personal project \\ six people twelve times \\ 09.10

Truth: I forgot to take a family photo in September. I am so irritated with myself for forgetting, but I rolled with it and asked Anna to draw a photo of us instead. I like how she has all of our arms around each other. And that she put us all in our favorite colors.


We started school and I had to let go of my precious, precious freedom. I had such a hard transition this year. I think it is because of the shift I have talked about and written about that took place inside of me this summer. I just became so content. Content in what I have. Content with what I don’t. Content in what I do. Content to just be together, not doing much of anything. I was afraid a big change might mess things up. Content is a very good feeling. It is better than happiness in my opinion. Happiness is too much expectation, too hard to keep up, too much of a let down when you can’t. Content feels more real to me, more true. Whether sad or happy, you can be content.

Before school started we had a terrific visit with the Falconbridges before their move to New England. Their rambling family of five squeezed into our tiny house putting our capacity at full to the brim. Ivy and Anna came together like no time had passed. Yindi fell in love with the boys, and wanted to spend all her time with them. Banjo whined his way into my heart.

The unthinkable happened. My computer died and my world came crashing to a halt. In the midst of fixing it, I spent ten hours at the Apple store in one day, (oh how my butt hated those genius bar stools after ten hours) making sure everything was backed up properly. Ten hours! I was sick with nerves for weeks. I actually physically mourned the loss of my old computer. The whole process took about three weeks from break to rebuild. I was lucky that everything was safe.

I started noticing over the last few months that Anna was squinting while watching TV and holding books very close to her face. I made her an appointment. Sure enough, the kid gots my eyeballs. She picked out the cutest pair of glasses all on her own. Black with pink arms and tiny golden padlocks as the hinge. My memory of my first pair of glasses is so vivid. I was in the third grade. I remember looking up with my eyes feeling all weird with that new prescription pulling sensation, and really seeing trees for the first time. Realizing they weren’t just big green blobs. They actually had tiny individual leaves on each branch, and I could see them swaying in the breeze. Anna had a similar experience, and after it happened I told her about mine. As we got out of the car to walk into the house with her new specs on, she said, “Oh! So THAT’S what grass looks like! I can see all the little pieces poking up! Before it was just all smooth and green!”

Mr. Nathan has been drawing, drawing, drawing. Drawing Looney Tunes characters, comics, and doodles. They are all over his notebook. He is growing so tall. Almost as tall as Drew, and two years younger. I am going to have huge men on my hands soon. He wanted to chop his hair to just under his ears, and the new cut is so perfect for him, I can’t believe we didn’t do it ages ago. He is such a quiet, easy going boy, that he can easily skate by day after day in my peripheral vision. I don’t want that. I want to force myself out of that complacency to give him the attention he deserves from me. To let him know I see him. To make sure he feels my presence in his life, and that he is just as important to me as his loud mouth brother and sisters.

Mckenna got a cold one day and was able to stay home from school. The next few days when I woke her up she had a toy thermometer in her mouth, and she looked up at me with fake sick sad eyes, saying, “Mommmm, I am sickkkkk. I need to stay home from school today.” Such a sneaky clever girl, that one.

Drew is attempting to get straight A’s, on his own prompting. He wants to get into a local performing arts high school, and the good grades can only help. (HIGH SCHOOL??!?!) Him going to a performing arts high school is him living out my own dreams for myself at that age, only I never told him what they were. The kid gots my dreams.

After two months of throwing dinner’s together randomly and eating out a lot, we got back into our dinner routine. And something happened that shocked me. For so long, making dinner has been so overwhelming to me. Such a drag my feet obligation. One more thing on my list that I just And a lot of time failed at. Oh the list making! Oh the shopping and loading and unloading and reloading! Oh the clean up! I hated it, dreaded it, forced myself to do it everyday because I knew my family needed it. Taking a break made me dread it even more, so it was hard to start up again. But something else has shifted. I now look forward to that time of day. The TV gets turned off, the kids do homework on the couch. We turn the station to Coffeehouse Acoustic on our satellite. Anna puts on her roller skates and zips around the kitchen on the wood floor helping me. Taking peeled potatoes from table to pan. Tossing onion skins. Stirring. Measuring spices. Nathan pops his head in with his throaty little voice asking if I need any help. It makes my heart clench each time he does. They are under no obligation to help me, but they want to. It is precious time spent together. Mckenna gets some much needed time upstairs alone. Drew pops his headphones in and listens to his own music as he does homework and sometimes sings aloud in his cracking voice.

In doing this, I am fulfilling a real need for my family, and thus I am fulfilling a real need for myself. My purpose for doing it has changed. It is no longer an obligation, something I have to do. It has turned into something I NEED to do because it makes me feel complete. It is something that fulfills me in a way I never imagined it could. It gives me energy instead of depletes it. It has moved from an obligation to a delight.

I got help with it, though. I saw a gap in my thinking and I filled it with someone else. My sister Alisha now does my grocery shopping. I used to have such a mental block on grocery shopping. I could make the list. I could cook. I could clean up. But grocery shopping put it all over the edge for me. So I fixed that.

She has started helping us every week. She is in her last year of college. Locally, this time. Lucky for me. She needs the money and the flexible schedule and we need the help. She has basically become an assistant to me, of sorts. She does the sorts of things that I don’t want to do, or things I do everyday that I need a break from. Like grocery shop, run to the post office, sweep, pick up kids from school, clean up dinner dishes, go with us to the library to follow Mckenna around so I can focus on the other kids, make returns, get new light bulbs for the garage fridge at Home Depot, stay home with the kids so I can shoot, or go on a date. She has helped us cross many things off of our to do list. The kids love having her around. I love having her around. I am lucky to have the support from someone I trust so much. It is a win win situation.

The month of September went fast, as they are all seeming to do nowadays. With the routine of school, the days slip by seemingly identical and boring. But like always, I want to pay closer attention. I want to see the undercurrents. I want to be present. I want to see things as they really are.

I want to see the blades of grass. I want to see the leaves.



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  1. Hi Tara :) I just read all your post for your project “Six people Twelve Times”
    (via retweeted by Ali Edwards). What a cool project! You are amazing and truly inspiring. I could have written the post about ups and downs with a special needs child myself. I literally read that post and started to cry because that is almost exactly how I feel. I’m reading it and saying out loud, “oh me too!!!!!” I love my son (who has autism) and I love my daughter (who is typical). But I struggle all the time with the same feelings. Are we being fair to my daughter because of all the comprises we have to make since autism has entered our lives? Are we being fair to my son by forcing him to go with us in situations that he is clearly anxious about (like vacations). There is no clear answer. We do the best we can. Thank you for being so honest and putting yourself out there.

  2. How wonderful to have your sister near to help. You may want to look into a couple of different meal planning services. It has saved me so much stress. We first did, 5 recipes a week, non-processed foods, parents loved but kids not so much. That expired so I now tried You can pick from a variety of menus (they provide 7 a week). We went for a low-fat version, seems to use more processed than I prefer but with our schedule and 2 small kids it is better than fast food. Both offer a grocery list by section, offers more customization. I LOVE the grocery list. That has saved all the time in the world.

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