Ask and ye shall Receive

“My nose is running.”

“I’m hungry.”

“I’m cold.”

“I can’t open this.”

A helpless victim.

“May I have a tissue, please?”

“May I have a snack, please?

“Mom, can you pass me a blanket?”

“Will you help me open this?

An assertive problem-solver.

For the past few months, I’ve been working with my second daughter on asking for what she needs, rather than stating the problem aloud with the hopes that someone will hear and fix the issue for her.

I’m lucky to raise my daughters during a time when women are encouraged to use their voice.  If I don’t teach them early to speak up for what they need, how can I expect them to innately learn this later?

“I wish I got paid more.”  becomes “Boss, here are the reasons I deserve a raise.”

“I wish my spouse paid more attention to me.” becomes  “We need to talk.”

“I don’t know how to ______ (change a tire, write a resume, etc.) becomes “Will you teach me?”

“I wish I had more time for ____.” becomes “If it’s important enough, I will find a way.”

And oh, will she ever.

Happy 5th Birthday Harper Reese.

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Camille Vaughan Photography

 

 

 

Grace

This is my word of the moment:  Grace.

I am currently treading water during one of the most exhausting times of my life (so far) and when I reached my limit last week, I realized something had to give.

Since passing off the kids wasn’t an option, I considered what else I could shed.  And it was there that I found it had nothing to do with what I needed to surrender and everything to do with what I needed to give myself: grace.

In the past 7 years, I have gained and lost 35 pounds FOUR times.

I have carried and nursed four babies for more than 75 months.

I am currently parenting a 5 month, 2, 4 and 6 year-old, while sorting all of that laundry, making meals, potty-training, attending doctor’s appointments, playing taxi for piano, soccer, music class and ballet, exercising, maintaining friendships and working to keep my marriage healthy and strong.

I keep adding more and more and expecting myself to continue keeping on as if nothing has changed.

What was I thinking?

Eventually, something has to give.  If not my sanity, then my expectations of myself.

I step outside of this time and look at my life as a whole, recognizing this as one of the most challenging phases.

I pat myself on the back for the monumental accomplishment of growing, birthing and rearing four children.

I congratulate myself for partnering with an involved and fantastic husband and father.

I hug myself as I would a friend enduring a tough time and say,

“You are awesome.”

Don’t ever forget that.

You are amazing.

Grace.

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Camille Vaughan Photography 

Wanderlust

I was so thirsty.  So tired I cried as I trekked through the hot sand that seemed nothing less than an insult at the time.  We’d hiked nine miles into the Canyon and had just one mile to go but it felt like another 10.

Worse yet, I could actually *hear* the water.  Taunting and teasing me.  Letting me know it was right there, just out of reach.

I sobbed and stumbled.  He grabbed my hand and walked alongside me, pulling me to the finish line.  I was tired.  I was done.  I didn’t want to do this anymore.  But there was no other way than forward and he was right there with me.

So along we trudged, until we caught sight of this.  In the desert.  In an instant, our skin was saturated with moist air.  Our eyes delighted with sight and our ears blaring with the roar of Mother Nature in her rawest beauty.

We’d known it was there all along and yet it still came as a glorious surprise.

Much like life, I suppose.

Trudging, trekking, hoping, waiting, discovering. journeying.

To the finish line.

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Havasu Grand Canyon 2007

 

Rising

Drowning.  Funneling.  Spiraling out of control.  Down the tubes I go.

This is something that happens to other people, not me.

I’m highly self-aware.  I go to counseling.  I write about my feelings.  I am immune.

Or am I?

How far down must we go before we reach out for help?

I hit my lowest point a few weeks ago, when at 1 AM, I looked out to the water and wondered what would happen if I just slipped in quietly, and disappeared.

It’s hard to admit, even harder to type, but that thought went through my sleep-deprived brain.  Followed immediately by the remaining tiny fragments of my healthy mind reminding me that by doing so, I was only transferring my hurt and pain to my loved ones.

So instead, I wrote.  I typed out my deep, dark thoughts on a sticky note in my phone as I entered the fifth hour of non-existent sleep and waited for morning to come and save me.

How far must we go before we set aside our pride and shame and liberate ourselves by calling it what it is?

I’ve suffered in silence but now, I am reaching out.  Recognizing I cannot do this alone.  Holding the hands of others who suffer and holding onto those who lift me up as I sink.

Making it through breakfast.  Making it to lunch.  Making it to dinner.  Through bedtime. Until Midnight.  Repeating until I rise again, from my bed, from this darkness.  Reclaiming my stride, my identity and my purpose as a writer, wife and mother.

I Rise.  I Rise.  I Rise.

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Camille Vaughan Photography

 

Don’t Judge Me

Don’t judge me because I’m on my phone,

you didn’t see me playing hide-and-seek with my kids for the last hour.

Don’t judge me because I’m on my phone,

I’m checking the weather to make plans for this afternoon.

Don’t judge me because I’m on my phone,

I’m working my e-business for five minutes so that I can stay at home with my kids.

Don’t judge me because I’m on my phone,

I’m planning a playdate.

Don’t judge me because I’m on my phone,

this is the only way I get to communicate with my friends and remember who I was before kids.

Don’t judge me because I’m on my phone,

this one minute video of cats provides me just the laughter I needed to keep going today.

Don’t judge me because I’m on my phone,

I’m consoling a friend who just lost her mother.

Don’t judge me because I’m on my phone,

I’m planning a surprise party for my husband.

Don’t judge me because I’m on my phone,

this is the first time I’ve even looked at it today.

Don’t judge me because I’m on my phone,

because I wouldn’t judge you and we all deserve a little more grace.

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Camille Vaughan Photography

 

 

Precipice

I can feel it.  A change is coming and just like the rain, there’s not much I can do about it.

My eldest will enter her first year of all-day public school next week, guaranteed to create a lasting domino effect in our household.

The dynamics between the inseparable two eldest will shift.  My second-born will gravitate towards her younger sister in the absence of her idolized older sister.  The eldest will return home, tired and yet frustrated at her replacement.  The third sister will resent being dismissed as soon as school is over.

There will be sickness, spread like wildfire.  Long, sleepless nights.  Trips to the doctor.  Boxes upon boxes of tissues.

And then there’s the worry of releasing my 6 year-old to the big, ugly world.  The one where bullies exist and feelings get hurt.  Out from the shelter of her mother, her home and her little private preschool, she will be vulnerable to the wolves.

I can only hope I’ve taught her well.

To be kind.

To be tough.

To be happy.

It began with that first cut of the umbilical cord.  Little by little, I’ve witnessed her venture further from my womb.  Becoming less of me and more of her.

We’re on a precipice and there’s no turning back.  And the view, albeit daunting, is invigorating.

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Camille Vaughan Photography

 

How to Eat a Sandwich (as a mother of 4)

  1. Realize you are hungry and contemplate what you’d like to eat.
  2. Break up a fight between the 2 & 4 year-old.
  3. Look inside the fridge for your lunch.
  4. Listen to the demands of the 2 & 4 year old who appeared out of nowhere (seriously, there must be an embedded sensor to let them know when the fridge door opens).
  5. Give the blessed children the yogurt already!
  6. Grab the bread to make your fantasized sandwich.
  7. Attend to the crying baby in the back of the house.
  8. Whisper-yell at the two year old to close the ever-loving door while you nurse a, now, distracted baby.
  9. Frantically search for your phone to ascertain whether it is time for you to pick the 6 year-old up from her sleepover.  Breathe a sigh of a relief when you read a text announcing they are keeping her until after lunch.
  10. Calm the frustrated 4 year old who can’t figure out how to turn Paw Patrol on.
  11. Return to the kitchen to grab the turkey, hummus and veggies to make your sandwich.
  12. Assist the two year-old who announces she needs to go potty, now!
  13. Nod your head yes that it is, indeed, lunch time.  Abandon your sandwich attempt to heat soup, chicken nuggets, cut strawberries and put together a PBJ.
  14.  Blow on the soup until you feel dizzy.  Curse at yourself for forgetting that 1 minute in the microwave is too long.
  15. Spread the hummus on your bread.  Cut your veggies and layer them, alongside the turkey.
  16. Recognize the sound of the ending credits of Paw Patrol and seize your chance to put the two year old down for her nap.  After all, it’s the “magic window” and thus, now or never.
  17. Walk the two year old to look out the windows and doors from all sides of the house to reassure her there is indeed, no thunder today.
  18. Change her into a diaper, turn on her noise machine, remind her that if she gets out of bed, you are closing her door and you mean it, today!
  19. Take a bite of that big, beautiful sandwich.
  20. Help the 4 year-old change into jammies because she wants to nap today since her big sister isn’t around to play.
  21. Close her door and open door to now, awake baby.
  22. Completely forget about sandwich.
  23. Pick 6 year-old up from sleepover.
  24. Take girls outside to play.
  25. Give girls a bath.
  26. Look at the clock that says 5 PM and laugh at the stale sandwich.

Alternatively:

  1.  Make Sandwich.
  2. Let baby cry, toddler pee her pants and skip her nap, and listen to four year old tantrum until you’ve finished eating.

Pick your poison!

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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