Saturday, April 27, 2013

No dog

Made some enquiries but apparently he needs very secure 7 ft fencing because he has an escape habit.

So no dog.

But we'll keep looking.  I think we've worked out we do want a dog.  Even if it can't be that dog.

He is beautiful though, isn't he?


You see my problem, don't you?  Look at those eyes.

Photo of dog looking for a home
Photo of dog looking for a home
Photo of dog looking for a home

Friday, April 26, 2013

Big debate tonight

There's a dog we've been looking at on the Internet.  Needs a home.  Big melt-your-heart eyes.  Would make the kids ridiculously happy.

But dogs cause problems and make mess and noise and trouble too from time to time.

We like dogs.  Both of us had a dog growing up.

Big commitment.

The debate goes on.

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 day off yesterday and time as a family.  We went fishing at the beach (caught a lot of seaweed).  One of our child has had a really tough week (mainly due to their own behaviour) and it was a real blessing to do some things yesterday that didn't involve discipline and where everyone felt included and at peace.

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

Thursday, April 25, 2013


This is my husband's great-grandfather, William Walter Phillips.  He landed with the ANZAC troops on the Gallipoli shore on that fateful 25th of April so long ago.  He kept a diary of his war-time experiences and my uncle-in-law faithfully transcribed it into a digital form some years ago.

Here's Gramps' account of the landing and the immediate days following:

Wednesday, 28th April 1915

Somewhere on Gallipoli. This is the first quiet moment we have had since leaving the Ship on Sunday last. We have had a terrible four days and still at it. Landed at 6am Sunday morning. Naval Petty Officer and 4 others were knocked in our boat, two shells landed right into a boat on our right with C Company chaps in. Not many could have escaped. We waded ashore, water up to our shoulders. Just as we stepped on the Beach a shell landed right at our feet but buried in the sand and never exploded. The roar of the Guns beggared description. We left our packs on the beach with our rations and charged up the hill and across a big valley with bullets and shells bursting everywhere. Capt McGuire went early Sunday morning, Lieut May just after him, Sergt Singleton next. Tom Haurakans had his head blown right off.  My God but it was a terrible time, we haven’t many of our Platoon left, at least not here abouts. I am at present dug in with Sergt Pinkstone of the  3rd Battalion, Perc Davies and Karl Amos, we have subsisted on one tin of Bully Beef and one tin of Jam since Sunday. We have had lots of charges but only got to close quarters on Monday. A man undoubtedly loses all reason then. I remember getting two Turks, the first was nearly too good for me. I don’t want any more bayonet charges. The Turks have been attacking night and day, so far we are keeping them back but if we don’t soon get a sleep I don’t know what will happen. We have wounded chaps all around crying for stretcher bearers and water. 

We drew lots to see who would go for water, it fell to Karl, he was shot dead within 20 yards of our trench on his return. In him we lost a good Pal, we shall avenge him. We have had no chance to make communication trenches yet. The Turks charge crying Allah. We have a lot of spies among us giving all sorts of wrong orders. Our losses are terrible heavy, dead bodies of Turks but more of our chaps lying all around us. I shot a German Officer last night, he is lying right in front of my trench now. Lizzies (Battleship HMS Queen Elizabeth) shells are giving Abdul pie, blew up an armoured tram today. We don’t know when we are to get a spell but hope it is soon, we are keeping awake now by banging one another. Abdul tried to lull us by putting up dummies on the ridges but we were not having any of them jokes.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Why abortion feels personal

This is my daughter and me. She’s about a week old in this photo. Still fragile but doing well. She was born at 32 weeks 4 days after a complicated pregnancy and weighing in at 1505 grams. It is thanks to God’s grace and the fabulous talents of my obstetrician and the wonderful paediatrician attending her birth that she has suffered no significant complications due to her early start.

But things could have gone very differently. As my obstetrician carefully tracked her progress inside my womb, he had to judge how long she could continue to grow within to maximise her lung development while my placenta was showing signs that it would not last the distance. Aiding him in this decision was Professor Lachlan de Crespigny. It was Prof de Crespigny who oversaw our many ultrasounds in the weeks and days leading up to her birth. And it was he who spoke to our obstetrician by phone on the on the day of her birth to give the final verdict that would lead to an emergency caesarean.

A few years later, I found out Prof de Crespigny was also one of the most ardent supporters of the legalisation of late-term abortions in Victoria. In 2004, Prof de Crespigny was part of a team at the Royal Women’s Hospital who conducted an abortion 32 weeks into a pregnancy. At the time, the legislation that now makes this a straightforward procedure was not in place. There were serious ramifications for Prof De Crespigny.

That pregnancy and mine both involved baby girls and both of them were 32 weeks old at the end of their mother’s pregnancies. This is why the discussion of late-term abortions always feels a little personal to me. People are talking about ending the life of a foetus/child/baby/collection of human cells that are at the same developmental stage that my first child was on the day we first held her. While I don’t agree, I can understand why someone could think about a 6-week pregnancy and conclude that it’s merely a jumble of cells and not a “person”. But it’s hard for me to understand how anyone would think what I delivered at 32 weeks was anything other than a baby. I can’t quite wrap my head around the fact that while my child received every possible ounce of medical care because we wanted her, another life – at the same age and the same stage, with all of the same capacities for survival - could be legally ended if their mother didn’t feel the same way about them.

However, there are obviously significant differences between my pregnancy and the abortion at the RWH. In our baby there were no known defects, while in the other case a 20-week ultrasound had picked up irregularities indicating dwarfism. The mother, in deep distress, arrived at the Royal Women’s Hospital insisting she would kill herself if the baby was not aborted. Many treatment options were sought including referral to an ultrasonologist, a geneticist, a genetic counsellor, an obstetrician, a psychiatrist and the possibility of adoption for the child. Only after these avenues had been exhausted, and all of the consulting doctors confirmed that the woman was acutely suicidal, did the doctors conclude that their only hope of saving her life was to abort the baby.

And this is when abortion again becomes personal – not personal to me as an individual, but as an issue that cannot be entirely extracted from the very personal stories in which it plays a role. No one would deny that not all pregnancies arise in ideal circumstances. And for some women, the circumstances are horrendous – incest or rape for example. Additionally, the life changes that motherhood brings with it can bring extreme burdens upon some women and families. When you don’t intend to get pregnant, have no means of supporting the child, live in violent or dangerous circumstances, have serious health or mental issues, are at the end of your rope caring for the children you already have, or face a lifetime of caring for a child with severe disabilities then continuing with a pregnancy can seem like a nightmare.
There is no way I would want to belittle the reasons why women seek abortions or add to the distress of women in those situations. For most women, I am sure it is a choice they would rather not have to face. I certainly don’t want to see women suffer and I don’t want to see backyard abortions and dangerous practices employed because women don’t feel they have any other options.
However, for me this is where the conversation turns from personal to personhood. For if there is only one person present in a pregnancy, then whatever that person needs or wants should be paramount. Under those circumstances, I wouldn’t have a problem with abortion. But what if there are two? If there are two people – mother and child – then we must decide if each person is deserving of the sort of moral protection we usually give to another human being. I think that each human being, regardless of colour, creed or abilities, has a special unique status on the basis of their shared humanity. You don’t have to be a Christian either to believe that what grows in a mother’s womb is uniquely human. Atheist Christopher Hitchens writes:
Now and then there would be a tussle over whether it was a fully “human” life, but this was casuistry. What other species of life could it be?  From here.
I can respect a woman’s right to choose what happens to her own body. But what if there is another person within? What rights do we owe to them as fellow human beings? Surely the most basic right any human being has is to live and not be killed. If we say that they are not fully human or not fully persons, what new definition of personhood are we writing into law? What is it about newborns that is so different from children at 39 weeks that they are now persons with all the associated rights involved? If there is no difference, why not allow infanticide after birth if the mother is no longer happy with the child? And for how long does the baby stay in this kind of un-person limbo? Three months? A year? Three? Six? How will we now define personhood and will those who are disabled or elderly loose the right to be defined as a human person?

Victoria’s abortion laws are particularly strong – abortion is allowed up to birth and for a wide variety of reasons including those which are psychosocial relating only to the mother and not to any medical problem with the pregnancy itself. A number of amendments were rejected including an amendment requiring the provision of an anaesthetic to the unborn child being aborted. That’s required for animal testing but not abortion. Also rejected was an amendment requiring medical staff to protect the life of a child if it happened to be born alive after an abortion. There is no obligation to render a living baby any assistance.
Abortion is intensely personal but there’s also a much bigger picture going on. The personal stories of women in desperate situations ought to weigh heavily on our minds but they cannot be the only factor in the discussion. We must ask, are we prepared to live with a new definition of human value, one that is dependent on whether you are seen as useful, wanted or without defect? What are the ramifications for the disability community living within a society which views disability as burden incompatible with a meaningful life?
During one of our visits to see Prof de Crespigny we asked him to verify if we were having a boy or a girl. Another sonographer had told us it was a girl only a few minutes beforehand but I was so convinced we were having a boy (because of all that kicking!) that I asked a second time to be sure. He whisked the probe around and said, “I would expect you to have a daughter.”
His gracious choice of phrase is something that I think back on when I hear his name connected with the abortion debate. Why did he say “a daughter” instead of a girl or female? It seems so personal. Perhaps he was simply reflecting back our obvious parental affection towards the shadowy figure wriggling about on the monitor above. But now I wonder: when does a pregnancy become a daughter?

Thank God it was Friday yesterday

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 my daughter is well again after a week and a half of stomach problems.  And I'm thankful too for the shopping I got done yesterday.  As I was filling up my trolley, I thought about the privilege that it is to be able to buy good food for your family.  It implies a whole stack of blessings, among them good jobs, a lack of pressing additional emergency needs, living in safety and security and a well-ordered society.  Truly thankful for those.

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

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Real life

How is my Listasaurus going you ask? Am I still getting up at 5 am these days?  Is the bedtime ladder being used to great effect to create household harmony? Is my shower beautifully clean?  Are my children happily doing their chores?

My Listasaurus has a thick layer of dust on it. I haven’t managed many 5 am starts at all this year and gave up entirely when I was exhausted by mid-term. The bedtime ladder had to be confiscated because of misuse on the part of the children. My shower looks feral.  And my children haven't cleaned anything in weeks.

This last week, my husband has been away on a course. I can’t tell you how grateful we are for the wonderful provision of this work-sponsored study program! However, the very first night he went away, I was woken at 3 am with a sick child who remained sick for the rest of the week. This morning involved a visit with her to pathology for blood tests and, although I think I see signs she is on the mend, I am tired.

Life never, ever works out exactly as you plan. Never. Getting het up about that is pointless and pretty illogical if you stop to think about it. And yet, of course, I do get hot and bothered about it fairly often. I want to manage life so that the bumps in the road are all of my own choosing and I constantly push the idea that my life is really in my control.

Life isn’t in our control. Not one of us can control the universe so that it obeys our bidding. There’s a very simple proof of this: bad stuff happens to people. Which begs the question of whether this life is a random series of events with some of us lucky enough to have it better than others?  Is there anyone or anything actually in charge of this messy world?

Obviously, a busy week and busy term barely rate on the scale when I consider what kinds of suffering are all around us. This same week amongst our church family we’ve had a funeral and another member sick in ICU. Friends with seriously ill children, relatives dealing with cancer and people just alone and sad.  I don’t have to be enduring a big crisis personally to be aware that life is difficult.

Real life does not follow the rules. It refuses to bend to my will. It reminds me that I am not in charge. But I do believe I know the one who is and he is the same one who says, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”*  At the end of a long week, there is rest for me because I am able to lay down my burdens, my fears and my failures. I don’t have to carry them. He deals with them. His shoulders are big enough to bear the responsibility for my small disasters and even the great suffering in this old world. All of this real, messy, stinky, painful, joyful and plain-old ordinary life is under his care.
*Matthew 11:28

Friday, April 12, 2013

A haircut this morning

"Washed" my hair with my new routine this morning and headed off for a back-to-work trim.  No comment on my weird hair.  So it's passed the hairdresser test.  Or she could just be too polite to say anything.  But I didn't see any signs that she thought my hair was anything but typical locks.

Kind of surprised that I'm still doing this and that it hasn't been that hard.  Anyone else out there giving it a go still?

Thank God it's Friday

Hooray, hooray!  Thanking God this morning for my newest niece born yesterday as the first child for my youngest brother-in-law and his sweet wife.  What a lovely little blessing!!!

I knew three couples all due close to this date.  One baby was born 10 weeks ago.  One baby was born yesterday.  Ben, you and E are up next!

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

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Dear Children,

All those hours of you being reasonably good and productive members of the family? I forget those. The ten minutes you were supremely annoying and painful? That’s what I get really worked up about.

That’s my fault. I’m pretty bad at that.

I’m sorry.

Start again?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

My mother's day present from Japan

I don't usually buy my own gifts - I prefer to be delightfully surprised.  But when Wendy mentioned the Nozomi Project in her series of posts on the second anniversary of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami I was captivated by the idea that brokenness and destruction could be restored to beauty and a new purpose.

The Nozomi Project - translated 'hope' in Japanese - creates beautiful one-of-a-kind jewellery pieces using broken pottery pieces left in the wake of the tsunami.  It provides "sustainable income, community, dignity and hope" to women from Ishinomaki, most of whom lost their livelihoods when the tsunami crashed through half of their city in 2011.  One third of these women are single mothers and grandmothers and all of them have been impacted by the tragedy that struck on that day.  You can read lots more about the project at their website and of course browse the beautiful jewellery on offer.  The postage to Australia was minimal (beginning at just $4.50) and I found great presents for my own mother and mother-in-law too.  My package got to me in less than three weeks, including the Easter weekend holidays, so there's still plenty of time for you to get your order in.  And just in case you're wondering, Ishinomaki is three hours north of Fukushima and definitely not in the radiation zone so it's not a glow-in-the-dark-kind of ring.

I'm hoping my new ring will open up some good conversations about why I so love the idea of brokenness being made new!  Just have to wait till May to wear it.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Read-aloud books

One of the greatest gifts my mother gave me was her habit of reading aloud to me.  No doubt it bestowed many academic benefits, but it was also a source of great warmth, fellowship and bonding between us.  I hope my kids will remember in the same way the hours we are spending together sharing books.  My husband has surprised me by blossoming into an excellent read-alouder complete with appropriate voices and enthusiasm.  Who knew!

Of course you cannot do the reading aloud without a book and the book must be selected.  Over time, I begin to scratch my head as to what to read next.  I imagine you do too.  I often look up other people's "best of" list at this point and I thought I'd contribute one of my own in the hope it will be useful.  So here's a list of some of  the best we remember from our reading so far. 

Ages 4 - 7  At this stage, our kids are ready to move from picture-story books to having a serial story read at night.  It can be a bit hard to find chapter books with appropriate levels of language and ideas for this age group.  And it varies a great deal with your own kids' tolerance of suspense or danger.

My Father’s Dragon (series) - Ruth Stiles Gannat

The Giraffe the Pelly and Me - Roald Dahl

Fantastic Mr Fox - Roald Dahl

Milly, Molly, Mandy (series) - Joyce Lankester Brisley

Naughty Amelia Jane (series) - Enid Blyton

Winnie the Pooh (series) - A A Milne

Akimbo and the lions (series) - Alexander McCall-Smith

Stuart Little - E B White

The Boxcar children (series) - Gertrude Chandler Warner

The Magic Faraway Tree (series) - Enid Blyton

Ages 7 -9  Longer and slightly more involved stories.  Their interest level in stories usually outstrips their reading ability at this stage so reading aloud keeps their love of books burning until their reading skills catch up with their growing level of maturity.  Some of the books in long series (like the later Anne of Green Gables books) I'm keeping to read aloud as the kids grow to match the age of the main character.

The lion, the witch and the wardrobe (series) - C S Lewis

Charlotte’s Web - E B White

27th Annual African Hippotamus Race - Morris Lurie

Famous Five (series) - Enid Blyton

Nim’s Island - Wendy Orr

How to train your dragon (series) - Cressida Cowell

Anne of Green Gables (series) - L M Montgomery

What Katy Did (series) - Susan Coolidge

Little House in the Big Woods (series) - Laura Ingalls Wilder

Treasures in the Snow - Patricia St. John

Gold of the gods (Mission Survival series) - Bear Grylls

The Adventures of Nanny Piggins (series) - R A Spratt

Swallows and Amazons (series) - Arthur Ransome

So what gems have you read aloud that I'm yet to discover?  Do share!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

A hair update - how superficial!

I have thought about, groomed and looked at my hair more in the last week than a bunch of girls on Year 9 camp.  Mainly because I am worried someone is going to come up and yell in horror, "Your HAIR!!!  What have you done?!"  But I'm getting over the paranoia.  No one seems to have noticed that I'm conducting a weird hippy experiment on my locks.

So here's a couple of photos from this morning:

You can see it all looks pretty normal.  This is after a bi-carb wash and vinegar rinse this morning.  Last "wash" was three days ago and the previous "wash" three days before that and the very last real shampoo wash four days before that.  I have to admit I was feeling oily by the end of yesterday.  I think that's because previously I have been washing my hair every second day as a rule so my scalp is still getting used to a three-day gap.  I'm going to keep going with the three-day gap for the rest of the holidays but I might have to go back to "washing" every second day when I go back to work if it's still not settled.
At the moment I have no desire to shampoo. My hair feels just as clean as if I'd shampooed it.  Still haven't worked out if it's going to fix my sore scalp issues.  Haven't noticed any great improvement yet.  And of course I don't know what the long term effects might be - will my hair get brittle and nasty without any conditioner?  But in the short term, it's looking fine and holding it's style very well.  However, at the end of next week, I'll probably need to get it cut at the hair-dressers.  It's one of those cheap ones were they ask you if you've washed your hair in the past 24 hours rather than washing it for you.  Hmm, will my hair pass the hairdresser test?

This must be shared

Cath's recipe for cinnamon scrolls is here.  I made a tray-full yesterday.  Very easy but ridiculously delicious.

Friday, April 5, 2013

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 to God for good medical care (to which most of the world has limited access).  Thanks to my lovely GP, I found out the reason I have been dragging myself around for the last few months has been very low iron levels.  And now, a couple of weeks into my course of iron tablets, I'm feeling SO much better.  It's a real blessing and makes me feel much calmer about facing the rest of this very busy year.  We are super-blessed to be able to easily access the doctor for even simple things, never mind the huge gratefulness we should have for the care we receive if things are really serious.

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

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

'Poo free

Time to come clean - or at least talk about clean.  I haven't washed my hair in a week.  I might just end up looking like this soon.

I'm trying out going 'poo free' which as horrible as it sounds is just the trendy name for not using shampoo and conditioner.  Can I just take a moment to assure you all that I have still showered every day in the last week! 
Over the last year, I've been having troubles with my sensitive scalp and after three or four different shampoos, including two expensive natural/organic ones, it hasn't improved much.  So I thought I'd try something radical.  I am now using a weak bi-carb soda mix to "wash" my hair and an apple-cider vinegar "conditioning rinse" afterwards.  Plus, I'm working on stretching out how often I "wash" my hair so that I can get to "washing" it a couple of times a week rather than every day or second day.
If you are interested in the whole shampoo-free thing you can find lots of info for it here.  It's a bit radical, I know.  I am not a fan of herbal, organic, homeopathic, natural, home-remedy-type things as a rule.  And I won't be changing my vote at the next election.  But it's worth a shot.
My dad is reading this and concluding I finally have gone mad.
Anyway, one week in and how's it going?  The first couple of days were just greasy and then I had my first bi-carb wash.  I was really dubious about whether it would "feel" washed, but as soon as I started rinsing I could tell that it does actually "do" something.  I hadn't bought the apple-cider vinegar yet so I skipped that bit.  My hair was fabulous for the next couple of days and then I washed it again and I realized I really did need the apple-cider vinegar rinse.  The first wash was fine, but washing the second time dried out my hair and it felt a bit straw-like.  Today, I've washed it again and used the "rinse" for the first time.  It feels okay and has blow-dried well.  It's not very shiny, but maybe that will come in time.
And, no, it doesn't smell like fish and chips.  Once you rinse the vinegar off, you really can't smell it.  I've got these school holidays to try it out before my hair has to look presentable again for work.  They say there's usually a two-four week adjustment period.  So far it hasn't been too horrible but we'll see what this second week brings.
Anyone else out there gone 'poo-free?  Am I mad or on to something brilliant?