personal project \\ six people twelve times \\ 05.10

** all images in this entry were taken by my friend Bonnie Berry.

We were so lucky in May to be able to have our family photos taken by my friend Bonnie. It was a lovely experience, that started out with Bonnie and I spending almost four hours in a booth at my favorite Mexican restaurant, talking and sipping margaritas, and letting time slip right by. We got an alarmed phone call from Jeff at almost 5pm wondering where we were…he was home manning the ship and waiting for us. We got home and got everyone ready as fast as we could. Mckenna spilled chili on the shirt I asked her to wear, Anna coudn’t find her bucket and shovel, I had to dry her hair a bit, Nathan had lost his rash guard, Kenna was losing it a bit, it was craziness. I had to let it roll though, that is my life, and Bonnie was snapping away. We got to the beach and it was windy. REALLY WINDY! Snappy cold kind of windy. I swear the wind is out to get me this year. We made the best of it. The kids changed into their suits and played in the water. Bonnie pulled each person that is dearest to me away, one by one, to spend some time with me and her camera. It is all a blur really, a fun, happy, love filled blur. It will be a memory I think of with fondness for the rest of my life. I am so grateful. Bonnie was nice enough to sneak me a few of the images to use for this post, I have yet to see the rest, and I can’t wait.

Oh and these photos of us. Of us. That is us. And I didn’t take them. I didn’t see it first. She did. The colors and our faces and Mckenna’s mischievous eyes and the sticker residue on the back of her hand, Anna and her favorite pony sitting on her favorite place (me), Drew leaning on me with major beach hair, Nate’s hands, Jeff in my favorite green hoodie, the one I want to snuggle in and that has his smell attached, the pink band aid on my finger. I have stared at these images for so many minutes at different times of my week that I might have spent hours. I can feel the beach on us. She captured a moment for me that I love so much, all of us just off the beach, sandy and salty, cold and in sweatshirts. I love us like this.

I have been fighting off writing. I haven’t been able to focus on it. I have been sitting here forcing myself to look at the month of May, and I don’t want to force this. I had to let myself off the hook for a few days and work on changing my attitude. I do want to do this. It is better not to force it. This is important to me. This is important to Jeff. If I keep this up, we will have a permanent keepsake and record of the year we had in 2010. It might not seem like much right now, but in ten years it will. The 43 year old me REALLY wants the 33 year old me to do this. And so with a happy heart I return, to talk about May.

Jeff and I got to see two of our personal favorites in concert this month. First was Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers, for him, although I love that Roger Clyne quite a lot. He performed to a very small crowd, and he performed like it was Woodstock. He let the crowd choose his set list, so we got to hear some rarely played live songs. We got a deal on our own private room at The Coach House. We shared appetizers and drinks and talked and laughed at ourselves. We also might have gotten caught making out (twice) by our waitress. We were carefree and fun and silly and it was a magic night. Second was Ben Folds, for me, although he loves that Ben Folds quite a lot. We saw him at the House of Blues and after scoring stools in the balcony decided that yes, we are old now. And that is okay. But stools are much better for concerts. We no longer want to stand for hours in a crowd of sweaty drunk people. Stools are GREAT.

Drew started guitar lessons this month. He melted me on the drive to his first class by saying, “This is the first step in becoming who I want to be.” And then grinning at me, laughing, teasing, and saying, “Will you put that on your blog?” I said, “No, that one might be good enough for Twitter, though.” He has learned chords for several songs: Smoke on the Water, Happy Birthday, Stray Cat Strut. He named is guitar Bessie, after my iPod.

Our patience is tested daily with Mckenna. She struggles and we all struggle with her. It seems like in May, her behavior has kind of regressed. Or at least hit a point that we haven’t been in for a long time. She is extremely unpredictable when out in public, almost as much or more as a baby or toddler. She can’t stand to sit at the kitchen table and eat dinner with us, the noise we all make is too much for her. She puts her head down or screams unintelligibly in her frustration. She fights literally everything we say. In that respect she is a typical fourteen year old girl, I guess. But I can’t talk to her. I can’t listen to her. I don’t understand so I can’t help. I feel like she is pulling away from life, and I am scared, and I am not sure how to wake her up again and get her freed a little bit from the limits and compulsions of her own brain. I hope that Summer will bring some relief. An ease of schedules, and some time alone for her, less stress.

We spent time with our Uncle Mike, my parents, and Shane & Rachel one weekend. The boys played board games with their Uncle and we cooked bacon cheeseburgers on the grill. It is a wonderful thing to me that they are experiencing all that Uncle Mike has to give in the same way that I did. He taught me how to play games, he shared music with me, he took me places like Disneyland and Grateful Dead concerts and Stanford. He keyed in on the things we had in common. I love that they get to do the same kinds of things with him. For them, it is all about games and strategy and teaching them how. They were also able to experience the iPad for the first time because of him. They were obsessing over Google Earth and Plants VS Zombies. It might not be Jerry Garcia, but still.

Anna asked me one night to snuggle her, but I was dog tired and sandy from a beach shoot, so I asked if we could do it in the morning instead. That instead of me cuddling her, she could come to my bed when I woke up and cuddle me. She loved the idea and snuffled her way into the crook of my neck at 7:30 the next morning. We dozed for a little bit, definitely snuggled, and spent two hours whispering while Jeff snored next to us. She told me that she was so glad she didn’t have to sleep with Daddy every night, because he was so loud. I told her that I was used to it, and that I almost couldn’t sleep without it.

Nathan had “gold rush day” at school, and he got to dress up like a ranch hand. He wore a cowboy hat and a flannel shirt and I couldn’t keep my eyes off him all day. The look suited him so well, it was quite a surprise! That gold hair flipping out from the cowboy hat. Sigh. He is such a soft hearted little boy, quiet and watchful, he keeps everything very close to his chest. I love to surprise him with something I say just to watch his face light up. He is also sarcastic and sharp witted, and I have to keep myself from squelching that natural tendency of his, and instead teach him to use it for good. His teeth are falling out left and right. He told me, “Mom, I HATE my mouth right now.” He can hardly eat with all the loose teeth. But he just made $10 off the tooth fairy, so that should help. (The tooth fairy only had $10’s and $20’s. Score one for the kids.)

We hiked.

We played in parks.

We watched TV marathons all piled in the big bed.

We worked, cooked, got up early, got up late, opened bags of chips, toasted bread, baked cookies, shared cookies with neighbors, brushed our teeth, fought, made up, read, played video games, loved, took baths, swam for hours in the pool, cried on the phone, got mad at someone, got hurt at someone, went to the grocery store, went to Target, went to the mall, went to the post office, went out to lunch, had babysitters, felt our hearts burst, got the mail, got off the bus, sliced tomatoes, laughed so hard our faces hurt, lost a tooth, ate a lot of guacamole, kissed, plucked eyebrows, sent emails, got emails, took pictures, went to school, ate popsicles, rode bikes, fell down, needed band aids,  listened to music, drove on the freeway, waited in traffic, danced, got drive-thru, took vitamins, put our feet up, cleaned a closet, put gas in the car, played games on the iPhone in bed, watched the finale of LOST, helped with homework, made a diorama, painted waves on cardboard, wanted to go on vacation, wanted to throw up our hands, got lunch with friends, paid for parking, broke our ice machine, bought an ice cream machine, did laundry, stepped around messes, and lived.

It isn’t easy. But I’m glad I’m here.



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  1. Your family pictures are beautiful!!!!You never get to be at the other end of the lens. I’m so glad you got the chance to be captured instead of capturing. Tara it is amazing to see as the kids get older I see you and Jeff seeming younger. I see your high school faces again but not with all that is to become, but all that is. Wisdom,acceptance,joy,contentment….your future is now, you capture the essence, the beauty of your family now before looking back and seeing what you had and wishing you had appreciated it more, Held on to it more preciously…. Its in your faces, Its in your month of May words….I couldn’t want more for you. Unless I was able to go back and hold on to you more myself. love you more myself. Give of myself more to you..Bur since I can’t go back. I have today. My future is now too.Your children teach you things if you listen.No mater how old they are, no matter how hard it is.But you have to listen. I’m listening and I’m learning still….I Love you always and forever. Mom

  2. Good to hear your rambling thoughts. If you think Mckenna could handle it, you might look into Big Brothers/Big Sisters. It’s a great program and she might enjoy having her own friend/mentor/buddy/role model that is all her own… I dunno. Just a thought that struck me reading your post tonight.

    Growing pains are hard.

  3. I’m sorry McKenna is struggling right now. I have a son with severe OCD, and while I know it doesn’t compare with what Mckenna deals with on a daily basis, I do know the sadness and frustration that comes when they take “one step forward, two steps back.” It effects the entire family. Your pictures AND words are beautiful.

    I hope June is an easier month for McKenna, and I can’t wait to see your next set of family photos.

  4. I can relate to your comments about Mckenna. I have a child (my third out of four) who, while not autistic (his diagnosis is complicated), has a lot of trouble with noise or any variations in our routine. Sometimes it appears as though he’s retreating into his own world, playing with his little action figures all by himself, probably as a way of self-soothing. Never sure how much to try and draw him out, and often I feel guilty that I don’t try harder. Making a mental note right now to keep trying. Thank you for writing about her. Many of us have similar situations, and I love when you include stories about her because it feels like one small step toward normalizing being “different.”

  5. Tara, Your family is just perfect. I just LOVE the recent photos of you and your family. I hope you get print out a photo big enough to fix on a BIG wall, because these photos are just wonderful. I really enjoy your blog and your honesty about life. Have a Happy & Safe Summer. I just can’t wait to read & see some more wonderful posts over summer Vacation. Take care.

  6. Hey T,
    I loved reading this post! Its the every day raw, real and daily grind that makes us who we are! I can’t believe how grown up all your kids are! We NEED to get together this summer! Maybe a beach day or something! It would be so fun to see the kids together again! Email or call me!

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