A Window into Life in the Suburbs

"Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these." Luke 12:27 (NIV)

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Good Cop, Bad Cop Mummy and Daddy Style

When I started this blog, I had no intention of giving parenting advice. I still don't... although, I admit... occasionally I fall into the temptation of pontificating because, well... I'm a teacher by inclination and far too ready to dish out words of wisdom. I know all the hugely popular blogs offer something helpful to the audience so I'm not sure why people read mine except possibly to commiserate with me in collegial fashion.

I'm not sure how it started... and I don't know if it's a good or bad thing for people responsible for children to do. It sort of happened by accident. And I'm not recommending it, mind you.

I've noticed on the odd occasion, the husband and I play out a parenting version of "Good Cop, Bad Cop" routine with the children. It's not like we discuss tactics beforehand, like they do in the tv shows. No foam cups or drink cans to crush. We seem to lapse into it out of sheer exasperation... and stupidity, to be honest. We're not even trying to soften up the children. There's really nothing deliberate or even intentional about it. I don't know about you, but I seldom make plans to yell at the children or make a conscious effort to make threats. But they still come tumbling out...

On the upside, I don't think the children have become familiar with the concept, unless it's been featured in an episode of "Spongebob Squarepants" that I haven't seen.

We don't have an interrogation room or a two-way mirror... just in case you're wondering. Just the dinner table where most of this stuff happens. There's no violence or threats of violence... just Daddy glowering like dying ambers or towering over sheepish offenders like Andre the Giant. "Why aren't you dressed yet?!"
As for me... sometimes I'm the good cop... I sip my tea and I say in my most serene voice... "Well, if you don't get dressed before we leave, you can go to school in your pyjamas."
Here's another one that comes up far too often:
"You still haven't finished your homework, yet?! Why are taking so long?" (Bad Cop)
"If you don't finish your homework, that means you will be missing out on Girls' Brigade." (Good Cop)
That usually works wonders... maths homework is done faster than Speedy Gonzales can run from one town to the next, shouting "Andale, Andale, Arriba, Arriba"

Poor kids... wonder if they've worked it out by now that mummy and daddy don't exactly have a 10-year plan.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Why Do Children Lie?

Why do children lie?
Why does anybody lie...
  • Out of fear of consequences... ie to save their skin...
  • To impress others 
  • To conceal the truth because the truth is of no benefit to them
  • To push the blame onto someone else
  • To make someone else look bad
When I was a schoolgirl I lied because I helped myself to money in my little brother's piggy bank. I knew it was wrong to take something that wasn't mine but I did it anyway. When I was found out, I protested my innocence, in a performance worthy of an Oscar.
Self-preservation is a natural human instinct. When self-preservation at the expense of truth occurs... something within the person... the conscience becomes dulled.

Apparently you don't have to teach a child to lie. But you have to teach him/her to face up to the truth and the consequences that might bring. That's a lot more painful, no doubt.
Why should we worry about "the truth"? I mean, c'mon... they're only children... what's a few lies here and there... They'll grow out of it surely?

I'm not so optimistic. Especially when it appears that dishonesty has no painful consequences but pays dividends instead.
Of course, I'm not talking about the 3 year old fantasizing about being the daughter of a king or that she's been invited to her best friend's party.

What's fascinating is that Eve the helpmate of Adam, whom I believe was a real person by the way, fell for a lie. Guilt-ridden over what they had done, our first parents attempted vainly to conceal their act of disobedience with more half-truths. And we've been lying ever since.

Frankly speaking, I don't know if  we can ever stop our children from lying (outside of supernatural intervention). That... I think is possibly a lost cause. Mitigation, it seems to me, is the key.
However, my approach to all this is simple. I encourage the 9 year old to tell the truth. I take my cue from The Winslow Boy, a great play and film about truth and justice. In it, the father exhorts his son to tell the truth and promises not to be angry as long as his son is truthful about whether he had stolen the money.

Calmness is very necessary. So are consequences. If they are to learn anything, they must face up to them. But anger doesn't help, I don't think. Neither is lashing out in anger constructive.

I take many deep breaths... I may have to walk away for a little while and come back to it later.
Then I say, "E... I am feeling very disappointed right now. I want you to tell me the truth about (ABC situation)... I will have to (XYZ consequence) but I'd rather you tell me the truth now than for me to find out the truth from somewhere else. I promise not to be angry."

The first time I did that... I felt relieved that on a rare occasion I actually got it right. I think children lie mainly because they are afraid to tell the truth. But if we make it easi-er for them to tell the truth by our not throwing a fit, I think they will be more inclined to spill the beans and accept the consequences.

A funny thing... this parenting business... it makes you take a good look at the log in your own eye before trying to gauge out the speck in others.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

First Things First

What can you say after reading a story like the Burnets'? 
Not a lot.
On such occasions words seem meaningless without empathy. Tears also inadequte will have to suffice.

What do you say to a couple of people facing the very real prospect of losing two children to an incurable illness -- a form of leukodrystrophy -- a condition that is characterized by the loss of white matter to the brain.
Neither of the two will live past their fifth birthday.

I can't imagine what it's like for them to lose two children to the same condition.

My priorities, I often feel, are so out of sync with heaven. Stories like this remind me of how out of sync they are.
As I drove into the garage after collecting some takeaway this evening, I saw the sillouette of two girls standing at the door waving to me. They must have heard the garage door going up.
Pulling in closer, I noticed that they seemed deliriously pleased to see me. It could've been the food they were waiting for. Hunger can have that affect on people.
As I opened the door to get out of the car, they both yelled out "Hi Mum..." in unison... all smiles.
As if they were really, really pleased to see me.

Smiling at their enthusiasm, I was equally pleased to see them.
Whatever their reasons, I was pleased to know that there was someone at home waiting for me.

Two little someones, who believe that I am someone important enough to greet at the door.
Especially if I come bearing gifts of food.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Saying Goodbye to Nappies

A couple of days ago as we were leaving our local library, we (the 3 year old and I) shared a lift with a man and his child. His shopping trolley was filled to the brim with nappies. In fact, it seemed to me that he was there for the sole purpose of stocking up. I made a comment about the quantity and he mentioned a sale. I asked if it was cheap and he, while studying his docket, said something about "half price".

It occurred to me there and then that nappies were no longer a part of my life. It hasn't been for a while. There was no fanfare when it happened... it just did over, what seemed to me at the time, a long period of time.
A part of me rejoiced... "about time, young miss"... but another part of me was oddly sorrowful. Not that I would shed tears and miss dealing with soiled undies but I was overcome with a sense of change and finality. Like I was saying goodbye to a familiar fixture in my life... a fixture that had challenged me toward greater humility but a fixture, nonetheless, that was part of my child's development. A hurdle that she had finally jumped over... another step closer to adulthood.

Motherhood is an strange thing... at every stage in your child's life, you rejoice at the freedom gained and yet silently you weep for the child that once was and will never be again.


I find that I talk to myself a lot these days. The more I read and listen... the more I feel the need to tell the world around me what I think even if the world around me feels no need to reply. It's the lack of adult company, no doubt, that drives some of this madness.
But I treasure what little solitude I have also and in those moments when the sounds from my vocal chords help me coalesce thought into word.
In all likelihood, I am one of those who have more words than I know what to do with.

I have heard that the need to talk is an intrinsically female trait although like everything else there are exceptions to the rule. But I find that once they warm up to you, even the shyest women become talkative but I suspect that they don't want to be the first to do it.

Although an introvert, I can't say that I'm shy. I have had to learn not to be. In my previous jobs I've had to talk to people of different nationalities.
But my children especially the 9 year old was born to talk. That sounds like an obvious thing to say but in her case it is true. And she's not shy either... never been... which has its advantages and disadvantages.
Of all the things I enjoy about the children is their ability to learn words, sentence structures and retain them. And use them in appropriate and inappropriate moments. It's fascinating to me how quickly they go from not speaking to speaking. The 9 year old has an excellent memory for words ( if only she would apply her excellent memory to the multiplication tables) and from young she has tended to sound like characters from books and tv shows.
She's an extrovert... full of hyperbole and thrives on being with people. Life to her is drama.
The 3 year old is a budding David Livingstone and won't be happy until she's explored every corner of the house and laid claim to everything. Territorial to the extreme.

Despite the age gap, they get on as well as most siblings do. I asked the 9 year old once, "Do you like having a little sister?"
She said, "Sometimes I like it... sometimes I don't..."
"When do you like it..."
"When we play and make up games together."
"When don't you like it..."
"When I want to do things by myself and she disturbs me."

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

On Elections, Politics and Kids

We live in interesting days...
At least for those of us who live in Oz.

Aussies went to the polls on Saturday and so far there is no clear result. I'm biting my nails... figuratively...
But the wonderful thing about Aussieland is that everyone continues to go about their business and there's no rioting in the streets.

I'm an immigrant and I'm glad I live here in Australia. One of the benefits of living in Australia is participatory democracy. Democracy recognizes diversity and accepts that every citizen above a certain age has the privilege and maturity to cast a vote not just for their own interest but for the interest of the nation at large.

I’ve been listening (when I can) to different analyses on my local talkback station and reading the blogs. Not surprising everyone tries to project their own concerns onto the reasons why we have such a close result. I'm no political pundit but it seems almost that there are 2 or even 3 Australias. So whoever gains the privilege to govern in the end will have to govern for the different Australias. A herculean task, no doubt.

Despite the temporary state of limbo we find ourselves in, I am glad to be living in a democracy and a bit of “organized chaos” is a good reminder from time to time that we should never take what we have here for granted. Freedom is at the root of democracy and I myself believe that a pluralistic society functions best when each person enjoys individual liberty under the rule of law.

For a democracy to function properly, there needs to be free and honest debate. People need to be able to choose based on the best information and commentary available at the time. Personally I don't think we are being well served by the mainstream media. It becomes more evident when I read blogs, dig a little deeper and get past the sound bytes.
I've been thinking about this for a while, in terms of how it affects how we decide which way to vote but also to give our children a framework to think for themselves, to see past the hype. Politics, it seems to me isn't something most of us discuss with our children but we need to, I think. Seems to me that we leave this aspect of their education too much to school and university and it wouldn't surprise me if it isn't the reason why many of them wander away from the values that they were taught as children at certain stages of their lives.

The problem probably lies with us, parents not really keeping ourselves informed. Hey, it's tough especially with kiddies under the age of 5. Unfortunately it behooves us to be informed because many of the policies on offer do affect us and our children's future. It does mean that we do have to be a little politically savvy so that we make decisions on election day not wholly based on what bribes are being offered but taking a longer term view of things.

Thinking initially that it was an urban legend, but later discovering this to be true, I was stunned that in this elections, to hear that some of our younger voters made their choice on the basis of the candidate's gender. While I would love to see a woman elected decisively to the top job one day, I would prefer it to be on the strength of her merits and convictions rather than the arrangement of her reproductive organs. Perhaps it's a hopeless cause... but I like to think  that we still live in a meritocracy.

I haven't thought through this exhaustively but I've made a kind of general interim list of things we can instill in our kids appropriate to their age:
I want to lead them to...

  • Thank God and be grateful for the freedoms that we enjoy in this country... to worship and to live in a manner consistent with our values
  • To remember that these freedoms were hard fought and paid with the blood of many during world conflicts (Anzac Day)
  • To remember that all human beings, whether we agree with their ideology, are made in the image of God
  • To remember that we don't trust in "horses and chariots" but in the Lord Jesus Christ
  • To be good stewards of the God's creation... that the earth is the Lord's and everything in it. But not just the natural environment but with how we use the economic wealth that God has blessed us with
  • It's hard to have to tell kids that this isn't a perfect world and it will never be. Utopias are just that... "no places"...  They don't exist and often attempts to create them lead to tyranny. 
  • Governments in whatever shape or form, however, are part of God's sovereign will and he does act through all different kinds to bring his purposes
  • Know what Mummy and Daddy believe and why we believe it

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Parenting is Life (2)

I learnt a very important parenting lesson today about toilet training. While it is without a doubt, an exercise in patience, it is fundamentally about timing. I sort of knew that from the first child but because I'm a bit slow on the uptake, it's only taken root today. Both my girls have been comparatively late adopters of the sit down toilet concept and I've wondered about that many times. I have flipped flopped at various times... blaming myself for not trying hard enough and for trying too hard. In the end, despite all my meagre and best intentions, they both did what they were inclined to when they were inclined to.

3 year old told me the night before last that she didn't need her pull-ups for bed any more and as far as I could tell, she didn't wet her bed. No foul odour eminating from the bed, thank God. She's been doing all her ablutions in the sit down big person toilet the last few days... all on her own. No cajoling, no chastisement, no bribery and no charts. She's been the easy one too. Been sitting on the toilet cheerfully since she was 2 1/2 because she thought all the cool people in the house did it with no concept of its true purpose until the last few months.

There's really nothing glamourous about parenting. It's meat and potatoes, bread and butter stuff. Still, there is something quite exhilarating when the penny drops.
It's a relief... and deeply humbling... just to know that their lives aren't really ours to control.

Of late, I've been hearing a lot about Christopher Hitchens, the well-known British journalist and egregious critic of theism. He's been in the news a fair bit  in recent days because he's been undergoing chemotherapy for oesophageal cancer and I'm guessing that everybody wants to know what a life that has rejected God thinks about impending death. In his article in Vanity Fair, Hitchens talks about his encounter with his mortality. It's deeply moving and extremely well-written. Hitchens is 61 and my mother was almost 63 when she died of cancer a couple of years ago. He writes:

I have been taunting the Reaper into taking a free scythe in my direction and have now succumbed to something so predictable and banal that it bores even me. Rage would be beside the point for the same reason. Instead, I am badly oppressed by a gnawing sense of waste. I had real plans for my next decade and felt I’d worked hard enough to earn it. Will I really not live to see my children married?
It surprises me that someone like Hitchens who has led such a highflying, colourful life is worried about something as "mundane" as not seeing his children married. So perhaps it is true after all that death is still the great leveller. We come to the end and find ourselves occupied with the same concerns in life. We come to the end and we see new significance in the mundane.

At mum's funeral, one of my aunts, in her by-proxy eulogy, mentioned that mum had said to her before her passing that she was ready to go and at peace that all her children were now married and were doing a good job raising their children. My mother was a pretty accomplished person and to hear that was to me a great comfort. One, because mum never told us that herself and Two, because it reminded me that at the end of the day, parents with any shred of affection for their offspring would want nothing more than to see their children do well in life, embracing the values that we've hopefully imparted.

I'm waiting for the day when I publish my first novel... whenever that may be. I'm going to have to write it first, of course. (I keep telling myself that the amount of time I've spent blogging the past few months I could have already finished the first draft of a novel)

But I can't do it yet. Not while the children are young anyway. I don't know how to do it with children around. Perhaps I will get my chance... when they leave the nest...

What if I don't get that chance... I don't know... it's too far ahead to say. I want that chance.
But I also want them to know that mum was there for them when they needed her most.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Parenting is Life (1)

I woke up this morning with that same vague, fatigued feeling that I've been experiencing through the last few days. It's like having the 'flu but... not really. I'm not sure what my body is telling me but it's hard to keep up with an active 3 year old when you're feeling blah... and when all you really want to do is hit the nearest pillow and sink under the covers.

I read this blog post a couple of days ago and it has been on my mind ever since. It's the sort of thing that comes up when you're wondering if you should have more children or whether having children has "put your life on hold"... Do more children mean more personal sacrifice... and less personal gratification?
When you think about it, it's really a 21st century question. A 21st century, wealthy person question.

Not that long ago, people didn't really have a choice... they just kept having children until... well... the reproductive system was er... ready to retire for life. Having children was a matter of course when human beings said "I do", and to get down to brass tacks, being fruitful and multiplying was an investment in one's future and the future of society. To be frank, when I see the dishes pile up and when I'm too fatigued to do the vaccumming for the third time in four hours, the light penetrates the fog. I can see, albeit reluctantly, the wisdom of having more than two children... and why the Bible says that children are a blessing.

Like the author of the post, I'm an older parent... and I'm often tired and especially in the cold weather  I'm often down with some kind of ear-nose-throat malfunction. More nose and throat than ear. Hence, as  my body ages slowly, I'm becoming convinced that reproduction is... to put it crudely.... a young person's game.
On some level, I don't regret working in those early years of our married life... it did me a lot of good personally, not that I was  particularly careerist. But these days I kinda wished that I had started having children a lot earlier when I was fitter and less set in certain habits.

Raising children is enormously challenging... especially if you have more good intentions than you need to have. But the truth is, raising children is fundamentally about steering your children warily through the different stages of life until they reach adulthood. They don't stay babies, they don't stay children and while they may kick and scream all the way to adulthood... they eventually get there. This is a concept that more or less coalesced in the functioning areas of my brain when #1 started school. It is something I wish I had known then because I wouldn't have wasted so much time and energy being so paralyzed by fear of making mistakes.

Maternal I certainly wasn't but after the second one, it finally dawned on me... "Hey, this mothering thing ain't so bad." I even... *gulp*... allowed myself luxury of thinking... "Hey, I'm an experienced mum now... cause I actually have some idea of what they're screaming about. And guess what... they actually grow out of the baby stage when they turn 1. Phew... what a relief."

Did I have children to be happy? Not really. I was terrified at the thought that I was going to have a child and I was utterly clueless. The impending responsibility weighed so heavily on my mind that I had minor panic attacks all throughout my entire first pregnancy.

Despite our little battles, I don't regret having them... the children... that is. They have brought me a lot of deep personal satisfaction... and even in the short space of time we've been together, I have learnt far more from them than they have from me.  I don't know if I'm happier for having them (not having anything to compare it with) but I don't stake my life on happiness so the question is moot. To me happiness is fleeting and too fickle a criteria to base quality of life by. Lots of people use happiness to justify all kinds of irresponsible behaviour so I'm "happy" to leave that alone.

I don't believe the goal of parenting is happiness. If it is, then it is biggest cosmic joke ever. Perhaps when I am older and wiser I will change my mind on that point. However, I'm convinced that it's a lot simpler... that parenting is life... it is a necessary part of life for many of us so that by having children, we cease to be children ourselves.

Nothing compels change faster than having to care 24/7 for someone so dependent and so helpless.

(To be continued)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The 9 Year Old, The 3 Year Old and the Wardrobe

I am so over this yo-yo weather. While I revel in the warmth of a sunny day... this constant hot, cold, hot, cold switch is playing havoc on my sinuses.
I felt the harsh hand of 'flu looming the last couple of days... crashing into bed each night after dinner... utterly knackered. Even the throat felt a tad tingly. But the tingly throat thing has passed it would seem...
So I guzzle down water... liquids of all descriptions. I even tried to have a nap today. I tried to have a nap yesterday but the doorbell rang and I thought something we'd been waiting for had arrived. Nope... just your run-of-the-mill sales rep from an auto mechanic franchise.

Ah the kiddies are playing together... well... if you can call it that... It's more like the 9 year old directing a bad "B" movie with the 3 year old at her beck and call saying "How high?".
They've chosen my wardrobe as the film set and I hear some whining. I can see the attraction of the wardrobe. It's dark, cozy and filled with clothes and assorted clutter. Perfect hideout for two overly imaginative girls who play and talk to strands of spagetti for dinner.

I'm not sure, though, whether I should rejoice or be concerned by the two of them playing behind closed doors which they were doing late in the day. What sort of plots do 9 year olds and 6 year olds hatch together that includes blankets, pillows, a trolley and straps?

Earlier today, after school, the talkative two were outside on the trampoline. A difference of opinion arose and cries of help ensued. Sick of being at the end of Darwinian struggle, the 3 year old gave up and came inside, locking the door behind her much to the chagrin of the big sister. The 3 year old cackled evilly until I insisted that she unlock the door. The 9 year old came in and unleashed her wrath on the little sister.
So this exciting episode of sisterly love ends in time out for the two. Several minutes later, the waiting ends. The 3 year old says to the big sister, "Hey, let's go and play, L."
Seems like justice was done.

Giggling at the feet of Jane Austen

I'm a Jane Austen snob. Absolutely. And I insist upon it... tooth and nail... for the right occasion...
The right occasion emerges when someone somewhere (usually someone who hasn't read the book) wantonly labels Pride and Prejudice or Emma as er... "chick lit" and their screen adaptations as "chick flick".
I have read/heard this a few times... and rolled my eyes in dismay.
Them are fighting words...  like a red rag to a bull.
It's not as if I don't read "chick lit" now and again or have anything against "chick lit" as a pleasant diversion but to relegate Pride and Prejudice or Sense and Sensibility or Emma into history as girly romance novels is to miss the point entirely.
How many "chick lit" writers can come up with the following:

"IT is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.
However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered as the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters." (P&P)

"Mr. Bennet, how can you abuse your own children in such way? You take delight in vexing me. You have no compassion on my poor nerves.''
"You mistake me, my dear. I have a high respect for your nerves. They are my old friends. I have heard you mention them with consideration these twenty years at least.''
"Ah! you do not know what I suffer.''
"But I hope you will get over it, and live to see many young men of four thousand a year come into the neighbourhood.''  (P&P)

"Men of sense, whatever you may choose to say, do not want silly wives." (Emma)
"...and it was really too much to hope, even of Harriet, that she could be in love with more than three men in one year." (Emma)

“Vanity working on a weak head, produces every sort of mischief.” (Emma)

"Doing just what she liked; highly esteeming Miss Taylor's judgments, but directed chiefly by her own. The real evils, indeed, of Emma's situation were the power of having rather too much her own way, and a disposition to think a little too well of herself...."  (Emma)

"A large income is the best recipe for happiness that I ever heard of." (Mansfield Park)

"I pay very little regard...to what any young person says on the subject of marriage. If they profess a disinclination for it, I only set it down that they have not yet seen the right person." (Mansfield Park)

It's music... friends... music to one's ears. Jane Austen was a wordsmith, satirist and practitioner of witty epigrams. Jane Austen surely deserves better than some common pop culture designation. She doesn't fit into any contemporary models because she isn't contemporary. No one disputes that she flavours her novels with romance but to say that they are  mere romantic comedies is not only reductionistic but also diminishes her contribution to and influence in the English language.

IMDB -- the Internet Movie Database is rowdy place at the best of times and frightening when you consider how human nature reveals itself under the mask of anonymity.
Years ago before the release of the Keira Knightley version of Pride and Prejudice, in an act of flagellation, I wandered aimlessly into the message boards there and lo, and behold... someone there made claim to being "a Jane Austin geek". Aside from being a J.A. snob, I'm a spelling Nazi too apparently because I mentioned the inconvenient truth (from one Jane Austen geek to another) that "a Jane Austin geek" would know that Jane's Austen is spelt with an "e" not an "i".

Okay... I'm a busybody of the teaching kind... but someone had to do it.

Quite likely not everyone shares my enthusiasm for Ms Austen's literary prowess and for them it is really about gushing over Mr Darcy, Mr Tillney, Capt Wentworth, Mr Ferrars or Mr Knightley. (I gush over them too... especially if they're played by Jeremy Northam, Jonny Lee Miller, Dan Stevens, Rupert Penry-Jones and to a lesser extent... Colin Firth) I love the guys... and the ladies... and I realize there's a certain romantic fantasy that people latch on to with these scenarios. But when one opens up these books, it's pretty clear that there's a lot more going on than good looking ladies finding good men to marry.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Nurtureshock: Why Everything We Think About Raising Our Children is Wrong

Nurtureshock is one of those books that should be read by everyone who has some kind of relationship with children. It's not really a parenting book although it will invariably lead to to some rethinking on a number of major parenting issues. It's intention is to dispel certain widespread myths about child rearing using some of the latest findings in educational and child psychology as well as neurobiology.

The book is divided into 10 chapters, dealing with a particular area of conventional wisdom which is called into question by the authors.

1. The Inverse Power of Praise. In this chapter, the authors points to the latest in neurobiological research indicating that children who are told that they're smart might actually cause them to underperform. Dr Carol Dweck of Stanford University argues that, "When we praise kids for their intelligence, we tell them that this is the name of the game: look smart and don't make mistakes."

2. The Lost Hour. Children need all the sleep they can get. Apparently most children around the world get an hour less sleep than they did thirty years ago. The result of which are lower IQ points, decreased emotional well-being, ADHD and obesity.

3. Why White Parents Don't Talk About Race. Contrary to what our politically correct police would like to think, children are not racially colour blind. A fact that I can personally attest to.

4. Why Kids Lie. We want our kids to be honest but apparently many of our strategies to teach truthfulness only lead to children becoming more adept at lying.

5. The Search for Intelligent Life in Kindergarten. This one was the least surprising to me... IQ tests given to preschool are an unreliable guide to a child's future intellectual development.

6. The Sibling Effect. Sibling rivalry is fairly commonplace. But, according to the authors, it's not how they fight that should concern parents or even how parents relate to each child that matters. What determines future sibling relations boils down to how well they play together and how well each child gets on with his/her best friend.

7. The Science of Teen Rebellion. The authors, based on the work of various researchers, observe that teens are hardwired to rebel and their need to argue with the adults in their lives is healthy sign of respect for their elders rather than disrespect. Contrary to all perception, the new generation of children aren't any more rebellious than their predecessors.

8. Can Self-Control Be Taught? Bronson and Merryman say yes. Results from schools using an effective classroom programme called the Tools have proven that motivation is a very big factor in more focused, successful learning.

9. Plays Well With Others. The shortcomings of modern day parenting and discoveries pertaining to what makes children aggressive and what doesn't. According to recent research by Professor Dodge of Duke University and another study from the University of Texas, corporal punishment doesn't necessarily lead to more aggression. In fact in certain ethnic households, aggression may wane over time in spite of corporal punishment.

10. Why Hannah Talks and Alyssa Doesn't. With so much money spent by parents in recent decades to accelerate their children's speech development, it doesn't seem like many of the gimmicks do the trick.

All in all, it's a good read and the authors keep it simple. Bronson and Merryman are both journalists so they get to the conclusion in each area of investigation, dropping suspenseful crumbs along the way, gradually building up to the bottom line. As I'm no expert in the field, I cannot vouch for the veracity or soundness of the findings. However, the book is well referenced (61 pages of referencing according to chapters) and I suppose if anyone wants to follow up on any projects mentioned throughout the book, the information is readily available. My impression is that much of it sounds like good o'l fashion common sense... with some scientific foundation thrown in for good measure.
My copy was located through the local city council library and I daresay you should be able to get hold of one through a library near you. Although I'm tempted to get my own copy now so I can underline and scribble all over it.
I recommend that fellow mums read it and engage with the ideas in it. Whether you end up agreeing with the authors, it's always fascinating to see what the latest thinking on important issues are.

Update: Made some corrections in the piece. 17.8.2010

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Those Magnificent Manly Men

There's a lot of talk on the internet about The Expendables, a dumb but fun testosterone orgy starring Sylvester Stallone, one of the lords of testosterone orgies from the 1980s, as a throwback to the good o'l days of onscreen uber masculinity... when manliness was an ideal to be attained not scorned. It assumes, of course, that there is such a thing as manliness... which sits, I'm assuming, in some kind of contrast to womanliness.
So it begs the question, what is a manly man? I suppose if I were to ask 100 people that question,, would I get a hundred different answers? I'm not certain... but I daresay that there will be overlaps... or common threads in some of these responses.

I like my manly movies, whatever that might mean to someone else... but I don't overanalyze my motives. It seems to me to be a waste of time wondering why I enjoy seeing muscle-ripped men brandishing wicked-looking hand weapons and killer martial arts moves taking down the bad guys with one fell swoop.
I daresay that there is a kind of catharsis to see justice done onscreen, even if it means lots of things get blown up in the process and lots of bodies are maimed.
Or it could be that I am psychologically disturbed.

Many, many moons ago, a film called The Seven Samurai was released. Now a classic, the story was a straightforward heroic tale of injustices redressed paid with the ultimate sacrifice. In it, a farming village, in the grip of famine, is being terrorized by bandits and so they elicit the aid of rogue samurai to protect them. They don't have much to offer by way of payment except the offer of rice but somehow, these warriors of old take pity on them and offer their services, pro bono.

Years later, Hollywood gives us The Magnificent Seven, boasting an all-star cast. The story, too, is simple. A farming village on the Mexican border is being terrorized by bandits, so they elicit the aid of gunslingers in the wild west, to rid themselves of the thieving thugs. Seven gunslingers, looking for self-redemption in varying degrees, come to the rescue and save the day. Now a western classic, Mag 7, showcases plenty of gunfire, punch ups and good looking men on horseback and spurs strutting their stuff.

In 2010, a lesser film in a similar vein, called The Expendables, has in its rollcall 5 highly skilled mercenaries, bound together by friendship and a gentleman's code, going to the rescue of a beautiful, young artist, a stalwart member of an oppressed people in an imaginary island off the Gulf of Mexico. As is expected with these things, there are plenty of explosions, furious hand-to-hand, explosions, knife throwing, dead bodies and did I mention explosions?
The Expendables is no great piece of film making by any stretch of the imagination. It's use of violence is epic no doubt but it the perception that this film celebrates a lost masculinity of a bygone era is clearly intriguing.

So what do these films have in common?
Men...well, yes... that's obvious. Lots and lots of men. But not a lot of women. Women are there... for romancing, even to protect and they could potentially be a distraction. But they play a secondary role.
These men are fearless doers... driven to action for gain... for self interest and when their better natures are moved, for good... particularly for those who cannot fight for themselves.
They are the unlikely de facto guardians of justice in a world that is unjust and if they have to, they will fight fire with fire. Such men thrive in danger.
Manly men, it would seem do not see a bipolarity between their instinct to love and protect against their well-controlled violent tendencies.

Clearly this strikes a chord with many young men who see the appeal of an exaggerated masculinity played out in a rescue fantasy. It may explain the popularity of console or online gaming, which allow these instincts to be played out in a safe environment.

Me? I don't care much for the aggressive competitveness of gaming. But as an action film enthusiast, I sit and watch in passive appreciation of age old themes of brave men, rising up and fighting against great odds for things they believe in like kith and kin.
More importantly, it's how I bonded with my father as an adolescent... I sat next to him and watched action films. While I didn't know it at the time but I think it helped me understand him just a little bit more.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Mealtimes Musings: My Quick Chicken Stir-Fry

My quick chicken stir-fry is one of the quickest things that I do and it really doesn't take much time or effort. It's all a matter of cutting a few veggies, a couple of cloves garlic, some ginger and 1 small onion. I cube the chicken although I don't see why you couldn't cut them into strips if you like it done that way.

I made some this afternoon, as a matter of fact. Woolies had some really good prices on their veggies today, so I stocked up. I don't usually shop there.

500g thigh chicken fillets cubed
Half a red capsicum cubed
2 stalks of celery chopped
8 snowpea pods de-tendriled then cut each into half (optional)
1 small onion chopped or sliced
2 cloves of garlic
2 slices of ginger, chopped finely
1 tbsp of oyster sauce (and/or salt to taste)
1 1/2 tbsp of water

Other vegetable options: baby bukchoys, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots (probably needs to pre-cooked)


1. Cut up meat and vegetables and set them aside. Heat up about a tablespoon of oil in a wok.
2. Fry up the garlic, ginger and onion together. Savour the fragrance... take it in...
3. My grandmother always said that when the fragrance reaches its apex, that's the time to throw in the meat. But it's probably enough to chuck in the meat after about a minute.
4. Brown the meat thoroughly and add the capsicum. Stir thorougly for a minute or two.
5. Add the celery. Stir thoroughly for a minute or two.
6. Add the snowpeas and again, stir thoroughly.
7. Add the oyster sauce, water and stir everything together.
8. If you like your gravy thickish, you can always add about half a tablespoon of a cornstarch-water mixture.

I have a little trick that I do when I'm busy... I leave the stir-fry on the stove and put the lid on the wok and turn off the heat. It will continue cooking until the stove cools down. It saves me having to watch the thing for another 10 minutes and prevents veggies from overcooking.

Anyway, I'm off to see The Expendables with a friend. Can't wait.

Integrating the Bible In Our Family Life (2)

It's tough, no doubt, to maintain a consistent habit of daily Bible reading for oneself.
Years ago, I attended one of those time management seminars and one of the things I learnt at this seminar was that to form a habit, one needs to engage in that activity for 21 days. It's probably true to some extent but it doesn't take half as long to undo a good habit unfortunately.
I'm scarcely a model of perfection in that area but I've come to the conclusion that doing it imperfectly is better than not doing it at all. It's hard with small children to be consistent with anything. There's always something to distract or interrupt. However, let me suggest that instituting a regular Bible reading routine for our children can make a difference not just for their edification but for our own spiritual maturity also.
Like everything else about parenting, determination is really the key to making it work.

There are plenty of resources out there. Really, in our part of the world, we don't suffer any lack of children's bibles.
For after dinner readings, I use the English-Chinese version of The Big Picture Bible to expose myself and the children to bible words and ideas in two different languages. The 3 year old is taken with the pictures and is happy to point to different things on the page when asked about them. The most obvious thing about this version is it's emphasis on the fulfilment of God's promises or covenants with the patriarchs and the nation of Israel throughout history.

We also read from Our Daily Bread, which is more for mine and the husband's benefit but the 9 year old seems to follow along quite well.

The 3 year old's personal favourite is The Beginner's Bible mainly because it's hers and hers alone. The big sister has not attempted to lay claim to it and so the 3 year old knows it's hers. There's a lot more emphasis on well-known Bible characters and stories here, stuff one would most likely go through in a Sunday School curriculum for the year. We've lost a couple of the early pages through toddler vandalism. What I do is read it to her some time during the day and we talk about the pictures and the feelings of the characters in the story. Then when we finish, she grabs it off me and goes through the story again on her own and flips through the rest of the book making up as she goes along in her irrepressible Tower of Babel style.

I also like the look of The Jesus Storybook Bible, which focuses on the centrality of Christ in Scripture. There's also an audio version that features David Suchet of Hercule Poirot fame doing the narration.

The 9 year old has her own devotional book which (I hope!) she's reading everyday.

We are huge fans of Colin Buchanan's "Baa Baa Do Baa Baa" at our place. It's a fantastic way to get children to memorize verses from the Bible in a fun, exuberant fashion. Most things by Colin are great teaching resources anyway.


Well, this is the tricky bit, isn't it? I'm not sure meal times work for everyone especially if there are crochety toddlers involved. With older children that would probably work much better.
We used to read Bible stories to the 9 year old before bed time and it seemed to work so well that she would hold us to account whenever we forgot or was trying to hurry her off to bed.


Using pictures -- point and ask
Q & A -- just the main facts, mam...
Memorizing Scriptures -- short and sweet but don't underestimate the kiddies
Using songs, hymns

It seems to me that we need to be realistic about what we or our children can achieve. As Buzz Lightyear pointed out to the daycare mafia, it all needs to be age appropriate.
What do you do with your family?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Integrating the Bible in Our Family Life

When I popped into Koorong (Christian bookstore) today, I happened to notice a book entitled, The Christian Atheist: Believing in God But Living As If He Doesn't Exist by a chap called Craig Groeschel. I am not familiar with Mr Groeschel or the book but over the years, on the odd occasion, I have heard that term "Christian atheist" or "atheist Christian" bandied about. It's a provocative epithet, no doubt... a kind of oxymoron meant to stimulate thinking and discussion in the Christian community.

I mention this because last week at MOPS we had an edifying conversation about values. We talked about the things that each of us valued and then proceeded to talk about what kind of values each of us would like to pass on to our children. There was a lot of great discussion at our table and some time during this exchange, I mentioned that one of the things I really appreciated while growing up was daily Bible reading around the dinner table and weekly devotions with the family. These moments were precious to me because it was during these moments that I learnt not only about the Bible but how to think about it. To my surprise (and slight amusement), one of our group members, who is a Christian, exclaimed passionately that she hated Bible reading as a child since it was crammed down her throat after dinner and has thus far refused to do it with her own children.

For a few seconds, everyone fell thoughtfully silent. Immediately, I felt a bit embarrassed and wondered if I had said something controversial. (I've been known to stick my foot into my mouth on a number occasions before) But I'm always embarrassed because I'm one of those people who always wonder if I should've said what I said an hour after I've said it. A closet gadfly perhaps.

A week later, I continue to find that subject playing around in my head.
Not that I'm still embarrassed, of course.

This post, however, lest you get the wrong idea, isn't about me... or about my MOPS friend, who's going through some tough times, bless her.
It's about the Bible aka The Scriptures aka The Word of God.

 My observation is that years of being brow-beaten by our non-Christian friends about Bible-bashing televangelists, of imbibing godless mainstream media talking points, and of brainwashing from the entertainment industry about hell-fire, psychopathic evangelicals has led Christians to feel secretly embarrassed about the Bible.  Like it or not, I don't think we (I include myself in this) quite believe that the Bible has any real relevance for life and living in the 21st century.

For a long time I was one of those brow-beaten Christians... but I have come to see that a world without Judeo-Christian principles is not a good place to be.

Consider this...
If we seriously thought that the Bible was the living word of God, it would form the basis of our parenting and the values that we pass on to our children.
Reading the Bible daily to ourselves and to our children would be like breathing, eating and sleeping.
We wouldn't think twice about reading the Bible at meal times or singing hymns in the shower, bopping to "Doo baa doo baa baa" or praying at meal times. It would be second nature.
Of course our friends would think we're "extreme" or "religious" but they would anyway because
"The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned."  (1 Corinthians 2:14 ESV)

While I'm not suggesting that we need to be obnoxious to everyone around us, it seem to me that if we're followers of Jesus Christ, shouldn't we be following his commands? But how can we follow his commands or expect our children to follow his commands if we don't read them?
Ignorance is not bliss... it's a problem.
It's a problem... an enormous one... when Christians don't know their Bible... at least not enough to give themselves and their children a foundation to build their lives on.
But equally important is teaching your children to have a biblical worldview. To see the world through the eyes of Yahweh. So that when the world pushes at them, they can push back, with confidence.

Don't leave it to your church Sunday School... good as it may be. That's once a week stuff. As parents, we need to take control of our children's spiritual nourishment as much as their physical one.

Either we believe the Bible is the Word of God or we don't. If we do, then the question is... what are we going to do about it?

(Egad... this turned into a mini-sermon which was not my original intention but I plan to follow this up with a few tips in another post)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Roughing It (2)

Despite our struggles with the children, camp wasn't all bad. Really, it wasn't bad at all. But we're now in young children season... and that's things are. Sleep issues... well... honestly, I don't know if that's ever going to go away. These days I am more inclined to accept the undeniable reality of adult life and go with the flow.

All that aside, it was still wonderful being able to hang out with friends, be part of congregational singing and listen to some personally convicting/challenging talks.

I even.. managed to... gasp... take notes.
Actually, I had to. If I hadn't, I wouldn't have been able to concentrate at all on Saturday after only 2 or 3 hours of sleep the previous night. But it was to Scott and Chrissy's credit that they made the weekend work for me on an important spiritual level.

No Turning Back... was the theme for the weekend. And it invoked the old chorus, "I Have Decided To Follow Jesus". I remember singing this as I watched new Christians emerge from the waters of baptism. There was and is something meaningful about these words... "no turning back". No matter what, we don't look back. No matter what, we look ahead to a new life... with the Saviour who suffered for us.

Suffering is  part and parcel of being a follower of Jesus. Althought, none of us who live in western democracies can really claim to suffer all that much... at least not yet... and not on the scale that many of our brothers and sisters do in many third world countries.

The suffering Church is one of Scott and Chrissy's great passions... as missionaries and as advocates for victims of human trafficking. Their many stories of victims who have been duped, kidnapped and abused by their captors... come to find real freedom in Christ cause me to weep... and rejoice that God is at work in the world.

On the Sunday session, Scott put on a video clip filmed by an organization called The Free Burma Rangers. Christians and various ethnic groups in Burma (like the Karen, for example) live in constant fear for their lives. Under the military dictatorship, groups that refuse to submit to the government must bear arms or face the prospect of starvation, rape and/or death. It's a horrific situation, with no end in sight. The Free Burma Rangers was started up by an ex-military Christian man, who has gone into the jungles of Burma to help these refugees. They train the locals to defend themselves, provide them with food and also equip them with spiritual truth. The situation is undoubtedly dangerous and the men and women put themselves on the line for others in this manner only know too well that the next day could be their last.

Prayer of Peace - Relief & Resistance in Burma's War Zones [English subtitles] from Matt Blauer on Vimeo.

If you get the time, catch more videos at the FBR's You Tube Channel. 
Pray for them, the brave men and women who risk their lives to bring relief to those who have no where to go and no one to turn to.

We should pray for ourselves too... that we will not take our freedoms for granted because there are anti-Christian forces at work to undermine the principles and values that we hold dear.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Book Review: Son of Hamas

When I feeling especially cantankerous about the Middle East mess... I occasionally wonder if it isn't better if the rest of us just stand back and let the big boys fight it out among themselves and see who emerges victorious.
I know, I know... it sounds simplistically Darwinian of me but by golly it's so frustrating. So much back and forth, back and forth. Flip flopping by powerhungry pollies and blood thirsty interest groups. But stuck in the middle of this maddening conflict are little boys and girls who are raised on a diet of anger and violence. All they know is war and the cycle of violence and they're trapped in it like their parents and grandparents. One such boy... is Mosab Hussein Yousef, whose father was one of the founders of Hamas, known to us in the West as a terrorist organization.

Although set in the context of international events, the Son of Hamas is a deeply personal tale of a young man whose love of family and nation leads him to become increasingly disturbed and disillusioned by what he perceives to be the senseless deaths of young men all around him. A chance meeting with a British tourist sees him come into possession of an Arabic New Testament. Brought up to treasure a gift given, he opens the New Testament and for the first time in his life confronts the words of Jesus.
"Love your enemies... pray for those who hate you." These words confound him... the worldview that is offered by Jesus of Nazareth becomes attractive because it is contrary to everything he had known. This earthshattering event takes him onto a different path to eschew the violence that had dominated his entire life.

The Son of Hamas helps an outsider like me get an insider view of the travesty that goes on in that tiny strip of land called Gaza. At times it reads like a gripping espionage thriller, at other times it is a plea for understanding. Myself I'm of the opinion that Mosab, who left everything to find freedom in the US, has written this account to help his family back in Gaza grapple with the ramifications of his newfound faith in Jesus.

As I read this riveting piece of personal history, I am grateful that God continues to bring people in unexpected ways to himself through his Word. Hence, I choose to cling with confidence to the truth that there can be no peace on earth until the peoples of the earth come to Christ as their Saviour and Lord.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Housework as Worship

Today I heard a really good sermon. A convicting sermon as a matter of fact. It convicted me of my attitude toward work in general and housework in particular.
A few days ago, I wrote a piece about how I do my best to avoid housework. To me it is (more often than not) a form of drudgery... sometimes bordering on being a kind of slavery. I use that word "slavery" carefully because I don't want to demean what men and women have endured throughout human history as human chattel. But I feel grudgingly bound to housework, an attitude that often leads to kind of resentment... which is silly... and in light of eternity, is ultimately wrong.
Being a housewife is my job, as long as I live in a house and continue being a wife. In all likelihood, an inescapable reality that will stay with me till I lose the use of my limbs. The facts swim around inside my head without taking root and truthfully, there's not much joy in how I perceive that particular compartment in my brain. The condition in which the house is in is testament to that.

Today I was reminded that doing housework is an act of worship. It may not be much fun but it is important because as a child of God I am commanded to do everything... and that very likely includes housework... for the glory of my Creator and Saviour. Whether I'm scrubbing the toilets, vacuuming, mopping or preparing meals... I am doing it first and foremost to please my Master, the God of the universe. Even if no one sees what I do and shows appreciation for what I do, He sees and knows.

Because my joy comes from serving him in whatever capacity I've been placed into and NOT in the task itself.

The task, in a real enough way, is not the focal point but the attitude of the doer of the task. Do we perform housework as an act of worship... giving your utmost even in the most menial of tasks for the glory of our Lord? This attitude transcends our modern tendency to narrowly define "worship" as a half hour time slot of singing and prayer on a Sunday.

My problem is that I see the task as "Meh... I'm better than this...". But what I should be saying is, "Lord, let me worship you today by cheerfully doing my best in my job for your glory. That in my actions I will demonstrate that I am yours and you are alive in me." In my blindness I see the task but not the relationship.

Everything in this life is transcient... short-lived... The work we do must be redone repeatedly. But the work of God in my life is for eternity.
For now and until I cease to breathe, He chosen to use housework draw me closer to himself.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Homemade Sausage Rolls

I'm shamelessly fond of sausage rolls... even the poisonous preservative packaged stuff from the supermarket. I counteract that obvious chemical taste by baptizing the sausage roll into tomato sauce. But if you'd rather be sure of what you're stuffing into your body, nothing beats doing it yourself. And really it isn't that much of a stretch.
I made some for MOPS a couple of weeks ago and a couple of people asked me for the recipe so that says to me that somebody out there likes them. *sniff*

The thing to do is make lots and freeze the rest for those onerous days when you don't quite feel like cooking. Or for those unexpected visitors who come by precisely for afternoon tea.
This is my concoction based somewhat on a recipe that I lifted out of one of those Women Weekly Kids cook books. I can't for the life of me figure out where the thing has got to but I from memory I managed to muddle through and come up with something largely edible. 
I've never used grated cheese in this concoction but I don't see why you couldn't.

600g good quality beef mince (I don't like the fatty stuff much and don't foist it on the family)
4 sausages (flavoured ones are great)
1 large carrot grated coarsely
1 large zucchini grated
salt and/soy sauce (I never specify salt quantities because I think salt use is deeply personal)
2 cups of breadcrumbs (add more or less depending on how you like it)
1 egg
1 tbsp of mixed herbs (Another area which is subject to personal preferences)
A packet of puff pastry -- 6 sheets (surely you don't think I make my own!)

Madness in the Method:
Skin the sausage and pull out the meat.
Mix all the ingredients together and it kinda looks like this:

Thaw out the pastry 10 or so minutes before using. Too hard and it becomes brittle, too soft and it get sticky.
Cut each into half. So you get two rolls out of each one

I believe that most of these packets come in sheets of 6. I don't think you really need to buy the best brand... even the cheapie Coles stuff does the job.
I think the original recipe did suggest that people portion out the meat into 11 or 12 portions to make 11 or 12 rolls but I just wing it and hope for the best. The last time I used 5 1/2 sheets.
Placing the meat in the middle of the half sheet allows you to fold both ends, one on top of the other.

Roll up the pastry.
Cut each roll into 3 smaller rolls with a sharp knife to avoid squishing the pastry. Score the top as indicated in the photo.

Glaze it with egg yolk. (Does look better)
Now... here you're on your own because the numbers start to get a bit hazy...
Chuck it into the oven and I think I baked one batch for about 180 degrees 25-35 minutes. I use a fan forced oven.
At least bake till the meat looks cooked (changes colour and oozing out liquid) and the pastry looks nicely browned.

Freeze uncooked whatever extras you have for later... if you can find space in your freezer. That is usually the problem at our place. Finding space for anything.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Evading Housework

You know that there's something wrong with your housekeeping when walking through the house becomes an obstacle race. Trying to get from one end of the house to the other without tripping over clothes, toys, books, cake/cereal crumbs, cherry seeds (where did they come from?) and miscellaneous knick knacks is a sign that all is not well with the Mummy state of mind.

Of course I'm adept at making excuses too... I've been away for the weekend...  I was sleep deprived and I'm been busy with important stuff like shopping, laundry, prepping for MOPS and cooking.
But the best one... surely has to be, "Hey, but I have children!"

It's the one that gets the most traction with fellow mums. We nod sagely in solemn empathy. We smile knowingly in one accord. It's our little secret. All mummies understand only too well the chaos that comes with life with children. A female prime minister who's not a mummy won't. It's like a secret cult... we have our own secret handshake (we throw up our hands in desperation), our own secret password ("Housework? What's That?") and an unwritten manual. But once we enter into the rite of mummyhood... the manual is ours to keep for life.

Part of being a member of the Mummy Secret Society is knowing when housework is necessary and when it must be evaded. Procrastinating is one thing but is only effective when one is busy with other things. What better way to avoid housework than to look busy... or to... here's a novel idea... be really busy with good things -- paid work, volunteer work, internet work or retail therapy.
Snowed under by so much busyness, the conscience is cleansed as you happily ignore the 4 week old mildew invading the shower or the gathering dust slowly but surely becoming a permanent fixture on the family portraits.

The problem, however, with housework, is that it is housework... It never goes away. It just gets more and more yukky. Housework is what separates us from the beasts. Civilizations rise and fall because houses don't get cleaned. There's no secret magic ring or secret magic incantation to make it all go away. That's why I don't believe in magic. If there were really such a thing, none of us would be doing any housework. We'd all be indulging in our favourite thing to do and the mess would just disappear instantly with the snap of one's fingers. Or we'd be paying someone else to do it.
Now, that, it seems to me, is the ultimate housewife fantasy. Not the smouldering, good-looking chaps on Bold and the Beautiful or the latest fashion accessory. But someone or something else to take care of the housework and it's not me.

Well, I've run out of clever things to say and I'm compelled to notice the bits of litter around me. I am cursed with white tiles so everything stands out as clear as day. "Zoicks", as a certain Scooby-Doo character is inclined to exclaim, there's no avoiding it.

The kiddies have gone to bed... the husband is out... I head for the vaccum cleaner because it's the closest thing to magic I'm ever going to experience where housework is concerned.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Chelsea Clinton's Wedding Dress

Busy, busy, busy... These things seem to come at me in threes and fours... I will not even attempt any kind of serious blogging today. I'm ready to hit the sack as soon as I deal with a few details. So now, for something fairly brain dead...

Celebs are a constant source of amusement... some for their silly antics -- things that only people with more money than sense can get up to... some just because they try so hard to be famous... some because they're rich and have the dosh to splash on meaningless, transcient items such as gowns that they will only ever wear once in their entire life.
Chelsea Clinton (daughter of former President Bill and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton) recently became Chelsea Mezvinsky had on a prettyish gown designed by designer Vera Wang. It's simple and doesn't look overdone which is annoying because well, there's not that much humour to be had at her expense.

BUT... I've been meaning to pull out my modest stash of photos from Princess Victoria of Sweden's wedding. Now, that's a goldmine. Aristocrats parading their frocks is bucketloads of fun particularly because it demonstrates that wealth is no guarantee of taste.
Ah... I love all the trappings of conspicuous consumption...

From the little that I saw on You Tube, it looked  like a lovely wedding for two people that seem to care genuinely for one another. The new Prince Consort gave, what seemed to me, to be a heartfelt speech of their courtship and romance. Of course, he could just be a really good performer.

But before we get carried away by wedding niceties... focus... girl... focus...  Remember what we're here to do. Wedding speeches... bah... when you've heard one, you've heard them all...
Everyone knows... it's the rags that matter in these big dos...

Going for the whole disco ball look. Yeah, she's so ready to boogey.

Ariel Lives Happily Ever After: Up-scalely mermaid wear

Looks like she's ready to take the bull by its horns. As long as the dress doesn't get in the way.

The Cottonball Collage Effect

Attack of the Garden Shears

Doctor Who: The Vermillion Invasion

Roughing It (1)

The premise behind Lord of the Flies is that in the absence of civilizing influences, human beings have a tendency to degenerate into rank savagery. It's the sort of thing I suspect that Edgar Burroughs must have been obsessing over while writing his first Tarzan novel, which is incidentally a great piece of writing that deserves to be considered on its own merits.

From a parenting perspective, this translates into:  Children growing up without boundaries and positive role models are led by their impulses and succumb to the onslaught of their harsh environment.

This weekend at church camp I caught a glimpse of a kind of childhood savagery first-hand. The 3 year old on a normal bad day is the personification of a Mexican jumping bean that has no sense of propriety and danger (the former being somewhat understandable though embarrassing and the latter, heart-stopping). But at camp, she transformed into something feral, fed by (it appears to me) continuous interaction with other people's children. Or just people in general. Being surrounded by so many moving bodies 24/7 had the effect of sending her round the bend in extreme activity. Not having her usual amounts of sleep may also have something to do with this sudden burst of hyperactivity. Meal times were the worst... she didn't seem to enjoy what was on offer and was eager to take off after nibbling on a piece of something.
The 9 year old wasn't much better, quite frankly... but at least she ate well and could sit still for longer than 15 minutes at a time.  I wasn't keen to adopt the role of prison warden but I did want to know where she was going in-between scheduled activities.
The girls were no doubt overstimulated and had varying degrees of ability self-control to conduct themselves appropriately in that kind of unusual occasion.

It's times like these I find parenting even harder than what it already is. Am I supposed to be more relaxed? Or should I be more vigilant? My parenting is on display for the world to see in cramped quarters. If my child misbehaves, I look bad and appear to others as negligent. Furthermore, I'm sleep deprived and can just function or hold cogent conversations in such a state of mind. The likelihood of my descending into bad parenting increases five-fold in such a mental state.
Out of routine and with less control over our environment... camp isn't just camp... it's about us parenting with greater intentionality.

I realised afterwards that I spent so much time getting ready stuff ready for camp that I didn't think about how my "difficult" child would behave when unleashed in a people intensive environment. We brought enough clothes for 2 days, extra undies, toiletries, bedding etc etc. All the necessities. In fact, I rejoiced that the 3 year old was old enough that we didn't have to bring prams, booster seats and other things that choke up the boot.
But we lack preparedness in parenting outside the home ground... in fact, we were parenting by the seat of our pants as we tried to fit into the hectic schedule that we were given. We could've and should've set up rules and boundaries even in such situations.

Especially in such situations.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Back from Camp!

I'm baaaaaaaaaaaaaack... from the Sunshine Coast. It's a great spot all year round and the weather was almost perfect. It was so warm that a) I wondered if it was really July in SE Qld and b) I had to take off my jacket. And a) if you've been following my cold weather rants the past few weeks, or b) you've seen me running around with 4 layers of clothing around town... you'll know that actually means something.
Got to the beach yesterday afternoon and enjoyed hanging around with other parents and taking photos of the children. 9 year old got herself really wet and I think we'll be shaking the sand off her clothes for another two washes.

Church camp is another form of self-inflicted sleep deprivation ritual that I undertake annually. Sharing a room with 3 other humans (even if we are flesh and blood) does call for certain abilities I no longer possess. Still, I could be sharing a room with 12 other people. *shudder* I'm looking forward to some decent sleep now that I'm back home. Yeah... I'm such homebody, really. I don't know why I bother going anywhere. Night time uncoordinated heavy breathing is almost always the biggest threat to my complete enjoyment of camp.
Slept better last night thankfully... did about 6-7 hours as opposed to the 2-3 hours the previous night. Had to wake in the middle of the night to tug at the husband who was er... breathing heavily. Mighty glad I did the sensible thing and went to bed early, read a little and allowed myself to relax before turning in. Definitely had more energy today although once we got into the car and took off, I dozed off somewhere along the way home.

I'll probably write more in the next couple of days and may even post a few pictures... cos' I should really be sleeping.