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

Momma

 

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Camille Vaughan

Hey, little girl.

Soak it up.

All that love shining right towards you because

It’s real.

I’m your momma and I love you through and through.

There may be other babies but to me,

You are you.

And I love you just the way you are.

I’m your momma.

And I’ll never stop loving you.

Big Picture

I felt the familiar pull.  The downward spiral. The fall. The loss of control. The pieces of my life that remained in the wake of my breakdown.

Too much, too soon.

I wanted it all and I was tired of waiting so I forged ahead at a breakneck pace, shattering ceilings along the way.

I gave up my career as a teacher to stay home with our first daughter but picked up a part-time sales consulting job when she was just 6 months.  I was successful and I felt driven, until it was more than our family could handle.  I gave it up when my third daughter was 6 months.

Three years passed and I felt restless, eager to grab an opportunity to work as a consultant for a publisher of children’s books that I adored.  I reassured myself and my husband that I could manage it all,  but I failed to consider my innate drive to share my passion, gaining business and momentum along the way until it became more than we could manage.

That’s when I plummeted.

Feeling trapped.  Unable to explore my professional potential.  And guilty for feeling that my children were getting in the way.

Until I remembered that moment in our kitchen when we chose to try for our fourth baby.

I realized that in that choice, I was choosing her.  I was choosing my family.  That I’ve had control all along.

I just needed to see the big picture.

These days feel long but the years are short.

I didn’t give up my profession.  I chose one: Mothering.

And how lucky I am to be able to make that choice.

Big Picture.

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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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