Love

“Do you know how much I love you?” She pleaded every night before bed.

What was I supposed to say?

No?

No, love doesn’t feel like the look on the teacher’s faces when they tell me to go inside since I’m the last one waiting to be picked up, every week?

No, love doesn’t feel like babysitters during business trips.

No, love doesn’t feel like the bottom of a beer can. 

So, I said yes.  

Yes, love feels like when you rock me to sleep on the edge of my bed. 

Yes, love feels like you carrying me up to bed when I know I’m already too heavy.

Yes, love feels like I know you are doing the best you can in. spite. of. 

Yes, mom, I know you love me.  

Because now that I am a mom, I know how much it took for you to single-parent me and my sister.

Now that I am a mom, I know just how deep that love runs.

And now that I am a mom, I know how important it is for you to know that I know you’ve always loved me.

After

What happens after?

Do you remember when you tasted something for the first time?

The equal mixture of excitement and apprehension?

That’s how I am feeling these days. 

Just when I thought things with our youngest couldn’t get any harder, they hit (what I hope is) rock bottom back in December 2020.  My husband and I were surviving on fumes- every night wondering if we should take our daughter to the hospital to find some magical cure for her nightmare flaring skin.  I was in the bathtub with her nightly at 2 am to help calm the itch and waking up at 7 a.m. to homeschool her three big sisters, thanks to the pandemic.  We knew we could not survive much longer. 

So we prayed.  We asked everyone we knew to pray and add her to their prayer list and we searched.  I spent hours and days and weeks and months researching and meeting with specialists of every kind from Virginia to Pennsylvania to Michigan and California to find any possible relief as we all, particularly she, continued to endure a living hell.  

We changed her diet, we had her relentlessly tested for multiple issues and within the last month, she has improved.  

But what happens after?

What happens once you emerge from trauma?

I’ve been waking up with Elizabeth every night for three years and even my pregnancy with her was ridden with weekly appointments due to concerns with her growth. 

How do I adapt to “normal”? 

I’ve been changing diapers for over 9 years nonstop and now she is potty training.  

What happens when I’m not?

Who am I now?

What taste is this?

Camille Vaughan Photography

Tooter

It began innocently enough. 

“Mommy, tell me a story.”

As a writer I realize this sounds unbelievable, but I always dreaded the day my child would ask me to make up a story on-the-spot.  Not because I didn’t want to, but because I never thought myself capable.  

I’m not sure I ever allowed myself to explore my imagination to those depths.  I’ve always envied those storytellers who were able to, so seemingly effortlessly. 

But my child was working through some hard feelings and I desperately wanted to pull through for her, so I leapt.  

The first character that came to mind was an old beat-up truck named “Tooter”.  I knew that name would make her laugh, and it did. 

Next, had to be a yellow convertible, Tooter’s wife Tulip.  Harper loves yellow and I could just see her wavy blonde hair blowing in the wind.  

And finally, Cooper (and later, his little sister Pinky), their son. 

Over the past year, we’ve woven an entire collection of Tooter stories together, taking turns filling in the blanks, covering every major moment of Harper’s life, particularly what is relative to that day: jealousy, joy, loss, fear, surprise, excitement, perseverance, truthfulness, goodness and more.  

“Mommy, tell me a Tooter story.” She pleads.  

Seconds after I’ve spent an hour lying on the floor of her youngest sister’s bedroom, in the final minutes of the day.  The moment I am more spent than any other in the last 24 hours and yet, I dig, scraping the depths of my reserves to pull through for this little girl, looking to me for answers and peace of mind before bedtime. 

Tooter’s family has become our medium of communication on topics that are too sensitive to discuss directly.  

And we are both better because of them.   

Happiness

I bought this for myself a few years ago, when I was particularly down in the dumps about circumstances that were entirely out of my control.

Upon discovering it, I realized that no matter what what was going on, happiness was a choice. 

Sure I could take time to lament and mourn my very real losses; but even those that were suffering and gone before me would never have wanted me to continue living in that state of loss. 

It was my job to live the life they could not.  

I realized that it was my job to CHOOSE happiness.  

In the face of adversity, to overcome and make the best of what may be.

In the prospect of opportunity, to claim. 

To own this life they could not.  

It is ours to behold. 

If only we could just be happy today.  

Skittles

“Nobody knows how the story ends

Live the day, doing what you can

This is only where it began

Nobody knows how the story ends.”

And so goes the life of our Elizabeth. 

Little Lizzie had 10 vials of blood taken last week.  She’s still severely allergic to dairy, egg and peanut and FPIES (Food Protein Induced Entercolitis Syndrome) to rice, sweet potato, avocado, quinoa and beef.  

We have avoided soy, corn and wheat out of utmost caution for her severe eczema. 

Until tonight-

When she tried a skittle (corn syrup). 

I’ve had four children. 

Eating a skittle has never been a bigger deal. 

She called her big sister, Harper, specifically, in to witness the event. 

And she still wouldn’t chew- only lick. 

This month Elizabeth turns three and our journey continues- likely with a lot of food therapy in our future. 

Acceptance of new tastes and textures- trusting the foods she has always avoided.  

“Nobody knows how the story ends

Live the day, doing what you can

This is only where it began

Nobody knows how the story ends.”

“Nobody Knows” by The Lumineers