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.”

 

 

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.

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

Megan + Thom Engagement Session – Seattle Engagement & Couples Photographer

I’ve known Megan since middle school. We were a few of the odd ones that attended a large-ish private K-12, and though we weren’t bestest friends, we connected with each other because we weren’t like most of the others… rich and rude. I only went to that school for two years and then my parents decided to move and I lost contact from the few friends I made during the strange adolescent years.

THE way to communicate in the late 1990s was AOL IM. Neon Comic Sans font was what everyone used for their “Default Away Message” and it was cool to have No Doubt’s Spiderwebs next to your name. But I got tired of sitting at my computer one summer and decided to pick up pen palling. Megan was the first person I wrote to who actually wrote me back! Through summer and the next school year we exchanged letters about high school trials and our puppers – her Samdog, my Mandy and Lilly – and something named Bugbug (for the life of me I can’t remember what the hell it was). Then eventually we, like all millennials, returned to our computers and kept in touch the way our generation was always meant to… MySpace. Megan has always been in my Top 8.

Through travels and flames, Megan and I have celebrated many birthdays, graduations, my wedding, and next, her wedding. I think we all knew that Thom as The One as soon as we met him. His fantastic sense of humor, style, music, and dog breeds synced perfectly with Megan’s.

She asked me to photograph her wedding and I think I jumped up and down squealing like I did once when we were in middle school. I agreed, but only if they let me do an engagement shoot too. She agreed, but only if we included their dog Grouch. That’s a given.

~*~ SoRrY i’m NoT hOmE rIgHt NoW, i’m tAkInG pIcTuReS oF aN aDoRabLE cOuPLe aNd ThEiR cHaRmInG dOgGo. ~*~

 

 

 

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!