Saturday, September 29, 2012

Eight-year old learns to clean the toilet... astounded!

Simone likes to create holiday contracts.  Meredith encouraged me to use holidays as an opportunity to take the time to teach new chores.  I've rolled that together to create our holiday "Work For The Dole Computer Time" system.

It's only for the holidays.  I would find it too tiresome to maintain during term time.  But so far I've gotten toilets cleaned, bathroom basins wiped, garden beds weeded, floors swept and glass cleaned.  And while it hasn't really saved me any time because I've had to supervise most of the work so far, it's provided excellent opportunities to teach new cleaning skills.  Usually, my attempts to teach chores are met with much grumpiness and resistance.  But it's all a matter of finding the right currency.
So thanks Simone and Meredith!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Thank God it's Friday

Wow, I'm late with this post today. School holidays has me all out of whack. Anyway...

 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 this little bit of awesome. Some of you might have seen the birth of Alison's twins on an episode of RPA years ago.  Ashlea, who you see walking in this clip, received a new kidney from her dad at Easter time this year.  It came at a huge personal cost to her dad, who experienced severe complications from the surgery.  You can explore Alison's blog if you'd like the know more but suffice to say this clip is a real reason to break out the happy tears!

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

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Oh the humanity!

The whole "aim straight" issue in our kids' toilet is driving me nuts.  The table-tennis ball just isn't cutting it.  There is more than one possible culprit and everyone is denying responsibility.  I'm mopping the floor at least twice a day.  I know some of you have boys - help!  When/how did you get them out of the redecorating the bathroom phase?

Here's my current possible options:

1. Kitty litter.  Our cat uses a great clumping litter.  Perhaps I could just sprinkle it liberally around the base of the toilet and scoop when necessary.

2. Mats.  I could buy/sew a pile of those floor mats that go around toilets.  Yes, they would get soaked but at least it would stay in one place instead of running in the grooves of the tiles and spreading everywhere.  Perhaps if they could see the wet patch, they could be taught to change the mat!

3. Urinal fly decals from here.  Worked for Amsterdam airport so it might work for me.

4. A lock on the toilet door.  Children would be required to take an oath committing themselves to aiming straight or cleaning up before being allowed in.  But I can see this might create other issues...

5. Portaloo.  In the backyard.  You can't use the indoor toilet till you've kept the portaloo clean for four weeks.  Tough love.

6.  Begging and pleading.  Already tried.

Come on, guys!  Help me out here.

Maturity and frights in the night

Simone’s been discussing maturity.

I don’t think maturity is a destination. You don’t get there and set up camp for the rest of your life. The mature people I’ve met are actively still learning and growing. One of the key features of their maturity is that they recognise that there is more to learn and more ways to grow. Often I fear the fact that in 10 years’ time, I’ll realize I was wrong about some of the ways I think now and regret some of my choices. I only want to move forward when I know everything and have perfectly chosen from all the options. Ridiculous. And not maturity – just perfectionistic fear. 

That’s not say that the mature person doesn’t come to any firm conclusions about life. It doesn’t mean we must live in constant uncertainty about our decisions and beliefs.  However, change will come.  And through it we hope to grow.

But here’s the thing: after a bit of a clicking trail last night, I read this quote from and felt chilled to the bone.
As I grow older, I find more and more people, in all fields of life, who seem more and more trapped and unfree…they choose security over honesty. In my field, I see bishops, priests, and ministers, who in moments of private honesty, reveal they do not really believe this or that any more, but they have to pretend to believe it to be faithful to the persona they built and created in their first 40-50 years… it is like throwing your previous life script out the window and admitting that much of it was mistaken.
Richard Rohr, a Franciscan priest from the USA.

Deeply unsettling.

It struck a nerve because of all the things we saw last year: marriages we thought were solid suddenly disintegrated, our minister imploded and ran away from church and home, and a member of our family was struck down with an illness we thought was under control. Life tipped on its axis somewhat. What we thought we knew, wasn’t so.

So how then do I know that won’t happen to me? What if I wake one morning and the walls all come crashing down? What if life slips sideways for a moment and the mechanics behind the whole façade are revealed and it all – this home, this family, this faith - turns out to be just a figment of my imagination, nothing solid? What if I wake and find I’ve just been pretending for all these years?

I imagine myself inside a house, at a kitchen table. We are warm and laughing but the walls are painted scenery. All of a sudden, the scene ends and the walls fall backwards into the dirt. We are in fact beside a road in the middle of nowhere and it is utterly dark beyond us. The lights are hastily packed up by the people working the set and everyone gets into a warm, glowing bus and drives speedily away. And I am left horribly alone. In the dark. I watch the bus full of laughing, chatting people drive further and further out of sight. And then comes the fear. I don’t know what to do next and I begin to consider what terrible dangers might me coming for me there unprotected and deserted in the dark.

That’s the bleak picture I was imagining last night in bed. Maybe there’s a middle-age factor in here. We get taken up in the first half of life with growing and ticking off life’s stages. Then we get to the middle and wonder what next? Or worse – is what I think I have now real or lasting? When will my children die? When will my spouse leave me? When will I go mad and not be able to leave my own room?

If you know me well, you are probably chuckling about now. I am known for my overly-dramatic and bleak view of life (a little bit Toby). If you don’t know me well, you are perhaps shocked and about to dash around to counsel me (bring cake). Don’t worry. I like to imagine the worse now and then. Does me no end of good.

Then I thought, “Courage.” We’ve been listening to The Voyage of The Dawntreader as an audio book this week and I'm sure that's why that word should occur to me. I might have it written up in a bold flowing script on my bedroom wall.

Courage is what’s called for when these imaginings come upon you. Life may indeed turn out to be very different from the life script you wrote for yourself in your teens or your twenties. In fact, I would guess that’s pretty much a given. But that doesn’t mean that all of life is a sham. I have solid ground under my feet because I know the author of my life’s story. It is beyond my control. But it is not out of control. I have great and precious promises – that my debts have been paid and my future secured, that I will never be abandoned, that my hope will not prove empty.

And so I will pick up my sword when these frights come crowding in and I will fight them. And while I still have breath, I will pray. I will pick my dusty satchel up from beside my feet, turn around and head for the distant mountains. The world around me may be dark. But beyond the mountains, I see a faint light. The dawn.

The bus, with the people of the façade, will rush on. It chases the night, you see. Driving always westward to avoid the coming day. But the true day will be so much more than the glow of the electric lights and hollow laughter from the bus.

John 8:12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

School fonts

If you've ever wanted to make your own worksheets using the correct handwriting font of your state, School Fonts is the way to go.  Although you can download free fonts from some state education sites, you don't get the extra fonts such as dots for tracing and the numbered outlines font for channeling.  They come as a set of fonts, each distinct to the state of Australia you come from, and are $30 per set.  Can be installed with Mac, OSX, and any Windows including XP, Vista, and Windows 7.  Fonts can be emailed to you directly or posted as a CD.

The story of how school fonts got started and its links with a small school in North East Arnhem Land can be found here.  The story of how the funds generated from the project are used to benefit indigenous people can be found here.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

For conflict

A friend of mine got some good advice from a counsellor about dealing with conflict.  He told them to focus on their priorities in order as they dealt with the conflict:

1. My relationship with God.  What does he want me to do in this situation?  How is my relationship with him going?

2. My spouse.  What needs to happen in our relationship in response to this conflict?  How is our relationship going?

3. My children.  How am I to care for them?  How is our relationship going?

4. And finally the conflict itself .... how do I respond to the conflict and the people in it?

I often skip to number 4 - how can I get this conflict and this person sorted out right now?!  And yet, if the other steps are looked at first, things might go much better.

Just so you know, I have no major conflict happening. This isn't some hidden post about some big church, family or work issue. It was just good advice I heard the other day that I thought I'd share. Don't freak out and read anything into it...

Monday, September 24, 2012

Home again

Just got home from a big weekend in the Blue Mountains.  All of my husband's family - that's 18 of us in the immediate family - got together for a day (very fun).  It was also kind of an emergency trip because my mother-in-law is hoping to have a bone-marrow transplant next month.  So this was our last chance to all be together before the demanding nature of the treatment and the need for infection control will make visiting difficult for a while.

Bitter sweet weekend.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Boredom busters

Here in Australia, another set of school holidays is about to arrive. Lots of time to read, pick on siblings, conduct science experiments, make a mess in the kitchen, read books, stare at the ceiling, beg for more screen time and make up new games. In the interest of sanity, I give you three quick activities from boys' club at church this term. Most primary (elementary) aged kids would enjoy these.

Straw planes

 An alternative design for a paper plane. Much easier to fly than an ordinary paper plane. Instructions from here at All for the Boys.

Volcanic milk

This simple science experiment makes visible the activity created by the addition of dishwashing liquid. It's just fun to play around with. Instructions and video here from Steve Spangler Science.

Musical coat hangers

Wire coat hangers do not make a nice sound.  However, with the addition of some string, you can make an ordinary wire coat hanger produce a very good imitation of a church bell.  Find the instructions here at Science Experiments for Kids.  This one comes with a special bonus: the kids will look hilarious while doing it.

Friday, September 21, 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 chance to catch up with family this weekend.

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

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Skyflakes and the Lord's Supper

One of my friends brought around this tub of comfort food last night.  It's a Filipino cracker from my childhood.  You know childhood food: takes you back instantly and feels oh-so-right.  Memories wrapped in taste.

So I convinced my children to give Skyflakes a go.  Usually, when Filipino food arrives at our house, my kids excitedly take a bite or two and then decide it's weird and they don't like it.  Then I pretend to be disappointed that they have scorned my childhood culture.  But secretly I hope all along for this outcome because now the whole family-sized slab of cassava cake is mine, all mine!

Regrettably, Skyflakes are a universal hit with children everywhere so I will have to share my new tub.  But as they were greedily munching their way through, I began to reminisce about my childhood.

When we lived in the Philippines, my dad was a pastor of an evangelical church in a smallish town about four hours from Manila.  Although you could get most things you wanted, more exotic items weren't always in stock.  This meant that it wasn't always possible to buy the bread and grape juice we used for communion services.  On those Sundays, communion would be held using Skyflakes and Coca-cola.  I kid you not.

My kids were over the moon: "Could we please, please, please join Granddad's church?"

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

If Jesus got married, did all 12 disciples get to be in the wedding party?

A new debate about whether Jesus was a single guy has begun based on a scrap of papyrus dating from around the 4th century AD.  On it are written the words, "Jesus then said to them, my wife".  The papyrus fragment, written in ancient Coptic, is about the size of a business card and contains 6 lines on one side and 8 on the other.  If you read this article online, you can watch a Harvard professor of divinity discussing the find.  She concludes that it is not evidence for Jesus being married.  Instead it is evidence for a debate about marriage springing up about 150 years after Jesus death.  The guess is that people were trying to argue that marriage and sexuality is okay by suggesting Jesus might also have been married.  So then an alternative gospel is written up by a 4th century author who chooses to insert a line in which Jesus says something about "my wife".

And predictably, the newspaper article does a lovely job of beating the story up.  My favourite quote is this one:

"Christian tradition has long held that Jesus was not married, even though no reliable historical evidence exists to support that claim," King said in a statement released by Harvard."
Let's for a moment go on in that vein.  What else could we say about Jesus for which there is no historical evidence to disprove it?

Christian tradition has long held that Jesus did not travel to Rome, even though no reliable historical evidence exists to support that claim.

Christian tradition has long held that Jesus did not kill his father, even though no reliable historical evidence exists to support that claim.

Christian tradition has long held that Jesus did not steal from rich widows, even though no reliable historical evidence exists to support that claim.

Christian tradition has long held that Jesus did not invent an ancient form of icecream, even though no reliable historical evidence exists to support that claim.

In other words, you can claim that a lot of things might have happened and then shift the burden of proof to the other person and require them to prove that it didn't.

Despite eyewitness accounts describing Jesus' adult life in quite a lot of detail, none of the gospel accounts mention a wife or family. Neither do the non-Christian Roman or Jewish historians who mention the existence and death of a man named Jesus from Nazareth.

I suspect that this particular bit of Christian scholarship is interesting to the rest of the world because (a) it involves sexuality and people have some funny idea that Christians are really against this and (b) it sounds like a cover-up or conspiracy by the early church.

Lately, the Catholic church seems to be managing to hit both targets with their utterly reprehensible record on dealing with paedophilia and abuse by clergy.  So religious instituations are understandably lacking a fair bit of credibility at the present.

On one hand, I hate it when the media package up a story to make it more tasty and in doing so make it very hard to reasonably discern the key facts and conclusions.  On the other hand, I like that people want to think about evidence for our understanding of Jesus.  Who wrote those ancient documents?  How do we know if they are reliable?  Is there evidence of an early church cover up and were the gospels changed over time like Chinese whispers?  I think those are really excellent questions to ask.  If you'd like to follow that up further, try the centre for public Christianity.


I am a procrastinator.  That might surprise people who see me as pretty organised.  And yet, procrastinating is a great temptation for me a lot of the time.  When I'm not procrastinating, it's usually because I've just put it off till later.

You can procrastinate because you are feeling lazy.  This would be the case with my shower cleaning (or lack of it). Sometimes you avoid tasks when you are are not sure you can accomplish them perfectly.  Often, it's not so much a conscious decision to procrastinate as just the failure to schedule a time to do it right now.

Hence, I'm on a continual learning curve trying to beat my procrastinating tendancies to ensure that stuff gets done.  This week, while delaying the folding of the washing, I read a good post at Buttoned Up with 12 anti-procrastination tips.

I am definitely someone who overestimates how long a job will really take. I can survey a pile of dishes and conclude that there is at least a half an hour of hard work in front of me.  Then I finish and look at the clock and it was actually only an 8 minute job.

I also struggle to get into a task if I don't think I can get the whole thing done at once.  I need to get better at breaking things up into smaller mouthfuls so that I focus on getting one part done at a time rather than fussing over how long it will take to complete it entirely.

So the 12 tips were great but I would like to add one of my own:

If you're not going to do what you should be doing, at least do something useful.

That's my little rule of thumb when a big procrastinating panic hits me.  If I'm not going to work on what I should be doing, I try to make sure what I do instead is at least productive and will alleviate stress later when I do get back to my task.  Not going to finish your essay?  Then you need to clean the toilet and put another load of washing on the line.  So at least something that needed to get done is getting done.  As it turns out, when I start doing something useful, my stress levels usually fall and calm returns and I feel ready to get stuck into whatever it was I was avoiding.  If not, at least I haven't wasted an hour watching some obscure American sitcom with a dodgy plot line.

Anybody else got a good tip for beating procrastination?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Compassion reminder

For those of you who are Compassion sponsors, it's time to get your Christmas cards sent in so that they can be translated and sent in time for Christmas.  For Australian sponsors, those cards Compassion sent you last month are due this week!  Dig them out of your to-do pile and write a quick note of encouragement and get them in the post by the weekend.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Family bonds

A friend at playgroup asked me last week, "Do your children fight with each other?"

And thus we discovered that we are both only children.  Sibling arguments are new territory for us.

This is led to us calculating how many relationships are produced each time you add a child to a family.

Marriage: 1 relationship

One child: 3 relationships (Mum & Dad, Mum & child, Dad & child)

Two children: 6 relationships

Three children: 10 relationships

Four children: 15 relationships

Five children: 21 relationships

You get the idea.  So we have 10 relationships happening in our house.  Only one of those relationships involves two (mostly) mature adults.  So no wonder if we have a few arguments about the place from time to time.  That makes me feel less crazy.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Killer Bunnies - review

Killer Bunnies is quirky, somewhat geeky and quite addictive. And it's got cool 12-sided dice. 

The aim is to collect as many "carrot" cards as possible. As you do this, you must also keep your "bunny" cards alive and safe from many dangers including starvation, electric hedge-trimmers, missile launchers and jello with pineapple chunks. The beauty of the game is best seen when silliness combines with a ruthless determination to win. The game ends when all of the carrot cards have been amassed by players and the holder of a randomly-drawn carrot card becomes the winner. In other words, you can play a very good game and lose anyway or vice-versa. Obviously, this drives some personality types crazy and they should be kept right away from Killer Bunnies. But the aim is to enjoy the playing of the game more than the winning of it.

The other thing that makes Killer Bunnies particularly entertaining are the booster packs that you can add on to the game. Each booster changes the strategy of the game somewhat and introduces new elements. So just when you think it's all getting a bit predictable, you can add in some further craziness.

Highly recommended although it is a bit hard to learn just from the instructions.  It's much better if someone who already knows the game plays it with you.  I'm happy to be that person.  You might need to provide airfares but I'm quite happy to sleep on the floor once I get there.

You won't find this game on-shelf unless you are in a dedicated games store but it's easily ordered online from a local games retailer or Amazon.  For ages 12+.  If you have younger children, you can probably get them playing earlier if they've experienced Kinder Bunnies.

Friday, September 14, 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 time with old friends and new friends that has happened this week.  It feels like a very full week but it's been good.

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

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Telling it like it is

Our local Christian school has a minibus.  Beautiful logo on the side.  Full of happy children and jolly teachers ferrying kids to various things out of the school grounds.  It's the number plate that always makes me grin:  The letters that come before the numbers are SIN.

No, it's not a personalized plate.

I like that no one has decided to change it.  Most amusing.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Spy the lie - a review

Really enjoyed this. It discusses the verbal and non-verbal clues to look for when you are trying to assess whether someone is being deceptive. It's filled with lots of interesting case studies and written by the guys who train the guys. Obviously, a quick read of the book does not turn you into a human lie-detector. But I think even for the total interrogation novice you could take home some good ideas. Here's what stood out to me:

1. Lying is much harder than telling the truth. From the moment you decide you will saying something deceptive, your brain is working almost against itself. Think of rubbing your head and patting your  tummy. Your brain's default position is reality and saying something that doesn't match with reality requires more energy than the truth.

2. How you ask questions is really important. Consider for example, "So you didn't go by the house at all that night?" All the person has to do in response to that question in order to lie is say, "That's right," or "No." That's not so hard. And the more times they say it, the easier it gets. Open ended questions make it much harder as the person responding has to filter in multiple possible answers and facts that they must stick to if they want to pull off a lie.

3. Micro-expressions are too hard to analyze in real-life. Lie to Me might be fun to watch but they don't use those techniques very much in real interrogations.

4. If you look for only one symptom of lying - say a particular non-verbal cue like sweating or fidgeting - you might be confused by something that is simple a product of the current context (the seat is uncomfortable or the heating too high) and not an actual indicator of deception. Better to look for "clusters" of deceptive signals. If you have a "cluster" of verbal or nonverbal deception indicators that begin within the five seconds of the stimulus question, you need to follow up that topic.

Included at the end are some suggested questions to ask in specific situations such as a list of questions parents might use to ask their teenagers about drug use. At this point, you need to keep in mind that they only give you the tools to uncover information and possible deception. What you then do with what you find out is an entirely different kettle of fish!

I managed to find the book at my local library but it's also available from all of the usual suspects.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Do I hate you?

Do I?

Why would I ask that?

Well, essentially because of something said by Penn Jillette.  You may have heard of Penn and Teller the magicians.  Well, he's Penn.  At the conference I went to on the weekend, one of the speakers remarked on a youtube clip in which Penn Jillette talks about his reaction to being given a New Testament by a fan who had watched one of his comedy shows. Penn Jillette is one of the most outspoken atheists in America.  He wants nothing to do with religion.  And this guy walks up and gives him a Bible.

In that clip he asks, "Just how much do you have to hate someone to not proselytize?" If you really believe there is a God, how much do you have to hate someone to not try to share that information with them?

That's a pretty tough question.  Here's the clip.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Post conference

A good measure of how much you enjoyed a Christian conference is your singing on Monday morning.  In particular, the number of dramatic key changes you allow yourself while singing the main song from the weekend.  I must say my rendition in the shower this morning was noteworthy for both volume and excessively high key-changing when repeating the chorus.  Good times.

Choose to have a baby every day

Um, no, this isn't about contraception or the lack of it.

I was just thinking the other day about that saying that goes, "You need to choose to say 'I do' everyday." It's supposed to remind us that staying in love in marriage requires an ongoing commitment to love the other person.  Good point.  Must remember that.

But I wasn't actually thinking about marriage at all.  I was thinking about my children.  At the start of this year, I was feeling a bit gloomy about the whole kid-thing.  There were some challenging behaviours running amok and I was tired.  After many years of parenting small children, I'm a bit over the playdough and the singing and the constant negotiations over the nonnegotiable (yes, you do have to brush your teeth every day).  With only one child still at home during school hours, I can see the end of the little years but I'm not quite there yet.  And I know I'll cry buckets when I get there but a few months ago I was on the verge of making up a wall chart and crossing off the days until the house was my own from 8 till 3.

Stop being shocked.  I do still love them.

As I was busy grumbling about all of this, I finally remembered, somewhere in the distant past (B.C. - before children) I'd actually chosen to take this particular path.  I was blessed that I could even have kids.  I was also blessed that I was able to make the choice to stay home with them during the preschool years.  And actually, at the time, I was thrilled to make that choice.  We'd planned for it and saved for it.  I was really excited to leave work and begin raising my first baby.

Where did that go?  When did I lose the joy of that?  How did I forget that this isn't some kind of cross I've been called to bear but a joy and privilege?

It's then that I thought of that old marriage line.  No love stays fresh forever if you don't feed it and care for it.  I'm pretty sure that applies to mothers too.  Every day is a new opportunity to love my small people - actually many, many opportunities. So I'm going to work on saying "I do" to my kiddos every day.  Even at 4.30pm. Because I want to be glad to have them all over again.

And, don't worry.  I'm not having some major mothering-crisis which might require you to rush over and bring chocolate.  I'm okay really - just was having a gloomy patch.  But bring the chocolate anyway.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Reading a book about middle-aged men

Last Sunday, my husband said, "You should read this book too."  That never happens.  I'm always the one pushing books in his direction.  So after I'd picked myself up off the ground, I set to reading straight away.

The book was Men: Firing through all of life by Al Stewart. Obviously, from the frequent chuckling while he was reading, my husband identified with quite a few of the stories Stewart tells.  He came into our bedroom laughing one evening and said, "I knew I liked this guy!  Listen to this!"  And then he read me the following:
The regular fun is that I exercise about six days a week. Sometimes it's running and sometimes it's weights at the gym. It all happens before 7:00am. I do this to keep physically well, but I also do it so that I don't go crazy. My wife would love it if I liked board games, but the sight of a jigsaw puzzle can make me start to lose the will to live.
That would be why I go to Poker Night.

I finished the book in about a day - it's not a hard read.  Stewart describes and ponders the feelings of many men as they start to approach middle age: wondering where those glory days went, why they no longer dream big, and the feeling of ground-hog day as they go to work and do the same stuff over and over and over again.

I actually felt quite unsettled by the first half of the book.  Many people joke about 'midlife crisis' but as I came to consider things from a male's point of view (if that's possible), I realized I'd failed to recognize the challenges that your average middle-aged guy goes through.  After all, I'm the one who's been birthing babies and staying at home with the preschoolers and doing the school run and worrying about my grey hair! But as Stewart points out, it's not necessarily a picnic for the guys either.  I don't think most husbands articulate all that stuff - maybe they don't want to, never get a chance to, or wouldn't know how to put it into words.  I was actually so rattled that my husband had to assure me that he doesn't personally feel all of the things Stewart writes about ... or at least not all at once.  Phew!

It's written for a male audience, but if you do leave it on your husband's night-stand, it's well worth a read yourself.

However, my husband did tell me, very seriously, that he wasn't actually a middle-aged man.

Ahem.  We'll just leave that one alone.

Available from  Book Depository

Air Force One

I'm driving four other women from my church to a conference today.  Pray for me! I've counted it up and between us we have 14 children.  So I'm driving the mothers of 14 children from one end of our city to the other and back.  That's puts the responsibility level up around the same zone as if I was entrusted with the transport of the Leader of the Free World (little West Wing reference there).  There's going to be some pretty serious praying from me before we leave.

Friday, September 7, 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 mums that have joined our playgroup this year.  I love catching up with them and they are such a blessing to know.  And they are very forgiving about the fact that I often get so caught up in chatting that I forget to craft with my child.  Child?  What child?

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

Time for a dog

The cats in our neighbourhood are driving us mad.  Our elderly cat sleeps inside 95% of the time now.  But Sparkles comes over a great deal and lately about three other cats have been appearing.  I suspect they are chasing young Sparkles.  And they are spraying which is beyond annoying!

So the subject of a dog has come up.  A big anti-cat dog.  I grew up with a dog who was an indoor/outdoor dog and even slept on the end of my bed.  But now I don't feel quite the same way about doggy breath and fur and paws and what-not.  But if we had a dog, just how long could I hold out before the dog was indoors?  And what about the digging, and the vet bills, and walking it in winter, and chasing it down when it inevitably digs a hole under the fence to escape, and the chewing of toys and the poo on the back lawn?

On the plus side, I would be my children's hero if I brought home a dog to love.  And, I have to admit, I'm a bit attracted by the idea that I'd have a four-legged excuse to avoid holidays.  "Oh, no.  We don't have anyone to mind the dog.  We couldn't be away that long."  I don't like going away.  You have to do all the usual stuff of mothering in a location with less convenience and the constant headache of making sure your kids don't break anything.  Not a fan.  Just let me spend my summer at home, pottering around.  Maybe even pottering around with a dog to keep me company.

I don't know.  Expense & mess vs love & no cats.  What to do?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Keep calm and read the poster

You've seen the Keep Calm and Carry On poster right?  Couldn't miss it at the moment.  It's everywhere.  Produced by the British Government's Ministry of Information in 1939, it was one of three posters designed to boost morale during the war.  The first two of the series were printed and distributed, but the Keep Calm poster was held back in reserve for use in the event of a dire emergency like an imminent German invasion.  It was never used, rediscovered once it was out of copyright, loved, mass distributed and now spoofed, altered and enjoyed by millions.  After all, who amongst us doesn't need a little reassurance now and then?  I personally like Keep Calm and Drink Tea.  But you know I have issues in that area...

Anyway, have you ever seen the first two posters?  The first was "Freedom Is In Peril. Defend It With All Your Might".  But the second is my favourite:

It's my favourite because it sums up nicely the challenge of parenting on a bad day when everyone is pushing the boundaries.  I have a tiny print out of it stuck up in my kitchen to remind me of my duty.  I usually totally ignore it.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Not a scarewy movie

We have quite a sensitive soul amongst our family when it comes to watching films. The original Herbie movie proved too suspenseful. Let's just call it a low-tolerance level for possible bad outcomes.

But recently we borrowed Disney's Swiss Family Robinson (1960). Highly recommend it if you are looking for some good fun with a few pirates getting their just desserts. Unlike some of the older family movies, the plot moves along at a quick pace - no long song and dance scenes like Mary Poppins. The movie has a fair bit of adventure that kids love to imagine for themselves - building an amazing treehouse, taming wild animals, defeating pirates. There is some mild suspense but nothing too terrible happens and even our sensitive soul made it through the film without having to run out of the room.

Now that he's been able to watch a few DVDs without getting distressed, he's feeling bolder. A mate has told him of the wonders of Star Wars. He's really keen on this idea. He came home and told me that his friend had watched it and said it was fine. "It's really not scarewy at all!" I've made a decision. If you are still saying "scarewy" instead of "scary", you're not ready for it.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

John Newton and my final words

A guy named John Newton spoke the words that I hope to be muttering on my death bed. He also wrote Amazing Grace. Everyone knows the hymn Amazing Grace. Even if you never attended a church, you could probably recognise the tune just from the snippets that regularly appear in film and television. It’s got to be one of the most recognizable songs in the world. My brother-in-law, who works in the funeral industry, tells me that often people who are adamant that they don’t want a “religious” service still want Amazing Grace played at some point.

Which is surprising because I can’t think of a more deeply religious song. “That saved a wretch like me” – people don’t often approve of being called a wretch. One of the things that bugs people about Christianity is the “holier than thou” thing. You know, people judging you because you are not good enough.

Obviously it’s the grace bit that people find comforting in this song. And that’s the difference between “holier than thou” and knowing God. God knows I’m a wretch and yet he’s extended to me grace – amazing, extravagant grace. John Newton was in fact a reformed slave trader. That was a serious history to carry around with you. He wasn’t pretending to be humble when he spoke of being lost and blind. He knew what he was. And yet he also knew he was found.

After his conversion, Newton was a well-known preacher and influential figure in the campaign to end the slave trade. In his final years though, his health declined, he lost his sight and his memory began to fail. It’s from this period of his life that my favourite Newton quote comes:  

“My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things: that I am a great sinner, and that Christ is a great Saviour."

That's what I hope.  I hope that if I forget everything else, in my final hours I'll be remembering those two things. And if you happen to be there, remind me please.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,

That saved a wretch like me.

I once was lost, but now am found,

Was blind, but now I see.

Monday, September 3, 2012


Just thought you might need some balm for your eyes after the last post.  This is from our front garden this weekend.  Beautiful.

Brace yourself

A bookmark!  Nice.

Except that it's a hologram and a little tip reveals....

 ... the zombie!!

Now, that's not something you see everyday.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The parent rap

HT Girltalk

The zombies are coming

Spent four and a half hours yesterday manning (womanning?) the Fathers' Day stall at school.  All the classes came in and many tokens of love and affection were purchased.  And as is the custom at these stalls, some gift options were more appealing than others.  But there was one particular gift option that deserved the prize for most horrible gift ever.  Truly bad.

Sadly, neither of my children chose it for their dad.  They chose sensible presents (yawn).  But I really couldn't leave it behind.  So at the end of the day, I gave my preschool child $1 to purchase the item and bring it home with us.  He's delighted.  I'm contentedly smiling to myself.  It's just dreadful.  Honestly.  I can't begin to describe it.

But I can't say any more just yet because my husband does occasionally read my blog.  Roll on, Fathers' Day!