Friday, August 31, 2012

And while I'm mentioning Gina Rinehart's comments...

...I found this rather amusing (from Crikey). Sorry there's a naughty word in it. The dancing is lovely though.

Thoughts from the US Republican Convention 2012

(Image from here).

Earlier today, I turned on the TV over lunch to find a live broadcast on the ABC news channel from the Republican convention in Tampa, Florida. After warm up speaking acts that included Clint "Make my day" Eastwood, among others, I heard Mitt Romney's speech as he formally accepted his nomination as the Rupublican US Presidential candidate.

There were the usual outpourings of adulation from the wildly enthusiastic audience waving flags and signs, and applauding at just about every word that came out of his mouth. A few people there were even in costume. One guy looked like he might have come dressed as Christopher Columbus. I guess it's all part of the atmosphere.

Anyway, I thought Mitt was strong on style, but lacking on substance. I suppose that finer details weren't really necessary because at this point he's just accepting the nomination and quite clearly he was preaching to the converted. He did make a solid attempt to win over women voters, and the low income earners. But he seems to have the idea, in a similar vein to Gina Rinehart's recent comments, that people without much money just need to work harder and start up their own small business to get ahead. If only it was that simple.

And there were plenty of comments from Mitt and the other speakers I heard about repealing Obama's plans for healthcare reform if the Republicans get into the White House. One guy said that having two systems (ie private and public) "hadn't worked in any country it had been introduced in" or words to that effect. I'm not so sure it's been a failure here in Australia. I think it's great that people who can't afford private cover have a free healthcare system that they can access. It's not perfect, sure, but it means everyone's looked after. And a society that shows care and concern for the vulnerable is a good thing, I think.

I didn't end up being won over by much of what Mitt said. And he had this weird look that he seemed to deliberately put on during pauses in his speech when he was looking directly at the camera. A bit smirky and self-satisfied, I thought.

Or maybe it's his name that I can't get past. You know me, small things amusing small minds and all of that. But all along, I've found it rather amusing that his name is also the name of a well-known item of sporting equipment. Or for those of us in Australia, an oven glove.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

I just noticed this bed....

....advertised in the latest Harvey Norman catalogue. It's called "Library." Imagine that. Combining two of my favourite pastimes....reading and sleeping.

Sadly, it's probably a bit too opulent to go with the rest of our home decor. But I think if I owned this bed, I would find it very difficult to ever leave it.

A bit off topic, but I always find it amusing that they choose to advertise beds in outdoor settings. I'm not sure if that's supposed to make them look more inviting. I suppose it's kind of cool to think about having a bed set up in your outdoor entertaining area so you can lie in it and read. And in this one, you could even pull the curtains around to stop the insects coming in. How practical for the great outdoors.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Win an iPad

Sorry folks, that title doesn't actually mean I am giving away an iPad.

But I have to say, I'm seeing the "win an iPad" slogan quite a lot lately. And it sucks me in every single time. I'm doing stuff I normally wouldn't be bothered about, but it suddenly seems worth doing if there's an iPad to be won.

I just updated my personal details for one of my super funds online because they're giving away 100 iPads for people who register. I was contemplating going to an information evening at our local high school (even though it's still a couple of years before any of our kids are ready to go there) because the school sign said you could go into a draw to win an iPad just by turning up. I ended up being unwell that night so I didn't get there, but I think the odds would have been good on a win there.

I can nominate my husband in an "I love my Physio" competition for World Physiotherapy Day (the 8th September, if anyone's interested) and win an iPad that way. Quote from the website that made me giggle: "Everyone should love a physiotherapist." Well, yes, I do actually. But I suspect my reasons for loving this one might not be the ones they're looking for in the competition.

We've decided that an iPad is a luxury item so we're highly unlikely to be able to justify buying ourselves one. So entering competitions is my only hope at the moment. And I'm hoping that in a few months, I'll be sharing news of a win with you all.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Knowing God

Why did I wait so long to read this?? What an amazing book.

I'm only about a third of the way into it (and I've had to read some of the chapters several times to get the full effect) but it is going well. I thought it would be much harder going than it is turning out to be.

There's so much gold to be mined in it that it's hard to know where to start on a review. But here's the short review for you. If you've never managed to get through it, pick it up and read it. Right now. Don't put it off any longer.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Happy belated birthday Claude

Last week it was Debussy's birthday. Here is some nice music of his to celebrate.

This year's Classic FM Top 100 is French music. I'm going to call it early and say I'm fairly confident Debussy will be heavily featured among the top ten.

Lemon and thyme roast chicken

Recipe and photo from here.

We've been on a quest for a while to find a nice roast chicken recipe. It's not easy. I quite enjoy a home cooked roast chicken, but Chris doesn't like roast chicken as much as he likes other roasted meats. He says it's because roast chicken was just about the only roast his family ever had when he was a kid, so it quickly became done to death for him.

Tonight we tried this one. It wasn't too bad. Unfortunately, in the picture from the magazine it all looks a bit burned. Not sure what was going on with the food styling there.

It was pretty easy to make. No stuffing involved. I don't mind eating stuffing, but making it adds extra time to the cooking that I'm mostly too lazy to bother with.  To cook the roast, you just heat the oven up to 200 degrees. Then you wash the chicken under cold water, pat it dry, and put it into a roasting dish breast side down. Then you stick a lemon that you've cut into quarters into the cavity, and put a couple of halved lemons, a whole clove of garlic cut in half crossways and some thyme around it. Add about three quarters of a cup of chicken stock to the dish, sprinkle more thyme on top, spray the chicken with some olive oil and season it with salt and pepper.

Then you cook it for an hour and fifteen minutes (that's for a 1.8kg chook, we had a 2.1kg one so we gave him a bit longer). After that you take it out, flip the chicken over so it's breast side up, and cook it for another fifteen minutes or so.

Serve with all the usual roast chicken accompaniments. We had potatoes, corn and beans. The juice in the pan would probably make a nice light gravy to go on the meat, or you could mix a regular gravy mix into the juices if you wanted to.

Usually with a 2kg roast we have leftover meat to use for sandwiches but most people went for seconds tonight so the carcass is pretty bare. I think that means it went down well.

Dear blog....

....I've missed you.

Sorry for the bloggy silence, to anyone who still might be checking in.

The assignments are done. Now for a week of good times ahead before I have to do two sessions of vivas with my lovely students. Bless them, they are all stressing about it already.

I suspect I will be joining them in the stressy camp before too long. I've never had to conduct viva exams before but my husband tells me that he has had to deal with a few crying students when he's had to run them. I'm hoping that's just because he's far more imposing and frightening to face than me.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Thirteen assignments down....

....only six to go.

Two of those thirteen I'll need to mark again because I think I was feeling a bit too harsh over the weekend when I marked them. I don't think they were as bad as I first thought they were. I was just annoyed because one of them clearly needed a good proof-read and had obviously been written in one night. Having to state the date of retrieval from websites in the reference list made it blatantly clear.

Lessons from the 2012 school spelling competition

Alternatively, this could be titled "Dealing with disappointment and losing graciously"...

It's been a busy week or two. I'm buried in assignment marking and preparation for the next couple of weeks of teaching. It's a bit intense. And in the middle of all of this, we've had to plough through hundreds of words on the Year 2 and 4 spelling lists.

One of our children has won the school spelling bee for his year level each year that he's been in it. This year he wasn't among the three finalists chosen from his class. This had a lot to do with lack of practice and preparation. Each time we tried to get him to spell words, there were tears and sulks. He wanted to read a book at the same time as we were asking him to spell "silhouette" and "lieutenant." It wasn't pretty.

I think he must have thought he would breeze into the year level final simply by turning up on the day. As we said to him afterwards, it was a bit like James Magnussen at the Olympics. Nothing's certain until you're wearing the medal around your neck. Consequently, he was pretty upset when he came home last Thursday about not having made the cut. It took a lot to get him to admit that it was entirely due to his lack of interest in practising and working hard to memorise the words. And lots of talk had to go on about saying thank you to the kind and caring kids from his class who came up to him at lunchtime in the playground last week to ask if he was okay, and to make sure he said congratulations to those who were chosen. And to the eventual winner of the year level final today, one of the girls in his class.

I'm not too sad that he didn't get any further. Last year, when he did get through to the regional level, the word list was frightening. There were literally thousands of words, some of which I hadn't even heard of. So I'm looking forward to sharing some sympathy with the winner's Mum, since I sometimes see her at the school gate when I do the afternoon school pick up.  Glad I don't have to do all that again.

Meanwhile, our other spelling participant did make it through to his year level final. It was a weekend of torture going through the long list of new words that he had to learn (in just two days, since he was only chosen on Friday). The final was yesterday morning. He bowed out in the final round, on the word "tongue." I knew as soon as I heard the word that he was gone. Words with unusual non-phonetic spellings get him every time. There were three of them left, he and another boy spelled their words incorrectly and the little girl who was the last one to spell her word, got hers correct.

I thought he'd done really well, but his disappointment was highly obvious. As in full on head in the hand sulking posture happening up at the front of the school hall. He managed to pull it together to smile for the group photo, and then I had to drag him over to shake hands with the winner (and her Mum, one of the few Mums at school I know well enough to talk to...). So last night we had to have yet another conversation about how to lose graciously. About how he really enjoyed all the congratulations when he won last year, so it's highly likely that this year's winner would enjoy the same thing.

I'm a competitive type myself. I do get their disappointment. It's always a bit scary to see my kids reacting in almost the same way I'm tempted to when I don't win. But I think that learning to lose graciously and to handle disappointment are lessons that are probably best learned earlier rather than later. I think there are adults out there who are still learning them.

And I'm sincerely hoping that such lessons will be remembered this time next year when all this rolls around again....

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

After 25 years....

....Ronn Moss is leaving The Bold and the Beautiful. Read about it here.

Sad. How will they write him out, I wonder? Hoping it's in a way that he can be brought back in future if his musical career flops. Not that death of a character in Bold has ever stopped the writers from bringing them back again later, either as themselves or some distant relative of theirs who just happens to look exactly the same....

Monday, August 13, 2012

Marking avoidance

It's set in early this time around. I've only marked one assignment. A long seventeen more to go.

Hardly anyone's recommended equipment that's appropriate for the case scenario they were given. Or they've recommended outrageously expensive powered wheelchairs and scooters for use in remote central Australia. People, there aren't very many service options out there for when these things break down, as they inevitably will.

So I am seeing many nights of boredom that lie ahead. I might be able to break it up with some practical learning though. This week we're learning all about one handed dressing and shoelacing techniques. Something else that I haven't done for many years.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Christians in the public education system: the lonely road

Today I noticed via Facebook that another family from our church is shifting one of their kids from a public school to one of the local Christian schools.

There used to be a few other families that I knew of in our church whose kids went to public schools but this year they've been steadily exiting the public system to head into the Christian school system. For us, with kids attending their local public school down the road from our house, the public system feels like an increasingly isolated place to be as Christians.

Our minister strongly encourages families in our church to consider Christian schooling for their children. His arguments for considering it are good ones. The idea of having your children taught by Christian teachers and taught a Christian worldview are on one level very appealing.

We considered those arguments, but have chosen a different path, and in the process have discovered it's a bit of a lonely path to be on in a church like ours where the vibe is strongly in the direction of Christian schooling being the best (and dare I say, possibly even the only) way to go. It means our kids don't see their church friends when they go to school so they essentially have two quite separate groups of friends at church and school, although one of our boys has developed a really strong friendship with a boy whose parents are also Christians, but go to a different church to us.

But along the way, we've received some great blessings. The principal of our school is a Christian, who is very supportive of Scripture and other evangelical activities in the school. He arrived at the school at the beginning of our second year there, just when we were beginning to wonder whether we had made the right decision to go public. We know that he has the kids' Christian development as a priority, as well as their academic skills. The school this year received funding to appoint a chaplain, which is also an encouraging development. We regularly see groups like Quiz Worx coming into the school to do their puppet shows and to engage with the children (they're coming to do a show for the whole school during Scripture time in a few weeks). Last term the Salvation Army (our principal's church) ran an evangelical afternoon for the kids after school with free activities, a sausage sizzle and a Christian talk.

It hasn't always been easy. Our school is located in a low socio-economic area so there are a lot of disadvantaged kids there. And a lot of families who struggle as well. It can be very difficult to connect with other parents there. There are probably only a handful of parents that I know well enough to have a conversation with, and this is our fifth year at the school (although I suspect that's my introverted personality coming out....). And I do question at times whether we've made the correct decision, especially when we see more of our friends at church abandoning the public system.

A book that I read recently that helped me enormously in thinking through the issues about Christian kids going to public schools was Going Public by David and Kelli Pritchard. They are American so their book is obviously slanted towards the schooling system in the USA. But it has heaps of relevant advice on engaging with public school communities (well, any school community really). It also highlights one of our big convictions in our choice of school. We believe it's our responsibility as parents first and foremost to bring our children up as Christians, and one of our concerns with Christian schooling was that it might cause us to abrogate this responsibility to the school more than we should. We need to show our kids what it's like to live as Christians by the way we live our lives each day, and show them what praying and reading the Bible looks like in practice. The Pritchard family are pretty full on in this regard, I have to say. They have eight kids (and I noticed on their blog not long ago that they've added three adopted kids from Ethiopia to the family) and still manage to read through five Psalms and a chapter from Proverbs every morning in their family devotional time. Impressive.

Their key argument is not that Christians should send their kids into the public school system to be little missionaries like "salt and light" proclaiming the gospel to all their friends. Far from it. They should send them to public schools to live as Christians.

This is one of the best quotes from their book: "The main job for a Christian child or teenager in public school is simply to be a good student, a good citizen and a servant-leader - to model what Christianity actually is." And by extension, their parents are to model Christianity in the school too. This book highlights many ways that parents can support this process, not just in a public school, but in any school. And at home as well. So it's a very worthwhile read even for people whose kids aren't in the public school system.

I still find it hard to escape the feeling that this is an isolating path to be on for Christians in today's society. Back when my husband and I were kids (both public schooled) the main choice parents faced about schooling was public versus the Catholic system. And then a few kids from my public school went off to private schools when high school started. The Christian school system then was pretty much non-existent. Times have definitely changed.

But our responsibility as Christian parents hasn't changed. It is our job to raise our children as Christians. At some point they are going to encounter world views that are different to our own. What better time to do this than in these primary school years when we can discuss these with them while they are (hopefully) still paying some attention?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Thirty seconds of amusement in the preparation for next week's tutorial

A demonstration of a rocker knife. This is an item of equipment commonly recommended by Occupational Therapists for people who have limited strength and poor ability to isolate finger movements, and so they therefore may struggle to use a regular knife.

It took me a moment to get the joke in the background music. Having spent the past few weeks viewing videos of mobility and transferring equipment with some very bizarre background music choices, I have to say this one is the best I've come across so far.


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Anyone remember these?

If you were at school in the 1970s and 80s, you might have seen these before. I was helping out in Aidan's classroom today and the kids were using them to work through some language and literacy activities.

For those who aren't familiar with Tutor Systems, you pick up a tile, answer a question and place the tile on the correct square in the bottom half of the box. Keep going until all 12 or 24 questions have been answered. If you have all the answers correct, when you flip the tiles over, there will be a pretty pattern of red, green and blue tiles.

Apparently they have updated these for modern times, but the ones they were using today were the ancient 1970s and 80s version. It was interesting to see some of the questions. One was about the Bible. The kids had to pick the correct word from the three in brackets that fitted the following sentence: The Bible tells us to put our trust (in of from) God. I don't think you'd find those kind of statements in the updated version.

It was an enjoyable trip back to school days for me though. Such fun.

Monday, August 6, 2012

When going to church doesn't feel joyful

It actually feels more like I'm just barely hanging in there at the moment. Not sure why. Maybe it just seems like there are a lot of people in our church family who are struggling right now. Conversation feels difficult. Yesterday, a friend and I stepped outside after church was over to keep an eye on our two little girls playing together and to enjoy the sunshine. This friend is a shy and quiet person and I thought it might be good to join another couple of people having a conversation. As I half hovered to see if there was an opportunity where we might be able to join in, the snippet of conversation I heard seemed to involve a deliberate choice to walk away and continue their talk elsewhere. Obviously it was a private chat that wasn't my business, but it felt awkward nonetheless.

I've been trying to stay on track with reading my Bible and praying at home lately, so I don't feel as if it's a time where I'm personally going through a hard time in my Christian life. So I've been trying to work out why church feels so hard. I was discussing this with my husband and wondering whether I was finding it this way because we've been part of this church for a long time now. It's been almost seven years, which is the longest time we've ever spent within a single church. We've moved towns every few years since we were married nearly fourteen years ago, which has meant that we often end up leaving just as we're getting to know people well. This time around, we're more heavily involved, we know people much better so consequently we know their struggles a lot better too, we've been through a lot more ups and downs. This year has been hard. It's six months today since my friend's little baby boy was stillborn. Several people have left our church with little explanation and we're not sure why. New people are starting to come along but they're not necessarily fully committed to participating yet. Financially, the church is going through a difficult time.

It's hard to keep on persevering when these things happen. You wonder whether it's going to get better and you try to tell yourself that life on this side of heaven isn't meant to be easy and devoid of suffering. But it doesn't feel easy. Maybe this is what it's like to feel a bit burned out by all the stressful situations that we've not really had to go through before because we've never been around long enough.

What does the Bible tell us to do at times like this? Well, Ephesians 6:10-18 seems appropriate for the moment:

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.  (ESV)

A helpful reminder that our strength does not come from ourselves but from the Lord alone.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Birthday partied out....

Making party food and entertaining a bunch of two and three year olds is hard work. Although bubbles, balloons and a table covered with paper and a bunch of stickers and crayons can make it somewhat easier.

Glad it's over though. Plenty of left over cake still to be eaten while sitting on the couch watching the Olympians being active.

Now to await the onslaught of wheelchair prescription assignments that are due to hit at the end of this week. Sometimes it just feels like the busy-ness never ends.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Sad reminder

"as it is written:
          "None is righteous, no, not one;
                no one understands;
                no one seeks for God.
          All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
                no one does good,
                not even one."
(Romans 3:10-12, English Standard Version).

Memory verse from week 2 of Two Ways to Live.

I need to keep remembering this every day. When I think that I'm a pretty good person. When I think I'm not as bad as that other person. Then I need to read this verse...again.

Good news to come though. Stay tuned. Or check out the above website.

Sign's fixed

I drove past the school today and noticed it. They're now off to the "district carnival." As I said on Monday, it usually only takes a couple of days. I didn't go down to school yesterday so it might have been fixed up sooner.

There's nothing like seeing correct spelling to make me smile.

I know. It's petty. But sometimes you just have to be happy about little things.

Finally some success

...on the Tim Winton front, that is. See earlier post here.

I really enjoyed Dirt Music. So much so that I'm reading it again. Not sure that I'll be converted to all of his stuff, but his writing in this one is very good. I wonder if one of the reasons I liked it so much was because both the main characters in it seemed to me to be quite introverted and self-absorbed (like me, sad to admit...). His very vivid descriptions of the Australian landscape and sea were the other big attraction as I was reading it.

After this, I'm tackling "Breath" for book club. I've read it before and the plot was a bit of a turn off that time. So I am now curious to see whether the imagery can rescue my perception of the dodgy plot at a second read.