Felix Family Adoption Stories – Seattle Documentary Photographer

Right now is the time when we need family and connection the most but with sessions being postponed and gatherings canceled, my job as a photographer has halted. I’ve been trying to figure out how I can still create those connections by blogging and sharing photos from previous sessions. Then this one popped into my head. I hope it warms your heart and gives you joy!

Earlier this year I documented the adoption hearing of a little boy at the King County Courthouse in Downtown Seattle. Originally from the Philippines, Alex’s* biological parents knew that he would have a better life and more opportunities if he lived here in the US. Maura and Lewis*, Alex’s wonderful adoptive parents, are relatives which makes the bond that much more special.

Family came as far as New Jersey and Maryland to support and celebrate. There were some nerves in the hallway while they waited to be called to see the judge. Nerves only because this moment has been anticipated for a while and Maura wanted everything to go smoothly. Their lawyer, wearing a bright pink blazer, eased the anxieties saying that now they are at this point, there’s nothing to block them from getting Alex. All they need is to take a pledge and receive the judge’s signature. Simple.

Alex and his cousins enjoyed looking out the huge windows at the tall buildings and the people in the street below. Watching Alex smile and play “photographer” with a friend’s phone gave Maura encouragement and she was able to put her worries aside.

Finally, it was their turn and the family filed into the courtroom. With tears streaming down their faces and hands raised, Maura and Lewis pledged a commitment to love and protect Alex, to respect and encourage him, and to give him the best life that they hoped to give. And on that sunny day in January, Alex officially became their son.

 

*Names have been changed.

Khloe + Vincent’s Elopement– Seattle Elopement Photographer

Did you know that Seattle is a top destination for elopements? I didn’t until just recently!

Khloe (whose Chinese name is Fung Ha) reached out to me in May last year by email. She and her fiance Vincent are from Hong Kong and were planning on having their ceremony at the Downtown Seattle Courthouse in September. It seemed odd at first, but after a few more weeks of emailing back and forth, I agreed. Khloe had to make a few changes to the location and date because of trouble getting the marriage certificate. Finally, the date was set for September 22nd and the ceremony would take place on the observation deck of the Smith Tower.

I met the couple for the first time in Occidental Park on that rainy September Sunday for their formal portraits. We were able to communicate quite well despite speaking different languages. It was a lot of me directing using my hands.

Once we were done with the cold, wet weather, we walked the few short blocks to the Smith Tower for a few more formal portraits in the lobby. The Tower still maintains a few “golden carriage” elevators that take patrons up the building. One of them was open just for tours and I asked the couple to sneak inside for a quick kiss.

We eventually reached the 35th floor where a table was reserved for them by the window. Originally called The Chinese Room, the Smith Tower’s Observatory Bar still has the Wishing Chair. It was a gift from the Last Empress of China and there is a legend that if a single woman sits in the chair, she will be married within the year. Khloe sat in the chair and was married within minutes!

When the officiant arrived, we stepped outside tucked in a small corner of the observation deck. Khloe and Vincent said their vows to each other overlooking downtown and Elliot Bay. The rain never let up and Khloe and Vincent never stopped smiling.

Vincent’s Chinese name is Ling Hon.




 

Kris & Arie – Tacoma Couples Photographer

In honor of Pride Month! 🏳️‍🌈

You know how you just know you’ve met some super fun people within the first 2 minutes? That’s Kris and Arie. We had our session one gorgeous morning at Wright Park in Tacoma. They told me stories of how they first met each other and how their wedding on the Vashon Ferry went completely wrong and half of the people didn’t make it on the boat including their officiant. Which then inspired to Kris becoming ordained on her phone at a wedding just in case someone’s officiant fails to show at a friend’s wedding.

Sometimes you have these expectations of how things are going to be, but they often don’t go as planned. Kris and Arie shrug and go with the flow. (I had to do that too when a dog peed on my blanket in the middle of our session!)

We strolled through the sun-dappled park and grabbed a cup of coffee at Anthem. It was so chill. I felt like I was hanging out with some new friends!

Happy Pride, Kris and Arie! And Happy Pride to all folks celebrating this month! You are loved!


 

As a reminder: I do not accept or endorse any type of racism, sexism, religious discrimination, homophobia, transphobia, or any other form of discrimination. Also, I am body positive! My business and home is a safe place and I will love and accept you as long as your ideals do not discriminate against others.

Hatcher & Ngauamo Family — Tacoma Family Lifestyle Photographer

Last year, Gina found my post advertising for Modern School Portraits when she was working at a local preschool and looking for a new photographer. I’ve been their Picture Day photographer for two years and the school is now my biggest client. I’m so grateful that we connected!

Then earlier this year I sent out a model call looking for diverse Tacoma families to add to my portfolio and she responded with an exciting request. She and her husband, Moses, wanted to surprise their 6-year-old with some news. They had already told their daughter, Kayden, that they were expecting a baby in September… but what they didn’t tell her is how many babies! See if you can guess…

Gina brought the ultrasound pictures in an envelope and had Kayden open it during our session. Her reaction was priceless! I’m so glad I was there to document it!


She facepalmed when she found out all three are BOYS!

 

 

Coleman + Marshall Wedding — PNW Wedding Photographer

Early Spring of last year, Cameron messaged me on Facebook to ask me if I’d be the photographer for his wedding with Annie scheduled for October. They’re good friends of mine and our kids went to preschool together, so I couldn’t pass it up! “It’s going to be a surprise,” he said. “Annie doesn’t know about it.”

*record scratch* What?!

Cameron planned this gorgeous wedding with the help of his and Annie’s families and she had no idea until 5 minutes before she arrived at the venue. To a farm. By helicopter. He called it “Operation White Wedding” and he successfully pulled off one of the best surprises I’ve ever been a part of.

They had been planning to get married for a while. She even picked out a dress. Two dresses, actually. Sometime later in October, they were going to head to Mexico where they figured — or so Annie thought — that they’d tie the knot. Only that’s not what happened.

Cameron booked the venue at Willapa Hills Farm, the caterer, the photographer (moi), the officiant (a friend), the band (Annie’s sister’s former band), invited the guests, arranged for the flowers. All of it. And it was perfect.

That morning, they drove to Seattle where they hopped in a helicopter for a day date and a tour of the Puget Sound. But when they started flying south and couldn’t see the Sound, she started to wonder. At about 2:00pm, they flew over the Willapa Hills Farm where she saw a bunch of people below and that’s when he asked her:
“Do you want to get married? Now? Today?”
“What?!” she said. “I mean, yes! Wait… what?”

She recognized a few cars in the parking lot and then it hit her. OH, I’M GETTING MARRIED. TODAY!

The pilot landed the helicopter and Cameron helped her out. Their two kids ran to embrace them and they greeted their soon-to-be wedding guests. Everyone knew this for months, except for the bride.

She got ready in a small building off the side of the barn where her dress, shoes, makeup, hair, and Spanx were set for her. Yes, he even remembered the Spanx.

Annie’s brother on guitar and sister on violin played music as they walked down the aisle where Cameron and Annie said their vows in a clearing by the river surrounded by friends and family. The party continued with live music from Annie’s favorite band, dancing, amazing food and beer from a local brewery.

If anyone could have pulled off a surprise this fantastic, it was Cameron. And there’s no other bride who could have acceded with such grace as Annie. They make the perfect match.

 

Piper’s 1st Birthday Cake Smash — Tacoma Children’s Portrait Photographer

Oh, little Piper Ann. I seriously cannot believe it’s been a year since your mommy and daddy brought you home from Arizona.

For Piper’s 1st birthday session, the Mittleiders and I met at Wild Hearts Farm in the gorgeous white studio. Despite it being January, the studio was warm and cozy – perfect for cake smashing! We also got to use their vintage trailer and pop into Iggy, the huge, clear dome with a Papasan chair. The sun was shining which made it feel warm in there too.

It seems like we’ve been planning and waiting for this cake smash for a year… definitely a good thing! First birthdays are HUGE milestones, not just for the babe, but for mom and dad too. You made it! You survived a whole year together! You learned about each other and what it takes to be a family of 3 (or in the Mittleider’s case, 5 with their two Bostons). And you learned how to love each other. So what better way than to celebrate by getting messy in a tutu and stuffing your face with sweet buttercream and yummy cake?!

Kinda makes you want to go out and buy yourself a cake to stuff in your face right now, doesn’t it? If there wasn’t 8″ of snow outside right now, I definitely would!

 

Mittleider Newborn Documentary Session & Adoption Story – Seattle Family Photographer

Families created by adoption have a special place in my heart. I am adopted myself so I feel connected to these stories of children being united with their new parents. I love seeing the joy of families who were meant to be.

However, the steps parents must go through to adopt a child are lengthy onerous, terrifying and confusing. It’s a rollercoaster of emotions, paperwork, money, interviews, more paperwork, background checks, FBI checks, home studies, autobiographies, finding the right match, and traveling. At the end of it all, a new chapter of parenthood begins when the baby or child comes home.

The Mittleiders went through all of that and finally, after a tedious 9 months, they were able to hold their baby in their arms.

Kathleen and Tyler went “live” as approved adoptive parents in April of 2017. Tyler has been a program manager for Microsoft for 10 years. Kathleen started as an Amazon program manager in July of 2017. Their employers were very understanding. They knew that the Mittleiders could get a phone call for a baby at any time and would have to take time off. The Mittleiders expected to wait between 18-24 months to be able to bring their baby home. The call came 9 months later.

“Nothing about adoption is easy,” Kathleen said. “If anyone tells you it is, they’re lying. The paperwork alone to go live is a herculean effort. It’s sort of a hurry up and wait process. You hurry to get all of your paperwork in and then you just…..wait. We had just started the process of renewing our homestudy when we got ‘the call’.”

Kathleen saw her phone ring at 3:30pm on Friday, January 5th but didn’t recognize the number so she let it go to voicemail. It was from the city where their adoption agency was located. She quickly put two and two together but by that time Tyler was getting the same phone call. He also didn’t answer the unknown number. Kathleen called the number back and was told that they were placed with a family wanting to give their child over for adoption and that the baby was due in just 3 days. But the agency told them not to travel until the mother was in labor so they spent that weekend shopping and filling their nursery with all the things they needed for a new baby. They had already decorated the baby’s room and had only a few essentials. Then they waited. One long week after the initial phone call they bought their plane tickets and traveled to Arizona where the birth family was living. They got to meet the birth mother and father and had dinner with them that night. The next day the mother was induced and the Mittleider’s daughter Piper was born.

They were able to hold their new baby daughter less than an hour after her birth. But the adoption process doesn’t end there. The birth parents have 72 hours to sign over their parental rights or they can keep the baby.

“Between birth and the 72 hours when they signed over their parental rights, they could have changed their minds,” Kathleen said. “And we had Piper at that point, we had her from when she was 40 minutes old. The thought that we could lose her was absolutely terrifying. I don’t think either of us slept. We knew her birth parents were confident in their decision to place Piper, but that didn’t take away our fear.”

Kathleen got the text from Piper’s birth father on the 16th at 7:46pm. It read, “We signed the consent forms, it’s official.”

“Both Tyler and I broke down into ugly tears. We could finally breathe, we could finally tell people. We could share her, and that was huge. We finally slept that night. We were a family.”

Once the birth parents signed the papers, the two states involved – Washington and Arizona – must agree to let the Mittleiders return to home. On January 19th, six days after Piper was born, Arizona approved Piper to go home, but Washington was still not ready for them.

They decided to drive to avoid flying during peak flu season and also to give Washington enough time to approve them crossing the state line. Finally, on January 23rd at 11:00am, they were able to leave Oregon and go home. The next challenge? Introducing this new human to their two Boston Terriers.

George and Winnie have differing opinions on the new baby. George adores his littlest sister with all of his little heart. Winnie is confused that there’s a new baby girl in the house and is frustrated that it isn’t her. The Mittleiders hope the girls will get along when Piper and Winnie are able to play together.

We had our session in their home about two weeks after Piper was born and just a few days after they all came home. Everyone was settling into their new roles and learning what it’s like to be a family of 5.

“As we approach her 1st birthday I think every day what it was like last year. How we told our friends and family – and how we truly believed it would take upwards of two years to become parents. And how different our actual story was,” Kathleen said. “It’s incredible to me. Piper’s birth mom became pregnant in April of 2017; the month we went active with our agency. It was just meant to be.”

 

 

Tree Farm Mini-Sessions Day 2 – PNW Family Photographer

Day 2 of the Tree Farm Mini-Session was just as great as Day 1! These sweet families braved the frosty air and celebrated each other with love. May you all have a joyous holiday season and a wonderful New Year! 💖💖💖

Thank you for spending your day with me and my camera!

Tree Farm Mini-Sessions Day 1 – PNW Family Photographer

This was my third year doing tree farm mini-sessions and for the third year in a row, we had beautiful weather. It was cold, but the sun was shining and everyone was great spirits! (The hot cocoa and cider helped warm them up a bit.) This year we were at the Glenwood Tree Farm in Tacoma, a wedding venue during summer and tree farm for Christmas. The family that owns the farm is so sweet and gracious for letting a bunch of photographers and our clients use their land! 

I had so much fun seeing returning families and meeting new ones. I can’t wait to do this again next year. I do hope to see everyone again. It’s always great to see how much the children have grown!

So to start off this photo blog of Tree Farm Mini-Sessions Day 1, I am sharing my BFF Jessi and her boyfriend Andy in their matching onesie pajamas and their puppers Isla. Don’t they look amazing?!

Thank you to everyone that joined me in the trees this year! YOU are amazing! Happy Holidays!

 

 

Would you be interested in doing Mom & Child Spring Minis in the flowers? E-mail me!

Megan + Thom’s Wedding – Seattle Wedding Photographer

The moment Megan asked me to be the photographer for her wedding with Thom Mezak, I KNEW it was going to be simple, gorgeous, and so laid back. These are a few of my favorite wedding things. Megan booked a house on Capitol Hill through VRBO and it had everything they needed for an intimate “Seattle backyard wedding.”

The couple got ready with their bridal party in separate parts of the house, while family and friends decorated the house and their puppers Grouch watched. They laughed their way through the patio ceremony and celebrated the nuptials with a small champagne reception that trickled out to the driveway. (The big party was happening the following night at The Stables in Georgetown where I was able to be a guest and not a photographer! Yay!)

I had so much fun with the bridal party — some of whom I’ve known about half of my life.

Hands down, this has got to be my absolute favorite wedding that I ever shot and participated in. Enjoy the Mezaktrimony! Just in case you missed it, take a look back at my blog post for Megan & Thom’s engagement session at Volunteer Park and their dog who stole the show.