Saturday, June 30, 2012

What would you say?

We sponsor children with Compassion.  Yesterday, I got a letter from one of our older boys.  He's our most recent addition to our sponsorship family.  It takes at least a year, sometimes longer, for the letters to change from distant formality to matters of the heart.  So I'm always alert for information in their letters that suggests they might be starting to share more of themselves with us.

Yesterday's letter hurt.  Our lad told us that his father is an alcoholic and asked that we pray that he will be able to break away from his addiction.  The letter was written last month and his dad was going to attend a camp that month for alcoholics aimed at breaking their cycle of addiction.

It's really important that I acknowledge what he's told me in my next  letter to him.  I want to tell him that I feel sad about the pain that he might have experienced because his dad is an alcoholic.  I want to encourage him to keep praying for his dad and give him hope that he might one day be better.  I want to tell him that it's hard to break addictions and that it will be a huge struggle for his dad.  I want to tell him that we care and that we haven't forgotten him.

But it's hard to put that into words and not all of what I want to say might be helpful.  His dad might never get better.  I don't know whether he is angry towards his father or proud of him for trying to beat the bottle.  I don't know what kind of impact his dad's alcoholism has had on the family.  I just don't know enough.  So I need to chose my words carefully.

What would you say?

And if you are interested in sponsoring a child in extreme poverty who needs encouragement and a helping hand up, check out Compassion Australia if you are in Australia, Compassion International for US readers or Compassion UK for readers in the United Kingdom. For information about what child sponsorship involves click here or about Compassion's financial integrity click here.

Sex and the net

My son has recently learnt to spell some familiar words.  The includes the word 'youtube'.  So it shouldn't have surprised me the other day when I found he was looking at videos on youtube having searched for the word 'poo'.  Very mature humour around our house at present.

While I don't condone his choice of subject matter, I was at least relieved that it wasn't any worse.  As the years go by, he'll learn other words that I really don't want him to google or enter into youtube.  Because who knows what might come up.  And those images, once enter into the brain, cause trouble.

I understood that if you go looking through cyberspace, you can find plenty of porn and violence (sometimes together).  But what I didn't realise until a couple of years ago was how easily you can accidentally stumble across it.  One day I was looking at teletubby clips on youtube  (oh save me!  never again!) with my youngest child.  I had  entered the search words "teletubbies" and we were going down the list of videos available.  And to my very great surprise there was a clip entitled "Teletubby sex".  Even if my kids were never going to look for elicit material, it would find them.

So that day I did something I'd been putting off for a while.  I installed internet filtering software.  They can still find "poo" but they can't find "porn".  I use a program called SafeEyes.  It's easily downloaded from the web and paid for by an annual subscription.  When I went to Harvey Norman to check the price against installing an off-the-shelf program, the nice salesman politely told me he had never had anyone ask for net filtering software before and that they didn't carry any.  Seriously?  No one?

Anyway, the advantages of this particular software is that it filters on a clip-by-clip and page-by-page basis rather than shutting you out of whole sites.  So I can still surf youtube but if I click on an inappropriate clip it won't let me through.  Occasionally, I've found it to be too ferocious but I have the administrator password and so I can unlock it if I need to and then reset it afterwards.  It is also sensitive enough to tell when a site is using certain words legitimately i.e. I've never found myself locked out of a medical website.  Each week it emails me a summary of usage with any notable searches recorded.  Plus as administrator I can set it to block internet access for certain hours of the day if I want to.  For example, if I had kids regularly walking home from school and staying home by themselves until I got home at 5.30, I could block internet access until my usual return time.  I am thinking that when the kids get older and we all have wireless tablet computers lying about the house, I will block the internet after about 10.30 pm so that I don't have teenagers messaging and surfing the net till 3 am without my knowledge.

The downside is that you might experience a slight slowdown because your requests for websites have to be checked via SafeEyes before being delivered to your computer.  I couldn't sense a difference but it might be more for other users.  SafeEyes is also available for mobile phones. I would seriously encourage all parents to consider some kind of filtering software.  Click here for the Safe Eyes site.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Thank God it's Friday

I know that “Thank God it’s Friday’ is usually said in absence of any kind of thankfulness towards the Almighty, but I’d like to do my bit to remedy that.

Today I’m thankful that the cup of hot tea I spilt all over myself in bed yesterday morning wasn't as hot as it was several minutes beforehand.  It was not good but I seriously could have been badly burned if it'd been any hotter.

You got anything you’re thankful for today? Join in! Let’s count our blessings for a bit.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Dinosaur eggs

I found the instructions for making these dino eggs on this website.  It's in Portuguese but the photos are fantastic.  So you can either read the Portuguese version with the good photos or my English version with the dodgy point-and-shoot camera.

Hard boil some ordinary hen eggs (we are talking 3 minutes once the water's boiling in case you are not a regular egg boiler).

Once they are cool enough to touch, give the shells a good cracking all over.

Drop the unpeeled, but artistically cracked, eggs into a glass of water coloured with several drops of food dye.  I've found the darker colours work best - yellow was really blah but blue and red are winners.  Set the glasses in the fridge overnight.

Peel your eggs carefully so you don't take chunks out of the skin (the colour only penetrates a tiny way into the egg) and, if you are feeling whimsical, serve on a nest of grated carrot or cheese with a newly hatched dino for company.  One of my boys is a keen egg eater and I thought these would make a cool lunchbox addition.  But alas someone in his class has a strong egg allergy so we're keeping them as holiday food.


I quite like talking about death.  Reminding ourselves that our life is temporary and possibly shorter than we think clarifies some things in life, I think. We often feel like our story will go on forever when we are in the middle of it.  But really we never know when it might come to an abrupt end.  And we do know that it will end – sooner or later.  But we mostly live as though it won’t and as though the lives of those around us will go on forever too. 

I remember a couple of years ago visiting an old lady from our church who was in hospital dying. She had been particularly kind when our first child was born. I wanted to say goodbye in person. When I went, she was already in a coma.  I sat with her a while, prayed a little and kissed her goodbye.  She was so very, very still.  The only thing moving was the sheet.  Every time her heart beat - and it was beating slowly but hard - the sheet above her chest would pulse.  I was acutely aware of how that beating heart was only shallowly covered by a sheet, a gown, skin and some bone.  And that my own heart was the same.  Vital to my going on and yet so vulnerable.  We don’t often think about how truly fragile we are – one knock, one break, one cut, one blast and it’s all gone.

Maybe the first time I saw death face to face was when I was a little child.  Dad was taking a funeral for the son of one of our church members.  Burial sites were expensive for ordinary folk and it was common in that area to re-use family plots.  In this case, the grave of a grandmother was going to be cleared for her grandson.  The cemetery workers were to remove any previous remains before the funeral procession arrived.  They did, but they weren’t tidy in their work.  As we rounded a corner, there on top of a wall was the partly mummified head of the long-dead grandmother with no eyes but some wirey hair still clinging to the skull.  And everyone knew it was her instantly.  I was about four or five but I don’t remember having nightmares about that.  I think I just accepted it was one of those things that sometimes happen and I hadn’t known the lady anyway.  But I think from that point on I wasn’t confused about people living forever.

Around the time of Jim Stynes’ death, there was an interesting piece in the Age about how we talk about terminal disease.  You can click on that link to read the full article but in summary, the author is a palliative care nurse who suggests that we stop talking about terminal illness as a “fight” or “battle” and referring to a person’s death as “losing his fight”.  He argues that it puts an enormous burden on patients and families to mask their true feelings and appear brave and stoic at all times so as not to be seen to “give up the fight”.  Worth a read, I think.

But lately I’ve been thinking about whether death should seem any different for a Christian.  After all, we say we believe in everlasting life after death.  Surely that changes things?  When someone is facing death, does it make a difference that they are a Christian?

And I’m going to say ‘no’.

Here are two reasons I think a Christian facing death is no different to anyone else:

Firstly, the type of death I experience won’t necessarily be less painful or less horrible because I’m a Christian. There’s no promise that Christians will die peacefully in their sleep in their 90s. I might die like that or I might die in a horrible way or through a horrible disease. Just like everyone else, I live in a world that no longer operates beautifully and perfectly because of the entrance of sin so long ago. And God doesn’t promise me some kind of holy bubble that keeps all the pain away. He does promise that the pain will one day be swept away forever. But in this life, I will still have to face the suffering that comes from living in a fallen world. So I can’t hope for some special non-horrible kind of death just because I’m a Christian.

Secondly, I am not necessarily going to feel more peaceful when dying because I am a Christian. I might. I hope so. I hope that in death I will be rejoicing in the hope of heaven and comforted by the fact that I know God is in control of all things. However, that might not happen. I might, in my final hours, overwhelmed by fear and pain and anxiety, feel anything but secure. I might cry out against God in anger at my circumstances. I might be trembling at the thought of leaving this life and what might come next. I might even feel that the faith that sustained me so well in life is nothing but a sham and that all is lost. And that doesn’t matter. I don’t think that if I feel that way, God is going to come in and punish me (or decide not to heal me if he was going to do so) because I haven’t done the right thing. Because I believe that I am not saved by me and my faith but by Jesus and his strength. I know that my Saviour will hang on to me, even if I lose the strength to hang on to him. Just as I know that I ought to be patient with everyone and yet I still lose my temper from time to time, so in death I know I should trust firmly in God and yet I might not trust as I should in my weakest moment. No matter. I am not saved by my good works, or my strength of faith or how much I can muster up belief and courage. I am like a lost sheep that could never find its way home on its own. And Christ has come and saved me and promised to carry me home. I might fail him, but he will not fail me.

Of course, there are some things about death that I do think are different for a Christian – the hope of eternal life for example. And I hope that I will be brave and bold as I stare down the ugliness that is death. To know that death is not the end and that God has prepared a home for you in heaven is a comfort. But I think it should be okay for Christians to say that death is awful and dying is horrible. That’s the truth – death is our mortal enemy and it’s not unchristian to hate death. Thankfully, my eternal security is not hanging on my emotions in the last weeks/days/hours of my life.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


I'm not a great housekeeper. I spent the first years of married life doing the bare minimum.  I didn't really feel like the responsible adult yet - surely Mum or Someone was going to do all the other stuff.  It's slowly sunk in that I'm it!  Not that my wonderful husband doesn't do his fair share. But ultimately if I want a clean house, I'd better get on with it.  I also discovered after living out of home for a number of years that there were a lot of jobs I didn't know needed doing.  Once the dishes are done, the floors swept, the toilet cleaned, the shower recess scrubbed and the washing done, what else is there?  Turns out a fair few things.  So now I have the Listasaurus to help me try to keep some of those things ticking over.  I write this knowing that my oven is hopelessly overdue for a clean, the laundry floor is nearly a bio-hazard and the weeds are taking over the clothesline.... but let's move on.

One thing that I've read about in the last couple of years is the importance of cleaning routines.  Tidy people apparently (don't know from first hand experience) do a lot of their cleaning/tidying automatically as part of their routine so they don't feel so much like they are doing a chore.  For example, if it is your regular habit to hang up your coat rather than toss it on the bed like I do, you won't have to set aside a special time to hang up the clothes cluttering your bed.  And you won't even think of it as a job to do.  It's just what you do when you get home.

So I've been trying to add little bits of cleaning into my normal routine.  The only one that's really stuck so far has been adding the wipe-down of the stove top as the last thing I do once I've finished the dishes in the sink.  Before I pull the plug, I clean the stove top.  I've done it so often now it actually feels odd to not do it.  Like something isn't quite right.  And so I do it without thinking, "Oh no, I better clean that stove....groan."

I'm also trying to remember to grab a cloth when I put the detergent into the washing machine and wipe down the top of the machine and the lid where all the dust and spilled detergent build up before throwing it in with the wash.  I still forget this 9 out of 10 times.  And I know some of you good people remember to squeegee your shower before you get out....that's probably never going to happen in my house.

So do you have some automatic cleaning routines?  What are they?  What should I add next?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Polar fleece cushions

My husband recently made polar fleece cushions with the boys' group from church.  Because polar fleece doesn't fray, you can cut it and use it for a range of crafts that don't require sewing.  So if you are looking for an easy craft for primary-aged kids, here is my polar fleece cushion tutorial.

Begin by cutting out two pieces of polar fleece to the same size.  A contrasting colour adds interest when you knot the edges.  Here I’ve used pieces approximately 50 cm square but size and shape are up to you.

Create some kind of guide for your cutting.  I placed a square of pins which will serve as a guide for the boys to cut up to and also hold the two pieces together and limit the chaos.  Little fingers find it hard to tie knots.  So if you are making up the craft for younger children, leave a big margin for the fringes so that they won’t be too short for little hands to knot.  I got a couple of pieces of off-cuts and played around with knotting the fabric until I found a length that I thought would be do-able for the boys.  Then I used that as my guide for the pins.

Cut off the corners.

Along one side, cut through both pieces of fabric at once to create the strips for knotting.  They need to be about 1.5 to 2 cm wide.  Any wider and they’ll be hard to knot.  Any thinner and the kids will probably cut too thin and cut them right off. If you are doing this with a large group of kids, check that the scissors you have for craft will actually cut through two thicknesses of polar fleece (and borrow some pairs of sewing scissors if they don’t).

Once you have one side of the cushion cut, tie a knot with each matching pair of fringe pieces. It’s a good idea to have the kids knot one side of the cushion at a time, before they cut the next side.  They’ll need to take the pins out before knotting and if you take all the pins out at once, the boys will probably struggle to match up the fringes with the correct partner and end up in a muddle.  It’s also good to give them a break from cutting as little hands find cutting thick fabric very tiring.

When you get about half-way through knotting the final side, stuff the cushion with either a pre-made cushion insert or hobby-filler stuffing.  Then knot the last few ties and you’re done!

Obviously you can vary the shape and size and, if you use a cushion insert, you can easily unknot half a row, slip out the cushion, and chuck the cover in the washing machine when it gets grubby. You can also use the same knotting technique to make a double-thickness lap blanket or baby's rug.  It's also makes a good gift for an older sibling to create for a younger sibling's birthday or Christmas present.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Brutal honesty

Honest is the best policy.  But sometimes small people can be brutal with their honesty.  After the morning school run today, I dumped myself into the front seat of the car and glanced in the rear view mirror.  Seeing my hair in disarray I said, "Oh dear! My hair is atrocious today. Oh well. At least it's clean."

And then a little preschool voice came from the back seat said, "Actually, Mummy, your hair always looks like that."

I laughed heartily.  Too true!

The weekend

On Saturday, I spent some time working with a Year 12 student.  This term we've done Henry IV.  I hadn't studied Shakespeare for about 17 years.  My brain took a while to remember how to read Elizabethan English.  I look at her workload this year and I wonder how I ever survived Year 12.  It seems so enormous!  I can't remember what it feels like to have to work that hard.  Nothing I do seems that strenuous anymore.  Yes, the kids are exhausting and irritating at times.  But I don't have to face up to deadlines and exams and performance standards like I did in high school or Uni exams.  I'm grateful, but it kind of makes me wonder if I could even do that anymore.

Sunday, we had some friends from church over to lunch.  They've been in Australia less than a year having migrated here from South Korea. Good fun.  And one of their children is a board game enthusiast.  Excellent!  I found a board game retailer in Korea who had an online video explaining the rules to Settlers of Catan in Korean.  A quick watch of the video and we were happily playing Settlers together.

Social Media Upgrade

This came from the Borowitz Report and you can click through to see it on the site but I thought I'd copy here for those of us too lazy to do extra clicking today.  Read right through because it was the final sentence that made my day.  HT Girltalk

SILICON VALLEY (The Borowitz Report) – A new social network is about to alter the playing field of the social media world, and it’s called PhoneBook.

According to its creators, who invented the network in their dorm room at Berkeley, PhoneBook is the game-changer that will leave Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare in a cloud of dust.

“With PhoneBook, you have a book that has a list of all your friends in the city, plus everyone else who lives there,” says Danny Fruber, one of PhoneBook’s creators.

“When you want to chat with a friend, you look them up in PhoneBook, and find their unique PhoneBook number,” Fruber explains. “Then you enter that number into your phone and it connects you directly to them.”

Another breakout utility of PhoneBook allows the user to arrange face-to-face meetings with his or her friends at restaurants, bars, and other “places,” as Fruber calls them.

“You will be sitting right across from your friend and seeing them in 3-D,” he said. “It’s like Skype, only without the headset.”

PhoneBook will enable friends to play many games as well, such as charades, cards, and a game Fruber believes will be a breakout: Farm.

“In Farm, you have an actual farm where you raise real crops and livestock,” he says. “It’s hard work, but it’s more fun than Mafia, where you actually get killed.”

Saturday, June 23, 2012

What to do next if you want to follow this blog

Some of you reading this blog are new to the world of blogs.  Hi, Mum! Look at me!  I'm on the internet!  And so here's a short tutorial on how to follow this blog for newbies.

1. You can just open internet explorer type in each time you want to see if I've written anything.

2. Or, half way down my blog on the right-hand side, you'll find a box labelled "Follow by email". Type your email address into there and my posts will send themselves to your inbox automatically.

3. Or, if you get sick my emails in your inbox, you can subscribe to the feed*. Just under the email option is a subscribe button.  Click on the little down arrow, then choose the option that has this box  . Another page will come up with a big yellow box.  Click on the blue "subscribe to this feed" option.  Another box, click on subscribe again. Done.

* What's a feed?  Well, you know that tab where you can keep your "favourites"?  Next to that is another tab that says "feeds".  If you add this site to your feeds, your computer will automatically check for any updates on  my blog.  Then when you click on your feeds tab, the name of the site will appear.  If it is in bold, there's something new that you haven't read yet.  If it's in ordinary font, you're up to date.

So there you go everyone (but especially you, Mum).  Hope that helps.

Shoe genius

My husband just came back from the shops after a trip to the shoe store.  He was taking back a pair which were reasonably expensive but whose sole had split through after only four months.  The shop tried to convince him this was normal wear and tear but he wouldn't budge.  They changed the shoes and the sales girl gave him some helpful advice:

 "What I recommend, for men but for ladies too, is that you rotate your shoes.  Don't wear the same pair all the time and that way they'll last longer and you'll get more wear out of them."

He just smiled and nodded.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The thief

Amusingly naughty behaviour happening during "quiet hour" (aka nap time) at our house this last week.  While I've been up the other end of the house playing on the computer, the youngest has been stealing random items from the kitchen.  So I'll go into his room later in the day and find strange things hidden behind the bed, under the covers or in tubs somewhere. 

This is the list so far:

* 1 kg packet of sultanas
* tub of apricot jam
* 1/4 packet of grated cheese
* the sugar bowl

So far, he only takes one thing at a time.  And none of these items have been eaten, just stockpiled. Does he know something I don't?

Shower cleaning breakthrough

So after my whinge about cleaning the shower the other day, Karen suggested I try some Viva cleaning wipes.  Couldn't find them.  But as I was standing in the supermarket scanning the shelf of pre-moistened cleaning wipes, I noticed the bbq and oven cleaning wipes.  More importantly, I noticed the label on them that said, "Also great for cleaning showers".  Seriously?

I already had a packet of those sitting in my pergola next to the bbq.  So this morning I tried them out.  Oh the joy!  They work!  Brilliantly!  All that scum on the glass (from my hideous procrastinating) came off easily.  They are now stashed under the bathroom sink.  You may want to wait a couple of days and check back to this blog to see if I've update this post to tell you the tiles all fell off the wall or we got some kind of 5th-degree skin burn from showering with oven-cleaner chemicals.  But if you don't hear back from me, assume I'm happily cleaning my shower.

Lunchbox help

Current lunchbox favourite around here. It's from food that serves and it's a slice based on Anzac biscuits.  But because it's a slice, the recipe doesn't involve rolling sticky balls in your hands and is easily sliced up at the end to just the size you want.  Plus, all the measurements are either 1 cup or 2 tablespoons which makes it easy to learn off by heart and simple for a child learning to cook to have a go at.  I've made about 6 of the recipes from food that serves now.  Definitely worth checking out especially if you need some more recipes that feed crowds.

Thank God it's Friday

I know that “Thank God it’s Friday’ is usually said in absence of any kind of thankfulness towards the Almighty, but I’d like to do my bit to remedy that. 
Today  I’m thankful for a few weeks without any sneezes, temperatures, coughs or snuffles in my house.  It's nice to have a good break from the winter ills.

You got anything you’re thankful for today?  Join in! Let’s count our blessings for a bit.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

How to get kids to eat their veggies...or not.

The kids have been listening to Colin Buchanan's V-E-G-E-T-A-B-L-E-S song in the car of late.  They love the different hiding spots the girl uses to get rid of her veggies at dinner time.  It is also amusing to the adults in the car because we know a real life version of those events from my husband's childhood.

When the four brothers were young, they were making the usual fuss about food at the dinner table.  So my parents-in-law hit upon a scheme that solved all the vegetable wars.  When a lad wouldn't eat his veggies, he got sent to the laundry with his dinner to finish it.  Sure enough, this parenting gem worked every time.  A couple of minutes in solitary was all it took to convince the boys that they needed to gobble up their veggies and obey their mum and dad. Of course, Mum and Dad were duly proud of their parenting prowess.  They possibly even passed on their method as a piece of wise advice. They had solved the age-old dispute about veggies and all was well.  Or so they thought.

A year or two later (these tales sometimes grow in the telling so it may or may not have been five years later ...the boys do exaggerate), it was time for the family to move house.  When they pulled out the washing machine, they found a mound of crusty veggies hidden down against the laundry wall.  I imagine it was a bit like the layers you can see in rock formations with all the different donations from the boys over time. The boys all had the same plan.  Go to the laundry, dispose of the veggies, then hang out for a few minutes to make it look plausible before handing your plate to Mum with an angelic smile.

This has become my favourite parenting cautionary tale.  Every time I think I'm on to some kind of parenting-gold, I remind myself that I just might not be as clever as I think I am.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Send tea

I ran out of tea bags last night.  Except for the decaf ones (which we all know don't count).  I have a bit of a tea dependency issue. I love my cup of tea.  Did I say "cup"?  I meant "cups".  Many, many cups.  How do you know when your tea drinking has gone too far?  I think I average 10 - 12 cups a day.  A couple of those might be decaf (which we all know ...). What about you?   What's your average tea/coffee/diet coke consumption?  Should I look for a support group?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Red Fish

My kids really like this neat website called Poisson Rouge.  That's "Red Fish" for those of us who don't speak French.  From about age 4, the site is interesting but it has elements (like the Maths planets) that would suit kids up to about age 10.  Almost of all it can be figured out without instructions and some of it is delightfully whimsical.  You are presented with the toy room you can see in my cleverly saved and inserted screen shot (yes, I learnt something new today) as the opening screen and you simply click around and explore at your leisure.  Enjoy!

Monday, June 18, 2012

A little bit sorted

In my list of purchases from IKEA, I forgot the plastic bag dispensers.  Very useful things.  Now my wrapping paper stash is out of the linen closet and up out of the way.

Off target

Eventually, all blogs lead to toilet stories.  I will not disappoint you.

We have toilet problems.  It is not the leaving up of the seat that bothers me.  It's the constant mopping of the kids' toilet to keep it from descending into a biological wasteland.  We seem to do okay for a while and then it starts happening again.  If you are the mother of a boy, you'll understand.

So over the years we've had a couple of "wee targets".  We bought this sort from Kmart a couple of years back.
They were good but our Kmart no longer sells them and they were a bit pricey anyway.  I did go to Kmart a couple of weeks ago in an attempt to buy more.  When I couldn't locate them I asked the young shelf stacker in the nursery department if she knew if they had any "wee targets" still in stock.  She looked confused and pointed to electrical.  "No," I said, "Not that Wii.  The kind that ... oh never mind."  I couldn't bring myself to explain it all to a Gen Y who hadn't had children yet.

Before the "wee targets" we used another great idea.  Put a table tennis ball in the toilet and get the boys to aim for that.  When you flush, the ball floats and doesn't flush down.  So we threw one in the loo and it was magic.

But whenever we had visitors, a well-meaning adult would go off to use our toilet and we would forget to tell them about the table tennis ball.  Well, it's not the kind of thing you work into dinner table conversation is it?  They would come back and discreetly tell me that one of the kids had thrown a ball into the toilet but that it was okay because they'd fished it out and left it in the laundry sink for me.  After thanking them for their kindness, I would then explain that actually it had been there for weeks because we use it for target practice.  Awkward silence while they think about the germs that they've just pulled out of my toilet with their bare hands.

So we gave up on that.  Until this week when I decided to give it another go.  This week, I placed the following sign above the toilet.

I thought that would be sufficient.  Apparently not because we've already had one visitor fish the ball out.  I understand the reasoning.  You see something in the toilet that shouldn't be there.  You know there are boisterous children in the household.  You draw a fair conclusion.  But it's the fishing out I don't get.  I don't think anything would induce me to stick my hands in someone else's loo!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The List-asaurus

I like lists.  Very much.  I've been a "to do" list maker for years.  I have a notebook dedicated to lists and a whiteboard in my kitchen for more lists. It declutters my brain.  It soothes my mood.  It gives me a false, but very comforting, sense of having done something about something by writing it down to do some other time. Most of my close friends love lists.  Some of them probably laminate their lists (you know who you are).

But I bet my list is bigger than your list.  It's the mother of all to-do lists.

The List-asaurus was created because I struggle with housework.  Apart from sheer laziness and the lure of the internet, I find it hard to know where to start.  At any given time, there are about twenty jobs that could be done and they all seem equally worthy.  Without a system, it all feels random and like I'm not getting anywhere.  And when I feel like I won't be able do it all perfectly, I freak out a little and I end up doing nothing at all.

That's where The List comes in.  It's a weekly list of jobs divided up into regular every-day jobs and once-a-week jobs listed under various days.  Some jobs appear every week and some are on a rotation. I might clean the freezer part of the fridge one week and the door shelves the next week.

You can see from the photo of my list that I don't get everything done.  That's okay.  I pick what I can do and I leave the rest knowing that they will get done eventually because they will appear again the next day, the next week or in a few weeks.  The bathroom doesn't get out of hand because if I see several days missed I prioritize it for the next day.  If I don't dust the family room this week, it's not that I'll never dust the family room. It'll come around on the rotation again.  This stops my "all or nothing" perfectionism getting out of hand.  Not that my house is ever perfect.  It's the "nothing" part of "all or nothing" that I major in.

Last year I tried a housework list I purchased online -  But because it was created for someone else's house and life, it had jobs on it that I never needed to do (I don't live in a place with snow) and didn't have other things that I needed to do frequently.  So in January this year I created a 52 page Word document - one page for each week of the year - and made it specific to our family.  Then I printed it and had it ring-bound.  The List for the year.

And now that I have some direction of what needs doing, I am getting a lot more cleaning done.  I'm not managing it all but what needs to get done is getting done.  Because the big task of keeping house has been broken down into small jobs, I tend to use my time more efficiently and procrastinate less.  Previously, I'd often leave cleaning the house until I had a big chunk of time and waste a lot of the smaller time slots I could have used to get some of it out of the way. The other nice thing is that other people in your house who might want to share some of the housework can see the list too and know specifically what you'd like done.

I know the list probably seems crazy - either because you can't imagine anyone would need to be specific about when to load the dishwasher, or because it makes you start to hyperventilate just thinking about having a list like that staring you down each morning.  But I find it really helpful.  It probably won't last forever.  I think when I've gotten better at housecleaning routines, I'll stop using it.

But for now I love it.  I love marking off a little circle when I've swept the floor.  Oh so happy.

If you are crazy enough to want the list too, I'd be happy to email you my Word document and you could do a "search and replace" to modify it to your heart's content.

Does anyone else have a master list or super system for housework?  I'll take all the advice I can get!  Especially if you know how to get shower recesses to stay clean for more than two minutes.

To the city

Headed into the city today and listened to talk by Nello Barbieri.   He spoke on 1 Peter and he was pretty good.  Main points I took home:

1) Christians ought to seem different from the people around us.  We want people to say, "Hey, why do you do that?" so that we have a chance to explain how much God loves them.  I should care less about being a weird Christian and care more about people getting to know Jesus.

2) How much you love something can often be measured by how far you'll go to get it back when you lose it.  In terms of God, I can be amazed at the lengths to which he went to find me and rescue me when I was a lost.

So a good day.  And there was nice food.

Day off

ALRIK Swivel chair IKEA Height adjustable for a comfortable sitting posture.  Easy to keep clean; wipe with a damp cloth. The kids had a curriculum day yesterday so we all headed off to IKEA.  Oh the joy.  None of my kids fight at IKEA.  Nobody complains about the food at IKEA.  I don't have to tell anyone off for touching furniture and lamps at IKEA.  It is a good trip.

And I was very self-controlled.  My job was to buy a new adjustable desk chair for one of the my kids.  Done for $20.  Plus I bought another roll of paper, a packet of whiteboard markers and some bag clips.

SYLT LINGON Lingonberry jam IKEAThe kids all had a bonus $5 on top of their pocket money to spend.  It was fun watching what they picked out.  The eldest went for an art set.  The youngest bought two small soft toys.  The middle child - always the one to think outside the square - bought a cushion, a throw-rug and an alarm clock for his room.  He was very pleased.

Then we bought some Swedish jam and went home.  I love a good trip to IKEA.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Thank God it's Friday

I know that “Thank God it’s Friday’ is usually said in absence of any kind of thankfulness towards the Almighty, but I’d like to do my bit to remedy that. 

Today  I’m thankful for the people I work with who still dream big dreams for our special needs students.  They are such an inspiration to me. 

You got anything you’re thankful for today?  Join in! Let’s count our blessings for a bit.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Embarrassing myself

Had an embarrassing moment earlier this week.  I've been trying to work out what to do about telling my friends I have a blog.  I don't really think most of my in-person friends will want to read my ramblings on a regular basis.  They get enough of that just seeing me about the place.  But I decided I had to tell most of them because if I told some people and not others it might seem like I was trying not to include them.  I wouldn't want a friend overhearing me talking about a blog post with another friend 10 months down the track and them wondering why I didn't want them to know anything about it.  But then it all sounds so conceited to say, "Hey, I have a blog."  Ugh.

Anyway in my efforts to not exclude people, but still not look totally full of myself, I decided I'd just tell most of my good friends once and then I'd have done my duty and they could look or not look at it and we never need mention it again.  Along the lines of.... "Hey, I've started a blog by the way.  Oh, look!  There's an interesting bird flying by!  I wonder what kind of seagull that is."

So here's the embarrassing bit.  I was talking on the phone to a friend yesterday and while we were talking I was thinking, "Did I tell them I had a blog?  Better get it over with."  And so I said something and then they said, "Yes. I got your email about it."  And I wanted to hastily explain why I was telling them twice but I didn't because I figured I'd only end up sounding even sillier.  But I did feel a right goose.

So, for those of you who blog, how do you handle telling or not telling people?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Buttermilk Rolls

Our family has hot bread rolls for breakfast almost every school morning. 

In case you think I get up at 3 am to bake my own bread, let me set the record straight.  I use the following dough recipe that keeps for a week in the fridge.  I make up a big batch at the start of the week and then all I have to do each morning is pull out some lumps of dough, shove a tray in the oven and have a cup of tea while it cooks for 10 minutes.  And this is done while I'm still in pjs and semi-conscious.  And there's a fair bit of self-interest involved.  Breakfast rolls = eldest child gets up gladly.  No rolls = morning battle.  For a while, I resisted this because I did not want to blackmailed by bad behaviour.  Then I figured I had the whole day to discipline and it might be worth my while to get through the first half hour in peace.  So now my husband puts the oven on as he leaves the house and 15 minutes later I put the rolls in.

This is a recipe I originally found on a website somewhere in cyberspace. I've tried to find it again so that I can duly credit the owner, but alas my googling did not get me back to wherever it was that I first found it.  They taste like a cross between a dinner roll and a scone.  Sort of a sourdough flavour.  Light and fluffy if you make them right and best eaten straight away.  Of course, you don't have to have them at breakfast.  They'd be perfect with soup or a casserole.

Buttermilk Refrigerator Rolls
1 pkg dry yeast (7 g)
½ cup warm water

½ cup butter or margarine, melted
4 ½ cups plain flour
¼ cup sugar
1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
½ tsp bi carb soda
2 cups buttermilk

Dissolve yeast in warm water in a large mixing bowl and let it stand for five minutes.
Meanwhile, combine the dry ingredients in a smaller bowl. After five minutes, stir into the yeast the melted butter and buttermilk. Add dry ingredients to yeast mixture; mix well. Turn dough out on a well-floured surface; knead gently, adding a bit more flour as you go, until dough can be handled. Shape dough into a rough ball; place in a bowl and cover.  I use a large tupperware container with a lid but I'm sure a bowl with gladwrap would do too. Refrigerate until needed (dough will keep one week).  You need to make the dough a few hours before you want to use it to give it time to rise.  I usually make it the day before it's needed.

To cook:
Preheat oven to 180 C (400 F). Shape dough into rolls, as desired; place on baking paper or lightly greased tray. Bake for 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Makes about 25-30 rolls depending on size.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

My brain is not what it used to be

This evening I whirled my eldest and youngest children out the door to get somewhere very important on time.  That I achieved.  An hour early.  Oops.  Misread the clock.  We went over to the local library and killed time for an hour and tried again.

On my way home, as I reflected on my goofy-ness, I was comforted by the recollection that earlier today I read that the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, had managed to leave his eight-year-old daughter behind at the local pub recently.  Seems he and his family had gone there for dinner and he and his wife headed home in separate cars each assuming young Nancy was in the other car.  They both arrived home a few minutes later and discovered their mistake.  Mrs Cameron raced back and collected Nancy.

If the leader of Great Britain can occasionally do something like that, then I'm doing okay.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Library Elf

We have three library cards in our family so far.  And because we often have 30 picture story books out at one time, spread through several rooms, keeping track of when everything is due can be tricky.  But I have an elf that takes care of that for me.

Library Elf keeps track of all your borrowed books and emails you reminders - three days before it's due, the day before, on the day and every day you are overdue.  Then it's simply a matter of renewing the particular books online or putting them near the front door to take back.  You don't have to enter any information into the site after the initial set-up. It links in with your library account and automatically updates your library elf account whenever you use your library.

Your local library needs to be registered for you to participate but there's a fair list of Australian libraries that are part of the program. There are also libraries in the US, Canada, UK and New Zealand who are registered.  You can link up one library card for free but if you pay a fee of about $15 a year, you can list multiple cards to the one email account and keep an eye on everyone's borrowing so that you are never paying late fees again.  To check if your library is part of this program, click here.  And if they are not, suggest they join.

Font madness

Grrrrr.  I can't fix the font in the last post.  I have tried.  Over and over.  And I'm not learning much in the doing!  Irony, oh, irony.

What I learnt from a concert pianist

For my last three years at uni, I lived with a concert pianist.  There wasn’t a piano in our house so she practised at the church next door.  I can’t believe that now as I think back on it.  In winter, it must have been like playing Liszt in Antarctica.  And, yeah, I threw in the name of a composer there to make you think I might know something about music.  I know nothing.  I just remember that he was one of the composers she talked about.  And Debussy because I have a really lame joke about Beethoven and Debussy – but that’s for another day.

So next door she would disappear for hours and hours to practise piano.  She was very good.  Really good.  And really disciplined compared to the effort I was putting into researching my history essays. Before I lived with a concert pianist, I didn’t know much about music practice. One of the things I quickly learnt is that pianists do not start at the beginning of a piece and then play through to the end over and over again.  In fact, they tackle the piece bit by bit.  Sometimes a phrase at a time.  Over and over.

At one stage, she was working with some really important piano guy and mastering a new technique which involved rotating her wrists as she played a particular bit.  Over and over, till she just about had RSI.  Even at the dinner table, she’d absentmindedly move her wrists in little circles and drum her fingers as she remembered part of her piece. It all paid off because she was, and is, a brilliant pianist.
All of this came back to me a little while ago as I was thinking about types of knowledge and learning.  You see, I am driven by a certain kind of knowledge.  I like to learn things by reading, talking and thinking.  I enjoy acquiring cerebral knowledge.  But that’s really only one type of knowledge acquisition.  And when I became a parent, I found that kind of knowledge didn’t help me as much as I’d hoped.

Parenting problem?  Read a book!  That was my plan.  But why isn’t it working if I’ve read about it and I understand it and I can even explain it to someone else? I think it’s partly because I haven’t recognized that parenting also requires me to attend to practise in order to fully acquire that knowledge.  To know how to play the piano means to play the piano.
When I read a parenting book and the next day discover I’m still not Super-parent (totally patient and able to end all whinging in a single bound), I’ve got to get over my tendency to despair and think it’s all a failure.  I just need to do it more.  Practise that phrase over and over. Practise patience again and again.  Work on being forgiving instead of just acknowledging the importance of the idea.  It’s in the doing, that I can grow in the knowing how.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Thank God it's Friday.

I know that “Thank God it’s Friday’ is usually said in absence of any kind of thankfulness towards the Almighty, but I’d like to do my bit to remedy that. 

Today  I’m thankful for our excellent heater and warmth when the weather turns nasty.

You got anything you’re thankful for today?  Join in! Let’s count our blessings for a bit.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Photo editing with picmonkey

I use Photoshop Elements most of the time when I am fixing up photos.  But I am not using it anywhere near its capacity because you just about need to take a short course to master it. If you don't own editing software, but you want to play around with some effects for your digital photos, try picmonkey.  It's a free photo editing site.  Just click on "edit photo" and it'll take you to your own computer files to choose a photo and then you're away. After you have what you want, you can save a copy on your own computer for printing or whatever.

With a quick click, you can add various lighting, texture and focus effects.  Here's one of my pictures as an example.

The original

Again using "Dusk".

Again using "Gritty".

And finally using "Boost".

There's plenty of other options and if you forgot to put your lippy on before that special family shot, you can even add that in too.

Chuck Colson

Finished Season 4 of West Wing last night.  Won’t be able to start Season 5 for a few days as we’ve got interstate guests staying over the weekend.

Not long after we started watching West Wing this year, Chuck Colson passed away.  Chuck Colson was the founder of a group called Prison Fellowship International.  They are involved in Christian ministry within prisons all around the world.  But how Chuck came to be doing that is a fascinating story.  To summarize, Colson was special counsel to President Nixon when the Watergate scandal broke.  Colson went to jail as a result.  Before his trial, a friend gave him a copy of Mere Christianity by C S Lewis.  Colson was converted and publically declared himself a Christian.  Many people were extremely sceptical of this sudden “conversion” just before trial.  But upon his release from prison, he went on to found Prison Fellowship and his Christian faith became the centre-point of his life.
It was strange to be reading about Colson’s life at that time because we were up to a part in the West Wing where the President and other members of staff were about to be called to a grand jury for investigation.  Colson’s story seemed to mirror the screen for a little bit there.  We’ve known about Prison Fellowship for many years but didn’t know much about its founder.

I watched the following clip not long after Colson passed away. In it are two photographs of Colson sitting with other staff in front of Nixon at his desk in the Oval office.  Perhaps American viewers, more familiar with seeing pictures of the White House, might have said, “There is Colson in the White House.”  I got excited and said, “Look!  He’s on the set of the West Wing!” 
 Anyhow, the clip is a powerful summary of a life totally turned around.  Amazing to have reached such a seeming pinnacle in life and then to have it totally destroyed and rebuilt in a whole new form.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

My Old Master

I usually think of a good come-back about 10 hours after I should have said it.  When I’m alone, I’m at my most eloquent.  On the spot? Not so much.  Here’s a letter that might be one of the best replies of all time.  It’s written by a former slave to his old master who is asking for his return.  The writer never loses his own dignity and yet utterly triumphs in making his point.

To My Old Master.

Need To Breathe - Lay 'Em Down

I was marking Maths tests to this the other day.  Like it a lot.  Thought I'd share.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


When I was a young girl, my dad sat me down and gave me what has become one of my most treasured pieces of advice.  He looked me in the eye and said with great gravity, “Sooner or later, everybody is going to let you down.” 
Now you know why I’m such a happy-go-lucky kind of gal.

But in all seriousness, I’m very grateful to Dad for this wise advice and I fully intend to pass it on to my own kids. The sentence was originally said to Dad by a friend and of course there’s a story that goes with it.
When I first started school - when my parents were missionaries in a country far, far away - I was sent to boarding school. I was six years old.  It was about four hours from where we lived and so I only went home on school holidays.  In fact, I was one of the lucky ones because I got to do so every school holidays.  Other children had parents much further away and only got to see them once a year.

My time at boarding school was short-lived because we ‘returned’ to Australia after that first year. Don’t feel bad for me because it was one of the happiest years of my life and I had a ball.  I was very well cared for, the food was fine and the company was grand.  In fact, one of the other girls I lived with that year was matron of honour at my wedding.
But for my parents it was a very hard year. One week, Dad had a conference to attend in the capital city where my school was located.  But the schedule was very tight and he had no easy way of getting over to see me.  Then one afternoon, his very good mate was missing from the meeting.  When he returned, Dad asked him where he’d been.  He admitted he’d played truant for the afternoon so that he could go over and see his kids at school.  The same school I was at.  Dad was gutted. He hadn’t considered that Dad might want – might desperately want – to go to and see his child.

His friend apologized and looked Dad in the eye and said, “You know, sooner or later, everybody is going to let you down.”
And that’s the truth.

I’ve seen lots of good leaders suffer from a kind of Superman curse.  It wasn’t that they thought they were Superman, but those around them certainly acted like they were.  A leader with charisma and talent can get put on such a high, high pedestal by those he leads. Then when that poor guy falls short in some way, as he undoubtedly must do, he is burnt at the stake with a fire ten times hotter than that reserved for ordinary mortals.
No one – no one – can be so perfect that they’ll never let you down.  When you hold people to that kind of account, you are doomed to disappointment. Far from being this being an overly-grim summary of life’s relationships, that truth has kept me many a time from placing burdens on other people that they were never meant to carry.

And the truth cuts both ways.  Sooner or later, I am going to let everybody down.  Because I’m a fallen creature too.  I can’t put my ultimate trust in another person and I can’t put it in myself either.  That’s not where life’s firm foundation lies.
So thanks for the advice, Dad.  It’s certainly better than a smack in theface with a wet fish.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Monday Quiz

What are you doing here?  You should be over at Ben's blog doing the Monday quiz. That's where all the fun hangs out on a Monday.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

What's in a name?

Thank you to all of you who have left kind comments welcoming me to Blogland. I did agonise long and hard before deciding to start a blog. But once I’d made up my mind, the hardest part was finding a name that wasn’t already taken. It was a bit like choosing baby names and thinking you are being very original. Then you get to the first day of kindergarten and there are three other Xianthias in the class and you realize you are about as original as everyone else of your generation.

It took hours. I started up with some pretty witty titles – plays on words or references to famous films or hymns. Then I’d google the title and find someone had already thought of it back in 2006. After a while, I got frustrated and started googling stupid names. There is already a blog out there called “no name” and another called “hunting plastic giraffes”. I kid you not. So no joy there either.

At this point, I consulted Wikipedia to find that last year it was estimated that there were more than 156 million public blogs worldwide. I therefore predict that in three months’ time, you will not be able to get an original title for your blog unless you are prepared to use ancient Persian.  If you are thinking of starting a blog, you’d better do it today.  And you can’t use that either, because Alison’s already taken thinking of starting a blog.
But at last I settled on 'This fleeting moment' and here we are.  Don’t worry.  I’m not going to continue posting three times a day.  It’s just that I don’t want friends to visit and find the place looking like a new house without any furniture so I’m having a bit of a posting blitz.

And again, thanks for the welcome.

A little bit Toby

So I like NCIS.  Very much.  We’re waiting for the current season to be released on DVD.  We borrow them for free from our local library.  But with NCIS up to date (and NCIS Los Angeles being rubbish) we needed another series.  Karen and Simone liked West Wing so we started with Season One.  It wasn’t a series I would have chosen by myself – American politics?  The White House?  - so I admit it took a while before I was really into it.  I’d say at least episode two.

Now we are in Season Four.  And I enjoy all the main characters but I think I’m probably most fond of Toby Zeigler.  And that’s because I feel I’m a little bit Toby. Obviously his being a middle-aged Jewish man who works at the White House and one of the brilliant minds of his generation does set us apart from each other a bit. But never the less, I feel a strong affinity with Toby.

I’ve been mulling over why and I’ve come up with four reasons.

1.       He’s prickly.  Not an easy personality.

2.       He’s not the glamorous one.  He’s not Sam with his good looks or Josh with his power and personality.

3.       He’s easy to set up.  The other characters can suggest an opinion and Toby will find himself 2 miles down the road in argument before he realizes they were just having a lend of him.

4.       He seems at first to be cynical.  But underneath that everyday cynicism is a deep river of conviction and hope that things can be done better and great injustices righted. I guess that’s a theme of the show in general but it’s modelled really well in Toby.

So that’s me and Toby.