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. These are beautiful. And it meant so much to read your words at the end. Both my kids have developmental and medical issues… It is a challenge now that they are older teens, to think about what the future looks like for us. Not the same as others; still beautiful. Thank you for sharing something so personal with us.

  2. So many things…how do you look at the first few photos with tears all over the place? How sweet is your middle boy? Like a big heart out in the world. And when did your baby become a young woman? Oh man. These are great.

  3. Thank you for sharing these. I adore them. I especially love the one of McKenna’s arms around her dad. I love the smile on her face in these pictures and then the second shoot on the hillside. Magical. Both are magical in their own special way.

  4. Sigh… These are just beautiful. I love the ones with McKenna because she looks so happy, like she’s really comfortable being the “adult” she wanted to be. I love the others because of the love and peace you all show each other in them. A family that loves each other. Awesome to see. Thanks for letting us in <3 p.

  5. Wow…I have followed your blog for yearrrrrrs now!!!!! We have three boys and our eldest has autism and family photos have always been a teary event for me. He is 11 and I don’t know what the future holds for our family either. I am awe of your honesty, your heart and your courage. This is beautiful and no doubt at all everyone loved this session! Blessings to you and yours!!

  6. These photos are so beautiful! Your family is so beautiful. So glad he was able to catch that for you like you’ve done for so many other people.

  7. These are amazing. You and your family are so beautiful. I’ve been looking in on y’all from afar for at least 10 years now, and seeing how ALL of you have grown and changed has been a real treat.

  8. i kid you not it was nothing short of magic what happened at the group home. i mean, you’ve seen what i look like, i was thinking i’d have to be super quiet and cautious around mckenna but she literally opened the door and let me right in. some of my proudest work came from that tiny window of 30 minutes. xoxo to you

  9. tara i’ve been a fan of your photography from way back in the two peas days. i so admire the way you share yourself and your family’s story. these photos are pure magic…captured so brilliantly by your photographer no doubt…but it’s also i think because you all are so present with each other. what a joy to witness. thanks for sharing it with all of us.

  10. Oh these just make my heart smile – the love and joy you all have around each other just bursts through the screen. You all have worked so hard for those smiles.

  11. Oh my God. These are the best family photos I’ve ever seen. It takes two. Which brings me to say, maybe McKenna was taken with Jon because he gave off the same vibe you have as an artist. Just a hunch. xo

  12. the photos with mckenna seriously made me cry! what the heck!! i have a son with special needs and he is only 4. we are yet to take a family photo because… well, you know. oh they’re just beautiful. <3

  13. ahhh sooo beautiful …. huge ups to jonathan…. and its just so special to see so much love and smiles……..i adore them all… but i just love love love the ones where your kids are hugging you ….. its makes me all teary and stuff…. and i just hope that i have that lovely relationship when my small ones get to be taller than me . xx

  14. Oh Tara. I don’t comment on blog posts often. But this just touched my heart so fiercely. You and your family are gorgeous inside and out. You can absolutely just feel the love and happiness and comfort and ‘home’ that you’ve instilled in each one of your kids. I truly hope that my husband and I end up on that path with our littles and are able to give them that gift. I hope with all my heart that my family will make it out to CA sometime soon to get to work with you. xoxo.

  15. So perfectly imperfect. I can feel the love through the screen, but more than that–I can feel how much you actually LIKE each other. These are beautiful. Exactly the kind of family photos I wish I had of my own family. You two have created a wonderful family. :)

  16. These are beautiful. I’m so happy for you to have them. The black and white with your 4 children together made me cry. You can really see the love.

  17. Only one other photographer makes me feel what these images make me feel. Like really FEEL. And that is you. Theses are amazing. Seeing his photos of your family here is like the best crossover I have ever seen! Amazing images, Jon. I love the one of McKenna in the missile surrounded by your boys. And basically all of the ones in the field. So much love.

  18. It makes me so happy to see this gift that you have given to so many families (really seeing them & recording the beauty in all forms that is present) has been given to you & your family.
    Your photos make us feel things & your family does, too. Thank you for sharing these beautiful images with us.

  19. Tara i am so happy that you could have your own special session with your family ! The love that comes from all this images is so powerful and genuine ! You have to be very proud you have a done a super job as a mother !

  20. No family is “perfect life or typical” but you have a way of showing the raw beauty in all of that, with how you capture others and your own family. Along with your written authenticity. Your family is awesome & we love seeing :) He nailed these of you guys!

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