Friday, November 30, 2012

Can anyone explain the physics?

I'll need a very simplified explanation. It's been a long long time since I did any physics. The photo is pretty cool though.

From here.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

End of school year burnout

It's struck in a big way here. But there are still another two and a half weeks of school to get through.

This afternoon is going to be hard work. I need to deal with a child who burst into tears today in front of his class because he didn't get a medal in the poetry competition at school. We then need to go and buy a present for a girl in his class, whose party on Saturday he's been invited to (and I'm quoting what the girl said to him here...) "because I'm asking J (another boy in the class) and he'll need another boy to play with."  Lucky I know the girl's Mum, otherwise I'd be a bit offended by that kind of invitation.

Between now and then I have to fill in heaps of forms for a short term job that I'm starting in Term 1 next year. This is tedious because just a couple of weeks ago I had to fill in another hundred forms to go onto the casual pool with NSW Health. I thought those forms were for this job, but no, it turns out that for this contract I'm actually being employed by the University of Sydney. Go figure.

And I'm exhausted because at 10.45pm last night, just as we were thinking we might go to bed, we heard the three year old vomiting in her bedroom. She'd seemed a bit restless earlier in the evening but she hadn't mentioned at any of my earlier visits that she was feeling unwell, so she had no vomit bucket (not that she's great at using it anyway) and there was vomit everywhere. Everywhere. She'd rolled in it, it was all through her hair, all three of her blankies were coated in it and sheets and pillows all needed washing. Not a sight you want to come across when all you really want to do is go to bed.

Vent over. Sorry, folks. That's an appalling blog post. I'd like to justify it by saying "hey, just keeping it real" but I think I'm just in a very self-pitying frame of mind today.

Would someone please put me out of my misery and tell me that life looks like this some days in their houses too?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

It's that time of year again....

You know the one. Where everyone starts blogging about their Christmas crafty stuff and Advent calendars. All very inspiring, unless you're like me and the thought of doing crafty stuff (by myself or with the kids) makes me want to poke needles in my eyes.

I've stocked up on a few Advent calendar products and booklets over the past few years so this year we are just recycling stuff from last year and the couple of years before that. Meredith's got another good set of readings up on her blog. But what I'm doing is hardly worth blogging about.

So instead of blogging about Christmas stuff (I might get around to it when December actually arrives), I thought I would tell you about the DVD series I've been watching lately.

The Tudors. I haven't actually watched Series 1 yet, but I've gotten through 2, 3 and 4. Series 4 ends with Henry VIII dying, and they haven't made any further series after that.

It's pretty full on stuff. In Series 2 and 3, Henry's at the height of his physical powers and the quest for the male heir is all-consuming. So definitely not suitable for kids' viewing. The way he ruthlessly disposes of wives once he's had enough of them (or when they fail to produce male children, or when their previous indiscretions come to light) is a bit confronting. Plenty of other people get beheaded, burned at the stake or hung, drawn and quartered along the way as well.

In Series 4, Henry finally does something other than get married and try to have a son when he goes off to war. There are a couple of good battle episodes which came as something of a relief after all the sex and execution scenes. Then he suddenly ages really quickly (in the space of a couple of episodes) at the end of Series 4 and starts to go a bit mad, just as the  position of wife #6 Catherine Parr is starting to look a bit shaky (because she is a Reformer).

I don't know that all of what's in this series is necessarily strictly historically accurate. I suspect there's been a bit of dramatic licence used to spice things up a bit. Before I watched this, I knew what had happened to each of the wives and that was about it. If you don't like watching plenty of death and sex scenes, it's probably not the series for you (although you can do what I did when they started to get a bit much, and press the fast forward button). The Tudor period of history has always interested me though. I've always thought that the whole concept of a guy setting up his own church because he didn't like what the Pope was telling him to do is an interesting foundation for the Church of England to have come from, actually. So very selfish of Henry, but from these beginnings we now have the Anglican Church. I think we can safely say it's a bit more Christ-centred these days.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Chronological Bible reading plan update

Ben's calling it the C.B.R.P. over at his blog. Catchy.

So I'm eight days in and still on track. But things are getting busy as end of term activities start hotting up here so I'm sure it's only a matter of time before I start missing a day here and there.

After the familiar stories at the beginning of Genesis, I'm finding that Job is not an easy book to sit down and read and take in. It's hard going reading all the conversation between Job and his mates. There's a part of me wishing that the friends had just said nothing the way they did for the first seven days after they arrived while Job was still in the depths of despair. But I guess if they hadn't started talking, Job wouldn't have had reason to say all the good stuff he had to say.

I'm trying to read while keeping focused on the big picture of the book. If I do that, I don't seem to find that I get quite so bogged down. I know it's important that I hang in there even with the bits in the Bible that seem hard to focus on. I'm figuring that this is all good preparation for dealing with Leviticus, Numbers etc later on.  And it's all in there because it's important.

Praying here for the discipline to keep going.

Friday, November 23, 2012

New music for Christmas

Caroline, an occasional commenter in here (it was lovely to hear from you Caroline!)  reminded me last week that a couple of years ago I was hunting for sheet music for the Wheeler and James Australian Christmas Carols. I didn't have any luck finding them back then. So when she mentioned them this time, I went on another internet search and musicroom came through with the goods.

It arrived today. I've been having a lovely time playing my way through Three Drovers, Carol of the Birds, Silver Stars are In the Sky, The North Wind and other old favourites. It's great to have them all together in one book.

Just one teensy criticism (that's not specific to this music book) is that it's not spiral bound. Spiral binding makes page turning heaps easier if you're in the middle of a complicated sequence of notes. And if a song is only two pages long, then it would be great if it could be on two facing pages instead of needing a page turn in the middle. I suppose now that I own it, I could photocopy a few pages to fix that problem.

But otherwise, I'm very happy. I don't know if any of the words of these carols would get through our church music team's criteria for appropriate songs to sing at our church Christmas carol night, but I really love these old Australian songs so I'm happy to potter around playing them and singing them with the family at home.

For the Helen Garner fans out there....

I was just reading this interesting article over at about a talk she gave to some budding writers last night in Melbourne.

There are some very interesting insights into non-fiction and crime writing to be gained from it. Not the least that her turn of speech is as brilliant as her writing.

If you haven't read Helen Garner's non-fiction, you really should give it a go. The First Stone was the first of her books that I read. Very compelling reading.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

While everyone else was paying big money and queueing for hours to see Coldplay In Brisbane.... lucky brother got paid to be there. He does sound (or something audio-related, can you tell I have no clue what he does for a living but it's something to do with electronics and computers??) at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane so he was being paid to sit there and listen to them.

Most of what he does is boring soccer games (that few people turn up to), rugby league (I'm slightly more interested in those) and other sporting events. But the stadium can host up to four other big major events or concerts per year. Coldplay would have been pretty good I think.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The First Dog's at it again....

From here.

No offence intended to any quinoa eaters who may be reading. I haven't tried it yet although I don't mind couscous, so maybe I should give it a go?

My favourite line.... "Also, llamas are hilarious."

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

When you feel in a rut with reading the Bible...

I've had this feeling many times, so I hope it's normal. I saw someone commenting on a blog post I was reading yesterday, saying they felt in a bit of a rut with their Bible reading, so it was comforting to see I wasn't alone.

I think, like most ruts, the solution to getting out of it involves trying something a bit different to what you've been doing. Sounds obvious, but I think it's easy to forget. We're busy people, old habits are hard to break and all that.

I posted here yesterday about starting a Bible reading plan to read through the Bible in chronological order. I haven't ever read the Bible right through (I'm slightly embarrassed to admit that) so at the moment I'm all enthusiastic about it. Previous experience tells me I may find it harder going as time progresses so I am trying to find someone who'll help me to be accountable with it, maybe by doing it with me. My brother commented when I shared yesterday's post on Facebook so I'm hoping I might be able to convince him to do it. For the moment, I'm parking the three year old on the bed next to me in the mornings after breakfast with her Jesus Storybook Bible and getting her to read her Bible while I'm reading mine. This is an on again, off again strategy I've tried so she sees me reading the Bible and then I can talk with her about the children's version. It's not always successful because she'll want me to read the story in her Bible to her after she finishes having a very quick chat to herself about the pictures ("he's wearing a pink shirt" "trees all cut down" "that's a purple boat" are among the profound insights I hear as she's doing her quiet time). Usually I can get her to wait till I'm finished reading so I read the real story to her after that.

My husband and I also read the Bible together each night before we go to bed. It's not the ideal time of the day to do it. The bigger kids don't see us reading the Bible so the danger is that they think we're not doing it at all. I've been known to fall asleep during the prayer time after we read, so I have to keep my eyes open during praying (not helpful for concentrating on what we're praying about). But it's the best we can do at the moment until we sort out a better routine.

For a while now, we've been reading through short studies in the large backlog of Briefing magazines we have kept over many years. Generally these follow the format of reading through a book (or section of a book) from the Bible, following the chapters in sequential order. This is very worthwhile to do, but we were starting to feel a bit stale with it all.

So I was happy to find a series of topical readings on mercy in one of the back issues from a couple of years ago. Moving through different parts of the Bible to see what it says on a specific topic is different from what we've been doing for the last year or so, so it's reignited the spark of interest to hang in there and keep reading.

Something else I signed up for recently was the Live Light in 25 Words campaign that the Bible Society have going at the moment. They send you a Bible verse each day (as close as possible to 25 words long), the contextual passage that the verse comes from so you can go away and look it up yourself, and a question to reflect on. It's another something different to keep me thinking about God's word to us in the Bible.

In the past, I haven't found it easy to hang in there with prayer and Bible reading times. I do it regularly for a while, then things get busy and I fall off the wagon. But I'm finding over time that it's getting easier to get back on and keep going. And each time this happens, I think it gets a little bit easier to do. The stretches where I am reading my Bible are getting much longer than they used to be. At the moment it's more unusual for me not to do it.

Perseverance is important, but in the end I can only do it with God's help. I'm thankful that He gives us the strength to keep going and the understanding that comes from immersing ourselves in the Bible each day.

Images from here and here.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Reading through the Bible in a year

Jean and Meredith have inspired me to give it a go. I'm following the chronological reading plan that Jean's suggested and is currently doing.

I've started today. I'm sure that I will miss days here and there over the course of the year so I figured if I got a head start before the January 1 kick-off date on the plan, that could only be a good thing.

I'm liking the idea of reading the Bible chronologically to improve my knowledge of how the whole Bible story hangs together. So after I've read the first bit of Genesis I'll be heading into Job for a while. I'm also excited about seeing how the Psalms relate to 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Chronicles and the Kings. I've been reading through the Psalms one to one with my friend (very slowly since we're not able to meet up every week) and have been wondering as we've been going along how they link up to what David was up to at the time.

No doubt I'll need plenty of good kicks to keep the motivation up as time goes on. But I am going to make it my goal to see it through even if it takes longer than a year.

Thanks for the reading plan recommendations, Jean, and for all your helpful hints on how to read all of the Bible, Meredith. Much appreciated.

If anyone else wants to join me in my quest, I'd love to hear from you, online or in real life!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Thursday, November 15, 2012

While on the subject of music....

When I'm not learning new Christmas carol arrangements, I've been teaching myself to play this. It is very beautiful when it's played well (still getting there....).

We're "reviving" the First Noel for Christmas Carols this year....

The old arrangement we've used in previous years was very ordinary to play. This version has a nice keyboard accompaniment which I am in the process of learning, but it is a bit more complicated, especially at the end as it builds up to the big finale. I noticed on this video that one of the band members was playing both keyboard and guitar. I'm glad I don't have to replicate that.

We're going to have it as an item by the lead singers (I think) rather than having the whole congregation singing it. Any mistakes I make are going to be much more obvious than they would be if everyone was singing. Fortunately I have another few weeks to get it sorted out.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Doing a talk for Aidan's class at school next week

It's going to be about the digestive system. I'm going to be talking, among other things, about how our bodies make poo, a topic I'm familiar with from days spent working with poor little children who become chronically constipated.

I've asked Chris to source some stuff from his workplace for me....a torso with removable organs that I can take out and pass around. Apparently there is a poo T-shirt there somewhere. I can't wait to see what that looks like.

And I will probably include this as well:

This is a child-friendly version of the Bristol Stool Scale (downloaded from here), for those unfamiliar with it (the adult form doesn't relate the poo types to the different types of food). I always think they should have said that Type 1 looks like peas to be more consistent with the overall food theme. Types 4-6 are generally considered "normal." Types 1-3 are at the constipated end.  Type 7 is usually what happens when you have gastro bugs.

We have a copy of this on the back of our toilet door, which guests find quite amusing when they visit us. It is also a good way of helping the kids to let us know what's going on if they're a bit unwell.

It should be fun. I have a whole week to prepare. At the same time as I am doing this, Aidan has to prepare a powerpoint presentation on the optimal amount of sleep that humans need, so I am also supposed to be modelling for him how to do an assignment. So I am feeling a bit of pressure to not spend long periods of time procrastinating on Facebook or looking at YouTube videos and funny photos, as is my more usual habit when preparing something work-related.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Op shop find of the day

I found this for 50c in one of the local Vinnie's shops this morning. I wasn't a die-hard fan of reading these when I was younger (I was very much at the upper age limit of the target audience when they first came out), but I read a couple of them and didn't mind them. The holiday house we stayed in recently had another one of the series on the bookshelf so I read that and was taken back to childhood days.

This one is the first one in the series, the one that kicked off over two hundred Babysitters Club books.

On reflection, I think that the hook-in for reading books like these lay in the whole "girls being best friends" dynamic. Reading them also takes you back to a time when community, helping others and spending time with kids were more highly valued. I'm not sure what young girls finding them for the first time in our current age of individualism and self-centredness would make of them now. I don't have much experience with girls in this age group these days, but I get the feeling they would probably see themselves as being a bit more sophisticated than Kristy and Claudia et al.

When counter-culturalism is equated to godliness....

....I think we have a problem.

I was reading an interesting post of Jenny's here about how some parenting choices appear to be viewed as "more" or "less" Christian. She pointed out quite rightly that being part of God's family depends on faith in Jesus and his saving work through his death for our sins. That's it.

It was a good message for me to hear. I've felt for quite some time that because the choices we've made as a family are not quite as counter-cultural as those made by other Christians we know, that maybe we're perceived as a bit less godly than other people. We send our kids to the local public school, I'm a working mother, my three year old goes to child care, we don't follow strict routines with our little people (I even threw the book "Babywise" in the bin because I thought it was so bad). Our house looks pretty untidy most of the time. My husband and I share cooking, housework and child care jobs at home.

Possibly I'm being a bit oversensitive here. I might be feeling a bit more defensive than usual because a couple of church friends told me recently that they are going to start homeschooling their children. Whenever I hear things like this, I have moments of questioning the choices we've made. Sometimes I even feel like I have to work extra hard to serve at church so I can prove that these choices don't impact on my ability to live as a Christian. How silly is that?

But I have to remember that we are accountable not to other people but to God alone. He is the One we serve and will need to answer to in the future. The choices we make should be made in the light of His Word, not what all the other Christians we know are doing. And if we stopped judging one another (and if I am honest with myself, I have judged others for their choices too....) perhaps we could all concentrate much better on how we can serve God and other people.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Partied out...

Glad we don't do this too often. Lovely to catch up with so many friends though. And the rain didn't really stop people from having fun....I hope not, anyway.

 I am so thankful to God for my friends and family on days like this.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Just noticed....

....that I now appear to be a follower of my own blog. I'm not sure how my photo suddenly appeared there. I can't remember doing anything and of course I now can't seem to work out how to get rid of it.

It's a bit embarrassing. It makes me look like I'm desperate for followers or something. Really, I'm not. Just one of those blogger accidents that I don't know how to fix up.

Here's a great post on the culture of "maybe..."

I posted a couple of weeks ago here about encouraging one another and turning up to things church-related even if we don't particularly feel like doing so.

This post from the Growing Faith website is a pretty good one on a very similar topic. Highly recommended reading with some challenges to think about.

The opening paragraph really rang true for me this week as I've been organising a party for our littlest family member and waiting for people to get back to me. This is a busy time of the year. Lots of full weekends ahead in the lead up to Christmas. Facebook events, especially if created a few weeks in advance of the actual date, aren't always easy to locate on the rather annoying homepage that keeps changing your newsfeed to whatever it feels like. But it's been an at times discouraging experience that I'm not keen to go through again in a hurry.

Anyway, back to that opening paragraph, if you don't have time to read the whole lot (or to encourage you to go and have a look...):

"In an over-full, over-committed life, it’s easy to just click ‘maybe’ on a Facebook event. The thought of making another decision about anything seems a little overwhelming, and ‘maybe’ seems a lot nicer than a flat out ‘no’. At the very least, it defers the rejection until you have the emotional fortitude to say it nicely. In the end, you wait until the absolute brink and bumble your way through “I am really sorry… the kids have been sick… the dog needs a kidney transplant… sorry… see you soon… it would be great to catch up…. I hope it goes well… sorry"."

I've learned this week that it's hard being on the receiving end when this happens. Of course, I realise there are really good reasons why people are unable to come to events that we organise (this post isn't targeted at anyone, I promise!). And our small party at home isn't a church related event so I'd much rather that people prioritised coming along to church over coming to our little do. But at the same time, I've been guilty of making these kinds of excuses myself, with both church and other social events. And regardless of whether the event is related to church or just a social gathering that someone's been kind enough to invite us to, it has the potential to hurt or discourage other people.  Time (again) to repent of my sin.

You may or may not have come across these before....

But I think this lady is very clever at turning photos of infants into funky looking art. Her name is Adele Enerson and she has a whole blog full of more of this stuff.

And as a mother who is spending today remembering how quickly her little newborn has grown into a big one year old, it is nice to be able to spend some time oohing and aahing over newborn photos. They are pretty cute, aren't they?

Update on a previous story....

A while ago I posted here and here about our kids' school purchasing the Fast ForWord program to use with some of the kids who have learning difficulties.

I did end up discussing the concerns I had with the school principal. I gave him a copy of the independent systematic literature review I found that suggested it wasn't the cure-all that it claims to be. He agreed with me at the time that it was a lot of money to be spending if it wasn't something that could be proved to work any better than regular remedial programs. I hoped he might pass the information on, and said I was happy to chat to the learning support teachers to find out more about where they were coming from. I've had a good relationship with them both in the past so I didn't think that would be too threatening.

I heard nothing further, although I did wonder what had come out of it all, given that they already had the funding earmarked for it and it didn't seem likely they could just use the money for something different.

Then yesterday the school newsletter came home with a picture of the learning support teacher, a teacher's aide (who is running the program) and five students, all wearing headphones and in front of a laptop computer. Together with a story about the great new Fast ForWord program they are all working on (every day for a 50 minute session) based on years of neuroscience research. They appear to be using it mostly with older kids. I recognised a couple of Year 5s in the photo that accompanied the story. So I'm guessing these are the kids who have been chronic non-responders to more conventional remedial programs for reading difficulties.

At the end of the story, there was this quote which I assume came from the school's policies somewhere:

"We value all of our students' capabilities and strive to support individuals' learning needs by sourcing resources from new and different angles."

Sigh. I guess there was never any way they weren't going to run with it. But I'm a bit disappointed that I never heard anything back after I had screwed up all my courage to raise questions I had about it.

I hope it works for these kids. Fifty minutes a day, five days a week, is a lot of withdrawal time from their regular curriculum. The report from the teacher's aide was that "even though the program is in its early stages, the students are showing upward trends and moving forward successfully." Hard to know what that means. I guess most kids would enjoy getting taken out of class and allowed to play games on the computer for almost an hour each day. The big question that probably can't be answered yet is whether or not that translates to improvements with their reading skills.

Next year, I am going to be working for a couple of days a week on a short term contract supervising a group of Uni students to run occupational therapy groups in a school. Now I am all the more determined to make sure that what I am encouraging them to do is actually based on solid evidence. No dodgy interventions here.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

My baby is turning one on Friday

Now that he's walking, he seems to have turned into a toddler in the twinkling of an eye. My breastfeeding days are coming to an end. This week, he decided he didn't want a feed before bed at night anymore so he is down to just one feed in the morning. And he's not so keen to just sit and be cuddled now. He is a child who wants to be on the move....constantly.

We are having a party for him on Saturday. After months and months of no rain the big drought-breaking day of rain is heading our way guessed it, Saturday. I think our pool party plans may need a re-think. Hopefully people will still come. RSVPs haven't exactly been flowing in so far but we would love for a few people to turn up and celebrate with us.

It's our last time celebrating a first birthday for one of our own children. I feel a bit sad about it actually. I hope I don't end up crying.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

And if you are looking for some worthwhile blog posts to read at the moment (since there's nothing to see here, people...)

Could I recommend Meredith's posts on reading all of the Bible. The first one is here.

I've been thinking about a post about motherhood, identity and Christianity

Yes, I know the topic's been done to death. But it's all a bit too hard this afternoon so I found this instead:

Reverse hand show puppets. From here.

And now I'm off to watch (on TV) that horse race that's on today. Not that I'm particularly interested in the outcome. But it does have a bit of added interest this year with royalty being around to present the Cup to the big winner.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Have I mentioned in here before that I love Boggle?

I spent part of the day today playing Boggle with some good friends. Excellent fun.

I'm not very good at it. My strategy is to look for the longer words. In doing this, I end up with less of the three letter words that I assume everyone else will get, so when I can only find one longer word that tactic tends to backfire a bit.

It doesn't stop me having a great time though. Today was absolutely worth it, even if the two little people didn't get much in the way of an afternoon sleep so they were pretty over it by the time we got to swimming for the older two after school.

Some amusement for Monday morning...

From here.

I'm probably being a bit harsh on some of my offspring by posting that actually. Some of my kids would be happy to try anything new. But we have a few laggards in the camp who would be happy eating exactly the same couple of meals forever.*

*or sandwich fillings...I'm currently trying to work out how to move the little guys off eating peanut butter sandwiches every single day...

Ukulele duo

Aidan has started learning to play the ukulele at school. Exciting times.

So far we can play Amazing Grace and Rock Around the Clock together. He's still building up speed on the chord changes so we're a bit slow, but we haven't been doing lots of practice either.

I've been wondering whether I could ask to go along to a couple of their lunchtime music practices so I can learn something as well. I don't think it will get off the ground though. I don't know the school music teacher too well. He seems okay, but you never know when teachers are thinking that the parents are being a bit too pushy and overenthusiastic. But the presence of two toddlers wanting food closely followed by sleep at the same time as school lunchtime is probably the killer blow to the plan.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Reading this at the moment

After I read a review of it here.

I'm really enjoying it. It's been interesting to read it straight after doing the Two Ways to Live course, since it seems to address many questions that came up for me during that.

Anyone else read it?