’s symptoms, may be signs of puberty. I was confused. Puberty at 8? I know children have been experiencing this earlier, compared to generations before, but I really didn’t think this was what was going on. The resident doctor did not think it could be diabetes, because my daughter said the need to urinate, frequently, was not happening at school, only at bedtime. So, we left with an appointment to come back in a month. Looking back now, I should have demanded that blood test!

About a week and half goes by and I’m in my daughter’s classroom, helping organize the classroom library. The kids are out of the classroom. In conversation, my daughter’s teacher asks me if she has a bladder problem. With a slight hesitation (knowing where this conversation is going), I say, “No. Why do you ask?” He goes on to tell me that Sydney has been using the bathroom at school, “a lot.” The last piece of the puzzle was in place. Once I got back home, I called the doctor’s office and made an appointment for the next day. I was so grateful for having a concerned teacher.

I later asked Sydney why she didn’t tell me about the frequent trips to the bathroom during school. She told me she was scared. She didn’t want to get in trouble. I told her that when it comes to her well being, telling doctors exactly what is happening to her body is the most important thing. I told her she could never get in trouble for being honest about her health.

The first thing the doctor does when we arrive for the appointment is take a urine sample. Why did’t we do this a month ago? When she returns to the room, she tells me the sample was full of glucose. She then takes a small sample of blood and runs it through a blood glucose meter. The number is 512. A normal blood glucose is anywhere from 80-120. It is then when she tells me that my daughter is diabetic.

She was admitted into the hospital on a Friday. We spent the next three days taking a crash course in learning how to care for a child with Type 1 Diabetes.

There was a lot of bracelets and necklaces made.Blog1There was plenty of computer time.

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Food on a plate was no longer just a hamburger and fries. It became 45g of carbohydrates (25g for the bun and 20g for the fries). We would never look at food the same.

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There was an unbelievable amount of gifts from family and friends, all concerned about Sydney.

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On Monday we were able to go home.

Even though I was in tears when I first got the news, we could not be more blessed. Like my husband told me on the phone, while I was a complete mess, telling him I had to bring Sydney to the emergency room because she was diabetic, “Is that it?”, he says. “We can deal with that.”

And that’s just what we are doing. We are dealing with it everyday. We have been very fortunate that controlling her diabetes has been relatively easy (we do have the occasional highs and lows) and she gives herself most of her injections. However, there are those days, when it gets tough and as parent’s we are faced with questions from a teary eyed child asking, “Why me?” It is during these times when reality sets in and I come to the realization that I have a child with diabetes and that is never going to change. This past year is only the beginning, to a lifetime with diabetes. At times it scares me, but most of the time I am thankful. I am thankful my child can receive the treatment she needs.

Checking blood sugars, counting carbs and making sure our daughter continues to be the happy, fun-loving 9 year old, we know and love, is our main objective now.

Starting the Year Off Right

I am well aware of how blessed me and my family are and how fortunate I am to have a successful business. It has always been a goal of Sharon Gaietto Photography to contribute to helpful organizations. Organizations that truly make a difference in the lives of so many. Last year those contributions were not made as regularly as in previous years. So, to ensure that this does not happen again, Sharon Gaietto Photography is making monthly contributions to 5 organizations that have touched my life in some way.

common-pantry-logo-addressThere are many days when I take for granted the fact I can just reach into my refrigerator or open my kitchen cabinets and pull out food. The thought of not being able to provide food for my family is frightening. Yet, this is a reality for so many people in our community. The Common Pantry has been providing food and personal care items to people since 1967. Their continuous support has helped out countless individuals and families that have found themselves on hard times.

GBSYou only have to turn on the local news to see what dangers our firefighters and paramedics face on a daily basis. Whether it’s fighting a three alarm fire or tending to a gunshot victim, or worse yet doing all this in subzero temperatures, these men and women go well beyond the call of duty. The Gold Badge Society is an organization that helps families cope with having lost a loved one in the line of duty. Their membership is comprised of the widowed and families of firefighters and paramedics who have made the ultimate sacrifice. Their purpose is to offer support and comfort to any and all who might benefit from their experiences. Being the wife of a firefighter, I am very thankful for their commitment to the families of the CFD.

G711v50cWhen the weather takes a turn for the worse, whether it’s a severe thunderstorm or dangerously cold temperatures, I find myself being very thankful for having a roof over my head. Though, I remind my children of how fortunate we are to have a warm and safe place to live, they are reminded on a daily basis. A trip in the car usually doesn’t go by without seeing one of the many homeless that live on the streets of Chicago. The Night Ministry is a Chicago-based organization that works to provide housing, health care and human connection to members of our community struggling with poverty or homelessness. They work to address their immediate physical, emotional and social needs while affirming their sense of humanity.

paws-chicago-logo-tributeTen years ago we opened our home to a shelter dog. Though I was a little apprehensive, I have never regretted our decision to take her in. Our first baby, Zuzu, brought so much love and companionship to our lives. We are so grateful we had the opportunity to have her in our lives. PAWS Chicago has united 25,000 cats and dogs with new families since they started in 1997. Their mission to end the killing of homeless animals and find them loving and responsible families is an amazing gift this city has been given. It’s because of their dedication and love for animals, so many people will have the opportunity to invite a new family member into their homes and experience the unconditional love, a cat or dog can bring into their lives.

stjudehospitalHaving lost my mother to cancer in 2010, I am all to familiar on how destructive this disease can be. Not only did it slowly take our mother from us (an 8 year fight), it robbed us from so many wonderful years with her. So many birthdays, holidays and memorable events that were not the same, because she was not there. Being a mother of four, I can’t even fathom the thought of having a sick child. Having a child with a life-threatening disease is a nightmare of mine. A nightmare, that for so many is their reality every hour, every minute, every second of the day. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is the light at the end of a very long and dark tunnel. Their commitment to help any child with catastrophic disease, no matter their color, religion or financial situation has been a blessing for so many since 1962. St. Jude is the answer to so many prayers.

My hopes in sharing this with you, is not for any “pat on the back” or “gold star”. My hope is that I have encouraged you to make your own commitments. To start off 2014 on the right foot and make a difference in someone’s life. Just a small donation to an organization that has touched your life or has proven to be an advocate for those unable to stand alone, would be greatly appreciated.

Happy New Year!

Welcome 2014!

As I look back at 2013, I am amazed on how fast it went by and how much fun I had photographing so many wonderful people. A huge ‘Thank You’ to everyone that trusted me to capture special moments throughout the year. It was great to see many familiar faces and a pleasure to meet many new ones, too! I look forward to 2014 and all the possibilities it holds.

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Remembering the Fallen

On September 21st, I had the honor of attending the Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial in Colorado Springs. This was the International Association of Fire Fighter’s (IAFF) 27th annual ceremony remembering firefighters in the United States and Canada that have died in the past year. The day was filled with prayers, tributes and tears.

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Bagpipers from around the country prepare to honor the fallen. 

Father Thomas Mulcrone, the IAFF and CFD Chaplain, was the Master of Ceremony. His words were consoling and his message, inspirational. As all CFD families know, the presence of Father Mulcrone brings an overwhelming sense of comfort. He has spent over 25 years being there for the CFD families and on this day, he was there for families from across the country.

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The sound of the bagpipers was emotional. The rolling thunder created by the drummers, was powerful. Their numbers were extraordinary. “Amazing Grace” brought many to tears.

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The ceremony honored all the firefighters and paramedics that have died over the past year. Their names are forever engraved on the granite wall, for all to visit and remember their courage and ultimate sacrifice.

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CSBlogNew York City honored many firefighters that have died as a result of helping in the rescue and recovery of those hurt and killed on 9/11.

One of the most moving moments in the ceremony is the flag presentation. A flag is given to the family members of those that have died. It is very sobering to hear the names being read, one by one, 157 in all. They are men and women that did not return home from a fire or lost their battle against disease, caused by a career of harmful conditions. It is heartbreaking to watch the family members accept the flags. Wives, husbands, and even children receiving flags on behalf of their heroic and selfless loved one, that died serving us. I am overcome with sadness and find it difficult to hold back the tears. I can’t even imagine the pain and loss they are feeling.

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Three Chicago Firefighters were honored in Colorado Springs. Their family members stand to accept their flags.

The day allows us to mourn and remember those that have so bravely chosen to protect and save those in harms way. It is a day of celebration and thankfulness. It is a day that I am reminded of how fortunate I am to be married to a firefighter and how blessed I am to have him come home after each shift day.

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Be safe firefighters and paramedics! Come home to those that love you!

Zuzu’s Petals

“My mouth’s bleeding, Bert! My mouth’s bleed…Zuzu’s petals, Zuzu’s…There they are!”

A line from my all time favorite Christmas movie, It’s a Wonderful Life. Both my husband and I have loved this movie for as long as we can remember. It only made sense that our first baby, a Shepard mix, would be named Zuzu. It was definitely a lot better than her previous names, Princess (her name when leaving Anti-cruelty) and Sherry (her name when leaving the firehouse). I have to admit, I was a little hesitant in taking her in, when my husband was told she had to leave the firehouse. The house already had one dog and the chief didn’t want two. I always wanted a puppy and she was at least a year and a half and pretty excitable. Seeing the bond my husband had formed with her, it was clear that she was going to be our dog. It just had to wait until we moved out of our rental and into our home. Or did it?

It was about two weeks before we were going to move. She got out of the firehouse parking lot, ran right onto Chicago Ave. and was hit by a car. Luckily she only suffered a dislocated leg. We wanted to make sure she was taken care of, so she came home with us (October 2003) and has been with us ever since.

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It wasn’t long before Chris’ dog, became my baby. I was the one walking her, feeding her, giving her treats, and spending the most time with her. Not that Chris didn’t want to, but his schedule was crazy busy. Every third day, it was just me and Zuzu. To say the least, we became very close.

It would be two years before we added another family member. Zuzu welcomed every one of the kids home from the hospital. I’m sure hoping it would be the last one. So many little feet running around are hard to avoid. Even though a growl has warned the kids on numerous occasions, there is no doubt she loves them all.

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It didn’t take me long to include Zuzu into our photo shoots. Any occasion you could think of, she went along with the shenanigans. More times than not she behaved better than the kids.

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Halloween was probably my favorite holiday. Every year since Riley was born, I would pick a theme. Morgan’s first Halloween was our last time for coordinating costumes. It was an end to an era.

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Even though she has a severe case of alpha female complex and making friends has never been her strong suit, she has always gotten along with her cousins (our sisters’ dogs). They just needed to know who was boss and everything was fine. As my sister once told her Golden Retriever (who spends a lot of time at our home), “You’re in Big Momma’s house. Stay out of her way.”

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It’s difficult to describe to those who haven’t had a pet, that they become a member of the family. The companionship, the sense of security, the unconditional love that Zuzu gives to us, is something that I am thankful for on a daily basis.

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As she approaches her 12th birthday (though not really sure how old she is, having come from the shelter), it has come quite clear that her time with us is coming to an end. The stairs have become very difficult for her and living in a two-flat makes it even harder. The hesitation she makes before making the climb up, tells me she dreads it. Four months ago she stopped coming up stairs to our bedroom. She always slept at the foot of our bed. The thought of her downstairs by herself, makes me sad.

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I promised myself that I would not dedicate a blog post in memory of Zuzu. I wanted to write about her in the present tense. I felt an urgency in writing this today, because tomorrow I will have to call the veterinarian. Zuzu hasn’t eaten anything in three days and I’m fearing the worst. The thought of losing her, brings me to tears.

The thought of not having her at my feet wherever I go, not having to clean the mound of hair off the living room couch, not being able to hear her howl for a treat, not adding her name to every card we sign as a family, not being able to give her a huge hug and give her a kiss on her muzzle, breaks my heart.

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When the time comes, I will be by her side. Even though my husband believes there is no way I could handle it, how could I not be there, to say goodbye. I was unable to do that for my childhood dog, Rufus. I vowed never to make that mistake again.

She will always have a special place in my heart. I love you, Zuzu! You have made this family complete.

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Child Safety ID Cards

Last week I was taking the kids to school. I usually hold the two-year-old because she can’t keep up with the quick pace. Our consistent late arrivals, usually has us in a quick sprint to the school doors. On this particular day, we brought some much needed classroom supplies, which left my hands full. So, the two-year-old was on her own. As we walked through the school grounds I was sure that everyone was right behind me. It wasn’t until we reached the school doors that I noticed my youngest was nowhere in sight. As I backtracked, I was sure I would find her, but I didn’t. I began to panic. What if she tried going back to the car? We had crossed two streets. Even though I reminded myself we were in a safe place (school grounds), I started to imagine the worst case scenarios. When I couldn’t find her outside, I quickly headed inside the school, hoping someone had found her. My heart began to beat at a normal pace, once I found her waiting for me at the main office. The whole experience didn’t even seem to phase her. I couldn’t say the same for myself.

I can’t even begin to imagine what parents of a lost child go through. With four children of my own, we have had our share of kids wandering off. However, they were always quickly found, before the authorities were needed. The thought of not knowing the whereabouts of my child, is what nightmares are made of. I was once asked what my biggest fear was and my replay, the safety of my children.

As parents, we never want to think we could possibly lose a child. However, when the unthinkable happens, its good to have important information on hand and ready to give to the authorities. Sharon Gaietto Photography is offering complimentary Child Safety ID Cards with every photo session. For any parent that is interested, a laminated card or digital file (to put on your smart phone), with all their child’s vital information will be provided, free of charge.

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Book your session today!