This was the hottest day of our staycation and we chose to spend it on black asphalt with no shade. Go us!

We entered the fair and first thing first was getting our photo booth pictures taken so we could head over to the lockers and put away our sweatshirts for later, and store the photos as well.  That is called efficiency, and Jeff was proud of my planning. I asked the woman running the booths which one was the best. (Pro tip.) The entire family knows this is all I really care about, well, that and the Aussie fries, and thankfully they are all game to do it for me. Simple pleasures for the Momma.

Second in importance at the fair is the food. This was basically a fair food crawl. We tried as much fair food as we could stuff into our bellies. Usually getting one order of something and sharing it all around. Everyone got to pick the one thing they were really excited to try.

Jeff: chocolate covered bacon, and you can see how that went over. Not recommended.
Me: aforementioned Aussie fries, ranch AND cheese please.
Mckenna: chili cheese fries
Drew: funnel cake
Nate: cheese on a stick
Anna: turkey leg

Jeff and I came to the sad realization of how old we were, seeing as how going on any of these rides made us fear for our lives and rue the days we were born. I came this close to stopping once, mid ride, I thought I was going to die, that all of my insides were going to fly out of my mouth. Nathan and Mckenna are equally as cautious. Kenna waited patiently all day for the last ride, her carousel. Her glee was contagious. We all sat on the side and waved and made her laugh every time she came around.

I love the twin expressions of Drew and Nathan upon getting off the ferris wheel, lips puffing out, thankful to be back on the ground. Drew will go on just about anything – including the scariest ride in the park, the one that people stand around and watch and dare their friends to go on: Evolution. Anna is second fearless – she comes running off every ride with a huge smile on her face.

I love the shots I got of Jeff, Nate, and Mckenna laughing at the kids on the swing ride – the kids on the swing ride had faces of ‘dontdiedontdiedontdie’ that were priceless – we both laughed until we cried.

The clouds rolled in just about the time I was about to call uncle, and I was so thankful for the drop in temperature.

What the kids didn’t know, was that as the sun dropped in the sky and the lights of the fair came on, we had a surprise for them. We had purchased tickets to see Train – a family car favorite. They know every word to every song on the current album, thanks to Jeff. It was an outdoor concert, and we all stood together and sang and danced the night away. It was one of the most magical moments I will ever remember with my people. I have it tucked somewhere in a pocket of my heart, to pull out and unfold whenever I hear a Train song on the radio. It was such a treat to give this experience to them, and to watch them love music as much as we do. Such a treat.
I have always been afraid of this stage of life – when my kids are older and heading into the tweens and teens.

It turns out, this is my favorite time so far.



Join the Conversation


  1. I love this story! A fair and a Train concert all in one day?! How magical!! p.s. Train is known in our house as the “kitchen dance party band”! You can’t help but dance around with the kids when their songs are playing.

  2. magic indeed.

    we’ve always avoided fairs thus far. Small children + overstimulation + dietary issues made it hard. Plus we HATE crowds. More and more as we get older it seems.

    But maybe it’s a go. You made it seem awesome.

    Also, I know what you mean. I always wanted to be a ‘mom of small children/babies’ and now that my baby is 5 I thought I’d be sad. Well (maybe a little but) really, as they get older you can do way more fun things with them! It’s been kinda awesome, and a recent revelation.

  3. what a great little read. ahhhh, I needed one of these from you today. We have never taken our kids to a concert yet. I want to. We wanted to go see the Builders and the Butchers in Portland recently, but it was no one under 21. Boo. I’ll have to get more serious about finding an opportunity, because we do all love music together and I don’t want to miss out on what you described. such love.

  4. tara, I love when you do these family pix of your time
    spent together. I LOVE how there is always that one shot of you and drew that shows just what a special boy he is to love on his mom. He is so CUTE!!! Well, they all ARE!!! these pictures are just magical and I am so glad Mckenna was able to enjoy her day! She has a VERY cool sense of style, I JUST LOVE IT!!!

  5. love this story. i’m loving the teenager years as well. you can do so many adventures, have great discussion conversations at dinner, and really see them becoming the people they are going to become. it’s almost like a return on your investment. i’m loving my return…it’s been the best investment we’ve ever made :)

  6. I read your blog religiously… I started because of the photography and I quickly became addicted. Not because of the gorgeous photos, but because of the wonderful stories that accompany them. I recall one of your deeply personal blogs discussed the struggles your family was going through this past summer. I don’t remember the details but I remember your statement “but we have love”. Every single photo from your Staycation so clearly and beautifully illustrates what a loving family the Whitneys are. Thank you for showing us what true love is all about.

  7. I loved this post…and totally know what you mean about this age and stage. I can only imagine how great it would be times four…well until the inevitable bouts of tween/teen attitude.

    Oh and Australian potatoes…cheese & ranch on the side and so dang good!

  8. I want to vomit looking at the twirly rides. Something happened during the giving birth period of my children…..I no longer can tolerate what I once loved!

    These are incredible memories, Tara….I was smiling, laughing, then choked up by the end. Beautiful writing. You help me to appreciate life and look forward to my kids being at this phase :)

    And….agree….all but the chocolate covered bacon.

    Thank you for sharing.

  9. I love that you freely use your camera whenever/whereever!! And those ‘Australian fries’ I was trying to work out what they are. I think they are what we call ‘potato cakes’ in my part of Australia…but what did you put on them Tara????? You’re supposed to put tomato sauce (ketchup) or just salt and vinegar!!

    Hmmm, wonder if I could market witchetty grubs to the Americans.

  10. And the train concert! Wow! Tickets here for a half decent concert are over $100.00 each so would cost us a fortune to take the kids. Feel bad I’ve made them wait until they are older teens who can buy their own tickets!!!

  11. I have been loving the way your family chose to celebrate vacation this year. Staying close to home and indulging in time together doing fun and normal things. But also out-of-the-ordinary things, in the sense that you could splurge on things like Train tickets and all the food your stomachs could hold and staying in a hotel and going to see a play because, hey, this is our family vacation. There’s something really, really neat about this to me for you. (Also, I love that picture of you kissing your lovebird on the cheek. The look on his face tells everyone how much he is blissed out to be sharing his life with you.) :)

  12. I am a huge fan of you, your photography and your family and have been for a long time BUT these are my all time fav photos by you. Since there was no text throughout the post I did not expect any at the end and you know what, the pics told the story so well, I did not need the words, but I am glad you shared them :) You rock.

  13. I love your personal blog postings because your family photos are simply- yet profoundly- just photos of your family, having fun, being together- being themselves. You don’t dress them in fancy ‘photo- op’ clothes, subtly pose them, take pictures to try to make yourself or your family look so cool or sophisticated, like models or to try to make people think that you have a life lived from the pages of a catalog. In a blog world of people who make their whole lives photo-ops- you live your life with your family and your pictures reflect that life, rather than the other way around. Thank you for this- it is such a breath of fresh air- and your photos always take my breath away, much more so than any other photographers.

  14. Hi Tara,
    I lived in Southern California (Fallbrook) for a year as an Australian exchange student in 1981-82, when I was sixteen. I went to the Orange county Fair with my good friends Paige and Nancy and had my picture taken in that same booth – Miss America! I still have those pictures somewhere. Ah the memories….

  15. I hope you find [like we did] that every stage is the BEST stage – right now our oldest is buying his first house and i just really don’t feel old enough for this to be happening – but am so happy for him just the same – love watching him and dad go over all the fine details of it –

  16. I feel exactly the same way about the fair. Exactly. Food and photo booths FTW! :) And with no kids we get away with no going on the carnie rides and risking our lives. Although I have to admit, we prefer the LA County Fair – more cute animals! We didn’t get there this year and I’m a sad panda about it, but we went the last two years. The best part? Calories don’t count at the fair. It’s true.

  17. I BIG PUFFY HEART the photo where your son is hugging you!! So precious and priceless! I have an 8 month old little boy, and like you, I fear the teen years, especially with a son. But your photo gave me hope that maybe it won’t be as bed as I imagine! Your photos are GREAT and your family is beautiful!!! I hope to be even half as good of a photographer as you some day! Thanks for sharing!

  18. Tara, you totally destroyed those ‘aussie fries’. Where I live in Sydney Australia they are called potato scallops. And yes you can buy them in just about every little take way food shop in Australia that is not a big chain eg. McDonalds. Usually the little local fish and chip shops sell them. Takes me back to my childhood seeing you eat them, but you did destroy them. All you need is tomato sauce or chicken salt is even better.

  19. iam loving this – i’m going on vacatin 25th October to Cape Town South Africa to visit my sister – that water is just as cold – but i’m gonna love the family and people and Table Mountain and my family and my family and my family – thank you for you..xx

  20. The picture of Mckenna on Carousel my favorite ever!!!I don’t know which staycation venture I enjoyed looking at the most???it just proves you don’t have to venture far to greener pastures to be happy ….its right where you are!

  21. Gorgeous!!
    Timely post for me.. This week my hubby keeps saying he doesn’t want our children to grow up (because he’ll miss them being little) & I keep saying, ‘but I bet when we get there we’ll be in love with the them they are then’.

    I so get the photo booth priority!

    ..& lol @ Australian battered potatoes.. us Aussies call them ‘potato scallops’!.. & yes they’re yummy.

  22. Tara,
    I have been reading your blog forever, I just love your photos and your stories. I just wanted to let you know how much love comes through your lens. Your pics of your family are always just beaming with love…between your kids, between you and your kids and between you and Jeff, it is so special. This post today has tears rolling down my face, it is just such a sweet testament to family and love. You guys rock.

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