Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Sorrow and joy seem to go together

More than I'd expect.

Today I heard some great news about little Harvey, who has been having treatment for a rare brain tumour since the beginning of this year. I have blogged about him before here and here. He is now a big two year old and is going really well. His scan at the conclusion of all his chemo and radiation therapy has come back clear, and although he's not out of the woods just yet (he needs to keep having three monthly MRI scans) this news has come as a great relief for his family.

And this morning I was talking to another good friend of mine who is pregnant and due a few months after me. They have two older children about the same ages as our boys and had been trying to have another baby for several years without any success. We were both trying to fall pregnant before Rosie was born and so it has been lovely to share the pregnancy journey with their family this time around. She had her 18 week scan yesterday, which showed some abnormalities, which might be serious or might not mean anything. They are not sure yet but have been referred for more detailed scans to find out more information. I am praying so hard that it will all be okay for them, knowing that their journey to this point has been such a difficult road. Whatever happens, pregnancy has changed for them (for now anyway) from a joyful time to one of anxiety and worry about what might be going to happen.

The Bible tells us in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 that there is a time for everything under heaven. And so it is true. But it seems to me that there are times when these times just happen simultaneously.

Please pray for both my friends.

When living in Christian community is hard

Most of the time, being part of a church family is fantastic. Feeling loved and cared for by those who sit around us each Sunday and who are as committed to living as Christians as we are is a really encouraging thing.

But there are also times when it can feel like very hard work, or annoying, or even distressing. Here are some examples.

When you say the wrong thing to someone and it's hard to recover the same friendly footing that you had with them before. When you discover that you've been excluded from some social activity and you don't know why (or conversely, when you feel like you've gatecrashed someone else's conversation or group activity). When you see some people come along to church and get welcomed into existing groups while others (or even you) appear to be left on the fringes. When you don't know what to say to someone who's had bad news or is grieving, or you just find it plain difficult to start a conversation with someone that you don't have a lot in common with. When you put out a suggestion to somebody that it would be good to do something with them and you get rebuffed. You might just realise you have different philosophies or opinions to others in your church family on any number of topics, such as how to bring up your children, where to send them to school, how much time you should be committing to serving at church/doing paid work/meeting up with other people to read the Bible. You're not sure if you fit in with the rest of the crowd.

Or even silly little niggly things like cooking a meal for someone in need and never getting the dish you gave it to them in back again (sorry, that one is probably a little bit's just a dish, after all. You can always buy another one).

Seriously, though, I think that this kind of stuff can be the start of people being put off from attending church, particularly if it goes on for a while. To outsiders coming in, the church appears to be full of existing friendship groups and those who don't fit in or look the same as the existing ones struggle to find a place to belong. And for those who've been around for a while but haven't quite found people that they connect with, or who are naturally introverted and don't thrive on socialising, it can become a catalyst for feelings of discouragement as time goes on.

So what can we do? Sometimes it is really hard to keep hanging in there when these kinds of things happen.

But we have to. The easy option is to turn inwards and focus on ourselves, feel hurt, opt out and start not turning up, or even to leave and find another church (sometimes only to find the same cycle starts again). It becomes all about us and getting our own needs met. The difficult choice is to keep on loving others, keep on serving others and remember that this Christian life isn't about us, but about loving God and our neighbours.

Our sermon series at church at the moment is on the letter of 1 John. On Sunday, we heard a great talk that challenged me with some questions on how we can know if we are living in a Christ-like way. One of the questions that stuck in my head was about whether you are hanging around with people that you might not necessarily choose to be around if you weren't a Christian.

This is the hard road that living as a Christian requires. Talking to people when it's hard or when you don't have much in common with them. Not feeling hurt if you haven't been included in a get together. Persisting when not many people turn up to something you've organised. Being comfortable with those whose opinions and practices might differ from yours in the way they live their lives. Taking the focus off ourselves and putting it back where it belongs. On Jesus and on serving others.

Post pantry cleaning bliss

I love opening the pantry and looking at neatness and orderliness. I love knowing exactly what we have and where it is located.

This neatness won't last long so I'll just enjoy the few days until we go shopping again and things end up randomly positioned anywhere.

Less exciting was the discovery of lots of chocolate that will have to wait a while to be eaten. Or will be eaten by other less dietary-restricted people in our house.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

And while I'm on a roll posting stuff....

A couple of miscellaneous things....

1. At the moment, I'm busy cleaning out our pantry (I think this may be nesting behaviour since I have never yet wanted to tackle this task even though it hasn't been done since we moved in here four years ago). Floor and bottom shelf now look good. I can't reach the top one so Chris will have to do that. Three more shelves in between for me to do. When you don't clean a pantry for several years, there are some scary finds lurking at the back of it...

2. We may have found a new car. A blue iMax van. Now to get rid of the old car. I was keen to just trade it in because its registration is about to run out. But Chris wants to put it on carsales to see if we can get a bit more for it. I'm a bit cynical about how this will go so I said if this was going to happen, he would have to deal with all the tidying it up and paying to put another 12 months rego on it (since I think this is the only way we will sell it). It would be great to get a bit more for it so that can then go to the new car, which we are dipping into our home loan to pay for, but the pessimist in me doesn't think this will happen. Time will tell, I guess.

3. Watching Series 4 of Mad Men. This is going well because the boys are away and I can watch it when Rosie is sleeping. I got through three episodes yesterday while I was sorting through recipe books and magazines from the overcrowded pantry.

4. Rosie had a lovely morning playing with a friend from church this morning while I went to my antenatal appointment. It's lovely seeing her so happy and settled with other people from our church. I'm really grateful to have such a supportive church family. As an introverted and by nature reserved person, there are times when I feel a bit too old, boring and on the outside of some of what goes on at church, but on days like today, I am incredibly thankful for their love and care.

Book review: When the Bough Breaks by Julia Hollander

I have had this book out of the library for a few weeks now. I'm on my second reading of it at the moment.

It's a true story written by Julia Hollander, the Mum of a profoundly disabled little girl called Imogen, her second child. Imogen's disability resulted from a severe hypoxic brain injury and a traumatic birth. It's maybe not the best thing for me to be reading right now (although I am taking comfort in the fact that my hospital is only a few minutes' drive from my house). Julia had a long trip from home to a midwifery unit and then on to a larger hospital before she was able to access specialist medical care due to the emergency involved in Imogen's birth.

This is a disturbing book to read, and I think it would be even if the reader wasn't pregnant like me. As a Mum, I found it so unsettling on the first read (perhaps partly because Imogen is on the list of girl's names we like?) that I am reading it again to see if my feelings are any different this time around.

The story revolves around Julia's decision to place 5 month old baby Imogen into full time foster care because she was unable to cope with the demands of caring for a severely disabled infant who took several hours to feed, screamed constantly, and was having ongoing epileptic seizure activity.

A few years ago, I did some research for a postgraduate degree on the experiences of parents caring for children with disabilities. None of them described the reactions that Julia did in this book, so perhaps that's another reason why I am feeling a little disturbed as I'm reading it. And the "professional" side of me keeps saying things like "but they could have put in a feeding tube to make the feeds easier" or "if they'd given it a bit longer, the epilepsy meds would have stabilised the seizures and she might have become more settled."

After I finished reading this book for the first time, as a parent, I thought Julia had made a very selfish decision. She didn't have the "normal" baby she wanted so she gave her up (and then subsequently went on to have another normal child). Second time around, I'm not feeling quite so judgemental. I don't have experience of my own in this kind of thing to fall back upon, so I really don't know what it would be like to live this way day in and day out.

But I still feel as though Julia could have given it a little more time to see how things went over a longer time period. And whether accessing some regular respite care earlier might have made any difference. Although it certainly didn't come across as an easy decision that they made. She talks openly about her partner's expressed desire to kill baby Imogen and how this impacted on their relationship as a couple and as a family. And even after Imogen was placed with a foster carer, Julia still had doubts over whether she had made the right choice.

Before I wrote this, I checked online to see if anyone else had reviewed this book. I didn't find much. But I did find a review in an Australian academic journal of all places, the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, where the ethics of withholding nutrition from children with profound disabilities and the role of paediatricians in supporting families coping in the aftermath of a traumatic birth and diagnosis of disability were discussed in detail.

This book made me think about the ethical questions around caring for a child with profound disabilities. Although as a Christian, I didn't agree with many of Julia's decisions, her writing is beautifully honest and raw. And it made me realise that while in most cases, the supports we provide as professionals are enough to help families cope, perhaps there are times when it's insufficient.

Worth a read. But probably better to read when not in the last trimester of pregnancy, when birth is at the forefront of my mind.

Diabetes update

Yesterday I had a scan to check the baby was growing okay. And today I went to the antenatal clinic for my two weekly check-up.

The good news is the baby is fine. Not any bigger than it should be. The sonographer said if she didn't know that I had gestational diabetes, she wouldn't be able to tell from looking at the baby.

The not so good news for me today is that when I had my weigh-in with the diabetes educator, I discovered that I had actually lost three kilograms since starting my diet. Normally this would be great news. Apparently losing a bit of weight is normal for women with gestational diabetes, but the diabetes educator seemed to think that three kilos was a bit too much. If I keep my carbohydrate intake to about half of what the dietitian told me to, I can keep my glucose levels within the correct range. But it seems like I am going to need more carbs so the baby doesn't suck all the nutrition out of me.

So this also means I am going to probably need some more insulin as well. I'll be emailing the specialist with my levels tonight to see what he says.

I feel a bit sad that my body isn't coping too well with all this. And I miss the high GI sweet treats. I'm still eating frozen yoghurt and carefully rationed squares of dark chocolate. But what I would really love is a big muffin, or some chocolate caramel slice.

Sorry for the downer. Mostly I am going okay with all of this (apart from the boredom of eating All-Bran for breakfast every day). But I get worried sometimes that this is going to be a longer term thing. The risk of me developing type 2 diabetes later in life has increased to 50% now that I have had it in pregnancy. I just hope I can maintain some semblance of these healthy eating habits once the baby is born.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Broncos are going down


All that stress over Darren Lockyer's cheekbone fracture for nothing.

And who really wants to see Manly in a Grand Final?

Don't care who wins anymore.

Finished work

Such a relief to get there. Last time around I went into labour with two weeks of work to go. Lots of unfinished stuff that probably didn't matter too much in the end, but was an unnecessary worry as I was lying in a hospital bed trying to deal with the fact that my baby was going to arrive a fair bit earlier than we expected.

This time I'm not sure how to feel. On one hand it's good to know that everything I wanted to get finished was done. But on the other hand it's a bit uncertain since I'm not sure I'll be returning there afterwards. The job is being advertised next week and I will have to see what happens when I apply for it.

So I'm 32 weeks pregnant tomorrow. Getting ready for the boys to spend some time with their grandparents these school holidays so we are going to just have Rosie for a couple of weeks. Looking forward to being a one child family again for a little while.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Rosie likes to read

Yesterday I was listening to her read Green Eggs and Ham. As she turned each page she said "no ham"...."no ham"...."no ham"....until she was finished the book.

I think she's got the main message from this one.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

If you missed John Piper in Brisbane

I didn't make it, but here is the music team at his talk a few weeks ago. Kind of cool to hear what can be done with minimal instrumentation and great vocalists.

The singer in the green dress (Sarah) has been to our church a couple of times when their family has been on holidays here. I was playing the piano both times, but if I hadn't been, I think it would have been great to be standing somewhere near her in the congregation. She has an amazing voice.

John Piper's talk is also up on YouTube if you didn't get there. Find it here. It's excellent.

Monday, September 19, 2011

So after months of indecision

...we have finally decided what car we will be upgrading to.

It hasn't been an easy decision. First I had to get over my issues with driving a people mover. Then we discovered that no people mover has every feature we want.

I'm still not entirely convinced that we've made the right choice. But what we've decided on should be big enough to last us for a while, allowing for the fact that we are probably going to end up with some very tall children. Eventually, interior space had to be the main consideration.

So the winner is

the Hyundai iMax. We are going to get a car broker to find it for us to save us the grief of dealing with used car salesmen. Had a not-so-fun experience a couple of weekends ago in the used car yard which is making us not want to go back there.

I like blue and black ones the best. Not so keen on the white, because I think they look too much like courier vans. But I am guessing we may not have much say on the final colour.

Now to face up to the whole challenge of driving something that is going to be very conspicuous.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Reactive cleaning in progress....

It's really hot here today. Like summer. So we invited some people from church around this afternoon for a swim in our pool.

Having people over is usually the best way to get us to clean our house. For the rest of the time, other than picking toys up off the floor, not much gets done. It wasn't looking too good an hour ago. But sweeping and mopping are now done. Just the quick bathroom and toilet run around to go. Chris has just come back from Coles with food and drink (chips, cheese, biscuits, fruit).

We're getting better at the "not going to too much trouble" approach when we have people over. It seems to work better for us than talking about planning to invite people around (usually this discussion goes on between Chris and I for several weeks) and then not getting around to doing anything. Spontaneous seems to be the way to go.

I'm stealing this from the Desiring God blog

But it's really excellent. I think John Piper would want us to share this.

I saw this quote from the Desiring God blog when Meredith posted it on Facebook yesterday.

John Piper from 1995:

Test yourself. What is your mindset? Do you begin with God and his rights and goals? Or do you begin with yourself and your rights and wishes?

And when you look at the death of Christ, what happens? Does your joy really come from translating this awesome divine work into a boost for self-esteem? Or are you drawn up out of yourself and filled with wonder and reverence and worship that here in the death of Jesus is the deepest, clearest declaration of the infinite esteem of God for his glory and for his Son?

Here is a great objective foundation for the full assurance of hope: the forgiveness of sins is grounded, finally, not in my finite worth or work, but in the infinite worth of the righteousness of God — God's unswerving allegiance to uphold and vindicate the glory of his name.

I appeal to you with all my heart, take your stand on this. Base your life on this. Ground your hope in this. You will be free from the futile mindset of the world. And you will never fall. When God's exaltation of God in Christ is your joy, it can never fail.

Excerpted from Did Christ Die for Us or for God?

Worth thinking about as we begin each day. Inspires and sobers at the same time.

John Piper is an amazing guy, isn't he?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Encounters at the shops

For reclusive and easily sensory-overloaded types like me, grocery shopping in the peak hour on Saturday mornings can be a bit too much sometimes.

This morning in Woolworths, I saw our next door neighbour and her teenage daughter at the deli counter (not relevant to the story, but we were both buying olives). I haven't seen our neighbour for a while, other than to wave to when we've been driving in and out of our street, and so for the first time this morning, I noticed she had lost a lot of weight. So much that I had to look twice when I saw her to make sure it really was her.

I wanted to tell her she was looking really good. But before I could say that, she got in first and started talking about all the usual pregnancy related things....she only realised I was pregnant when she saw me at school drop off during the week, when was I due etc etc. And then smoothly moved on to tell me that I looked huge and like I was due much sooner than November. She said it twice, just to make sure the point sunk in.

Thanks for that. After she said it, I didn't feel much like telling her how good she was looking. So of course, I didn't.

If I was a better Christian, I would have thought nice thoughts and brushed off the irritation. But that was difficult at the crowded deli counter. I mumbled something about it being my fourth baby, there wasn't much to hold my tummy in anymore, and moved on.

On my way out of the shopping centre with my heavily laden trolley, I saw Chris' admin officer at the bakery counter. The position he is acting in at the moment comes with its own administrative position, which is a bit of a novelty since he's never had this before. We affectionately call her "his girl" because we've been watching too much Mad Men lately, even though she's much older than either of us.

I met her for the first time earlier this week so I only realised it was her after I had walked past. Then there was an awkward moment on the down ramp to the car park when she was pushing her trolley behind mine and I avoided eye contact instead of doing the right thing, which would have been to say hello. If she did actually recognize me (I live in fear of saying hello to people I've only met once or twice and receiving a blank response) she probably thinks I'm very rude.

But all I really wanted to do was escape the crowdedness and find some peace. This is why I like shopping in the evenings. Just me and the shelf stackers and only one checkout open.

Life at home is chaotic sometimes. I'm looking for quiet time when I go grocery shopping, not crowds and awkward social moments.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Today at work

I had a couple of cancellations. Not good. Despite my explaining to people that I am finishing up in a weeks' time, they think I will still be able to squeeze them in. Because I am nice, I'm doing my best, but I think the time has come to start getting a bit cranky.

So you are cancelling because you booked your child's appointment on a day they go to preschool? Well, why didn't you tell me earlier that they go to preschool that day? We could have organised another non-preschool day two weeks ago rather than now having to put him in on my very last day when I am trying to finish off all my reports and write a handover for my as yet non-existent replacement. And had I known you were going to cancel, I could have taken a couple of hours off as time in lieu to go to my kids' school and see them in their costumes for multicultural day.

So after moving on from this, I got into a couple of the other jobs on my to-do list. One of the other therapists and I whipped up a Powerpoint presentation for a talk to new mothers about play and infant development. Gave that a run through in the afternoon with a group at one of the local child health centres so I could see straight away what needed to be changed.

And I spent another fifteen minutes doing the highly non-urgent task of completing my online driver's training. This is for all Queensland Health workers who drive cars. I've worked for this organisation for almost five years now and this is the first time I've ever heard of the driving training. Nice to know I'm up to date with that just as I'm about to start maternity leave.

Because the online training covers workers all over Queensland, it had a lot of highly irrelevant information for city dwellers like me. Like how to drive on gravel roads, leaving farm gates as you find them (I remembered that one from my first OT job twenty years ago) and how you should drive when you encounter road trains. I skipped a lot of that stuff, which meant when I came to do the little quiz at the end I had to guess a few answers.

Still, I managed to score 100% on the ten questions (not too bad considering I was doing this at 5pm as the day was ending).

And I now know that you should leave at least 1km clearance when overtaking a road train. Just in case I ever encounter one in a Queensland Health work vehicle.

Tomorrow's non-urgent activity? Doing the online fire safety training. Hoping I can knock over the quiz for that one in ten minutes as well. But I do have three clients booked in the morning and a meeting in the afternoon. Hope all the clients turn up or it's curtains for them from me. No more nice therapist here.