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 

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

 

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

Stolen Moments

15 minutes here, 5 minutes there. A survival technique, part of our evolution as a growing family, these stolen moments sustain and fulfill us.

It began with an infatuation.  Absorbing one another like the Vitamin D saturating our skin on those endless beach days.  The dust settled in my apartment as my toothbrush claimed precious real estate on his bathroom sink.  His place became ours.

Time passed, my belly grew.  Date nights peppered our calendar, gradually lessening in frequency as my belly grew, grew and grew again. We treasured time together on the couch if we managed to get all of them asleep before we turned in, ourselves. If not, a quick kiss or a lingering hug sufficed.

Time with mommy became time with sissies. Mommy & Me music class turned into a dance party after breakfast, time at the salon to painting nails on our bathroom floor. Time with mommy became precious.

Not as long, no.  Not what it used to be.

Instead, richer, full of more hearts, sharing the beat of the same bloodline.

Stolen moments layering the patchwork of our years.

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Camille Vaughan Photography

 

Choice

YR8A5052-cvaughan.jpgI checked the bag three times before I left: Extra diapers, wipes, water for me, a burp cloth and even a nursing cover.  I was ready to head to the doctor’s with my eldest and my newborn, or at least I thought I was.  That is, until I realized, too late, I had forgotten my nursing pads.  Milk saturated the right side of my shirt while the baby nursed in the waiting room.  I positioned her to burp but before I could get the burp cloth situated, she vomited an entire cup of spit-up on my stomach and lap.  Hot, sour milk saturated my shorts and coated the inside of my thighs.  It was then that she exploded from her other end and it was then that I laughed and laughed.

Because, seriously.  What the hell else are you going to do in a situation like that?

If I had a dollar for every time my mother preached about “choices” during my childhood, I’d be rich. Bottom line, no matter what life hands us, we all have a choice in how we respond. As a young girl, “She made me feel” was met with “You chose to feel” and “I can’t”, “You choose not to”.

It’s all about perspective.

So when I announced to my husband that I had shaved my legs for the first time in a month last night (my modern day attempt at foreplay) and he looked at me as if to say “Do we have to?” I laughed and announced, “You’re not hurting my feelings if you want to take a pass!”  He chuckled a sigh of relief.  We’ve had four children in 6 years.  We’re, understandably, exhausted.  Our energy focused on soaking up every moment with our children during the days and surviving the nights.

We will make time for one another again sometime soon, but the baby is only 8 weeks old and God willing, we’ve got a lifetime ahead of us.

Perspective.

I could have cried (rightfully so) in that waiting room and I could have been offended at my husband’s less-than eager reaction but instead, I listened to what my mom has been teaching me all along- I made the choice to make the best of it and I’m happier for it.

Camille Vaughan Photography

Lean In

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Welcome to the world, Elizabeth Joy!  Our fourth daughter arrived two weeks ago, abruptly ending months of anticipation and successfully shifting the dynamics of our new “norm”.

We’ve experienced this change before.  Beginning with the dance of labor, the rocking, lunging, swaying back and forth.  The sensation of extreme heat immediately followed by chilling tremors of apparent sub-zero temperatures.  The digging-in, the roaring-out.  My arms, wrapped around my husband’s neck.  My doula’s steady hands, applying counter pressure to my spine; propping me up, when all I want to do is fall.

Yes, we’ve journeyed along this road many times.  When one is too weak to stand, the other is there to hold.  And yet, what do we do when we are both weary, unable to withstand the weight of another in addition to the weight of the things we already carry?

My husband and I found ourselves in that position just a few weeks before Elizabeth’s birth.  I, carrying an extra 30 pounds on my front-side, preparing for our fourth child’s arrival while trying to maintain a sense of normalcy for our 2, 4 and 6 year-old daughters.  My husband, juggling pressure from work and the sense of urgency to complete any and all major house projects before the arrival of our newborn.

Our tempers were short, our stress, high.  We refrained from burdening the other with our concerns, afraid that our additional weight would throw the other over the edge.

Withered and worried, along we trudged until we simultaneously erupted, hurling accusations and proclaiming “I’m doing the best I can!”  Our molten lava seeped from our mouths until there was nothing left to say except, “I know.”

Too weak to stand alone, not strong enough to carry another, we leaned-in.  And it was there, forehead to forehead, hands to hands, we discovered that together, we were strong enough to hold.

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Camille Vaughan Photography

First image Captured by Katie McCracken