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.”

 

 

What to Wear: A Session Clothing Guide – PNW Portrait Photographer

Okay, you’ve sent your photography inquiry. You’ve scheduled your session for 4 weeks out and double checked to made sure your spouse isn’t working that day. You’ve paid your deposit. You’ve checked the weather Almanac SEVERAL times. It’s been raining the past five years, but that’s okay, it was partly sunny in 1967. You’re standing in front of your closet and you STILL don’t know what to wear and your session is next week.

Not only do you have to pick out your own outfit, but your spouse hasn’t bought a new shirt since that one wedding how many summers ago and your kids’ clothes all have raspberry stains from eating all the berries off the plant in the backyard. (It was a fruitful year.)

Don’t worry! A quick (HAH!) trip to Target will provide you with coordinated outfits making you look (and feel) like rock stars.

 

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For a little nudge in the right direction, I’ve put together a few tips to help you choose your outfits. These work for families, engagements, and seniors.

 

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Decide on a palette of 3-4 colors to base your outfit on (including pants and dresses). You want a cohesive feel, but without being too matchy. You want your outfits to compliment each other. Please, no solid white shirts with khaki pants. Don’t even think about black polos with jeans. It’s outdated… like 2002. And try not to put all the males in plaid. It starts to look a like a Magic Eye.

 

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I always suggest that the women to choose outfits she feels confident and beautiful in and then have everyone’s outfit coordinate from there. It’s easier to start with one item or color and build from there.

 

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Long dresses flow elegantly in the wind and look amazing on every body type.

 

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Layer your clothing to add texture and dimension to your outfits. Include a belt or necklace or if its cooler out, don a scarf or sweater cardigan.

 

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First and foremost: be you. For example, I love earrings so I would wear big feather earrings and a few bracelets. Do you love hats? Bring one (but don’t wear it, yet). Does your family love boots? Wear them!

 

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Arrange your outfits ahead of time. Lay all of them out on a big bed in natural window light including accessories . Make sure all clothes are clean, pressed, and ready to go on hangers a few days before your session.

 

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Avoid: T-shirts with large graphics, neon colors, tube socks, overly formal clothes, and dirty shoes (unless they’re boots, in which that’s okay). I don’t recommend high heels either. We’re likely going to be outside walking or playing.

 

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Ladies: Pamper yourself by getting your hair styled and makeup done before the session. Makeup should be natural but slightly heavier than normal. I recommend hiring a Make Up Artist. I work with a few MUAs that also do basic hair (curls/waves). For make up and hairstylist recommendations, contact me!

 

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Men: Plan a haircut for a week or so before. Shave the night before or in the morning and put on aftershave to reduce redness and irritation. Cut and clean your fingernails.

 

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Large groups have a little bit of a challenge, but as long as you stick with the above tips, you’ll all look amazing!

 

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If you are needing ideas, I suggest looking at Pinterest to find inspiration. Find my Pinterest page @foxandwagon and click on Session Wardrobe Ideas. I’ve also created an outfit shopping list on Amazon so you can buy online right away.

 

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You can always text me with pictures of your outfits if you’re concerned!

 

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It doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to decide what to wear for your portrait session. It does take a little bit of planning, but as long as you wear something that you feel good in, you’ll look good.

Still have no idea what to wear? I have a few dresses and a top in my Client Closet to choose from. I will update as soon as I get someone to model them!

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!

Picking a location – PNW Photographer

Locations can be a part of your portrait story, not just a pretty backdrop. I like to give you the option to choose where we have your portrait session for a few reasons:

  • You’re comfortable where you are and it shows in your photographs.
  • You recall and create meaningful memories with each person in your family in a space that you’ve been to before.
  • You know where things are, how to get there and what to do!

But if you don’t have a preference on a location and you’d rather I decide or if you’re from out of town, I’ve complied a brief list of locations around Tacoma with photos and descriptions to help you decide where you want to tell your story. Keep in mind that we are not limited to these locations! I’m willing and able to shoot almost anywhere! The only thing that may limit us is admission, fees or photography permits such as conservatories or private gardens.

Point Defiance Park, Tacoma

Perfect in any season. The changing colors of autumn leaves by the pond make a beautiful backdrop. So many Tacoma families have fond memories of watching the ducks and walking the paths of Point Defiance Park. In the spring and summertime, the blooming roses and arches give an intimate feel. Even in the wintertime, the bare, twisty branches in the rose garden can offer a dark and mysterious vibe.

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Discovery Park, Seattle

While quite a trek from Tacoma, Discovery Park in the Magnolia neighborhood of Seattle is one of my favorite locations to shoot. It faces the west, giving us the much desired golden and blue hour dreamy feel. This park has it all: forest, beach, tall grass, buildings painted butter yellow, and even a lighthouse with a trail access. If you don’t mind walking, this is 534 acre park is a gorgeous choice.

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Chambers Bay Park & Beach, University Place

One of the most interesting parks near Tacoma is Chambers Bay. Formerly a sand and gravel quarry, the park’s large skeletal concrete structures separate the park from the golf course and line a trail leading to the bridge and a beach below.

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Swan Creek Park, Tacoma

Hidden where Pioneer Way and Waller Road meet in Tacoma, Swan Creek Park is a quiet little swimming hole surrounded by trees. You might want to bring a towel because shoes are bound to come off. There are trails and little bridges to explore as well.

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Wright Park, Tacoma

Like Point Defiance, Wright Park is gorgeous in all seasons. The yellow leaves of the ginkgo tree brighten up the park even on the darkest days. While photographing inside the Conservatory is a no-go without a permit, there are no restrictions for hanging outside in the gazebo. The 27-acre arboretum has lots of beautiful spots to sit and enjoy being with your family.

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Downtown Tacoma/Urban/City

(Opera Alley, steps of UW, glass bridge & museum, former “Graffiti Garages”)

Tacoma’s downtown area is so unique and interesting. Urban sessions aren’t just for individuals. Documentary sessions or even Lifestyle sessions can take place in the city. If nature is not your thing, let’s explore the town!

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Home & Neighborhood

There’s no place like home. You know your family best and where they would feel most comfortable. I love just sitting on your front porch or hanging out in bed.

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Wild Hearts Farm (+fee)

A local family designed their property specifically for photographers and clients. With options like tire swings and wooden swings, an old truck, a vintage trailer, gardens with ever changing flowers and a natural light, rain free dome, they’ve made endless possibilities.

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Restaurants, Coffee Shops, Stores, Libraries

Do you have a favorite restaurant? Have you ever wanted to document your every day life shopping at Target or Costco? It takes a little more planning and permission from the manager, but these sessions are often so much more relaxed and personal.

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Want to go on an adventure? There are places I’ve always wanted to take my sessions. Do you have ideas?

Ferries

Mountain Trails

Waterfalls

Carnivals/Fairs

Orchards

Central Washington/Columbia River/Vantage

Schmick Family – Olympia Family Photographer

When a car is part of a family, it’s only proper to include it in a family session.

Elisa, her husband Aaron, their 3-year-old daughter Lyla, Aaron’s Shelby Mustang and I met up at West Bay Park in Olympia for a family session. Elisa asked me if I could get some shots of them with Aaron’s new Mustang. I was a little hesitant only because I wish I had a different lens to fully capture the car and all it’s shininess. Despite only having a prime lens, it turned out pretty good! My goal was to photograph the people first. 🙂

 

Elisa is a super talented hair stylist at Glamour Salon in Tumwater, WA. She does AMAZING color work and is so sweet! Check out her website: Hair by Elisa Mae and follow her on Instagram @hairbyelisamae.

DuCharme Newborn Session (new baby package, pt 3) – Tacoma Newborn Photographer

 

Bringing a new baby home can only be described as an out-of-body experience. There are so many questions that run through new parents’ heads: Is this really happening? Am I doing it right? Are we allowed to actually have this baby here? At our house? By ourselves? Where’s the nurse? Is. This. Really. OUR. Person? What do we do now? Should I sleep?

The questions continue.

It takes a few weeks for the mind to return to the body. You know, once the nerves calm, the deliriousness subsides (a little), and the house gets into a rhythm and routine.

When I visited the DuCharmes for a home newborn session, it was a week and a half after Roman was born. They were just easing into their bodies again. The house was calm and quiet, but there were still some questions and uncertainty hanging around. Like I said, it takes a few weeks to make a new normal. Even for the cat.

Thank you to Katie and Keith DuCharme for opening up their lives to me and allowing me to photograph this fantastic new chapter as parents.

 

 

 

Rachelle & Lee Maternity – Seattle Family & Maternity Photographer

There is a single word to describe this family: STRONG. They are strong in their love, faith, friendship, passion, and bodies.

Rachelle was about 30 weeks pregnant when we had our shoot. With TWINS! I took her, Lee and their daughter Averie all over Discovery Park in Seattle. Our plan was to hike down to the lighthouse but I underestimated the difficulty of the hike and how long it would take to get there. Despite missing the lighthouse, I appreciated how enthusiastic and spirited they were about our 3-and-a-half hour session! Averie especially. She happily filled up on the gummy bears I brought.

Rachelle is my nearly-cousin. My uncle and her mother were long-time sweethearts whose paths kept crossing at various times in their lives but never at the right time. They still very much love each other… which means I have a few girl cousins!

This lovely family now has two more beautiful, healthy babies: boy Waylon & girl Charlie. Congratulations to their family!

 

Coutsouridis Family – Tacoma Family Photographer

One early morning in September, I met with the Coutsouridis family at the Point Defiance Park and Pagoda. Chris’ parents were in town from Connecticut on their annual visit to see their 3-year-old grandson. We had a lovely session and perfect weather. I was grateful that the smoke from the wildfires of British Columbia had dissipated by then. Although it did create some interesting light, being outside made it difficult to breathe.

Before our session, little George found two treasures near the Pagoda: a purple crayon and a gray crayon. He held them tight the whole hour and they nearly stole the show! They had names and everything. I love little imaginations. They bring even the smallest ideas to life and cause us as adults to slow down. Lately, I’ve opted to take the passenger seat during my sessions (not backseat, because I still navigate!). This helps give the children a little bit of control and allows us to have a more relaxed, easy session.

I hope the grandma and grandpa Coutsouridis are able to visit again soon!