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

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. 

Let Them Fly

I can see her now. 

Sitting on a landing, just outside her window; her legs folded closely to her chest, her arms wrapped securely around them.  Her forehead pressed against her knees.  

She is so very lonely.  

*********************

I can see them now.  

Four little girls, each creative, unique and beautiful soul looking to me, their mama, for guidance. 

When the pandemic hit, I cradled those babies in my arms, protecting them from the dangers that lie outside our loving nest.  

But life, ever-changing, continues.  

And lately, I’ve come to the stark realization that in my desire to protect my children, I am, instead, preventing their growth.  

How will they learn to adjust, when they are always accommodated?

I thought quitting homeschooling mid-year was the equivalent of failure. 

Now, I know that doing the same thing over and over, when it isn’t working, is the definition of insanity.  

In this case, quitting isn’t failing. 

It’s adapting. 

The course we are on is no longer what is best for my children and while making that pivotal turn towards something new is scary, it is also necessary for their continued growth.

*********************

I approach that little girl on the landing, placing the palm of my hand on top of her head, whispering, 

“One day, you’re going to be a mommy to four little girls and as much as you are going to want to shelter them, you don’t have to worry.  They will never be lonely.  Because they will have you.”

New Leaf Parenting. 

Every Day is a Fresh Start.

Turn the page. 

Start a new chapter. 

Let them fly.  

Camille Vaughan Photography

Fly

Y’all.  

I am in deep. 

These past two months, I have felt like I am trudging through thick, relentless mud.  

I haven’t had a lot to write about lately, simply because I haven’t had a nanosecond of extra time, nor an ounce of inspiration.  

It’s been really hard and really ugly. 

But I am here, writing to celebrate a little crack, a sliver of light that crept through today.

This past March, my youngest, Elizabeth, and I returned to mommy-and-me classes at The Little Gym.  They allowed me to stay alongside with her, even though she was beyond the age three limit.  They understood the impact the pandemic has had on children everywhere and that separating was more difficult than ever.  This Fall, however, it was time for Elizabeth to join the independent three year-old’s class.  

Lord knows, I knew this would be an uphill battle.  With so many health issues, Elizabeth is more dependent on me than most mother-daughter relationships. 

To her, I represent survival. 

For her, I want her to experience the joy of independence.  

We began in September with us sitting outside of class, watching the others play.  Gradually, we made our way into the gym, with her sitting on my lap against the wall.  Later, she would do a forward roll a foot away from me and then with bribery, she would run to an obstacle, complete it and run back to me.  I attempted to leave the room a few times that first month to no avail; instead, biding my time, sitting inside the room, encouraging her to spend more time off my lap.  

Today, for the first time in seven weeks, she completed class with me sitting outside, cheering her on through the picture window.  Fifteen minutes in, I announced to the lobby of parents, “Can we just all take a minute here to celebrate this milestone?!”  And they clapped and cheered right alongside me.  

I have four children and every single one of them has needs, specific to them. 

There were so many days that I wanted to throw in the towel but I am a mother. 

And mothers walk alongside their children.

Nudging, encouraging, lifting.  

Until their children discover the confidence to fly on their own.

Camille Vaughan Photography

Together

It was an innocent assignment; written in the curriculum years before the pandemic even began. 

Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote a letter to children in 1947 and now it was my child’s turn:

“Write a letter to children in the future describing what life is like today for your family.”  

She began with the simple facts:  her age, family and hometown.

But by the second paragraph, my nine-year-old froze.  

Covid-19.  Living during a pandemic.  

And just like that- it was all too much to bear. 

It’s one thing to survive on a daily basis. 

It’s another to face it in words.

The fear, the masks, the social distancing.

“Mommy, I don’t want to do this.”  She cried.  

I held her, told her to take a break and later said, 

“We’ll do it together.”

If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that we cannot do it alone.  

We do it together. 

Camille Vaughan Photography

Moving Beyond The Page, Epiphany Curriculum

Pandemic 2020

Dear Child,

We are living through a historical event and as somewhat of a historian myself, I feel it my duty to record our current events.

Donald Trump is our current President and the divide between the two majority parties (democrats and republicans) has, to me, never been greater.  It’s difficult to experience, as someone who thrives on living along the line, considering both sides.  Citizens are passionate and polarized.  They both want change for the better and feel their cause deserves dedication. They are likely right in their own way, but when opposed, fire ignites.

I have family and friends in both parties so it is difficult to juggle. Some feel scared to rock the boat by discussing politics while others feel it is their duty.  I must admit that I fall into the first category.  I fully recognize change is not always possible with great conflict, but for me, great conflict has defined my childhood and it is what I am most afraid of.

As I admit this, I am reminded of Alexander Hamilton’s famous quote, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”  I stand for listening and for considering. I stand for standing when it relates to me and that is where I recognize the issue.  I am privileged and was ignorant, until now.

Who stands with the minority?  If only always the minority then how can they ever become the majority? Perhaps this is what the majority fears.  After all, the Native Americans and the British were once the majority . . . .

So much to consider, it’s overwhelming on a daily basis.

Speaking of which, we are living through a pandemic!  Covid-19 to be exact.  It is a coronavirus, which is a respiratory illness.  There are also a lot of divisive opinions on how to respond to this virus.  Some feel masks and the new term “social distancing” (6 ft apart) is necessary, while others feel it is excessive. Our current Virginia governor, Ralph Northam, is a former pediatrician, so, he falls in the conservative category.

Some of our friends refuse to hug while others are offended if we don’t.  It is difficult to navigate.

It is also difficult to parent.

You have been out of public school since March 13th.  Initially, for 2 weeks, then, suddenly, for the remainder of the school year.  We were left to teach using online platforms and it was challenging to keep you motivated.  Sometimes you cried and were too overwhelmed to see your former classmates on a computer, frustrated by the inability to decipher who was speaking and what they were saying.  It felt chaotic and I hated that for you.

High school seniors missed their precious last rites: prom and graduation to name a couple.  It was devastating for parents and students alike but perhaps they are getting a head start on learning one of the most important lessons in life: to be adaptable. If they have children one day, they will certainly be humbled with that lesson, then!

Because of Covid-19, you did not see your grandparents for months due to fear of contraction and/or unknowingly spreading the virus to the most vulnerable populations: the elderly and those with compromised immune systems. At this point, almost a half a million people have died, worldwide, from this virus and over 100K of those were in the USA, alone!  So “social distancing” measures are still very much in place.

The first time you played with your neighbors across the street, after more than a month of quarantine, we drew a chalk line in the road to separate the families.  It was devastating and yet the best we felt we could do with the situation at hand.

You have begged for your friends, your extracurricular actives including ballet, piano and gymnastics and I have attempted to substitute with painting, baking (when flour is available!) and imaginative play.

Toilet paper.  That’s another crazy thing.

That was the first thing to go, can you believe it?  Toilet paper became the hot ticket item.  Not batteries or candles like hurricane season for us, but toilet paper! Now, on social media, I have ads for bidets and some restaurants offer a roll of toilet paper with your order to try and entice your purchase.  While bidets are common in Europe, for us Americans, the suggestive advertisement is super unusual.

Gas prices are also at an all time low.  The last time I remember gas prices dropping below $2 was before September 11, 2001.  Currently, in June of 2020, I can get a gallon of gas in Virginia for $1.79 a gallon.  If only there was somewhere to go . . . .

The economy is struggling.  Small business, especially.  Unemployment is at an all-time high.  We went from a rate of 3.5% in January 2020 to over 14% of Americans unemployed in April due to social distancing measures to prevent the spread of the virus.  Playgrounds, zoos, aquariums, water parks, concert venues, salons and retail stores have been completely closed.  Restaurants were allowed to offer take-out only and even now in “phase 2”, they are only allowed to seat at 50% capacity.  We actually went out to dinner last night for the first time since February and had to order upon entry, picking our own “to go” food up from the counter to eat at an outside table.  There were no servers or anything reusable which makes you wonder about the effects on the environment.

In the beginning, the environment seemed to rebound.  Italian canals, void of gondolas and the rest, were filled with clear water and fish! Clear skies in Los Angelas could be seen! Airports are vacant, cruise-lines are cancelled.  Lord, humans were the problem all along.

But now everything is disposable.  You cannot enter a store without a mask and should not wear them twice or without washing, if reusable.  Shopping carts at grocery stores (if you aren’t having them delivered or picking them up!) are cleaned between every use and stores that were once open 24 hours are now closed for deep cleaning.  Disposables are at an all-time high and it makes me wonder what the next generations will be dealing with as a result.

I wonder all of the time.

I wonder what life will be like for you next year.  For now, I am heavily planning to homeschool for the sake of consistency.  I fear that, although currently low, Covid-19 case numbers will begin to rise with the return of school and cold/flu season.  Recent plans have called for you to attend school in-person just two days a week with social distancing protocols including 6 ft between desks and the avoidance of exposure to other students, taking away the socialization you and I both love about school.  The other three days would consist of online learning which we endured for three short months at the end of this past year.  I cannot imagine an entire year of it.  Moreover, I am a former teacher with a Masters in PreK-6 education, so if anyone should be capable of teaching you, it should be me!  Having said that, I have many friends with full-time jobs.  What are they to do?  Teach and work full time?  Like hell!  It’s impossible. It’s precisely why I quit teaching fourth grade to become your mommy.  I knew I couldn’t do both, yet here we are.

Here we are child.

We are in tumultuous times.  Full of masks in response to the pandemic and riots for the rights of African Americans in the face of police brutality (look up George Floyd, Alton Sterling, and Michael Brown among many others).  Citizens are fighting for their rights and historically, change has not come without representation.  Much remains to be seen.

2020 has been bizarre (murder hornets?!)  but in a weird way, perhaps necessary to come to terms with what really matters.

I am doing my best to consider and respond to it all while still parenting you in the process.

I have no idea of how well I am doing but I do know that we cannot know where we are going until we know where we have come from.

So this recollection is for you.

There’s not much to be sure of these days but there’s always one thing and that is that I love you.

No matter the circumstances, you can always count on that.

And don’t you ever forget it.

Love,

Mommy

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Camille Vaughan Photography