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, November 30, 2010

Surviving Diarrhoea

It's been a tricky few days. Diarrhoea is not much fun at the best of times but trying to keep a strong-willed 3 year old on an electrolyte diet is an uphill battle guaranteed to fray nerves. She's a determined creature, that one. If she wants food, she's pretty determined to get food... by hook or by crook... unfortunately.

We have a gate fortifying the kitchen, put there almost two years ago for her benefit. However, it's pretty useless. She's worked out that if she applies sufficient brute force with her bare hands (bashing action), sooner or later brute force triumphs over technological ingenuity.

So she gets in, her primeval instincts take over and proceeds to raid the fridge, the cupboard and the benchtop.
It's mortifying and you can't reason with hunger it seems.
You can try but about 2% gets through. And then all the worst of human nature emerges.

Yesterday, I tried giving small amounts of bland stuff and the result was too much like toilet training for my liking. I ended up doing lots of cleaning.
Took her to the doctor's to get her checked out and was told that she had to go back on the electrolytes and flat lemonade for another 12-24 hours.
It's a bitter cure but it worked. She hated the Pedialyte but didn't mind the ice block version (another brand), Absurdly expensive... but it did appease the hunger pangs now and again.
Not before a lot of whining, spitting, screaming and tears.

At around one I offered her the first SAO biscuit. Held my breath waiting for the ablutionary follow-up but happily none occurred. So I inhaled. At the next hour I offered another and another in each subsequent hour until dinner time.

So this tale has a happy ending like Beauty and the Beast, which I've sat and watched 3 times in the last two days. Sigh, they don't make 'em like they used to.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Home

What a week this has been! Back home from our overseas jaunt... weary and glad to be back on home soil among the comforts of home. I've been telling people that if there was a way to take my pillows everywhere with me, travelling would be much more of a pleasure.
I'd like to blog more about that in the next week but things have been just a little busy around here plus one seems to need a bit of rest and relaxation post travel.
I was going through all the photos from our trip a couple of days ago and came to the conclusion that though between the husband and I, we took over 800 pics, it was at the end of the day, oddly insufficient. Pictures don't and can't convey the breadth and depth of the trip adequately. But it isn't just that... it's impossible to capture every significant moment with so much happening all around you... with children to mind.
,
7 days... a very short time, no doubt but we definitely kept ourselves busy. Or at least we were kept busy. I even found myself in the outpatient unit of a hospital in Central Java, running a temperature of 39.2 degrees celsius.

Travelling overseas with children is never dull or boring... It pays to be prepared for all kinds of situations with food bribes and activity books but more on that later.

The husband and the 3 year old seem to have brought home an incubating stomach bug. It's like toilet training all over again.

Now I remember why we haven't been overseas together as a family since the birth of the 9 year old.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Airport

It's 4 am Singapore time. I can't sleep. So what else is not new.
Normally I toss and turn in the bed. At the forefront of my thoughts are the day's events racing madly through my mind. The heart rate picks up. After tossing and turning some more, I pick up the iPod touch and start reading.

That's no good, however, when you're sharing a room with 3 others. Fearful that the backlight will wak the children, you get up and decide that a walk around the block might do it.
Here at Changi International Airport, a walk round the block means book shops, duty free, confectionery and the smell of coffee eminating from the Starbucks downstairs.
And free internet.
There is something hyperreal about the artificial construct of an airport. It's stop off, a shopping centre and a refuge for weary travellers.
Time is everything at an airport... an observer, an enemy and the arbiter of control. Life is present everywhere... coming and going but transcience is the name of the game.

I browse at the bookstores... the odd title catches my eye...
But a sleepy feeling overwhelms me... pehaps it is time to return to bed.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Hairy Situations

Cutting the children's hair is a combination of playing the boardgame "Operation" and trying to stop an electric fan with a broken knob from rotating. Scissors skills aside, what mums really need in DIY salon is patience... tons and tons of patience. Oceans of it.
The 9 year old is jumpy, whingy and ultra sensitive. And then there's that "Have you finished yet, Mum?" at two minute intervals.
The 3 year old is twitchy, curious and in a hurry. And then there's that whiny "I wanna get down!" at 10 second intervals.
So I when I take my time to stand back and appraise the situation, they think it's all over.
If only there was a way to strap 'em down until it's all over.


A blog post I read today called, "In America, Are We Free to Be Lousy Parents?" provoked a few thoughts.

Years ago when I was working at my first real job (not freelance tutoring), a couple of my colleagues was whining about McDonald's and how it was an evil metastasizing influence on children.
That it was all the fault of McDonald's that children were becoming obese because the Big M had the resources to seduce children and weak-minded parents to patronize their restaurants with toys and playgrounds etc etc.

I didn't have children in those days but it struck me as odd even then that segments of the public were blaming McDonald's for the lack of nutrition in their children.


I'm not a fan of McDonald's and I'm not trying to defend them here. But really, is McDonald's ultimately responsible for the lack of nutrition in our children's diets?
Don't parents have a choice? Aren't we responsible any more for the choices we make?



When I was working with adult TESOL students, I used to whip out a video of a debate on obesity. The participants came from a wide cross section of interests. In this chinwag, there were the big wigs from the food industry, a couple of chefs, a well-known nutritionist, members of the general public, a sports health notary, and representatives of the advertising industry. It was a good debate and one that was necessary for reasons beyond obesity.
Quite early on in the show, one working mother put forward the case that contemporary life is pretty hectic and often parents would resort to eating out because they were so exhausted after work. In response to these comments and others, one of the chefs suggested that it didn't take long for anyone to throw together a simple but decent pasta dish and salad.

I have a great deal of sympathy with that mum having been a working mother off and on for 8 years. During that time we would eat out once a week. But it was my choice... to work and to eat out... I had the money to do it. No one put a gun to my head to dine out and my preferred places to frequent was Asian.
In the end, it was my choice to leave the workforce temporarily so that I can spend more time supervising the 9 year old. However, that meant that we had less money but guess what, I've become a better cook. For a while there, I even planned my weekly menu (which I hope to do again when I return from my overseas trip) and put together a shopping list.

But life has its costs and benefits. There is no perfect life, perfect parent or perfect child. It worries me that we're ceding more and more of our parental rights to government every year because there are some parents that don't do the right thing some of the time.

It seems to me too, that we're far too judgemental for our own good.
I was one of those people. However when you have kids you learn very quickly that they're not all cut from the same mould. The 3 year old can be very endearing but when she's bored, she transforms into the child from the Underworld.
Clearly we don't always know why someone is having difficulties with their parenting either. Could be the child has a condition or disability. Could be a health issue... could be the mum is having a bad patch. 
Who knows.
Now, I'm not saying the parents should be free to abuse... but free to make mistakes and learn from them.
But getting governments to regulate what we eat, where we go and how we live our lives will gradually result in the imposition of a one-size-fits-all scenario.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Jesus' All Consuming Passion

Throughout the centuries, Christians have lived and died for the Word of God. In the largely secularized society that some of us live in, it probably sounds quaint or archaic. But because we profess to be believers of Truth, the Word of God are words to live and die by.

If I were to ask the question, why did the Son of God take on human flesh and invade human history 2000 years ago? What would you say?

Would you say that the Son of God came to die for human beings? But why did he do it?
It's this "why" question that I've been mulling over. It's important to get it right, methinks because it helps us shape our perspective on God and the scriptures.

Yesterday I heard something at church about the "why" question that bothered me. It triggered this particular train of thought. It was said on that occasion (something to the effect) that Jesus' all-consuming passion was people... that he loved being with people, demonstrated by the amount of time he spent with the sick, the despised and his followers.

I don't have any doubt that Jesus loved people and came to die for them so that he could bring as many of them as possible into heaven. But all that, it seems to me, is secondary.
Jesus came primarily because he wanted to be obedient to the Father... to carry out the Father's will.

"My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work." (John 4:34, ESV)

To carry out of the Father's will and to glorify him.

When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, [2] since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. [3] And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. [4] I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. [5] And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.  (John 17:1-5 ESV)

That it seemed to me was Jesus' all consuming passion. And he proved by going to the cross and dying on it.
"Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done". (Luke 22:42, ESV)

So, I ask myself... if I claim to be a Christ follower, do I truly follow... Am I driven by the same passion for the Father's will as he was?

On every level, it is impossible... but the Christ life is the impossible life. That is where grace comes in and takes a hold of us because we know that without him we can do nothing.

To God be the Glory.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Hair

A few months ago, I found some decent hair scissors at my local Priceline and since then I reached new heights in haircutting. You know the saying about a bad workman blaming his tools... well, that doesn't always apply.
I don't deny that I'm a mediocre hairdresser but having the right tools in this instance can make a difference. At least you know the hair gets cut.
Years ago, I bought a haircutting kit. That was during my B.C. days, when I was full of good intentions and not much else. I supposed to cut the husband's hair and save us oodles of moolah but after one semi-disastrous attempt I was bitten and became really shy. It came with a video (last century technology)... which has gone AWOL for over a decade now so I have to rely on memory which is dangerous.   The scissors that came with it was pretty dull... and lame. The only thing it was probably good for was cutting paper or one strand of hair at a time. It was joyless to use and was practically impossible to do anything with. Trimming the fringe with blunt blades was fiddly and frustrating.

I've always been a bit hesitant about cutting the children's hair especially the 9 year old's because she goes to school with mini-people who have a habit of saying what they think and well, with my history it could end up a dog's breakfast. Still, I've been watching our regular hairdresser carefully and last term when we had the plague of the headlice, I decided to take matters into my own hands.
Someone from the King of Knives shop directed me to Priceline... not sure why I didn't think of them sooner. As soon as I procured a pair of sharp scissors, I dove right into domestic hairdressing with a vengence. I followed the shape of the 3 year old's head and cut her hair as short as I could without crossing over to the Sinead O'Connor look. I didn't worry about her being mistaken for a boy because she's mostly in skirts, dresses and pink things. What's more... I even did the whole layering thing WITHOUT using a bowl or clips.

Who knew that haircutting could be a pleasure?!

I cut the 9 year old's fringe and took a couple of centimetres off the back for good measure. Then I sent her to the hairdresser to get it tidied up. School kids can be very insensitive and cruel so I tread carefully here.

Anyway, I cut the 3 year old's hair yesterday and it was like trying to hold down a piece of paper on a windy day. Still it turned out alright. It looked like the previous haircut and the 3 year old offered to sweep up the mess and dump what was into the bin. The newly shingled preschooled seemed highly tickled by the bits of hair sitting in the bin.

Haven't touched the 9 year old's hair yet...

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Blink

I did one of those rare things I don't usually get to do in the afternoons... I napped. It was also one of those rare weekends where I didn't have to be somewhere else. I was at home... all day. I did homey stuff... Two loads of washing, watched/listened to political lectures on You Tube, read to the 3 year old and played solitaire mahjong on my iPod.
Almost four hours later, I'm still trying to wake up.






(Picture: Edward Burne-Jones )

Napping is a luxury when your child doesn't nap more than once or twice a week. It hasn't been a great week for us, sleepwise. Coughs, colds, sick child. Still not sure what happened on Thurs night. I tossed and turned, tossed and turned. Opened my eyes at 2 am and then tried some deep breathing relaxation stuff. That didn't work, so I started reading The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes for a bit instead. I got to the bit about the blue carbuncle, felt sleepy and then finally fell asleep, only to be woken up at 6:30 by the sound of children banging around on the other side of the bedroom door.
Still, I managed to drag myself out of bed to do some cooking in the morning, take the 9 year old to school, come home, tidy up and then take ourselves to playgroup. A couple of friends and their children came over for lunch and then soon it was time to pick 9 year old up from school. All I wanted to do all afternoon was sink into bed and grab 40 winks.
This morning I got up before 5... I forgot to put on the eye mask which I found in one my travel bags before I went to Sydney. It looked kinda bright for 4-whatever-it-was o'clock.
After lunch, I sent the 3 year old off to bed and on this rare occasion, she did sleep. And so, I thought, should I. And I did.
Sleep is a lot like freedom... when you don't have it... you really feel its effects.

After such a terrible bout of respiratory infections this year, I've decided I should go back on the Rhinocort. I was brought up to despise drugs of all stripes/labels by my mother but bless her, she didn't have hayfever and I've had to live with it most of my life. And the Rhinocort has been immensely helpful in keeping a lot of bad stuff at bay in the past. My doctor started prescribing the heavy duty version last year (or was it the year before? I'm hazy on the details.) which really helped with night coughing issues. I didn't think I needed them this year but well... look how that turned out.

My playgroup friend, Glara, reckons we're both getting old and what we really need is exercise. I didn't disagree... She suggested we do a run around our suburb and I gagged. I said I would be amenable to walking first and then build up to jogging at a later stage. I'm so disgracefully unfit that I wouldn't last very long jogging for more than 10 minutes.
Baby steps.... baby steps.
To think I used to be a middle distance runner at school.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Meditating on The Topic of Cancer

Those of you who have followed this blog since its early days know that I lost my mother to heaven through cancer two and half years ago. Although mum's final leg to heaven was relatively painless and peaceful, I would never trivialize the emotional ordeal that sufferers and their families go through.
(One of our lovely MOPS mums has been diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma and if you're so led, do keep her in your thoughts and prayers, especially as she has a couple of little ones. This family knows Jesus and have firmly put their trust in him.)

But the main reason why I've brought the subject up is because I came across a great post linked to and reprinted by the Jollyblogger. It's about good intentions...  the well-meaning well-wishers of cancer sufferers and the myriad of miracle cancer cures out there. I should say on the outset that both the Jollyblogger and the author of the original post are battling cancer.

When my mother was re-diagnosed with cancer in the brain two years after surgery, the person most at peace with the entire situation was my mother. I think she knew what the outcome would be and was ready see it through. However, because she was a woman much beloved by friends and family, everyone wanted to help. To do something. Anything. Everyone looking on feels utterly helpless in such situations. It's cancer after all. Those unfamiliar with such situations don't really know what to say or do. Some personalities are more of the doing kind so they cope with all facets of life by doing. Others are more the talking kind... they feel the need to fill the awkward silent gaps. Mum was generous and sensitive enough to let them.
I remember the steady stream of cancer cures that I heard about during the six months I witness mum's body gradually deterioriate. And there were many. Eastern, western and the usual faith healing diatribe. Because I did some of the cooking for mum and dad at the time, I became interested in appropriate diets for a person in mum's situation. With the internet at my finger tips, information was only a few clicks and clacks away. And by all there's good in the universe, there's a lot of information out there. So much so that your brain is likely to explode trying to take it all in.

Through this experience and listening to other stories, I'm convinced that there isn't a one-size-fits-all miracle cure. By the very fact that they are "miracle cures" should suggest to us the rarity and uniqueness of such occurrences. I'm the last person  to discourage anyone from eating well because we do want to maintain a decent quality of life but there's still so much about cancer we don't really know. While someone may have found the answer for their situation and written a book about it, it may not be the answer for someone else.

Christianity is at its core a "religion" of grace. As a Christian I believe in the absolute sovereignty of God and that we live and breathe at the approbation of our creator. We are wretched creatures... utterly wretched and so much a slave to our sinfulness. But the beauty of grace is that God seeks sinners and pulls them out of their wretchedness and calls them his own. There's nothing inside of us that merits it or anything that we do that can earn a place in God's kingdom... it's all God's grace. Likewise, there's no guarantee that any of us will escape suffering, pain of any kind but God's grace is sufficient to take us through whatever afflictions will come our way.
I don't know about you, but I find it terrifying... and comforting at the same time. The spectre of cancer lurks in my family's history and it could come to me down the track. But my prayer is that I will be prepared for whatever challenges lie ahead.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

We're Going on a Junk Hunt

I informed the husband today that we are sorely in need of security cameras around the house so that I can monitor the 3 year old's every move while being stationery in one location. She has this dizzying ability to move items around the house more quickly than your local fence so that there's no way of tracking where Barbie's left boot is going to end up.
The most terrifying place at our house is under the 3 year old's bed and if there's a way of hooking up a camera or some kind of alarm in there, it would be a life saver. Something very very loud that is triggered off by touch. I want the duvalackey to blare down her ears every time she dumps tissues, food wrappings or some newly destroyed toy down her makeshift chute. Occasionally, she's been known to squirrel food down there which is quite unnecessary really as she's not backward in pinching food from the kitchen when hit by the hunger pangs.

So I sent her down into the Underworld... to do a clean out. A junk hunt. As expected, she protested (some of that was probably motivated by fear) but realised that mummy did really mean business when I pointed to the rubbish bag I had brought in. And I made the usual threats about vacumming everything in sight. So she commenced work around the edges moving clothes, papers, toys and pencils out of the way before venturing a little further to grapple with tissues, food wrappers and plastic cups.
Funny she thought I needed a running commentary, describing to me every single item she pulled out (and who it belonged to) from the dark place. It must have been her way of breaking the monotony.

I suppose it doesn't take a climate scientist to see that when I tell the children to put their stuff away or tidy their rooms, their little brains compute that as "push it under the bed". I suppose I'm no less culpable... I need to spend more time going on "Junk Hunts" with my girls. Who knows, I might end up writing a bestseller.

And I need more of those long flat roller boxes that go under the bed.

I'm sure there's a Pixar film to be found in there somewhere.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Mind Tricks

Ordinarily the 31st of October is just another day in the year for us. Unlike Americans, that date holds little or no significance for most of us living down under. But yesterday we encountered a few trick-or-treaters at our door. Our 9 year old who has been properly trained, told our visitors that "we don't celebrate Hello-Wind" at our place. To be honest I'm more than a little uneasy with the adoption of Hello-Weird in my neck of the woods... not because it's American or Celtic or unAustralian etc etc... Or even because it's a dental nightmare. But because it's a symptom, in my opinion, of two separate social threads intertwining. First of all, it highlights society's superficial but unhealthy flirtation with the occult and secondly, it's part of that 21st century entertainment drive... that pervasive need to entertain and be entertained... We are compelled by forces inside and outside of our homes to find new ways to entertain our children as a matter of course. I'm inclined to see the gradual embrace of Hello-Weird outside of North America as a parenting issue as much as it is the consequence of successful brainwashing marketing worldwide.

In the civilized world, everyone is free to choose how they spend their free time and definitely how they parent their children. However, from time to time I am beset by fears that we are now suffering from so much media saturation that few of us spend time really thinking through these issues, allowing ourselves to be "tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine".
Be afraid... very afraid...

(Credit: Top News)