Monday, 31 December 2012

The year in review

Photography by Bethany Hamilton

The sunset of another year and the dawn of the new brings time for reflection. What have been highlights in 2012 for your family? I think it's good to practise gratitude and remember. Remember the good times, the low lights, the challenges and the ways in which we've all grown, physically, emotionally, academically, socially, spiritually.

We chatted about this last night at the dinner table and the first comments were around family holidays as stand out memories for the year. Being a camping kinda family we spent both Easter and Spring September holidays camping, both great times of memory making & community spent with other families and friends. My four also holidayed with their Dad in Canberra & Victoria to celebrate their Granny's 70th birthday. A long road trip, but one that clocked up the hours for EQ's L's!

From camping to a political campaign that my beautiful four embraced and pushed me forward. They were incredibly supportive as were extended family and community. So grateful for the experience, people met and lessons learnt along the way.

EQ has had a blended year of school, TAFE & work. He has managed to save the majority of his earnings, resist the temptations to spend it on unnecessary things as most of his peers and can proudly say he can afford to buy his own car now due to his hard work. Learning a strong work ethic has been important to him and I am grateful as his Mum that he has chosen to do this. His keen love of skateboarding and surfing filled any spare time and thankfully no serious injuries this year!

Deep Waters being the academic of the family after a couple of wobbly years at school has applied himself this year and seen the results of his hard work pay off. Gaining the HPE and Science Subject awards and an 'A' for his grade 6 piano exam. The hours and hours of piano practise being an absolute delight for me listening, pure slog for him! DW ends the year also starting part time work and has found himself as Mr Independence skating here, there & everywhere.

Thoughtful Princess has blossomed in 2012, growing into a young woman physically, emotionally taking on the joy of serving others as a leader at camp, in Kids Church & spiritually experiencing her own revival starting God circles at school & on weekends. She has excelled in music, playing in three ensembles, going on Music Tour and though sadly had to say goodbye to her saxophone teacher of 5 years, and her beloved jazz band, has thankfully persevered with encouragement despite the desire to quit due to so much change.

Sunshine's year is resoundingly marked with dance. What started as a joke giving up walking and dancing everywhere not far from reality. Sunshine's life one of movement. On average she has spent 12 - 15 hours a week dancing, some weeks double that with eisteddfods or concerts. Her love of dance inspires us all. Her discipline, determination and passion admirable traits that defy even me as a parent. Keeping dance as an interest and not an obsession probably our hardest challenge. Learning to enjoy and not stress re perfection also up there too. Her love of dance translated to 5 High Distinctions, gaining over 95% for every exam she did. She is one very happy, budding ballerina, her bedroom now a shrine to dance! If she isn't dancing, she is reading. After home & the dance studio, the library is her favourite place to be.

Far from an exhaustive summary of the year, only highlights that jump out without thinking too deeply. Most of all as a Mum, I am simply grateful for my children's good health, active, enquiring minds, their incredible resilience amidst constant change in their lives and the absolute privilege it is to nurture their natural talents and abilities and foster new opportunities and experiences.

As we say goodbye to 2012 and anticipate 2013 may we all continue to cherish our children, be grateful for the ordinary, the mundane, the special times, the highs and lows that shape life and our hearts.

Wishing you all the very best of everything in the coming year. 
Happy New Year everyone. 






Friday, 28 December 2012

Boxing Day Blues


Do you ever get that feeling post people, people, people of feeling flat? When there has been one thing after another, activities, gatherings, dinners, lunches, functions, then sudden quietness. Most times it's refreshing to have quiet after a busy stretch but sometimes there is a flat, lull feeling, an anti-climax.

Boxing Day saw the classic expression of an artistic soul in my beautiful daughter, Thoughtful Princess. After a weeks of frenetic pace, pre Christmas buzz & preparations, sleep-overs, a busy Christmas Eve, full compliment of family Christmas Day - Boxing Day at home came as a little bit of a slump after a big build up & super busy period for my daughter, no doubt welcomed for others.

We dared venture to the shops in the morning to catch some sales then had a much needed quiet afternoon at home. I noticed Thoughtful Princess 'floating' around the house, going from the piano to the guitar to her room to the couch, unable to settle, avoiding tidying her bedroom, just anyhow! When I asked if she felt a bit flat, she agreed that described her mood.

Like a true artistic soul she took to nature and creativity and chose to dance her blues away. She put music on and danced for hours in the backyard, literally till the sun set. Using her ballet, contemporary and jazz skills she made up dances to express her soul... dancing from the heart she called it.

It was beautiful to behold!

Watching her from the kitchen window it was delightful to see her dance her blues away!

Thoughtful Princess as one who excels easily in music, drama & history made me appreciate again the beauty of the arts to express oneself when words or work momentarily can't. Where the creative flow of music, dance or art take over. It is so liberating. She looked so free.

I hope these holidays there are moments where we all can get caught up in the creative flow - whatever it is for you. Gardening, writing, composing, playing music, dancing, designing, carving, cooking, painting, singing - Whatever nurtures your soul, find some time to revel in it.......

Cherishing my daughter
Cherishing the arts
Cherishing quiet times

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Jesus Who?


This week leading up to Christmas I have been listening to who people think Jesus really is. To get beyond the decorations, wrapping paper & presents, if Christmas is all about Christ then who is He? Why does the one who defines history, BC & AD not get more kudos if we are meant to be celebrating His birthday! Is it all cliche?

I love hearing how people describe Him. Some see Him as the baby in the manager, others as one who loved little children, healed people, did miracles, spoke of a new way of living, died on a cross, rose from the dead, a Prophet, the Messiah, others have ethereal perspectives and images, and some see Him as their best friend, Saviour, Lord - but what does that really mean? 

Sometimes as a someone who tries to follow Christ  I am embarrassed to say I am a Christian - not because of Christ, but because of other Christians. 

Media often portrays the worst, only the bad stuff makes head lines & news. The Catholic priest paedophiles, the fundamentalists against gay marriage, the right wing pro lifers who picket abortion clinics. This is the picture often painted of Christians. Is it really what Christ was on about? 

I read an article this week that tried to describe the difference;

"One thing that might ease our anxiety is to remember that Christ and Christianity are not the same thing; If Christ is the wind, then Christianity is the sail. Some sails are better than others at catching the wind, some sailors are better at using the sail, but there is always and only one wind."

Seeing Jesus as the wind is a good analogy - as the One who gives breathe to life, gives direction.....

The writer, Shane Hipps goes on; "Just because Christianity claims Jesus as its own does not mean that Christ automatically claims Christianity as his own.
In one sense, Christ is the pre-existent creative power of the universe with no birthday or death date, Christianity on the other hand is an institution built with the intention of harnessing that power. If the institution goes away, the power remains. Put simply, Christ is much, much bigger than any religion.
In one of the gospels, Jesus has an experience with a woman from another culture. Jesus introduces her to the possibility of eternal life. This woman was a member of a religion starkly at odds with his own. She was a Samaritan, he was a Jew; the gap between these two is comparable to the gap between Muslims and Christians today. Yet, throughout their conversation, he never once made religious conversion a requirement for her to access eternal life. To paraphrase, Jesus essentially says to her, "I don't much care where or how you worship, but if you can recognize me, streams of living water will flow from within you."
In the story above, Jesus focuses her attention on a deeper interior reality, rather than external ones. The religion of the woman is immaterial. However, we notice a minimum requirement to recognize Jesus in order to get the goods he offers. It might be tempting to conclude that as long as we recognize and name Jesus that is what matters.
 Sometimes even recognition isn't a requirement for Christ to be real in our lives. In another story of Jesus, He spat on the ground, made mud pies and smeared them on a blind man's face. Soon the man could see. The method of the miracle is so bizarre that we often miss the most important point. The man didn't ask to be healed. He was minding his own business when some guy rubs dirt and spit on his eyes and them tells him to go wash it off. He didn't even know the name of his assailant. Here Jesus performs a miracle without anyone asking or recognizing who he was. Jesus served as an anonymous donor, able to give gifts without getting the credit. If we, who are merely human, are able to give anonymous gifts, how much more is Jesus?"

Jesus said, "love one another" - I think until we get that right, let's stop judging, condemning and accusing each other! 
Ask who Jesus really is this Christmas? He is not banging on about religion! 

To me, He is the lover of my soul, author of life, my peace in uncertainty, a wonderful counsellor, a gracious, gracious God, everlasting Father, the reason that I live. 
Hoping you have a wonderful time with family, friends, loved ones today. Cherishing Christmas as it brings us together, to be in touch, to celebrate, to be generous to one another, to practice goodwill, charity and random acts of kindness. I think this demonstrates who Jesus really is.......

If you'd like to read the full article referenced follow the link below:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/shane-hipps/why-christ-doesnt-need-christianity_b_2258246.html

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Milestone Moments


Reflecting on the week that was. Probably one of the most momentous weeks of the year for us as a family finishing up school and all that entails for 2012. Very nostalgic as we celebrate significant milestones in the lives of our four. Saying goodbyes & anticipating new beginnings........

Milestones seem to serve as a reminder that nothing stays the same, that we are ever growing & changing. The only thing that remains constant is change. Rose Kennedy would say that, "life is not about milestones but about moments." 

So let's combine the two & rephrase, "life is about milestone moments". I would also add, "and how we capture them"! 

For Sunshine primary school graduation this week, the baby of our family now a 'tweenager'! Honestly is the whole idea of middle school really a good idea? Seems to be making children grow up quicker?

For Thoughtful Princess graduating from middle school into senior school and a semi formal to do so. An event that seems to create 18yr olds out of 14yr olds for the night! Not so convinced it's necessary.

For Deep Waters transitioning from grade 10 to 11 and the selection of subjects that seem to force one to 'be' something or shape a certain career path at such an early age.

For EQ saying goodbye to taking school casually and readying for serious application in grade 12. Working over the holidays towards an apprenticeship, sign of the times that he is growing into adult responsibility.

Emotional too - having chatted with many mums during this week, seems a common theme for emotions to be running high as we say farewell to primary school, teachers, almost in a sense, childhood, as we embrace the prospect of middle school, senior school & independence for our teens.

It's a mixed bag of happy/sad. Celebrating their achievements and grateful for the year, sad to say goodbye to certain times that you know will never happen again. Closing off of a chapter in their lives to open the next........

As a young mum, everyone always made the comment, "blink & they grow up" - now they are nearly all grown up, can't help but say, it's true!


Cherishing milestone moments
Cherishing the chaos of busy family life
Cherishing occasions to celebrate 

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Creative space


A few people have commented on no recent blog posts. To give the response, not enough time seems lame, but is the honest answer. Another way of wording it is, the absence of creative space. Life seems over full with activities, events, deadlines, concerts and end of year functions. All of which are good and wonderful in themselves, just would be nice if they were spread over the year not all lumped in a 6 week sandwich! If life is normally lived on fast forward, then lately feels like super speed.

I am sure everyone feels the same at this time of year.

It's been interesting that nothing creative has welled up inside me in the whirlwind of busyness. Quite a few blogs this year have been devoted to the beauty of silence and retreating to reconnect with that creative space..... can't help but wonder all the creative energy lost in each of us with our crowded lives.  What Apple ideas could be dreamed up in lingering creative spaces!

I actually find myself craving a 'go slow' day and can't see one in sight till after Christmas......

I love the picture above. The simplicity. The emptiness. A lovely space begging to be filled. That's a little how writing feels for me. A creative space begging to be filled. We each find creativity in different things, music, art, dancing, gardening, sport, painting, photography, wherever it is for you, express it.......

Hoping then for each of us in this busy season, some times and spaces that can fill rather than just drain; inspire, nurture and fulfill not just demand, deplete and take.

Life is lived one moment at a time. 

Capturing the moments is a delicate art. 

Grateful for moments that take our breath away in the midst of responsibility and commitments. 






Monday, 29 October 2012

Days have feelings


Monday of last week was a pupil free day. Driving along to wherever my beautiful four start chattering about how the day felt like a Saturday because they didn't have to go to school. We all agreed how odd it is that days actually have feelings! 

We laughed & talked about holiday feelings, Sunday feelings & how most people share the same feelings about particular days, i.e. when it's a pupil free day it feels like a weekend day. It certainly is a widespread phenomena that we attach feelings to certain daysWell at least we attribute a feeling to a day due to various reasons; anticipation of something, relaxed routine or simply a change from the norm.

Fridays usually have a wonderful feeling because it heralds the weekend. Mondays can have an 'itis' feeling with a bit of brain fog due to weekend activities. Then public holidays have another kind of feeling again throwing the rest of the week into a fast forward spin or dragged out feeling.

We often say it's been a fast week, slow week. What is that? Time technically doesn't change but we attribute these human elements & feelings to it, to days, to years that make out as if it really can speed up or slow down. I find this fascinating!

Perception is what gives us those feelings. Perception is very individual but it can also be shared. So often when everyone agrees that a day feels a certain way, it's a shared perception. Like a pupil free day makes a Monday feel like a Saturday.

According to Wikipedia - "Perception (from the Latin perceptio, percipio) is the organization, identification and interpretation of sensory information in order to represent and understand the environment."

Therefore we perceive that days feel different depending on the sensory information we process on the day. Just like a public holiday in the middle of the week can make it feel like a weekend day.

Interesting that's all. Nothing deep & meaning to it. Silly blog really, just a random car conversation that triggered, why, as the world over we all think, days have feelings.

Cherishing time itself
Cherishing pupil free days
Cherishing weekends together


Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Blowing in the wind

The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now.
Chinese Proverb
Seeing this picture reminded me of a lovely 'washing line experience' I had a decade or so ago, when EQ was about 5 years old. A picture paints a thousand words, well hopefully I can keep it to under that to tell our little story.

EQ had just started at preschool, a nice, well recommended, private, Christian preschool. Being my first child, I was super protective of him & very selective about putting him in environments where he would flourish. First week of preschool he comes home with the f*** word! Naive & over protective me, races down to the preschool end of week 1 to have a little chat with the teacher about where on earth this language was coming from!

What she said has stayed with me for a decade. She reassuringly told me that EQ had befriended a little boy (alias, Rocco) who was a little bit 'different' to the other children. Rocco was a rough & tumble kinda boy, flowery language himself for a 5 yr old, not liked, bullied & a bullier & EQ was one of the only boys in the class to befriend him.

She said, "trust that the good in your son will rub off more than the bad in Rocco. It would be a shame to separate them as Rocco needs EQ's friendship".

Still not terribly convinced about this situation & growing friendship, was prayerful and thoughtful about it. As often my habit, having a chat with God at the washing line, I happened to look over in our garden at a tree we had just planted (very similar size as in picture above). I noticed the wind blowing it almost over. Being so little it was not quite strong enough to keep upright, it bowed to the wind, but it did not break!

Like a voice from heaven itself, sensed that EQ was just like that little tree. His roots were planted deep & strong, though he would bend & bow with the winds of life, he would not break. He would keep growing but his roots were grounded in the right place.

It was such a comfort to my soul then and still now. I no longer fretted over this growing friendship. For goodness sake, seems so extreme even now thinking about it! However I have trusted that the good in my son would hold him through the winds of life. Not unrealistic to the fact he will be influenced & make some poor choices, but trusting he will turn out ok!


Cherishing my children
Cherishing epiphany moments
Cherishing images that comfort & hold us


Sunday, 21 October 2012

Mirror, Mirror


Do you ever look at your children & feel like you are looking at yourself? Not just certain physical features, but in mannerisms, traits, tone of voice, inflections, curvatures of a smile, the way they fold washing, talk to people on the phone, some choices they make? We want to claim what is good & ignore what is not? Claim traits we like & excuse away the others?

There are definitely inherited traits we attribute to either Mum or Dad or even other relatives in the family & some that are most definitely uniquely theirs. Thoughtful Princess has the most amazing smile that is exactly the same as her paternal Grandfather. She has had it since birth & proves to me beyond reasonable doubt that genetic programming goes way beyond environmental exposure. Without discounting the individuality of our children am always fascinated by what is genetic predisposition, nature vs nurture, biological vs environmental.

A frivolous, candid check-out moment has inspired this post. Sunshine has been featuring in most recent posts & she does again today. Never ceases to amaze me the intuition of my children. Maybe they make up for my lack. Reminded me how our children can be mirrors to our soul. 

Sunshine & I were paying for groceries at our local fruit shop, the lovely young lady serving us was Indian & looked like our close neighbour's daughter. I asked her if she was. Innocent question. When she replied no, I should have stopped there. Instead I went on & commented how similar they looked. The lovely check out lady was very polite & said she knew the girl who I was referring too.

In the car driving home, Sunshine pipes up, reflecting back to me what just happened, the conversation word by word. All of 11 years herself she quickly told me how inappropriate & unnecessary my comment was that the girls looked similar. Sunshine said, "Mum you made out as though every Indian girl looks the same, just because they have dark skin & dark hair. It was so embarrassing!" 

This was most certainly not my intent to convey this but unfortunately had inadvertently done so by an off handed, thoughtless comment. My thoughts were actually how strikingly beautiful both girls were but that was obviously not appropriate to say, instead out came the other! I was grateful Sunshine could perceive this. A lesson for both of us. Sunshine & I awkwardly laughed it off, but it hung with me all day.

Made me grateful & mindful that our children are mirrors & witnesses to our lives. Also renewed the sense of responsibility to model well to them, so they become positive reflections. And even when it is negative that they can see that it is. They also learn from our mistakes! They keep us as parents on our toes & mine constantly stir the desire to be a better person & parent.


Cherishing children's intuition 
Cherishing children as both reflectors & reflections of our souls
Cherishing candid moments that teach us to be careful with our words

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Attachment


Missing earring alert

I went to put on my favourite sapphire earrings yesterday to find one of them was missing. How my heart sank! They are my favourite pair of earrings! The self talk started instantly! How could I be so silly not to put them away in their box? Why didn't I be more careful? Where the heck could it be? If one is here the other can't be too far? When did I wear them last? But I remember very specifically putting them both in the jewellery dish on my duchess? Did Muffin knock them down? The barrage of questions that floods ones mind when something goes amiss!

What struck me was the intensity of the sinking sad feeling! Over an earring! It seemed such a strong emotional response to an object! A very small object at that! They were a Christmas gift from a friend a few years ago and although I don't wear them often because they are so special, I do really, really like them. I was so touched when I received them as they are something I would choose, exactly. I guess there is a degree of sentimental value to them and part of that loss is what I felt.

Nothing in comparison to the loss of a marriage, relationship or dear friendship, but loss that reminded me again, we so easily get attached.

You'll be glad to know that after whispering a prayer to find my earring, (how selfish, although I reckon if God cares & knows the number of hairs on our heads & the number of grains of sand in the world, then He may care about my earring!) there it was, hidden safely on the floor underneath the duchess. How it fell there, I don't know, but all my frivolous fretting was for nought once again! Be still my beating heart!

I guess for me the message is to be careful not to get too attached to physical things, hold people, places and things with open hands, for we know not when they may be taken from us. I am very attached to my children and can only imagine the horrendous agony of any parent who has lost a child through death. That's quite a leap from a lost earring to death of a child, incomparable really, however considering the depth of connection & attachment & still wanting/trying to hold everything and everyone with open hearts and hands.

Remembering the lovely little saying, we hold our children's hands for a moment, their hearts forever. 

Cherishing lost & found moments
Cherishing healthy attachments
Cherishing my children 



Sunday, 14 October 2012

Choc Chip Confessions


Baking with Sunshine yesterday gave some interesting insights into family secrets. I had offered to make pancakes for breakfast which was declined by the majority even though it's a Saturday morning favourite no one felt like them. Then on offer, bacon & eggs, also declined, rather suggested was we make banana choc chip muffins together.

I had noticed a few days prior some choc chips on the floor in the kitchen. A little odd as we hadn't eaten anything with choc chips in it. On further investigation noticed little cups in the kitchen sink that had chocolate residue in them ( my eldest son has a love of melted chocolate, so if he finds choc chips in the pantry or freezer he will put them in a cup, melt them in the microwave & eat it with a spoon! Certainly not something I encourage & have resorted to hiding the packet of choc chips to avoid this!).

So to Sunshine's request to make muffins I made the comment that I didn't think we had any choc chips as I had found 'evidence' of illicit choc chip usage the other day and indicated that I suspected EQ as the instigator! She then quickly went to the pantry, pulled out a very full packet of choc chips & told me boldly that there had been two packets hidden in the back of the pantry & yes in fact one packet was used the other day but it wasn't EQ who had initiated it.

Hmmmmmm choc chip confessions during a baking session! Little Miss Sunshine then fessed up to having found the packet herself during a pantry raid & shared them EQ style, melted in cups, with her sister & another friend for afternoon tea last week. Hence the choc chips on the kitchen floor! I laughed as she was telling me, her gorgeous honesty delightful. Given that her EQ brother was on a school camp & not around to defend himself I was struck by her transparency. She could have let it slip and let me think it was EQ, but she did own it, fess up, and tell the truth. Love it.

Even though it's only a simple, small, seemingly insignificant thing, choc chips, I do think it's important to encourage our children to be honest in the little things. Keeping short accounts! We have had the sad news this week of students at our school being expelled for drug usage, even close friends of my own teens. So sensitivity around being open & honest about everything confronting us all. Little things grow into big & more serious things fairly quickly & rather they learn to be honest & responsible for themselves now as little people with little problems so it grows with them into being big people with bigger problems.

Cherishing candid honesty
Cherishing childhood confessions
Cherishing memorable baking moments

Saturday, 13 October 2012

China Rose Tea Cups


Mornings are not the same if we don't start off with a pot of tea, quiet time and conversation. Little Miss Sunshine, fourth born in our family has the middle name, Rose. It is in honour of her paternal Grandmother. About five years ago I gave her a China Rose Tea Set (just two cups and saucers, the bottom one in the picture) for Christmas. Perhaps to some an odd present for a then only 6 year old girl. It wasn't a play set, it was real, not to be shelved for when she grew up, to be used now! We had started the lovely habit of having tea together in the mornings. Sadly one of her tea cups broke so we now use one (tea cup on top) that belonged to my Grandmother, Sunshine's Great, Great Grandmother and love our early morning tea times together.

Sunshine is an early bird like her mother. Though not as much as she used to be, I find most mornings now I have to wake her to get ready for school. That's if she hasn't set her alarm to get up to do dance practise. Through the years she has always been the first one awake and ready to chat bright as a button. We started having tea in china tea cups as a treat, then it became a lovely morning ritual that has now become a family tradition. With a family of four children it is sometimes a challenge to find 1:1 time with each child, so for Sunshine, mornings were perfect to have Mum all to herself, carved 'us' time, as no one else was around demanding my time or attention!

I am not sure who enjoys the time more, her or me, but we love our morning chats together. Quality time definitely being one of Sunshine & mine's primary love languages http://artofcherishingyourchildren.blogspot.com.au/2012/05/love-langauages.html . It is a special time that is sometimes had sitting together cross legged sipping tea on her bed, outside under our back patio, cuddled on the couch or while I am making lunches or breakfast at the kitchen bench. Wherever or however we love our tea times together. We love our rose tea cups too! Tea just doesn't taste the same if it isn't in a China tea cup!

Cherishing & carving 1:1 times 
Cherishing family tea ceremonies
Cherishing & creating family rituals



Monday, 8 October 2012

Making Memories



A deck of cards, a rainy day, good friends, laughs together and the back-to-basics of camping creates indelible memories of family holiday fun. No grand expense, no overseas plane tickets required, just a little bit of effort setting up home-away-from-home and the ability to cherish simple things that create wonderful memories.

Good memories. Happy memories. Fun memories. Warm fuzzy memories. Holiday memories. Shared memories. Family memories. Friends memories. Adventure memories. Through-the-years memories.

My children love camping. It's probably not top of the pops for my first choice on the family holiday charts, but knowing how much my children love it, makes all the effort worthwhile. We have camped a fair bit. Our favourite destinations; Cyclinder Beach on Stradbroke Island (camped 3 years in a row at Christmas time), Kamarooka (x2), EasterFest (x 4) & Dicky Beach (now x 2).

By BCF (Boating, Camping & Fishing store) standards we are budget campers, not your 5 star variety with all the fancy, flash camping gear that opens & shuts, but we do take the kitchen sink! We have gradually acquired camping gear over the years and deliberately try to keep it simple to minimise fuss.

However the best part of camping is who we do it with. We have always camped with other families, a- la community style. Again proving that no great expense is needed to have fun. Sharing camping adventures with others has created some of the best family holidays my children recall. The memories of togetherness and something about being stripped of familiar creature comforts such as electricity & running water that smacks of reality & what is really important in life - each other. 


Cherishing each otherness
Cherishing camping capers
Cherishing memory making

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Nuances & layers


Driving is thinking time for me. A lot of people ask why I work where I do when we live where we do as it requires at least two hours of driving a day. I actually like driving as it provides time to reflect, pray, listen to the radio, podcasts, enjoy music, keep up to date with news (as I don't have time for TV) etc.Yesterday I spent at least five hours driving. For work I often visit sites to provide support, mentoring, consultancy & education. It was on a long drive yesterday listening to 612ABC that I heard these two words - nuances & layers. 

They grabbed me. I love words. The sounds, the meanings, the combinations, wordsmithing and writing. No surprises there. Sunshine loves words too. We both share a love of reading and the library. One of her favourite words is, bread! She explains why she loves this word, the sound of it, the smell of  it, the image it creates. Cute. Funny how the mention of a simple word can conjure up so much, even incite the senses. Sunshine immediately imagines the smell of bread wafting through our house when the bread maker is on and imagines the loaf of freshly baked bread being popped out onto the wire rack for cooling. All this by uttering the word, bread. 

So nuances & layers in reference too? In reference to who we are as people. The commentator had just finished interviewing someone who had written an essay on our very own federal opposition leader. They had for an hour analysed his personality, his family life, his university life, his political life, from every angle possible. It did strike me that one could be so sure of someone with so little contact with them! An hour interview with reading and research. Can you really sum someone up after an hour interview and watching their performance from a distance?

After the interview the commentator made this beautiful reference to nuances & layers which I wholeheartedly agree with. As unique individuals, we are so much more than the labels people use to describe us of; black vs white, NLP vs labour, religious vs agnostic, catholic vs evangelical, conservative vs liberal, narrow minded vs broad minded, gay vs straight, political vs apolitical, democratic vs republican. We love to pigeon hole people. We are complex beings and I guess it's an attempt to simply.

Rather consider people as individuals with unique colourful nuances and multiple layers that deserve getting to know. Of accepting people as beautiful tapestries with interwoven tones of a bit of this and a bit of that. It's a reminder to not be quick to judge another. First impressions can be right, but more often are not. We can and do make assessments about people all the time, yet to be mindful that we often see people only in one small context of life i.e. at work, as presented in the media, playing sport etc. The sum total of who we are is so much more than that.

Cherishing the nuances & layers of each of my children and others today. 

Friday, 14 September 2012

Grief

 Ulysses bike club express their respect & grief en masse 

Boring title I know, but in its expression far from it. Just like the ocean, emotions are a powerful tide, so is grief. Almost like a force to be reckoned with. Having walked the journey myself many times as no doubt we all have at different phases in life, am almost in silent awe of the process that we all know as grief. It has no fool proof recipe for navigating nor is it predictable or can be fast tracked.

Much has been written, researched, sung and recommended about grief, how it goes, how to do it and how to avoid complication. When you're in it, gotta wonder if any of it matters or works. A big fan of Kubler - Ross and the famous five stages totally agree with her theory and have seen it in action in many I have cared for in my nursing career, family and lived it personally. All five can be experienced in a matter of minutes. Forget chronologically, let's call it emotional chaos!

Having knowledge about something doesn't immunise against it. Hit the wall this week, after the death of a beloved loved one having been wrapped in the wonder of how quickly it all happened and just grateful for him to be free from suffering, felt the plunge. Adrenalin keeps us going for a fair time, but not forever. When reality hits, the drop down effect can take even the most prepared by surprise. Physiologically I understand all of this, but still doesn't make it any easier.

Bear with me as I write out my grief. For me to write is to breathe is to process is to heal. Shakespeare said it well in Macbeth; Give sorrow words. The grief that does not speak whispers the o'er fraught heart, and bids it break.

His funeral/memorial service today was beautiful. A time to remember, a time to reflect, a time to be grateful, a time to celebrate, a time to laugh and a time to cry. And cry we did. Many of us, most of us, shared joy and shared tears. We cry for ourselves. For the loss of him. He is in a better place. For memories of him we are grateful. For our lives made better by his, we give thanks. For time to mourn, we brace.

Those who love much, grieve much. Anon

“Only people who are capable of loving strongly can also suffer great sorrow, but this same necessity of loving serves to counteract their grief and heals them.” 
 Leo Tolstoy

“The darker the night, the brighter the stars, 
The deeper the grief, the closer is God!” 
 Fyodor Dostoyevsky

“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.” 
 C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Eternity


What do you think happens after death? Is there life beyond the grave? Is death just a doorway? Heaven? Hell? Are they real? You can imagine the talk in our house this week discussing death, funerals, memorials and the like over dinner. My four are used to death talk  having a palliative nurse as a mother, however It seemed to take a deeper level this week.

Sunshine claimed her brain hurt trying to imagine eternity! Forever and ever and ever..... Infinity and beyond as Buzz Lightyear would say. The whole concept of living forever one that our finite brains aren't really able to grasp because they are, exactly that, finite. It hurts mine too. Sunshine asked, "so you don't really die then, just your body, but your spirit lives forever?" I could almost see the cogs whirring inside her head trying to figure it out. Abstract thinking for an 11yr old can even be a struggle for us as adults.

Though many have written their after death stories, it still remains mostly a mystery, there is no definite science about eternity and what lies beyond the grave. Rather leave it to the realms of faith, religion and phenomenological experiences. Some believe in a reincarnation theory, personally I cannot (or maybe don't want to) believe that we come back as a cockroach or insect if we have been bad in this life. This certainly fills me with no hope!

As in life, in death we need hope. What fills us with hope? Eternity is a wonderful concept if we can imagine a life better than this one. Filled with no suffering, no sadness, no disease, relationships without pain, a life filled with love like its meant to be, true happiness and contentment. Eternity can fill us with hope if it is imagined as a gift rather than a curse.

I certainly have no concrete concept of heaven or of eternity but in faith accept that there must be life beyond the grave. That passing from this life into the next generates anticipation and hope especially when watching loved ones approaching death. And the hope of seeing them again in the after life.

However what if heaven is real, how do we have any confidence we will be there? Leave it to chance? Is it up to how good we have lived here? But is good, good enough? What if hell is real? Maybe rather than a lake of fire it is symbolic of a life without any goodness, beauty, love or relationship? Fondly remember my son, DW saying he would rather not risk it. Rather be sure either way. Live a life that will lead to heaven, just in case it's real! It was 10yr old logic at the time and gotta agree with him.

Cherishing again the circle of life. Cherishing eternity and shared moments with my beautiful four to talk about life, death and beyond the grave. Let's chat about dying.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Circle of life



Jen: "You know Amelia that Grandpa is very sick and won't be with us much longer".
Amelia (aged 3yrs): "Yes Mummy, it's ok, it's the cycle (circle) of life".

How profound and beautiful that 3 year old Amelia gets it. So simple and so accepting. Birth, life and death. Thankfully her Grandpa has been through every stage of the cycle of life, so family can be accepting that death is imminent. Not so with some deaths, when they are premature and not in old age.

Her Grandpa is my Godfather. Yesterday was one of the most beautiful days of my life. Being able to spend extended time with him and the vigil of family and friends that visited. Reflecting much on the chapters of our lives by the story telling of visitors. Each one representing a significant part of his life. The inter weavings and intersections of people and places. The people he has touched and the places he has been.

Chapters of life marked by location (living overseas & at home), by family, by work, by study, by church life, by his children's lives, by service to community groups, by music, sporting clubs, by address. The legacy he leaves behind of investing in people is extraordinary. He is an extraordinary man, deeply loved and respected by many.

Some quotes from yesterday;

He is one of the nicest men that has been in every prison in Queensland.

He was a man of few words but with a big message. 

He was Mr Workplace, Health & Safety before there was ever such a thing. He always looked out for the safety of all, even if it did seem over strict at the time, we knew he had our best interests at heart.

"Too right" - one of his favourite responses when he agreed with something. 

Motorbike stories, camp stories, youth group stories, Drug Arm stories, Crossroads stories, holiday stories, farm stories and the jokes. The jokes! He had the quickest, intelligent wit, the funniest expressions and the most wonderful way of making everyone smile, laugh or cringe with delight. His sense of humour renown by all.

Celebrating each of the memories and chapters of his life as we prepare to farewell a beloved man who in life and death inspires us. What struck me most about yesterday was the absence of sadness. Even in death there is this incredible sense of the fullness of life. The richness of his lived experiences being shared together shout out life, life, life.

How do you want to be remembered? Live it now. 







Monday, 3 September 2012

My Godfather


Can you choose your own Godfather? Well I have. In the absence of my own father growing up this wonderful, wonderful man, father of my two best twin friends became for me the equal of a surrogate Dad during my childhood. For regular blog followers, the Charlie's Angels twins who I grew up with, their Dad!  We rode to school together, played at and after school together, did weekends together, dreamed together, holidayed together, went to youth group together, grew up together. I adopted their Dad to be my own. I had either one of the twins in my class from grade 4 through to grade 12. We still stay in close contact, 35 years on.

I affectionately have called him, my Godfather. He was never officially appointed as such like at a christening or baptism but I believe he epitomises what and who a Godfather ought to be. He modelled the strength and compassion of a wonderful Dad and also represented for me and many others who God is. He taught me healthy fear of God. The kind of reverence for God that the ancients teach is the beginning of wisdom. There was something about my Godfather that made you want to please him, that oozed wisdom.You didn't want to do anything for fear of hurting or displeasing him but you always knew he was there to love, protect, teach and mentor you. It was only this Sunday, after visiting him in hospital that I thought, how do I describe him? A spiritual Dad? So I decided to give him the title, my Godfather. He is dying. I want to honour him.

After seeing him, yellow as a banana with jaundice, weak as a kitten with muscular atrophy due to kidney failure yet bright as a button, chirpy, chatty and cracking funnies as always even in the hospital bed, thought back over the years of him being the strong one, not just for his own family, for me, but for hundreds if not thousands of others, made me realise that he is truly who a Godfather ought to be. Nominated as one to care in lieu of a biological parent and intrinsically involved in your spiritual development. He did all of this without even being asked too. Just by being himself. He loves God, his family, his grandchildren, the Church, people, jazz music, motorbikes, writing, volunteering and community work. He is a character that I wish all could have the pleasure to know. To know him is to love him.

My Godfather worked his whole life here in Australia and in Papua New Guinea for the same agency. His agency existed to ensure that young men in particular were educated in the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse. This work took him into prisons, hostels, schools, to the streets, to the homeless, to every imaginable environment to see people educated and aware of the ills of drug and alcohol abuse. His work relentless and devoted. His love as wide as the ocean. His calibre and generation of gentleman is fading fast.  If there is anyone that embodies the ideal father, it is him. He loves God & his family above all, lived to serve them and others. His quick wit and unique, quirky sense of humour his definite trademark. EVERYBODY loves him. He has been a surrogate father to many. Joining the Ulysses bike club on his retirement showing us all that elevated age doesn't mean you can't still have fun!

Being able to visit him in hospital on Father's Day was very special. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer only 10 days ago. His deterioration due to secondary renal failure in such a short time has been nothing short of shocking. As his adopted 'third' daughter AND a palliative nurse comes with a certain expectation that he have the 'best death' that can be arranged. We all can't get our heads around that he is not long for this life, and yet pragmatically planning care to ensure his comfort and palliative journey be guided by the most accurate information, medical attention, best advice and optimal choices. We all thought he would be here forever! Filled with memories, filled with gratitude, filled with joy and sadness rolled into one.

Cherishing my Godfather. Cherishing memories together. Cherishing life in the face of death.


Sunday, 2 September 2012

Self Control


This is a blog written to myself. As parents we long for our children to demonstrate self control, to hold their tongue, not swear, cuss or tell lies, to delay gratification getting something or doing something, to put others before themselves, to always speak well of others, to be perfect right? I find as a parent that I fail many, many times so how on earth can I expect my children to do all these things.

What I love about children and find really refreshing is that they say it as it is. Sometimes being direct is too black and white for some people, but I love this no fuss approach that children seem to have. They don't sugar coat. EQ is a master of it. They haven't been so socialised that they have learnt to beat around the mulberry bush like us adults. They usually just say it straight. Even if it does come across a bit blunt. Interesting that a part of growing up is learning appropriate social etiquettes. I do wonder if sometimes it's a bit fake.

I lost a friendship recently because I dared to be direct. Everyone was talking about her behind her back feeling very uncomfortable with this and thinking I was doing the right thing dared to tell her that a group of us were all frustrated by some of her decisions. Perhaps I could have said it a little more softly, gently, made it more palatable, sugar coated it. Perhaps I did the wrong thing to even express our frustration, but I actually thought if it was me, I would want to know. It's not a crime to feel frustrated, but I guess how we express it can be. She was highly offended. I have apologised, rang and emailed, but obviously haven't apologised enough or in the right manner to satisfy. I won't apologise for us all feeling frustrated as absolutely no malice was intended, only awkward attempts at sharing what others felt  to seek a solution that suited the majority.

Maybe I am too direct, too open, too honest, too transparent, too vulnerable, too bold? According to my kids, I had a rage at Vodaphone last night. It was hardly a rage but that's the language my kids use to describe anything that involves raising ones voice above normal. Am sure most of us have experienced the immense frustrations of dealing with phone companies. Firstly navigating the myriad of recorded messages none of which relate to your specific problem, then being placed in a telephone queue to speak to a human rather than a machine, only to be passed around customer service officers telling your story a dozen times before someone can actually offer assistance. I tried to be patient. By the time someone actually helped with our problem, I was a little short with the poor person on the end of the phone. I know it wasn't his fault directly, but it was very hard to remain sweet and self controlled.

Thoughtful Princess was washing up listening to the whole conversation and after the hour on the phone it took to sort out, she debriefed with me! Talk about role reversal!!! Here she was at the kitchen sink telling me that I had been rude and fake on the phone. She was right! I lost self control. I tried to justify it, but the more I talked the wronger it sounded. DW even later bragged to his mates about his mother having a rage at Vodaphone to sort his service out! Not sure if that's something I want to be known for!

So what could I have done differently? Held my tongue. Pretended to be satisfied with their service when I wasn't? Pretend to my friend that we weren't frustrated by her choices? How do we channel our frustrations so they don't negatively impact on others? I don't have a simple answer, because it's different for each situation but I do think that I probably should have hung up on Vodaphone and rung back when I wasn't so annoyed. It serves as a lesson for me and my children in what not to do and how not to handle a situation. 

However I was very glad that my daughter recognised it as wrong and not normal for her mother to speak like that. This I take as a positive in the midst of a negative example.

Cherishing my children for keeping me accountable and for the beautiful way they continue to teach me to be a better parent! 


Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Handstands & Cartwheels


An irresistible blog post media frenzy yesterday after another public school has declared a ban on these potentially life threatening children's activities; handstands, cartwheels and somersaults! I heard it on the radio driving to work, colleagues talked about it at work, heard it on the radio driving home from work, so it was a topic of much attention yesterday. A quick google search brings up a myriad of newspapers who ran the story also.

All saying the same thing. Have we as a society become so risk adverse and litigation phobic that our children cannot be children? The classic scenario where what happens to a minority becomes public policy for the majority. A few children have injured themselves in school and their parents then sued the school for not having qualified supervision. It's like the precedent case of someone suing MacDonald's for serving hot coffee & burning themselves. Honestly, where the hell has personal responsibility gone? Must others pay for ones own silly mistakes or must someone else be responsible for what was a genuine accident? I fear we take it to the extreme.

A part of being a kid is falling off your bike learning to ride, getting a few cuts & scratches & trying again. A part of being a kid is learning to do handstands, cartwheels and tumble turns, running around at lunch time at school in the play ground, bumping into each other, getting up and carrying on. It's life. It's an intrinsic part of growing up, childhood development. We cannot wrap our children in cotton wool and expect them to never hurt themselves. Its unrealistic and unhealthy to be overprotective.

One newspaper article even stated that other schools had banned hugging, running and playing tiggy. "Hugging may set a bad example to younger children of unwarranted behaviour". For goodness sake! Have we gone completely mad! Soon we won't be able to talk to each other in case we say something offensively! And running and playing tiggy in some playgrounds was too risky because they were overcrowded and children may collide into each other. Thankfully our school has no such silly rules and has wonderful safe, grassy, wide open spaces for kids to play free range.

We have two large trampolines in our backyard without nets or bumper pads. I am probably a very irresponsible parent but my sons do backflips and all sorts of weird and wonderful things on those things! My sons long board down hills at great speed (with helmets of course) and have suffered all manner of accidents from super grazed knees, hands & elbows, friends with near broken ribs and skin ripped to the bone. They skate at their own risk. That's a part of being a boy. The thrill seeker in each young lad seeking his next adventure. Outdoor activities are fast being over ridden by the seductive lure of sedentary technological ones. I think the greater risk than litigation is the dangerous risk of emasculating our sons if we don't allow them to pursue wild (within reason of course) activities and learn to defend, protect, be responsible and look out for  themselves and their mates. That's an an integral part of growing up.

There is no easy, one size fits all approach, but I do wonder if the same parents outraged at the school bans are the same parents that if their children were hurt in the school yard would quickly sue at the potential revenue making opportunity? On one hand we live in a nation of incredible liberties, a democratic government, a society that embraces diversity and progressiveness, on the other hand, one that binds us up in fear based laws and bans that take away freedoms most of us over the age of 40 enjoyed as a child!

Cherishing childhood and the freedoms to explore it should come packaged with, in case it gets completely taken away.......

Saturday, 25 August 2012

The smell of jasmine


Walking the streets of my neighbourhood am pleasantly embraced by the wafting fragrance of jasmine. It seems to carry me along. The stunning smell that comes from those little white blossoms compels me to seek a Creator whose craftsmanship in the little and grand beauties of nature draw me in. How even the sense of smell is such a wonderful thing, often taken for granted. Imagine not being able to smell?

The smell of spring is in the air. Jasmine, orange blossoms, freesias, stocks. The look of spring is here.  New buds on plants and trees, heralding a change of season is nigh. I love seasons. Seasons in weather, seasons in life. Love it that we do not have to endure the heat of summer all year long (although living in Taiwan it surely felt like 9 months of the year was summer), or the cold of winter. Love it that we can look forward to cooler months or warmer months. Nature reminds us that the only thing that is constant is change.

It is human to crave stability. It is human to desire comfort. It is human to want balance. When faced with changes, little or big, there can sometimes be hesitation or cringe factor, sometimes relief. Especially when change is desperately needed. But too much 'all at once' change can send one reeling and feeling overwhelmed. Seasons seem to remind me that life is about change. Rather resolve myself to it, then resist or fight it. Embrace change, rather than deny it.

I read a little devotion this morning with one line capturing my full attention; Treasure curiosity more than certainty. It kinda flows with the ebb of changing seasons. The bubbling anticipation of what the next season in life will bring. Of the benefits of curiosity over being stuck in the mud. Of being broad and open minded over being narrow or short sighted. Of treasuring opportunities to meet new people, experience new things over being trapped in routine.

In the back of my mind is the saying, curiosity killed the cat. Almost a paradox to treasuring curiosity over certainty. Can see the potential burden of always living the predictable, the mundane, how quickly that gets tedious and can zap energy and turn fulfilment into boredom. Rather enjoy the wonder of each new day and have a sense of delightful curiosity in it. What will a change of season bring? Not being afraid of change rather welcoming it. Welcoming change with all ones senses, the sights, smells, sounds, tastes and feelings. This is not about always living in the tomorrow, or the next phase of life, being able to hug today and everything in it while having a sense of quietly growing anticipation for the next season in life.

Cherishing change of seasons, as we prepare to say goodbye to winter and welcome spring. Cherishing the simplicity and loveliness of jasmine that inspired my thoughts and its fragrance that walked with me this morning. Cherishing curiosity over certainty.

Friday, 24 August 2012

The Wall

The most exciting thing in our household this week is the new wall. We had a wall built to make two rooms out of one. My boys have shared a bedroom (converted garage) for the past 2 years and have grown to the age where they need their own space. There has been great argy bargy amongst my four in the past 12 months over the boys having to share while the two younger girls got their own room. EQ even called for a family debate on the topic, with prepared speeches and rebuttals to argue the toss for why he, as the eldest of the family should qualify for his own room.


It has purely been about age range. The girls are 3 years apart in age, making bed time arrangements awkward when sharing. Sunshine goes to bed quite early still and Thoughtful Princess stays up late doing homework etc, making shared arrangements difficult. However the 18 month gap between the boys means they have similar bed time habits and also share a wonderful brotherly bond that made sharing a room workable for the majority of their lives. Until this year. EQ aged 16 yrs threatened to go and live with his Dad when he turns 18 if he didn't get his own room! A little like driving a dagger into my heart. So the wall making was scheduled.

Some may think I have bowed to pressure. But I do think he has a point. He is 16, he is wanting to focus on study, he and his brother not only shared a room, but have had to share a desk too. So it's time. The time has come to create the space they need to still want to be content at home. I moved out of home at age 16, so I am well aware of the contentions that arise and can cause friction. I don't want to regret him moving or making choices because we couldn't be flexible enough to factor his needs in. He has been patient, 12 months advocating for his own space! He has put up a good case!

When I told EQ that some guys were coming to build the wall this week, he quickly back pedalled and said, "it's ok Mum, I was just annoyed that my 10yr old sister got her own room and I didn't". His sense of fair and equitable was ruffled. Being the eldest he thought he deserved special privileges. Don't' we all, for whatever reason. Either being older, younger, taller, shorter, stronger, weaker can all be rationalised reasons why we think we ought to be the recipient of something over another. All being said, they each have their own room at their Dad's house, so I didn't think it was such an major issue the boys had to share at Mums!

Having lived in both Asia and Europe where space is a premium, where sometimes whole families share one room, one bed, I don't believe I have deprived my sons in any harmful way. Living in Asia really makes one review what a sense of 'personal space' is. There it is totally different to living in Australia, the land of wide horizons and sweeping plains, mega 240 metre square houses and garages as big as a Hong Kong bedsit. We relish in so much space here, sometimes too much to our detriment, that we demand our own. I rather hoped with my sons to teach them to be considerate of each another. Listening to them debrief at night was like listening to two old men discussing war time tales. They banter away and genuinely love each, but I can accept the time has come to carve their own space. Plus DW can't stand EQ snoring!

Can you believe the night before the wall was to be build I felt sad! Even questioned if I was doing the right thing. Almost felt like I was dividing my sons! I felt sad to say goodbye to a chapter of their boyhood.  It feels like I am acknowledging they are becoming two separate individuals, two independent young men, growing into adults. The boys have been like twins, so close in age, close friends as well as brothers. I prayed for this from the womb. When pregnant with DW, prayed that he and EQ would be best mates and they are. Even at school everyone calls them the Dooley brothers, they get picked together for footy teams etc cause they read each other, know how each other thinks. Typical brother stuff. So a genuine sadness to say goodbye to sharing days, now to embrace transition days.

Two rooms. Two happy sons. Two happy daughters. One happy Mum. One happy family. Cherishing days of change.

Credits:
Kind man from our Church who built the wall
Kind helper from our Church who helped the man build the wall
My step-Dad for electrical work

PS the wall doesn't look like this lovely brick one, it's a gyprock sheeted white wall, but that doesn't make for a good photo!

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Triple A Affect

Listening to the radio (96.5FM) yesterday heard a five minute section on parenting teens that has stuck in my brain.The suggested formula for keeping relationships open, flourishing and connected is what I am coining the, triple A affect;

Affirmation, Acceptance, Appreciation

Affirming them in everything they do. Accepting them for who they are, no matter what they do, the good, the bad, the ugly and finding ways to appreciate them. Seemed a fair summary of how I like to parent. It hung with me throughout the day and have considered how it can be a measure to which I gauge my parenting. At the end of each day to do a little mental check of how I have affirmed, accepted and appreciated each of my children. Though parenting can never be simplified to formula's or checklists, do find anything that helps improve or encourage my parenting is a good thing. Am sure others would agree, we can use all the help we can find!

Most of us as parents naturally do the triple A affect, without even giving it conscious thought. We affirm, accept and appreciate our children in myriads of ways every single day. Wondering where nature vs nurture comes into play and deliberate, intentional practise of these can have magnified affect? It's around attitude and behaviour and hopefully if modelled to our children, they too will want to affirm, accept and appreciate those around them. Some would query about  affirming and accepting when bad behaviour is demonstrated. I guess for me when disappointed by choices made by mine, being able to still affirm my love, acceptance and appreciate them while clearly defining the behaviour as unacceptable is tricky but do-able. The refining parts of parenting, consistent love and limits as explored before.

As one who tries to follow Christ and practise an active Christian faith, find that prayer is one way that channels all my hopes, dreams and desires for my children. No I don't pray they will all become Olympic champions or doctors, it's not about using prayer as a tool of manipulation. Prayer is rather a beautiful invitation to bring our concerns and struggles in parenting, in life, to Someone greater than ourselves. We cannot force our children to do anything and thankfully they are not robots! They make their own choices. Learning early that their choices come with consequences is one of the best lessons we can ever teach them. We can only trust that our careful, loving parenting has grounded them for life and provided them the right balance of guidelines and freedom to make healthy, wise choices that will keep them safe and fulfilled human beings.

As we parent toddlers to teens today, let's find creative, fun ways to affirm, accept and appreciate them. If finding the going tough, try bringing it in prayer to the One who is known from the beginning of time as the Father of all comfort. He has answered many of my tear filled prayers for my children in ways that could I never have imagined, enough to fill a book/blog, some of which I have already shared and many more to come......

Cherishing our children today by affirming, accepting and appreciating them.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Yum Cha


White fluffy, sweet barbecue pork buns, dim sims,  spring rolls, prawn & spring onion dumplings, satay chicken sticks, sesame toast & roast duck, am I making your mouth water? All on todays' menu for Yum Cha. It's become a little bit of a family tradition that we have Yum Cha for Sunday lunch, not every Sunday, at least a few times a year. We venture into town, not China town per se, but half way there, to a large restaurant that is popular for Yum Cha. Today we even had to wait for a table to become available, people were queued outside the door. The lure of those yummy, fluffy white pork buns calls not only our family but many others too! Especially Asian families.

Yum Cha 饮茶 is a Chinese style morning or afternoon tea according to Wikipedia. Usually in western countries it attracts people for brunch, early or late lunch anytime from about 11am - 2pm. It is  only served in the day and only at certain restaurants. Never at night time, though some of the dishes can be offered by some restaurants at other times. The landmark style of serving with waitresses pushing trolleys of bamboo pots with a wide range of small, different dishes gives a whole dining experience that is a little out of the ordinary. It's quite a fun way to eat. We always try something different, though we have our favourites, being brave with food is a carry over from living in Taiwan days, chicken's feet definitely NOT a favourite! One of EQ's favourite foods is pork dumplings, a taste of Taiwan like vegemite toast is to us Aussies. 

Today we sampled the desserts, a lovely crepe filled with mango and ice-cream. Not sure how traditionally Chinese they are, but the children enjoyed them immensely. Sadly our favourite Chinese restaurant in our home town has shut down and we are 'forced' to explore far and wide to find the tastes we know and love. Amazing how food sends many of us on culinary adventures.

We enjoy our 'out family lunches'. It reminds me of my childhood days, of a Sunday lunch tradition that my Grandparents developed. For many years, my Grandparents would religiously have fish and chips after morning church for Sunday lunch. Then it was roast dinner. Even today, I still crave fish and chips on a Sunday, something indelibly imprinted in my psyche since a youngster. We often do have fish and chips for Sunday lunch as we live near the sea, but don't often get a chance to enjoy it, besides driving by it. At least having lunch by the beautiful beach can be a way to soak in the sea, sand, shoreline, seagulls and smells.

But today was a Yum Cha kinda Sunday. Looking around the restaurant enjoyed seeing all different kinds of families all enjoying food and time together. The noisy chatter of families making merry. Made me smile on the inside as well as the out, for the joy that food brings. Imagine life without food? Eating together is such a social activity, and many a family gathering focuses on food. Cherishing our Yum Cha memory making moments as a family and sharing them with you. If you haven't tried Yum Cha give it a go.





Saturday, 18 August 2012

Stocktake


Thought I'd do a little family stocktake since posting earlier this year about family democracy. Nursing 101 is assessment, care planning and evaluation. I find as a nurse educator and auditor that staff are fairly good at the first two; assessment and care planning, but evaluation often gets left off the radar! I do tend to fixate on outcomes and evaluation as per rata of what I do at work. Applying this to family life may seem a little stiff & starchy, but here goes anyway! 

So what does a little family stocktake/evaluation/audit look like? If you are a regular follower of our blog, the following will be familiar to you, if not, just note that these are areas we have been working on in our family. 

The after dinner routine Family Democracy & Economics

This is working out okay, with some minor changes, instead of 3 being rostered on as originally planned, it works out to be just 1 on each night of their own choosing. We keep a calendar to help us keep track, cause honestly you think you'll remember who did it last night, but I don't! To save arguments, the calendar don't lie! Other household duties get dived up for payment and jobs for love, well are just that, jobs for love and by virtue of being a part of the family. They do still surprise me at times with overt actions of self initiation which delight a mother's soul no end! Most recently, Sunshine with 2 girlfriends sleeping over made gingerbread men, getting icing sugar, food colouring and decorations from one end of the kitchen to the other. I asked them to clean up and was very impressed with the result! They cleaned up impeccably for 3 x 11yr olds!

EQ post 3 month grounding Disappointment

He endured his 3 month grounding with no complaints. There were some negotiations in the interim with key events that he was keen to attend. But definitely no sleep overs or parties. He even had to camp with us as a family at Easterfest rather than bunk down with buddies in the youth section. I do think he has learnt from his mistake and seems more forthcoming with key information. He even seemed to become somewhat of a house lad, not wanting to go out that much once the 3 months was up. With working quite a few shifts a week on top of school & TAFE, he realises that down time and family time are important too. Though currently I am on my final warning to being 'unfriended' on his Facebook account, as apparently it's very uncool to have your parents as a fb friend, according to his work mates. "Don't follow the crowd," I said. Then he told me why he didn't want to go to grade 11 camp. I asked, "are your friends going"? He said, "Mum, you just told me not to follow the crowd!" Whoops slip up on parental consistency on my part there! But I had to concede, he was right again and I was wrong! 

Post election Decisions, decisions, decisions

The six week election campaign as Family First candidate for Redcliffe electorate was busy, busy, busy and very rewarding. Most amazing was the support from my immediate family (special mention of my beautiful four and their commitment which was outstanding), friends, church community and then the wider community who I so thoroughly enjoyed meeting in this role. I had wonderful opportunities door knocking homes and businesses and also speaking engagements where I was able to chat with people about local issues of concern. It was a worthwhile endeavour and though exhausting would be one I would consider again. My realistic goals were to reach 4% votes and beat the Greens candidate (as he was only a 'paper candidate' - didn't live in Redcliffe, answered no emails, phone calls or bothered to attend 'meet the candidate' forum or answer the local paper editorials). We achieved the first goal, but not the second. I guess the Greens party is more well known than Family First and most young people who don't want to vote LNP or ALP support the Greens. I still believe in Family First values and support the party. We'll see what 2015 brings, a Queensland Family First MP would be a welcome addition to the balance of power in our State.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Toothbrushes and socks

Does every household have the toothbrush debate? What colour is yours? Who's been using mine? Why is mine wet? With a family of five we try to colour code and get different ones for everyone, or otherwise we write names on them. But that doesn't always stop the debate! I am forever buying toothbrushes it seems.

Especially after bouts of illness, throwing out old toothbrushes is basic germ busting. They harbour such feral germs from our mouths that  changing them with great frequency has now ensured that any toothbrush purchases are economical ones. Buying cheap toothbrushes and replacing them frequently seems much healthier than buying expensive ones and thinking we have to hold onto them for a long time to get our money's worth out of them.

We did used to buy the cheap Target set, perfect pack for our family, 5 different colours, 5 the right number. But for some reason Sunshine really, really dislikes using these now. So we have graduated to the pharmacy specials when we can find toothbrushes for $1 a piece. You probably think I have lost the plot or am hard pressed for post topics to be blogging about toothbrushes but it seems to be a big deal in our family! Just curious if it is in others too?

Some of my children even hide their toothbrush or designate a special spot on a shelf so as to avoid the toothbrush debate! Apparently I am the worse culprit for not remembering what colour mine is! And often get blamed for using the wrong one! What is that? A family norm? A toothbrush deficiency! Where is the tooth fairy when you need her? She should be able to keep them all sorted!


Like socks, every household has a sock monster in their washing machine! Or there is a sock vortex. Two go in and only one comes out. We have tried every kind of methodology around socks going into the washing machine known to humanity. I even bought a sock buddy contraption from Crazy Clarks to trial. It didn't work. Firstly there has to be two socks in the dirty clothes basket for that to be successful. We even tried buying the same brand of socks, like 20 pairs, unanimous socks so we didn't have any matching issues. But with primary, middle and senior school socks all different this doesn't work!



Now I have simply given up and keep a dedicated basket of single, lonely socks, waiting patiently to be reunited with their mate, in the laundry. It's a novelty in our house to actually find a matching pair. Everyone has resigned to wearing odd socks! That is of course, besides the mandatory school socks or face detention! Maybe I should be more of a sock Nazi!

Keeping it frivolous, toothbrushes and socks, essential parts of family life, that seem to bring unnecessary amounts of frustration and deliberation. Isn't' it ridiculous! How often the little things make or break the morning routine? "I can't find any school socks, Mum" when we are all about to race out the door.  Standard reply, "have you checked the laundry basket? Dryer? Clothes line? Your drawers? Under your bed?" A reply that is no doubt repeated a million times over in every family household around the globe! We are united in our frustrations!

Open to any tips on toothbrushes or sock washing, as we cherish family life togther, the quirky mundane as well as the highs!