I am in awe of this girl

Madelyn’s friend is upset, crying while being cuddled by her mother. Madelyn stops what she is doing and toddles over to her friend, a look of concern on her face. “Oh,” she clucks, as she pats her friend on the back.

My heart melts.

Madelyn is playing in the garden with her Nana. She sees Nana approaching the small step that Madelyn herself has only recently mastered. She rushes over, her hand held up, nodding to her Nana. She’ll help her down.

She isn’t even 18 months old yet.

Madelyn stands by the table and reaches up. “Nah nah,” she pleads, “nah nah.” I get a banana from the fruit bowl, peel it and hand half to her. She holds the banana to the mouth of the toy alligator in her hand, smacking her lips to mimic the alligator eating. After a while, she puts the banana down and keeps playing. The alligator was hungry.

How does she know to do this?

Madelyn is playing in the toddler room at church when her friend walks in and stands at the door, unsure of the faces she doesn’t know. A smile spreads across Madelyn’s face, and she runs over to her, hand held out. “It’s okay,” her actions say, “Come and play with me, I’ll take care of you.”

She brings her toys to me to breastfeed. She sets beds up for them, and lays down with them, singing them to sleep. She stops to talk to every animal she sees. She cuddles and kisses and hold hands, and seems to instinctively know when someone is in need of her comforting presence.

My tiny child only says a handful of words, but already she is empathetic, compassionate, kind. She nurtures and protects. She loves.

I am in awe of this girl.

A tale from when she SHOULD have been in the playroom – not the bathroom!

I recently got an email from Dropcam asking me to participate in their “Tales From The Playroom” campaign, a challenge to share a funny or heartwarming story about something my child has done. Okay, game on!

Last night was one of those evenings where I wish I’d had a Dropcam to use as a baby moniter. It may have saved me a lot of money.

Due to my abysmal time-management skills, which saw me crawling into bed at 2am that morning, I was exhausted and so was getting Madelyn ready for bed earlier than usual. She was still energetic and mischievous, but I hoped a calm, drawn out bedtime routine would help her settle to sleep. I was running her a bath, and had stepped out of the bathroom for a few seconds to grab something, assuming Madelyn had followed me as she’d been underfoot all afternoon.

Until then I heard a bang and a massive splash.

I ran back into the bathroom, hoping I wouldn’t find her unconscious at the bottom of the tub. I let out a sigh of relief when I saw her standing beside the bath, looking at me like she was the most clever girl in the world. Soon after my sigh of relief was followed by a cry of frustration when I noticed a small, black rectangle sinking down through the water.

The little monkey had thrown my phone into the bath. How clever of her.

To be fair, it’s kind of my fault. I’ve been encouraging her to put things into boxes and baskets (mostly her toys, into the toy box). What a large, exciting “box” the bath must have seemed to her young mind. Who would have thought I’d be saying that teaching my child to clean up backfired on me?

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At least she’s cute

Why my husband isn’t coming with me to the other side of the world

Those of you who visit my Facebook page will know that Madelyn and I are going to England in July. I am so excited! We’re primarily going over to visit my dad, step mum and little sister, but will catch up with a few friends while we’re over there too.

Controversially, we’ve made the decision that my daughter and I will go to England for three and a half weeks alone, leaving my husband at home. He was able to get the time off work, we have enough money saved to buy his ticket, and we were all set to book the flights, when a last minute truce resulted in his ticket just not being booked. Many people have been confused as to why, it doesn’t seem to make sense that half of our family would go to the other side of the world without the other half, so here is our reasoning. This trip to England has been in the works for almost 10 years, since the last time I went to visit my family over there at 16. I’d always planned on going back, and when Angus and I got married, we discussed going there together. We have several very close friends in England as well as my family, and had actually planned to go in July of last year, but put those plans on hold when I fell pregnant with Madelyn. Angus actually has zero desire to travel, and was not keen on the idea of spending thousands of dollars to go to England when he was perfectly happy here in New Zealand. My dad offered to pay for one of us and Madelyn to go over, we just needed to pay for the other one of us. So we saved up enough for one adult return flight, found the cheapest flights we could, and were all ready to book the flights…

We argued every evening for 4 days. We were stressed out and impatient with each other, and every conversation turned into a disagreement. I’d found these cheap(er) flights, and wanted to book them, but because of a few larger purchases we’d made recently (two new cars and a motorbike), we were slightly short. I wanted to figure out what money to move around so that we could afford it, but every time I tried to get Angus to sit down to sort it out, it would end in an argument about money. He would lament how much I spend, and would get a piece of paper and work out exactly how much money we would lose going on this trip (despite two flights being paid for, it was going to cost us around $8,000 due to credit card interest). Worried that my opportunity to go back to England was slipping quickly out of my hands, I became more insistent that we just book the flights right now.

It came to the last day that the travel agent could hold the tickets for us. To help Angus not stress about spending so much money, I asked my dad if he could pay directly rather than having us pay now and forwarding us the money. That morning, before Angus left for work, we argued about money. He came home a couple of hours later, and we argued some more. He said that after this trip we would never travel overseas again, and that he was going to take complete control over the money situation so that we wouldn’t need to use so much on our credit card. It didn’t help that we were short on money at the time anyway. He told me that, if it were up to him, we wouldn’t go. I couldn’t not go.

I spent the morning worrying. I knew that to make him happy I needed to say we wouldn’t go. I knew that he would forever resent the amount of money spent, that it would delay us buying a house, and that the bitterness would build up inside him for years to come. But I also knew that I would forever resent not being able to go, that I would be similarly bitter for years to come. I had no idea what to do, there seemed to be no easy answer.

Then my dad called to let me know that he had paid for one adult and for Madelyn. It was done. Madelyn and I were going to England. Definitely. No going back, despite the money situation. It was happening.

The weight that had been on my shoulders all week evaporated. And as it did so, I realised that there was one other option. Not one I liked. Not one I would have chosen if it were up to me. But I knew it was the kindest thing to do. So I called Angus and asked him to come home for a minute, and I said to him,

“My dad called, he’s booked the flights for Madelyn and I…”

“Okay…” he replied, his face still twisted with worry, his shoulders still tense with stress.

“There is one option, and I don’t like it, but it’s there” I took a deep breath, “You don’t have to come.”

He visibly relaxed, and said that he’d been talking about the exact same idea with his boss. His boss thought he should go, it was a once in a lifetime opportunity, but they’d discussed the pros and cons of me going without him. Angus had only two concerns, 1) Would I be okay on the plane? and 2) A month (the length of time we’d planned on going) would be far too long for us to spend apart. I assured him that, while the flights would be hard, I’d cope. And we discussed shortening the trip to only two and a half weeks.

So it was decided. I called the travel agent, not to book Angus’s ticket, but to see about the possibility of moving our flight home to nearly two weeks earlier. It turned out that the only flight home around the date we wanted was right in the middle of a camp Angus would be involved in, so we pushed it out to three weeks. At 5pm, when the ticket would have stopped being held, it was official. Madelyn and I were travelling to the other side of the world without our husband and father.

People think we’re crazy. They feel frustrated at Angus, because they think he should be coming too. It’s not proper for a family to be so far from each other. But, if I may be so very real, it was going to ruin our marriage if I forced him to come. It wasn’t fair of him to ask me not to go. But, at the same time, it wasn’t fair of me to pressure him into going. We will miss each other very much, and the flight will be horrendous, but it is the best decision for our marriage. We are both extremely happy about it. Straight away, Angus started talking about maybe going over to Australia to visit friends of ours, even a potentially international missions trip. I mentioned that I can save up the money I earn teaching dance to use as spending money, and he said “I’ll give you some spending money too.” That evening, we did not argue at all. In fact, we haven’t really argued since.

Marriage isn’t about “ought to”s, and it’s not black and white. It involves a lot of compromise. We each had something we absolutely could not move on, and we needed to work around that for the benefit of each of us.

A Party for Madelyn

(I am very sorry that I’ve been so slack with blogging recently. Madelyn tires me out ;) Her 12 month old update is coming soon, I promise!)

A party! A party!

Madelyn’s first birthday party was so much fun. I loved being a real mum planning a real birthday party for my real daughter. We just had a nice, simple afternoon tea at our house with driveway chalk, a sandpit, a little playground and lots of grass. We were going to have a bouncy castle too, but it was possibly the most windy day of the whole summer. Madelyn loved having all her friends and family with her to celebrate her special day.

I have called you to be Mummy

Sitting up late at night, feeling isolated and overwhelmed, I mourned the missed opportunities to serve God as I have concentrated on my baby.

My Heavenly Father whispered into my heart, “I have called you to be Mummy.

You are not missing out. You are not useless. You are exactly where I intend you to be. I am preparing your heart to nurture people, to love them as they grow and tend to them until they blossom into who I have created them to be. I will give you a legacy, and an inheritance to leave your children.

I have called you to be Mummy.”

I have a new sense of meaning, a purpose for my life. Everything I do is not wasted. I am living out my identity

 

Twenty six things I love about my twenty six year old husband

It was my husband’s twenty sixth birthday, so I’ve written a list of one thing I love about him for every year of his life. I did the same thing three years ago, but I’ve done this list without looking at the last one, so hopefully I don’t double up.

I love…

1. His wisdom
2. His loyalty
3. His sense of humour
4. That he works so hard so that I can stay home with Madelyn
5. How he is so good at keeping secrets
6. And how he knows when to keep said secrets, and when it’s okay to tell others
7. The admiration and trust in Madelyn’s voice when she says “Daddy”
8. How smart he is
9. His honesty
10. How easily he gets along with everyone he meets
11. How much the kids he works with love him
12. The way he gains the respect of the kids he works with
13. How level-headed he is
14. His ability to stay calm in an emergency
15. How logical he is
16. How good he is with money
17. His leadership
18. His confidence
19. How much he loves Madelyn
20. How understanding he is
21. How he remains in control of his emotions
22. His support of me as Madelyn’s mother
23. His hospitality
24. His face
25. How much fun it is to do life with him
26. The way we have become so comfortable with each other

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“I know what it is to live entirely for and with what I love best on earth. I hold myself supremely blest — blest beyond what language can express; because I am my husband’s life as fully as he is mine.” 
― Charlotte Brontë (Jane Eyre)

Eleven months old

I had this all typed up, I just needed to add the photos, and then the computer crashed and I lost it!

Our little tornado is now 11 months old.

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“Tornado” really is the best word to use to describe little Madelyn. She is everywhere. She crawls so fast, and gets into absolutely everything. She loves to be chased, climbs everything, and flings herself around on couches and mattresses. For the past few weeks, she’s been squatting while playing and trying to stand up. Two days after she turned 11 months old, we were at the beach, and she started standing up on her own! She’s gotten really good at it since then, but still hasn’t even tried to take a step. She’s such a fast crawler, she actually runs on her hands and feet. 

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It’s amazing how good she’s getting at communicating, even though she can’t really talk. She does have a few words – “Mummy,” “Daddy/Dad” and “Ma ma” (to indicate she wants to breastfeed), as well as “Look!” and “That!” which she says while pointing a lot. She does a lot of pointing, and is very insistent about what she’s pointing at. It’s very obvious where she wants to go or what she wants to play with. She can also cheep (“ee ee”) like a chick, and quack (“bap bap”) like a duck. She chatters away constantly, and looks very intently at people when she’s talking, just like she’s telling a story. She talks about her daddy a lot. Even at the supermarket, she tells the checkout ladies all about her dad (you can tell she’s actually talking about her dad and not just babbling, because her voice has a special tone for “Daddy”). One morning, we woke up after her daddy had gone to work, and Madelyn pointed at the door and said “Dad dad dad!” I replied “Yes, we’ll go and see Daddy soon,” to which she frowned, pointed again and shouted “DAD DAD DAD!” Baby Girl knows what she wants.

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Madelyn loves books. We go to the library once a week, and she gets so excited every time. Partially because there’s a wide, open space for her to run around in (on her hands and feet, with lots of flinging), but also because there are books she can “read.” She’ll spend hours opening and closing books, looking at the pictures, lifting the flaps and feeling the different textures in “touch” books. She loves being read to as well, and especially loves animal books where she can try and repeat the sounds the animal makes. Madelyn also loves playing games, especially Peek-a-Boo. She likes being the hider best. She’ll pull something over her head, and then you say “Where’s Madelyn?” and then she uncovers her face with this massive grin. One day recently, she even covered her face with her hands, babbled questioningly, and then pulled her hands away and said “Ah!” She loves chasing people and being chased, and shrieks with delight when she is caught.

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It sounds crazy, but she sings. Not just tunelessly either, she actually sings in tune. To music that is playing, or with people who are singing to her. She matches pitch. It is uncanny. And when she sings to someone, she looks them in the eye, cocks her head to the side, and really sings her heart out. She claps whenever she hears music, and lately we’ve started noticing that she’s actually clapping in time with the beat. The other day her daddy even saw her tapping her foot in time with the music. It’s crazy that she has such an innate sense of rhythm and love of music.

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She is becoming so affectionate. She loves giving kisses and cuddles, and has started climbing up into peoples’ laps to just sit with them. Her kisses are prolonged and open-mouthed. She reaches out for people other than her daddy and I. She likes people to sit on the ground and play with her, and she stands up and holds their shoulders while she plays. When someone is lying on the ground, she’ll come up and recline on them, as close as she can to their face. She gets really into it, and keeps wriggling around and slides off, so then she gets back up and starts again.

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Madelyn is a little performer. Whenever we have people over, she puts on a little show, where she’ll crawl around the middle of the room we’re all in and do the cutest things she can think of. She loves to make people laugh, and she loves to see everyone delighting in her.

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She is so wonderful. So funny, so crazy, so beautiful. Our lives are better because she’s here, and we love her so much.

An Open Letter To My First Dance Teacher

(This letter is actually two letters. I started dancing in 1995, when I was six years old. My teachers were a mother/daughter team, and they often alternated classes. I can’t remember who taught my very first class, so I’ve written a letter to each of them for this post)

An Open Letter To My First Dance Teacher

Snowflakes ’95. I am in the front row, second in from the right.

Dear Natasha,

When I came to you for dance classes, I was a day-dreaming, imaginative, chatty little girl. As a dance teacher, I now know that I must have been rather annoying to teach. You may have found me cute, but I wouldn’t have been one of those kids who were a pleasure to teach. I wasn’t focused, I wasn’t all that interested in improving. I just came to dancing to have fun. To be honest, I was probably quite painful to teach.

But you delighted in me. You encouraged me. You laughed with me. Never once did you give me the impression that I was annoying, that you’d rather spend your time with a child who was serious about dancing. You taught me that I was wonderful. Twice a week, I came into your dance class and had my self-esteem topped up by you, who appreciated me and loved me the way I was. You were always kind, always patient.

Though I was probably the last student you would ever expect to have a career related to dance, I am now a dance teacher. I teach some of the most wonderful girls and boys, many of them just like me. Because I remember how good you helped me to feel about myself, I am determined to enjoy every single child that I teach. You have inspired me.

Thank you,

Courtney

– – – – –

Dear Mrs Hodson,

You were a fantastic dance teacher. Strict, but fun. As a dance teacher now, I appreciate how hard it must have been to enforce the rules you did. I find myself saying “When I was a child, we would NEVER  have…” to my students all the time. How did you get everyone to take off their shoes and put on a jumper before leaving the building? How did you do costumes without having any one complain? How did you get us all to practice? 

Thank you for teaching me discipline. Thank you for expecting me to be well-groomed and well behaved. Thank you for always trying to get the best out of me. And thank you for managing to be kind while doing so.

Thank you,

Courtney

I forgot to tell you about…Making A Potion

This is number 3 in a series of photos of things that I planned to tell you about, but never finished the blog post. The first two are here and here. Here’s another one from December 2013.

I forgot to tell you about making a potion.

Tactile play to help her brain grow.

Bits of everything from the garden.

Tastes good?

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