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.

My baby worships God

My baby worships God.

She doesn’t copy us. Neither Angus nor I are particularly expressive when worshipping God through music.

She isn’t just dancing. She dances, too, and it involves a lot of stamping and hip-wagging, whereas she sways as she worships, with her hands raised, eyes closed.

I thought I was just projecting my own experiences onto her, seeing what I wanted to see, but it is unmistakable. My baby worships God.

The first time she did it was a few weeks ago, at a conference we went to. Madelyn and I were in the parents room with a couple of friends, where the main session was being streamed to a TV so we could watch. A man began to sing ‘Scarlet Love,’ and Madelyn and her friend stopped playing and started to praise God, their faces intent, their voices lifted high. Before that moment, she had lifted her hands during worship and loved to sing, but that was just copying. This was very purposeful, and tangible in it’s holiness. Driving home from the conference, I was reminded that it says in the Bible that God ordains praise from the mouths of babies. When I got home, I looked up the specific verse, and found this:

From the mouths of children and nursing babies
You have ordained praise on account of Your adversaries,
so that You might put an end to the vindictive enemy.
Psalm 8:2

Chills.

It’s not just cute that my baby worships God. It’s not just beautiful and exciting. God is using her praises as a weapon in spiritual warfare. How much more life is than what it seems at first glance.

Instagram or it didn’t happen

This weekend, Madelyn and I took a trip to Tirau with a special friend of ours. It was a lovely day, wandering through antique and artsy stores while Madelyn slept in the mei tai, pies and hot chips for lunch, Madelyn running freely down the street, and fun with finger puppets (three of which she got to take home).

And then, just as the day drew to a close, I actually said, “Oh, I should take some photos so I can write a blog post about it.” So I took quite a cute photo of Madelyn looking smug with her finger puppets, and then (I wish I could say I’m kidding, but this actually happened), I had my friend take photos out the car window while we drove away. What’s worse is that I was disappointed, thinking “Oh, I should have taken photos of her playing with the finger puppets…I should have gotten a photo of her sitting up at the booth at lunch…Her sleepy face peeping out from the mei tai would have been such a cute photo.”

It’s not that I was sad about not getting photos that shocks me, it’s that I wanted photos specifically to put on social media. I wanted to put a photo up on my new Instagram account, and then write a soppy blog post about special mornings that happen off the cuff, complete with photos of my adorable toddler.

Is this my life now? Only lived through the lens of a camera? Only experienced on social media?

Yes, I had a beautiful day. Our little random trip to Tirau can stand as a memory on it’s own, it doesn’t need to exist on the internet in order to matter. It doesn’t need the ‘likes’ and comments of other people for it to be validated. I could have set up the perfect pictures, I could have made it look amazing, and made every one else think I have the most incredible, not-quite-hipster life. But that wouldn’t have made my day any more amazing. In fact, I think it would have ruined it. Posing the perfect photo and choosing a filter for Instagram is not living.

I will put the photo of Madelyn walking with her finger puppets in hand on Instagram, because it’s a cute photo and it’s waiting to be uploaded (I haven’t connected my iPad to the internet at home, because I want to be present with my family at home). But I vow to never again nearly ruin a day with my obsession for capturing the moment to share on the internet. My life doesn’t need ‘likes’ in order for it to be validated.

Give Yourself A Raise

A little while ago, I received an email from Raise asking me to participate in their campaign ‘Give Yourself A Raise,’ where I’m to share about how I reward  myself as a mother. Raise is an awesome new marketplace to buy and sell gift cards on the web.  With the extra money you can save on discount gift cards to your favorite brands, you can spend more on the things you love.

I’ve been pretty honest on here lately about how much I struggle with the lack of tangible rewards, and especially praise, that motherhood brings. Motherhood is intense, and it is constant. I find myself both loving my life and feeling utterly exhausted, and it often feels like there is no reprieve. My daughter makes me sparkle and shine. Nevertheless, I have very little time during the day to relax, and yet I struggle to get everything done, and I end up feeling lazy and berating myself because my house is a pig sty and I got fast food yet again. Being a mother is wonderful and is it’s own reward. Being a mother is difficult and thankless.

I couldn’t really think of what I do to reward myself. Being a mum makes everything except laying down your life for your kid seem selfish. So writing this blog post was pretty hard. But then, Thursday morning happened.

My little girl is pretty happy-go-lucky. She’s clear about what she wants, and full of energy, and for the most part, she’s easy to be around. But on Thursday she was having an off morning. She hasn’t been eating or sleeping well, because she has teeth coming through, so she was quite grumpy, and everything felt like a bit too much.

First, she didn’t want her water. We were at Playcentre, and she walked around the morning tea table, grabbing which ever water bottle she could see and trying to drink out of it. When I swapped the bottle for her own water bottle, she had a tantrum.

Then, she was playing in the pretend kitchen, picked up a fake cob of corn, and brought it over to me, tapping it and frowning. When I told her it wasn’t real corn, Tantrum Time.

Lastly, as we were leaving, she made a game of stealing things out of other kids’ bags, and running away with them. Cue third full on tantrum in an hour.

I had been planning on making lunch. I’d even decided what to make. I was so determined to be “good” and make my own lunch instead of going through a drive-through. But as we got into the car, I said to Madelyn, “Right. I’m going to need some McDonalds.”

Other mums reward themselves with pampering sessions, nights away, shopping. Sometimes even a shower, or toileting with the door closed and no audience, can seem like a reward.

But me? I reward myself with a cheeseburger.

How do you give yourself a raise? Is there something you buy or do for yourself that makes it all feel less overwhelming? I’d love to hear from you 

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)