The Cottonwood Collective
“ Our family grew at a much faster rate than I think either of us imagined it would, and for one month we actually had four kids under the age of three. There was part of me that worried about how my older children (still really babies themselves) would react to bringing new babies into the family. But time and time again, my children amaze me with their ability to love and care for their younger siblings.
Our daughters were born at only thirty weeks gestation, due to some complications of their sharing a placenta. They spent sixty-three days in the NICU eating, sleeping, and growing, and finally came home about a week before their due date. Nothing about my pregnancy and delivery was expected or familiar, but we experienced God's goodness, grace, and mercy every step of the way.
Thomas is only fifteen months older than Flora and Audrey, but he is already so devoted to them. He wants to greet them every morning, lights up when he sees them, kisses them every chance he gets (and he's always sure to kiss BOTH babies), and gets blankets for them when they cry. William is only nineteen months older than Thomas, but he has really thrived in his role as oldest and acts as a sort of mediator between his siblings and me, translating for Thomas, doting on his sisters, and making sure I'm aware of everyone's needs. It is incredible to see children so young, who still need plenty of care themselves, able to care so well for those they love.
I feel like I let out a deep breath each time I walk through our front door. I'm not a homebody by nature, but I think my children have taught me how to slow down and truly love coming home.
I think of home as the place where you feel safe and secure. The place where you are most comfortable and know what to expect. It might be a place you want to leave when you're feeling restless or adventurous, but it's a place where you long to be when you're feeling tired, sick, or insecure. I hope our home will be a place our children feel equipped to leave but know that they can always come back to.
We bought this little 1950's ranch just two months before our eldest son, William, was born. I was SO pregnant — with the cankles to prove it. We got right to work painting the walls and kitchen cabinets white and trying to create a home to welcome our new baby home to. I think our realtor was surprised we chose a house with bedrooms and closets as small as ours, but we've really enjoyed working with these small spaces. Our limited square footage has encouraged us to pair down and keep things simple, maximizing the square footage that is there by being careful not to overcrowd, and highlighting the natural light each room gets throughout the day.
My style is very traditional, while my husband Brian appreciates a wider range of aesthetics, so it's been fun opening my horizons a little bit and mixing classic pieces with more contemporary components. Blending our styles together and combining antiques, hand-me-downs, and new furnishings and artwork has helped our home become a place that I feel really reflects us as a couple and as a family.
We decided to keep our walls and furnishings neutral to play up the natural light our house gets and add color through artwork and textiles. Each piece of art throughout our home has a story behind it, most of them coming from family or dear friends. We also have blankets and needlework handmade by grandmothers, great-grandmothers, and great-aunts. I love getting to look at these pieces throughout my day and remembering the loved ones behind them, and I hope to continue to pass these heirlooms down.
It's really hard to put into words the way my children make me feel. If I'm honest, it's like this happiness tinged with a kind of sadness … sort of a bittersweet feeling. I can't look at them without feeling this deep and overwhelming joy and thankfulness for the wonderful people they are, with this ever-present awareness in the back of my mind that they are growing up before my eyes. I try to stop often to savor these beautiful, intense, sweet, hard, precious days I get to spend with them
I love our mornings together. My husband's work schedule means he's usually home for breakfast and rarely home for dinner, so mornings are our family time. I love when each child slowly (or not so slowly) wakes up —sometimes early and winding up in bed with us, sometimes a little on the cranky side, sometimes singing. I love making breakfast with my husband, with kids at our feet or in our arms, then sitting down together to give thanks and eat before everyone gets started with their day. I often reflect on the saying, ‘how we spend our lives is how we spend our days,’ and starting our days each morning as a family means the world to me.
My husband and I started dating when I was a senior in high school — and I was embarrassingly obsessed. But as all consuming as those feelings felt at the time, they don't compare to the way I feel about him now. He is loving, clever, attentive, tender, engaging, hard-working, hilarious, decisive, curious, silly, understanding, generous, and intentional. He's constantly working to better himself and goes out of his way to serve those around him. He makes me feel loved, appreciated, listened to, and important, and I can already see that he makes our children feel the same way. He takes my opinions and our children's opinions seriously, and he's the first person we all want to tell about our days. He's my best friend and confidant, a devoted father and husband, and an incredible person I'm so fortunate to share this life with.
My family is so incredibly special to me. I love the way each person is so wonderful as an individual, but even more wonderful in the context of the love we share as a family. I love watching my family love each other. I love that I can see my children hug each other and I feel like I'm getting a hug myself. When I see them laugh together I'm unable not to smile, even if I didn't catch the joke. Seeing my husband tuck our sons in at night makes me feel the warmth of bedtime snuggles. I love the way the love between us allows us to experience love not just through ourselves but through each other. ” ~ Grace, mother
I have known Grace since we were in high school. I have watched her and photographed her as a blossoming fiancé, a gorgeous bride, and now the most amazing momma to her four beautiful children. I wanted to capture this new and exciting season of life for her as she welcomed her TWIN baby girls into the world. These two beauties were perfect angels surrounded by so much love from their two crazy big brothers. These images capture so many real moments of love and laughter and chaos and peace.
I envy their home in so many ways but mostly because of how inviting and warm it is. They have beautiful, carefully handpicked vintage pieces in light neutral colors — a photographer’s dream. Home sweet home is always the perfect setting to photograph the first few days of a newborn's life as everyone's worlds get turned upside down in the most amazing way. I am so blessed to know this family! ~ Hannah, photographer, The Cottonwood Collective
Nikon F5 | Portra 160 35mm | Goodman Film Lab
Nikon D810 | Kindred Presets w/ The Cottonwood Collective edits