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Ryker’s Newborn Session || Sarah-Marie Photography

I met Ryker’s family about a year and a half ago when his brother was born and they booked a Baby’s First Year package with me. At that time I was still a little green with the newborns, but we spent a lot of time and Kian’s pictures were soooo cute! Fast forward to a year later and right before I was about to get all misty-eyed because the last session was over and I wouldn’t likely see the family until 2 year pictures, mommy let me know that she was expecting another client! Those were her words, not mine, and I thought it was adorable! Well, that little client has arrived and he is just as precious a his predecessors. His sister Kaya presented me with an adorable handwritten card upon arrival at their home, and Kian pretended to go all shy on me. He was a little tough to get with his new brother, but by the end he was super smiley and we got something really cute! Ryker was veeeery interested in what I was doing so he never fell asleep, but he was still very snuggly and we had a good time. I can’t wait for the next session with them, coming up soon!!SarahMariePhotography_0192We snuck that last shot in of Ryker and Kian. We were pretty tricky.SarahMariePhotography_0193I love this last one. All three kids are kind of doing their own thing, but they just exude comfort with each other and that sibling bond that usually takes a lot more time to come around.SarahMariePhotography_0194Baby feet and hands. So sweet.SarahMariePhotography_0195He’s only pretending to sleep in these. They were blinks!

I can’t believe I just told you my trade secrets…..

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We Are Licensed Foster Parents! Now What?

13 days ago we found out we were finally licensed. It was Friday, May 1st and we got the email while we were eating dinner, and we were so excited. SO excited. We cheered out loud, and when we were in bed talking that night, we talked about when we thought it would happen, and (half) joked that we hoped we wouldn’t get a placement call that weekend because we had picnic plans on Saturday and Avengers in theaters on Sunday. The following Tuesday we got our first call while at MC (Missional Community or small group for church) and it was nerve-wracking, but ultimately pretty painless. It didn’t end up working out and we haven’t gotten a call since. So, we are licensed. Now what? We’ve gotten a lot of questions from people about how this all works, and it seems that mostly people are a little fuzzy about how it all works, so here it is!

We wait.

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No really, that’s how this part goes. We wait and wait for a placement call, and in the meantime nothing much happens. The placement call is kind of a vetting process. Basically a child comes into a new foster home two ways. Either they are already in foster care with another family and that family has to “disrupt the placement” or they are coming into foster care for the first time because of a myriad of reasons. Sometimes those placements are overnight (emergency placements) or a few days or a few months or even years. You rarely know how long you will be with the child when they come into your home, and even emergency placements can end up being longer term sometimes. The placement call is usually not only to one foster home. Usually the caseworker assigned to the child(ren) calls or at least attempts to call several families who might be a good fit and finds out if they are willing to take the placement. Your willingness to take that placement might depend on age, amount of kids already in your home, their history and whether you are equipped to care for their particular needs, amount of kids in the placement and the room in your home, when the placement will take place, how far away they need to travel for school, visits or therapy, and many other things. After they find out which families can do it, they pick the family that they believe will be the best fit for that child or group. So getting a call is only the first step, it doesn’t mean you’ll get a child in your home.

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When you do find out you’ll be placed with a child or sibling group, you could have a half hour’s notice or weeks ahead of time, depending on the situation. If a child has just come into care suddenly or is an emergency placement while they seek out family members (like in the case of a serious accident), you might get them VERY quickly, even in the middle of the night. If your child is coming from another home who cannot keep them, but it isn’t because of an emergency, you may have a lot more time, and maybe even a transition period, although those are usually for adoptive placements. Adoptive placements don’t happen as often because if a child becomes available for adoption, the first people they ask are the current foster parents. Only if they say no do they look for foster homes that might want to adopt. You can see now why the process could take a very long time! Most of the time my understanding is that you might have a day’s notice once you get the call.

SarahMariePhotography_0190So that’s how it works! Once you get a child or children in your home there are a lot of things to do. For placements that are new to the system you have three days to go to a doctor and get a physical, you have a month to go to the dentist, and of course there is figuring out the school situation and such for older kids. You aren’t allowed to homeschool foster kids so that won’t be an option. A lot of kids come into the system with very very little, sometimes only the clothes on their back, so those first few days can be kind of hectic. Plus, of course, you need to bond with the child. Grand trips to the zoo are out, and play dates right away are definitely not helpful. Time in the home to get used to everything, establish a rhythm and bond are incredibly important. I’ll hopefully be making some freezer meals in anticipation of this!

We have been given SO much stuff from people, it

We have been given SO much stuff from people, it’s filled up our garage!!

One more thing. I’ve been a part of several foster care groups in Facebook since December and have learned a lot from them. One thing that I think is not too obvious and I wanted to share with my friends and family is that it is not proper or kind to call the kids “foster kids” around them. If strangers compliment me on their smile I will simply say “thank you,” I won’t correct them. If you see me in church with a new child and am trying to register for Sunday school, ask me their name, but that’s about it. I can’t and wouldn’t share intimate details with you about their lives, and of course you wouldn’t want them to feel weird about just popping in. The most important thing is for me to treat them exactly as I would a biological child, and for you to do the same. I have an amazing group of friends, church family and regular family 😉 and I am not worried about this even a tiny bit, but I would be remiss to write this blog about what to expect and not say it. I can’t wait to welcome a new child into our home, whether they stay a short while or forever! I can’t wait to immerse them in the wonderful life that we have, and to do whatever we can to make them feel loved. I am so excited that I have so many friends who want to help and babysit and contribute and I am so so thankful. Here we go!

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My Dreams Are Coming True

Age four. That’s the earliest I can remember deciding that I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. By then I had two or three sisters (depending on if it was the beginning of the age four or the end) and always helped my mom with them. Of course I had my first doll (I still have it actually, although she’s a hot mess. Her name is Carrie.) that I took along with me, and I remember that learning to cook food seemed to be the most important thing to learn. Of course along the way I had aspirations of being a figure skater (too poor and too tall) or an actress (too impractical), but mostly I stayed true to course. Even in high school when I was trying to decide what I wanted to become I nixed Photojournalist, Chef and Writer because they were too time intensive, and instead debated between Teacher (so that I could be home when the kids were) and Photographer (so I could set my own hours). I guess you know which one ultimately won out…

The desire for foster parenting came a little later, as a senior in high school. I always planned to homeschool my own kids, but as I did research I learned that you can’t homeschool foster kids, so even waaaaay before I could, I knew I had to pick a house in a county with good schools. Jason and I even talked about fostering and me wanting to be a stay at home mom on the first date! It was kind of a big moment too. We’d spent about 12 hours together non-stop, and during that time (and the time before when we were chatting on eHarmony) I checked everything off of my list for a future husband except for that one thing. When we got to the end and he was excited about that plan, I knew I’d found the guy I was going to marry. That was one heck of a first date!

So my dreams, since I was so little, and then expanded upon about 11 years ago, are finally coming true! Granted, it’s not the way I planned. I always thought I would have one or two kids of my own, wait until they were about 10 years old, and then start fostering younger kids, with the foster kids getting older as my biological kids got older. It’s been nearly two years now since we started trying to have a family, and it seems God wants us to start fostering now instead of later. It is well with me! Trying (and failing) to have kids for so long has been incredibly difficult at times, but since January when we started taking classes to become licensed, I have been blessed with an overwhelming peace about it. I wasn’t high strung or stressed before, but this is a new level of contentment that I am so happy to have.

Our color scheme is gray, yellow and teal! It

Our color scheme is gray, yellow and teal! It’s not all done, but I love how it’s coming!

I’m excited, ECSTATIC, about the thought of having kids in my home in a few months (or less). We have been over the top blessed with clothing and toy donations from so many people and have a full heart from the support people have shown us. We have a bedroom set up, toys all arranged, outlets that are plugged up and even a land line (I know, I didn’t even know you could still buy those!) in our kitchen. Right now we are waiting on all the paperwork to go through the government channels so that we can be licensed, and when that happens it could be hours before kids come (or months, but I doubt it). So what about my dream from age four? Well, I’ve given my notice at the home where I’ve been a nanny for almost two and half years, and starting in May I will be a stay at home mom. I am so so over the moon, it’s actually kind of hard to even write about. We are ready. SO ready. It’ll be a drastic life change, a major income reduction, a lot of hard work and be full of plenty of drama, but I am ready. I was meant for this. Made for it. Maybe my body was never meant for my own kids, but my heart was made ready for this a long time ago, and I. Can’t. Wait.

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Matt & Amy’s Wedding

Matt and Amy got married this past Saturday! I don’t do a lot of weddings anymore, but these two are special. I met them at Amy’s sister Kellie’s wedding two years ago and I just loved everyone in the family! They were so kind and sweet and fun to be around, that I agreed whole-heartedly to take on their wedding. I’m glad I did, too! There were sparklers, an antique Rolls Royce, a First Look, a very old log cabin and so so many tearful moments. Please help me by congratulating Amy and Matt below!!

Before you do though, enjoy these highlights…

Getting ready pictures are among my favorite. It’s the excitement of the anticipation that just gets me!

1-gettingreadyThe location and all the details were immaculate. So beautiful.2-detailsAmy and Matt ‘s first look was so touching because it was where Matt proposed to Amy.3-firstlookThe log cabin was a perfect background for the bride and groom pictures.4-portraitsWe went down to Matt’s parents farm for wedding party pictures, and it was perfect because it was less than a mile from the church.5-weddingpartyThe ceremony was inside a charming little church, and was so personal and filled with great stories.6-ceremonyAfter that spectacular wedding we headed over to The Capitol Theatre, and it was an incredible place for a reception. Check out these details!7-receptiondetailsWhen the wedding party arrived, they had a totally fitting shadow entrance. It was so cool!8-shadowentranceI did NOT think they would smash the cake, but they did! So funny.9-dancesAnd these are some of the best expressions of the evening!11-bouquettoss

Then they danced into the night…12-receptiondancingAnd finished with an incredibly cool exit!

12-exit        Thank you so much Amy and Matt for making me a part of your day, I enjoyed it so much and you two are really wonderful people.

Lauren LaFevers-Flatt - March 7, 2015 - 2:10 pm

You did an awesome job capturing such a perfect wedding day!

DeeDee Baird Thomas - March 7, 2015 - 4:05 pm

Those were amazing!

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My Husband's 90s Themed Office

Did you catch the post where I blogged about the EPIC 90s themed birthday party I threw my husband for his 30th birthday? It was wild, and took like 12 hours just to prepare for on the day, not to mention all the time that went into tracking those items down. Anyway, it was themed that way for a moment. My husband loves the 90s–he loves the music, Nickelodeon, all the pop superstars, the colors and especially the movies and TV shows. All of it, basically. So three years ago when we were trying to come up with a theme for his office, the 90s was a pretty obvious choice. I decorated the rest of the house, and he had exclusive rights on his man cave! Let me just say that he did a terrific job! His office is the room in our house that gets the most awe (especially from guys!) and we always save it till last on our home tours. Now that we are preparing for foster kids, we needed to change some things in our home, and so Jason is downsizing big time to make room for the kid’s room. So because of that, I did an office photo shoot, and Jason is going to finish this post off for me!!

SarahMariePhotography_0146My office’s decorations and various knick-knacks range from (roughly) 1986-2003, with most of the stuff from the actual 90s. Of course, some things that were hugely popular in the 90s actually came out in the 80s and some stuff went into the 2000s. There were some things here and there that were from the 70s and even from the 2010s, but not much. As you can see, most everything is from the 90s.

Some notable items from the room are:

  • The Mortal Kombat II Arcade Machine. I dreamed of having one of these when I was 10 years old and never thought it would actually happen. Then, one day in 2008, I walked across an arcade that wasn’t yet open with a sign that said “We sell arcade machines.” Knowing that MKII usually went for about $2,500, I was almost reluctant to ask. When they came back and said “We’ll take $800 for it.” “SOLD.” And that was that.
  • The Mario Wall. Besides the MKII machine, this definitely gets the best response when showing the room. “That’s what makes the room” is what I’ve heard every time. I got that from ThinkGeek.com.
  • Huge Superman: The Movie VHS Tape. This thing is just awesome. It’s so freakin’ old that the box is almost as big as two VHS tapes. I found it in a hobby store for $5.
  • 2 Trapper Keeper from 1989. Really, do I even need to say more?SarahMariePhotography_0143

The entire goal of the room was to make you feel as though you’ve walked through a time warp. Sure, there are some things that are new technology, but nearly all of it is from days of past.

More notable items:

  1. Jenny Lewis “Shrine,” as my wife calls it. Yeah, Jenny Lewis has been a part of my life since I was 10, when I first saw her in the first Disney Channel Original Movie A Friendship in Vienna. I had an enormous crush on her and she was my first celebrity crush. It’s awesome that she’s still thriving in the biz today with her music. She is the former front woman for Rilo Kiley and has since gone solo with 3 amazing albums. The Voyager is her newest and it’s one of my favorite albums of all time, even though it’s only been out for half a year! I saw her live (a dream of mine for years) back in November and it was the greatest show I’ve ever seen. I stood in the front row and she almost gave me a rose. I bought the concert poster you see in the picture above. And, yes, that is The Voyager on vinyl and cassette:)
  2. Unopened/unused Super Mario Bros. 3 McDonald’s Happy Meal Toys. I just about “stole” these from a guy on eBay that didn’t know what he had. This set one of the most sought after McDonald’s Happy Meal Toy sets ever. The game was wildly popular and the toys were awesome. It also came with unused, brand new McD’s Happy Meal boxes with Mario art on them. It’s one of my favorite things in the room. It was all $20. What a steal!
  3. Nickelodeon alarm clock and Double Dare lunchbox. I never got to have the alarm clock when I was a kid, because it was “too expensive,” but I’ve got one now that I’m in my thirties and it’s my favorite “time piece.” It still works completely. The lunchbox is one of the more rare things in the room and it’s such a great article of one of the most entertaining game shows ever on television.

SarahMariePhotography_0140While we were deciding on what theme I should choose for my office, we went back and forth on themes. Movies, Apple-like theme, modern, design-oriented (I’m a graphic designer). We couldn’t really settle on anything and all of a sudden, it came to me. 90s. As soon as I said it to Sarah-Marie, she was like “Duh! That’s totally you!”

More notable items:

  1. A Friendship in Vienna and The Wizard VHS tapes. Yes, more Jenny Lewis stuff. Of course, I have to have the movie that I first saw Jenny Lewis in and it took me years to track down a copy. It’s long out-of-print and darn near impossible to find, but I finally found it! The Wizard is a great movie. Well, it’s really a 90-minute Nintendo commercial about 3 kids that go to California to play in a video game competition. This movie first introduced Super Mario Bros. 3 to the masses, the greatest video of all time. Yes. I said that. If you’re an 80s baby/90s kid, this VHS is a must have.

Opryland USA Guide and Opryland USA 1997 Park Map. This is a little more specialized to the Nashville area. Opryland USA was a theme park that was a staple of Nashville. People here are still not over its closing after nearly 20 years. I found the guide on eBay and it was printed in 1989, when Opryland added a large amount of new attractions to the park. The park map is from the last year it was open and I’ve had it since I was 14. I also have the ticket from my last visit, a few pictures, a pennant, a shot glass and some t-shirts. Opryland was the first theme park I ever visited and it still depresses me that they tore it down to build a mall.SarahMariePhotography_0137

The 90s were a very special time. Historians say the 90s was the “last decade of innocence.” They mark the beginning of the Gulf War to be the end of an era where we weren’t always surrounded with world news, especially bad news. When I was a kid, I didn’t have a smart phone constantly telling me how many people were being killed in other countries, how politically divided we were as a nation. All I cared about was candy, video games and Nickelodeon.

More notable items:

  1. Yikes! Pencils. Oh yeah! These were THE COOLEST pencils in the whole world and if you didn’t have them, you were simply a dork. Not only did I find a pack on eBay, but it’s a sealed pack!
  2. Michael Jordan McDonald’s Get Fit Stopwatch. Not only did McDonald’s have an entire Happy Meal Toy line with Michael Jordan, it was also centered around getting and staying fit. Yes, McDonald’s did that. As a kid, we ate McDonald’s and were still fit. Know why? We played freakin’ OUTSIDE! Of course, we didn’t have McD’s all the time, it was a rare occasion, because our parents were a thing I like to call “smart.” Just imagine, if McD’s came out with a Get Fit line today, people would laugh at them, but I think it would be for the wrong reason. McD’s used to know what they were, but people today think McD’s is for something else entirely.

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3. The very best thing in the room: SUPER SOAKER 50. Yes, yes, yes! The Super Soaker 50 was hands down my favorite toy from my childhood. Ever.  Hours and hours of shooting refilling with this bad boy that could shoot up to 50 feet! Holy cow! I have so many different distinct memories with my SS50, including having an all out water war where the person who got the most soaked, won! I found one on eBay a few years ago. The cost? Well, let’s just say I paid more than MSRP…SarahMariePhotography_0139SarahMariePhotography_01424. Nintendo, Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis. These were THE three systems to have in the 90s. The SNES is my very own from when I was 10 years old and I’m proud to say it still works. In fact, all of my systems still work and very well, I might add. I only occasionally have to blow the cartridges to get some dust out, but the systems still perform as well as they did over 20 years ago. No red circles of death with these bad boys. If you drop them, they’d probably break the floor.SarahMariePhotography_0145I have recently condensed the room quite a bit. It’s still 90s-themed, but it doesn’t have nearly the amount of stuff in it. Now that we are preparing for foster kids, I hope to give them a taste of the magic we had as kids in the 90s by letting them hang out in the room, play some old school video games and listen to cassettes. Yes, the 90s are long gone, but as long as I have my collection, they will be with me wherever we go!

Wendy Whiting Haines - January 12, 2015 - 7:29 pm

Thanks for sharing Jason Smith! Great job you guys!!

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