Thursday, May 31, 2012

Exams all marked

Hooray. Now life can continue.

I might bake something to celebrate. Merle's cookbook is still going strong here.

I have a couple of other food shots still waiting to be downloaded from my camera too. I did a bit of food styling before I took them so the food looks pretty impressive.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Random sources of amusement for the day....

From here.

From here


Coolest piano ever?

A friend just posted this picture on Facebook. Now I want to find out where it was taken...

Monday, May 28, 2012

On leaving graciously...thoughts from those left behind

Over the past twelve months, we've had some people leave our church. People who were part of our congregation for many years and quite involved in things. They left not because they were moving out of the area (the main reason we've changed churches previously), but because they're now going to another church down the road.

I always feel a bit sad when this happens. In some ways, it feels like a family member has disowned us. They've decided they don't want to hang out with us any more, they'd rather spend time with a different bunch of people.

I've noticed over the years that there are a couple of ways that people tend to leave when they are moving on to another church. One is the very public dummy spit about what's wrong with the current church. In one case I'm aware of, a guy who was rostered on to pray got up and mid-prayer had a bit of a meltdown about how the church was grieving him and he couldn't stay any longer. Not ideal. A little bit awkward for those of us sitting in the congregation who really had no idea how to react to this. Do you keep your eyes closed or do you open them and look around to see what others are doing?

The other form of departure I've encountered is the quiet disappearance. People just stop coming, you think they must be on holidays or something, and then you realise you haven't seen them around for a long time. Eventually someone makes a comment about them having moved to some other church, or the penny drops in some indirect way. In this particular instance, I saw that their photo wasn't in our new church directory which came out last week. And then I asked a friend of mine about them and discovered she'd sent them an email saying she'd been missing them at church. She'd received the response that they were away at the coast for the weekend. Nothing more than that. We haven't seen them since they disappeared. Well, except on Facebook. More on that later.

I'd like to suggest a better way to leave. Be upfront about it. Not in the public dummy spit kind of way. And not necessarily even with everyone in the church, but I think for those people who've known you for a while it's kind to offer some sort of calm and reasonable explanation. It prevents those confused feelings on the part of those you are leaving behind about why you've gone. The most important person to provide this explanation to is the pastor of your church, and he can decide whether the reasons should be shared about it or not. Even then, I think some kind of brief comment up the front about the people no longer attending can be helpful. It provides closure and removes the uncertainty (and hopefully decreases the gossip) about what's happened.

People change over time. I get that. Sometimes people find their needs may be best met in some other church family or denomination. A new season in their Christian lives and growth may be what's required in some instances. But for those left behind, it can really hurt if no explanation is provided about what's happened. In one case, a family left our church and their kids were quite good friends with our boys. Luckily our guys don't tend to ask too many questions, but if they did ask where they'd gone, I wouldn't be sure what to answer.

Just one thing that you probably shouldn't do if you are the person leaving and moving on to another church. Avoid taking to social media (Facebook, twitter, blogs or anywhere else) to say how fantastic your new church is and that the people, the message, the singing or whatever are absolutely wonderful compared with those "other Christians" who do things differently. It's all too painfully obvious who you are talking about.*

*and yes, I do realise that this could be a case of the pot calling the kettle black here. I'm trying to work out whether to say something and if yes, then how or what. Happy to take suggestions....

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Watching Eurovision Song Contest while marking exams

Sorry that's more of a Facebook status than a blog post, people.

I already know who won Eurovision. I accidentally listened to a news update earlier. Trying to put it out of my mind.

Some of the exams I've marked so far have been as strange as some of the Eurovision songs. But I've done all the failures and near-failures now. The ones I have left are mostly good ones. Although they can be harder to mark. If a paper is absolutely terrible, it's easy to just mark zero over and over again. With some of the ones I have left, I might have to think a bit harder.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Belated Mother's Day post

A bit late, I know, but we were pretty busy over the Mother's Day weekend and I kept forgetting to post about it.

I bought myself this cookbook for my Mother's Day present. On the Friday before Mother's Day, I was sent off to the shops by my husband and told to "buy yourself something."

I was pretty happy with this. At least I knew that I would use whatever I bought. So I ended up with this cookbook by Merle Parrish.

For those who don't know Merle, her claim to fame is that she appeared on last year's series of Masterchef and judged a couple of the contestants who were baking her famous peach blossom cake. The recipe for it is in the cookbook. She's also a CWA member who both enters and judges CWA baking competitions. This is nostalgic for me. My grandma was in the CWA and I still remember going to a couple of meetings with her when I was a little girl. She used to be famous for her Kentish cake, which isn't in Merle's book, but I have the recipe for that one anyway.

I've been really impressed with the cookbook so far. The recipes are mostly pretty straightforward and most of them use ingredients you already have sitting in the fridge or pantry. I get annoyed with recipes that require ingredients you can never find in the supermarket or that tell you things are available in "specialty food shops." We don't have any of those kinds of shops around here.

So far I've made coconut biscuits, a pumpkin fruit cake, and a lime and buttermilk cake. There are lots of other great recipes for cakes, biscuits and treats that you would have seen at street stalls and fetes during the 1970s and 80s as well. She has a whole chapter on sponges, which I've never been brave enough to attempt to make, but she makes it sound so easy, I'm actually thinking about giving one a go. There are plenty of handy hints about how to bake cakes and how to present them for competition if that's ever something you want to do.

All in all, a pretty handy cookbook to have in the pantry. I know I'll use it often.

The kids came home with the usual gifts from the school Mother's Day stall. They know to go for useful stuff too. From Liam, I received a pen and one of those cardboard deodorizer things that you hang on the rear vision mirror of the car (it says "World's Best Mum"). And Aidan gave me a pink drink bottle. Not my first colour choice but it's a nice stainless steel model so it should last for a while.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Here's a great blog

If you are often cooking meals for other people at church (or anywhere else, for that matter). It's called Food That Serves and it has all kinds of helpful hints and meal ideas for cooking for other people.

There's a great post about pie-makers on it. I don't own a pie maker myself (we just cut up and squish the pastry into our ancient pie dishes) but I'm seriously tempted to get one after reading that post. For winter meals, we often make pies to give away. Over the weekend, we made a double quantity of savoury mince and made a shepherd's pie for ourselves and a pastry pie for a family at church. It sounds like the pie-maker might make the step of making the pastry fit into the dish properly a little less painful. The supermarket pastry squares always seem to be just that little bit too small.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

No silver bus this week

It's off having a new door put on after my recent crash into the post. We have a second small car that Chris takes to work and he's been dropping the bigger kids off at school in the mornings as well. Yesterday I walked down to school to help with reading and to take the younger kids to a toddler music group that's just started up in the school hall.

So three days in, we've been surviving okay without the big car. It's off-road time has been well timed in some ways. I think some quieter time at home is good every so often. And I need it at the moment to concentrate on some of Rowan's eating issues.

Anyway, this morning, I decided we'd get out into the fresh air and sunshine, and walk up to the local neighbourhood shopping centre to buy a couple of treats for lunch. It's usually a brisk five to ten minute stroll from home when I'm by myself. Today I discovered it takes at least twice as long with a walking toddler and a baby in a sling.

We don't go to this shopping centre all that often. If we do, it's mostly on weekends where we might pick up a newspaper or a loaf of bread or something. I don't go there much during the week. The only reason we went today was because it didn't involve walking home up a steep hill the way walking to the local Coles supermarket would have.

So after all the effort of walking what felt like a very long way with two small children, you can imagine my joy when we walked into the little IGA express supermarket and saw a student of mine stacking the shelves there.  I'd just failed her on her major assignment. And, even better, she'd sent me an email first thing this morning to query the mark she'd been given. She's not going to get it changed. It wasn't good enough.


How did I manage this situation, I hear you all asking? Well, not exactly with poise and confidence. I lowered my head, picked up my bananas and hot dog sausages, paid as quickly as I possibly could and escaped to the relative safety of the bakery next door. A jam doughnut there assisted my recovery.

I'm hopeful she may not have recognised me in my mother disguise (broad brimmed floppy hat, baby attached to front in sling, cute toddler who often draws attention away from me). I'd like to think my presentation in University tutorials would be vastly different to today's look.

But by the way she suddenly started paying extremely close attention to the cans she was putting on the shelves, I'm thinking she probably did know it was me. And she probably felt equally awkward.

The exam for the subject is tomorrow. I hope she had big plans to go home and study for the rest of the day and night so she can blitz the exam. Because otherwise she's not going to pass. And it's a subject they have to pass or they have to repeat it next year.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Reading at the moment...

I've just finished reading this book. I'd read several reviews of it (largely positive), and it was also discussed on the ABC TV First Tuesday Book Club show this month. It got a mixed review on the TV show, where some of the panel really enjoyed it, while others expressed quite a strong dislike.

The storyline was appealing to me because a lighthouse was involved. I love lighthouses. And I also love a good ethical dilemma. In this one, a boat washes up on a remote lighthouse island with a baby girl and a dead man (her father) inside. Having just lost a baby themselves, the young couple who are the sole residents of the island where the husband is the lighthouse keeper decide to keep the baby and not report the death of the man to authorities. The book goes on to describe the consequences of this decision for all involved.

On the surface, it sounded like an intriguing plotline. Unfortunately, I didn't think the writing quite lived up to the good idea. It's the first novel for the author M. L.Stedman, so there's nothing else she has written to compare with, but I thought the writing style didn't do the plot justice. There were a lot of wasted words and scenes. It probably could have been half the length it was and been a much better read.

My copy from the library also had one of those Women's Weekly Great Reads stickers on the front of it. Those stickers don't usually make me want to read the book. In fact, to me they're like a great big sign saying "For schmaltzy and overly sentimental writing, come and read this." And that's what I thought by the time I got to the end. It seemed like a very superficial and sugar-coated treatment of the issues it was aiming to cover.

But obviously many other people (including book reviewers with far greater credentials than I possess) have really loved it. So I'm giving it a second read to see if it redeems itself on the second attempt. But at the moment, I'm sitting in the "not that great" camp.

As always, I'm happy to hear arguments from anyone who really enjoyed it and can convince me that it's the most marvellous debut novel ever written (or can find what it is that I may have missed)....

Why the nice guys finish last...

From here.

When parenting on the run comes back to bite you

Took Rowan for his 6 month check up and vaccinations last week to discover that his weight gain has slowed fairly dramatically. He gained only 350 grams in just over two months. The average gain is something like 500g a month. Anyway, it wasn't much. He'd dropped back a percentile band on the growth charts and the GP started talking about formula supplements if he doesn't gain another 500g in the next month or so. We only started solids a couple of weeks ago, but I think the gains have been slow for a month or so longer than that.

I think that in the busyness of life, work, managing the other kids, church stuff etc etc, my milk supply has dropped off without me noticing. Perhaps I've been a bit too casual about not bothering with weighing him because he's the fourth child and I thought I knew what I was doing. And Rowan hasn't complained, although he certainly was very excited about the solids starting and has already been gobbling up huge amounts in the relatively short time since we started them.

So it was back to the lactation consultant for some advice. I'm now drinking a fairly yukky tasting herbal mixture that's supposed to increase supply. Eating lots of porridge for breakfast (oats are good for milk supply too). Expressing after the morning feed when there's a bit more milk.  Trying to convince Rowan to take extra feeds during the day. He's not particularly convinced. I think he might have gotten used to me saying "just let me do this one more thing, and then I'll feed you" so he's not sure why he's getting all these extra offers.

Debating whether to go and get a prescription for some more Motillium. I used this with Rosie to keep my supply up in the early days when she wasn't feeding well and stayed on it for months until solids were going well, which meant I really didn't have to think about milk supply at all with her. I have about four days worth of that left but I'll need more to keep going with since you can't just stop taking it cold turkey.

Determined to avoid formula if I possibly can. I've never had to give it to any of the other kids and I'm not keen to start now.

Trying to stay calm about it (not easy, but I had a good expressing session this morning which made me feel a bit better about things). We have a quiet week coming up. The silver bus is back at the repair shop after my latest crash in it so we won't be going far from home. Plenty of time to sort things out.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The paradox of IKEA shopping: Disorientation produces contentment

I was just reading this interesting article  on Inside Story, reviewing a book about the rise and rise of the IKEA phenomenon.

It's a long read, so if you don't have time to read it all, you can just read my summary below. Or skip to the bit where he writes about the IKEA cat ad (see above video), and how the cats behave in much the same way as people do when they go on an IKEA adventure. That was pretty interesting reading.

I'm no lover of the IKEA experience myself. It's way too easy to get sucked into buying lots of stuff that you don't need simply because you are forced to walk past it. What the guy says in his article is true though. The whole place is incredibly disorienting when you arrive there, but about half an hour into it, you start to work out what's what, and then wham, you "feel licensed to impulse purchase," often ending up purchasing far more than what you went there for. The idea of this disorientation producing contentment seems paradoxical, but it works.

There's some other interesting commentary in this article as well, particularly on the way IKEA encourages us to subscribe to the 21st century principle of minimalist design that tells us less is more, while simultaneously managing to convince us that more is less. If we're there to buy a sofa, for example, then the cleverly organised display it's been placed in is highly likely to convince us to buy not only the sofa but the lamp, the coffee table, and a few drinking glasses as well.

I think the main issue I have with IKEA is that it encourages home idolatry and materialism. If I could get through the shop without wanting to buy all the little extras, I think I could visit there more often. Usually, if I want to buy something from IKEA, I'll send Chris because he doesn't get sucked into the funky little displays the way I do. He dislikes it so much, he gets in and out far more quickly too.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A walker for the geriatric geek...

Here's a post for my husband the physiotherapist. I would love to see someone walking around with one of these!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Chris and I are reading this in our Bible reading time at the moment. We're three chapters into it now.

I have to confess I haven't read much of the minor prophets. Other than Jonah at Sunday School, they weren't big in the church I grew up in.

I'm loving it. It's great how all those visions point towards Jesus.

My 10 year old has gone to school camp today

He was really excited about going. Rosie, Rowan and I were there to wave goodbye as the bus drove away for four days at Lennox Head.

I was okay until now. Now I'm feeling a little bit sad. He's growing up. On Sunday, he had his first double figure birthday. And now he's off to his first school camp.

He's become so much more independent over the past twelve months. While it's great to see that, there's a bit of sadness too. He still needs me, but in a different way.

Off to distract myself with a few assignments so I don't have a little cry....

Monday, May 14, 2012

Kaffir lime: Our weekend fruit identification challenge

We found one of these under a tree behind the unit we stayed in at our church weekend away. There were heaps of them so we didn't think anyone would mind too much if we picked up one to bring home with us (is it bad to confess that we stole a piece of fruit while we were on church camp??). When we found it, we knew it was some kind of citrus fruit but we'd never seen a wrinkly citrus fruit before. They look a bit like the surface of a brain.

Google images is very helpful when it comes to identifying unknown fruits. So now we know it's a kaffir lime.

I've only ever used kaffir lime leaves in Thai cooking until now. Does anyone know what you can do with the fruit part? Would you just use it like a regular lime?

I also have three bunches of rhubarb (locally grown, we bought it from a roadside fruit shop on the way home yesterday) to use up. I know how to do poached/stewed rhubarb and can do an apple and rhubarb crumble. I'd welcome any suggestions on what other things I could do with it....

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Work work work

Will it ever end??

Of course it will. Just two more papers to go, and then the ones from the Special Consideration crowd are coming in at the end of the week. And then the students have their exam the following week.

While all this is going on, we have to help two kids write talks for the public speaking comp at school, and help the 10 year old (it's his birthday today!) build a diorama of the solar system. Essentially this is a craft activity, but we have to avoid the use of the "c" word because he has a significant aversion to doing anything even slightly craft related. He goes away to school camp for all of this week so it's going to be an intense week or two when he comes back to get this all done.

This is our first diorama. I have no memory of ever making one at school, although perhaps I did make one and it was a fairly painless experience. I'm hoping we can survive this one. We just need to find the right language to keep him engaged with the task.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Church weekend away coming up this weekend

I have umpteen songs to practise before we go, three and a half assignments still to be marked, clothes, bedding, towels, baby and toddler paraphernalia to pack and it's Aidan's tenth birthday on Sunday while we are away (as well as Mother's Day). He then gets one day at home next week before he goes on Tuesday to school camp at Lennox Head for four days. Trying to make sure we have everything on the "what to bring to camp" list....

So we've got a few things to think about here. Might be a bit of blog neglect coming up over the next week or so, folks. Will see you on the other side...

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

I just saw a status update from a family member on facebook

...about giving her kids worming chocolates.

I've never ever given my kids worming chocolates. I don't think they've ever had worms but I don't routinely check this either. Obviously if they had them, I would give them something to get rid of them.

Is administering worming chocolates something I'm supposed to be doing on a regular basis as a preventive strategy? Do other people do it? How would I tell if my kid actually had worms anyway?

Feel free to enlighten me in my ignorance...

Myths of parenthood #1: Everyone else is coping

I was reading an article in a magazine yesterday on post-natal depression. The opening paragraph discussed some of the common myths of parenthood. You know the ones. Parenting is always rewarding. Having a baby brings you closer together as a couple. Babies sleep. You should be available for your children 24 hours a day.

The one that stood out to me was this one:  Everyone else is coping.

This is the one I always fall for. It always appears to me as though everyone else has it together when I feel like I am struggling hard with all that looking after children involves. It can be a lonely feeling.

I don't think we as mothers do ourselves any favours here. I think that many of us work hard to cultivate the image that we are going fine, that we are managing everything very well and that life is just rosy, thanks very much for asking. I am highly guilty of this. It perpetuates the myth that everyone's coping and it means we are not being honest about what we are actually going through.

So in the interest of keeping things real and to enlighten anyone that knows me in real life and thinks I am in the "coping" crowd, I would just like to say that on many days I don't cope well with my kids. I get grumpy with them often and particularly in the mornings with getting them off to school and in the evenings with feeding them and getting them to bed. I know it's not great and I've been working hard to try to be more disciplined about not getting cranky with them so much, but it's a very hard slog some days. When I'm tired and they're tired, it all gets a bit much. There are lots of days when I end up calling my husband mid-afternoon to remind him to leave work right on time so he can come home and help me sort out the noisiness and arguments that are going on. Without his support, it would be very difficult to get through these busy times of the day.

I know that not everyone else has the luxury of being able to make that 4pm phone call of despair. Being alone in what feels like a very deep hole with children who all have needs (often simultaneously!) is a challenge. The morning and evening parenting rush hours are particularly unrewarding times at which the feeling of non-coping is at its strongest (and the feeling that everyone else is managing well is also creeping in). Survival becomes the priority. It's relentless. And it has to be gotten through every single day.

I'm praying for those who have to manage these times alone and with limited support. And thinking about how I can help them. Meals are one way, I guess. That would be one less task for them to get done. I'm trying to think of other things I can do as well.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A Google search is not the same thing as a literature search

Some of my students appear to have missed this point somewhere.

Not good enough, people.

Walking home from school

This term, we've started allowing our two older boys (one aged almost ten, the other seven and a half) to walk home from school by themselves on a couple of days each week. Their school is about five hundred metres from our house.

The first day they did it, Chris hid a little way up the road from their walking route and stalked them on the way back to make sure they were okay. They have one busy-ish street to cross on the way but the rest of the walking route is pretty quiet. They managed it fine. Last week, they walked home by themselves on two days. I'm letting them walk home alone today as well.

It dawned on me today that perhaps I should check out whether other parents of school aged children allow their kids to do this. So I visited a couple of parenting websites and found a range of opinions, varying from "not don't know what weirdos are out there these days" to "not until they go to high school" to "my daughter is in Year 1 and she walks by herself." The weirdo one made me stop and think for a bit. A year or two ago there was an abduction scare at our school. At that stage, the kids all had the stranger danger talk. I should probably do that again.

For us, it's been a matter of making sure the walking route they take is safe enough for them. The one road they cross can get busy around school pick up time, but Chris said they were really good at checking for traffic on the day he followed them. And it's not that far for them to walk. They get some exercise. A major bonus for me is that I don't have to wake up the baby and toddler to do the school run.

I used to walk home from school (much further than the boys do) when I was a kid. My dad was at work and my mother didn't drive. I remember getting lifts with people or my mother walking to school with us when we were little. Since I was the eldest, once all four of the kids in our family were at school, I had to make sure all of us made it home safely. There were some moments. Magpie season was challenging. We had to walk past a park on a busy road and there were a few times when we just had to make a run for it with our bags on our heads while the magpies were divebombing us from above.

When we bought our house, one of the things we liked about it was that it was within walking distance of school. It's good to finally take advantage of this feature and teach our kids to be responsible. They seem to like it that we've trusted them to do it as well.

That's not to say I don't feel uneasy about it sometimes. But I guess that's what growing up and allowing them some independence is all about.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Something else worth reading

You Do Not Belong to Your Children, You Belong to Christ.

I've often thought this, but haven't known how to put it into words without being too blunt. Fortunately, someone else has done it for me.

Thanks Jean (another great Christian blogger for women!) for sharing it.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Assignments Round 2

Back into marking this week here. This time, my group did this assignment in pairs, so there are only half as many as last time. This is good.

We are also giving them less individualised feedback than last time. So I just have to write a few summary comments and highlight the box on the marking criteria form for their score. Also good.

I just read through one of them, in which the words "indisputably" and "inarguably" were greatly overused. By the end of it, I wanted to argue every point that was in a sentence that involved either of these words. Just because it was entirely possible to do so.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Celeriac. Possibly the world's ugliest vegetable...

...but very yummy when mashed up together with potato and served with roast chicken and gravy.

And now it has become one of the first vegetables Rowan has eaten. An unusual one to mention in his baby book should I ever get around to a) purchasing one and b) writing in it. (Fortunately, I have my blog to refer back to for all these important milestones).

After lots of putting it off, I finally got around to starting him on solids this week. After a few slow days (and lots of spitting out of rice cereal), he's caught on and has been gobbling up apple for breakfast for the past day or two.

So today I thought we might increase to two meals. Apple (mixed with the boring rice cereal) for breakfast, and potato and celeriac mash for dinner. I know the books say not to mix foods when introducing them, but I figured mixing something with potato would be a pretty safe bet.

He really loved it. It's very cute the way babies smack their lips together when they like something, and then start opening their mouths to get more.

And so the great food adventure has started. Only another twenty years of meals to be planned, cooked and served up. A more short term task is to plan his menu for our church weekend away next weekend. At one point I was hoping I might be able to stretch out the starting date for solids until after that, but he'll be six months old this week. I didn't think I could leave it too much longer. He does seem more settled with sleeps since we got started. And the nappies are soaking wet rather than just a little bit wet now.
I think it was the right time.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

This is a great post on why anxiety is pointless and foolish


Full of helpful verses to keep in mind when we're stressing about the little things.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The week is looking up

I just won the prize in Meredith's book giveaway. 

Very exciting. I already own two of the books, so I'm getting the one called O Love That Will Not Let Me Go.

Can't wait to get it in the post. Thanks so much, Meredith.

By the way, if you haven't read Meredith's blog you really should go and look at it. She is a great book reviewer and one of the most encouraging Christian bloggers I know.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Inchworm life cycle

Yesterday as we were walking home from school, we found an inchworm like this one. We managed to carry him home on a little twig (he fell off a few times so Liam ended up carrying him for the last part of the trip).

We put him in a plastic container with some grass to eat. He was pretty quiet yesterday evening. We were wondering if he'd been completely stressed out by it all or even if he might be dead.

This morning he was busy eating again so he seemed to have recovered.

Now he's attached himself to the two pieces of twig in the container and looks like he may be starting to spin himself a cocoon.

I wish I'd gotten a photo of him when he was still looking more like a worm. Liam has to do a project on the life cycle of an animal over the next few weeks. It would be great if we could do a hands-on project with an actual living thing.

I've just taken some photos of the early cocoon. Will keep you updated....