As Jon and I planned our session, we decided the best plan to get all six of us involved (our daughter Mckenna lives in a group home nearby) was to meet at her house and then head out to a nearby nature trail that we love. Via email, I warned Jon that I had no idea what to expect from Mckenna. It could either go super smoothly, or it could turn into a huge behavioral meltdown. We had to prepare for anything.

I don’t think any of us were prepared for what happened. She came to the door with her usual excitement, screeching “Daddy! Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!” and giving out tight hugs. I smiled back at Jon because I knew there was no one else I would trust to see our family in these moments, and I handed over everything to him because I knew – he got it. He got the importance of this for us. Mckenna ended up being completely taken with Jon, and was more accommodating and calm than I have seen her in a long time. We spent thirty glorious, giggly, love glowy minutes with her in her backyard. Giving her love, and what was more special, receiving it back from her in return and having it all captured.



This session ended up being perfect for us. For so many reasons. Mckenna was involved, but she didn’t have to be dragged out to a location she wasn’t comfortable with, thus making all of us uncomfortable. We got to spend some truly magical time with her, and then we got to say goodbye and we would see her next week. As if that wasn’t enough, we got to go focus on what the five of us have together, in one of my favorite places.

Our life is not perfect or typical and I hope I never cheapen what I really have to portray it as such.

The transition to having Mckenna live outside our home has been very difficult on me. One year in, I have finally come to terms with where we are and that we did the right thing for our family. Everyone is happy, even her.

These photos are visual proof of that.

Join the Conversation


  1. What a joy to see these photos of you and your beautiful family. SO MUCH LOVE! And so much truth and simplicity that lies within these pictures. Thank you for sharing with us.

  2. I’m teary-eyed after reading your words and looking at the photos. Thank you for being so personal and sharing your story. Life can be so complicated and filled with doubt and hardships, but these photos are filled with so much love.

  3. Finding a good place for McKenna to be more separate from you sounds like it’s been an excellent choice!

    Its hard to see your child approaching adulthood and moving into independence. But it is the whole job of parenting to facilitate that independence, even for the “special” children for whom adulthood and independence will look different than usual. Even though it makes us worried or sad to let them go, hanging on to them is more destructive in the long run.

  4. Jon is another special photographer like you, Tara. I am so glad your paths crossed; your family deserves seeing themselves through the camera’s lens. These are magical.

    McKenna – what can I say? She is thriving; she looks radiant. As someone else wrote, “Even though it makes us worried or sad to let them go, hanging on to them is more destructive in the long run.” It’s hard when you know your child – oops young adult – is fully capable of functioning in the world; I can’t imagine the extra stress when the situation isn’t typical.
    Heck I have my 28 yr old home again while she’s in law school. And this is right where I want her to be! Selfish, aren’t I? She’ll fly soon enough.

    The photos on the hillside are gorgeous; perfect place. I felt like there was an empty space in a few, as though subconsciously room was left for McKenna. She is an integral part of your family. Just as some of us wander far far away and are missing in family photos as a result, McKenna is living her life and just can’t be around for every event.

    Tara. you have a special gift – the way you share your life with others. It is what it is, as my daughter loves to say. Thank you.

    Jon – you got the touch! I hope your families appreciate your artistry.

  5. As ever you are beautiful and authentic. The photos you took of my family are still my favorites, and the art piece you printed hangs in my office. Nathaniel has been home most of the summer, which has been wonderful and hard and exhausting. He’s gone this week and it is always bittersweet – home or away. Recently I saw a quote about how grief never resolves, it just abides in us – becomes a part of who we are. I think that is true for sure about having a child who is so different.

    You recently photographed the family of one of my favorite people. I hope to find a way for you to photograph my family again.

    Peace to you and yours, Susan

  6. I love seeing your family photos most of all. I feel like I know you from watching your blog and your kids grow. It’s weird and wonderful all at the same time. Thank you for sharing.

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