Personal Project \\ six people twelve times \\ 04.10

This month I had two family snapshots to choose from! They both happened naturally, with no real effort on my part. I couldn’t decide which one to use, so I am using both.

The image of us in the tent was taken on our first family camping trip at San Elijo state beach. A friend of Jeff’s had a spot overlooking the beach that he wasn’t going to be able to use, so he offered it to us. We packed and threw everything together in just about a week. It was last minute and quite the adventure for us. A lot of work, but a good memory. On our last morning, just before we packed up, I asked everyone to pile on the air mattress for this shot. I can still feel the sticky morning warmth of the inside of the tent, and smell the campfire.

The other image of us was taken on the night of Drew and Mckenna’s musical: Willy Wonka Jr. They had just come off stage, and our family was gathered around in support. It was such a wonderful night for all of us. Pride and love for our talented performers oozing from our pores. Before the show started, I walked Mckenna into the backstage area to help with hair and make-up, and several of the girls walked up to us to say hello. Two or three of them separately said, “You’re Mckenna’s mom? She looks so much like you!” And because Kenna has always had her own look, it made me smile inside so much. Thrilled me. Gave me shivers in a good way. My mom also mentioned how much Mckenna looked like me with her hair pulled back the way it was for the show. I can picture the 7th grade photo she was thinking of and will have to dig it out to compare.

Drew NAILED his performance of Willy Wonka. I was not surprised, but I was very happy for him. When rehearsals started, I offered him some advice. I told him to act his face off, with no hesitation. That it is the people that hold back that tend to draw more attention to themselves because people feel uncomfortable and embarrassed for them. I told him to embody Will Ferrel (he wants to be Will Ferrell) – and to visualize him pushing the limits and making people react. He loved that and latched onto it immediately. Whenever we would talk about it, I would ask him if he was becoming Will Ferrell, and that would always get a grin out of my boy.

If you look closely in the camping photo, you can see that Mckenna has acquired a second Uniqua. They go everywhere with her. Everywhere. They were, in fact, in my purse during the play which is why she is not pictured with them in the second shot.

Drew got his cast off. The whole experience was a piece of cake for him thank goodness.

Anna is still working on learning to ride a two wheeler, but has a lot of fear. She prefers her scooter.

The entire month of April was dedicated to a major clean out of our house that was a very long time coming. Every spare moment during the week, and all day on the weekends. We have lived in a lot of clutter for a very long time because I simply couldn’t handle the decisions I would need to make regarding whether we kept or purged the items. There were things shoved into closets that I haven’t thought about in years. I felt completely overwhelmed and stressed out by all the STUFF I DON’T NEED. I finally felt ‘enough is enough’ and got to work. We decided we would start upstairs, moving everything we didn’t want to the garage. We would move through the house, and then end in the garage with a complete purge.

We started with the kid’s bedrooms. Mckenna and the boys actually traded spaces. She was always in their room because she genuinely loved the space. She loves the sound of the bathroom fan that you can hear in there. The boys needed more wall space and a better room configuration. Now our Jack and Jill bedrooms have the girls connected, and the boys have their own separate space. After the kid’s bedrooms were complete, I moved to my office, the two upstairs bathrooms, the two upstairs linen closets, and our bedroom. My next plan of attack is to complete the kitchen, the downstairs art closet, and then move into the garage. When I do move into the garage, I might have to send up smoke signals to get help finding my way back.

I feel such a sense of peace in my home again. I can sit upstairs in a clean and organized office. I know where things are. I know where things belong. The kids actually have room in their dresser drawers for clothes. Ample room. Their closets and bookshelves have been stripped of everything except for things they use or find to be really special. The bathroom cabinets are nearly empty, and so organized I could marry them. I was able to actually USE all of the baskets, jars, and miscellaneous other containers I collect for organization and storage.

I have to say it again: I feel such a sense of peace in my home.

We had our first BBQ dinner of the summer season this month. It is always so nice to fire up the grill after winter and spring. Windows open, music playing, Jeff cracks open a beer for us to share, the kids stand around tantalized by the smell of cooking. All of us LOVE to eat BBQ and we typically plan 2-3 meals around it during the week all summer long. Our favorite dinner this month was definitely steak, cheese bread, caesar salad, vegetable, and a baked potato.

The kids met some new children in our neighborhood. And finally, finally, finally, they seem to be children that really get along with mine. They like the same things. They have been spending so much more time outside than usual. Hearing about their antics and activities reminds me of how things “used to be” when I was a kid. When we would leave in the morning and not come home until the streetlights came on. I love hearing their laughter and fun wafting through our open windows. I love knowing they are happy and outside.

Nathan has a new interest in basketball, and wants to sign up for some type of coaching.

Anna and Ivy spent several hours this month on iChat, drawing pictures together and talking about what they will do when the Falconbridge’s return to America. Even Yindi gets in on the action. It brings me overwhelming joy to listen in on their conversations. One of my favorite interactions:
Ivy: Anna, can you read?
Anna: Yes.
Ivy: Do you know that I don’t know how to read yet because I go to a different kind of school?
Anna: Yes, I know that.
Ivy: Some of my friends know how to read but I don’t yet. But I can knit and play the recorder and they can’t.
Anna: It’s okay Ivy, I will help you read and you can help me knit.

Very early one weekend morning I stumbled blearily out of my room and walked over to the office. I heard voices coming from the boys’ room so I poked my head in to say good morning. I was surprised they were already awake. I saw Drew and Anna, both sitting cross legged on his bed. Both with a deck of cards. He was quietly teaching her how to shuffle as Nate snored away in his own bed next to them.

Nathan learned how to make a pot of coffee for an assignment at school that was focused on public speaking. He had to learn the steps of something, and teach them to his class. He chose “How To Make Coffee”. Since, he has loved being the whitney kitchen barista, and loves making me a cup on weekend mornings. (The only time I allow myself to drink coffee, for the most part. I know I will get dependent quickly, so I limit my intake.)

The other night as I was making dinner, it hit me hard that I am now in the phase of mothering that I always dreamed about when I was at home with three children under the age of three. The phase where there is some independence. The phase that is way way way past diapers and potty training and temper tantrums in the grocery store. The phase where my middle school aged son helps my elementary aged daughter with her math homework while I make dinner. It is a brave new world here in this phase. I spent ten plus years with toddlers and babies. The entire decade of my 20’s, and some of my 30’s. I still get shocked with how fast time is passing. I still get shocked at how big they are. How adult they are becoming. Yet I feel like I am in my motherhood prime. I ache to go back in time and hold them as newborns again. To smell their toddler necks and experience their toddler voices. But I was exhausted or drained or depressed for most of that time, if I am going to be perfectly honest. I think I had them too fast, I was stretched too thin. I wouldn’t go back and change a thing, but that is the truth of the matter. I loved them just as fiercely then as I do now…but it was a harder time for me personally as a mother.

At the same time, it is such a huge huge part of my identity – being the mother of four young children. And now that I am no longer that, my identity is shifting and I haven’t quite caught up. I still feel a part of that “group”. The one at the park after naptime. The one with goldfish crackers and sippy cups falling out of the stroller. The one walking a toddler down the hall to avoid a tantrum at the post office. And it is SO BIZARRE that I am just not there anymore. I miss it, even knowing how hard it was for me.

I did my best, and I think my best was enough. I hope it was. If who they are today is any indication, it was enough. Thankfully, gratefully. I can now REALLY see how tender and special that millisecond of time was, and it makes me want to hold onto this time all the more, because I know our next phase is speeding down the runway, arriving at the gate soon as a house full of teenagers. And then, lickity split, take off into a life of their own.

So here I am, looking back on a lot of memories with a lot of fondness. Recalling who they were then and feeling very full in all that we have experienced together.

Here I am, learning about who they are now and leading them down the best path that I can. Loving who they are becoming.

Here I am, looking forward into the future, with great hopes regarding our safety and health, and a lot of excitement over what is to come.



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  1. YOur words sits so nicely in my life right now. I totally get how you are feeling. I feel the guilt of wanting to fastforward a little and then the slight regret with things changing too quick. xx Thanks

  2. As always your stories fill me with just as much joy as your photographs do. I strive to write more like you on my own blog – epic fail but it’s worth a shot.

    Thanks for the smile Tara :0)

  3. Just found your blog from I Love Life, and oh, this post choked me up. I’m trying to decide if I want another babe, and perhaps you’ve pushed me closer to the “yes” side…. thank you for your words…

  4. Wow! That overwhelming feeling of motherhood with young ones, that’s how I feel. Like life is leading me, and I’m just on the ride. I was almost a control freak for so long, and now realize that things happen EVERY day, and I just have to deal. I felt stressed, depressed, anxious. My daughter was silently suffering with digestive allergies for so long, and it felt overwhelming the changes our family and friends would have to do to accommodate, but we made it through. my husbands many surgeries have burnt me out at times, worrying, and wondering would it better this time. I can say I’m right smack in the middle. My children are in beginning elementary, and I’m buried in my house, because really nothing else matters than making sure they have everything they need. But now and again, I find these little moments for myself, and I enjoy your blog, because it lets me know someone else gets it and they are totally 100% honest about their experience. It truly is rare. Thanks so much.

  5. Tara, this is awesome. I love so much reading about how different and yet similar your life is to mine- we’re almost the same age ( I think I’m a little older but alas, ) and yet, you’ve accomplished this amazing feat of not only having 4 kids all relatively close together, but becoming this force of an artistic inspiration and of course, amazing photographer. I can sort of relate in the ” stressed while they were little ” department. I so often find myself dreaming of the day when they’re older as Paige is constantly attached to my side making it hard to get anything done, and Caden is a whirling dervish of a kid….but I have to remind myself. I’ll miss this when it’s past.

  6. I have always thought McKenna looks like you! I can’t believe you didn’t think so. So much! WOW! I thought that was a given. I am glad people told you so you know…because having a child “look” like you that much is so special! I have my own “mini-me.” Hugs!

  7. As I sit here at 3:45 AM, exhausted beyond belief but unable to sleep (just got up AGAIN w/ my one yr old)…I am so comforted by your words. I really appreciate your honesty – esp. the part about spending most of their young years exhausted or depressed. I am in “that” cloud with three little ones, yet I am acutely aware of how finite this stage is. I feel like I am watching time move at warp speed, and even in my blurry-eyed exhaustion I am soaking up each and every moment. Thanks again for sharing your heart!

  8. Oh Whitney, what a beautiful post right here before Mother’s Day. I have a 2 year old and 1 year old and some days I need a little perspective like this. I hope you have a beautiful Mother’s Day.

  9. I love this post. I often long for the days of kissing chubby cheeks scented with baby lotion, yelling the words “bath time” and then zipping clean little bodies into footed jammies, and snuggling all together in our bed as we read “just one more story”. My youngest is now 16 and I have two grandchildren with another one on the way, and yet I also feel like I am still in the group that takes their kids to the park. Time has flown, and I love where I am in my life right now, and yet there are many days I wish I could have a ‘do over’. I had my kids too close together and I wished their baby/toddler days away – making them grow up too fast. They are wonderful well adjusted kids (mostly thanks to their Dad); but there are so many days when I am sure that I was the worst mother. Then I remember not to be so hard on myself and make today a day to remember. Tara, you are making such good choices with your kids. I love your honesty and there are so many things you do that totally inspire me as a Mom. Thank you – and Happy Mother’s Day!

  10. i am glad to know i am not alone in feeling tired. i feel like everyone else is rested and they dont have things falling out of their diaper bag. hahaha. i only have one angel right now- i love your big family and hearing how things “work”. i know you’re a great mom. <3

  11. ugh. i want to be you when i grow up. im in the season of nappies (diapers for you Americans ;)) and potty-training, and tantrums in the store, and i so often find myself wanting to fast forward to the independant stage…but then again, i dont want them to leave where they are now. thanks for the perspective…as usual. x

  12. Thank you for reminding me. I have two sets of kids … 7 years separates them. I remember being out of this “baby stage” once you reminded me. I’m going to try and calm down and appreciate each stage.

  13. i feel the same way about this phase of motherhood.
    i think it’s crazy that i will never have another baby.
    five is a lot but i miss those baby days…a lot.
    i am loving where i am but don’t feel like THAT mom yet.
    and i am mourning for the baby phase.

  14. I am late for April but I said better late than never. Tara thank you again for putting this challenge out there. Its made me really make an effort to come out from behind the lens and get in front of it!

  15. What a great post. I love learning about other people’s families, and no matter how different we appear on the surface, we are all fairly similar. I am currently longing for that part of motherhood where there is independence but at the same time wanting to hang on to those little things that are a part of the baby phase. Lavender and vanilla baby lotion, falling asleep in my arms, listening to the chatter after nap time. I don’t want to wish these days away, but I also have a broken footed husband right now, so it feel like there are three kids and a BIG break for this momma is the order of the day.

    I know that one day I will look back at this all as a blip on the radar of life and will be stunned that I am a momma of two big boys. Your candor is much appreciated by this momma on a not so great day.

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