I unofficially met the Sterners - John and Jen (not yet married or even engaged!) - during an engagement session with John's brother Mike and his fiancee Tonia in fall 2009. They lent their caramel apples for a few shots at this magical orchard session and I remember looking at them, thinking I'd really like to get to know them. 

Fast forward three years and I get an email inquiry about newborn photos from... John and Jen! I suppose those caramel apples really did the trick because soon after that day in the orchard, they were engaged and married! YAY! They were expecting their first child when their family was experiencing some health concerns. I heard through the Facebook grapevine that Tonia was organizing a barn dance and auction, so I sent a few sessions their way. John and Jen bid on a session, won it and once Alaina was born, they called me up!

And what they say is true: it's better to give than to receive. Or really any phrase about giving is true. Every single time I've donated a session, the family who has won it instantly wins the "favorite client ever" award and I leave feeling like I just gained some really awesome friends. John and Jen weren't any different!

From our Pinterest board of camping, book-reading, lifestyle-y inspiration shots, my heart was so full, it was bursting! They had their outfits picked out, their props chosen and we were ready to rock - but as newborn sessions often go, Lainy had to take a few minutes to eat before we continued shooting. I always take those quiet moments to ask about their story, how they met, how life is with a newborn, to continue building that relationship. Their story is unique and beautiful and lovely - and the overwhelming idea was that they knew the instant they met that it was it. They just knew. And they got married and found out they were pregnant. The love just never ends in the Sterner house - just the way I like it!

This branch of the Sterner clan never ceases to amaze me. I've worked with them twice now (six month Christmas baby photo shoot coming soon!) and I can honestly say that as soon as we part ways, I literally cry. Tears of absolute joy - they are so deeply in love with each other, with their amazing daughter and with life itself. I've laughed full-on belly laughs with these two and been so blessed by their friendship. When a client calls to say, "we want the Sydnee Bickett spin on our Christmas cards this year," you know you've got clients for life. 

So this Thanksgiving, I'm thankful for all the basics: faith, family, friends, food, shelter, employment. But over all of these things, I'm grateful for people like the Sterners. For all the families I've met this year who have opened their homes, their lives and their fabulous personalities to me and my camera. Whether I'm watching two families become one, a newborn smile, kids playing in the backyard or you pulling out on the stops on your mitzvah dancefloor - It's your faces smiling back at me and remembering your laughs during our time together that make everything worth it. 

Thank you.