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Mullis Family /// Stanley, NC

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I've been getting excited about all the families I get to photograph back on the east coast in September and can't wait to photograph the Mullis family again. Danielle and Todd are such laid back parents and have so much fun with their 3-year-old Layton. Layton is a boy on the move with the most adorable smile. He is full of energy and was more content with a piece of string than anything else throughout the day. 

It's going to be so special to see these photos side by side with photos of their life together almost exactly one year later. To see how much Layton has grown up and how much their lives have changed and evolved over the past year. As these moments build on one another through the passing of time, these photos will become more and more meaningful. Soooo looking forward to capturing this sweet family's life again. 

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Graff Family // Charlotte, NC

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When I think of home, I think of all the little details in a house that tell a story, the smell that carries through the house, the stick figure drawings of family on the refrigerator, the boxes with dinosaur drawings (see below), the rags hung to dry on the back deck (also see below), the sounds of laughter and jumping and spoons inside mixing bowls. I think of all the little details that make up the spirit of a home and the spirit of the people who have made a home together. 

This word sat in me as I spent time with the Graff's. They have made their home so uniquely them. I felt invited to be a part of it for a day and loved feeling what they get to feel every day together. 

Their adventures to the river are seriously magical. You would never think you were right in Charlotte from the forest of trees and feeling of being in the middle of nowhere. 

I think the reason I felt the sense of home so strongly with the Graff's is because they are truly LIVING. Their house isn't a museum that needs to be spotless every day. It's a playground filled with the possibility of adventure and the invitation of joy. They have so much fun together - with their exotic pets, imaginative games, and backyard adventures. 

It's been quite a few months since this day of river adventures with the Graff's, but I still feel the sense of home and the sense of true joy that I walked away with from them. It's powerful when I family can make such a big impact by just being exactly who they are. 

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The Williams Family + Søren's Story

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There are some things in life I will never understand. That any of us will ever be able to grasp. One huge one being the suffering and sickness of children. About a week before I was to arrive at the Williams' home for a session, Katrina asked me if I could instead come to Duke hospital to photograph her family. They had found out that Søren has a very rare disease called Chronic Granulomatous Disease. Because of this, Søren's immune system doesn't function properly and he's at risk for developing life-threatening bacterial and fungal infections.

Søren has been through so much since I photographed him last October. He has had two bone marrow transplants and has gone through so many different tests and treatments. He has spent so much of his life in a hospital room, surrounded by doctors and nurses and knows more about the medical world than probably most of us. 

Through all of what he and Katrina and Mark have gone through, beyond what I can imagine, the constant beat of their journey is one of resilience. Søren is truly an incredible boy. I only met him for a short period of time, but I was struck by his resilient joy. I've been following his story and continue to be amazed by his resilient smile as I see new photos of him along his journey. 

I believe that we are all connected. That even though we may not be walking through the same challenges and pain as the person beside us or as Katrina and Mark who are fighting for their son's life, we are in a big way connected to the deep pain and joy of one another. I think of Søren often and how much beauty his smile embodies. He reminds me of how incredible life is. How much of a gift it is that we get to wake up and see the new sun. He reminds me to smile often and thank the sky for today. Katrina calls Søren her greatest teacher. I think he has been a teacher to so many people. 

If you would like to support Søren, they have a YouCaring page where you can give money to help with his on-going medical care. Your donation helps them tremendously. 

www.youcaring.com/katrinamarkandsrenwilliams-1001955

 

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Owens Family // Charlotte, NC

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When I walked into the Owens' home, there were oldies songs playing in the kitchen, light was shining in from every window, and there was already a lot of laughing. Katie, Ben, and Lincoln are one of my favorite families. I know I say that a lot, but man, I really mean it. I stalk Katie's Facebook on the regular to see what new sweet/hilarious posts she has made of Lincoln. Katie loves being a mom. I mean LOVES being a mom. Her enthusiasm and love for Lincoln is contagious. I don't have children and her joy for motherhood made me want to run out and find a kid to be excited about.

I loved watching her and Ben's relationship and their mutual love for one another. When Lincoln was napping, they went outside and starting spray painting a cardboard box to what I think they were turning into a barn for Lincoln. The Owens are a family who don't just talk about living presently and soaking in life with one another, they actually do it. I think it's pretty evident in their photos. I love that they walk with Lincoln around the neighborhood while Ben enjoys one of his cigars, they have dance parties around the kitchen, enjoy cooking and eating the best food, and spend time in their garden together. 

I hope you enjoy these photos of a piece of their life last year. I love something that Katie said about them when I sent her the gallery:

"Really. It just means the world to me that I can hear my son's laughter in these photos. I really just hear my life through these photos." 

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Toalson Family // San Antonio, Texas

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When I started my 100 families project last fall and started taking submissions to photograph families, Rachel reached out to me asking if she could sponsor me to come to San Antonio to photograph her family as well as some of her friends' families. When I read her message, I was overwhelmed by her generosity and her belief in what I am trying to give families. I may or may not have cried in my little apartment in Asheville. 

I photographed the Toalsons in the fall of 2016 and was in quiet awe the entire time of how wonderful and alive and unique this family is. I was honored that Rachel and Ben wanted me to come and photograph another year in their lives. Their 6 boys are so smart and curious and joyful and fun. The Toalsons remind me so much of my childhood growing up with 4 siblings. Always something happening, unending excitement, and a love that is completely unique to growing up with all your best friends under the same roof. 

When I look at these photos, I feel so much love. Rachel and Ben - you are rock star parents and incredible people raising 6 incredible boys. Thank you for asking me to come back and capture another year of your life together as a family. 

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