Wednesday, 29 February 2012

A snapshot of family life

                             I had to make the most of today being, 29th Feb - a leap year opportunity to write a post today as it won't come around again for another 4 years!! A work colleague recently asked me to reveal what the big decision was as featured in Feb 16 post. Apologies to leave you in suspense if you follow this blog but not my Facebook page. I am standing as the Family First candidate for my home town in the upcoming State election. A decision not taken lightly yet fully supported by my beautiful four! Today's little story reveals how they have not only supported in words but also in deed! 

Mr EQ is eagerly awaiting when our house will get 'egged' as he thinks all politicians are the victims of public hatred. "I'll protect you, Mum", says he, giving his vote of confidence & assurance of protective detail! 

Since making this decision, life has gone from crazy busy to superspeed! With an election looming & a campaign to organise, friends & family have overwhelmed us with their support. To give a small 'snapshot in the life of our family'.....

Two days ago I had driven from Cleveland where I was doing an educational workshop to Redcliffe, an hour in peak hour traffic after work to pick my daughter up from her friends, got home, quickly cooked dinner, raced off to pick up Sunshine from dance studio, home again, we ate dinner together. Mr EQ & I then attended an information evening at the school for grade 11 & 12's, I then rushed late to attend a Family First branch  meeting.......leaving my 4 to clean up after dinner, do homework & music practice without instruction or encouragement to do so. 

I actually excused myself early from the meeting to get home to my four and was pleasantly surprised when I walked through the door; Mr EQ was in the lounge playing his guitar, Thoughtful Princess was blasting away on her saxophone in her bedroom with door closed (our poor neighbours!), Deep Waters was hard at it math homework & Sunshine was pirouetting around the house as is her habit. Sunshine gave up walking along time ago, she dances everywhere these days! AND the kitchen was beautifully clean!

I should't have been surprised because my four are of course, 'well trained' but I can take no credit for their individual choices to get in and do what they did that night without being asked, prompted or reminded. It was the fact they had done ALL of this without me asking them too that delighted and surprised me! I often speak of  their own volition and I guess as parents this is the crux of our parenting. We are all hoping that the sum total of our love, devotion and parenting will create children who grow into teens & adults that make good, right, positive choices.

It was their free choice to do all this that gave me a lovely sense that they were not only supporting my decision to be the Family First candidate with their words, but also their actions! It was this that made me cherish them even more, as we had decided to do this as a family choice, in it together. They demonstrated this knowing & accepting their would be sacrifices of family time in the next 5 weeks.

When they actually do, it brings the greatest sense of satisfaction. They won't always get it right and there will be plenty of times they disappoint, frustrate, even exasperate, but when they do 'get it right' that's the time to praise em big time! We are often so quick to correct, we need to be quick to encourage and praise also!

If you are a parent of little ones, and in those days of more frustration, exhaustion & exasperation, take hope for the days of delight and reward are coming......with many moments along the way to cherish our children.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Made in Taiwan

Three of our four children were 'made in Taiwan' - well conceived at least! We lived in Taiwan from 1995 - 1998. Before leaving for Taiwan we had miscarried our first child right on 12 weeks leaving us devastated and sad. It took another 18months before I fell pregnant again so when I was 'with child' in Taiwan, was overjoyed! In Taiwan as with China, males are still highly prized over females, so when I went for the first scan, the obstetrician excitedly blurted out, it's a boy! Unlike our Aussie culture whereby the sonographer would ask if you wanted to know the gender of your child or not, in Taiwan they just tell you unless you tell them not too! 

Whilst in Taiwan there was a meningitis outbreak/epidemic. In 3 months, 74 children had died of the disease. During this time, the government & media were advising families with young children to stay indoors as much as possible, to avoid going to crowded places! A tall ask for a county that is one of the world's most densely populated, over 1300 people per square kilometer, land mass half the size of Tasmania with the population of Australia (21million) living there in only 1/3 of the country as the rest  inhabitable due to the mountainous terrain. 

We had the 2 boys at the time and I was pregnant with our 3rd. We tried as much as viable to stay indoors, not frequenting the local parks or shops with the boys, then aged Mr EQ, 2yrs and Deep Waters, only 9 months old. 

Finally after a 3month period, it was announced that the epidemic was under control and it was safe to return to normal activities. I still clearly & fondly remember the very first time taking the boys to the park. We were walking towards the park and Josiah yells out as he starts running towards other children in the park, "people, people, people'! It was then I realised he was a raging extrovert! 

My first born has a beautiful way with people, now 16yrs, he sincerely cares about his mates & loves meeting new people. At Christmas time we visited an elderly lady who we have 'adopted' as our surrogate Grandma, (because all out grandparents have died), we spent some time Christmas Eve with her, Mr EQ enjoyed conversation with her about this, that & the other. When we got in the car after the visit he commented, "that's seriously one nice lady right there'! 

Again my heart was strangely warmed within me, not too many 16yr old lads would enjoy sitting with a 'strange old lady' but he did. We then drove into the city to see the Christmas lights in the city. Driving home chatting in the car, each of my children said the best thing about Christmas Eve was visiting our newly 'adopted' Grandma & making her day! Not the lights, not the family outing, but her! Again my heart was warm within me. 

Friday, 24 February 2012

EQness at it again

Remembering back to a time when I was applying for a new job. It was a job I really, really wanted, but felt totally under qualified for – the story starts at the morning breakfast table.

As a family we have over the years developed a habit of family devotions – it has not been done with a legalistic attitude in that we MUST do it every morning together, but when we can, we do. As in every household some mornings at our place are madness. Socks are flying, kids yelling, ‘where’s my whatever’, lunches are made on the fly we are running late & all we have time for is a quick kiss & hug goodbye. But if we are all awake & organised at the same time, we do like family devo’s (devotions). It is my feeble attempt at intentionally teaching my children to focus on God at the start of each day & open their eyes to the needs of the world around them.

We have created a corny but rememberable weekly schedule that if you were to ask any of my children they could recite without blinking.

Missionary Monday – we pray for missionaries we know  (think of others more than yourself)
Free for All Tuesday – kids chose who and what they want to pray for  (generating free thinkers)
World Wide Wednesdays – we pray for countries around the world (i.e. Japan when tsunami hit etc) global issues (in attempt to foster world view, that our world is not just Australia)
Thankful Thursdays – prayers of only thanks no requests (developing the art of gratitude)
 Family Fridays – prayers for our family far & wide (loving family top priority)

So back to the story this one day at morning devos’, Josiah (aged about 12yrs at the time) asked if I was ok. He said I looked particularly stressed and asked what was the matter? I shared that I had an interview that day & was very nervous!!! In his usual nonchalant and natural way he said, “ Mum don’t worry, just be yourself, they’ll love ya”! We prayed and entered our day.

I had the interview, it did go well, but I certainly didn’t have all the experience that they were really looking for, so resolved that I wouldn’t get it. A couple of days later, the mobile rings and the key lady who had interviewed was at the end of the line. She was ringing to offer me the job!!!!!

Her feedback was that there were others who interviewed well and had much more experience and expertise in some areas they needed, however, “it was your engaging personality that won us over, we know that you would relate to the people in this role and project with compassion and sensitivity and that’s what we need more than marketing or accounting skills’!

Mr EQ had been right again! As a mother we tuck these times in our heart, treasure them and cherish our children even more for their  insight and ‘knowingness’ they bring to family life!

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Decisions, decisions, decisions

This week a big decision needed to be made in our family. So to put our family democracy to task once again, raised the matter at hand Monday night during dinner. 

It is a decision that will significantly impact upon us as a family and I wanted each of my four to have their say.....

So round the table we went, each one sharing their thoughts and insights and true to form and personalities it went like this;

Sunshine the youngest actually spoke first, saying she supported the idea as long as it was something Mum felt was the right thing to do! Being a perfectionist, right and wrong, black & white are very important to Amy.

Thoughtful Princess, next, reminding me of family, work & study commitments that I already have, saying, " you're the busiest Mum I know and you want to take on this?"! 

Deep Waters, rather than say much, suggested I watch a Youtube clip that he had seen that day of Australia in crisis and of our need as citizens of this country to take action. Admittedly the clip is produced by conspiracy theorists and it was a great exercise in practising creative critical thinking skills, to watch it and discuss  why some of its content was not actually accurate. But it did really touch me that my second born does wrestle with ideas that impact us as country and seeks the truth of such matters.

Mr EQ had been at work while we had our first round of family discussions so when he came home, we entered for a second round. He too added that if I believed it was the right decision and God was calling me to do it, then I had better do it! Pragmatic & true to charachter of him. 

Somehow our colourful discussion started with Australian local, state & federal politics and swirled around to ouija boards, the occult & demons in Vanuatu, ending with the need to be true to God, oneself and country. Lol! That our lives are not really our own, that we are all created for a purpose and a destiny. 

Late that night, after each of them were well in bed, I too went to bed to find Thoughtful Princess at it again. On my pillow was her daily devotions book with a note, " This if for you, Mum"! And the pages read like a laser beam to my heart! "Enough Excuses", was the title, finishing with the very same words that each of my children had spoken that night, " If God has called you to do something then He will give you the strength to do it, go for it"! 

So the decision is made thanks to the love, support and insight most importantly from my children and also in consultation with others. More on this to come......

Tuesday, 14 February 2012


First cuddle together August 2011
Amy is the 'littlest lamb' in our family, her name being inspired by Amy Carmichael and of the French language, meaning, 'much loved'.

If I had my own way her name would be spelt, Aimee - as it is in French, but thankfully her Dad suggested that A-m-y was much easier in our Aussie culture that loves to abbreviate & misspell at the best of times. 

Amy is my sunshine and as her brothers affectionately say, " the organised one in the family. If you want something done, ask Amy"! She is blessed & cursed with a perfectionist personality and loves to do whatever she does to the best of her ability, including pet ownership! 

For Amy's 10th birthday, we adopted a kitten from the RSPCA. The photo above is their very first cuddle together. It was love at first sight for both of them.

I have heard before that animals choose you, not the other way around. Until going to the RSPCA with the formidable task of choosing only 1 out of the many that were there to take home, wondered how on earth I would know which one to choose. Ideally the plan was that on Amy's birthday she could choose her own kitten, however I had rung the animal shelters where we live a week before to check there were in fact kittens available to be told that there are, 'kitten seasons' & they had no kittens. I rang EVERY pet shop in the city where we live, no kittens! 

So we had to go far & wide to find an RSPCA that actually had kittens leaving the decision with me to choose one, not Amy. Anyway walking along the cages of kittens, one jumped up onto the cage wire & eyeballed me! Truly, just like that! It was if she was saying, pick me, pick me! None of the others took any notice to my presence, except for a little grey & white tabby. So it was true. Animals do choose you! 

So Muffin joined our family & has been a delight to us all. Amy is an incredibly responsible pet owner ensuring Muffin is loved well, fed, watered & litter poop scooped daily..... She even attends to the flea & worm treatments with religious fervour monthly! Never a day late! 

Muffin sleeps at the end of Amy's bed & everyone knows they are a match made in heaven. Amy made the brave choice that Muffin would be an outdoor cat (with nigh time restrictions) because she wanted her to experience 'freedom' at the risk of losing her. An admirable choice.

Amy recently commented on how forgiving Muffin is - a lovely analogy I thought. "Muffin never holds a grudge or seems bothered if you step on her accidentally or have to spray water in her face for ripping up the couch (a disciplinary action suggested by RSPCA), or having to grab her roughly to bring her inside, she always comes back for more, stays the same". Amy went on to add, "I think she knows we do it because we love her". 

This was a profound lesson for Amy about why Mum and Dad do some things too. In her experience as primary carer for Muffin, she is learning that as a 'parent' apart of loving is disciplining and that yields forgiveness and a deeper love for each other!

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Let faith arise

Original painting for International China Concern
Today's blog is all about Gracie - my third born. Grace Emily is my Thoughtful Princess. Aptly named after Nanna who is one of the most hard working women I know, Emily means, 'industrious', this is Grace.

When Gracie was just 9yrs old she came home from school very 'aspired' as she called it. When my children were little we always said bed time prayers together - I trust now my 3 teens do it of their own volition, I still tuck our youngest into bed. There is something so precious about those bed time conversations that I wish we could do it forever!

Gracie told me at bed time how she had seen that day at school the film," The Inn of Sixth Happiness" about the life of Gladys Alyward in China. How she had helped orphaned Chinese children escape from the Japanese invasion in China, of how Gladys helped get rid of the horrible 'foot binding' practises of baby girls & of how brave & courageous Gladys was. " I want to be like that, Mummy - I want to be a missionary". 

Wow isn't that what every parent dreams of, having a child that sees the needs of others greater than their own, is inspired by selflessness and wanting to serve for a greater good. It also amazed me because as a teenager myself had devoured books by Amy Carmichael, Irish missionary to India who saved girls from Hindu temple prostitution & gave a new home & hope rescuing them from a lifestyle of poverty & despair. I too had a similar experience of 'aspiration and inspiration'! To hear Gracie's heart was a mother's delight.

As time travels, Gracie 2 years ago wanted to go to China with her school. Each year our school takes teams to work in an orphanage in China, do an exchange program in a Chinese school & walk the Great Wall. Grace was only in grade 7. Her Dad felt she was too young to go and suggested waiting until she was in grade 9 before going. Giving us 2 years to save the  money required for the trip also.

Last year to start saving for this trip, Grace and I started a mother-daughter tupperware business. It was an opportunity for Grace to learn the effort required in working towards a financial goal. Our family & friends were very supportive and we were soon doing sometimes 3 parties a week, putting all proceeds in a special account towards her trip to China. Grace learnt how to present in public, how to do online ordering, how to pack, deliver, manage time between school, housework, how to basically run a small business.

I work full time, study part time & juggle the joys & challenges of single parenting. As much as I could see the tupperware was doing well, the benefits for Grace, in all honesty was struggling to keep up. A full day at work, home, cooking dinner, rushing out the door at night or on weekends to do tupperware parties, leaving behind the other 3 to fend for themselves. Family/work/life balance was getting out of hand.

My Thoughtful Princess could see this. She suggested we 'quit', give it up - I said not yet, we haven't reached our target amount. Gracie prayed unbeknown to me. She prayed of her own volition for God to make a way that Mummy didn't have to work so hard.

One evening at our local Church, a young woman gave me an envelope. I had only met this lady once before, she worked at the front desk of our school. Earlier that week I had dropped off a tupperware order to the front desk with a little business card & asked her to kindly give it to person it belonged too. Nothing more than that was said.

When I got home that night, opened the envelope to find a beautiful card & $500 cash! I nearly fell over! Instead I fell to my knees in tears. The card said that she had felt so moved seeing our little business card & hearing the story from her friend that Grace wanted to go to China & was selling tupperware to do so - that she felt compelled to give a financial gift!

This happened only days after Grace had prayed. When I showed Grace the card, the money, she too burst into tears. Not in sadness, but in praise of God for answering her heartfelt prayers. Faith arose in her heart.

Never underestimate the beauty of prayer or of encouraging our children to seek God, for surely in this world of such uncertainty & confusion to teach our children there is an anchor for their souls is a good thing to do! 

Click on this link to view the work of International China Concern 

Friday, 10 February 2012

Why take the risk?

Matt receiving grade 7, Maths Subject Award
As the last blog was dedicated to my first born decided to chronologically tell a tale about each of them from eldest to Matt is next.

Matt is gifted with an innate ability for mathematics, along with many other wonderful attributes! He certainly doesn't inherit this aptitude from me, thankfully naturally bequest  from his Dad, who funnily enough we first met each other in grade 11 maths!! Needless to say I failed maths because I spent the whole class talking to you know who! Matt's middle name is his Dad's & in personality they are the same. Quiet, deep waters! Amazing how prophetic a name can be!

If you read, Four Point Lesson, this blog illustrated how Matt naturally applies maths to life and sees statistical differentials in ordinary things. Besides, Iron Guts I also affectionately call Matt, my little statistician! If our first born is, Mr EQ, then Matt is Mr IQ. Matt naturally analyses everything through a life lens that is different to most. Matt is going to love Physics! 

Anyways, today's story starts in Church. Matt was about 10yrs old. For some reason it was just Matt & me this one day sitting together in Church. I clearly remember a couple were sharing their experiences about their work in Uzbekistan teaching English and were showing a powerpoint slide with photos of their work etc.....

So here we were just watching, listening. Then Matt whispers me to quietly,    " I don't know why anyone would risk it!"  His comment didn't seem to fit what was happening up front so quietly asked back, "What do you mean Matt?" He replied, "why anyone would risk not believing in God! Cause if He is real, then it's a win win, this life & the next, if He isn't then you're stuffed if you get to heaven & He IS real!".

I was totally blown away by his profound thinking at such a young age! Totally agreed with his conclusion & still do!

Tuesday, 7 February 2012


My eldest son I affectionately say oozes, EQ. If ever describing him to others, always mention this wonderful attribute that is so naturally gifted him. We are all born with different temperaments, giftings and personalities, one of the greatest joys as a parent is seeing these develop and flourish as our children grow.

Similarly one of the greatest challenges is how to foster these natural giftings so our children can reach their full potential. So today's blog is dedicated to my beloved first born.

There are many instances where his EQness ( EQ = Emotional Quotient, some of us are really blessed with incredibly high IQ's others EQ & some have a lovely balance of both, for more info click this link, Emotional Intelligence) has overwhelmed, delighted & surprised me throughout his 16yrs, but today will only share one story, more to come in other blogs......... 

About 6 years ago, I had a car accident driving home from work, coming off the Houghton Highway, driving in the rain, car spun out & slammed into a light pole at the end of the bridge. Thankfully my children were not in the vehicle at the time & miraculously I was unharmed besides severe whiplash, but our Mitsubishi Challenger 4WD did not fair so well, it had taken the full impact of the slam, as a good vehicle should & was 'written off' by my insurance company!

So then begun the horrid hunt for a new vehicle. Now I know to some that sounds exciting, but to me as a single Mum, the prospect of hunting through newspaper ads, the internet & car yards looking at vehicle after vehicle held no appeal whatsoever!  Plus I really loved the Challenger, was grieving the loss of it, Easter was just around the corner & we had planned to go away camping - we needed to buy a vehicle el pronto!

After a couple of  frantic weeks searching using the insurance company rentacar, looking at cars, mainly 4WD's here, there & jolly everywhere, dragging my 4 to car yards all over town & beyond, before school, after school, on weekends, driving far & wide checking out dud internet deals, was totally over it!

Driving to school one morning, Mr EQ (who was only about 10yrs old then) pipes up, "Mum I don't know why you are stressing, just wait & buy the Adsett's 4WD." He said it so matter a fact, so nonchalant. So knowingly. The Adsetts were a family in our Church who had kinda sorta mentioned that they maybe interested in selling their 4WD after Easter. I had dismissed the notion because I was so fixated on securing a vehicle before Easter to ensure we had means of transport for our planned camping trip. 

Anyway with his suggested advice, rang the Adsetts (wish I had done this 2 weeks before!) & had a chat about their Toyota Prado 4WD. In only a matter of minutes the situation was resolved, yes we could buy their car for the very same value the insuance company would pay us out, & because they couldn't sell the 4WD before Easter they would lend us thier very sporty Honda prelude to take away on holidays! We felt very posh pulling up to our camping site with such a sleek, sports car!

Mr EQ had saved the day! His off handed little comment, had been exactly what worked out in the end! 

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Princess Pea Perception

The Princess and the Pea – how perceptive can children be? 

My 2 girls and I went to see this movie together when it first came out– this is a while ago now. Everyone in my family knows that I am a total sook in movies. I cry at pretty much anything sad, emotive or even happy! So in this movie the chirpy little firefly dies, (sorry to spoil it for those who haven’t seen it) the sad music plays, I cry, nothing unusual.  Both my girls looked at me and said, “Get a grip Mum, it’s a cartoon for goodness sake, it’s not real!!!”

A couple of  years later after a particularly sad day at work, caring for palliative patients and sharing about the day with my children, Miss perceptive 10yr old asks, “ Mum how can you do what you do, look after people who are dying and cry when a firefly dies in a cartoon?” – Wow, fancy putting those two things together seemingly out of the blue like that! 

It does perplex even me that I can work with people who are dying and their grieving families and not get overwhelmed with emotion, and yet cry at even cartoon deaths! I think somehow in the moments I am with people who are dying, my role is as a nurse, a carer, I am totally present for them, it is not that their situation does not touch me, death always touches me, it’s a sacred place to be and to work. However in movies there is no role, no duty of care, no responsibility, I am free to be me.

We watched, Red Dog together as a family last night & at a few points in the movie, all us girls had watery eyes! So it's not just me now that cries in movies! Hopefully tears are a sign of tender, caring hearts!   

How perceptive can children be! Never underestimate the conclusions they draw from watching you!

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Musings of a Mother Bird

Home is oft likened to a nest. I love this imagery. I once had the lovely experience of watching a busy mother bird nesting in one of our front trees - I was just like her I thought (at that time I only had 3 young children, pregnant with our fourth). She had 3 chicks in the nest, she would fly off hunting for food, come back, feed one, fly off, feed the next, fly off, come back, feed the next and so on, never resting - well there didn't seemed to be much room in the nest for 3 growing chicks and her! I was exhausted just watching her!

Isn't it beautiful how nature gives us a reality check! At that time I was a busy mother of 3 and trying desperately to keep connected with many other interests and activities- feeling just like that mother bird, exhausted from the raw energy needed just to keep my chicks alive. After watching and learning from this little mother bird, I was able to let go of all other activities, resting in the knowledge that there are seasons in our parenting lives where the demands of our children are and must be all consuming!

My problem has never been motivation, my problem is saying no to too much activity! Thankfully my chicks have grown, not flown the coop yet and there is a season and space again for having other interests and appropriate involvements.

If you are in the season of still feeding chicks in the nest, embrace it, for soon they shall fly away and we'll be left with an empty nest! 

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Family Democracy & Economics

We are blessed in our family to have no dishwasher. Work colleagues often ask me, "how do you work full time & manage a family, do you have a housekeeper?" My response is always the same, "why would I need a housekeeper when I have 4 children!". I believe we do our children a great disservice if they are not taught how to be responsible and share the load of housework.

In our family economics there are jobs for love and jobs for payment. Jobs for love are by pure virtue of 'being apart of a family' include; keeping ones room tidy, being responsible for ones clothes, vacuuming, washing & drying up, kitchen duties, rubbish duties, laundry duties etc. Jobs for payment include; mowing the lawn, extra gardening, cleaning windows, washing & vacuuming the car, mopping etc 

Admittedly I do pay my eldest daughter to do a larger portion of the housework, however this was by her request.......

Miss 12yrs last year needed extra cash for a special item she wanted to save & purchase so she asked what jobs were on offer for pocket money. Then quickly recanted and made the suggestion, that she would just do a week's work of jobs, then I could assess her work and pay her what I thought it was all worth! Very generous offer I thought, not expecting to see much effort. She proved me very wrong! 

My daughter morphed into, 'Alice from the Brady Bunch' and I felt like I was watching myself! All those years of modelling how to peel potatoes, how I like the kitchen cleaned, how I fold clothes etc....Miss 12yrs did everything, and I mean literally, everything! She vacuumed, she mopped (every night), the kitchen was spotless day & night, the washing was done, hung out, brought in, folded neatly....she even rang me while driving home from work to ask what dinner prep needed to be done! Honestly it was an outstanding effort and I paid her $50 for her week's work. She had earned it. However she also realistically knew she couldn't sustain that effort every week, nor could our family budget afford that amount each week, so it has since toned down to a more sustainable rate and fee. I still would rather pay my children to do the work then an outsider. 

Our most recent event in family democracy was just 2 nights ago. With a new year and school term giving opportunity to review the after dinner kitchen duties. Like many families have tried every roster under the sun in an attempt to keep the washing & drying up shared equitably! Instead of suggesting anything, I put it to the children to come up with their best solution to getting the job done! Listening to them discuss with each other, priceless! In the end, to maximise man power & speed of duties, yet to ensure a 'night off' each, was the agreed priority, so they came up with the idea of 3 on, 1 off on a rotation basis, using the calendar to help them keep track of it! I was very impressed with their negotiation skills, solution and implementation!

Well it has only been two nights! Time is yet to tell how long the democratic solution lasts before Mum has to step in as dictator! I'll keep you posted.......