Small Expectations


It is the end of January, and I can’t help but take a sigh of relief. There is something about the weeks after Christmas and New Year, when winter really starts to set in and the days are short, wet and cold, that get me all in a muddle. And I think this year, I was hit with a double-whammy… The January Blues happened to coincide with my baby blues.

For some reason, every time I hit around the 4-5 month stage, I find myself feeling a little blue. Quite tired, stressed, a bit down and overwhelmed by it all. And I think, now that I seem to have come through the other side (some things you only see with the benefit of hindsight), I have finally realised why.

You see, the first 3 months of your baby are full of the newness, excitement, awe and wonder of it all…call it the honeymoon phase. Every day you marvel at this perfect little being that has come into your life, and the euphoria spills over into all other areas of life. Tantrums by older siblings fail to frustrate, because the idea that you get to be the one to shape and mould these little lives explodes your brain all over again. Cleaning, cooking and chores are re-infused with meaning, because you are providing clothing and shelter for these divine creatures.


But, even more importantly, your expectations are SMALL. “Yay, we got out of the house, all clothed and fed (for the most part).” “Yay, we made it to the shops and back without anyone getting lost or fatally hurt.” “Yay, I managed to make lunch, breastfeed and get a load of laundry in.” “Yay, for five minutes everyone has been QUIET.”

Then, as you slowly get the hang of things, adjusting to the new family size, different routines and figuring out what time you need to get up in the mornings to have five minutes in the shower, you get braver and bolder, and your expectations increase. No longer is it enough to just get everyone fed and clothed and then to bask in the joy of your little brood. NO, now you need to get the floor swept as well, and all the breakfast dishes in the sink BEFORE leaving the house.

No longer is it enough to enjoy the fact that everyone is busying themselves quietly with books or puzzles or toys for five minutes. NO, now you need to make sure that you get an interesting art project in at least once a week, and good heavens but Evie needs more tights and Isaac really could do with a haircut.

Stress mounts imperceptibly, and before I know it my to-do lists are running off the page. Also, with the better sleep and longer evenings comes the feeling that I really ought to be taking on more responsibilities outside of my little home. I itch for something different, something bigger…something more ‘impactful’, I feel.

So I take on more mentoring roles at church, I become more involved in the school PTA, I volunteer to bake, I volunteer to help decorate Santa’s Grotto (side rant – is there anything more lame than Santa’s Grottos?? Even the one at Westfield failed to impress). I go crazy with the calendar, inviting all sorts of people round for tea, for dinner, for lunch. I cut myself less slack around the house; one healthy meal a day is no longer enough, dust on the coffee table seems to indicate personal weakness of character and organisation.

Before I know it, I am too busy, tired and stressed. I end up feeling incredibly frustrated with Judah for needing to be fed right at the moment I am trying to make a call. I end up barking at Isaac and Evie to hurry up and get their coats on because we’re running late because I felt I absolutely must make the beds before we leave. The penny drops, and I realise I have it all backwards.

It reminds me of Dickens’ devastating book Great Expectations, where a young boy called Pip is ruined of enjoying his life as a humble forge apprentice by the promise of a great increase in his fortunes, and the tantalising lure of a life and a love far above his current expectations. He is set up for a crushing disappointment by the cruel and haunted (and slightly insane) Miss Havisham, who intends him to feel the pain of her own heartbreak and disillusionment by not delivering all she has promised, and marrying off her beautiful daughter to another man. All is resolved in the end, but the lesson is clear: be happy and grateful for what you have – you can never have it back once it’s gone.

So now, having taken a few steps back, (and realising that I still have a very little baby for crying out loud – 6 months today, actually!) I am committed to smaller expectations. Smaller expectations that make sure the important things of life are what really matter. Time to exclaim at pretty reflections in the puddles on the way to school. Time for smooches and wrestle-cuddles, no matter how busy and hectic the day is. Time for impromptu tea-parties. Yes, it is lovely to be able to invite more friends over for dinner, and yes, I do like having all the washing done at the end of the day. But not at the expense of enjoying my little brood.

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The things that are seen are temporary;
The things that are unseen are eternal.


Circle of Trust


“Jesus is a stinky-bottom.” Isaac giggles, a cheeky grin on his face. We stare at him, open-mouthed, across the dinner table. Only for a second, though, as soon we are laughing too. It would seem that Jesus has finally received the ultimate seal of approval. He is thoroughly part of the Bardone clan now, part of our inner-circle.

Circle of trust

We have all been christened with this privileged title at some point in time, along with various prefixes and suffixes along the lines of “Papa-poop” or “poopy, stinky-bottom-mama” (a particularly expressive spurt of affection). I don’t know what it is that is so amusing about bodily functions, but it seems to feature heavily in life under the age of 5.

The fact that Jesus has been called a “stinky-bottom” might seem irreverent or inappropriate to some people, but to someone who understands Isaac’s world, it is a sign of deep admiration. Only a precious few have been given this title. While he is incredibly funny, goofy and rambunctious at home, outside of it and our family he can be quite shy and reserved. People who know him from school or church or out and about are always amazed at how talkative and welcoming he is when they come through our front door. He’s a bit like the King of the Castle welcoming humble peasants.

I remember how pleased my Mom was when she came to visit us at Judah’s birth, and after about day two or three she was greeted at the bottom of the stairs by a, “Stinky-bottom-granny!” before scuttling off to the kitchen. While I gasped in horror, she said, not to worry, she knew now she was accepted.

To us, it is a wonderful thing to watch our children grow more and more aware of God as a reality, an unseen, vibrant, personal force right at the centre of our family. A person’s journey to knowing God is such a personal, inexplicable thing that we could never force our children to be religious. However, we do feel that it is the most wonderful, beautiful thing in the world to know God and to know His love, and because we love our kids so much, we hope and pray fervently that they will eventually get to that place.

So, it has been so lovely watching them absorb and process faith in God – from bedtime prayers (“Please bless Bumba, Bumba, Bumba and Bumba Fred” – the Grandparents) to watching a silent film at the back of our small 6pm service on a Sunday while Simon speaks, or even down to asking God to help us find the Lego lightsaber!

Lately they have started requesting to be the ones to say the prayer at dinner. Isaac’s went something like this: “Dear God, please help us to be strong, to wrestle, to be strong and to play. Amen.” Couldn’t have said it better myself.

While I do hope that the terms of endearment in our house become a little more polite and sophisticated in the years to come, of our small number of special friends and family that are in Isaac’s circle of trust, I am pleased to say that Jesus is one.


Purple, Rabid Minions

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I don’t know what it is about bath-time. Every night, no matter what time it is or how tired Isaac and Evie are, this miraculous transformation occurs as soon as their dripping feet hit the bathmat. In the short space of time it takes for me to throw the towel around their shoulders, they become these naked whirling dervishes who shimmy around shrieking at the tops of their voices.

Usually this ends with them disappearing underneath one of the duvets, naked rear-ends whisked out of sight. Oblivious to my orders to get out and get dressed, a quivering, giggling mass under the bedclothes, I realise I have to join their little game or be thoroughly beaten. So I sigh, assume a ferocious growl and pounce….

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Eventually they are all sitting sweetly, pyjamas on, while Papa reads them bedtime stories, with no trace of the energetic performances only a few minutes previously. It never fails to amaze me how quickly they can transition from one state of being to the next. Although their antics are very funny and entertaining at times, on the whole it is thoroughly exhausting!

They remind me a little of the minions in one of our favourite animated movies, Despicable Me. Those cute little yellow guys who speak in gibberish and laugh at silly things like gurgling water fountains and photocopied bottoms. They encapsulate the innocence and capriciousness of childhood to a ‘T’. The second film, however, which came out just recently, showcases a type of super-minion who has been transformed by an evil superhero into a rabid, purple, and indestructible monster who quivers uncontrollably and says, “Bah!” I fear my offspring are more reflective of this latter stage of minion evolution than the former.

This week I felt like I, too, have assumed some of the “purple-rabid-minion”-esque qualities. Although mine has not been induced by some powerful concoction being injected to me, but rather from the simple fact that I have not allowed myself to drink tea or coffee. Our church has gone on a fast this week, in order to “consecrate” ourselves to God for 2014. I thought I was being clever by fasting tea and coffee, instead of food. It has not been pretty.


I don’t often do well on fasts. Generally it seems that the inner beast is revealed, as I am either extremely grumpy from being hungry or craving something, or having a huge headache from my body detoxing. Like this week, by the end of day one I was so desperate for a cup of tea that I was shoving chocolate down my throat and lying down under a blanket in an attempt to placate my deprived body. Woe-betide the poor person who wanted to wake me for something and got hissed at. There is something wrong with this picture, I thought to myself, surely the point of a fast is not to deprive yourself of one thing so that you can comfort yourself with another thing? Surely it is to remind oneself that “man cannot live by bread [or tea] alone”?

Well. Point proven. I am utterly useless without tea, and, for that matter, without God. Thankfully I have taken most of today to redeem my horrid behaviour this week, and it has been much better. Hopefully all purple minions have been banished from the house…. At least until after bath tonight.

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