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)

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Humour: Royal Weaving

Like millions of others, I got suckered into the hype of watching the royal wedding last night. I have no particular fondness for the British royals (the Queen excepted) or aversion but I have a perverse pleasure in seeing what a no-expenses-spared clothing budget can bring forth on these glitzy occasions. As usual, there's plenty to mock.

Princess Beatrice's hat was a standout... oh golly... was that antler-look really such a great idea? She's such a pretty girl too to waste her face on a hat like that. Can it even be considered a hat? Seems to sort of stick on her forehead like an over-sized rattle.

Victoria Beckham's blue number was another odd looking head slapper. Was that a vine in search of a trellis hanging off it? I am getting a Morticia Addams vibe from the entire look. The dress looks like a badly cut choir robe.

I'd never heard of Tara Palmer until today. But by George, she definitely looked like she stepped out of The Fifth Element. Chris Tucker... eat ya heart out man! And that hat... eeuw...looks like an origami boat misapplied.

 (Credit: Fashion Style )

And Camilla... Duchess of Cornwall... Her hat... gives new meaning to shrunken heads.

What's with the travelling lampshade, your highness?

(Credit: UK Telegraph )

Cockadoodle doo... my dame has lost her shoe... and something else too.

(Credit: UK Telegraph )

I love my TV conspiracies

Spooks is one of those guilty pleasures of mine that I indulge in irregular doses. I can't take it seriously but it does get the old ticker going at sonic speed. It's a mishmash of James Bond, 24 and Days of Our Lives on steroids.
I have a love-hate relationship with the show mainly because it seems to take inordinate pleasure in killing main characters off in spectacular fashion. Or they disappear into the volatile world of espionage. Apparently that makes the show more realistic... but honestly... "realistic" is the last adjective one would use about that show. And then seemingly smart people end up doing the most stupid things... well... okay, that's probably fairly realistic.
Golly, the number of conspiracies that the showrunners have hatched over the years... and then there's the characters -- good guys turning into bad guys, for love, ideals and money. They must be doing something right, creatively anyway, to keep it going after almost a decade.
Conspiracies are fun... but what's more fun is to see how long they can keep it up. Yeah, I've been watching Spooks... loving the mysteries and hating the way Richard Armitage's character has been turned into a double-crossing, traitorous, lovesick moron. Ugh...

I don't generally believe in large-scale Dan Brown type conspiracies. It takes far too many people, far too many resources to make it work for any decent period of time. Besides, sooner or later, somebody will talk.
The only reasons people like the idea of conspiracies is because it touches something pretty deep within human nature... to find an all-embracing reason for the inexplicable.
No doubt collusion occurs on some level where common interests intersect ie. Global warming concensus but that it's now falling apart bit by bit goes to show that these sorts of things go through fashions.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Sleeping In

Gollleee...  I slept in this morning and I almost never sleep in. Husband came into the room and woke me up. It was a quarter to 10. Aaaaaaaaaargh...  I was supposed to take the children to missionary morning.
In the end the husband took them while I wandered around the house in a semi-conscious state.
When I felt lucid enough, I decided to work on tomorrow's order of service.

So why did I sleep in? A simple case of listening to my body.
Last night I dragged myself to home group... barely holding myself together. People asked me what I was doing there. Well, I had obligations I needed to fulfill. But the grace of God got me through the bible study. Food helped a little. My thorn in the side was a mouth ulcer... which was throbbing most of the day. When I tried to have an afternoon nap, the telephone rang. Well, that was the end of that idea.
Why didn't I take the phone off the hook? Seems like a no brainer. It's been a while since I've had to do anything like that. I don't get calls in the afternoon as a rule and I haven't felt any desperate need for naps for a while. I wasn't expecting any phone calls. Since we changed how we do telecommunications, we've managed to keep telemarketers at bay.

Decided that I really needed to take it easy today. Tried for another nap in the arvo. Dozed off and then got up to make some dumplings for a birthday party.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Fencing Her In

Our front fence is finished and is waiting idly for a fresh coat of paint. While I have fences on my mind, my thoughts gravitate toward the 4 year old.

I once read/heard someone say that a strong-willed child needs strong boundaries. Quite likely it's conventional wisdom, formed through observation over time. But it's very helpful to think along those lines. Strong-willed children are hard work, no doubt. However, as they get older I'm convinced that they can become very productive individuals. I frequently console myself that there's a payoff coming for this momentary hardship.

My strong-willed child needs to know if something is hers, if she doesn't, she will assume that it's hers for the taking. Pretty much anything that's not nailed down is fair game in her book. Even then I'm sure she'll find a way to pry the nail off the wall or floor.
My strong-willed child doesn't take "no" for an answer the first time. Or the fifth or sixth time. Or the tenth. Not even when she's taken a tumble. She'll whine and look forlorn and then she back up and running again in 30 secs flat.

My strong-willed child is a fussy eater. Covertly chucks food she doesn't like on the floor or on the booster seat. So she doesn't get fruit or dessert (on the rare occasion) if she doesn't eat veggies or finish her dinner. Logically, I reckon, she can't be that hungry if she's chucking stuff.
My strong-willed child is a fussy eater. It may take us between 5 to 10 attempts before she will actually eat something new without... er... fussing.
My strong-willed child needs to be fully engaged. A slight wiff of boredom and she think's she hungry or that it's time to transgress the boundaries.
My strong-willed child has not napped in the afternoons for almost 2 years. Seems to have boundless energy until about 6:30pm and then she crashes. I'm grateful for small mercies.
My strong-willed child has moods when it comes to having someone hold her hand while walking on the pavement or in car parks... which is very dicey stuff at times. One second... that's all it takes and she's off like a rabbit.

The upside of having one in the house is that she's independent and resourceful ie. full of initiative but the downside is that she doesn't really (understandably) grasp her own limitations by putting herself in harm's way with alarming regularity. Whether she's climbing a stack of chairs, racing around the room, breaking my stuff or waving her hands over the sizzling wok... she's a pint size daredevil... an accident waiting to happen.

Maybe it's all about being the second child. Wanting to be like big sister and doing what big sister does. And in our case, big sister is a lot older, with a better developed sense of danger. If anything, big sister errs on the side of timidity.

There's light at the end of the tunnel. As she matures, her ability to reason or to be reasoned with grows. But what a bumpy ride it has been. (At least the restraints keep the really crazy stuff from happening)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Second Thoughts

For a while now, I've been thinking about changing course. Kiddies are growing up and I'm kinda itching to go back to work. Something called "mortgage" is nudging me out the door.
But the industry I used to work in, happens (sob) to be in a depressed state at the moment for a host of reasons and as a mum I'm trying to find something that fits in with the children's schedule without losing my eye on the 9 year old's progress.
So I've been floundering a bit.

Through a friend of a friend, I went along today to have a look an English Conversation Club at the University of Qld to see if I want to become involved as a volunteer tutor. Quite frankly, it has made me rethink the whole thing. I only went to have a look, see... to get a feel of the place... and stay out of the way as much as possible. However, due to the size of the group etc etc, I volunteered to join the conversation and in no time, I got back "that o'l feeling". It was a buzz. I really, really miss being in a classroom full of adults talking adult stuff.
As I was driving back home, I started to think out loud. "I am too experienced and too good at this to give it up entirely." So I started to "birth" a few ideas while zipping across the Riverside Expressway.

The timing of all of this, however, is terrible. I have such a busy week lined up. My week is full with meetings, Bible study and really important church stuff. And yet these ideas are floating around inside my head wanting to be pinned down.
I foresee that I'm going to have plenty of middle-of-the-night, 3 am meditations.

I don't know if I'm supposed to do the Gideon-I-need-a-sign thing... put out fleeces and hope God will do his "thing" with flashing neon lights. Gideon was a nervous wreck... not that I blame him, going up a hard bitten enemy with zero experience... In the end, it wasn't Gideon who defeated the Midianites, it was God... all God. Gideon got in on the action purely by the grace of God. His only qualification was that he had no qualification. We generally humans aren't very good with new experiences that take us out of our comfort zone and sometimes we need a Bilbo Baggins type kick to get us out of our comfy hobbit hole. Sometimes we just need to make a decision and get over our dithering. Sometimes it's about embarking on new experiments and hoping that one hasn't been too presumptuous.

I've been yawning almost non-stop for the last 5 minutes. I suppose it's my cue to hit the sack. Interesting day... gotta sleep on it.
And pray about it.

(Credit: FreeFoto )

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Overpopulation is a Myth

Australian entrepreneur and happy aviator, Dick Smith, triggered a firestorm a couple of weeks ago from certain quarters for advocating small families. According to him, every family should limit themselves to 2 children to stem the tide of population explosion.
I have a smallish family because... well... I know my limitations in the parenting department and biology is against me. So that's that. But a population explosion? C'mon...
I've looked at various news sources and I haven't seen Mr Smith give any statistics regarding current birth rates to support his position so I expect there's a bit of bandwaggoning on his part.

It doesn't take much to be an overpopulation skeptic when you see stats like these. If you don't believe it, dig around at the UN website.  Whatever else you may think of the UN, it does at least keep decent statistical records. Wikipedia, your friendly one-stop shop, has quite an extensive list taken from both the CIA Handbook and the UN.

I'm no maths ace but it's clear as daylight that birthrates among wealthier nation states are in decline and in a great majority of cases, they are way under the replacement rate.
Population explosion? Not so much. But what we do have are aging populations.

Political commentator, Mark Steyn, in his demographically driven book, America Alone, argues this:
The single most important fact about the early twenty-first century is the rapid aging of almost every developed nation other than the United States: Canada, Europe, and Japan are getting old fast, older than any functioning society has ever been and faster than any has ever aged. A society ages when its birth rate falls and it finds itself with fewer children and more grandparents. For a stable population -- ie., no growth, no decline, just a million folks in 1950, a million in 1980, a million in 2010 -- you need a total fertility rate of 2.1 live births per woman. That's what America has: 2.1, give or take. Canada has 1.48, an all time low...
Europe as a whole has 1.38; Japan, 1.32; Russia, 1.14. These countries --, or more precisely, these people -- are going out of business. (Steyn 2008, 2)

The problem with the thinking that drove Smith to make his comments is that they forget that people are (to put it crudely) the most important resource... not fossil fuels or land or crops. For instance, a welfare state in any form requires repopulation. People aka taxpayers are needed to sustain other people on welfare, pensions and subsidized health care. People are the future of a civilization. People think, innovate, build and solve.

The myth of overpopulation is predicated on the following assumptions:
  • That we know precisely what's going to happen in the future. 
  • That growth occurs uniformly over time throughout the world.
  • That the resources that we rely on now are the resources that we will depend on in the future. What's to say that there won't be advances in the future that allow us to use land and energy differently.

Overpopulation prophets forget, however, that
  • Populations tend concentrate in specific areas and given the right incentives can be encouraged to move away from large population centres.
  • Poor infrastructure planning can be more of a problem than unbridled growth
  • Unexpected innovations can and do emerge from necessity or creativity. Consider the internet. Forty or fifty years ago, I doubt that many were predicting that we would experience such a massive change in the way we do business, communicate and receive information.
Aside from that, I'm not a fan of social engineering. I grew up in Singapore during the "Two is Enough" campaign. Apparently that worked so well because when I was in secondary school there was a change in policy in that they were encouraging people (especially the ethnic Chinese) to have more than two. Years after we left, the Singapore government started to encourage the immigration of skilled workers from mainland China.

Dick Smith appears to think that China's "One Child" policy is a successful way to deal with population growth. I beg to differ, unless of course one thinks that reducing population is the be all and end all. There's always the law of unintended consequences which has a tendency to rear its ugly head uninvited. See here, here  , here and here for more good/dubious intentions that go to pot.

Credit: FreeFoto

Update: Website that breaks down the issues into very simple terms with cute little videos.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Two Sick Kids

Remember Wilfred Owen's Dulce et decorum est ? Everybody (in the English speaking world at least) had to had to run their eyes past it in high school at some point. Marvellous poetry... wonderful use of stark imagery:

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge, 

I have two girls semi-ill, knees upright but coughing like hags. Dreadful phelgmy throat hacking. Painful to hear especially in the dead of night. Cantankerous 4 year old's getting better but 9 year old is just starting on her viral journey... which is yet to run its course. Hmph....

You'd think that they'd stay in their room all day and lie in bed some of the time so that the lady-in-charge can have a breather. But no, they're not that considerate. Life goes on as usual. No apparent loss of appetite, the demand for food is clockwork. They create the same kind of mind numbing mess as they would on a good day, while rudely expunging diseased spittle on one's germ free face when least expected. Spectacles can only do so much.
The lady-in-charge is not impressed. She's not wearing a dust mask.

"I'm bored..." says the 9 year old.
"You can do some maths."
"You're not on holidays... and you're well enough to be bored." The lady-in-charge is snappish.
The 9 year old wails, whines and throws her arms in the air for dramatic effect.
"But I don't want to."
"It's not a request."
More obligatory wailing and then she settles into doing the designated pages.

The lady-in-charge ducks into the kitchen to make a start with the chicken soup.
4 year old follows and begs for food.
The lady-in-charge shoos her out.
4 year old skulks back in and wants to know what's cooking. She hears the magic word "pasta" and leaps for joy. (What can I say, she's a cheap date.)
The lady-in-charge shoos her out again.
4 year old comes back in and opens the pantry doors, surveying its contents with the keen eye of the foodologist.
The lady-in-charge is really not impressed. Temperatures rise and it's not from the pot of water.
More shooing and then the lady-in-charge remembers the gate.
Yeah... there's a gate to keep nosy, avaricious preschoolers out.

The lady-in-charge remembers to use it. Finally.

But somehow the 4 year old manages to get in again. Gah.

The First Week of April Each Year

For the last three years, this has been the oddest week of the calendar year.
During the week, the husband and I celebrate our wedding anniversary and remember my mother's passing.

Celebrating our anniversary is the easier part... a child-free evening, nice dinner at a nice restaurant... a movie even. But no weekends away so far. We haven't dared to leave both children with anyone yet. The 9 year old is okay but I don't know if we should inflict 4 year old on anyone... for a whole weekend... just yet. One day perhaps.
On our twentieth, we hope. Five years to go.

Remembering mum's move to heaven, on the other hand, is a mixed bag. Bittersweet is the word I was scratching around for last night...

A friend from church sends me an email each year saying how much she misses mum. I appreciate her candor, her thoughtfulness and for taking time out of her day to remember and honour a woman she cared about. Not that I expect everyone else I know to do the same... but it's really special when someone does. I, for one, am moved by this little gesture of friendship.

Mum was my right arm and when she left for heaven... I really did feel as if someone had severed my arm. I had never lived more than 20 km away from her at any time and it was tougher than I had thought to lose her... even to such a a worthy cause. My job, the children kept me going for a time but it became increasingly difficult to juggle a job in the CBD with a child struggling with homework and maths. I was loathed to leave my job but my list of options were growing thin.

On the 6 April each year, I remember and grieve... Not as much as I did on that day. Like everything else in life, every cloud has a silver lining. I've had to negotiate my own way through the last three years learning to ride through those parenting bumps and pulling myself from off the floor when I fall flat on my face. Oh the bruises that I've received over time... ouch...

Over the years I've known many women who live thousands of miles away from their familial home so I sometimes chide myself for being ridiculously weepy about not having parental support as I raise kids. It's easy to tell oneself that it builds character, makes one a stronger child of God etc etc... but when character is being built there's a lot of pain involved.

I suppose it's self-centred to think only of what one has lost in such a situation. Perhaps one day I will have the maturity and hindsight to see in toto what I have gained.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

It's Time to Play the Music, It's Time to Light the Lights...

My nieces and nephews came over tonight to celebrate G-Pa (Grandpa)'s homecoming. What is it about the younger generation and abbreviations? Is life one long text message now...

It's always a little (just a leedle) noisy but the funny thing about growing up as a parent is that you get used to it. Not completely but enough to know when the noise transforms from gleeful play to WW3.
Noise is an inevitable part of childhood when there's more than one child playing in a single confined space.

So as usual my 7 year old niece decides she wants to put on a show. A puppet show... apparently. Spur of the moment. Doesn't believe in rehearsals apparently. Very impromptu.
A plot is hatched (no surprises there), someone raids my printer for clean sheets and then there's pen and paper scratches, followed by frenzied cutting and gluing.
The adults are yabbering away somewhere else... well, as long as they're not setting the place on fire or bashing each other to a pulp... nobody seems to mind.

So we eat... we talk...
Children eat, talk, play, run...  and bang on the piano.They multi-task frenetically much to mum and dad's chagrin.

Then they sell tickets to the puppet show. I look at the word "pupet" and I'm tempted to say something about the spelling but I don't.  Old habits die hard. Well, it's part of my limited skill set and I'm always tempted to brag.

The rabble announce the "pupet" show and take refuge behind the couch. Miniscule images drawn a bit of scrap paper emerge and jiggle around. They're hard to see. One of them is called Yoshi, another Kooper Trooper and another Mario.
Detect a pattern yet?
Ok... so we like our Nintendo characters.

There's shouting and theatrics. Not quite Broadway, mind you but what is lacking in script development is made up for in enthusiasm. Oh yeah... the room quakes with enthusiasm.

They take a bow. The adults, partly relieved, partly amused... applaud... also enthusiastically.

Until the next visit...
Maybe they'll sew their own puppets next time.

A Modern Marvel

While I'm not advocating washing machine idolatry here, I can appreciate the way white goods in particular... and technology in general have revolutionized how women spend their time.
I'm no climate change catastrophist and I celebrate industrialization wholeheartedly.

"Even the hardcore in the Green movement... use a washing machine." LOL.
Who wouldn't, really? It's more time spent doing something else.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Humour: Spa-Lami (The Latest in Skin Therapy)

OK... where I do sign...

HT: Dan Phillips

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Humour: Twin Baby Boys Conversing

God Talk: The Adjustment Bureau (2011)

As I was sitting poolside yesterday, I found myself chatting with a friendly lass (twenty years my junior as it turns out) about this, that and the other. Mostly she talked about her ambitions and interest in music and books, topics in which I was eager to engage in. Later, she noticed that I had an open book on my bag and asked me about it.

As it so happened, I was reading a theology book and made a comment about reading a book that she was unlikely to read... a book about God.
Immediately she agreed with me. A book about God was something she wouldn't be reading.  She quickly qualified her remarks by saying that she wasn't an atheist... just that she had her own idea of what God was like.

I don't think she's alone. All faith systems, as diverse as they are from one another, claim that they have the answers that lead adherents to God. No wonder so many are confused. Throw Hollywood into the mix and golly where do we start...
It's unfortunate really that instead of seeking clarity, individuals look to themselves for answers. A man beginning with himself will never really know God. They may have an inkling or two, if the circumstances are right. But for man to know God sufficiently, God must first reveal himself to man.

At the periphery of the recent flick, The Adjustment Bureau is an enigmatic,awe-inspiring figure called "The Chairman" -- a thinly veiled, no-brainer reference to "God". This god, however, is scarcely the Judeo-Christian God of the Bible. Instead,  he lurks in the background composing complicated mathematical maps of what should or what shouldn't happen in the lives of individuals while sending his minions of angelic errand boys to do the heavy lifting... ie. make the necessary adjustments.

His is the kind of God that secular types envisage. Someone who keeps his distance... a cosmic puppeteer who pulls strings in the background, instigates conspiracies, and has an annoying habit of policing human desires. He is a god that is largely ignored until something bad happens... and then gets reprimanded by disbelieving objectors for not intervening.

The Chairman, however, isn't the heart of the story... which is a pity as it might've made for far more interesting film. Instead we follow the ups and downs of a pair lovebirds who apparently aren't meant to be. According to his stylishly hatted minions, Chairman/God has set a course that must be followed no matter what, which in our humanistic age sounds egotistically mean-spirited. So, of course, we're meant to feel sympathetic when the Matt Damon character yells out, "What about free will?"

It would make for a fascinating philosophical inquiry except that the execution of this semi-serious chick flick feels uneasy. It isn't always sure what it wants to be. The story is entertaining enough, on a certain level but it shouldn't fool anyone into thinking that it says anything original or interesting about theology, predestination or free will.