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.

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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.

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)

Fear and perfect love

Before I had my baby, I was frustrated at the foster system in New Zealand, which favours sending children back to their parents into homes that are “good enough.” Why, I wondered, should a child survive in a good enough home, when they can live in a good one? There was one particular little boy we had who I cried for after we dropped him off. My husband, too, felt angry that this little boy wouldn’t be loved, cherished and enjoyed the way he deserved to be.

When Madelyn was born, I understood why it was always preferable for the child to be with his or her own parents. My baby needs her mummy. The only place she wants to be when she is sick, or tired, or hurting is in my arms. Children have an intense loyalty to their parents, and they want to stay with them – often even in the face of abuse. So now I understand why, when there is no abuse and needs are provided for, children are sent back to their families. Three weeks after I gave birth, I watched a documentary from the UK about families in the social services system. Towards the end of the documentary, a young mother, who was living in a foster home with her two week old baby, messed up and lost her last chance to keep her baby. She was filmed sitting on the couch, looking at her baby, having just been told that she would lose custody of him. She just sat there. One may wonder why she didn’t show any emotion, but I think I know why. Where would you even begin? Straight after watching the documentary, holding my new baby in my arms, I told my husband that when Madelyn grows up, I want to open our home to young mums at risk of losing their children.

In September, I realised that I didn’t have to wait until I was older, had more experience, had more money, had more space. I could help mums keep their children right now. So for the last two months, that has been my mission, my prayer, for one mum who has become a precious friend to me.

Today, for the first time, I’m really stepping out to see that happen. Doing something tangible, but also something that involves taking my child into the midst of people who take drugs and who are violent.

I am terrified.

Nothing bad will happen. It will be totally fine, and there’s not even a legitimate concern for anyone’s safety. But if I had my way, my sweet daughter would never know anyone other than those who live healthy, fulfilling lives, those who are safe for her to be around.

My darling, my heart, is fast asleep and dreaming happy dreams while I pace nervously around the house. What do you wear, the day you take your baby right into the real world? What do you dress your child in? What snacks do you pack? What do you eat for breakfast? Nerves and fear twist themselves in my stomach, reaching their long fingers into my throat where they threaten to make me sick.

There is one thing I know to be true that comforts me right now.

God loves Madelyn more than I do.

He has asked me to serve Him. He will take care of her as I do His will. He is working all things together for the good of those who love Him. I can trust Him with my baby.

Perfect love drives out fear.

How to exercise and get your baby to nap at the same time

This blog post encompasses two problems:

1) Madelyn doesn’t like to sleep. Why would she? Sleep is silly. There are plenty of other, much more fun, things she could do instead. Once she finally gives in and has a nap, she wakes up within the hour, and you can see her thinking “What did I miss out on?!”

2) Finding the time to exercise takes skill greater than I possess. I would love to keep myself healthy, but it’s just so hard to find the time to do it.

I may have solved both of these problems with one simple solution:

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The baby smiled at me while I talked and sung to her until the gentle movement across the water lulled her off to sleep. And then I got to spend a couple of hours kayaking across the lake, enjoying being alone with my thoughts. I even pulled up on the bank under some shade and read while she slept out of the sun.

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I might do this more often.

I love my life.

Maddy and her Daddy

This little girl loves her daddy. DSCF1312 Her face lights up when she hears him arriving home. She turns to me, her eyes sparkling, and sighs happily. As he walks to the door, she sees him, and her little feet wave around. The first thing he does when he gets inside is kisses and tickles her, and she giggles and blushes. She pats whatever she’s eating or playing with, as if to say “Look what I’m doing, Daddy.” If she hears his voice while breastfeeding, she’ll stop feeding and start trying to sit up to get a look at him. Even if she’s half asleep. And she cries when he leaves for work in the morning. It is the cutest, most sad thing, watching her face as she realises he’s stopped playing with her and has started to leave.

Yesterday, while they were playing together, she looked at him and said “Da!” for the first time. She doesn’t know what that sound means yet, but the timing was brilliant.

She knows he delights in her. She knows she is his precious little girl. She knows her daddy loves her.

Six months old

My baby is half a year old.

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I can’t believe how fast these last 6 months have gone, nor how wonderful they have been. She’s stubborn, strong-willed, and knows how to get what she wants. We’re going to have fun with her. I love this about her, because I see her growing into a woman who is bold, uncompromising in her values, and not afraid to be a voice of justice.

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Miss Madelyn started commando crawling at 5 and a half months, and now it’s a lot harder to get good photos of her, because she doesn’t stay still for long enough. She gets around surprisingly fast, and she gets into everything. She refuses to stay on her changing mat long enough for me to put a new nappy on her. She follows us around everywhere, but cries as if her heart is breaking if we go too fast or move just out of sight. The poor cat has been chased a few times, too. Madelyn limps over to her, giggling her head off, and then as soon as she reaches out her hand to pat her, the cat scoots away as fast as she can.

 

 

She loves having people food. There hasn’t been anything so far that she’s refused to eat, though there are clearly some tastes she prefers over others. She loves, loves, loves water. I think she could actually just survive off water if we let her. Whenever she sees us drinking out of a cup or a water bottle, she wants some too. She’s actually pretty good at drinking out of her sippy cup. She can get it to her mouth, it’s just tipping it far enough that she needs help with.

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Her sleep is still erratic. Starting on solids is said to help a baby sleep longer, but not our Madelyn. She’s up every two hours wanting some more milk (maybe because she’s so busy during the day, she doesn’t get all she needs). We’ve had a few late nights where she’s just been hyperactive, like she has restless leg syndrome. She rolls around and around and around and gets up on her hands and knees and rocks and rolls some more, until she finally crashes.

She’s really funny and loves people. A few days ago, we were at the supermarket, and she was crying, then suddenly stopped and started smiling. I turned around to see what she was smiling at, and she’d caught the eye of one of the other customers, so had gone all cute. Cheeky little monkey.

 

We just adore her. She is so cute and playful and funny, she loves being the centre of attention, and she is so headstrong. We are excited about the woman she will grow up to be, and we are thankful for the time we get to spend with her now.