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!

A Session Guide for Dads – PNW Family Photographer

I’ve been photographing families for 15 years and the common feeling or theme is that Dads only do this for their partners. Other photographers can agree that 98% of their sessions are booked by the woman. It’s a fact that Dads don’t actively value photography as much as Moms. (How many Moms do you follow on Instagram versus Dads who post regularly?) I’m not saying they DON’T value their family photos, but Dads don’t think about updating family portraits as often as their counterparts.

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When Mom books the family session and the time comes, sometimes Dads don’t know what to do or how to act. And that’s okay! So I’ve put together a few things to keep in mind to help Dad loosen up, let it go, and look natural.

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1.) I’m on your side. We’re a team. You and I both want the same thing: to make sure your partner looks and feels good. And my goal is to help you look good. During our session, I’ll coach you through natural poses that don’t feel stiff or uncomfortable. If you’re not feeling it, tell me and we’ll do something else. Teams work best when they communicate.

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2.) Act as if we were hanging out at your home in your living room. Look at your partner’s face. Talk with your kids about silly things. Ask your family questions like: Honey, how many days have you gone without washing your hair? What do you think about the weather? Do you remember the first time you farted in front of me? Kids, don’t you love this pink shirt that Mom made me wear? Who would win in a fight: Superman or Thor? Did the photographer just ask us who has the stinkiest feet? I bet she does.

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3.) Move. If you feel stiff and uncomfortable, you won’t look like you’re having fun and your photos will be stiff and uncomfortable. Is your wife wearing a long dress? Twirl her around. Are your kids losing it? Toss them in the air or tickle them. Feeling like you’ve lost control? (You haven’t, trust me. I’ve got it.)

If you need, take a moment to adjust your kid’s shirt and give them a quiet talk. No need to scold or bribe them. Kids WILL be kids. We’re here to have fun, not be perfect. We’re not recreating the Royal Family’s portrait!

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4.) My only expectation of you is to show your family love. Stay connected in some way. Hold hands. Hug. Kiss your kid’s head. Nuzzle your wife’s neck. Grab your partner’s butt. YES. DO. IT. Pull them close, hold them closer. A little PDA won’t hurt either.

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5.) Don’t look at me for every snap. I may ask for everyone to look at the camera a few times, but not the whole time. Our session won’t be what you’ve had in the past. So stop thinking of how photo shoots used to be, and start thinking of how you want them to be.

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I want you to leave our session feeling relieved that we didn’t just sit around forcing smiles, holding posture, and sucking it in. I want you to be more in love with your family and so glad that your partner scheduled an enjoyable photo session with me.

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Relax, Dad. You got this.

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These tips apply to grandpas too!