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)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Troy (2004)

I will start by saying that I didn't pick the DVD. I had heard mixed things about this film from various sources which put me off bothering with it when it came out. Plus the fact I'm no fan of the Illiad (threw the book on the floor a few times), whose dramatis personae seems to be cluttered up with unlikeable characters.
However, the husband brought it home and thought it might be something worth watching. Okay... I says... how bad can it be...

Whoever thought that putting Brad Pitt in a classical Greek tale was a good idea had rocks in their head.
Not that I think Pitt is a bad actor but in this particular setting, he appears to me, at least. to be totally out of his depth. While I didn't find Archilles all that appealing in the Illiad, in Pitt's hands, Archilles is as dull as dishwater. Pitt fails to convey the eloquence or the charisma of the intransigent Greek hero.
This is why, on a normal day, films about classical characters are generally populated by British actors who are able to convey that larger than life quality possibly from spending time doing Shakespeare at some point in their careers.
Brad Pitt's Archilles is, in short, an expressionless whiny brat.
I had the same allergic reaction to Sam Worthington in the Clash of the Titans remake.

The film is not all bad. There are good actors in it who do their best with the material they've been given. But it's no Cecile B. DeMilne epic. DeMilne was at least energetic in his direction. This one felt rather limp, cheesy and cheap.
The feel is one of a B-movie with a surprising number of A-list actors.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Park Theme

Our excursion to Dreamworld today was cut short when 10 year old complained of feeling weak and queasy. We have season passes and since we didn't use them most of the year (one thing after another), I felt obliged to maximise our investment before those things expired. So it's a frantic effort to get it all done in a week.
After downing half a bottle of water and half a sandwich, she said she felt better. But I thought it best that we leave as soon as possible, at least before the sandwich made a second appearance accompanied by stomach acids.
We happen to walk past the animal enclosures... 10 year old then said she wanted to see the animals. So we looked at the animals.
Because of this diversion, we discovered a new ride -- driving vintage car round a designated circuit. It was, in my opinion, quite fun actually. Compared to the stroke inducing attractions that make up the place, this was very tame. Almost like having a quiet drive in the countryside. Except this one lasted about 3 minutes.

It occurred to me then that Dreamworld is an all encompassing sort of place. It tries to cater to all sorts while fulfilling the fantasies of bored adrenalin junkies. A combination of kitschy reconstruction of nostalgia and temporary visceral illusion of high excitement and adventure.
A place of escape... a place that doesn't really exist. One can pay for the privilege of gaining access.
And now one can prolong the privilege with unlimited passes.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

New Things

Quite a lot happened to me the past year and I suppose it's customary to take stock at this time of the year.
But I won't. Not today at least.
You know me, I can naval gaze with the best of them.

I'm venturing into new things next year which means my online life must diminish.
A mother of two school kids... yes, 4 year old turns 5 next year and joins the ranks of the school aged -- I must be moving on.
To bigger and better things... Bigger perhaps, better... well, that remains to be seen.
Not that being a stay-at-home mother was not an important phase in my life. It was necessary and while I can't truthfully say I enjoyed every moment of it, I'm deeply thankful that I saw 4 year old grow up into an endearing, articulate preschooler.

The short version is that I've taken up an English teaching job and it starts in January. I've wanted to for a whole year and was rather disillusioned for a while there when there were no doors ajar much less open ones.
Now that it has come to me... I dunno... I'm not as ecstatic as I think I should be.

I am thrilled to be going back into the classroom, working with migrants and refugees. It's what I've always loved about TESOL.
The downside is that the new job comes packaged with responsibilities that I'm not accustomed to. It's not just about being in the classroom but being part of a "system". That aspect of it intimidates me.

But I won't complain too much... I can't. My friend thinks it's a "God thing" and I can't say I disagree. The timing is right and the opportunity is too good to pass up.
If God has led me to this new situation, I can be confident that he will give me the strength and the grace to carry out my responsibilities.

Already I sense new things ahead for our family.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Back Problems

Haven't been blogging much lately because the back's been playing up. Can't sit too long, can't stand too long, can't walk too long and can't squat too long. It's exercises and muscle stretches in between
Seems like the more I'm trying to get back into LIFE, the more aggravated the situation becomes. Lying flat on the back asleep is the only way to keep this at bay.

I'm off to the physio in about half an hour...

Friday, November 18, 2011

Pity They Don't Come with Manuals

Remember The Matrix?
For those of us who know and love it well, it was pure Geekfest on adrenaline. In a rollercoaster.

One of the highlights of that scifi, special effects extravaganza was the ease in which unplugged rebels were able to assimilate information and skills to survive the menacing dangers of the Matrix.
Reclining uncomfortably on a dentist chair, one only needs to be plugged in and the human brain becomes a hard drive for a big information dump.
Several hours later, the eyelids flutter involuntarily and you hear yourself say, "I know kung fu."

Just like that... Not a drop of sweat spilled and the storehouses of knowledge at one's fingertips.

After the little drama that transpired at our place today, an information brain dump has become a very attractive option devoutly to be wished. A once for all permanent info dump that prepares children for the Matrix that is real life.

It is oft said that kids are sponges... which is true on a certain level. They soak everything up and then promptly lose it all. Apart from that, they are afflicted with bouts of selective amnesia and develop hearing problems when the conversation doesn't go their way.

Some days I feel like a broken record.
Unfortunately they don't come with manuals... and there's no one size fits all approach to dealing with children.

As the kiddies get older, the responsibility that is parenting becomes even more intimidating. It's a powerless feeling that one has because the amount of bad stuff that can happen to them increases exponentially with age.
At various times and in varying degrees they live by the dictum that "rules are meant to be broken".

All the best communication techniques in the world aren't going to help two sinners who are adamant to do things their own way. The big sinner, me and the little sinner, my child.
Do I really want the best for them or is it just about my needs, my wants and my fears? Do their mistakes reflect my own vulnerabilities?

Ouch... 

At the risk of being too introspective, these are questions I should be putting to myself EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. At least while I'm in the position to do something about it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Baby Hands No More

Woke up at 4:30 this morning and stayed awake. Something to do with chickens outside my window. Not exactly a great start to the day. But 4:30 is more or less the crack of dawn in these parts at this time of the year.
Spent the rest of the day in a kind of semi-lucid stupor which hung around all day like a bad smell. 

"Tired", "cranky" and "shouty" characterised the last 16 hours of my existence. Not exactly the model of motherliness I had hoped to convey. I've been so spoilt these past months having been so well-looked after. It's as if I've had to relearn the process of coping with children on my own.

I am so ready to jump into bed... Sleep's pretty glorious when you've been robbed of it.

4 year old and I toddled along to Prep orientation. She is off to school next year which is, if you think about it, only really a couple of months away. I had this wonderful notion that we would walk to school this morning. A wonderful notion except that I had conveniently forgotten about the almighty book pack to take home. Walking, I had thought, would save me from having to find a park and do battle with the multitude of Prep parents to get through the local streets. So lucky me... I had to lug the book pack home on foot. Hence, I got a bit more exercise than I had originally planned to.

Yeah, it's a milestone for us. Once upon a time 4 year old was a baby... and then exploded into a toddler... quickly morphed into a preschooler and in no time at all, she's taking on school. Mentally she's been ready for the idea of school for a while (although I suspect it's the uniform that's driving the interest)... the question now being... is school ready for her?

4 year old's nails really needed clipping. So I clipped them. Scrutinizing her fingers today, it really hit home that she has left those early years of childhood behind her. The baby hands have morphed. Regretfully they were surreptitiously transformed into the next phase without my realizing it.
Obviously a part of me is keen for her to be at school because of that incredible energy that is rooted in the DNA of her personality. And yet all that time we spend wishing they'd grow up quickly, I now realize, could have been better spent enjoying them.

Afterall, they're only young once.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Movie Talk: Courageous (2011)

Several weeks ago, I was listening to a podcast in which Charles Colson (founder of Prison Fellowship) was conversing with political and cultural commentator, Mark Steyn about his new book, America Alone. During the course of their dialogue, Steyn mentioned that during the last several decades, the importance of fathers has come under severe attack in our culture. As a case in point, Colson noted that in his work with prisons that a large number of (can't recall the exact stats here) young men end up incaracerated because of the absence of fathers in their lives.

Courageous, the new film by the Kendrick brothers who brought us Fireproof a couple of years ago, feels like a clarion call for men to take up their role as fathers with gravity and fervour.
The story centres around the lives of five men, four of whom are local law enforcement officers. These men are familiar to us... they are fathers, they live, they work in our neighbourhoods and they struggle with all kinds of decisions daily, trying to find their moral compass.

Despite its overt intentions, Courageous is not just a sermon with pictures. It also manages to be highly entertaining and like its predecessor, successfully pushes all the right emotional buttons. Throughout much of the film, I had to rummage around my bag for tissues.

Overall, I liked it a lot and was generally impressed with the production values. However, I did cringe and scratch my head a few times at the clunky dialogue. Yeah, well... I'm a writer and it's the kind of stuff that jumps out at me even when I'm half asleep. Not that I was falling asleep, of course.

That said, it is good drama and the performances were credible -- a huge step forward from Fireproof. I found myself caring about the main characters and their families. And I laughed a lot. Non-Christians may find it a tad preachy but at least they will hear something of what Christians believe.

Audiobook: The House of Silk



Anthony Horowitz is the brains behind the brilliant WW2 police drama, Foyle's War, so I was eager to get stuck into his latest offering, The House of Silk.
That and because it's the first officially sanctioned Sherlock Holmes novel in a hundred and forty plus years.
Horowitz is a fantastic writer on different levels. His elegant prose, ability to create suspense, attention to detail, love of history, love of Victorian England and love of the Holmes canon shines through in this book. For the most part, I was riveted. Horowitz's Watson is more prone to introspection about the social conditions of his era than we're accustomed to in Conan-Doyle but that didn't really bother me all that much.

That said, I was deeply disappointed with the resolution... not because it was improbable but because it felt like I had been thrown into an Anne Perry novel, which I had been fearing would be the case three quarters of the way through.
It seems the fashion to portray pre WW2 England as a bleak morass of decadent horrors these days and this was no different. There must be some kind of unspoken competition among crime writers to ramp up the "yuck" factor in a number of historical fics that I've been reading lately.

I appreciated Derek Jacobi's dramatic narration overall but didn't really care for the way he voiced Holmes generally. The voice he used for Holmes seemed all over the place from sober to high pitched... not really how I envisaged a dominating, charismatic personality to sound.

All in all, it's a good yarn. My copy was downloaded from Audible but I'm sure you can pick up a dead tree edition in your usual haunts. Not a bad one to pick up at your local library if you don't mind a good crime novel that's fairly gloomy.

Geeking Out: Doctor Who Series 6

As it turns out, I took a leave of absence from blogging last week to catch up on everything Doctor Who that I've missed these past months. Did a bit of  a marathon last week and watched all 13 eps from Series 6 plus bits and bobs from DW Confidential. Yeah, I've been a rather naughty girl. But I did catch up on all the sleep I lost last night.

It's been a while since I've been remotely enthused about DW but, by golly, S6 was, with a couple of notable exceptions, a thrill to watch. S6 has easily become my favourite, exceeding anything even in the Pertwee and Tom Baker era.
My esteem for head writer, Steven Moffat (which was already very high) has increased ten-fold. For the first time since watching Tom Baker romp around the Louvre, I am blown away by the writing for the show. I've always enjoyed individual episodes of Doctor Who to varying degrees but this is the first time, I've really cared about how a season hangs together.

Moffat, in my opinion, is a wonderfully thoughtful and genuinely serious writer of suspense/scifi and I am thrilled to bits about where he has taken DW. Sadly, it seems he has plenty of detractors and so apparently he's going to downplay the use of large arcs in the next series.

Babylon 5, I think, was where it all began for me, in terms of continuity between episodes and seasons. I don't think there's much doubt that it was one of the best (if not the best) science fiction shows ever written. Despite the budgetary constraints, one grew to care about the characters and the underlying threads that held it all together. The show was almost entirely arc driven and came together in such a mindstretching fashion.

Matt Smith... I'm beginning to really love. Last year I wasn't too sure about him. I liked him but I didn't love him. Those sad and soulful eyes are working their magic methinks and his chemistry with Alex Kingston has been unexpectedly good. No one is more surprised than I am to look upon their flirtations with grudging approval. As a rule I don't care for Doctor/Companion being very up close and very personal but I'm willing to make an exception in this instance because Kingston is awesome. Didn't care for her in ER but in DW she's a great choice as the older-younger femme fatale foil for the younger-older Doctor.

Apparently love for S6 correlates to some degree with love for the character of River Song so it's fortuitous that that part has worked out for me. But seriously it's a lot more than that. The longish arcs and the integration of monster of the week stories have been constructed and laid out with a great deal of thought. Even, for instance, in the episode where Hitler (who is in it for about 5 minutes) is the monster in the cupboard. A lovely sort of "hint, hint, nudge, nudge" especially when the next episode turns out to be a run-of-the-mill monster-in-the-cupboard story. Quite often the jokes and dialogue have hints and foreshadowing of what is to come. Also the reuse of technology throughout the series right up to the series finale is just gold.

I am absolutely loving the use of continuity in this era.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Monday with Books

Big weekend. Phew. Was exhausted by the end of it. But it was all good stuff and we managed to snatch naps in between things.
The wedding ceremony was short and sweet, which was fine by everyone probably. Not the shortest I've ever been to but a lot shorter than a previous wedding I went to where the groom basically jumped from aisle to the stage to the piano and back onto the stage. As my memory isn't terribly reliable, it's likely not in that order. But he is probably the busiest groom I've ever seen.

Today was a lazy sort of day aside from a visit to the physio. No chastisement today... in fact he was impressed that I managed to squeeze in the prescribed exercises in spite of my busy schedule.

Spent a big part of the morning watching clips from Britain's Got Talent 2011 which sort of happened from me watching Michael Buble belt out "Feeling Good" in a James Bond homage which in turn came about because I heard a really odd rendition elsewhere. So odd that I almost didn't recognize it until the refrain. Buble sings it with a jazzy swagger which is how I like it. To me, it's one of those deceptively simple songs that really shouldn't be overdone.




After lunch, I taught 4 year old to read from the Ladybird Keywords "Peter and Jane" series while lying in bed. I really needed to be flat on my back and 4 year old needed to be kept out of trouble. So we started with fairytale type Ladybird books and then tackled Peter and Jane, who seem to be very busy kiddies.
Why Peter and Jane? I'm a traditionalist about how kids learn how to read and I like the old stuff. For me, it's all about repetition and drilling in those early years. Plus the series is graded, which gives you a good idea of where the children are at. And there's also the fact that I'm rather allergic to merchandised books.



Made dinner tonight -- Japanese curry out of a packet and then did most of the dishes. By the end of that I was leg weary. Husband took 10 year old to one of her regular Monday night extra-curricular activities so I offered to do them because, for some reason he hasn't been sleeping all that well and sounds it.

Like the spoonful of sugar which makes the medicine go down, I put on a new audio book, The House of Silk to get me through the dishes. It's a boon for Sherlock Holmes fans to have Anthony Horowitz write the first officially sanctioned SH novel in a hundred and forty something years. As expected, it is very well-written, he nails Watson and Holmes and the attention to detail warms the cockles of my heart. I'm loving it.


Delivery from my favourite online book store arrived today. Quite surprised that they all came together in one hit. Usually they come in drips and drabs... Can't complain really... free shipping and all that. In and amongst the order was The Story of Doctor Dolittle and The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle.
To my delight, I found reprints of the Doctor Dolittle series on the aforementioned site. Hadn't touched anything Dolittle since I was a whippersnapper but had no idea that there were that many -- 12 in all. I still have memories of a technicolour picture book with the pullme-pushyou as the featured animal on the cover. These days most of which are probably out of print or unavailable at bookshops. Anyway I procured a couple for 10 year old, in preparation for the upcoming festive season but I'm doing my parental duty by inspecting the contents of the book before placing it her impressionable hands.

I could talk about books all day long but I really need to get out of this chair. Apparently too much sitting can be a health hazard.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Forty Winks

Dozed off briefly while 4 year old was watching Barbie and the Twelve Dancing Princesses. Generally, I despise most things Barbie but some of the movies are actually quite decent. It's the only way I can catch naps during the day when she's around, if I feel the need. Today, I felt the need. Had the ear phones firmly attached to the ears while listening to an audio book and soon I was off to lala land. It also helped that the husband was home early to cook up some dinner for which I am grateful.

This year, our playgroup has been invited to do a Christmas skit at the host church. I volunteered 4 year old to be Mary last week. Not bad actually. She assumed the role with uncharacteristic dignity, doing a good job of sitting still during rehearsal, holding plastic baby Jesus with an experience arm and then awkwardly placing him in the "manger". All to the tune of "Mary Had a Little Lamb" which in the case has been appropriated for "Mary Had a Baby Boy".

We're now certain that one of the chooks is a rooster... 2 out of 3 ain't bad. Goldie... he... not she... has been trying to do rooster things. He'll have to go, of course... unfortuntely... but shouldn't complain as he enjoyed free food and lodging for as along as he did. I've been told that there are places outside of suburbia that wouldn't mind taking in roosters. No, we weren't thinking of giving him the chop.

The weekend is looking to be horrendous. How do these things happen... I am looking forward to the wedding, of course. I adore weddings... as long as I don't have to do anything like sing for my supper. But I will be singing at church on Sunday... I won't say unfortunately because it is a privilege to serve. I am thankful, however, that it is communion Sunday and it means the amount of time I have to spend in front is shortened.

Anyhow, it's time for me to get off the chair and stimulate recovery to my lower back region and leg.

Hot and Bothered

Today was veg out day. Aside from going to the physio, I did almost nothing except listen to a couple of podcasts and finished the Bonhoeffer audio book. Finally. After months of starting and stopping. A very good book by the way, definitely well-written but more on that another time.
'Twas a hot day... not the January kind of hot day but enough to make a difference. In fact, I'm still feeling the heat in spite of having the fan on. The heat I don't mind so much but this yo-yo weather makes it hard to dress or cover properly.

Physio... my second visit in 7 days. I developed what I thought were foot and leg troubles about a week and a half ago (as if I didn't have enough to think about). As it turns out, after a little more poking and prodding, it's lower back issues squashing a crucial nerve that's the culprit. Dear man... he was trying his best to chastise me as kindly as possible to "listen to your body".

This is turning into a bad comedy. Too much sitting is bad, slumping in bed is terrible and too much walking is also bad for post-surgical healing.

I'm feeling all kinds of guilty having had to pull back. I know it's necessary yadda yadda but it goes against the grain to have a two month do-nothing holiday.

Time for bed, methinks.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Tired

I am tired. Really tired. It's been a long day punctuated by a couple of hours online watching You Tube videos. Once I got home, I became immobile. My legs just didn't want to move.

Two days in, trying to dip my toes into normality and my body tells me that I'm not ready for normal just yet. Not ready to don the busy suburban housewife hat or the church volunteer cape.

Went to MOPS today thinking I would take things easy but I went straight into autopilot. Old habits die hard. I had to remember to sit down more than once.
In the afternoon, I drove the kiddies to swimming. Saw an old friend there and started chatting. Not a bad way to while away an hour and a bit.

On top of all that, I'm not drinking as much as I should. I really miss the alkaline water. Don't know how much good that did me but it made me drink lots. I'm catching up big time as I write this up.

Aside from a visit to the physio, tomorrow is strictly a stay at home and veg out day.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Gyoza

I've been experimenting with dumplings for a while now. The marvel of living in Brisbane in 2011 is that you can. I've lost track of the number of Asian supermarkets that have sprung up within a 4-5 km radius in our area. Haven't done the sums but the total number would easily be in the double digits beginning with two. The myriad of sauces, condiments and ingredients that are now available to the dumpling connoisseur edges on the heavenly.

So I made gyoza last night. At least I think I did. Generic meat and chives dumpling turned into gyoza when I added mirin. Still, I'm not sure that chives is strictly a gyoza standard.
10 year old's school friend wanted her to go trick-a-treating and dropped by. We said "no" to 10 year old trick-a-treating, well, because we don't do Halloween at our place. I'm rabidly anti-Halloween on principle... almost made a sign to that effect because we had a few visitors last year.
But we didn't mind school friend dropping in and she stayed for almost an hour.


The phrase "imitation is the highest form of flattery" is kinda passe. But my take on that one is, "The highest form of flattery is when they come back for more."
And so they did... for the gyoza. School friend came first. "Please can I have some more... it's really yummy..."
Well, my heart did flip flops. It's better than a confession scene from a romcom.
Then our girls came for more, so I said to the husband, "You should probably come and get some before they all run out."

Husband tells me I should start selling them. But he almost always says that I when I make them. Selling, however, would take the fun out of making them.
10 year old comes back for more and she says I should sell them too.

Well, if I don't get a teaching job next year, I might consider it.

Monday, October 31, 2011

What My Children Teach Me About Prayer

Prayer is a sticky area for the Christian. Theoretically and theologically we know its importance in our lives but practically we seem to have all kinds of issues getting our hands dirty.

One of our elders preached on the subject yesterday and I appreciated his approach. I learnt something from it and it provoked a series of afterthoughts.

It seems to me that our problem with prayer is not that we don't know what it is or that it is, well... commanded of us. Just like keeping up with a daily bible reading, we don't have the stomach for it.

Prayer is hard work... it takes time... it's a discipline. Jesus prayed so it's obvious we should. A no brainer. The best sermon I ever heard on prayer argued that prayer is about relationship which made a lot of sense to me at the time. It should logically be an overflower of my love for God and people. Okay. But still I don't prayer consistently or fervently.

Perhaps I'm not desperate enough. Quite possibly true.
Perhaps there's a part of me that's afraid that God will actually answer my prayer. That could be dangerous. Very craven of me.
Perhaps I just don't think prayer really makes all that much of a difference. Ouch.
And... let's try this on for size... Maybe we think we deserve the good life. God will give us everything we need anyway, right? Life is good, why bother with prayer? (An entitlelist view of things)
And perhaps... we ain't got the stamina to go the distance.

This is an area I think, I can learn from my kids.

I don't mind saying that the thing that annoys me most about children is the way they keep at you when they want something. It is highly annoying. Especially when you really don't want them to have the thing they really want to have. They scheme, they plot and they even try to play mum off against dad.
Depnding on their age, they ask and beg and nag and plead and negotiate and weep piteously. They are oblivious to the concept of "no".

They are, in short, persistent.

For 2 years, 10 year old begged us for a Nintendo DS Lite. She turned the conversation at every opportunity to the subject. Finally we agreed that if a certain thing happened, she could get one but of course, that didn't pan out in the long run because effort from her was required.

I don't think I'm saying that prayer is a presenting a Christmas list in childish fashion. But isn't it interesting that Jesus tells us to "ask", "seek" and to "knock". Obviously he knew we would have a problem doing all of the above. So much so that he used the earthy analogy of a father's relationship with his children, which is pretty telling.

Persistence in prayer is a good thing... in fact, it is so good it is commanded. But because it is hard work and because there are a million other things we do instead of prayer, persistence is a lost art as well as an oft forgotten command.

There are areas in scripture which we are called to pray about -- missions, evangelism, protection, sickness, our Lord's return, and generally for God's will to be done. Etc etc etc...

Our God wants us to pray...
So why don't we?

The next time the kiddies beg and plead and throw themselves at your feet because they want something...
be reminded of how much more we are to plead for the things that bring glory to the name of Jesus.
Things of eternal consequences.

Have a good one!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Purple Flowers

It's a lovely time of year on our suburban streets with the Jacarandas in full bloom. Although not native to this country, our neck of the concrete jungle does play host to a multitude of them.

A friend, originally from Japan, tells me that it reminds her of the sakura blooms (cherry blossoms) during spring. My experience of sakura is limited to j-dramas but they do look pretty spectacular especially if they're lined up in an avenue.

4 year old knows I'm on a look out for them for photography purposes so she's yelling "Mummy, purple flowers" every minute or so while we're in the car.

We've had quite a number of overcast days so some of these pics don't quite do the "purple flowers" much justice.

There's something very calming about gazing upon these magnificent specimens of God's creation. Not just the ones with purple flowers. Even when they're bare, they're awe inspiring. Spending time behind a good lens can really change one's perspective for the better.








Friday, October 28, 2011

The Printer Goes to Hospital (Finally!)

While I'm normally rabidly anti-superstitious, I'm not sure what it is about me and printers the last couple of years. It's been Dudsville for me. The Epson I got the year before last was a nice machine though violently noisy. The results were good but the printing action was terrifying to watch. 4 year old got it into her head at the time that it would be fun to add pieces of chalk to the paper feeder which was unsurprisingly, its death knell. It led to, in short, a quick, painful death. And well, it was also out of warranty...

Printer #2 was a basic wireless black only laser that we procured from a certain supermarket chain. It was adequate for our needs during the life of the first toner cartridge. When I went to get it refilled...  it was all downhill from then on. These days each printed sheet looks like a particularly bad case of chicken pox. Because I am cheap, I will continue using it until the toner runs dry and get the drum replaced.

Printer #3 was colour laser that I purchased from a large stationery chain which shall remain nameless. Although working terrifically well for a time, I soon discovered that it was suffering printer xenophobia, adamantly refusing to print black. Which in effect rendered the thing useless. Rang the manufacturer, had tech support take me through a series of tests and was asked to go to a service centre 25 minutes from where I live. Thing was, I... er... misplaced the proof of purchase... and well... so much for taking it in. I tried ringing the stationery chain on the off chance they kept records but no... apparently they didn't keep records for more than six months which I thought was bizarre.
As it was my own stupid fault, I didn't press the issue and so Printer #3 sat in the living area like a white elephant collecting dead human skin and other misc particles.

While convalescing the last couple of months, I chanced upon the receipt in an old wallet while going through a drawer filled with junk. I rejoiced noisily, relieved that I hadn't been as moronic as I thought I had been.
Today we finally got our act together and took off to the 25-minute-away-from-home service centre. When we got to where we thought we were supposed to be,  er... there was no service centre for XYZ international electronics company just an engineering firm. Hmmm... interesting...
So I ask the guy working next door. He doesn't know anything -- only been working there for 2 weeks. Later (probably after talking to his boss) he tells us that there was a service centre there 4 months ago but they moved.
By this time 4 year old is clamouring loudly to go to playgroup. Can't entirely blame her. The whole excursion seems to be taking a complicated turn.
So we ring the manufacturer... we wait for 7 plus minutes before talking to a customer service officer, definitely not locally based. I get pushed to another department and then another. After talking a few minutes, we lose connection. Sigh... So we ring again... this time we get speedy service.
CSO tells me that there are 3 service centres in my area... (really... why didn't someone tell me that before?) and the nearest one is actually about 15 minutes away. Before hanging up, I tell the CSO as kindly as I can muster that they really need to update their database because well... they're 4 months behind.

This afternoon we took ourselves off to the nearest service centre after picking up 10 year old from school. It was a relief... I tell ya... a relief. We might actually have a COLOUR printer to use for MOPS and school next year.

Chicken Coop

Our verandah has become a serious embarrassment to any notion of civilization. Not that it was great before but since we brought in the chickens, it's given us new notions of "OCCUPY".
Their ability to perform ablutions with rapidity and without discretion never ceases to amaze me. Please somebody invent a chook nappy... please...
Hence I'm chuffed that we finally have ourselves a chicken coop custom made by my incredibly talented father-in-law.

 Front View

 Nesting Box

Nesting Box
 Interior with perches

 Gangway...

 Checking it out...

The Headless Chook Exits

Entry to the nesting box

Whether all three are hens... is still in doubt.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

NAPLAN

NAPLAN (National Assessment Program -- Literacy and Numeracy) results came out a few weeks ago and I was, in all honesty, both surprised and relieved. "Surprised" that 10 year old did as well as she did and "relieved" that there was signifcant progress in the numeracy side of things.

This post isn't about the NAPLAN testing system or what I think of it. I'm broadly supportive of it's aims but that's a post for another time.

To make a long story short, I've spent the whole year worrying (I don't mind saying) about 10 year old's academic record even to the point of considering homeschooling. Talking with the teacher on the odd occasion, it was the same o'l same o'l: inability to concentrate... not able to keep up with her maths and avoiding assignments. Mid-year results showed that she had gone backwards in a few significant areas.
I'm far from being Tiger Mum (more Pig Mum actually, in nature and in name) but I well know how much I struggled with maths in secondary school even though my fundamentals were fairly good.

I've come to the conclusion that no matter how good the school or the teacher, if I, as the parent, am not on board with my child's education wholeheartedly, it just doesn't happen at all. I know for myself and the 10 year old at least, that if I'm not hands on about it, she's going to fall through the cracks. In the last couple of years, I've had renewed respect for my own parents and what they went through for my sake.

I have battled much with this issue for the last few years. 10 year old is a great kid in so many ways but her lack of drive I find disheartening. On the positive side, I think that the God of grace has really used this situation to teach (and is still teaching) me patience... nay, endurance... to go the distance with her.

Another thing I've learnt is that our children's development is so tied up with our emotional well-being that sometimes... no, often... it's really hard to know if we're doing it for them or for us. Am I projecting? Am I living vicariously through their achievements? Do I feel disappointed because it reflects on me or because I'm genuinely concerned about their future? Those sorts of questions need to be asked from time to time. Human nature being what it is, I expect, overlaps are inevitable.
 

For me, it's an ongoing issue. I feel we (husband and I) must persist. It's a marathon from start to finish.

I'm Baaaaaaack... in Bloggersphere

Yeah... I'm back blogging again... after taking a seven week hiatus with the odd post here and there just to update people on my condition. I should have probably written something about that before indulging in a post dumping binge yesterday.
Frankly speaking, I didn't much feel like blogging during this time and focused my efforts mainly on recovery. Even when I did feel better, blogging seemed like too much effort.

Innumerable thanks for your prayers and messages of care and concern. They were much appreciated.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Ideal Man

Speaking of fantasy vs reality, I am reminded of a Japanese drama I watched a couple of weeks ago about an office temp, quite desperate and dateless, in search of the perfect boyfriend. She tumbles onto a mysterious corporation that claims to provide women with their ideal boyfriend, most likely thinking it's some kind of dating service. As it turns out, the company manufactures androids and one of their leading scientists has created the first of what is to become a series of artificial boyfriends.
It's a great premise... reminded me of the Jeff Bridges classic, Starman. Starts off being rather light-hearted but ends up being a melodrama.

While I enjoyed the show for what it was, I never for one moment seriously entertained the idea that an artificial life form and a human being could end up having a life together. Okay, so he's evolved, he's now developed an ego and he utters "I love you" at least once every episode. He was, afterall programmed to be her ideal boyfriend.

Because I watched this online, it was fascinating to actually see the viewer feedback. I was surprised and not a little disturbed to see that the overwhelming majority of commenters so thoroughly immersed in the fantasy that they bought the viability of the relationship completely. Someone even suggested that the couple of in question could adopt. And here was I thinking that the story was some kind of parable about where sentient life began and ended.
I scratched my head rather befuddled. It was a moment of cognitive dissonance for me.

Later I was reminded of persons who were wallowing in the doldrums after watching James Cameron's Avatar because (surprise, surprise) the paradise he created didn't actually exist. Apparently they were hankering for a trip to Navi Land.

Everyone, I suppose, goes through phases in life where a bit escapism is probably fairly harmless.

But the perfect man? Purlease... Haven't met him yet. Unless we mean Jesus... and that's another story altogether.

In the end, I don't even think robot boyfriend from our drama in question was really that perfect. He ran on batteries and was overheating faster than my previous laptop.

The female protagonist gradually falls in love with a fantasy who seems able to meet all her needs except what she craves the most -- permanence.
As with these things, there's "another" guy. He's not perfect but he is human and in his own fashion, he's devoted to her welfare and future. Many would deem him highly eligible. She likes him too at first but as the fantasy gradually takes over her life, the reality is pushed to the periphery.

In the end the fantasty must die before reality can be restored.

Magpies

I suppose it's that time of the year when magpies get terriorial and protective because while taking a stroll along my street yesterday, I received the feather end of one mighty nasty magpie parent.
I can't get too upset about it even if it hurt for about a minute as, well, magpie parent was acting instinctively.

Before I went into the business of reproducing, I used to think that I didn't have a shred of what is commonly called "maternal instinct". I can't confirm if such a thing exist or whether our present society with the influence of feminism has beaten it out of many of us that we're no longer comfortable with the notion of motherhood as normative.

Still having offspring is supposed to be normative even if our feelings don't always line up. It was God's idea for us to be "fruitful and multiply" even if we are so brainwashed to think otherwise. Raising children is hard but I think our present difficulties are compounded because we are encouraged in our world to be selfish with the notion of "choice" and the myriad of choices that offered to us.

The solution? The sacrificial love of our Lord Jesus Christ. The only antidote to our battles within. To fall before the cross and acknowledge our inability to be the parents we should be. But we have his grace to become the parents we were called to be... everyday... just a little... one step at a time.

We love... because He first loved us...

Back to Real Life

I'm having a little trouble getting back into routine after convalescing for several weeks.
It's a lot like going on holidays for an extended period of time and having not such a bad time and then trying to get back into the grind of everyday stuff.

It's a bit like how I used to wonder about the companions on classic Who. For the uninitiated, Classic Who generally refers to the Doctor Who universe before Christopher Ecclestone.
Classic Who seldom... almost never really... revisited former companions. Watching the show transitioning from one companion to the next, I often wondered what happened to Barbara, Ian, Susan, Tegan, Romana, Sarah Jane, Alyssa, Leela etc etc

Susan and SJ came back in The Five Doctors but with no or litle reference to their current reality. Time travel can be confusing with all the time streams and odd planets but still...
How did these people cope with living in the humdrum of earth reality while having memories of travelling the galaxy and back in time with an eccentric Time Lord? And you couldn't tell anyone about it unless you wanted a one way ticket to Bedlam or its equivalent.

When we have kids, we are obliged to deal with reality head on a daily basis so that they have clean clothes to wear and food on the table. And in the case of the 10 year old, a bit of "encouragement" with homework. Contrary to what a physio once told me, they can't be left to their own devices. I shudder to think what would happen if they were.

4 year old came in this morning clockwork to remind me of her existence as she does every morning. It's a ritual she calls: "Mummy-I-Want-To-Say-Good-Morning".
That's after she's wandered into the kitchen looking for something to eat. She has a priorities all worked out, you see. After all, you can't say "good morning" on an empty stomach.
Despite all their propensity for make belief, children are fundamentally realists... when they're hungry, they're hungry. There's no fantasy that's going to convince them otherwise.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Good to Be Alive

It's been almost 2 weeks since I underwent a hysterectomy and I'm deeply grateful to God that recovery has been on track. I am well aware that things can be a lot worse.
I am paranoid by inclination and was prepared for the eventuality that things can go south, especially when I've been stupidly watching Japanese medical dramas to kill time where most of the highwire action takes place in the operating theatre.

So what I have learnt from the last six weeks? Quite a lot actually. Some of which I already knew but there's nothing like the sledgehammer effect to carry a point across.

1) I learnt for the 100000000th time that God is good. Not just because I'm alive, not just because I didn't bleed to death and not just because I'm getting an unexpected holiday from housework.
God is good because He is. Because he works all things for the good of those who are called according to his purpose. Because when I went to hospital, I thought a lot more about Jesus... I thought a lot more about his grace and I thought a lot more about how he died for me so that I can live with him in heaven.

2) I learnt that I haven't really been taking care of myself healthwise. I haven't doing the little things like drinking water regularly and taking walks so as to be a more effective mum and child of God. And the big things too... like prioritizing and saying "no" when I need to.

3) I learnt that my Christianity community is my lifeline and I've come to depend so much on the people there these past weeks. For the first time in a very long time, I really felt LOVED.

4) I learnt that I have an amazing husband. Of course, I knew that already. But when the man in your life, the father of your children can find the same relief as you when one's own "internal plumbing" is functioning normally, I think it adds a new dimension to one's marriage. And really he's worked so hard to ensure that my general comfort levels have been of room service quality.

I am so blessed... I have never felt so blessed in my whole life.
All because of a single fibroid... that was a nuisance... that became a health hazard.

To God be the glory.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Appointment with Life

This past week has turned out to be Appointment Week. And that has been both tiring and overwhelming.
Generally speaking I don't agree that ignorance is bliss but after a couple of sessions on pain relief, pre-op prep,and post-op recovery process, I'm beginning to wonder if there aren't some areas in life that the saying might just be applicable to.

Frankly, it's not that I want to be kept in the dark but there's so much to remember. Hence, I'm suffering from information overload stress. If you're thinking that I've got the nerves... you betcha I do...

Then there were the dental visits, which were needed obviously but I came away from them, a tad weary. Jaw stretching is strangely tiring and that somehow turned into a headache.

I daresay my body is in urgent need of repair and I'm glad that it's going to happen soon but having to bum around for 4-6 weeks is a tough call. Obviously I won't just be watching videos or reading... but will be doing plenty of post-op exercises and walking.

I'd be lying if I didn't say that I'm nervous but the Psalms have been a great comfort to me these past weeks. I didn't choose to read the Psalms... I follow a reading plan fairly loosely and this was the time allocated for the Psalms. Not everything that I read applied directly to my situation BUT everything I read spoke about a great sovereign Lord well-acquainted with the affairs of men.

I can't count the number of times that truth has sustained my soul.

Sounds from a Suburban Shopping Centre

What do you do when you eat out and the result is not entirely to your satisfaction? Do you:

1) Spit the dummy and pontificate about your rights as a consumer within hearing of all the customers
2) Approach the staff and/or management and ask politely for a refund or another serving
3) Go quietly and swear never to come back again. And tell all your friends and rellies never to step foot in that place if they can help it.
4) Provide constructive criticism
5) Other

Depending on how dreadful the service or product was, I'm usually a 3 person. I may do 4 if asked. Occasionally 2.
Personally eating anywhere for the first time has some degree of risk... like watching movies you don't know anything about. Unless you get food poisoning or are paying $30 a head, I don't see the point of kicking up too much of a stink about it.

There's this insanely popular ramen place near our place and the queuing starts pretty early. Yesterday was my first visit there and we planned to do take away due to time constraints. So we sat around and waited for our order.
It's really odd when you think about it... quite likely because my standard of quality control is pretty low... that someone would create such a big fuss about the soup not being hot enough to threaten to call the cops. In all my years of eating out with frugal relatives, that was new even for me.
Talk about persistent... plenty of back and forth and microwave heating was a big "no, no..." apparently.
The waiter who was dealing with the loud, belligerent patron had this perpetually confused look on his face, unsure of what rock this customer had just emerged out of.

I was frankly quite embarrassed for everyone... I mean, really, a $14 bowl of noodle soup? Is it really necessary invoke the Australian constitution over it?

Expectations are a funny thing.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Cleaning

My dirt and untidy tolerance levels have been sorely tested the last couple of weeks.
Not that I'm a cleaning Nazi by any stretch of the imagination. Far from it.
Still, looked pretty bad there for about a week.
Having to restrain oneself from doing housework during the period of recovery has been hard especially when the husband was in agony over a bad foot for about a week. Gout was probably the first thing on most people's minds but fortunately it hasn't come to that... yet. Two courses of anti-biotics later, the inflammation seems to have eased considerably.

The 10 year old has been sporadically helpful with the vacuuming when she's not demanding payment or quietly hinting at accumulated wages owed to her. She says she's saving up for those here-today-and-gone-tomorrow Smiggle stationery packs. Sigh.

Well, at least she's motivated by something.

Little by little, the place is looking a lot more civilized.
Guess what... I cleaned the sinktops on Thursday!

Our job would be made A LOT easier if the the 4 year old would stop dumping unwanted food on the floor in that sneaky Gollum-like manner. The chooks are pretty handy in that regarding, now acting as her new rubbish disposal unit. Anything organic that doesn't meet with her approval goes to the birds.

I have been mighty thankful at the kindness of people at my church and from my MOPS group. Our family's been very blessed by the home cooked meals that we've been receiving from that quarter. It's been so immensely helpful... incalculable, really. I am so grateful to God and his people for this outpouring of grace and kindness during our time of need.

And thanks also to those who have been praying. I feels so much fortified knowing that you're standing shoulder to shoulder with me.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Cucina of Italy

The husband took me out to a really lovely Italian place for lunch yesterday and I'm still salivating at the thought of how good the bruschetta was. The restaurant, named Cucina of Italy, boasts an authentic Italian menu. Whether it is authentic, is beyond my level of expertise but the dishes were delicious and substantial.



The interior, I also found warm and endearing... reminded me of those cafe scenes from Roman Holiday.

The husband ordered a veal ravioli, while I had a beef lasagne. But the pierce de resistance was the garlic bruschetta pizza. Oh golly... bread and tomatoes never tasted so good together.




By the end of the meal we were stuffed porkers. Really stuffed. The waiter, who recommended the bruschetta offered us some lemon tart imported directly from Italy. I looked at him and thought... you gotta be kidding...
But the tart did look good.
Maybe next time... when I haven't hoed through 4 slices of bruschetta as appetizer and struggle to finish a large helping of lasagne.

Cucina of Italy is located at Sunny Park Shopping Centre, McCullough Rd, Sunnybank.

And no... nobody paid me to write this review... *sob*

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Spectacles

I woke up this morning unable to find my glasses in the usual places. I don't remember if it's because I fell asleep with them on or whether I took them off and put them on top of my princess-and-the-pea type arrangement of blankets and doonas.
Groping around is a good interim measure but not for more detailed activities. I can read (more or less) without them but I couldn't do much else without them. In a few years I expect I will be graduating to graduated lenses, going the way of my parents.

Not wanting to turn this into a mid-life lament, I will say that aging is not normally something that occupies my headspace despite health issues. When lethargy grips, I blame it on stress, a lack of exercise or lack of sleep, though not necessarily in that order. Who thinks about aging when the kiddies are still so young?

But when one hits 40, it seems that the moving parts start to break down. Espeically those bits and pieces that's tucked away under the skin and we're happy to have them that way.
The husband, who was diagnosed with an infected food, was half joking the other day that we've both hit the magic number. Such a sorry pair we were.

In a few weeks, all being well, I will be having surgery.  It'll be my first.
How do I feel? I'm not sure. A part of me wishes it was all over, a part of me knows I have to do this and a tiny part of me is a tad jittery when I look at all the pre-admission paperwork.

We are such frail creatures.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Ten Minute Tales: Perfect Day

A friend put me on to the Ten Minute Tales series and I stumbled onto this one first.
I found it humorous and deeply moving. Pass it on to your friends. It's not quite ten minutes...

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Waiting... waiting...

A lot of  people have asked me how I feel... how I'm coping... Hence, the update.
I slept. A LOT.  During the first two days back home, that is.
My head feels a lot better and after a good night's sleep, it feels quite normal. But from time to time, when reality hits, I feel that I'm living on knife's edge with only the medication acting as a dam and keeping the nasty stuff at bay. When I feel a twinge here and a smiddgen of a cramp there, the heart beats just a little faster. Not in romantic fashion unfortunataely.

All that happened to me last weekend feels like a series of bad scenes from ER. No where nearly as frenetic obviously. But messy. Very messy.
Now that that part of it is over, I feel like the outsider looking in, glad that hospitals are there when you need them but not somewhere one hangs out for the fun of it.  I was tired the entire I was there that I mostly see flashes of images and people I met at the hospital, remembering snippets of conversation here and there.

I've been spending a lot of time in bed, not sure what to do with myself. DVDs, books fill up my days.
Occasionally, I feel like I'm living through an intermezzo just waiting for the month to go by and so I can get to the surgery so life can be normal again.

Now when I think about things, I wonder why I wasn't more afraid at the time. True, there was a single moment I was afraid... when the headaches and dizziness got really bad and I finally decided I HAD to go to the hospital. But since then I've been generally at peace with the universe.
That quote from C.S. Lewis, has been unexpectedly helpful. And yet I know that there is nothing unexpected in the omniscience of divine providence. There are no interruptions to life because what happens is the reality of life.

I've been reading Randy Alcorn's collaborative effort with the late, great Charles Spurgeon on heaven, We Shall See God and it's given me new thoughts on the future. In one particular chapter, Spurgeon observes that:

Those in Heaven are blessed, but they have not had their public entrance. They are waiting till their Lord shall descend from Heaven with a shout, with the trump of the archangel and the voice of God. Then their bodies shall rise; then the world shall be judged; [...]


For this fulfillment the believing heart is panting, groaning, and sighing.


A Christian's experience is like a rainbow made up of drops of the griefs of Earth and beams of the happiness of Heaven. It is a checkered scene, a garment of many colours. He is sometimes in the light and sometimes in the dark.


The text says, "We groan." [Romans 8:22-23] It is not the hypocrite's groan, when he goes mourning everywhere, wanting to make people believe he is a saint because he is wretched. We groan within ourselves. Our sighs are sacred things these griefs and sighs are too hallowed for us to tell abroad in the streets. We keep our longings to our Lord, and to our Lord alone.


IT appears from the text that this groaning is universal among the saints: there are no exceptions. To a greater or lesser extent we all feel it. [...] (Alcorn and Spurgeon, 2011, We Shall See God, Illinois: Tyndale House, Day 3)

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

In and Out of Hospital


Dear Friend and Blog Reader

If you've been on Facebook or talking to someone in the know, you'll be aware that I've been in and out of hospital this past weekend.
Frankly I'm glad to be back home where I'll be catching up on sleep. Hospitals are noisy, brightly-lit places, not conducive to having proper rest. Aside from that, one gets poked, prodded and jabbed at regular intervals which isn't my idea of a good time. I spent the entire weekend attached to a drip pole, with which I tangoed and tangled.

Nonetheless, on hindsight, I am glad that I did present myself at the Emergency ward at the QE 2 hospital on Saturday evening. By that time I was badly anaemic and was feeling dizzy and nauseous. I had been bleeding profusely (private women's business) and had apparently lost more blood than was good for me.

At about 3 on Sunday morning, the decision was made that I should have a blood transfusion as my red blood cell count was around 54 which was considered dangerously low by the medicos.
The first lot of transfusion given took to me to a RBC of about 65 which was better than it had been but not good enough to go home with.
Last evening I was meant to have another 2 units but stopped after the first bag, as I started, oddly enough, to have an allergic, hay-fever like, reaction. Fortunately, in spite of the drama, I managed to attain a better than pass mark of 81.

To cut through all the scientific mumbo jumbo, the bottom line is that I will need surgery (hysterectomy) in a month's time. Ordinarily that kind of surgery isn't a big deal but because my red blood cell count has been so low I will need to build it up between now and the surgery.

I'm currently on iron supplements and bleeding suppressing drugs. My hysterectomy is scheduled for the 30 September which is about month's time.
I am asking for prayer because the blood count thing is crucial for this to happen.

Last Thursday, a goodly number from my church went to hear John Piper preach about the unwasted life. Ironically, the bleeding took a turn for the worst on that evening. But even more amazing was how relevant Piper's words became to my situation. I thought a lot about them as I heard the medicos speaking in low tones in triage in rhythm with the beeping of the heart monitor. Utterly weary that night, I thanked God for his mercy... that I got to hospital at just the right time.
Piper reminded us with characteristic sobriety and passion that night about how fragile life is... I was reminded of it all too poignantly in a real life situation. More importantly Piper reminded us that the unwasted life, in the good times and the bad, is the life that brings glory to God.

I am writing this to ask for prayer in the following areas:
  1. That the bleeding will stop without the need for such a high dosage of drugs
  2. I will be going in for a blood test next week and hopefully that will show a good result
  3. The red blood cell count will reach the hundred mark or more
  4. That my health will be good generally between now and the surgery.
  5. That the surgery will progress smoothly with no long term dramas.

Thanks for taking the time to read... I'm counting on you to back me up...

God bless

Lilian

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Geeking Out: Captain America

I suppose everyone takes away something from a movie that they watch and for someone like me, who has been trained to do textual analysis, it's second nature to plough around for ideology, politics or philosophy. While that's usually fun for me, at the end of the day, I, like most people, go to the movies to be entertained.
When I look at something that's conventional like Captain America, it makes me happy. It relieves me that things like friendship, loyalty, determination, service to one's country... universal values... are still celebrated in certain quarters. Especially when we consider what's been happening in places like London and Norway.
It's comforting to know that ordinary people can make a difference by the simple values that they hold. The case in point: Capt. America aka Steve Rogers becomes a superhero not because he is talented or skilled or even strong. But the values that he holds dear and true are what makes him rise to the occasion. His resilience and courage, not his newfound strength, is what drives him to acts of bravery. That line at the end, "I'm just a boy from Brooklyn" said it all.

It's fashionable among our intellectual elites to pooh pooh such notions which they've done for decades. But they are part of the fundamentals that have held societies together. Another thing that's become unfashionable to talk about in our time is the idea of evil.

Someone asked me recently why I follow the superhero genre. (On screen, at least) Well, it's pretty simple. There are good guys and there are bad guys... and justice is brought to bear. Sure, the good guys are flawed but at the end of the day, they know there's something called "right and wrong" and they do what needs to be done. No one seems more certain of it than Capt. America.

And the satisfaction of seeing baddies trammelled, blown up or getting their just desserts in a myriad of creative ways cannot be uttered in words.

I pop my head up and take a quick look around...

The past two-three weeks have been rough... physically...  I've been lying horizontally more than I would like.
Fatigue mostly... punctuated by days where I've had the distinct impression that my body is fighting something. Like yesterday...
Frequent sleeplessness and interrupted sleep hasn't helped.
To add to that... 2 sick kids in the same weekend... contracting two different types of bugs. Odd, wouldn't you say?

It started off looking like a busy month... and yet I think, God in his providence has been slowing me down. I've focused all my energy on being well for 3 things -- the annual MOPS conference, Worship Leading and the John Piper Brisbane visit.

Thinking about this has reminded me of something I read in a chatty time management type book called Shopping for Time. It's alright as far as these things go but hasn't got a whole lot that I haven't already read elsewhere. BUT, BUT, BUT... there's a C.S. Lewis quote in there that is just gold... It has to do with what we normally think of as "interruptions" to life.

The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one's "own" or "real" life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one's real life -- the life God is sending one day by day: what one calls one's "real life" is a phantom of one's own imagination. This at least is what I see at moments of insight;;but it's hard to remember it all the same. ("The Letters of C.S. Lewis to Arthur Greeves, 20 December, 1943," in The Quotable Lewis, [Wheaton: Tyndale, 1989], 355.
 
This piece of searing insight has really changed me. It has made me rethink about what I've called my hopes and dreams and the minor disappointments of having to put them on hold. As a mum, I've needed to come to grips with interruptions as a reality of my life now.
Interruptions, I'm also beginning to see, have their purpose... and they're not as purposeless as one might imagine.

But I'd be lying if I didn't say that seeing the world with Mummy Eyes is challenging. For me, at least, it goes against the grain.


Monday, August 15, 2011

Home

I'm completely whacked. Arrived home from the MOPS conference mid afternoon feeling the effects from a bad night. Friends invited us out to dinner which was lovely. Don't think I could have got dinner together even though I had enjoyed a weekend of non-cooking.
A friend from MOPS drove us home. It was tremendous fun to be with cheery companions yakking about children, husbands, bad driving, cane toads. In short, life. What is it about men and tailgating, we wondered as we exchanged horror stories of sitting in front with our other halves in the driver's seat.
With such scintillating conversation to be had, the journey home seemed like no time at all.

Best part about coming home is seeing the kiddies run up and screaming "Mum... you're home! We missed you!"
Hugs all round.
A mummy perk only mummies get.
Really thought they would be relieved at not having me around for a weekend nagging at them.
I reckon I should go away more often on my own.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Perspective

It hit me the other day that that those of us who are parents need to stand back a bit and gain some perspective on our children from time to time. Often when one is so close to the action, there's a tendency to dwell on the negatives. Maybe that's just moi.

A couple of nights ago, the husband and I went out to the movies, which is rarer than you might think. We were blessed to have a babysitter who seemed to be amused by the children's antics. When we got home after a fine night's entertainment, I thanked our babysitter who responded that the girls were "good" and she had genuinely enjoyed her time with them.
My first thought was... well, she's probably just being polite... but when she said it again with pointed sobriety, I was more inclined to believe her.

When I thought about it later it occurred to me that while I'm not exactly raising sugar and spice and everything nice, the girls really aren't all that bad.

Often parenting feels like a war. We battle with the strong willed child, we battle with the placid child and then we battle with our own desires. If you have sleep issues like I do, half the time you feel wearied by the whole parenting shtick and somedays you're barely surviving.
It's tough to keep things in perspective. Sure, the kids do have a bent toward doing their own thing and at various times they conveniently become hearing impaired, speech challenged and sight impaired.

During such times it is so easy to take things personally. I mean, how dare they, right?

During such times, one must take a few gulpfuls of breath, take a few steps back and repeat mantra like: They're only children, they're only children, they're only children...
It's not as bad as it looks, it's not as bad as it looks, it's not as bad as it looks...

Better still quote 2 Corinthians 4:17
"For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all."

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

It's Official... We're a Pet Owning Family

Speaking of keeping chimps as house pets, it sort of occurred to me that I haven't talked about this latest development in our mundane suburban life.
Yup, we have now joined the ranks of hundreds and thousands of households across the land to become pet owners.
No, we haven't adopted chimpanzees... can't imagine that's legal in any country or practical. Unless, of course you're Michael Jackson. And then you're above the law... apparently.

So we have ourselves some chicks which we brought home from kindy. I've managed to resist the clamour for years but now that the young 'uns look like they might be able to take some responsibility in this department, the husband and I thought, well, why not? And the thought of getting fresh eggs daily is very attractive...
Well, there's no guarantee as yet that we will.
It will be a day of weeping here when one or more them turn out to be roosters. If all three turn out to be roosters, ah... chickies... it's been nice knowing you. (Yeah, it will be a tragedy quite possibly of Shakespearean proportions)

Meanwhile, we wait... and watch with baited breath.
They're becoming bigger everyday. Soon the box they're pecking around in will become too small. If it isn't all ready.

Everyday the 10 year old comes home from school and ask, "Are they still alive?"




The black one's Silky, the yellow one's Goldie and the brownish one I named Foghorn. 10 year old now wants to call the black one Midnight.
Children... sigh...
Ah well, we'll see.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

I'm back from watching the new Planet of Da Apes prequel. Before I go on I will say that I watched it with four other women from my church representing different demographic groups and... surprise, surprise... they all said they enjoyed it, despite thinking that it might turn out to be a horror flick.

Now, you might think that yours truly here is a sci-fi fan so yeah, duh... you'd like that kind of stuff... But while yes, it is a science fiction piece there's a lot of heart in this and dare I say it, there's also a little something that touches the mother in me.

Going in, I half expected the film to be a kind of Terminator meets King Kong type of film. While there is that whole "man should not play God" aspect to it, it's not preachy. The story, instead, chooses to focus on notions of family and individual freedom.

Will Rodmanis a highly driven scientist who is working on a radical cure for Alzheimer's and potentially other neurological conditions. His need to succeed lies close to home... his own father. Charles,has fallen victim to Alzheimer's and is deteriorating fast. The cure is an experimental virus. After a mishap at the laboratory, Will is forced to stop his research and the star "guinea pig", a female chimpanzee runs amok. When the star "guinea pig", female chimpanzee runs amok causing a mishap at the lab, Will is forced to stop his research. Unbeknownst to all, she had given birth to an adorable young chimp who is later named Caesar for Julius Caesar by Charles, a Shakespearean quoting piano teacher.

Will and Charles become a surrogate family to the winsome childlike chimp. Still, adorable little chimps grow up into apes... and if you know where The Planet of the Ape stories end up... you'll have an inkling of where this all goes.

While I won't call it scary, there are several jump-out-of-my-seat moments. There's a fair bit of growling, snarling (teeth showing), chest-thumping, several species of primates swinging and jumping from great heights... which boils down to apes doing ape stuff.

It's not a perfect film but what film is.  Pacing feels a bit off at times but it doesn't take away from the overall strength of the film. The apes are terrific though, so incredibly lifelike.
I hear that the ape rendering was done by the talented people at Weta Digital -- the NZ mob who did the CGI for Lord of the Rings. They've done an amazing job and the human being behind Caesar is da incredibly versatile, Andy Serkis, who was the body and voice behind the jumping and hissing Gollum in LOTR.

Credit: Newsarama

And yes, I'm pretty sure there will be a sequel.
Especially if they make pots of money.

I Sit, Drink Tea and Watch Them Play

Those indoor play centres must be one of the business world's great gifts to mothers. I won't name names... no one's paying me for endorsements or giving me freebies to say this. Therefore, I'm saying it with undeniable conviction. Very heartfelt, I assure you.
Sure it's not free... (I did say "business") but at the end of the two or three hours, I always feel that it is money well-spent. Especially with coupons.
I'm not saying that I would go to one everyday... although if I were married to a fellow pulling an income in the realm of six or seven figures I might be tempted to do so. It's gotta be cheaper than hiring a nanny.
But really, I don't need to do this everyday.

I think of it as a mummy perk.
As a stay-at-home mum, the labour I contribute as a domestic engineer to Husband and Kids Inc., according to the feminist eggheads, is unpaid.
Yeah, but they're missing the point though. What other job in the world would allow a woman to sip tea and read at a cafe in safe environment for children to run riot in?
Not too many, I would imagine. And yes, it was a rhetorical question.

Mothering is undoubtedly a labour of love but even I will admit that with some planning and thought, there are benefits to be had.

I love the free market.... while we still have it.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Dr Zhivago

I was hoping to write this up a few days ago but life, you know, gets in the way. Mostly... I'm just knackered at the end of the day.

Last Friday evening, the husband and I caught a bus into town and went to see a live performance of Dr Zhivago at the Lyric Theatre here in Brisbane. It was a belated anniversary outing. We almost didn't make it... long story... but we got there, huffing and puffing, with 5 measley minutes to spare. Admittedly, it was my bright idea to catch a bus into town because the last time we tried to get out of Southbank parking (Star Wars Ep 3, I think it was), we were trapped for 30 minutes in an underground car park because a multitude of cars all had the same notion. Unfortunately, buses being what they are here... completely unreliable... So I was  relieved beyond words that I didn't have to miss the first act.

If you've never read the book or seen the film, Dr Zhivago is set during pre-revolutionary and Bolshevik Russia. It's a tragic tale about a doctor-poet and his ill-fated love affair with a passionate woman.

Before I go on any further, I have to say that I've never found Pasternak's novel my cup of tea. I've tried to read it a couple of times... but for some reason, I've never been able to get into it. Youthful ignorance perhaps. Hence, I went to the show purely on the strength of Anthony Warlow's singing talents. (The last time I saw him on stage was for Annie and that was 10 years ago)

I've decided after Friday that I still don't like the story but it doesn't mean that Dr Zhivago, the stage production is to be avoided like the plague. Artistically, the production values were high and the talent was something to behold. Music was likeable but nothing especially memorable. At the end of the day, it seemed to us, that it wasn't about the music but the story and characters. And the history. Now, for that alone the show rose several notches in my estimation .

After thinking it through and wondering about my reaction to the show, I came to the conclusion that I didn't really care about Yurii Zhivago or Lara. I gather that you're supposed to be all weepy that theirs is a love that cannot be. By now, all of us sophisticated, jaded modern types know that "tragic love affair" is really code for adultery. Okay... they have an adulterous relationship and it's okay because... well... she's his muse. Without her, Yurii would never be the great poet that he becomes. Even his poor, long-suffering wife admits it.
Ho hum...
But it isn't just the adultery itself that irks me, it's Yurii too. Despite regurgitating the mantra, that the strength of a man is in his mind or some such thing... he comes across as being rather wishy washy. Or tortured... code word for indecisive. No... I didn't connect emotionally with the character.. code phrase for... I didn't like him much.

Lara... I dunno. I didn't dislike her but she felt unidimensional, code word for flat. There's this great symbolic scene where 3 of the men who have loved her grace the stage together and croon about love. It summed up her role in the narrative to perfection. She was the catalyst to some major event in their lives... they loved her passion and she inadvertently changed their lives.

Ironically, the person I found most compelling was Pasha, the working class revolutionary idealist that Lara marries. Make no mistake, I despise his politics but as a person, he was the least hypocritical. He took his ideas to their logical conclusion and turned into a monster. Clearly the revolution was his big revenge on the "middle class" and their dissolute existence. In other words, he did it all... for her because she was the victim of bourgeois greed and lust.

That, I thought was interesting. Apparently sin is a class issue. (Don't remember reading that in the Bible.) At least in the mind of the revolutionary seeking a righteous mandate for his cause, it's an attractive way to frame the argument. He wanted to rid the world of sin and failed to grasp that he himself was the problem. Well, his intentions were good, right? That should be enough, right?
Hooray for the blindness of an idealist.

Here was I thinking that sin is rebellion against God which is the root cause for all our sins. But then it has always been easier to see the speck in another's eye than the log in our own.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Importance of Reading to Your Child

In a previous post, I mentioned that I've been doing a bit of private tutoring and it's triggered a few thoughts about literacy.
I want to plead with those of you who are parents, especially if you have younger children, to expend every effort on broadening their literacy skills through reading even if it isn't one of their great passions in life. Perhaps, it's becoming something of a cliche and you've become weary of hearing it but as someone with teaching background, I can emphatically say that it really is one of the most important skills you can impart to your children. Especially in this so-called "information age".

The lady that I'm helping right now will be attempting an international English exam for a second time and desperately needs to boost her reading results in a major way. Listening to her lifestory of how she's sidestepped the entire process in her reading development has brought home to me again how important it is that children have a good headstart with their literacy skills whatever their first language might be.

Reading isn't just a school skill... it's a life skill. Even if it's just for 10 minutes a day in our hectic lives. A good foundation will give them something to build on even if they don't end up in tertiary education.
It isn't just about recognizing words, it's also about processing knowledge and ideas.
It's also about training the brain "muscles" to learn in a particular fashion.
It can also help stimulate the imagination and encourage creativity.

Find something... anything appropriate... that your child will read. I know it's hard. Some children seem to be naturally repulsed by books or be indifferent to them. However, I've noticed that the range of graphic novels have expanded over the last decade. 10 year old was reading a Nancy Drew graphic novel yesterday (I didn't even know there was such a thing) but 10 year old is like her mum and dad... she reads almost anything.

 More importantly, however,  (even if it's a magazine or the local rag) you need to read and be seen to read because that says to them that reading is an activity worth engaging in.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Self Esteem Gone Astern

I've never really bought into the self-esteem movement especially as it relates to parenting and children. Perhaps it's my upbringing showing forth its stripes but it always seemed to me that self-esteem as pop psychology was more about massaging egos rather than a properly conceived philosophy in teaching children resilience against the stark realities of life. More importantly, there doesn't seem to be any biblical basis for it. I imagine that it came about primarily as a reaction to authoritarian forms of parenting, paired with the notion that "being happy" is the ultimate goal in life.

Lori Gottlieb, a psychotherpist has written an engaging article questioning some cherished notions of happiness-based parenting published in The Atlantic recently. As this goes to the core of culture and conventional wisdom, I expect that it will and has raised hackles. Here's an extract:

A few months ago, I called up Jean Twenge, a co-author of The Narcissism Epidemic and professor of psychology at San Diego State University, who has written extensively about narcissism and self-esteem. She told me she wasn’t surprised that some of my patients reported having very happy childhoods but felt dissatisfied and lost as adults. When ego-boosting parents exclaim “Great job!” not just the first time a young child puts on his shoes but every single morning he does this, the child learns to feel that everything he does is special. Likewise, if the kid participates in activities where he gets stickers for “good tries,” he never gets negative feedback on his performance. (All failures are reframed as “good tries.”) According to Twenge, indicators of self-esteem have risen consistently since the 1980s among middle-school, high-school, and college students. But, she says, what starts off as healthy self-esteem can quickly morph into an inflated view of oneself—a self-absorption and sense of entitlement that looks a lot like narcissism. In fact, rates of narcissism among college students have increased right along with self-esteem.
Meanwhile, rates of anxiety and depression have also risen in tandem with self-esteem. Why is this? “Narcissists are happy when they’re younger, because they’re the center of the universe,” Twenge explains. “Their parents act like their servants, shuttling them to any activity they choose and catering to their every desire. Parents are constantly telling their children how special and talented they are. This gives them an inflated view of their specialness compared to other human beings. Instead of feeling good about themselves, they feel better than everyone else.”(p.3)
Definitely worth reading.

God Talk: Striving After the Wind 2

As someone who has been wondering for the past 5 months where God is leading me to, Ecclesiastes has been a Godsend.
On the surface, it's an odd sort of book to be included in the canon of Scripture... pessimisstic rantings and ravings of a philosopher-king disillusioned with his wealth, achievements and relationships. How low can you sink without sinking into the "depths of despair"?
It's a rhetorical question, of course but as someone who has wallowed and groped around in the "depths of despair", I can speak to the dark places that the human mind can find itself in.

Ecclesiastes is, in short, a pride buster or killer or exterminator -- which ever word takes your fancy. Life's too short to waste on bragging.

I don't see how else one can read it. I'm no Que Sera Sera fatalist but there is a sense whereby we are piddly little beings and not always in control of our circumstances. There are things that happen to us that we just have not a lot of control over. Many things happen around us that defy belief or common sense. But they happen, nonetheless.
That's just one aspect.
And then there's our achievements, our talents, our skills. The world around us tells us we have something to be proud of when we gain worldly success. I remember going through a phase in my life when I landed my first real teaching job after being a perennial student. I was excited and not a little fearful to be gainfully employed. During that initial idealistic phase I believed that if I could prove myself in that job, I would have attained something of importance in my short life.
Of course, that's the sort of thinking that ends in tears. I was pretty disillusioned after about a year. While I liked what I was doing, buoyed by the trickle of compliments that I got for doing it, the build-up wasn't all it was cracked up to be.
I learnt quickly that we aren't supposed to find meaning in our jobs -- it's something we do and not what we are. Jobs keep us in breakfast cereals, dead animals and help pay the bills. Occasionally we meet people we really like and build friendships in those situations. God may at his pleasure, grant us opportunities to share the good news of Jesus Christ to our workmates.

But they're not to be our raison d'etre.


Ecclesiastes 3 reminds us also that there are seasons in life. There are times when something may be right/ripe but not at other times. That is for me, I think, one of the hardest lessons in life to embrace.

I'll be honest and say that I've been wanting desperately to go back to work. I felt ready earlier in the year to do so but the doors haven't open for me. The industry in which I worked previously is at a low point and not much recruiting seems to be going on.
However, in the last couple of months I feel like I'm coming out of some kind of semi-depressed state. I'm doing some volunteer English teaching. I've taken on a couple of private tutoring jobs which I had previously resisted doing and I see more and more that I'm meant to be at home for the children and the husband.
There is a sense of freedom for me in that realization. To be busy in what I knew in my heart was necessary and really I didn't need a zap of lightning from heaven to know that the welfare of my family should be a priority especially when 4 year old is still a 4 year old.

I don't know what the next year will bring. Perhaps more of the same.While I'm open to any new opportunities I'll continue to do what I need to do because keeping busy in my case is better than wondering what might have been.