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)

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Avengers (2012)

Yes, just in case you were wondering (or may be not)... I was one of those who queued to see The Avengers during the first week. It had been a while since I've had to queue up for anything at the pictures but this movie seems to breaking all kinds of box office records. Of course I would have gone even if it word-of-mouth wasn't great. Who am I kidding right? Afterall, I did write reviews for Captain America and Thor last year.

Thankfully it wasn't. In fact, it was really good. I'm not yet prepared to call it a masterpiece BUT it was so good that I understand why some might want to go that far.
(And no, I am not referring to that dreadful film remake of the popular 60s spy/scifi British tv show, which turned out to be a complete waste of time.)

So where was I? The Avengers... In my estimation, probably the best ensemble superhero comic book flick so far which is hardly surprising when you consider that Joss Whedon (Buffy, Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse) was at the helm. Most of the X-Men film were decent but struggled to get the "ensemble" bit right. I don't know why they bothered with the standalone Wolverine film when he was more or less the star of the trilogy. First Class was practically the Charles and Erik show. Here, I thought Whedon got the balance more or less right, as each hero got his/her moment in the spotlight, a goal, until now, that has been elusive as well as Herculean.

For me, the crowning glory of the film were the one-on-one character interactions. With so many characters, the need to be efficient in drawing each one out is paramount. In Whedon's hands, a snapp five minute conversation can reveal so much about the character's personality and motivations. Interspersed between all the posturing is the witty banter and the parade of one-liners that had audiences rocking in their seats.

Traditionally the villains are the catalyst in such stories. Here, it is no different. The main villain of the piece is Loki who has grandiose visions of planet domination and has sought the aid of the Chitauri, whose strength lie in their numbers and tech. Loki, as played by Tom Hiddlestone, is a mixture of mischief, deceit, frustration and arrogance. But in the end, Loki and the Chitauri are supporting characters in a theatre meant to bring together 4 powerful, if at times egotistical, individuals to prevent the human race from annihilation or extinction.

The best part of this is that it is bucketloads of fun. At the end of the day, that's probably why most people splash out the big bucks for.

Excuse me... while I disappear for a bit and cough...

Saturday, May 26, 2012

I've been taking sick leave

I see it's been over a month since I even attempted to blog about anything.
Not that I haven't done anything of importance during this time but I've gone through 3 different bouts of colds with varying degrees of severity. This last one has been the killer cold mainly because it turned into the killer cough last weekend which unhappily kept me up for an hour last night.
However, in the service of country and family, I plod along. Just.
Despite all that I got out of bed this lovely morn determined to get some cleaning done. It had to be done.
With all the modern conveniences at our disposal, there are still something's one has to get down on one's knees to do. Plus I had 5 year old doing some scrubbing although her stamina failed to match her initial enthusiasm.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, April 9, 2012

Are modern parents overprotective?

It's a pity that this article from The Australian can't be more widely accessed but it raises some interesting questions about modern parenting.

Cassandra Wilkinson in praise of danger:
THE free and bountiful country we enjoy today was built by people who weren’t afraid to get dirty, hurt or disappointed. But as a society, we have been legislating against our natural appetite for risk as if the world no longer needed bravery, adventure or ambition.
I often hear people say, “I don’t want to live in a country that doesn’t make things any more.” I don’t want to live in a country that doesn’t break things any more…
Last year the 1.2m plastic slippery dip was closed at my son’s school because of safety concerns… Looking into the facts on behalf of my son, I realised that slippery dips are not the only symbols of my childhood being consigned to the recycling bin of history. Trampolines, skates and bicycles are increasingly regulated, and solitude, adventure and danger are as foreign to many kids now as adult supervision was to my peers.

There are good reasons to worry that we have got the balance wrong for today’s kids. The victory of caution over common sense not only takes the fun out of childhood; it’s taking the bravery and responsibility out of adulthood.
By this definition, I suppose I used to be one of those overcautious types. I recall with great clarity that when my eldest was about 5 or 6, I took her to Southbank for a get-together with my students. While my back was turned, she started rolling around the slopes with somebody else's children and I started chastising her in a disapproving manner... ie. freaking out. The father of said children took me to task, in a half-scolding, half-mocking fashion, suggesting that I needed to... erm... take the chill pill. His wife, bless her heart, gave him the evil eye.

I have come to see that perhaps I was a bit overprotectve because I was brought up in a different cultural context. And maybe more than a little fastidious about cleanliness.

Are we too protective?

Living in Oz

At our place, public holidays aren't properly utilized. Unless you considering sleeping-in (or any manner of slumber) and cleaning up a profitable use of public holidays.

For us, it is a must to catch up on sleep because well, the rest of time, we do it so poorly. As for cleaning up, it's a good opportunity to get rid of junk in one fell swoop. Ordinarily, we're just too exhausted to get the job done on top of everything else that we do.

Occasionally I get asked about the reasons why I live in Oz, where the cost of living is absurdly high and one feels compelled to DIY to save a few pennies here and there.
I suppose I'm one of those crazy people that value personal freedom above personal wealth (although it doesn't mean I decry the good things in life). I like the fact that it's a peaceful country and that generally, people take you as they see you.
I like the fact that I can dress in last decades's fashion and no one will raise an eyebrow.
And I like the spontaneous diversity of the population that is generally united under the banner of personal freedom.

So, yeah... I like it here. I like it where I live, and I like it where the children go to school. For now.
There are days when I despair over the increasing traffic in our suburb which is obviously related to the popularity of our local school. The increase in traffic lights don't seem to help either.

I know I don't have to live where I live and if things get intolerable, we do have choices.
That's the key word in all of this -- choice.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Freedom of Speech

Even if you find yourself generally apolitical, freedom of speech is a right/privilege we shouldn't take lightly. The Catallaxy Files posted this a day or so ago which is worth a read.

and here's Mark Steyn, with characteristic humour, reminding us why free speech is worth fighting for.



Increasingly, I see this as the most important political battle of our time. I can't see how we can have a fully functioning democracy without it.

Friday, April 6, 2012

"Sherlock"

I have adored Sherlock Holmes for as long as I can remember. In all probability, it was Basil Rathbone chasing a large imaginary dog on a tightly budgeted, smoke-ridden set that started my lifelong love for the residents of 221B Baker St. Obviously, I'm not old enough to have seen Rathbone romping around in his heyday but I developed a quaint fondness for watching old matinee things on weekend afternoons during my impressionable years.
For me, Rathbone was always the Sherlock Holmes... even when the great Jeremy Brett came into prominence as the Victorian sleuth.


Some days when I wake up, I still consider Rathbone as my Sherlock but other days, it's the mesmerizing Benedict Cumberbatch. Neither of which, I agree, is definitively Sherlock but there's something about their performances that grabs you and draws you into the story. Rathbone's Holmes is a clever English gentleman who is heroic and honourable. A man holding onto the ideals of his day. Cumberbatch's Sherlock is an obnoxious logician for whom sentiment is a weakness. He is an iconoclast and has the gift and weakness of not caring too much what people think of him. For him, sleuthing is a sport and a challenge, winning is more important than compassion. Athough that's not to say that he has no spark of feeling. Even with all the nods to Doyle's Holmes, the modern day revival is a cynical postmodern Sherlock who has few ideals and fewer friends. The sum of his existence is to find the next big kick.


Despite his overweening arrogance and peevishness, I find this modern day Sherlock Holmes quite refreshing. A man who tells it like it is so rare in this day and age, that he's called controversial. A man who doesn't act on sentiment is rarer still.

When one is responsible for other people, it's often difficult to maintain that balance between head and heart. Our culture, however, today does tip towards sentimentality. How many times have we heard/read the mantra... "follow your heart" as if the heart is a much more reliable guide to making decisions than hard headedness? How many people have done exactly that and gone down the slippery slope of no return?

The interplay of reason vs compassion in the "Sherlock" series is fascinating, nonetheless. Although as a Christian, I don't see them as diametrically opposed to one another because the Bible doesn't.  The problem is that we often lack the third party which governs both -- divine insight through scriptures.

We rely far too much on ourselves to discern reality.

Good Friday #2

We had lunch at a friend's place this afternoon out in Jimboomba. The thing one learns very quickly when residing in the great continent of Oz is that even a 40 minute drive out to more remote areas is not considered far. Afterall this is very big country. Not that Jimboomba is out of civilization's reach (although roads seem to be in a poor state of repair) but these days affordable large blocks of land requires a bit traveling to get to.
On average I travel 20 minutes to work and some of my students actually think that's far until I tell them that I used to do a 40 minute drive into the CBD, most of it spent idling and steering-wheel drumming on the freeway some time during 7 to 7:30 in the morning. Nope, I don't miss that. Did the bus thing too at one point but two buses each way plus waiting around in between =  one hour (if I'm lucky). But one should expect to travel some way to get to work.

So onward to Jimboomba it was...  and a large group (as it turned out) from church also turned up. And as it is always the case with our church, we were extremely well-fed. I, too, contributed to the festivities with my usual dumpling schtick.
Yeah, I know I'm typecasting myself. But it's a no-brainer and I can almost make them blindfolded. "Almost" because I don't really want to knife myself chopping the ingredients and lose bits of skin (best case scenario) in the process.

A couple of hours later we headed off, partly because I was beginning to get that nebulous yuck feeling again and partly because we had planned to go grave visiting.


A good plan. Yes. Unfortunately, we got... er... a bit lost... which is supposedly an embarrassing thing to confess to.
Perhaps it reflects our chaotic state of mind, but we never seem to remember where the grave stone is actually located and each year the occupancy status of the lawn in question increases and with that the floral content, making the exact spot harder to find.

After strolling a bit, the husband found mum's final resting place and then 5 year old wanted to know if grandma was really... you know... buried under her feet. For five long seconds there, when she started carrying on about wanting to know what grandma looked like, I was convinced that she was going to fall on her knees and start digging.

This year, as it happens, the anniversary of mum's death falls on Good Friday. It gives the occasion greater poignancy and doubles the meaning for me.
I'm not sure that it's the distance of years that makes the death of a loved one easier to bear. At least in my experience, it isn't. This year as I stood at my mother's grave, that feeling of lingering resentment that I felt when I lost her seemed to have lost its grip on me.
Previously even when I gave mental assent to the fact that she was in a better place, I always felt that it was unfair that she was taken from me at a time when I needed her the most. But this year, with everything's that happened to me in the past 6 months, I've come to see the hand of Providence in all things in a way I hadn't before. That part of the journey has enabled me to let go and move on.

Good Friday

It's Easter Friday and I've just woken up from a nap after a biggish sort of day.
The last few days have been a bit of struggle and I'm still not sure if I'm just dreadfully fatigued from work or it has been a prelude to something more sinister.
By sinister, of course, I mean something like a head cold as it seems the o'l sinuses are taking perverse pleasure in creating headaches.

The Good Friday service at church this morning seemed to have gone down well with the congregation, judging from the reception I received. Can't take any credit for it as I mainly did what I was told. Sang some beloved hymns and read relevant scriptural texts (that part was mine) while objects from the crucifixion story were passed around the room.
It was a sober time and the pastor led a spontaneous time of sharing from the congregants.

I have always liked the sobriety of the occasion but honestly, what else could one be?
Consider this: Our Lord, the God of creation allowed himself to die at the hands of men under one of the most brutal form of capital punishment devised by humans.
I can't take it lightly even if I don't ponder over the ramifications of our Lord's sacrifice enough.
When I think of the cross, I think of the utter gravity of sin on one side, and on the other, I think of love. Real love. Robust, self-sacrificing love.

It is the gold standard after all.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Public Policy

Next week the people in my state get to vote for a new government. If the blogs I read are to be believed, there's an almost gleeful feeling in the air that change is coming.

I suppose I'm one of those who hate election campaigns because more often than not we see some of the worst of human nature on display. And the past few weeks, we certainly have... from people who are supposed to govern us.

At church today, a more senior member of our congregation remarked to me that "we don't have the leaders we need" to which I agreed heartily. However, the more I thought about that, the more I came to the conclusion that although that is true on some level (and the quality of our politicans have deterioriated over the years), I think the problem lies with us, the voting public. We let things slide, we let the pollies put one over us and we accept the decline in the quality of news reporting.
More and more I see that the politicans we get is in very large part a reflection of the community's values and general indifference to public policy.

It's a hard thing to say because I am part of the community. These days we tolerate all manner of sin far too readily.

My whole thought process dovetailed nicely with the sermon I heard this morning. Isaiah, when confronted with the glory of God, saw himself as he was. A man of unclean lips. A man belonging to a people of unclean lips.
Until we return to the fundamentals, I don't think it really matters who we vote for.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

John Carter (2012)


I am such a sucker for old-fashioned science fiction, adventure romps that a film would have to be quite dreadful (in the tradition of Clash of the Titans) for me to pan it. The first trailer that I saw for John Carter didn't give one much reason to hope  (the lead actor looked at first glance to be a weedy, pasty Conan the Barbarian) but subsequent trailers convinced me that there was a decent flick in there amidst all the CGI spectacle. Moreover, finding out that this was a science fiction classic penned a hundred years ago by the author of Tarzan of the Apes, sealed the deal for me.

John Carter hasn't seen much love from the critics which probably shouldn't surprise me these days. The divide between critical reception and mass popularity seems to be widening ever more. In this case, I expect it will be much the same.

OK, so I liked John Carter and probably enjoyed it more than War Horse -- the last thing I saw at the cinema. It probably helps a lot that I'm a big science fiction movie buff but honestly, I thought the film had more in common with Indiana Jones 1 and 2 than The Matrix or Star Trek. There's more than a passing resemblance to Star Wars but since the John Carter series was written way before Lucas was even thought of, it begs the question of who really is paying homage to whom.

John Carter, the titular character, is a former Confederate turned gold prospector and in this film version he's world weary and deeply embittered about the human loss he sustained during the war. On one occasion, while taking refuge from a group of hostile Apache, he stumbles onto a cave covered with extraordinary markings. His curiosity is quickly aroused so he investigates further. This incident leads him to a transportation device which immediately whisks him to the Red Planet, which the local inhabitants know better as "Barsoom".
Thus begins his adventures on Mars leading to different encounters which would change his life forever.

One of my favourite bits in this is the use of flashbacks as a way into Carter's history and personality. It's not overdone and manages efficiently to explains the fuel that stokes his anger.  The flying machines, looking like something out of Leonardo da Vinci's notebooks, were also very nice to look at.

Although the lead actor fulfilled the role of the action hero more than adequately, he was scarcely an acting heavyweight. It's not that he played Carter badly but his unshaven boy-next-door looks with his modern American accent often seemed at odds with the general scenery. Perhaps that was deliberate? I couldn't say but that was something that didn't sit right with me. He definitely looked a bit too young to be Burroughs' uncle anyhow. On the upside, he did have believably good chemistry with Princess Dejah Thoris.

To its credit, this film had a great deal more gravitas than I expected. Usually I expect these things to be silly and loads of fun, which it was. But there were also some heart moments too which surprised me a little. It caused me think that the people who put this together did have real respect for the source material whatever the end result.

Friday, March 16, 2012

So this is parenting...

One of the hardest and most heart-breaking things about parenting is trying to explain to your children the darker side of "having friends".
Generally, I try not to interfere/intervene unless the kerfuffle encroaches on prized family rules. I do, however, offer advice. Afterall, it is important that they have friends and learn how to deal with all aspects of human nature as is manifested in people they call "friends".
Undoubtedly it frustrates the 10 year old (and her mother) that other people parent from a different playbook. And in a free society, that's inevitable.
It isn't that I claim to have all the answers about parenting which seems to get harder as our community becomes more diverse but there are some basic things I do believe strongly in like:
  • Boundaries
  • Consequences
  • Taking responsibility for one's actions/possessions
  • Respect for one's elders
Once upon a time these were commonsensical things notions but apparently they have fallen out of favour with large sections of the populace to varying degrees. I shouldn't be but I'm surprised that not everything thinks the same way.
It's hard... to keep at it... I know, I struggle through the process too. And I feel like such a snob prattling on like this. Still, if I'm honest... I find that my greatest parenting challenge, as the children get older, has become other people's children. There are days when I am in sympatico with increasing numbers of people choosing to homeschool their children.

On the postive side, I find it instructive to ask myself semi-regularly... what sort of children am I unleashing on the world?
Sometimes I like the answer, often I don't.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Supercalifragilisticextravaganza

Update: This post is really over a week old. Was going to get back to it but didn't.

I was going to post something about Mary Poppins on the weekend but the sleep zombies had got to me Thursday night and I felt really horrible on Friday. For a while there with my sinuses banging around inside... I thought some wicked bug was coming my way. Hence it was bed all weekend for moi, just to be on the safe side.

So... yes... 10 year old and I went to a live show of Mary Poppins -- late birthday present for me and early birthday present for her. Because I uhmed and ahed for too long... I didn't have too many choices left to me by the time I decided to go for it. So I went for the cheap seats in the balcony because I was feeling cheap and the choices were largely limited to opposite ends of the cost spectrum.

When the show started I found plenty of reasons to regret my decision. Most importantly, the actors looked tiny. Hard to see the expressions on their faces when one is that far back. 10 year old and I spent a lot of time sitting up and peering over. Other than that, we had a really good time.

The show was spectacular. The performances were really good (singing, dancing) and I should make special mention of the talented lad who played Bert. Not only is his cockney accent better than Dick van Dyke's but he is quite the tap dancer. Apparently he has been a regular on a reality talent show called "Dancing with the Stars".
I did miss the dancing penguins and the race horses but all in all it was a colourful, clever show.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Fenced Around

Someone crashed into our front fence today trying to avoid hitting another car because well... they ran a red light. I was at the back of the house and rushed to the front when I heard a loud bang. Opening the front door and peering out at the scene in front of me was a strange moment -- like being a witness to the culmination of a high speed car chase on one of those high octane B action thrillers except that it happened on my front lawn.

But that's not the moral of the story.

The moral of the story is that we've been living where we've been living for over a decade and yet incidents like that have been rare. I only recall one other occasion where someone caused a bit of minor damage.
The investigating officer rattled off a couple of examples of places prone to fence crashings and see their fences replaced at least once a year. We were, in his words, "lucky"

I suppose we are... in a manner of speaking... blessed. I don't think "luck" has very much to do with it.

I'd never thought about it that way before. Not that there has never been an accident at that junction. There's been a few but our fence has had more trouble from termites than absent-minded drivers.
Interesting thing though, we had only replaced it a few months ago.

Undoubtedly, it's going to be a little inconvenient. But I am thankful. Thankful that no one was hurt, thankful that things can always be much worse.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (2011)

 Tinker, Tailor is the sort of film that divides audiences. It's a film that one either likes or doesn't.
I admit I was motivated to see it purely on the strength of seeing a number of my favourite British actors onscreen. I was prepared for the fact that I mightn't like it, judging from the mixed reviews that were strewn all over the web.

Oddly enough, I enjoyed it. Quite a bit actually. At least enough to download the unabridged audiobook, to make the usual comparisons. I say "oddly" because the pacing is incredibly slow, and the director seems to have penchant for close ups to the point of self-indulgence. Nevertheless, that didn't seem to be much of an obstacle and I was drawn into a story which is largely told in flashbacks.

The acting, of course, is marvellous which is to be expected, more or less, considering the cast. Gary Oldman's George Smiley fascinated me on a couple of levels. The character starts off appearing to be something of a nonentity and is gradually transformed into someone to be reckoned with... right before your eyes. That is the genius of his performance, it seems to me. And all done without any CGI.
Benedict Cumberbatch, who has comfortably taken on the mantle of Sherlock Holmes these days, is also wonderful as Peter Guillam but it is Mark Strong that really surprised me by his performance as Jim Prideaux.

This Cold War tale penned originally by Le Carre is set in the 1970s. There's a mole (double agent) buried in the heart of the Circus (MI6 HQ) and Smiley has been called out of forced retirement to root out the problem. Despite being an espionage piece, it's less The Bourne Identity and more like a plodding police procedural. The spycraft isn't as important as the practitioners and their motivations for doing what they do. Although at the end of the day, they're riddled with ambiguities.

Overall, it's a great period piece. Great sets, great costumes and hairstyles. Strange, isn't it... thinking of the 70s as history. Age must really be catching up with me. Afterall, I do remember the Cold War... at least when it was on its last legs.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Training Parents

It's Sunday afternoon and I'm thinking about life, the universe and everything in it.
After a nice little nap, of course.

Despite the larger, public concerns afflicting us, it always comes back to the children.
I'm scanning the interweb for the latest on the brouhaha amongst those who puport to govern us and a sudden crash in the background alerts me to the brewing commotion in our living room. "Houston, we have a problem"
Children have a way of grounding the adults in their lives. There's an immediacy to child raising which requires our attention before matters spiral out of control.

Sometimes... nay... often, I wonder (when things don't exactly go my way) if this whole training process is worth it or whether the joke's on me. Intellectually I know it is... I was trained by some pretty fastidious people. I shudder to think where I would be without them.

Occasionally I don the fascist mummy uniform and then wonder why I do it. After a while, the kiddies know that my bark is probably worse than my bite.
Sure, I'm raising potential adults... not pigs... which is why things like dirty laundry, wet towels, Barbie dolls lying around on the carpet is kind of a big deal.
But balance... consistency... all are icky words in parent training because they are easy to say but difficult to do. I'm not good with either.

Ironically, going back to work has made me see how important those things really are. The little, boring stuff that make life work. Being organized, getting children to take responsibility for themselves are important cogs that make the machinery run so much better. The temptation to do it all myself is always great. I can do them twice or three times as fast and I don't have to go through the trial of squeezing blood from stone. But in the long run, I'd probably burn out faster than a candle burning at both ends.

I'm a go-off-to-work mum at heart. The stay-at-home mum gig was instructive while it lasted. Somebody obviously thought I needed to do it for a while and even though I had to jump through quite a few hoops to see light at the end of the tunnel, I'm glad I did it. But the truth is, I wasn't really good at it.

No regrets though... I learnt a lot about myself and I was there to see 5 year old grow up. And I made more than a few friends at MOPS!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Exhausted

This past week has seen me falling asleep in front of the tv on more than one occasion. It's not reflective of the programming necessarily as I don't watch regular tv much. Generally, it's just the odd DVD that I've collected over the years. I even dozed off last Tuesday watching an episode of "Sherlock"  with the husband. It's a show that I love but I don't doubt that two weeks of erratic sleeping had finally taken its toll.

I suppose I'm playing catch up. Adjusting to a new regime of work but not a lot of play is tiring. It's probably naughty of me to stay up later than 10:30 but there are just far too many diversions for my own good.

Just finished preparing food for the coming week especially for days that I'm working. I find weekend bulk cooking really helpful as things can get really frenetic when the children get home from school. They seem to be constantly ravenous and in need of supervision. If I leave them alone for too long, something bad eventuates. Sibling altercations, 5 year old digging through my pantry, 10 year old gives the appearance of being studious but is really in La-La land somewhere are just a sample of things that happen.

Thursday was supposed to be my birthday. Officially, it was. My colleagues surprised me when I entered the lunch room by singing the customary birthday anthem. I was a bit shy... didn't want to make a fuss seeing that I was late for morning tea and one of the new kids on the block.
During the lunch break I was munching on my favourite prawn crackers of the Korean variety when I started to break out in hives. It was very odd. And itchy.
It has never happened to me before and I'm not allergic to food generally which makes me think it's not my prawn crackers but something else I nibbled at morning tea.
Or it's a warning of things I should expect now that I'm entering middle age.

Nonetheless, I managed to survive the last session of the day, which thankfully ended up just being over an hour and 5 minutes. Couldn't get out quickly enough.
I was thinking when I got home that I should probably carry antihistamines around to be on the safe side. I am, afterall, now officially over 40.

Stuff is bound to happen.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Living in a material world

10 year old has been grovelling for the personal ownership of gadgets since she was old enough to appreciate the wonders of technology. Lately she's turned her attention to the iPad as her gadget of the moment.
Even if we were made of money (which we're not), I'm not sure I'd just dole it out just like that.
She's persistent, I'd grant her that but after a while, it gets tiresome.

She was gungho about saving up for one but gets sidetracked by the latest collectible fad. Gomu, Smiggle, Trash cans... etc etc... With all the money she's spent on her rubber collection, I'm sure she would've been at least a third of the way to getting an iPad by now.

I suppose all this comes with the parenting territory. As if parenting wasn't hard enough, we too have to battle the rampant consumerism all around us. I have nothing against people throwing around their hard earned cash on themselves but I do wonder about the wisdom of cluttering up our children's lives with the latest expensive doovalackeys especially when they don't really appreciate the ramifications of ownership and stewardship.
It's not just gadgets either... it's stuff.

Gadgets, I like... a lot... but some times I feel like a dinosaur. Increasingly I see gadgets less as toys but more as responsibilities.
Owning an iPhone, for instance, is fun but becomes horrendously expensive when it gets accidentally left behind in a public place. I'm near paranoid about losing mine so I'm always checking that I have it. I won't even leave it at home lest "thieves break in and steal".
There's also the issue of time stewardship too. Let's face it, these modern mobile devices have plenty of time wasters available at one's fingertips... deliberately addictive time wasters.
As the old saying goes... good servants but bad masters.

The woman in the mirror battles with materialism too. Everyday.
We have plenty of choices... too many... the price of material liberty, I suppose.

Two weeks later...

How did I fare as a working mum this past week?
Better perhaps... but still feeling vaguely frustrated that time seems to slip through my fingers like water. Frustrated that there's not a lot of time to read more than a few pages at a time without that drowsy feeling overtaking me.
Frustrated that I seem to spend half my time going after the children about this, that and the other. Just wish that they would do things the first time I ask them to.
Would be nice... very nice indeed.

I'm enjoying the teaching part of my job and having mildly enthusiastic students probably help make it all palatable. Colleagues have been very considerate and concerned. I often get asked in these early days about how I'm getting on.
Quite likely I'm overdoing it with the preparation but some days I feel like I'm starting from scratch. I don't much like winging it. I could and I do occasionally but I'm too much of a control freak to live in such a mode.
It's a lot harder than what I remember having to wear these different hats. I don't envisage that I'll have a lot of time to spare in days to come.

Procrastinating is what I'm doing right now... blogging instead of finishing up my assignment for Cert IV in Training and Assessment. Tedious, repetitious and distastefully bureaucratic... a death knell combination for diligence on my part. A necessity, I've been told, to be employed in my current capacity.
Necessity for whom, I wonder.

Still, I've been telling the 10 year old that she has to keep up with her maths even if she doesn't like it. I certainly didn't enjoy maths all that much. Now that I'm a mama I've got to set a good example and soldier on.
But it's life, is it not... to do things we don't like in order to get somewhere, with the priviso that it doesn't cause us to bend or break our moral boundaries.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A working mum

An old school mate asked me the other day on Facebook how I do it... that is... raise kids, work and get the housework done.

The truth is, I haven't gotten a lot of housework done since I started back at work. Aside of doing bulk cooking, keeping the kitchen looking somewhat presentable, doing the laundry and barking orders at the children to keep clothes off the floor, most of the cleaning has been done by the husband.

Two parents working outside the home requires a high level of teamwork and organization. I'm no supermum and I seriously doubt that such an entity exists.

The reality was that after three days of being back at work, I was close to tears... the house was in shambles and I was exhausted. We had also missed 4 year old's swimming appointment. I felt that I was losing control.

The husband and I had a big long talk. I wasn't sleeping well... I don't sleep well when going through enormously stressful times... which exacerbated the chaos I was feeling.

So we got onto Google Calendar which surprisingly solved quite a lot of problems. Honestly, I wished I had got onto it sooner.
Using iCal and an app called Awesome Cal on both our phones, we can sync with each other's Goo-Cals and see one another's schedules. Plus each event can be set with not one but TWO alerts to remind us of appointments and tasks in need of our attention.
Incredibly, such a simple thing has given me back some feeling of being on top of things.

Things aren't perfect... but at least I sleep better each night.

Friday, February 3, 2012

To blog or not to

Just last week I received an email from Google reminding me that my annual subscription for this blog was due for renewal.
I um-ed and uh-ed about whether I should continue blogging here... or blog at all.
Now that I'm back to some kind of gainful employment, I can't be certain that I'll be blogging at all for large stretches of time.

I decided to hang on... for a bit. Partly for sentimental reasons, I daresay.
I don't really know who reads my blog apart from those who are publicly following "The Urban Lily" or friends that do drive-by comments. Frankly though, that has never been the deciding factor for my presence in bloggersphere.

Now that my circumstances have changed, I may have more to say... if that were possible.
The Urban Lily is still a suburban mum... who now works part-time. Not that I haven't done it before but the part-time part of the equation has the potential to change our situation a lot.

For better or for worse.

Back to Work

Two weeks into my new job and I'm wondering if I'll last.
Not because I've lost my love for adult ESL but because there are all these extraneous "baggage" that comes with working in this particular place which has nothing to do with teaching.

I've always been thankful for the start I had in the ESL industry. During my first four years, I worked with some incredibly generous and hardworking people and I learnt so much from them. That, I've always known, was from God.
But this past week, I've been grateful anew because without the strong foundations that I gained in those four years, I don't think I would've lasted even one day in the past week.

Going back into the classroom -- that felt really good... and right. But I haven't been ridiculously excited about the whole "return" experience.

In such economic times, I'm grateful that I have a job at all in the industry so I'm not complaining too much or too loudly.
Yet.
(Although I had a good rant about the organizational structure of this new place)

The upside in all of this is that we've (the husband and I) been forced to get ourselves organized. Our entire schedule for the next month is on Google Calendar synched with iCal on the iPhone, complete with bells and whistles (quite literally) -- alerts.

It seems to be working so far.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Bored... bored... bored

I should be studying. Yeah, I've got to slog through this Cert IV course for my new job. It's hard because my brain is resisting the tedium and the ridiculous amount of gobbledegook it has to process.
Instead I'm scouring the internet and spending time on the Sherlock and Sherlock Holmes message boards engaging in Holmesian disputes.

Aaaaaargh.. but it's gotta be done. The study, that is... not the Holmesian minutiae.
I'm feeling like Sherlock at the beginning of "The Great Game". Fortunately I haven't got a gun or the walls might need redocorating.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Sherlock Holmes: The Game of Shadows (2012)



I'll be the first to admit that the Robert Downey Jr version of the British supersleuth is almost nothing like the Sherlock Holmes of the Conan Doyle oeuvre. I say "almost" because there are aspects of the characterization that still retains a couple of Holmesian fundamentals: The observational, deductive flair and the superhuman meticulous attention to detail. Downey's incarnation is also a benevolent mad professor scientist and the running gag from this and the first film is that he's constantly experimenting on Watson's pet dog.

Where this iteration largely parts company with canon is how Holmes is written and portrayed. Downey's Holmes is an arrogant Peter Pan of genius proportions. A prodigy who revels in adventure but refuses to grow up. Perhaps a commentary on a pervading malaise of our time.

In short, the film is insanely noisy, grubby and rocket-paced which could work against or in its favour.
However, for some reason, it doesn't diminish this long-time Holmesian fan's enjoyment of the latest rambunctious installment of the franchise. Maybe I'm not the purist I thought I was.

Well, in truth, I'm not.

If there's a word that sums up the film, it's "funny". The new Sherlock Holmes film is exceedingly funny... and fun. Well, at least it appeals largely to my sense of humour. Downey has great comic timing and well, his chemistry with Jude Law is palpable. And the dialogue sparkles.

The main storyline is actually fairly straightforward. Sherlock takes on his arch adversary, the formidable Prof Moriarty and a trail of killing and destruction ensues. In fact I suspect the director takes a fiendish glee in gun fights and blowing stuff up. But it wouldn't be Sherlock Holmes without the stupefying leaps of logic and the furious sparring with the villain.

The Professor is played by Jarred Harris, who is very good in the role. He's no James Bond villain but he has the ambitions of a Bond villain nonetheless. Definitely a foe worthy of our favourite Baker Street residents.

I adore Jude Law's Watson. He is so equally at home with a firearm and a scalpel that you almost believe he was born to play the role. His Watson is trying his hardest to get married and embark on a honeymoon but the relationship shy Holmes does his most to deter his longtime comrade and friend before grudgingly accepting the inevitable.

There's been a lot of criticism about the overabundance of kungfooey antics in these updates but it hasn't bothered me. Even Sherlock Holmes must succumb to the onslaught of postmodern pastiche it seems.What I especially appreciate about the fight scenes here are how much they feel like a chess game. It's more cerebral than your usual punch ups. The audience is given glimpses into the inner workings of Holmes' mind as he manages to keep two steps ahead of his adversaries.

I speak as a truly happy fangirl. In the last couple of years we've had a veritable feast with the BBC's Sherlock and Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes franchise. Nobody can have too much Sherlock Holmes even if it's not kosher Conan Doyle.

I don't make resolutions as a rule

As a matter of habit, I don't make resolutions. Since I've had the girls, I've more or less tried to take one day at a time. It has worked for me because it has tempered that innate restlessness that lurks in my personality.
When one has children, changing the world seems a useless, abstract goal when one can't even have mastery over oneself.
The events of last year has made the case to me (if life in general hasn't already) that life is fairly unpredictable.

But if there is one resolution (if we can use that term) that I should have, it is that of faithfulness. Faithfulness in the larger matters and in the microscopic mundane things.
Faithfulness is less of resolution than it is an attitude and perhaps even an ability.

Over and over again, the Bible tells us that God is faithful mainly to reassure us in dark times. But I don't doubt that it is also a reminder to us that faithfulness is a quality that his people need to inculcate, cultivate, nurture... etc.

My calling is to be a wife, a mother and a teacher. Sometimes I'm rather bad at it but I think God knows it and doesn't leave me to me own resources.

Reality is hard work... very hard work and it requires plodding quite often. There are no short cuts really. Perseverance and grace to just keep plodding.