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

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

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

Our Way

I’m not sure if it was the package of Bertie’s Every Flavor Beans or the recent memory of Halloween, but when one of my daughters asked our youngest if she wanted to try a questionable jelly-bean and I hesitated, not knowing the allergens involved, I saw, for the first time, our youngest change. 

She understood and was affected. 

Rather than ignore, I followed her into her bedroom and quietly conversed, “Hey, how are you?”

Forlornly, she looked at me and I knew the jig was up.  

There was no more fooling this three “and-a-half” year-old.  

I decided to meet her where she was.

“Are you sad because you aren’t able to eat the same things as your sisters?”

It was a first admission of mine. The terrible truth almost always substituted or downright avoided. 

Instead of answering, she buried her head into my shoulder and wept.  

What is a mother to do?

Pancakes, muffins, cupcakes, waffles, even popsicles I can substitute.  

But jellybeans on the fly?  I’m out of my realm.  

She’s too old to fool. 

Instead, I meet her. 

Yes, this sucks. 

No, this isn’t fair.  

Yes, you can be sad and angry.  

And together, we will find your way, child.  

We are more than the worst thing that has ever happened to us. 

We will find our way.  

Help

Lately, one of our daughters has been suffering from extreme anxiety.  We’ve been in counseling and seeing her pediatrician on a regular basis.  I’ve also supplemented my daily reading with a plethora of parenting books and podcasts and today, I wanted to share some resources that have been particularly helpful.  

1).  It all began with this book my friend, Leslie, recommended.  Sissy Goff is a Christian counselor MEd, LPC-MHSP based out of Nashville, TN.  She works exclusively with young girls who are suffering from worry, anxiety and/or depression alongside a counselor for boys, David Thomas, LMSW and Melissa Trevathan, MRE who started their practice Daystar Counseling in the 1980s.  This is a workbook designed for a parent to work through with their child and it has been an absolutely wonderful resource for our family.  

2).  This is the companion book to the workbook above, also by Sissy Goff, intended for parents to read as they support their daughter through worry and anxiety.  I have underlined half of the book. 

3).  This is the INCREDIBLE PODCAST that I have been listening to with counselors Sissy, David and Melissa.  Each episode is only 20-30 minutes and is PACKED with useful strategies, many of which I have implemented that very same day!  Season 4 Episode 7 is specially about worry and anxiety and depression and since it was recorded so recently, it really discusses the effect the pandemic has had on our children.  I cannot recommend this entire podcast enough, but particularly this episode!  If you do nothing else on this list, listen to this.  

https://www.raisingboysandgirls.com/listen

4). Season 4 of the Raising Boys and Girls podcast is centered around Sissy’s newest book, Modern Parents, Vintage Values which I have in my reading pile but haven’t started.  Everything they discuss in the podcast is right in line with our family’s values so I cannot wait to begin this book! 

5). Finally, this is another book co-written by the same three counselors and another in my “to read” pile, by my side as I type.  

Philosopher Plato once said, “Be kind.  Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

Happy photos on social media tell only one side of a story- a book with many chapters.  My hope is that in sharing a battle our own family is fighting, you will know you are not alone in yours.  I hope these resources are as useful to some of you as they have been to us.  ❤

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

Let’s Go!

One year ago, in the face of a dooming pandemic, I made the difficult decision to homeschool.

I worried.

Oh, I worried. 

I worried about FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out).  I worried about them becoming hermits, afraid of unfamiliar shadows.  I worried about them being taught by their mom, because as a former teacher myself, I know the power of a teacher’s ability to reach students in a different way than other teachers, parents or friends and I wanted that for them.

In all honesty, I still want to be that for other students.

I worried about them being left behind, especially as they witnessed their friends still attend our beloved, local school.  

Ultimately, I went with my gut and we had an incredible year. 

Spring arrived and with it, the hope of the pandemic’s near-end. 

I started to prepare the girls for their return to school in the Fall, casually mentioning how cool it would be to wave to their friends in the hallway on their way to P.E., Music or Art class.  Did they know the Fall Festival was already booked for this year?  Were they looking forward to the Fun Run?

But upon Summer’s dawn, doubt settled in. 

A vaccine, that I had traveled to another state to get just so I could get it as soon as possible, was available and yet, less than half the country had opted to receive it.  The country was split- my body, my choice/ our country, our responsibility.  

Now, variants are on the rise and social distancing measures, including masks are still required at school.  

Holding a Masters in Elementary Education, I am in a unique situation.  

My husband has worked from home since the pandemic began and I am able to stay home to teach with hired help to occupy the girls not currently in lesson.  

Moreover, apparently I made homeschooling too fun.  All three big girls have begged to continue; and while part of me felt that this was fear-based on having been away for a year, I couldn’t bring myself to convince them that their school could provide a better learning environment than what we had going on right in the Carawan Classroom.  

My *entire* experience as a parent has been blessed with the wisdom of my elders: Don’t blink. Cherish these days.  It goes by SO fast.  

Combine the pandemic, the pressure from my children, the wisdom of my elders and my innate joy in continuing to teach my daughters, and here we are.

That time we homeschooled (X2). 

2021-2022.  

Let’s Go! 

Camille Vaughan Photography

Listen and Learn

If I had a dime . . . 

For every time I heard a senior tell me to cherish these days . . . 

After awhile, I just started listening. 

In the end, aren’t we yelling at our children for the same infraction?

LISTEN. 

Why do I gotta wait until I’m 70 to learn?

Instead, let’s do this now!

Not miss a beat. 

Not miss a moment. 

Let’s enjoy these days to their fullest.  

Like they always said we should. 

Let’s listen and learn. 

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