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, 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.