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

Carry

“Carry me.”

I remember. 

I distinctly remember my thinking,

“This is it.  This is the last time.”

The heaviness of her footsteps.  

Her arms wrapped tightly around my back, my legs around her waist.

She struggled but she persevered.

“Mom, I can walk.”

“No, honey, I’ve got you.” 

We ascended the stairs to my bedroom, something she had done for a decade, but this time was different because now 

It was the last time. 

I was getting too heavy. 

I took note of the banister, wanting to remember its rich, brown, smoothness.  

The way I had always slid down it on my way to school. 

The security I felt in grasping it. 

I was outgrowing clothes and shoe sizes but until that moment I hadn’t realized, 

I’d outgrown my mother. 

“Carry me.” 

A cry for help I would continue until I carried my own.  

“Carry me,” my nine-year-old pleaded tonight. 

I wondered, 

Does she know?

It’s time she carried herself?

Camille Vaughan Photography

That Time We Homeschooled

Today was our last day of homeschooling.  

And I feel a mixture of relief and heartache.  

A year ago, I tossed and turned at night, wondering what to do about the upcoming school year.  

My children were breaking down over their zoom meetings- unable to come to the computer, overwhelmed with tears over the strangeness of virtual learning.

I knew Covid was only going to get worse in the winter months and feared what the school year would bring.  But I also feared how we would cope and adapt to homeschooling.  Would my children miss their friends?  Would they become hermits?  Would I lose my mind?

Ultimately, I went with my gut and in September, we dove right in.  Pre-K, 1st and 3rd grade.

In the course of this past school year, I’ve taught my daughter in Pre-K how to read, helped my first grader graduate from a beginning reader to fluently reading chapter books and taught my third grader multiplication, division, and through rich literature, discussed real-world issues like racism and poverty. 

In other words, I killed it!  We nailed it.  We had the absolute BEST time homeschooling, usually in our pajamas, ending by noon every day to spend the afternoon outside swimming, biking and playing.  Better yet, my husband was working from home so we had lunch together almost every day.  In so many ways, I want to freeze time and keep on, keepin’ on.  

But time continues to pass.  My children are growing older.  Our babysitter is off to college in the fall (for real this time after deferring her first year because of Covid) and my husband will likely return to the office soon.  

I struggled over the decision as to whether to continue homeschooling next year or to return them to our beloved public school in the back of our neighborhood.  But as amazing as this past year was, continuing to homeschool next year felt like holding onto a relationship that had passed its prime.  It was good while it lasted but my gut tells me it is time to move on. 

Life is a work in progress.  A series of never-ending surprises.  Having four children has taught me to roll with whatever comes my way and in the midst of it all, revel every moment. And this past year, we did just that.  That time we homeschooled.  A year we’ll never forget.  

Freedom!

NINE-AND-A-HALF YEARS.

I have been changing diapers for 9 and 1/2 years straight.

Until now. 

My fourth and final daughter is fully potty trained. 

For the first time in 9.5 years, I cancelled my diaper order. 

For the first time in 9.5 years, I did not reorder the baby wipes. 

And I’m-a-tell-y’all-what. 

It is a LIBERATING feeling. 

Nine-and-a-half years, no breaks. 

One adorable baby butt after another. 

But the time has come to say SEE YA!

Time to pass the buck on to other adorable baby butts- just not mine!

We made it!  

Freedom!

Necessity

Let me guess,

You didn’t want to, right?

But you had to.

Out of necessity.

Yea, I get it.

I’m that advocate, too.

And, likely, over half of those poor bastards you interact with on a daily basis are in the same spot.

Stuck, but still caring.

Trapped, but still loving.

Cornered, but still exploring options.

Always, continuously, every day.

Caring. Loving. Advocating.

Repeat.

Repeat.

Repeat.

Tired, but Repeat.

Exhausted, but Repeat.

No other options so, Repeat.

Yea, we’re tired.

But you know what else?

We’re resilient as hell.

We can see others differently, in spite of.

We can empathize.

We can offer a hand.

We can endure,

Out of necessity.

Camille Vaughan Photography

Forced Meditation

Here I am. 

Lying on the floor. 

Next to my daughter’s bed. 

A reminder of my failure to get her to sleep on her own like her three big sisters. 

Have I become a statistic?  The youngest gets whatever they want?

Or perhaps I am just too tired to fight. 

Ha- let’s not play ignorance- they are likely one in the same. 

I am tired and she was born to fight out of necessity. 

So, here we are. 

Prisoners in our own way. 

Dependent on one another. 

I remember convincing him that if he agreed to the fourth, she would be “mine”. 

I took full responsibility, although he would never agree to anything but equal, which made me love him even more. 

And yet, here I am.  Lying next to her bed and as much as he has literally and physically attempted to take my place, there is no substitute for her of me. 

I lie next to her and think, how I can make the most of this quiet time?

Unfortunately, it is forced, which is not a lovely place to be when you are trying to meditate. 

So some days, I sleep.  Others, I seethe in resentment of being on my 16th hour of parenting while he lounges on the couch.  

And sometimes, I think, one day, I’ll miss this. 

They won’t let me in their room. 

Their room won’t be here. 

I lie and wait.  For that heavy breathing. 

I leave, relieved, both for that she breathes and that I have the chance to catch my own. 

Camille Vaughan Photography

Here I Am

The fourth was supposed to be so easy I wouldn’t even notice her.

Except she demanded recognition at 15 weeks in utero- small. Too small. For good reason.

She was a sick baby and required monitoring the entire pregnancy.

I foolishly believed things would improve once she arrived earth-side, but they only got more complicated and she never wanted to leave my side: ever.

I had never had a newborn that would not sleep in a cot. She had to be touching. It was always this way.

Fast-forward two years- sick babe, exasperated mom, lost older siblings.

I lie face to her face- I touch her cheek and she, mine.

We smile.

An understanding.

A need met.

Although I feel like I have nothing left to give, I find my reserves and

Here.

I.

Am.

Here I am, Child.

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Camille Vaughan Photography

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