Brave Girl

“But the other kids are going to know I’m leaving.” She lamented. 

I could have lied.  I could have lost her trust by trying to convince her that, no, they wouldn’t. 

But I met her where she was. 

“Yes.  Yes, they will.  And this is a choice you have to make.”  I said, instead. 

“Either you endure a read-aloud that sends you into a full-blown panic-attack or you make accommodations for yourself, like anyone else with a disability does and you excuse yourself to the library. In other words, you own it.” 

For me, it’s environmental allergies.  When I pet a dog, I immediately wash my hands.  I’ve owned dogs.  I love dogs, I take allergy shots for dogs, but I am, alas, allergic to dogs.  I make accommodations. 

For her sister, it’s food allergies.  I make separate meals three times a day to accommodate.  

My daughter suffers from anxiety.  We treat with professionals and we do the best we can do avoid triggers, when we can. 

“What will I say, when they ask why I’m reading a different book?”

“You tell them the truth.”  I explain. “You own it, you brave, girl.  And you give others the chance to know that they are not alone, if they, too, feel the same way.”  

We are Carawans. 

We don’t run.  

We face, own and conquer.  

Here’s your chance to shine. 

You brave girl. 

[Posted with her permission]

Camille Vaughan Photography

Jump In

“Why do you look so mad?  Come on, it’s a beautiful day.”  He said to me, fuming on the one beach towel I had thrown in at the last second.   

Ugh.  I hate it when he is right, which is so very often. 

I was mad because I was trying to be spontaneous with four young children. 

I was mad because for once, I was trying not to help get swimsuits on, pack snacks and lunches and apply sunscreen.

I was mad because it, of course, backfired. 

All four of my children were in the ocean, fully clothed. 

And now, my husband, too.  

Today was supposed to be about our kids accompanying me and my husband to ECSC- an annual surfing and volleyball competition in our hometown of Virginia Beach.  

This was our stomping ground- the way we first met- the way we spent our sun-filled days. 

We had a truck-full of bicycles.  

We brought water. 

But we were there to watch volleyball so we left the rest. 

And here they were. 

In the ocean. 

Laughing, begging me to join them. 

What is one to do?

There was no other reasonable answer other than to jump in. 

So, of course, I did. 

When in doubt, 

Jump in.  

Just Like That

This one’s for all of my Empty Nesters out there. 

You think you’re ready. 

Joke as you “count down the days”.

And then, 

Just like that, 

They’re gone. 

Mine aren’t off to college

But the youngest is off to preschool this fall. 

And it’s been 10 years (and 199 days but who’s counting?)

Since I’ve been home alone. 

Let me repeat that. 

It’s been 10 and-a-half years since I’ve been home alone. 

I imagine that I will begin that first day crying and then laughing hysterically while eating ice cream in broad daylight watching inappropriate shows on Netflix. 

And on the second day . . . .

On that second day I am throwing myself a celebratory brunch because you know what?

I’ve earned it. 

And so have you. 

Take time to cry and then upon realizing that they will be just fine, 

Celebrate. 

Just like that.  

Camille Vaughan Photography

Growing Pains

“Mommy, it hurts.”  

I wish I could tell her that it stops. 

But it never does. 

Instead, they migrate from the bones to the heart.

From the physical to the emotional. 

These growing pains. 

Just when we think we’re done . . . 

There they are. 

To remind us that we aren’t yet done. 

Growing, that is. 

And when you think of it that way, it makes sense. 

Perhaps instead of dreading 

We should welcome the pains.  

Peel back that layer

And discover what comes next . . .   

Camille Vaughan Photography

Written while listening to Cover Bombs (Odesza Remix) by Nomadic Firs

Straight Up

It was our first meeting. 

And I told her, straight up: 

I won’t be able to tell you what I need. 

Instead, when I go into labor for the first time, and I’ve met you literally once, 

I  basically need you to read my mind and anticipate my needs. 

Welcome to the life of someone who has no gumption to ask for help. 

I didn’t say it in those words. 

I said it in apologetic, self-deprecating language.  

Like, I’m sorry I’m bothering you with paying to help me have a baby. 

I’m sorry I asked you to be my doula.  

I don’t know how to ask for or accept help. 

So, when I resorted to acupuncture to induce me, 10 days after her due date and a few days before they were going to induce me with pitocin, 

I apologized. 

My doula was a mother and it was a weekend, after all. 

She slept in a hospital room while Emmett and I labored all evening without the help I neglected to ask for. 

I had a perfectly, beautiful baby girl and I felt like a failure. 

Because I was too sorry to ask. 

And oh, was this not the theme of my life.

Too sorry. 

Too sorry to ask for help.

Too sorry for the imposition of my existence. 

Until I met others. 

And realized, I can’t change my past but I can forge our future. 

My daughters will be grounded and supported. 

They will not be afraid to ask for what they need. 

Instead, they will. 

Straight up. 

Lucky

I braced myself. 

Typically, it’s “You’ve got your hands full!”  Or “Wait until they are teenagers!” And “I hope your husband has a shotgun!”

But instead, this stranger at my door remarked, without hesitation, “You’re so lucky.”

And my heart smiled.  

The girls, never far from me, peeking from behind my legs smiled, too as I replied, “I really am.  I hit the jackpot!”

To be valued, to be appreciated, to be wanted- aren’t these all things that make us feel safe and joyful?

Getting my girls to the ages of 4, 6, 8 and 10 has been a rocky road.  In the back of my mind, I always held these particular ages up as the light to the end of my endless tunnel.  

And we made it!  We are here!  We are cruising and absolutely cherishing our baby girls.  

For the first time, I finally feel what mothers have been telling me for a decade now.  That it goes so fast.  That I’ll miss this time, one day.  Before, another baby always followed so I never felt like I had the chance to miss any phase. 

Now, I look at my eldest and I see her changing.  I want to bottle her up and cherish this moment in time.  But there she grows.  I find myself equal parts nostalgic and eager to continue to witness who she is becoming.  To know her. 

I’m no fool.  I realize the teenage years, especially with a house-full of girls (sharing one hallway bathroom with one sink!) is going to have its share of drama.  It already does.  

But I am actively choosing to focus on the light.  To focus on the blessing of their existence.  To feel lucky.  

Camille Vaughan Photography

Listener

Why didn’t anyone tell me this?

We spent K-12 in school learning the basics; 

Yet, somehow they missed informing humans that

They. Are. Not. Done. Growing.

We set a magic number: 

18. 

As if then, we are released to the world, ready to tackle it on our own!

What in the actual world??

Some of us go on to college, graduate or doctorate school. . . .

And some don’t.

Then, what?

We magically become parents who know it all?

No, no, no. 

The trickiest part of parenting for me is the revelation that I am growing right alongside with them. 

Who knew?

We are never done learning. 

There is no final exam. 

Just as they have their epiphanies, I have mine- only wishing I had mine first so that I could have led my children all the wiser.

Is this what they meant when they said ‘Life is not a destination, but a journey.”?

Oh. 

Perhaps, I should have been a better listener. 

Camille Vaughan Photography

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