Witness

Not for you.

Not in place of you. 

With you. 

My eldest is entering her tween years and as much as I want to save her from the harrows that lie ahead, 

I recognize,

It’s her journey

I’ve already lived mine.  

I wish I could change the hands of some times, 

But they’ve led me to this moment, right now. 

The time I let go and witness. 

Not for me. 

Not in place of me.

With me.

Us. 

Camille Vaughan Photography

Notice

Have you noticed?

I do not consider myself a “current’ person but if you are on any kind of social media these days you have witnessed Ryan Reynlod’s reaction to his wife Blake Lively’s dress transformation. 

It’s straight out of one of his movies. 

Moving.  What dreams are made of. 

The moment was magnificent.  They are both extraordinarily beautiful, stunning people.

But what about the rest of us?

I vacuumed out my disgusting van while also prepping lunches, dinner and teacher gifts.  

He mowed the lawn, took out the trash and fixed Harper’s fan.

And yet I did not stop dead in my tracks to ogle him. 

Welcome to reality. 

It’s not extraordinary or sexy. 

It’s so completely normal that I am literally closing the stinky trash-can lid as I type.  

But the fantasy has us. 

And what’s wrong with that?

Because without fantasy, what have you?

Reality. 

It’s easier to dream than live. 

Have you noticed? 

Camille Vaughan Photography

40

I started and stopped. 

Some things are just too complicated to try and explain. 

But he looked at me and said, “Talk to me.” 

So, I told him. 

I explained how I had spent a lifetime trying to make sense of who I am today, based on my upbringing. 

I grew up dead-center-middle of a fractured family and as a result, I had built a life of trying to prove myself.  

I did this by being whatever the other person needed me to be. 

In other words, I had never found myself because I was too busy trying to be what anyone else needed. 

And this carried on through adulthood. Through friendships.  Through motherhood.  Through marriage. 

Oh, how easy it is to get lost in being whatever your children need.  Why else would there be an “empty nest syndrome”? 

But it was the marriage that had me, at the current moment. 

“What do you love about me?” I point-blank asked him. “Aside from the fact that we have similar interests and I don’t complain about you fishing . . . “

I asked him not to respond right away because I wanted a genuine answer. 

Do you love me because I am who you need me to be?

Or do you love me because of who I am?

In other words, do you see me?

Even when I can’t?

I’m soon celebrating the Eve of 40- an age I cannot *wait* to reach because finally, you just don’t give a damn anymore.  

And I. am. so. ready. 

To stop trying and to start just being. 

Camille Vaughan Photography

Tiny

Lately, bedtime at our house has been a scene of chaos.  

Commands of “Brush your teeth!  Get your jammies on!  Go potty!” are blatantly ignored, while my and my husband’s patience are next to nil.  

The littles go on the offense:  running around the house, slamming their legs down repeatedly on their beds as if they are mermaid tails or tossing stuffed animals back and forth all while incessantly giggling. 

This would be funny if it weren’t 9 PM and their parents weren’t desperate for a moment of peace and quiet. 

But it is and we are.  

Threats of no treats are empty, worthless ammo, so last week, I spent an hour reading articles about bedtime routines.  

I have to admit, since this isn’t my first time at the rodeo, I felt a little foolish having to research something I feel I should have nailed down.  For a time, I did but with the addition of each daughter, the loss of control has humbled me.  

Upon reflection, I recognized that if I want my children to be calm, I, too, must model the same behavior. 

Like most things, when it comes to solving problems, the change begins with me.

My days are spent in constant motion.  Even when they are at school, I am cramming in chores, particularly those which are easier without their presence like grocery shopping and laundry.  Throw in after-school activities, dinner-time and homework and next thing you know, it’s time to get the kids ready for bed. 

There’s very little time to wind down, for all of us.  

So, I asked myself: “How can I make them look forward to bedtime?”  Instead of this battle of wills, how can I get them to buy in?

Enter this article by Nurture and Thrive and this one by Picklebums.  Their suggestions include lullabies and massages, something I used to do when they were babies but have since stopped.  

I approached that same evening with a zen-like calmness rivaled only by Buddha himself.  

Instead of yelling at her to brush her teeth, I grabbed her hand and gently led her to the bathroom to begin the process.  Instead of picking up her room as fast as possible while tossing her the jammies, I sat down on the floor and helped her put them on.  I read her books, as usual, and stayed on the edge of the bed to sing a lullaby while scratching her back.  I then repeated this to some degree for three more children. . . . 

It seems like it would take longer but in actuality, my children were left calm and relaxed and thus, for the love of all that is holy, stayed put.  

Thank you Jesus and internet blogs.  

Slower motions.  Lower frequencies.  Tiny changes make the biggest difference.  

I approached that same evening with a zen-like calmness rivaled only by Buddha himself.
Camille Vaughan Photography

Forever Learning

I remember thinking, “No one taught me this.”

It began with the simplicity of taking notes.

I was a brand-new student at a Maryland boarding school.

We’d been asked to “take notes” on a couple of chapters. 

I looked like a fish-out-of-water when an experienced junior came to my rescue and offered to teach me.  

Her name was Pauli and she taught me how to highlight and write. 

Fast-forward to meeting my future-husband and his mother, Betty. 

She’d made a career as a homemaker. 

I’d never known one.

I started taking notes. 

How to cook, how to make a home feel like home. 

Four children later, I’m still taking notes. 

How to listen, how to heal. 

No one taught me this.

But I’m forever learning.  

Camille Vaughan Photography

Feet First

Life in our home has been extremely stressful, lately. 

And that’s saying a lot, considering the last four years with our youngest’s health issues.

When our Big Three returned to public school in January, we knew there would be a transition.

But I don’t think anyone could have fully prepared us for: 

The sickness: after living in a bubble for two years, this was inevitable but Lord, it has been relentless. 

The overwhelm:  “7 hours?!” They lament.  They are tired by day’s end and dreading the next. 

The pressure: to perform, to make friends, to survive. 

And yet, here we are.  Just beyond the Ides of March.  We are halfway there and I know we are going to make it after-all.  

These have been trying months. 

As much as I thought I would have “free time”, I have spent the last 2 months playing catch-up to all that I neglected while they were home the last two years.  

My husband and I look at each other and realize, 

There’s so much more to come.  

So, we hold hands. 

And jump in, 

Feet first. 

Here I am

“I’ll always love you but some days, I don’t like you.”  

I remember my mother saying this to me, as a child.  

It has never resonated with me more.

It sounds harsh, but as a parent myself now, I understand what she meant. 

One of our daughters has been having a really tough time lately and I’m going to be honest; spending time with her feels like work.

She’s struggling and her way of coping is to act out. 

This week my mom said, “They need the most love when they are the most unlovable.”

Ugh.  The ugly truth. 

She knows this from her experience of parenting me.

I was NOT an easy child.  Strong-willed, relentless, exhausting. 

But she kept on loving me.

Despite my outbursts and her exasperation, she held. 

I pushed, she stayed.

And here I am.

Exhausted and exasperated with my daughter. 

But I stay. 

I love. 

I hold. 

Like her behavior or not, here I am.

Camille Vaughan Photography

Choose Well

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, a holiday dedicated to declaring love. 

And what I want my girls to know

Is that love doesn’t come easy. 

Their father and I make it look like it does, 

But that is because we chose well.  

We both had opportunities to choose otherwise; 

But we waited. 

We waited to find one another. 

And they are the product of our love. 

What I want my girls to know 

Is that love SHOULD feel easy

Because when you choose well 

It is.  

Choose well. 

Minutes after he proposed at Tahoe!

Circle of Control

My girls have been “back”’to school for almost a month now and Lord, it hasn’t been easy. Between a week off with Covid, snow days, half-days and holidays, there’s been little consistency. The days are “too long”, school is “too weird” and they don’t understand “why they have to do this”.

Today, I drew them their “circle of control”- the things they should focus on- what they want to eat for breakfast, wear and play- how they decide to move their body. All of the other things- the weather, having to go to school, how other people live and behave- are not in their control.

I explained that every day, we have a choice on what we focus on. It’s easy to get lost in the things out of our control- best to leave those things to God and to live with a heart full of gratitude for the things in our immediate circle.

New Leaf Parenting. Every Day is a Fresh Start. Turn the page and try again.