baby ryan

Not flesh of my flesh,
Nor bone of my bone,
But still miraculously my own.
Never forget for a single minute,
You did not grow under my heart,
But in it.

this was an extra special shoot for me. if you live in the garland county area, you are probably familiar with "miss kasey from the library". miss kasey has led countless kids through books, songs and art projects over the past several years. visiting our children's library has always been a special outing
for lucy and me, and now ruthie enjoys it too. lucy's eyes light up when she sees miss kasey, and they always exchange smiles and hugs before lucy scampers off to the doll house. a couple of years ago on one of our library visits, kasey greeted lucy with the usual, but i detected something else behind that big smile. kasey told me she had a couple of questions for me. it was then that we had our first conversation about the frightening, roller coaster, unpredictable, not-for-the-faint-of-heart but miraculous-in-the-end world of adoption. i recognized the look in her eye, as i had walked in her shoes a few years before. it's difficult, impossible really, to describe the emotions that accompany the realization that adoption is the only answer to a future with children. it's a discouraging, lonely, confusing and expensive road - and there is really no other way to explain it. but here was sweet little kasey, the hint of tears in her eyes, telling me that she and her husband had decided to pursue adoption but didn't really know where to start. i told her that the very best thing about making the decision to adopt is that in the end, you WILL have a baby in your arms. it could be tomorrow, or it could be three years from now, but it will happen. i saw a tiny bit of anxiety melt away. during the next few months we talked about the grueling task of running the adoption gauntlet. first comes the homestudy where you and your spouse undergo hours of in-depth interviews, home inspections, background checks, fbi finger printings , medical exams etc. etc. we talked about the portfolio that is basically your entire life condensed into words and pictures. the birthmom chooses the adoptive parents based on those words and pictures. imagine...your future family hinges on a few pages......
over the next year and a half, i would get updates from kasey. we would discuss the latest roadblocks & frustrations. i would always tell her that even though it feels like it's never going to happen, it will happen, and it could happen tomorrow.

i also told her when it finally happened for us, my husband and i immediately realized that God had the perfect family planned for us all along. i'm not saying that we didn't have faith during the process. it's just that looking back at five long years of trying to have a baby the old fashioned way, then a few more years overcoming the pitfalls and obstacles of adoption, it's so clear that God created Lucy & Ruthie for our family. and i would not change one second of our journey. not one. the circumstances and timing surrounding both adoptions were nothing less than miraculous. ask me about the details sometime. but bring some tissues. i've never gotten through either story without waterworks. if my husband is there, bring a whole box....
anyway, a couple months passed after our last conversation at the library. then kasey and her husband paul got a phone call. THE phone call. not only had they been chosen by a birthmother, but they were to pick up their baby boy the very next morning!!

precious baby ryan had been home a couple of weeks when i had the privilege of doing a shoot with him. kasey & paul are such adoring, adorable parents. it was simply amazing to witness their peaceful, natural bond with the baby that God created for them. and as i watched the three of them, i said a silent prayer of thanks for this blessed new family, and for ryan's birthmother, and my daughter's birthmothers, who had the wisdom and somehow found the strength to seek different futures for their babies. they are selfless. they are brave. and our families are blessed beyond our wildest dreams because of them. excuse me while i wipe tears from my eyes....and my keys....
thank you for a lovely morning, kasey, paul & baby ryan! what a precious trio!

carter & caroline

i've taken pictures for the zeisers for several years now. we moved to hot springs at roughly the same time, right around the corner from each other. they moved here from helena, and the first time i met carter and caroline i immediately noticed their impeccable manners. i heard "yes ma'm and yes sir" in that sweet mississippi delta drawl and it melted my heart! i remember thinking, "i LOVE southern kids!".
the first picture i took of the zeiser fam was for their christmas card a little over five years ago. we used our friend's boat dock on lake hamilton, and they brought their yellow lab who was trying urgently to get into the water and their cat who was clawing desperately to stay out of it! we got a great shot despite the odds - it's still one of my favorite christmas cards!
i'm so thankful that the zeisers are our neighbors for many reasons. one reason is of a practical nature. carter and caroline have happily (& politely) ferried many items back and forth between our houses over the past few years. you know.... the usual last-minute ingredients.....milk, eggs, garlic salt, powdered sugar....and some more urgent products, like a front door key or even spot remover. (did you ever get the cabernet off the yellow sofa, court?) the most precarious delivery to date was when carter balanced his mother's beautiful cake plate and glass dome on his scooter to my doorstep, smiling all the way. whew!
thank you for a fun morning, carter and caroline! you were both so sweet and cooperative that you made my job EASY!

an adventure with the wrubleskys

i met the wrubleskys in the historic district downtown for an early evening shoot. it was the perfect spot for their family, as they love to spend time window shopping at the toy chest, going to the quaint little ice cream parlor and playing on the sprawling arlington lawn. i already knew the wrubleskys were one cool family, but when they showed up in jeans, tees and chuck taylors for their shoot, they elevated their status to super-cool. we started off in the nut cellar, where caleb & luke put a few paw prints on the display glass and picked out some candy. it would come in handy as a little bribery tool for the next couple of hours.

next, we crossed the street to the arlington lawn with four pink balloons for a simple, yet poignant ceremony. amy agreed to let me share the story behind the balloons. in every family photo shoot, the wrubleskys like to remember a special little angel , katie laine. a little over four years ago, amy was hospitalized after 24 weeks of a very difficult pregnancy. what amy & donnie first assumed was a minor issue quickly became a nightmare. they would soon endure a three-day battle for not only the baby's life, but amy's. when amy wrote to me about the scene upon her hospital admittance, she described a swarm of doctors and nurses ready to begin the fight for life. and though it sounds like a chaotic, terrifying moment, amy explained the calm surrounding her like this: "...the Holy Spirit filled the room. I literally felt like the prayers of our friends and family covered the room like a beautiful quilt.... I found comfort in the Lord immediately. He held my hand and kept my body and my soul still....". over the next three days amy's health quickly deteriorated, as the medicine that was saving her baby was killing her. amy and donnie had to make a decision; a decision that was not life or death, but life and death. amy had to be taken off the medication to survive, but that meant katie would be born too early to survive on her own. they had already made the decision not to ventilate, but to leave the situation in God's hands. and they hoped against hope that katie would arrive kicking, screaming and fighting. on march 9, 2006, amy and donnie held one pound, three ounce katie laine. her tiny, underdeveloped lungs didn't allow that cry they were praying to hear, and they knew it would be her first and last day on this earth. as i read amy's story, the thing that struck me the most was that her tone was not one of sorrow or anger, but one of faithfulness and even gratitude! she explains that they are so thankful for her life, and they rejoice that they will be with her again. and as i watched them bow their heads in a quiet prayer on the arlington lawn, then release their pink balloons in remembrance of katie, i knew i had share their story. what a beautiful, healing family tradition...

after the last pink balloon faded into the evening sky, we made our way up to the grand promenade. on our way, we passed some musicians setting up an african drum circle at the foot of hot springs mountain. one of them asked if the boys would like to try one out. all four wrubleskys jumped right in! they laughed as they tried out the vibrant carved wooden instruments. we couldn't have planned the moment any better for our shoot! we eventually made it to the top of the promenade, where caleb & luke clambered up and down mossy steps, climbed rusted rails and skipped around on the decades old brick path. we stopped along the way to get some"still" shots too, and to ooh and aah over a few pets, including a full-blood wolf pup! then it was back down to the arlington lawn for a little bout of wrestlemania, and finally on to a weary stroll under the canopy of trees along bathhouse row.
it was quite an adventurous journey, and i loved every minute! i truly hope i captured the true spirit of this inspiring family.
thank you donnie, amy, caleb & luke! what a joy you all are!

shoot at the airport [latham]

oh man, did this shoot bring back some memories! i was so happy i got the chance for another session with ryan & lauren, this time with their "pawpaw" at the hot springs airport. when i stepped onto the steamy tarmac, visions of the past danced in my head. and by "past", i mean the mid-70's,  if this picture didn't clue you & i sporting some peachy pant suits & my big brother tracy in an izod and pooka shells. my dad used to fly our family everywhere we went - and it was always quite an adventure. on saturdays my dad would go to the bartlesville, oklahoma airport and take practice flights, and sometimes he took me along. he had a little red two-seater he liked to fly, much like the bright yellow plane in this shoot. i would sit behind him with my head-set on, his preschooler co-pilot, singing songs into the little mic. those guys down in the control room really got a kick out of my "itsy-bitsy spider" rendition. i'm sad i don't have any pictures of my dad and me by that cool little plane, but i'm so glad i got to record these precious airplane memories for lauren & ryan. when they are my age, i hope they will look back at these images and cherish these times, in spite of the arkansas june 98 degree tarmac.

when i arrived at the hot springs airport for our special session, i had the pleasure of meeting lauren & ryan's grandfather, elgin hamner III for the first time. i must admit, i was a teensy bit intimidated.... mr. hamner is kind of the strong silent type. however, when i spied the twinkle in his eye as ryan squealed "pawpaw" and crawled up his leg,  i relaxed a bit. it was instantly clear that the hamner kiddos have experienced their fair share of time around airplanes. they had a great time in, around and on TOP of them! i found out that lauren has been flying since she was five weeks old, when she took her first trip from texas to arkansas before she moved here, and ryan's first flight was at eight months. mr. hamner has a bit more extensive aviation record - he began flying at the age of 21. according to his daughter, mary, it's been the love of his life (next to his beautiful wife jennifer, of course!).

this taxi-cab yellow plane holds some bittersweet memories for mr. hamner. he had recently sold the plane to dr. edward cooper, who was like another son to him. if you are not from the hot springs area, you may not be aware of the tragic plane crash that took the lives of dr. cooper, his daughters, catie & libby, and dr. martin draper. and if you are not from around here, you are probably not aware of the palpable void their loss created in our close-knit community. countless people, including mr. hamner, continue to walk with a heart heavy from this unbearable, unspeakable loss. i suppose this is why that twinkle in his eye when he's with lauren and ryan is so touching, as it embodies that hope for the future that only children can provide. thank you again, mary and mr. hamner. i view this shoot as quite an honor.