Mom

Imagine this. 

Your husband catches a fish- one of twenty safe foods your youngest can eat and yet the ONE food your third-borne is allergic to. 

You provide a substitute protein for her.   You serve it with rice- which your youngest can’t eat (FPIES) so you also offer cauliflower rice.  

There are two more children in this picture.  Two more children, 

(one of which has recently claimed she is a vegetarian) who also have needs and preferences, so you make sure to offer a variety of veggies and proteins on the table to satisfy all.

So goes the life of mom.

Honestly, my biggest fear is if something were to happen to me.  I have an emergency binder, but I worry how this show could go on.

This Sunday is Mother’s Day.  It’s just one day out of 365 but it is meaningful to moms all around the world.  

It’s a day to be seen for our service to our children, our families and our world.  

Please see us.  Thank us.  And send your love. 

-Mom

Today

Want to hear the best thing ever?

There’s no right way. 

That’s it!

That’s all!

We are all going to die. 

Some of us sooner than others, 

So you know what?

Let’s LIVE IT. 

Let’s stop waiting for then. 

The right time. 

Because for some of us, 

It’s never going to come. 

Instead, here we are, so why wait?

There’s no time to lose. 

There’s no time to wait. 

Carpe Diem! 

There’s no right way. 

But there is today. 

Camille Vaughan Photography

13

13 pills.

13 years old.  

I’m not sure how I managed to block this memory but once someone directly asked me if I had ever attempted suicide it all came flooding back. 

The tears as I swallowed each one. 

The shame I felt when I admitted what I had done to my stepdad. 

The disappointment in his face. 

The thickness of the charcoal I drank. 

The sharpness of the catheter.  

But most of all, the sadness. 

The overwhelming loneliness I felt, as a child. 

They always cornered me in the stairway- called me “mosquito bites” for my underdeveloped breasts, wrote LD (for learning disabled) on my shoes, and taunted me with the word “virgin” when I had no clue what it meant.  

When you are in a class with a total of 14 children, nine of which are boys, there are few places to hide.  

I was easy prey.  

Knowing what I know now, as a mother and a teacher, I no longer feel shame for that little girl. 

I feel so sorry for her.  

I wish someone had helped her before she felt like dying was better than living.  

And if by sharing my story, I prompt anyone reading to look someone in the eye and ask, “Are you ok?”, then the courage to put this into words was worth it, after all. 

If you or a loved one is having suicidal thoughts please reach out for help. You are worth it. https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org

Love Story

Life taught me that nothing is ever certain, and yet this moment was that, for me.

Certainty.

The search was over. 

I found my life partner. 

I wanted to spend eternity with him.  I wanted to make more of us.  I wanted nothing short of a life of us together, forever. 

And here he was, asking that of me. 

I walked down that mountain with a step so free, I may as well have been bouncing between the clouds.  

Solid Ground. 

Us, forever and ever. 

Yes!  1,000 times Yes!

I will spend forever with you.

Love Story.

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

Here We Go

She said, “I don’t want to grow up!”

And for the first time, she really meant it. 

Feeling the weight of the added responsibilities of being nine, she has decided that this whole aging thing: it’s not for her.  

I can’t say I blame her.  

I paused to behold her face; to mourn the loss of her rapidly-ending childhood innocence; simultaneously wondering just who this grown girl is going to become. 

“No one understands what it’s like to be me!” she lamented.  

Girlfriend, join the club.  

Welcome to the real world. 

It’s not for the faint of heart. 

And as much as I want to protect and shield her from it, I’m honored that I have the privilege to walk beside her as she learns to grapple with the truth of it all. 

Hold my hand, here we go!

Camille Vaughan Photography