Mirror

I can feel it.  My blood boiling.  My muscles tensing.  My heart pounding and head spinning.  I can’t get her to stop crying.  I can’t get them to stop fighting. I find myself screaming, “CALM DOWN!” and then internally chuckle at how ironic I sound.

Mirror.

Ghandi said it best.  “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

I walk away.  Take a deep breath.  Regroup.  Resurface.  Kneel down to her eye-level and offer what I could use right now.  A hug.

She cries.

I stay silent and rub her back, allowing her the time and space to release her tension.

We look at one another and crack the hint of a knowing smile.

Seen.  Understood. Healed.

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Camille Vaughan Photography

 

Breakthrough

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“You matter.  Your feelings matter.  I’m here.” I whispered to my fragile four-year-old after a meltdown over a band-aid.  A band-aid.

It took me a moment to realize this had nothing to do with a band-aid and everything to do with being the middle child.  Forgotten.  Lost-in-the-mix.  Something I swore would never happen.

Her older sister demanded attention based on personality alone.  Her two-year old sister threw daily tantrums to keep us occupied.  And the newborn baby was a constant presence.

Harper had merely slipped through the cracks.  Behaving, going-with-the-flow like she had never done before.  And before we knew it, 15 weeks had passed without much fanfare.

Until tonight. Until I looked into her little face and realized how long it had been since I had truly looked at her.  Held her.  Told her just how very much I adored her.

She wept.  Released the dam of tears she’d held back for so long.  I rocked her and cried right along with her, realizing my ignorance.

Four daughters.  One mother.  So little time for any one of us.

And yet each one matters.

Each. One. Matters.

Breakthrough.

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Camille Vaughan Photography

Recognition

“I just want you to know, I see how hard you’re working.  I appreciate you, babe.  We need you.”  He said to me as I plopped down on the couch, after a second failed attempt to put the baby to bed.

And it occurred to me, that’s all anyone ever needs.

To be seen.  To be heard.  To be understood.

It doesn’t matter that we’ve never once exchanged a gift on our wedding anniversary.  It doesn’t matter that we haven’t been on a date in many months.

What matters is that we recognize one another.  Through words. Through a quick rub of the shoulders during dinner preparations.  With a brief glance and smile in acknowledgment.

It’s a simple thing, really.  With the huge payout of an everlasting love.

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Dee Akright Photography

Celebrate

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It’s time to celebrate.

You had a rough day.  You’ve had a terrible few months.  You’ve experienced loss, exhaustion, and pain and at times, you’ve questioned whether you have the stamina to endure.

But then you read about those who have it worse and you recognize that . . .

The sun came up.

You survived the night.

Your heart is still beating.

And you’ve got a reason to celebrate.

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Camille Vaughan Photography

You

Happy 8th Anniversary to my sweetheart 💗

New Leaf Parenting

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This is you after spending hours cracked out in the tiny half-bath in our Nags Head home, replacing the flooring.  Breaking your back, sweating, and yet still smiling and proud of the work you completed.  This is you.  Hardworking.  Sincere.  Authentic.  My One. True. Love.

You.

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This is you with your very first harvest of tomatoes in 2012.  You were so proud and it shows in the picture.  So does your incredible body at 40 years old.  You work hard, Emmett, and I am so proud to call you my husband.

You.

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This is you with all three of our daughters.  Little do they realize, they hit the jackpot when it comes to daddies.   You were literally born to do this.  To be a model father.  You sacrifice on their behalf.  You spend quality time with them Every. Single. Day.  Picking the garden, swinging, building sand castles…

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Stolen Moments

15 minutes here, 5 minutes there. A survival technique, part of our evolution as a growing family, these stolen moments sustain and fulfill us.

It began with an infatuation.  Absorbing one another like the Vitamin D saturating our skin on those endless beach days.  The dust settled in my apartment as my toothbrush claimed precious real estate on his bathroom sink.  His place became ours.

Time passed, my belly grew.  Date nights peppered our calendar, gradually lessening in frequency as my belly grew, grew and grew again. We treasured time together on the couch if we managed to get all of them asleep before we turned in, ourselves. If not, a quick kiss or a lingering hug sufficed.

Time with mommy became time with sissies. Mommy & Me music class turned into a dance party after breakfast, time at the spa to painting nails on our bathroom floor. Time with mommy became precious.

Not as long, no.  Not what it used to be.

Instead, richer, full of more hearts, sharing the beat of the same bloodline.

Stolen moments layering the patchwork of our years.

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Camille Vaughan Photography

 

Seeker

I saw her.  A quick flash passing through the blinds. I knew I had to move fast.  No time for shoes.  I wrangled open the stubborn door from the kitchen to the garage, flew down the steps and threw open the door to our driveway.  She was almost to the corner of the street when I yelled, “Hey!  Hi!  My name is Lauren and we just moved here a few weeks ago!”  My target was hugely pregnant, which is precisely why I had marked her.  “We’ve got two little girls, ages 6 months and 2 years.  We can be friends!”

Since then, I introduced myself to a young family sitting on their front stoop at Halloween and, on bicycle, high-speed pursued another mother strolling her twins in the back of our neighborhood.  All three have become some of the very best friends I’ve ever had.

Having moved from a very close-knit community full of young families, my husband and I feared we had made a huge mistake by moving to an older, established neighborhood.  While the lack of sidewalks and larger lots added desirable privacy, they also secluded us.  We were an island, until I swam.

Seeker.

I spent the majority of my childhood as a loner.  I had friends here and there, but had never experienced the love and support of a group like others on sports teams and sororities.  I saw group photos on Facebook and longed for my own.

Perhaps all it took was my desperation as a stay-at-mother to force me to seek.  After meeting my new friends, I organized monthly socials to be held at each of our respective houses, providing an opportunity for us to familiarize our tastes, our stories.  It worked.

With the addition of a friend I used to teach with, I’ve finally found my group and it is everything I had ever hoped it would be.

When my husband and I had to leave for the hospital at 4 AM to deliver our fourth daughter, it was that first pregnant neighbor who rushed over to stay at home with our three girls.  It was my school friend who relieved her.  It was the mother I met at Halloween who took my kindergartner to school and the mother of the twins who watched our others while I labored on.  Together, they seamlessly took my place as we welcomed sweet Elizabeth into the world.

Matthew 7:7 reads “Seek and ye shall find.”

I was lonely until I overcame my insecurities and Ran. Pedaled. Tried.  And it was there that I smiled, laughed and exhaled for finding what I had been looking for all along. My friends.

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Choice

YR8A5052-cvaughan.jpgI checked the bag three times before I left: Extra diapers, wipes, water for me, a burp cloth and even a nursing cover.  I was ready to head to the doctor’s with my eldest and my newborn, or at least I thought I was.  That is, until I realized, too late, I had forgotten my nursing pads.  Milk saturated the right side of my shirt while the baby nursed in the waiting room.  I positioned her to burp but before I could get the burp cloth situated, she vomited an entire cup of spit-up on my stomach and lap.  Hot, sour milk saturated my shorts and coated the inside of my thighs.  It was then that she exploded from her other end and it was then that I laughed and laughed.

Because, seriously.  What the hell else are you going to do in a situation like that?

If I had a dollar for every time my mother preached about “choices” during my childhood, I’d be rich. Bottom line, no matter what life hands us, we all have a choice in how we respond. As a young girl, “She made me feel” was met with “You chose to feel” and “I can’t”, “You choose not to”.

It’s all about perspective.

So when I announced to my husband that I had shaved my legs for the first time in a month last night (my modern day attempt at foreplay) and he looked at me as if to say “Do we have to?” I laughed and announced, “You’re not hurting my feelings if you want to take a pass!”  He chuckled a sigh of relief.  We’ve had four children in 6 years.  We’re, understandably, exhausted.  Our energy focused on soaking up every moment with our children during the days and surviving the nights.

We will make time for one another again sometime soon, but the baby is only 8 weeks old and God willing, we’ve got a lifetime ahead of us.

Perspective.

I could have cried (rightfully so) in that waiting room and I could have been offended at my husband’s less-than eager reaction but instead, I listened to what my mom has been teaching me all along- I made the choice to make the best of it and I’m happier for it.

Camille Vaughan Photography

Management

A solution is what we seek.  Diagnose the condition, and prescribe the cure. Black and white. Case closed.  A temporary disturbance, a minor annoyance in the grand scheme but please, not this.  Not a problem that has no “fix”.  Continue reading

Lean In

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Welcome to the world, Elizabeth Joy!  Our fourth daughter arrived two weeks ago, abruptly ending months of anticipation and successfully shifting the dynamics of our new “norm”.

We’ve experienced this change before.  Beginning with the dance of labor, the rocking, lunging, swaying back and forth.  The sensation of extreme heat immediately followed by chilling tremors of apparent sub-zero temperatures.  The digging-in, the roaring-out.  My arms, wrapped around my husband’s neck.  My doula’s steady hands, applying counter pressure to my spine; propping me up, when all I want to do is fall.

Yes, we’ve journeyed along this road many times.  When one is too weak to stand, the other is there to hold.  And yet, what do we do when we are both weary, unable to withstand the weight of another in addition to the weight of the things we already carry?

My husband and I found ourselves in that position just a few weeks before Elizabeth’s birth.  I, carrying an extra 30 pounds on my front-side, preparing for our fourth child’s arrival while trying to maintain a sense of normalcy for our 2, 4 and 6 year-old daughters.  My husband, juggling pressure from work and the sense of urgency to complete any and all major house projects before the arrival of our newborn.

Our tempers were short, our stress, high.  We refrained from burdening the other with our concerns, afraid that our additional weight would throw the other over the edge.

Withered and worried, along we trudged until we simultaneously erupted, hurling accusations and proclaiming “I’m doing the best I can!”  Our molten lava seeped from our mouths until there was nothing left to say except, “I know.”

Too weak to stand alone, not strong enough to carry another, we leaned-in.  And it was there, forehead to forehead, hands to hands, we discovered that together, we were strong enough to hold.

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Camille Vaughan Photography

First image Captured by Katie McCracken