Saturday, June 29, 2013

What we are learning from Honey #2

Poor old Honey.  She was abandoned and very skinny when she was rescued and put up for adoption.  In the first few weeks we had her, we discovered she had also been beaten.  Whenever we picked up a long stick-like object (a broom, a shovel, a rake etc.) she'd fall to the ground and cower.  She's starting to get over that a little bit but there's still a way to go.

So it was really important that there was a lot of encouragement and praise when it came to her training.  To get her to obey new commands and follow new routines we lavished her with praise as soon as she did the right thing.  And because she's a dog, the praise needed to be instant when she displayed the correct behaviour or ceased doing whatever we wanted her to stop.

It made me reflect a bit on how I train the kids.  I'm totally not suggesting that training kids is like training a dog.  Totally wouldn't be suggesting that at all.  When they were little, I used to give big praise responses for correct behaviour but now that they are a bit older, I have slipped into bad habits.  Quite often, I'll correct a child for some action (maybe with a bit of nagging thrown in for good measure) and then the child will correct their behaviour and I will remain grumpy.

Obviously, this reflects my own immaturity.  I'm cross and want the other person to suffer a bit before I cheer up and give them grace.  That's sin, plain and simple.

It's also really counter-productive.  When they do the right thing, if I'm really interested in getting the behaviour I want, I should cease to give them the stink-eye and the cold-shoulder and move on.  I'm not suggesting I lavish them with praise and lots of "Good girl!  Who's a good girl?  Yes, you're the good girl!  Oh, yes you are!"  But who am I helping if I continue to act miffed because they weren't obeying me before?  If I was a kid (or a dog) I'd think, "Why bother?  She's still mad."

It also doesn't reflect the grace I've received myself.  When I come to God and ask for forgiveness, it's free, it's full and it's final.  My debt is paid.  My burden is gone.  My relationship is restored.  I've been showing my kids a revolting grace-substitute where their errors hang over them until I feel like being nice again.  Ugh.  Horrible.  Doesn't happen all the time but happens more than it should.

So we need to all be on the Honey-training regime this school holidays.

Friday, June 28, 2013

A wrap up

Lots of unconnected thoughts from the last two weeks.  It's been busy.  Here are the 'lights:

1. Our dishwasher was broken for a week.  I've always told myself that we didn't use it that much.  Turns out I was totally fooling myself.  And being out of the habit of doing it the old-fashioned way, it took us a while to figure out why every time we went into the kitchen it looked like a mess.  Apparently, it will keep looking like that unless you actually do the dishes.

This is totally not my dishwasher, by the way.  Who in their right mind would stack like that?  Oh, the randomness!

2. The Compassion bloggers have been in Nicaragua and their posts have been tearing me up and making me cheer all in one go.  I enjoyed reading Shaun Groves as he challenged the view that those in poverty are helpless and need us to save them.  And he speaks from the heart when he says adoption is great but there's better.
3. I'm more than half-way through my first year of Year 12 teaching.  Hoorah.  The Year 12 year goes so fast.  Much more than half the ground has been covered and it won't seem long before revision begins.
4. My kids need the school holidays.  They are all tired and have colds.  I need the school holidays too.  I just have no idea what we are going to do all day.
5. Can someone please invent a shower version of the creepy-crawler machine you use in backyard pools?  That would be neat.  You could just set that sucker going and it would creep all over your tiles and eat up all the gunk.  Still not really overcoming my shower-cleaning issues.
6. I have found a recipe for a jumbo match of muffin mixture that can sit in the fridge for up to 6 weeks ready for you to take and use as needed.  SIX weeks, people!  I'll share it soon, I promise (she mumbles with a mouth full of date muffin).
7. I found the political drama on Wednesday night fascinating.  My children and I gathered around the TV eagerly at 7 pm to drink in all of the commentary and saga.  My daughter waved off my husband at 7.30 saying she couldn't possibly go to bed until the result had been announced.  I may have backed her up on that one.  I'm the sort of person who watches election night coverage as well.  I know.  You may have just unfriended me.
8. I bought a game called Gobblet.  It's like noughts and crosses (tic-tac-toe) except that you must produce four in a row and your markers are sets of nesting cups which allows you to "gobble" up your opponents markers from time to time and grab their spot.  Easy enough to explain to a four-year old but with the opportunity for strategy that makes it engaging for adults.  It may or may not have happened that the four-year old beat the 70 year-old in a game today.

8. Once you start itemizing your life in a list, it's really hard to stop.
9. I really need to stop now.
10.  As soon as I get to 10.  Done.

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 my parents visiting from overseas.  They are going again on Monday.  Sniff.  Going to miss them.

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

Because I love a bit of politcal argy-bargy

Letter to the editor in The Australia today.                       

"Do not be concerned about the latest shenanigans in Canberra. It is merely the re-enactment of the traditional Aussie drover's two-shirt rule.
Start with two new shirts. Wear one until it is grubby. Put that in your swag and don shirt number two. After a while, shirt number one looks better than shirt number two. Simply swap. This can be repeated ad infinitum."    Peter Black, St Andrews, Vic.
Presumably, you'd also need to wear a blue tie.

Monday, June 24, 2013

You don't need us

You know Compassion works through local churches, right?  They find a church that wants to care for the vulnerable in their community and partner with them through sponsorship to do that.  But did you know they also want to see these churches go on without them?  Not because they don't like them anymore, but because they don't need them anymore.

Here's a great blog post from Compassion entitled, "How Does a Church 'Graduate' from Compassion?"  I was encouraged because it's another way in which Compassion seeks to work wisely to release people from poverty rather than making them dependent.

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.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

What we are learning from Honey #1

"Bear knows lots of things: he knows how to stretch his back (both ways) and how to get someone to rub his tummy.  He knows many words. And he knows how to sleep without worrying about tomorrow. I think he knows more than anyone else alive."
Martine Murray from A Dog Called Bear.

Books, books, bookity-books

A while back I posted list of read-alouds our kids have loved.  Petrina suggested such a fabulous link in the comments section that I felt it deserved a post of it's own.  Thanks Petrina!

What Do We Do All Day is a great blog full of ideas for kids' learning and play.  It also has fabulous book lists.  Check out these classic booklists arranged by decades, or all sorts of chapter books helpfully grouped into things like books about maths, read-alouds, early chapter books, books about animals, books about girls or books about boys.  And, of course, there are picture book recommendations too.

So if you are on the hunt for some good books for youngsters, check it out!

Friday, June 21, 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 for my friend's three kids and their play at my house this afternoon.  Each child matches my own in gender and age.  Play-date excellence!  Good times.

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

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

MUST learn to do this


But is it real?

But is it Real?: Answering 10 Common Objections to the Christian Faith

Really enjoyed this book.  Amy Orr-Ewing (married to a guy named Frog...and just to answer that question, I did some extensive research for you and his real name is Francis) does a great job of explaining why the Christian faith is not illogical, intolerant, unscientific or the grown-up's equivalent of the tooth fairy.
What I really like about the book is that she doesn't use pat, glib answers.  I get uncomfortable with some promotions of Christianity that seem like the spiel you'd hear from a dodgy car salesmen.  This book avoids that and investigates some of the key philosophical arguments that underpin both secular and religious world-views.  Not wordy and dense but definitely well-argued and coherent.  And it has a very measured tone rather than being argumentative.
Here are the 10 objections she responds to:
             1. What about other people's genuine experience of God?
             2. Your 'experience of God' is delusional, not real
             3. Your relationship with God is just a psychological crutch
             4. How can you say you have found the truth if you haven't tried all the alternatives?
             5. If Christianity is about a relationship with God why does he let bad things happen
                 to his friends?
             6. If Christianity is about a transforming relationship with God, why are Christians so
             7. If God is so loving and relational, why did he go ahead and create when he knew
                 people would end up in hell?
             8. Belief in God is dangerous.
             9. I used to believe, but I've given it all up
           10. How can I know?
Good questions, huh?
I would recommend it if you're interested in whether there's any substance to what Christians are going on about.  And I would also recommend it to Christians as a great book to have ready to give away but also as a model of how to gracefully answer those questions when they come up in conversation.
Available from the bookdepository but, of course if you know me in real life, you're welcome to my copy anytime.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The dancing prime minister

Oh, politics is getting me down lately (and yet I keep watching the Insiders and yelling at the television).  But this clips helps.

I am sorry. I know you expected more from me.  But it makes me smile.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Nothing to Envy

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea

I read this book after reading Meredith's great review of it.  The title is ironic: it's taken from a song North Korean children learn to sing from an early age that declares that the great kindness and wisdom of their beloved leader means they have nothing to envy in the whole wide world.  The stark reality is grief-inducing.  The book follows the lives of six North Koreans all of whom eventually escape.  It covers the period of severe famine in the 1990s when so many North Koreans died that it is estimated they lost up to a fifth of their population.  However, the book is not gloomy or self-righteous in its tone.  Fairly easy to read, I flew through it and found it a fascinating glimpse into such an oppressive regime.  But a few days later, I realized the stories were echoing around and around my mind as I tried to make sense of what I had read.  Although the stories present themselves to you calmly and methodically, they are powerful on a number of levels.
One of the aspects that I struggled with was the ethics of survival.  It's noted in the book that often the kind-of-heart were the first to die.  Those that wouldn't dream of stealing or disobeying orders suffered and died.  Those that who were prepared to do anything to survive, did.  Survival in conditions that desperate required a level of self-preservation that some individuals later struggled to reconcile with.  The situation that touched me the most was the kindergarten teacher whose class slowly disappears during the course of the year as the young children starve, fall ill and finally die.  And yet she knows she still has to eat her lunch each day if she is to live.
Another aspect that I found thought-provoking was the issue of refugees.  All North Koreans have automatic citizenship in South Korea if they can find a way there via another country.  But the numbers of those seeking asylum is rapidly increasing and South Korea has the difficult task of providing for these citizens and helping them to assimilate in a culture that is utterly different to life north of the border.  Most North Koreans struggle in their first few years in the South.  Their accent, appearance and lack of marketable skills set them apart from their South Korean contemporaries and the dream of a new glamorous life in the south does not always work out as they hope.  It spawned a whole raft of comparisons in my mind with the difficulties faced by many refugees arriving in Australia.
I also wondered what responsibility we have in the international community when we see the suffering of people in a foreign state.  History has shown us that the various avenues of aid, sanctions and military intervention have at times made no difference at all or made the situation worse.  When is the right time to go in with guns blazing?  How do we help those who are oppressed?  If we stand by and watch people die, what responsibility do we bear for their suffering?
And finally, it was interesting to observe people's commitments to an ideology even in the face of its bankruptcy.  There was a fascinating moment when a university student sat in a packed lecture theatre fearing that his own doubts about the regime would be found out.  Then he realises that every single one of them probably felt the same and yet they were all in a conspiracy of silence.  There were a number of points when the nature of "faith" and the need to be seen as a "true believer" when you no longer believe that "truth" were explored.
Well worth a read and, if you're local to me, you'll find a copy at our local library.

Friday, June 14, 2013

"I have connections"

Interesting interview on Radio National with a former PLO sniper.

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 safe travel in the car this week.  We've had lots and lots of rain and yesterday alone the kids and I passed three car accidents in our travels.  Car accidents, even the minor fender-bender kinds, are no fun.  I'm very thankful for all the miles we've travelled this week without incident.

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

David Morrison

How good was the Army chief's speech!  Clarity, power, simplicity, authority.  Awesomely delivered.

"If that does not suit you, then get out."

"The standard you walk past, is the standard you accept."

Ooh-rah! I know that's the US marines but I had to yell something.

Snotty tissues hack

Love this idea.  Rubberband the empty tissue pack to the new to encourage the dear ones to leave their snotty tissue in an appropriate place.


Of course things could get bad about the halfway mark if your kids are as unobservant as mine.  But still a really good idea.  Here are 20 more low-tech parenting solutions you might like (my other favourite is the sunglasses used as a phone mount).

HT We Are That Family

Thursday, June 13, 2013

No more door knocking for me

As I approached the big black door at the front of my friend's house, I said to my son, "Go ahead and knock on the door for me, please."  Recently, I've given up knocking on doors.  It hurts. 


Earlier this year I noticed a small red lump appear on the middle knuckle of one of my fingers.  It was red and stung if I knocked it on anything.  More have followed.  A trip to the doctors confirmed what I already guessed.  I have my mother's hands.  Just like that, in less than six months, arthritis has joined my life.

Thankfully, it doesn't bother me much from day to day.  There's rarely any aching and as long as I don't knock my joints on anything I'm okay.  The only two tasks that are a problem are knocking on doors and handwriting for a long time (this one I am more sorry about).  I noticed last time I wrote my Compassion letters that my thumb knuckle was quite sore by the end from gripping the pen.  Which is as much to say that I don't have anything to complain about really.  I once taught a lovely 9 year-old girl who suffered so much from juvenile arthritis that she was often unable to come to school until after recess and even then appeared with dark circles under her eyes as testimony to the pain she was enduring.  So it's no biggie but it all reminds me that I'm not getting any younger, ladies and gentlemen.

But there's been several blessings to come out of the pesky bulges on my hands.  The first is the reminder that this life is not meant to be the be all and end all. When everything sails along smoothly and seems to be progressing upward, I am quick to want to find all my satisfaction in the things of this world.  Even this small bit of downhill reminds me that this life is fleeting and ultimately holds no lasting promise of joy.  That's a good incentive to think more on where my real hope lies which gives me a wonderful reason to sing and shout and wave my arthritic fingers all about.

The second blessing is the reminder to pray for those who do truly suffer day by day.  When I knock my hand as I try to whizz too fast through the kitchen cupboards, I am reminded that there are people I know who must put up with daily physical challenges that make ordinary life so hard.  I try to think of someone with just those challenges right then and pray for them that God will strengthen and aid them that day.

The third blessing is the reminder that I will not always be able to do the things I do now.  Not necessarily because of arthritis (my mother's condition is very mild and I have no reason to think it will be anything other than that in my case) but because, should I live long enough, I'll eventually face limitations.  And we never know when our physical bodies might start to let us down through disease or disaster.  So while I can - while I can still zip and zap and run - let me do so with thankfulness and energy.  Let me make those extra dinners for those in need, or plough through the washing with gusto, or vaccum the floor without moaning or offer to carry someone's extra load because I can and one day I probably won't.  May my knobbly fingers inspire me to enjoy my labours while the opportunity lasts!

So all of my dear friends need to install door bells or put up with me using my toe to knock at their doors now.  I'm hoping the grey hairs and arthritis is being accompanied by some kind of internal maturing as well but the signs aren't so good there.  I suspect I'll get to the nursing home and still be as silly as a six year-old at a fair.  Well, we can only hope.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A very useful coffin

One of my favourite brother-in-laws (I have three favourites) works in the funeral industry.  It makes for some interesting stories!  Ages ago he mentioned to me that someone has designed a bookshelf that can be converted into your own coffin when you die.  Useful now, useful later.  It's a bit IKEAish in design and of course it would be good for those over-planning types who like to have all the details worked out (I'm totally not like that of course - pass me another to do list, would you please?).  You can learn more about it from it's designer here and email him to get a set of plans customized to your height and build so you make your own.  A lovely little long weekend project!

Do you think you could live with it at your house?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Taking the mark

I don't like sport.  I don't follow football or cricket and I'm pretty ho-hum about even the big events like the Olympics.  I find most professional sports utterly pointless.  There's nothing to show for all the money and effort at the end.  Think of the potential productivity being wasted!  And as for televised swimming and tennis: don't get me started.  I'd rather watch shows about American alligator hunters (don't pretend like you don't know what I mean).  But I understand that I'm almost entirely alone in my views on sport and that's okay.

The other night I found myself sitting beside the one I love, watching the footy on television.  Actually, I was half watching and mostly hoping he would flick to something interesting during the breaks and forget to flick back.  He's considerate like that.  It got to the end of the first quarter and the commentators were analysing the play so far.  Turns out that the ability to see the game as a whole across space and time and make sense of the individual performances can be interesting.  Some would argue that perhaps if I understood the game better I might be able to make some of these links for myself and thereby take pleasure in the watching of a match.

Nah.     Moving on.

My attention was caught, however, when the commentators used a series of replays to focus in on some bloke in the forward area taking marks.  Early in the game, he'd go up, put his body on the line, and fail.  They were ungraceful attempts.  There were stumbles and fumbles and falls.  It looked a lot better than anything I could have done but still, for a professional, it wasn't great.

But then there was more.  In the next series of replays he began to connect with the ball.  All of a sudden he was beginning to consistently win the challenge and the opposition was coming out empty handed.  What changed?

Nothing.  The commentator simply said, "If you go up for enough marks, you're eventually going to win some and suddenly you'll find you've had 10 marks in the first quarter."  This bloke did not wait for the perfect moment.  He didn't just take the marks he was guaranteed to win.  He just kept going up for the mark.  If you do it enough, you'll win some.  And so now I know why thinking people watch sport.  It's because it's all this great big metaphor for life.  Who knew?

Anyway, it struck a chord with me because lately I've been thinking more about sharing my faith with my friends.  This doesn't come from some dodgy idea that God gives out bonus points for collecting extra team members.  It's because I think God, as much as he loves me, also cares a heap about the people around me.  And I should do something about telling them that.  But I fear the fumbles.  I fear the bad attempts that leave my friends wishing they had booked in a root-canal appointment instead of a coffee with me.  So I hang back and wait for that perfect moment when I won't look goofy or awkward or judgmental and weird.

But that's dumb football (apparently) and not fantastic when it comes to sharing about Jesus either.  Obviously, I need to stop thinking about all the ways I could blow the moment, give the wrong impression or make a mess of explaining things. I will fumble.  I will look like a goose.  But if that's what it takes to actually get it right sometimes then obviously it's worth it.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Spot the mother

What to do when you want to take a baby photo but your child is too young to pose by themselves?  Hold the baby, of course, while you are cleverly disguised.  No one will notice you under the rug.  Really.

Come on - it can't have been THAT bad of a bad hair day, surely??!

See the rest at Retronaut here.  HT A Cup Of Jo

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Food tidings

With the exciting birth of baby L, friends and I are swinging into meal-bringing for the family of the newborn.  Little L of course, has no interest in a hearty casserole, but the rest of the tribe still need to eat.  People bringing you food in a time of need can be SO helpful.  To coordinate our efforts this time, we are using a really handy website called Food Tidings.

What Food Tidings lets you do is create a meal schedule and invite people via email to join in.  For example, someone in your church breaks a leg (literally, not metaphorically).  Around goes an email with dates that people can pick to offer a meal.  You can provide basic information like any family allergies, dislikes (no tuna please) and a time and place for dropping off the meal.  The receiver of the meals can see the schedule so they know who is giving what when and plan accordingly.  A big bonus is that when you go to pick your date, you can already see what else is already scheduled and thereby avoid being the sixth person in a row to bring a lasagna around.  You get a reminder email 2 days before you are scheduled to bring the meal so that you don't completely forget.

It's brilliant!!!  You do have to register to use it, but it's simple, costs nothing and I've never had any annoying emails from them.  Highly, highly recommend it for any situation in which some food-loving is needed.

Friday, June 7, 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 for my friend's safe delivery of her little boy yesterday morning.  Another beautiful blessing to rejoice in and pray for.  Welcome little L!
You got anything you’re thankful for today? Join in! Let’s count our blessings for a bit.