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

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. 

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

Little Things

We moved here seven years ago. 

And there she was with a smile and word of encouragement as she witnessed our family grow from two to three to four daughters, surpassing her own three. 

She reminded me to hold these babies because soon, they would be grown. 

She encouraged me, “You’re doing a great job.”

And when you are a stay-at-home-mom with limited outside exposure, those little words go a long way.  

Once a day, 5-6 days a week, Diane delivered our mail. 

Until today, when I received her handwritten note, announcing the end of an era. 

Her sobs told me she hadn’t expected me to call. 

And I realized maybe she wondered the same thing I did: 

Did I matter to you as much as you did to me?

It’s the little things. 

Human connection. 

That matter. 

Letting Go

Well, that was a first. 

My child had a full-blown panic attack. 

I could feel her fear when she said she couldn’t breathe.  

That her heart hurt. 

She was climbing onto me, spiraling out of control, desperate for me to save her. 

“You aren’t dying.  I know it feels like you are but you aren’t.  This is a panic attack.  Look at me.  Take deep breaths.”

Ironically enough, her father and I had just spent an hour the night before discussing the need for our family to spend more time listening to one another. 

Sure, we go, go, go!  We love adventures and experiences.  We spend quality time swimming, playing and exploring. 

But how much time have we set aside for listening?

We are living during a historical time- a pandemic- yes, this will be one for the history books. 

As much as we all have tried to buck up and just keep on, keepin’ on, many of us are silently suffering. 

And you know where it shows itself?

At the zoo.  Late for a train. 

Suddenly, it’s just too much. 

And we cannot any longer. 

So tonight, during our first, nightly family meeting, we opened the flood gates- offering our girls to let it out. 

It’s a process. 

When you’ve spent so much effort keeping it all in, it takes time. 

But we are committed to giving our children and each other the space to do just that. 

Let It Out.  Let It Go. 

Camille Vaughan Photography

Life Speaks

Studio City, CA.

A job as a scriptwriter with Dreamworks Entertainment. 

That is where I was headed the Summer of 2005. 

I had the roommate, the apartment and the moving van ready to go. 

And then I pulled the plug two weeks before I was due to leave. 

Was it the boy from Jersey that I was in love with?

Was it cold feet?

Or was it intuition?

They say hindsight is 20/20. 

But here’s what I know. 

I ended up moving in with a family of four children. 

I enjoyed helping the first grader learn how to read and after moving back to my hometown, decided to shadow a teacher to see if it would be a good fit for me. 

I ended up getting a Masters in Elementary Education Pk-6 and later, using it to homeschool my own children. 

And lookie-here.  

I’m still writing. 

Maybe not moving to Cali was a mistake. 

Maybe I’d be rich and famous! 

But I’d like to think that I’ve always had a keen sense of self. 

The ability to get quiet and listen. 

And what I heard back then was, “Don’t go.”

As a result, I met my husband.  I had these four beautiful daughters.  I became a teacher and remained a writer. 

Perhaps the best stories in life aren’t fiction, but our very own.  

Life speaks. 

Me as “Sissy” in Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean Jimmy Dean , 2000

Never Forgotten

What about the ones who never were?

Who would they have been?

What if it feels like they were already here?

When we first learned of their existence.

Sure they never were born of this Earth, 

But for a time, they were alive.  

And for many, it will always be this way. 

Mourning the loss of what-if.  

Who would they have become?

Years pass, 

And yet, they are still there.  

Always with us. 

Never forgotten. 

Camille Vaughan Photography