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 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


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.
(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.