First, a disclaimer: school portraits -- as many of y'all know -- are not my main thing. My art is in seeing -- and capturing -- unscripted, chaotic, real family life in a lovely documentary light. But once in a while, I just have to get a whole boatload of adorable preschoolers in front of my lens.
When I say this family is full of life, I'm not exaggerating. Robin invited me into her temporary residence in Dripping Springs to photograph the love and chaos of this moment in their life. She, her husband, and her two young boys are world travelers, rarely settling in one spot for more than a few months. Their latest travels brought them to the Austin area, home of Robin's sister Annie and her family.
The sisters are close. I mean real close. They laugh together and cry together and aren't afraid to be totally vulnerable and trusting with one another. The kind of sibling relationship we all wish for. Their family lives have been oddly parallel, too. Robin and Annie's eldest children were born within weeks of one another. Same with the second set -- another boy for Robin, and twin girls for Annie.
For a family that hasn't lived in the same town in over a decade, this time together is extra special. Watching the children develop and strengthen their own bonds and play and fight like siblings is a beautiful thing. And parenting in parallel with your sister and closest friend is a rare gift in life.
In our time together, these guys made and ate breakfast, and then smeared it all over their chins and clothes. Played Candy Land. Read books. Chased and screamed. Got so muddy in the world's most glorious puddle that you almost couldn't tell which child was which. Spashed and fought in the bathtub. Painted. Threw tantrums. Shared quiet moments. Loved one another.
Next week, Robin's crew heads off to New Zealand, then to Minnesota, then Chile. But for this fleeting moment in their life, they'll always remember this deep, messy, beautiful, emotional togetherness that they shared, for a brief while, in Austin.
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Some people you meet, and you wonder how they do it all. Elise and Matt live a life of steadfast conviction, beauty, truth, and tenderness. Even with two-year-old twins running amuck, they manage to pull off a chaotic weekend day with a steadiness, humor, and energy that is rare to behold. They love and respect one another deeply, are hard-working leaders in their careers, strengthen communities and inspire others, and parent their twins tenderly.
Ahhh, twins. You know that thing they say about how the days are long but the years are short? Yeah. Double that for twin parents. And even though parts of those long days are covered in sticky tantrum, mismatched shoes, and a spill of tears, Elise and Matt want to remember everything about right now.
Per Elise, on what's important right now: "Trying to have grace with ourselves and soak up every moment. Trying to figure out how to parent and co-parent and nurture our children’s unique spirits but making it up as we go. Believing that love covers a multitude of sins and shortcomings.
Watching [the twins] reveal themselves as individuals—which is so beautiful and also insanely frustrating at times. It’s so sweet, even the horrible parts, that I don’t want to forget a thing."
So on this balmy winter weekend, we had ourselves a typical Elise-and-Matt Sunday. We played naked in the yard. We hit up the farmers market. We chased babies as they ran wild. We drank beer at naptime. Laughed until we cried. Washed the dog. Went to church. Had dinner. Cuddled and read books. All those little rituals that are so familiar, but will be so different every season as the twins grow older.
Elise and Matt, thanks for letting me experience your beautiful chaos.
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