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)

Monday, February 28, 2011

Nag

There's one thing you can always be sure of living in Southeast Queensland, is that sooner or later, the mercury rises into the 30s. It may take 3 months or 3 days but it'll happen... eventually.  As certain as death and taxes.
Some people whine about the heat... I do occasionally... but for the most part I love it. I don't take my love of it too far... I can still get sunburn. My body functions better in the heat and is less likely to turn toxic on me. Coughs, colds... the usual antisocial baggage.
Heat is okay... but humidity is another thing entirely.

Got up this morning feeling a wee bit bone weary but after gulping down some herbal tea (that lemon stuff from Aldi) and then sending 4 year old to time out, I begin to feel somewhat awake... No, I don't do coffee. Like the smell but not the taste.

Next, I makee up a weekly stash of sandwiches for the girls and then stuff most of them in the freezer, which... erm... badly needs defrosting. Yeah, the bar freezer is becoming cluttered: Big bag of ice from January, two tubs of Philadephia cooking cheese from December, ice blocks, frozen veggies, meat and more meat.

The girls are running around the house half dressed, pjs and towels on the bedroom floor, someone looking for undies, someone asking me to buy them a new hat because they lost their school hat for the third time in three years. Sheesh... what do they think I am, a multitasker?

The 4 year old is all dressed sans undies. I find her some. She wants her toast with spread (some white milk thing with strawberry from Aldi). So I do the spread thing and chase her out of the kitchen. That child though helpful is a danger to the pantry which is why we still have a gate.
The 9 year old pretends to be getting dressed behind the sofa but my mummy radar knows she's reading or playing on the iPod Touch. I do my early morning nag.

I turn around to make another sandwich. The 4 year old lets off a scream and yell. It's Fight Time. I make threats about Time Out and they both finish breakfast quietly.

Another scream ten minutes later, and they're fighting over an umbrella... in the house... on a non-rainy day. I send the 4 year old to time out because she has been warned about playing with umbrellas in the house.
I know, I'm a tyrant... but we've manage to break 4 umbrellas in the past eighteen months. Probably just your everyday run-of-the-mill shoddy workmanship.

The 9 year old roams around the house looking for her inter-school sports t-shirt. Why? I ask. You don't have inter-school sports today. The 9 year old doesn't seem so sure. Not everyday surely, I say. I look for the school notice on the fridge... nope nothing.

Anyway, it's time to go... we all pile into the car and off we go... Walking would take us too long. Just another frantic Monday morning.
Really, really need to get up earlier in the morning.

Flood Fundraiser

Not sure how much posting I'll be able to do this week as I'll be busy organizing a fundraiser in conjuntion with my local MOPS group to support victims of the recent flooding here in Queensland. We hope to channel our funds mainly to Care Outreach who are organizing teams of volunteers and hampers to visit victims in remote areas.

If you're not too far from the southside of Brisbane and enjoy making cards, here are the details:

Dates: 7 and 8 March
Time: 7-10pm each night
Venue: 613 Beenleigh Rd, Sunnybank Hills

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Name Change

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I wanted to have a name change to reflect my own desire to parent differently. The more I thought about it, the more I agreed with myself that a change would be good but it wouldn't just be about parenting.

I am a negative sort of lass and I'm acutely aware of it. A pessimist... with a sense of humour, I hope.
So the name change is meant to be change in direction in my attitude toward life in general.

I like Mothering Misadventures a lot... but "Misadventures" does sound like I get into all kinds of motherly scrapes on a regular basis, which I probably do, on a metaphysical level.

But on a metaphysical level, my life needs to reflect some of the beliefs I hold dear. When I parent, I need to parent consistently with the truths I hold dear.
For some, parenting comes more easily. They've got the right attitude and haven't been too brainwashed by feminism. For the rest of us, we look to our God and bring our limitations to him. We are earthen vessels, jars of clay or cracked pots that need filling.

I'm also looking ahead. As much as one can with the future so uncertain. The blog is becoming a lot more than just about parenting so I'm expanding my horizons and hopefully yours as well. I'll still be blogging about matters of faith, the children, my interest in pop culture and life in the suburbs. God willing, this blog will become a springboard for future writing projects that I'm dreaming up. With that in mind, I've taken the plunge and purchased a domain name.

So this year I'd like to be less whiny... about my life and embrace the challenges as opportunities. I don't doubt that a regular spot of ranting will make its way here from time to time. And most of all, I'd like to look into the world beyond my four walls but from my four walls.

All the best and thanks for reading thus far...
Lilian
http://www.theurbanlily.com

P.S. Google tells me that you can still access the blog using the old address.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Am I the only who finds this a tad creepy?

I'm all for entrepreneurial innovation but this really takes the cake:

Victoria Hilley is a mother who is so passionate about breastfeeding that she has had her milk turned into ice cream

Wondering how long this fad will last...

On Video: Manchurian Candidate (2004)


There seems to me to be in the psyche of every human being a strong desire to control his environment, no matter how impossible. As a parent I know all about that urge. There are days when I think it's so much easier to tie the kids up in their room than to deal with the unpredictability that they bring into our lives.

Every kind of totalitarian instinct, no matter how altruistic the intention, almost always leads to violence. Even if no one gets physically hurt, dictators tend to do violence to principles such as individual liberty and honesty. The twentieth century is testament of that. Under communism, fascism, nazism we have seen the horrors of totalitarianism.When men do not believe in God, then he must find others. Some take it upon themselves to be gods to "save the world", "to save their fellow men from themselves".

It's a narrative that has always interested me. The original brilliant Foundation series by Asimov sees Psychohistory as the benevolent answer to controlling human history and steering humanity along a certain path. George Orwell's 1984 and Ray Bradbury's Farenheit 451 are far less sanguine. We've also seen Star Wars, The Matrix, Lord of the Rings and Equilibrium which shows a world where men with good intentions can be corrupted. Religion has been used by better men and diabolical ones to control others. But what if religion is no longer going concern in a post-modern, secularized society? Where would men and women look to for guidance, security and a worldview?

Well, we look to science and technology to take control and manipulate the future. In many of these pre-dystopian narratives, science is a power that make things happen according to plan. The Manchurian Candidate isn't a science fiction dystopia as such but it does suggest that totalitarian instinct alive and well.

Anything by Denzel Washington is worth watching, in my opinion and this remake of the 1962 conspiracy thriller is no different. The villains have changed... it's no longer the communists who are calling the shots but a monstrous multinational corporation. The story moves fairly predictably but it's still gripping enough to hold one's attention from start to finish. Washington plays a veteran, Maj Marco, of Operation Desert Storm who has inexplicable dreams of events occurring during a skirmish in Kuwait where two members of his team suffered fatalities. In present day US, Marco is visited by an ex-member of his team who is also seeing dreams and that triggers a series of events which leads Marco to believe that he was brainwashed for some nefarious political purpose. Meanwhile, another team mate, Raymond Shaw, who is the son of an influential political family comes to national prominence as a vice-presidential candidate. They cross paths and soon powerful forces are at work to discredit Marco's sanity.
Meryl Streep plays Shaw's ambitious, manipulative mother, Eleanor. She calls herself "a true believer" in the future of America-- but is more a caricature of one. Her political tendencies are vague at best and the film doesn't really go into it. As the story progresses, it becomes obvious that Eleanor has a few secrets and tricks of her own. The husband thought that Streep's Eleanor reminded him of "Hilarious" Clinton... as he calls her. Interesting comparison.



At its core, the film is about an unholy conspiracy between big business and politics... always a dangerous combination even on a good day. But add science to the mix, it's a powder keg. At the end of the day, it is up to courageous, principled individuals who take matters into their own hands to stem the tide of unsavoury alliances.

Playgroup 25.2.11






Playgroup, is in my opinion, every modern mummy's life saver. It has been mine and I wouldn't be without it. It wasn't for me to begin with, of course but it has become a lifeline of sorts. I've learnt over the years that there are playgroups and there are playgroups. These last couple of years, I've been third time lucky.

Friday is playgroup day and it keeps the 4 year old out of some kinds of mischief and helps in no small way to keep those stress levels down from having to stop her from destroying our house and contents. Unfortunately we're not insured against natural disasters like childhood curiosity and in-house graffitti.

4 year old loves playgroup too... To her mind, anything is better than being cooped up in the house.

Today was yellow day. Except that some of us forgot and dressed in blue instead. There was plenty of yellow all round to make up for the lack in certain quarters.






Oh golly... Ain't that fun. Yellow shaving cream and unbridled finger chaos.


















Craft today was shaving cream art. I take no credit for coming up with this idea but I embraced it with my usual dose of wariness about kids and craft. It was messy fun for the kiddies and I even found bits of yellow shaving cream on my pants and top! A bit of yellow food colouring on some shaving cream in a bag mixed up and then piped out onto a smooth surface ie. table. The kids went berserk with the frothy cream but mums had to bring order to chaos by finger painting on the froth. We placed pieces of paper over the cream and then lifted them up to see what the results were.

Not bad... Appeals to my Jackson Pollock side. I should get some done for my cards!

- Posted using BlogPress from my mobile device

Wrote this last night but was too tired to revise and post.  
I hadn't realised that over the last  few months that regular readership of this blog has increased. I stopped looking at the stats a while back because it was getting a bit depressing. But I was determined to soldier on. If you've come on board the last couple of months, welcome. You've made my week. God bless you all.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Waiter! There's a Fly in My Soup

Devouring bugs as a matter of course isn't anything new but I'm not drooling over the prospect despite my ancestry. 9 year old had a taste for cobwebby cockroaches as a toddler but I chalk that up to curiosity.
According to this creepy article from the Wall Street Journal, an insect-based protein diet may become the meat of choice in the not too distant future.Nope, I'm not kidding. It seems some upmarket restaurants are already serving bugs for breakfast.

At the London restaurant Archipelago, diners can order the $11 Baby Bee Brulee: a creamy custard topped with a crunchy little bee. In New York, the Mexican restaurant Toloache offers $11 chapulines tacos: two tacos stuffed with Oaxacan-style dried grasshoppers.

Could beetles, dragonfly larvae and water bug caviar be the meat of the future? As the global population booms and demand strains the world's supply of meat, there's a growing need for alternate animal proteins. Insects are high in protein, B vitamins and minerals like iron and zinc, and they're low in fat. Insects are easier to raise than livestock, and they produce less waste. Insects are abundant. Of all the known animal species, 80% walk on six legs; over 1,000 edible species have been identified. And the taste? It's often described as "nutty."

I'm not so nutty nor desperate yet to include bugs as a permanent part of my diet. But if our government continues taxing us to the hilt, deep fried cockroach dipped in sweet chilli sauce could become very tempting indeed.

 Australian Stick Insect (Credit: http://www.australian-insects.com/stick-insect-chronus.php)

Fake

My head is about to explode... I can feel it now... coming...
Nah... not exploding... but it sure feels like something in there is busting to emerge a la Fringe. The headcold seems to have a life of its own. Comes and goes at its own discretion.
What am I doing online, you may be wondering...
The answer is simple: Since the emergence of the internet, not one has to suffer alone. Yes, let's share in one another's pain., hold hands...
And sing kumbaya.

Here's a piece of news to make the head really explode: Politicians living up to their reputation of being dealers in deceit. Sigh... And they wonder why the electorate is cynical. But we expect the pollies to prevaricate here and there. But when journos give hearty assent to duplicity... something's really rotten in Denmark. So much for democracy.
Apologies for that short political rant. I'll try not to do it too often.

Another odd piece of pointless research suggesting that an artificial smile to hide an unhappy disposition can cause a bad mood to become worse.

In a study published this month in the Academy of Management Journal, scientists tracked a group of bus drivers for two weeks, focusing on them because their jobs require frequent, and generally courteous, interactions with many people.
The scientists examined what happened when the drivers engaged in fake smiling, known as “surface acting,” and its opposite, “deep acting,” where they generated authentic smiles through positive thoughts, said an author of the study, Brent Scott, an assistant professor of management at Michigan State University.
After following the drivers closely, the researchers found that on days when the smiles were forced, the subjects’ moods deteriorated and they tended to withdraw from work. Trying to suppress negative thoughts, it turns out, may have made those thoughts even more persistent. 

 Dunno. Begs the question why they picked bus drivers and not some other occupation. All it tells me is that bus drivers get cranky if they're forced to smile when they don't feel like it. Did we need some uni research to tell us that? Anyway, I don't need bus drivers to fake smile, I just need them to get me from A to B without mishaps. As long as they can observe the usual civilities without blowing their top, it's a non-issue. They're not paid to be flight attendants or sales reps.

Went to playgroup today even though I didn't feel like it. Talked to a whole bunch of people even though I didn't feel like it. Wasn't in the best frame of mind to socialize but I did. In the end I was better off for taking myself off to playgroup. Often I find that my mood improves just being with people because it stops me thinking about or feeling sorry for I, me and myself.

The things we do for our kids.
They make us better people one way or another.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Kids Stuff

The sniffles I've been complaining about have turned into a full-blown headcold and from time to time I feel the sensation of  needles jabbing up against my sinuses. My head hurts when I sneeze. Nothing drug-wise seems to be helping much except sleep so I expect that it's some dastardly virus that's responsible. Luckily I've stocked up on tissues... unluckily I'm stuck with a box of Aldi all-purpose-but-not-really-for-runny-noses tissues. Is it just me or have these Aldi Confidence paper products turned into plastic sandpaper in the last shipment?

No doubt I've mentioned in days gone by that the 4 year old is mildly obsessed with DORAAAAA the ExplorAAAA. Generally, it's a harmless kid show with plenty of shouting and parroting audience participation appealing to the noise-making under 7s demographic. But it is unequivocally, unabashedly a kids show and the 4 year old can't seem to get enough of it. Once, however, is enough for me. Only in an imaginary, fantastical kid-friendly world can yelling "Swiper, no swiping." stop an avaricious fox in his tracks and prevent him from nicking stuff. Or when a bad witch turn into a good one cos' sweet Dora pleads ever so nicely. The right words can make all the difference.  Afterall baddies are just harmless, misunderstood social misfits, right?



The real world, unfortunately, ain't a kid friendly place. Looky at the news... In many places, they shoot first and ask questions later. Yeah, Mr Gadaffi...

Speaking of cartoons and violence, while watching vintage Loony Toons yesterday with the 4 year old, I was struck by the amount of violence that follow Daffy's misadventures. Stuff gets blown up frequently, plenty of gun pointing and whacks over the head. But it's kids stuff because nobody dies or when they do they turn into angels.

However did we survive these cartoons? Could it be the world was a better place then... In some ways yes, but in general, I don't think so. The Gadaffis of the world have been around... forever. I'm old enough to remember Lockerbie. It was a proto 9/11. Human nature hasn't changed but bit by bit, the restraints that once held people morally accountable have lessened over time. The age of tolerance has been a double-edged sword.

While I'm a big fan of Studio Ghibli flicks such as Totoro, Princess Mononoke, Howl's Moving Castle and Nausica with their idealization of childhood and the inherent goodness of children, now that I've had kids of my own, I'm less inclined to take all that too seriously. Certainly kids can be delightful, imaginative and warm-hearted but kids can be cruel too especially to one another. 9 year old told me in the car on the way home from swimming yesterday that some girl in her class told another girl in the class that "She hates me!"
I put on my mummy councellor hat. "So how do you feel about that?"
"I'm angry... really, really angry."
"Why?" (A bit obvious)
"Because in front of me she seemed really nice and friendly. And then behind my back she says she hates me. I feel betrayed!"

This brought back memories... I was a few years older. A girl I called friend did the same thing to me. More or less. It hurt a lot at the time but I learnt an important lesson about people and friendship. I don't know what the 9 year old will take away from this but she has a certain resilience that I didn't have. She's warm hearted and easy going. Too easy going...


I got pretty fed up just before school started with the way stationery goes AWOL at our place and then show up at the most unlikely places. So I emptied out one of my drawers and turned it into the stationery drawer. Any stray rubbers, pencils, gluesticks, sharpeners go in here:



Pencil cases, pencil holders don't work at our place. They leak pencils faster than the Titanic. Then they become toys and then forgotten...
Yeah, pencil cases don't work at our place. At least not now. Who knows... things may change when the 4 year old goes to prep next year.

One thing you learn to do very quickly, when you're a parent, is to work within the realms of reality. Fantasy is best left to books and all other preferred media.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Somewhere to Live

I'm definitely enjoying the cool change in our neck of the concrete jungle although it seems to be playing havoc with my sinuses. Got an attack of sneezies and sniffles yesterday but that seems to have calmed down a tad. Had a quiet day indoors with the 4 year old who was skulking around the house Gollum-like for food. Her problem and mine is that she wants to eat graze all day long... something every hour and I'm not keen about having to feed her constantly. But the moment she feels a touch bored... something in brain seems to propel her toward food.

Came upon this Livability Ranking and Overview through one of my favourite blogs today and as with all surveys that I read about, I come away wondering how this study was done and what the criteria was for making it into the magical top 10. Of course, I can't be privy to that kind of information unless I cough up $500 for the privilege. Since I'm a housewife living in the middle of surburbia, I have far better things to do with $500.
Yeah, I'm a skeptic. But I'm sure I'm not the target market either. That part is patently obvious. As for the rest of it, the website gives away very little:

The Liveability Ranking and Overview assesses living conditions in 140 cities around the world. A rating of relative comfort for 30 indicators is assigned across five broad categories: stability; healthcare; culture and environment; education; and infrastructure. The survey gives an overall rating of 0-100, where 1 is intolerable and 100 is ideal.

Four Australian cities made it to the top 10 (Melbourne, Sydney, Perth and Adelaide), which will no doubt become a nice tourist promotional tag when the campaign time comes. Other than that and some self-congratulatory back patting I don't see the point. Do potential immigrants do that kind research before deciding where to go? Do businesses for that matter? Don't they all head to China or India anyway even if Vienna has great restaurants and some of the best orchestras in the world?

Although not listed on Livability Ranking, I know I live in the best city in the world .Recently, parts of our city experienced catastrophic flooding. It's not the first in our history but because the city is much more built up than it used to be, it affected a lot more people. The largest volunteering organization in our state received thousands of offers of help. At some stage up to 22 000 people registered with them. Charity groups like the Salvation Army were turning away donations of clothes because they were swamped. On the weekend after the flood, hundreds of people gave of their time to help with the clean-up of homes and streets in flood affected areas. That spirit of generosity that Australians are so famous for came alive in a community's great hour of need.
There's been a lot of talk about multiculturalism of late. An ideology to unite a community of disparate peoples. To me, multiculturalism is merely window dressing -- a fad that politicians and intellectuals have bought into. It seems to me that the real measure of a people or a civilization is what it does in times of crises.
At the aftermath of the crisis last month, I was reminded of why an immigrant like myself, live in this country and choose to bring up a family in a small part of this great continent.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Division of Labour

I'm lying in bed with the sniffles and the husband comes in to tell me that the 4 year old reminded him that "Mummy needs some dinner."
The husband rolls his eyes in mock indignance and waves his arms around in the appropriate manner. "She only thinks about mummy but not daddy."
I am deeply touched. Well, at least somebody is thinking about me.
"Well..." I cross my arms and harrumph for the husband's benefit. "Of course as I'm the one who spends the most time with them."
But minutes later I have second thoughts about the source of 4 year old's blossoming thoughtfulness... I've been blessed with a couple of bossy girls, you see. Sometimes they think the whole world will collapse around them if they're not there to prop it up with their timely reminders. According to them mummy and daddy need reminders almost as much as they do.

Marriage is apparently a 50/50 enterprise. At least it's what I've heard over the years from relationship experts. So that principle has been extended to housework especially if both partners have a paid job outside the home. The idea is that husbands and wives divide household chores equally between them. "One job for you, one job for me... one job for you, one job for me..." until there's an equal distribution of labour. You get the picture. Frankly speaking, it sounds to me like a divorce in training.

I'm not pedantic so I'm kinda baffled: How, in the name of all that's great and good, does one divide the housework into neat halves?

Apparently most can't without getting all tetchy, according to a couple of economists. But there's an answer which will come as a relief to some.
 Splitting the dishes, laundry, vacuuming, and other household chores may seem fair, but an unbending line right down the middle can lead to more friction, not less, because no one is good and fast at all things. But when couples adopt the economic principle of “comparative advantage,” which says it’s not efficient to take on every task you’re good at, only the ones you are relatively better at, couples can gain time for the things they really want to do, the authors write.
“In economics, having the comparative advantage in something means you produce it at a lower cost and really quickly,” Paula Szuchman said in an interview with Yahoo! Shine. So if one of you is better at laundry, then do it. And if the other can do the dishes and clean up the kitchen faster every night while the better cook cooks, go for it.

 

Really? I thought it was called "common sense". I scratch my head and concede. Okay, maybe it ain't that common if yet another book needs to be written on this.
Seriously, are things so bleak in the marriage game that we need to look to economics to for advice about "the division of housework" in the home?

Housework I know is not much fun for a lot of people but I don't expect that the application of economic theory is going to make it more palatable.

There's only one rule at our place: You gotta do what you gotta do.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Why No Hail

At around 2ish this arvo, the sky started to look threatening. Alas an antidote to the ridiculous humidity... was my first thought as I peered out of the blinds.Then there were the rumblings in the distance.
School pick up was just around the corner and I was deliberating whether or not to drive or chance it.
In the end, faced with walking in the steamy outdoors and then suddenly caught in the onslaught of a thunderstorm, I thought the car was definitely the better alternative.

3 o'clock and the road to school was quieter than normal. Perhaps mums and dads had come early to pick up the kiddies and gone home. Good thinking. As I stood waiting in the park, the 9 year old came hurtling towards me like a speeding bullet. "Muuuuuuuum... there's hail predicted..."
She, you will recall, is the dramatist in our home.
From the school ground to the car, she clings on to me with palpable urgency. "Quick, mum... we need to get home before it hails." And then plies me with a dozen questions a minute about hail as if I was the Encyclopedia Britannica in the flesh. I told her I didn't know it was going to hail. She, in turn, informed me that her teacher Ms E told them about it because she had an iPhone.
I have an iPhone too but I couldn't be bothered to look. A thunderstorm is a thunderstorm. Looking at the radar charts won't send it on its merry way.

From school to kindy to home, she's hurrying me to get home for fear of hail. She didn't want to get hit by hail, you see even as she herself acknowledged, "Mum... it's I'm so glad we're nice and warm in our car." I wouldn't have thought the car warm... more like a toaster oven... but I didn't bother correcting her. It's a tad cruel to try and dampen such enthusiasm. Sometimes I just don't bother.

Three quarters of an hour later, it's pouring cats and dogs. She turned to me almost disappointed.
"Where's the hail... I can't see the hail..."
"You sound disappointed that there's none."
"But it was predicted."
"It's hard to predict the weather with a degree of accuracy all the time. The weather bureau can't get it right all the time. And there could be hail somewhere else."
She muttered something under her breath but I was in the kitchen doing something or other.

Kids are so kiddie-ish... For them everything is a discovery... a nice reminder to those of us who yawn "same o'l, same o'l" that we should never take the details of life for granted.

Humid, humid, humid

Eeuw... this humidity that we're experiencing is an absolute brain killer in the same way that pregnancy is a brain killer. The brain goes blank when you're trying to remember someone's name, the gray matter turns to goo and there's no energy because all the brain wants to do is cool down and there's a switch in there that overrides all other commands that it usually sends to the body. Furthermore you know things are realy bad when you leave the house to do laundry stuff for 2 minutes and feel like you've entered the sunlight zone. Out there for longer than 10 minutes and you can feel the sweat roll down your cheeks.
And it's only 8:30 am.

The 4 year old was wondering around the house all morning doing a Linus but without the thumbsucking, which in this instance, would have been preferable to the whining reverberating all throughout the cardboard house. The bunny rug/blanket which has been stretched, pulled, dragged around, chewed on and salivated over has so far managed to survive  two girls. I don't put out much hope for it survivng a third.Which is almost the reason why I'm sticking with two. Girls, that is. And then, there's me. I don't know if I can survive a third either. Maybe if I was fitter, younger and healthier, I might. But I haven't been fitter, younger and healthier for about 15 years now.

Speaking of fitness, we actually have a plan: I've gone back to doing regular swimming. I toyed with the idea of jumping into Zumba bandwagon for about thirty-seconds. Clicked on the video clip on the Curves' website and my first thought was... "Erm...This requires some degree of coordination... Next." So swimming it is.

Swimming, I've discovered, can be a bit tricky in a public pool because every man, woman and child are in it doing something or other from therapy, to paddling or having lessons. But despite that, it's stangely relaxing. No children... just me doing little laps up, and down a crowded pool.

My Funny Valentine (Proverbs 14:1)

(Adapted from a devotion given on 16 Feb 2011 at a MOPS meeting)
Proverbs 14:1 The wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down.

If you’re like me, I’m sure you find housework pointless and frustrating. No sooner have you tidied up one part of the house, it’s dirty again.
You’ve swept and mopped the dining area and the next thing you see on the floor are crumbs, grains of rice and other miscellaneous food scraps scattered all over sacred whiteness.
You get the kiddies to tidy their room or rooms and an hour later it’s a pig sty or the aftermath of a natural disaster. Even when they tidy up, it's more about hiding stuff, squeezing, chucking and hogging than neatness.
This leads to unholy thoughts that perhaps locking the kids out of the house at night might be a viable permanent solution.

Home building, nonetheless, is not just about housework or keeping the place ship shape. Building character and  overseeing the spiritual development of our children is just as important as us teaching them good habits. Home making is a full-time job whether you have a paid job or not.
But we’re building something... and building takes time, effort and bucket loads of patience.
On the negative side, the opposite side of building is tearing down. It’s interesting to also observe that Satan, called “a thief” in John’s gospel who comes to steal, kill and destroy.
Building a home is not just about the children or the physical building in which we live . It’s also about building our marriages... our relationship with our spouses.
As parents of young children, it is easy to stop working on our marriages and throw all our energy into the children. By the end of most days there usually isn't a lot of energy left to do any more building.

This Valentine's Day we didn't do much. We kinda forgot that it was happening... as we were more focused on the birthday.
Anyhow, we sent the kiddies off to bed, watched Lord of the Rings and had a classy Thai take-away in bed with no candle lights or violin music in the background. It's more or less what we did last year except it was some unmemorable action flick instead of LOTR.

I like to think it worked for us on a certain level and perhaps as the girls get older, we'll be able to get out more. It's true that Valentine's Day is a bit commercialized but isn't everything these days with retailers all trying to make a buck in these uncertain economic times. Still, our story proves that romance on a budget can be had.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

For the Love of Books 2

In a good week, I usually have a couple of books going. Currently I'm reading Crusades: The Illustrated History, The Great Instrumental Works, The Father of Us All: War and History. The first two are library books and very good ones. I'm doing a bit of research into classical music for a piece of fiction I'm working on. The history books are for my own general edification, to make up for a lot of ignorance and a lack of a classical education. And then there's the George W Bush memoir on my iPhone kindle that's a third read. Which is incidentally, immensely readable -- warm, chatty and personable.







So why do I read? Mainly for my own edification. It's been about 15 years since I finished my second degree and I do miss the learning and the research that went into putting together a dissertation.

A year and a half ago, when it became increasingly obvious that the general public was being scammed about the so-called climate change concensus, it occurred to me that the mainstream media wasn't given us the full facts about almost everything. I turned to the new media -- the news blogs primarily -- as an alternative to gain some kind of balance on the important issues. It reignited my interest in politics and sparked my interest in reading non-fiction again.

My husband jokes about my penchant for murder mysteries as a sign of morbidity. He may be right but I've been reading them since I was 11 without inflicting violence on anyone. My mother-in-law and I were talking about our mutual interest in crime television last week and Midsomer Murders in particular. The husband made his usual dig, I rolled my eyes and muttered that he was still alive, wasn't he? I watch 'em and read 'em because they're basically puzzles, they're about human nature and the crazy stuff people do to each other. The really good ones are more than well-plotted whodunnits.

I spend far too much time on blogs... sometimes to the detriment of sleep. But it's such a big world out there and there's so much happening. It helps keep me connected and informed.

Friday, February 18, 2011

For the Love of Books

I note that the parent company of Borders and Angus & Robertson has been placed in the hands of admininstrators.
There's been a lot of speculation about why these major book retailers might now be fighting for their survival. Online shopping, high prices, government imposed tarriffs, poor business practice, softening in retailing spending have all been cited as reasons for Redgroup's misfortunes.





Credit: Herald Sun



Some of you know that I read a lot and buy books. I use the library too and if I like a book enough, I may even get it.
To an avid reader like me, I feel that I can get more bang for my buck if I go online. So I have... at various times sourced books at Amazon and more regularly at The Book Depository. I have bought things at Borders when they send out coupons or special offers through their loyalty programme, as I did just before Christmas. But those sales would have to be something special... comparable to what I get online... to get me excited.

Borders, I really liked. Big comfy armchairs and quiet reading areas. And a very decent range of cookbooks to peruse and drool over. (Nah... I would never buy cookbooks at Borders -- ridiculously expensive) Fiction is okay but to pay over $20 for a mass market paperback is patently absurd. May as well borrow them from the library. Put desired book on hold and pay a piddly 80cents for the privilege. My impression is that they have a good range of children's books but by golly, $18 bucks for a 10 page picture book is a bit steep!

Non-fiction, on the other hand, is another story. Aside from Heaven and Earth by Ian Plimer, they don't ever seem to have anything I'm looking for and some of the books I'm looking for are New York Times bestsellers!
Gah... I go online and voila... it's available... somewhere and it's likely to come to arrive at my doorstep in 7-14 days.

When I was working in Brisbane CBD, I used to go to a place called Pulp Fiction. It was a specialist crime, science fiction, fantasy book seller. These guys really knew their stuff. I even found some fairly obscure crime books there. It was refreshing to natter with people who love books, who knew their products and were happy to waste fifteen minutes yapping aimlessly to you about books. I haven't been there in a long while but apparently they're still going. I suspect they must be doing something right.

I don't know if anybody else buys books these days. Sometimes I think it's just me. When was the last time some one asked you, "Read a good book lately?" To me, I read books for survival... to quote Hercule Poirot... "to exercise the grey cells". I'm none too keen for the brain to turn to mush which it is in danger of doing so when you hang around kiddies all day. The library is a good resource for fiction but when I read theology, parenting and history books I have an enormous itch to underline and leave chicken scratches all over the place.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

40

40 years ago today, I was dragged into the world (with forceps) kicking (leg first) and screaming as do most babes, I'm sure).

Some time at the crack of dawn today I turned 40. I'm not sure how that happened but somewhere on the way to raising children, it snuck up and socked me between the eyes. Ok, it didn't hurt as much but still, there's something mindblowing about arriving at these milestones.
It is a milestone year and it marks another decade (God willing) in my humble existence. It's not so bad although in a couple of years, I may start wearing graduated lenses. One of my church friends, who is the cheekiest person I know, gave me a couple of magnifying glasses, a pill box, backscratcher among other things for my birthday. A cheeky sixty something. Nonetheless, the magnifying glass has already come in useful when I'm web browing on the iPhone.

My brother asked me this evening as a couple of others have, how I feel about the big 4-O...
Truth be told, I don't mind it. I'm a tad more comfortable in my own skin than I was in my twenties and even my thirties. I don't feel as much the need to prove myself and I'm more game to do things I wouldn't have 10 or 15 years ago. I wish hadn't played it safed
But there's a part of me that just doesn't really want to grow up. It's silly of course but it's a defence mechanism against the harsh realities of life that pops up.
The main advantage of being older is that it sharpens the creative juices and the imagination. I think it's a myth that the young are more imaginative. It seems to me the older one gets, the more one is more aware of the possibilities.

Anyhow, life is short and there's not a lot of point to constant introspection or naval gazing.
On the other hand, if I didn't do a little of that... there wouldn't be much to blog about.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Baptism

I've been to many baptisms in my short life but none of them as emotionally rousing as the one I attended last Sunday. I've seen many new believers weep with joy at the newfound knowledge of what Jesus has done for them. But not until Sunday had I seen someone jump for joy with unadulterated excitement.
This man, who came from an animistic, shamanistic background, carried a weighty burden his entire life and was responsible for the spiritual well-being of his entire family.
For him to know that Jesus died for him and freed him from the power of evil spirits was something to throw his hands into the air and sing about.



Its easy in this day and age where there's so much orchestration of hype and manipulation of people's emotions, to be cynical about true "religious affections". But this came from a heart set free.

I don't think I'll forget the look on his face or the tone of his voice anytime soon.



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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Lord of Everything

 I'm sitting in bed with the husband, watching The Fellowship of the Ring, the first installment of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. We're watching the final scene: It's chaotic. Humans, elves, hobbits and repulsive looking creatures called orcs engage in bloody, rambunctious sword play. Arrows are flying in all directions.
Alas the mighty Boromir falls and as he breathes his last moments, he waxes poetic as he delivers an eloquent parting speech.
The audience is moved by this act of bravery and self-sacrifice. I get a bit weepy.
Clearly everyone (almost everyone) in LOTR speaks in a highbrown fashion... it's almost like watching a Shakespearean  play without the 'thees' and 'thous'.
Tolkien was a wonderful wordsmith and creator of worlds but I still think parts of the LOTR books were overly laboured.


Nonetheless my favourite quote from Tolkien's classic tale is this:


Frodo: I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened. 

Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”


The ring stuff doesn't make sense of course, if you haven't read the book or seen the movies. But suffice to say, it's a ring of immense power that corrupts its wearer and turns what's good into evil.
What we can relate to, however, is that sentiment expressed by Frodo. The cosmic "why me".
Perhaps like me, you've asked it probably more times than you care to remember.

We live in a world full of sin... and the consequences of sin... Life can be painful process and often we don't have a lot of control over our circumstances.
So what do we do? Whinge... whine... descend into a funk. Check, check, check. Yeah, I do that. But a better thing to do would be to do the Psalmist thing and turn to the Lord of everything.
We do have some room to move... we can choose to feel sorry for ourselves or we can be part of the solution. We can become instruments of God's grace in the lives of others when we humble ourselves to his sovereign will.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Yum Cha

To celebrate a milestone birthday that's coming up, I took some friends along to yum cha today.






As was usual with such things, there was plenty of good stuff to choose from.
Yum Cha, if you're not familiar with the concept, is kind of Chinese cuisine and a way of eating that's popular with Hong Kong/ Cantonese people. Yum Cha is strictly a lunch time affair.

For me, it was a time to celebrate friendship. I didn't really have any strong female friendships until I became a mum, and that circle expanded again when I joined MOPS and yet again when I moved into the steering team.


I enjoy my husband's company and he's my best friend. But it's good to have female friends to hang out with and natter about girl stuff aka secret women's business.

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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Why Do We Have to Wear Clothes?

The 9 year old comes up with a number doozies each week... She's a talk jock and can talk non-stop for an hour and I don't mind saying it wears me down. That girl was born to chatter.
Last week she asked me this beauty: Why do we have to wear clothes?
I mean could have said, well... because we'd be cold otherwise... which isn't untrue. But during the summer, there are days where even when stripping down to the barest minimum doesn't do much cooling either.
The Bible is really the only place to go... and it's all in Genesis, the book of beginnings. Not only does it point to the beginning of original sin but the early effects of original sin. The first thing Adam and Eve did was cover up their bodies.

So what did I say to the 9 year old? Well, I don't remember the exact words... something along the lines that because of sin, we can't show our bodies publicly to anyone.
I don't know how theological it was but it seemed to satisfy a child's natural curiosity.
For now...

Uniforms in Bed

Last week, a couple of ladies I know mentioned that they put their kids in uniforms before going to bed so that there are no big hassles trying to get kids to dress in the morning. I know from experience that the mornings can be the most stressful time of the day for mum so I'm not unsympathetic.
However, thinking it over, (I'm a bit slow) I've come to have some questions over this.
Now, I'm not a fastidious mum at all nor do I care much for ironing... I rarely do any ironing, quite frankly. So creasy uniforms don't bother me in the slightest.
But I was wondering what the long term consequence of doing that would be. I'm a big picture person and I'm more concerned about the kiddies getting into habits that they will have trouble getting out of as they get older.
Or is it something that they grow out of? Or do you have to wean them off the habit?

I'd like people to comment especially mums with older children or adult children. Like to know your thoughts. I'm not sitting in judgement of anyone here, just curious about how all this works in your family.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Feeling Guilty

Having being around other mummies (and daddies) for almost 10 years now, I reckon... I am inclined to think that 99% of parents are well-intentioned. One might not always agree with someone else's parenting philosophy but after spending some time with them, you can be sure they mean well and they're parenting according to their own personality.
But oh, the amount of guilt that parents carry around is phenomenal.
Well, maybe it's not every parent. I'm sure most are far too confident in their parenting to feel overly burdened by a sense of guilt. :D
Like moi, for instance.
I am guilt-ridden about my parenting far too regularly for my own good. One moment I'm racked with guilt from raising my voice beyond an acceptable decibel and the next I feel a pang of guilt for letting the kids get away with stuff.
I gotta pick my battles, you know. No sense in fighting with the 4 year old who insists on wearing beautiful dresses all the time and when it's horribly impractical.
I really learnt what guilt could do to a person's state of mind when I couldn't breastfeed and felt guilty when I was relieved that I wasn't breastfeeding anymore.

I feel guilty... sometimes... when I make threats practice choices and consequences.... and feel a tad guilty for having to carry them out. And occasionally I even feel a teeny tiny bit guilty for not feeling sorry that I've had to carry out consequences.

Once, a few years ago, I was having a BBQ with my students when my then 5 year old attached herself to some other children. They were rolling on the grass and I was horrified. The father of the other children (probably meant well) half seriously, half jokingly that I should "leave her be" or words to that effect and let the kids be kids. Immediately I felt guilty and embarrassed. But I was still annoyed that the 5 year old just took off without telling me and dirtied herself after having a shower.
Later I felt guilty for being too controlling and embarrassed that I had been ticked off in public.

Last week, I took the 4 year old to Aldi on my own and well, that was probably my first mistake. Anyway, while I had my back turned to examine some nectarines, she tried to open some kind of security door. Sigh. The alarm came on and it frighten the wits off the both of us.
Yeah, I was quite embarrassed... and felt guilty for bringing her into the store.
Moments later, when we went to another shop, she pulled out a couple of Chuppa Chups to show me. So it was back to Aldi to return it to the checkout lady and pay for the one with the wrapper removed.
Sigh...

It's probably just me... I'm sure I'm unusually thin-skinned. I'm not as thin-skinned as I used to be but the 4 year old like to go places where her big sister would never dream of going. She's a boundary pusher to the extreme.

Parenting is like balancing a tightrope. One doesn't want to go too much one way or the other but by golly, it's tough to maintain a balance.

Of Thieves, Civil War and Spaghetti Westerns

(Our local library has become an wonderful resource for old movies (ie movies made before I was born)... I've found so many great classics over the past six months and haven't had to pay a cent for them. And yeah, they don't make 'em like they used to. I meant to post this last year but with all the busyness I didn't get to finishing it)


Interesting film, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly... It occurred to me after watching it half way that I had no idea what the film was about despite its classic status. Being a lifelong Dirty Harry fan, I knew Clint Eastwood starred in it and that it was labelled a "spaghetti western" and had some vague memory of large amounts of sand . And the theme music by Ennio Morricone... is the sort that sticks around in the brain forever. For some reason I always think of eagles or vultures when I hear the intro.


At the heart of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is a gruesome amorality tale that revolves around the connivances of three hucksters exhibiting varying degrees of badness. For most war is hellish but for some it's an opportunity. Our three main characters are morally dubious but Clint Eastwood in those days was pretty hot stuff and was given the role as the most likeable character of the trio. At least he's the most suave of the lot. So there are bad guys and terrible guys. There's lots of gun play. There's a cache of stolen confederate gold that everybody wants (surprise, surprise) and apparently there's not a lot of honour among thieves. After a fair bit of crossing and doublecrossing, we find out that the gold is inconveniently hidden in a cemetery (surprise, surprise) and only Blondie (Clint Eastwood's character) knows which plot it's buried in. So there's more wheeling and dealing for a cut of the loot and to stay ahead of the game.

To get to their destination, our villianous protagonists temporarily embroil themselves in the war between the Union and the Confederates, who are separated by a bridge, just asking to be blown to bits. There Blondie and Tuco (Eli Wallach) encounter a different kind of villiany. The higher ups from both sides don't want the bridge blown up for fear that the troops will go else where to fight.

Like the rest of the film, the ending is bucketloads of fun. Of course there's a final confrontation with guns ablazing and of course someone dies. It is afterall a western...  Lawlessness, and little regard for life is standard fare in these outings.

Then there's always Little House on the Prairie for everyone else.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Mess

I suppose on the spectrum of control freakiness, I would rate highly. It's undoubtedly one of the reasons why I descended into post-natal depression after my first child. It's probably why I yell at the kids (it's easier and quicker than doing the non-yelling thing) and it's most likely why I am a frustrated mummy.

I look around my house and I see MESS -- I've capitalized it deliberately to make a point. I wish I had a kind of cataracht eye lid that I can roll up and down with a remote not unlike a garage door, when I'd quite frankly, be doing something else. Picking up after other people is soooo borrrrrrrrrring.

Have you noticed that nobody else in the house seem to notice it or are remotely concerned? They walk around the house in a perpetual state of oblivion until somebody trips over something. Then there's complaining and crying. A kind of selective blindness.
Me? I see 'em everywhere... like the lad in The Sixth Sense. 

I learnt a new word the other day: Floordrobe. It doesn't take long for the carpet to become a dumping ground for clothes, towels, toys and tissue. Somehow they manage to negotiate the tough terrain
I'm not great at delegating but I'm learning... because well, it's that or the mad house. I'm one of those people who think that things get done faster, better and more efficiently when I do it. And then I plunge into an antisocial state of burnout.

Sometimes, let's face it, it's pure laziness. Why do housework when the internet beckons, right? We become hypnotized and then when a voice inside us says, "You should be doing the housework..."
You scratch your head and say, "Housework? What's that?"

When I was a child I read a folktale about a purse that was never empty. The owner would take a coin out of it and another one would magically appear to replace it. Sort of like the golden goose.
Well, it's sort of like that with our furniture. The moment you take a book off the lounge chair or sofa, another one "magically" appears. I say, "magically" because half the time, nobody seems to know how it got there. Or one sister would accuse the other one of being responsible etc etc etc.

Sigh... I turn my head and I see a pile of laundry that needs folding. Uh... huh... you know I'd rather be blogging, right?

Duty calls...

The Warlords

I've been a fan of Jet Li since he was an adorable 19 year old wuxia champion gracing our screens in Shaolin Temple. To date, I've seen almost all his films. So when I say that The Warlords features one of his best performances, it's no hyperbole.
The Warlords is not a martial arts chopsocky flick or an anti-war film as such. Although it has battle scenes reminiscent of Lord of the Rings, I came away thinking "Shakespeare", in the Macbeth, King Lear or Richard III vein. Bloody, dirty, grimy, sordid, traitorous, obsessive overachievers and littered with seedy politics. Just your everyday, run-of-the-mill Shakespearean type tragedy.

The Warlords is set during the Taiping Rebellion... a civil war in China which took place between 1850-1864. The uprising was started by a heterodox Christian cult leader who thought he was the brother of Christ. No doubt this conflict gained traction with the populace because the governing Qing dynasty (Manchurian) was perceived to be ineffectual and corrupt.


Although interesting, that bit of background is not crucial to one's appreciation of the story... in the sense that Hamlet being a Dutch prince isn't crucial to understanding the play or the fact that Macbeth was a Scottish king. Like Shakespeare, the film-maker is primarily interested in what makes an individual a tragic hero, with war as the backdrop.

Jet Li's character is a complex figure which exemplifies the well-known saying, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions." He wants the war to end, for peace to return as he is weary of civillian deaths. And yet the ruthlessness with which he achieves these ends is both disturbing and pitiful. Despite his almost callous determination, he is no match for the Machiavellian machinations of his political superiors. Ultimately he falls victim to his own idealism.

There are two other main characters... also idealists in their own right. Both are Jet Li's sworn blood brothers -- sworn to fealty and well, you know the rest. Because of Jet Li's character is riddled with moral ambiguity, you suspect right from the start that this relationship isn't going to end well especially when there's a love triangle to complicate matters.

Despite looking like an anti-war film, it isn't one. At least not in a straightforward fashion. Clearly, there will always be wars to fight but how much of one's principles does one have to sacrifice to achieve ultimate victory? As Victor Davis Hanson has said in his book, The Father of Us All, often the choice isn't between what is good or bad but what is bad or worse.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Week One

Week one of school has come and gone. And I'm beginning to have thoughts of homeschooling. Again.
Not because I want to, really but with all the time and energy I'm spending on homework, I might as well be homeschooling.
It's mind boggling painful when you think that they get it one minute and then the next minute, they don't.
And it's only week one.

We're trying to get the 9 year old to do extra maths everyday outside of the stuff she does at school... and that is almost like trying to raise a mummy from the dead. Or pulling teeth... or squeezing blood out of stone. Take your pick... whichever is more excruciating.

I'm pretty sure I'm no Tiger Mum but I remember with harrowing clarity how I battled with algebra, quadratic equations and other scary stuff. If there's anything I learnt from those days it's that if the foundations aren't formed properly from the get-go, problems will abound later on.

So we recite the 9 times table in car. Then we recite the 7 times table while we walk to school. So the 9 year old says, "Why are we doing this?"
I'm tempted to say, "Because I say so." out of some primeval need to exert one's parental authority. But reason overrules and I settle for a squishy, "Because you need it... because you still don't know it that well."
She mumbles some thing under her breath and then obediently chants "9x1=9, 9x2=18, 9x3=27..."

She prattles them off with some confidence until she hears a noise and squeak or something. That's the end of her concentration.
Sigh...
Then there's the application aspect. She knows the times tables but then when that's turned into division, that's another nightmare.

I'm surprised I haven't seen any white hairs lately.