Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Here's how I spent Halloween....

I just popped out to the local ALDI to pick up a few Christmas CDs on special. We don't own a lot of Christmas music here so seeing some ABC music CDs for only $6.99 each was too good to pass up. Now we own five CDs for the princely sum of only $34.95. Some of them are still selling on the ABC shop website for $25-$27 each. Bargain.

I spotted a large crowd of trick or treaters as I was heading out. They were all wandering around the much flatter ground of the neighbourhood at the bottom of our hill. We live at the top of the hill with a pretty steep driveway so not many dressed up kids have enough energy to make it to our front door. I had a few lollies in the cupboard for anyone who might have come calling but no one did so it looks like I'll be eating those myself.

He/she....we're all confused

A girl in one of my kids' classes at school has decided this year that she wants to be a boy. She now wears the boys' school uniform (not too unusual since many of the girls at the school wear shorts rather than the skort thing on offer for girls), has had her long hair cut very short, has shortened her name so it is now more boyish, and wants to play the same games as the boys at lunch time.

The other kids in the class don't seem too worried about it. My own child just shrugged when I asked him about it. Probably a fairly common response, I guess.

So this term I have finally managed to get my act together and help out in his class, after meaning to get around to this all year. On Monday, I worked with this ex-girl on some sight words.

The problem is, this child was also in my child's class in Kindergarten a couple of years ago. I used to work with him/her on sight words back then too. So on Monday, I did say "good girl" to him/her a few times. It was very hard not to slip back into the old habit. I apologised whenever I did it. He/she didn't seem to take offence when it happened.

Apparently there have been a few issues this week because the class have started doing an intensive swimming program where the kids all get changed into their swimmers and walk down to one of the local pools for swimming classes. This child wanted to get changed with the boys but the teacher wasn't happy with that plan. In the end, all the other boys got changed in the little withdrawal room off the main classroom and this other kid got sent into the boys' toilets. Awkward.

And my husband got to hear all of this story at school this morning when he returned a pair of girls' undies that had somehow found its way into our son's school bag after swimming yesterday, courtesy of one of the other boys in his class who thought it was a bit of a joke to have put them there.

My husband thought he was a victim of some unnecessary oversharing and overstepping of limits in confidentiality from the teacher when he heard that. But honestly, who'd be a teacher these days? It's not just about teaching them how to read, write and spell anymore. I'm not sure how I'd react if I was the teacher in that situation. If the family are supportive of this girl wanting to be a boy, then I suppose you would just have to go along with it. But what do I really think? I think it's all pretty weird actually.

We did both have a bit of a giggle when I heard that the teacher's response to the discovery of the female underwear in our kid's bag was "I'll get to the bottom of that." Chris said he came back with "No pun intended." But he said he didn't think she got the joke.

Or maybe with all this male/female drama it's just all past the point of being funny.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Book review: Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner

I first saw this book reviewed on the First Tuesday Book Club on the ABC a few months ago. What made me notice it was that every person on the discussion panel had really loved it. Anyone who has watched the show knows that that is a bit unusual.

It's taken me a while to get hold of a copy to read. Our local library didn't have a copy at the time it was on the TV show, but said it was on order. And there were lots of reserves placed on it for when it arrived. The library didn't have any of his other books that I could read while I was waiting.

It's a book that's distinctive in the "ordinariness" of the plot, nothing too dramatic, just the story of two couples who become friends during the Depression years when the two husbands are working together in the English department at the University of Wisconsin and how their friendship develops over many years. The narrator, Larry, is the husband in one of the couples and is writing the book as a reflection on their friendship, as they have gathered together again in their older age because Charity, the wife in the other couple, is about to die from cancer.

Although there's not too much plot to speak of, the rich descriptions of the couples and their friendship, and the observations Stegner makes, reflecting on both self and the nature of relationships, are beautifully written. This is what made the book so enjoyable for me, the First Tuesday Book clubbers described it as a book about "living a worthy life" and also about "dying a good death" which really summed it up quite well. Of course, as Christians, we know that living a worthy life is about much much more than just "the passion we all (have) to improve ourselves, live up to our potential, leave a mark on the world....about how we could contribute." (p.11). But I think this quote is a great description of the way we think about life in the world.

Another fantastic description that stood out to me was this one (p.191):
"You can plan all you want to. You can lie in your morning bed and fill whole notebooks with schemes and intentions. But within a single afternoon, within hours or minutes, everything you plan and everything you have fought to make yourself can be undone as a slug is undone when salt is poured on him. And right up to the moment when you find yourself dissolving into foam you can still believe you are doing fine."  

That one reminded me of that verse in Mark's Gospel where it talks about no one knowing the day or the hour except for the Father. And again, it was such a vivid picture of how the world works.

If you're a person who loves lots of action, adventure and escapism in your fiction reading, this probably isn't the book for you. But if you love good character development and how people relate to one another in a long term marriage and in friendships, then it's a beautiful book to read. One review I read of it on Goodreads described it as "the anti-Gatsby." I liked that. No affairs or adulterous relationships, no excessive consumption and wastage, no violence, but just a description of ordinary lives impacted upon by joy, sorrow, laughter, disappointment, illness and the myriad of other experiences that we encounter over the course of many years.

Definitely worth a read. I am in the middle of reading it for a second time before I have to take it back to the library on Monday for the next person in the reservation queue. And then I think I'd like to read it again in a few years time.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Poetry term: Banjo Paterson

Term 4 at the kids' school is always the term where everyone has to learn a poem and say it in front of their class....and then, if they're good enough, in front of their year group.

This year we're having a Banjo Paterson-fest. Liam is learning Clancy of the Overflow, and Aidan is learning The Geebung Polo Club.

We are currently in the painful phase of learning the poems off by heart. Once we get through that, it will be fun getting the expression and intonation patterns happening.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

All is well....

The surgery is done. And my gorgeous girl sounded like she is back to her happy self when I spoke to her on the phone earlier this evening. Just the follow up appointment tomorrow afternoon to get through and then they will be coming home.

Prayers have been answered. It always feels like a bit of a lottery waiting to hear how kids cope with a general anaesthetic. Praying that the outcome for the eyes is going to be good too.

Unfortunately, one of the kids left behind with me has developed a vomiting bug. I was woken at midnight last night to the familiar sound that all parents dread. So he has spent most of the day alternating between sleeping and moaning on the bed/couch/floor in the bathroom. The time spent moaning seems to be outweighing the time spent sleeping

I generally find that I can manage sick kids a lot better if I can get a bit of respite from all the moaning. I always look forward to seeing my husband arrive home in the evening, but today was a day on which I would normally be desperately waiting for 5.30 to come around so he could shoulder some of the moaning burden. Knowing he wasn't going to be arriving was tough for both me and the sick person. So until tomorrow there's only me. Sadly, my sympathy stocks are starting to run low. He is sleeping now, so I had better start praying for patience.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tomorrow... little girl is having surgery for a turned eye. It's only day surgery, not a major procedure, but general anaesthetic is needed, and it's never nice seeing one of your children wheeled away into an operating theatre. I have been in floods of tears before when I've seen this happening.

Since I can't bear to watch the operating theatre doors closing, I am sending my husband to Brisbane to be with her for the day surgery tomorrow, and the follow up at the doctor's rooms on Thursday. I get to stay home with the other three kids and keep things running here.

I am praying that all goes well and that the operation fixes the problem. We were told by our optometrist that cosmetically there will probably be good improvement but from a functional point of view only time will tell. Or maybe I have that the wrong way around....I'm feeling a bit scattered about it all at the moment. Like I could just start crying at any minute really. Hope that the feeling will pass and I will feel a bit more peaceful about it all.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

When you don't feel like it...

....don't do it. That's what the world would have us believe, anyway.

And even as Christians, we fall for it all the time.  It's the old "I'll do that/go to that if I don't have anything better to do" trap. Don't feel like going to church? Fine then, don't go. Don't feel like turning up to Bible study this week? Of course it's fine to stay home then. Don't feel like cooking? Pretend you missed seeing that email about the meal roster for someone who's not well or just had a baby.

I have been guilty of all of the above. Sure, I might cover it up with some more acceptable sounding excuse, such as "well, I've been really busy this week and I'm feeling pretty tired right now, so I don't think I can get there/sign up to help with whatever it is." "The kids have been hard work and they were a bit sick earlier in the week, so it's probably better to not go." "The only possible time I could book this appointment was when Bible study is on." (Sometimes that last one might be true, but there are certainly times when it isn't).

But if I'm honest with myself, deep down I know that if the activity involved was something like going out for dinner with my husband, catching up with a group of friends to see a movie or have a coffee together, or doing some other kind of social or leisure pastime, then I would make the effort to do it and prioritise it above these things. Suddenly the sick kids and the tired body don't seem to be such big issues after all.

I think that as Christians, we need to think counter culturally to the idea of only doing things if we really feel like it, or only because of what we will get out of it. Sadly, it's taken me a while to come to this realisation and I still struggle sometimes to get my priorities right. Church and Bible study aren't just where I go when I don't have somewhere else to be that seems more exciting. Serving and encouraging others in my Christian family isn't an optional extra that I can get around to doing after all my own selfish needs have been met.

Of course, like the majority of my sins, I need to remind myself of this on a regular basis. Putting God first, and meeting together with and serving Christian brothers and sisters, IS important. It's not easy. Sometimes I really don't feel like it. But what I feel like isn't the most important thing.

This is what the Bible tells us in Hebrews 10:24-25...."let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near."

What better thing could there be to do than this?

Saturday, October 13, 2012

And here's another yummy after dinner treat

Sugar and spice roasted almonds. Recipe here.

They are certainly very more-ish. And very very easy to make. They would be good for a Christmas-time treat, but let me tell you they're pretty yummy at this time of the year as well.

I halved the recipe quantities in the above recipe link (that meant they all fitted into one large baking dish) and that's easily made enough for us to eat here at home. I'm now thinking of making a few bags for the school fete next week.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Seriously awesome dessert

Weis have a couple of new dessert bar flavours out. They were on special at Coles last week.

The "pineapple and coconut with a hint of lime" one tastes unbelievably good. Chris and I had one each for dessert last night. He is at Bible study tonight and I have just eaten the third one in the box.

I hope I can be good and resist eating the last one. But they are just so yummy I might not be able to hold back....

Murphy's Law of semi functioning car air conditioning

It will only ever work on days when it isn't hot.

Our second car is old. The air conditioning works very intermittently. Maybe for about five minutes for every hour of driving time.

That five minutes never coincides with times when it is really really hot, and you actually want the air conditioning to be working.

It seems to take great delight in coming on when it's not needed. Like when I'm driving at night. Or in a cool southerly breeze.

Unfortunately, the engine in this car is still going strong (as the rest of the car disintegrates around it...) so it will be a while before we'll be able to justify replacing the car.

In the meantime I'll continue the routine of shivering for the five minutes that it's working in the cold weather, and dripping with perspiration when it refuses to come on in the heat.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Managed to find a couple of Tim Winton books that I liked

Our two nephews stayed with us for a few days over the school holiday break. One of them was reading Blueback by Tim Winton.

So I asked him if I could borrow it. And I loved it. I read it in an hour, and then I read it again. Magnificent descriptions of the sea and the big groper Blueback that the book is named for.

Just a beautifully simple story with no irritating characters, like some of the other Tim Winton books I've tried and failed at reading.

Then last week while we were away, I read Land's Edge. This is a non-fiction book/memoir based on Tim's memories of the coast as he was growing up. I enjoyed that one too.

I feel like I've made it. I've managed to enjoy some Tim Winton.

This week at Book Club, we're discussing Breath. I read it for the second time while we were away. Still didn't enjoy it, although at least with some Tim enjoyment coming into reading it, I could appreciate his descriptions of the surf and the waves a bit more. The plot still isn't working for me though.

Home again

Lovely to be back. I've missed you all. Hope at least a few people might still be looking in here occasionally.