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Quaker by conviction, mother by default, Celticst through love, Christ follower because I once was lost but now am found...

Friday, February 27, 2009

Have passport, will travel

The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one's own country as a foreign land. ~G.K. Chesterton
Before I had children I worked so that I could travel. I had simple wants. I didn't want to trek through the Himalayans, cross the Sahara or visit the pyramids. I just wanted to spend some time in Europe seeing the world my grandfather had left. As I was to discover, he left it for a good reason. I learnt to appreciate Australia in ways I might otherwise not have. After all, there is something to be said for having no history.

We didn't have an awful lot of time ~ comparatively ~ so we had to prioritise which countries we wanted to spend our time in. Scotland, obviously. Both Dearest & I still have family in Scotland. I have some Norse blood, Dearest has hot Spanish blood. To do both Norway & Spain necessitated a long trek through the middle of Europe. We were driving so our terminus was Paris.

Now plenty of people are enamoured of Paris. I am not one of them. Oh, there were things I was rather keen on seeing & we did see some of them like the Louvre & Notre Dame but I have one quirk in a personality that isn't fazed by too much; I do like a clean loo. And this from a woman who has lived with the Australian outside dunny. If you have never experienced this just count your blessings. There is nothing quite like wandering through a pitch black night & long grass in snake country looking for the dunny down the back paddock that is likely as not to be a hole in the ground with a splintery slab for a seat & a whole black hearted host of mosquitoes whose sole intent is to bite your bare bum! When you are seated & in no position to run the spiders start unwinding from above your head ~ to say nothing of the ones that are probably living under the seat. Then there is the sawdust & scoop & newspaper nailed to the wall instead of a chain & proper loo paper. So you see I thought I had experienced the worst the world had to offer in loos until we got off the boat in Calais & experienced a French campsite.

I can cope with most things. Running blocks? No problemo. Bidets? O.K. Other people's excrement up the walls & over the floors & streamers of paper everywhere? EEEEEEEWWWW!!!!

We thought we'd just been unlucky but everywhere we went it was the same ~ or worse! The only clean loo we ever found was run by a German. You could have eaten off his loo floors it was that clean.

So we decided early to limit our time in Paris, which meant limited time to see those things Paris is famous for. We wandered through the Louvre for most of a day then against his better judgement Dearest agreed to drop me at the Notre Dame while he sat in the van & recovered from too much sightseeing. A church is a church is a church in Dearest's book & even one of the world's finest stained glass rose windows was no enticement. His only stipulation was not to take him back to the campsite through the Arc d'Triumph.

Now I have little sense of time & almost no sense of direction so I wandered happily for far too long then got lost trekking back to the car. Dearest handed me the map. I have enough trouble with an English map. One with important information in another language completely defeated me. I took poor Dearest in an almost direct line straight to the Arc d'Triumph!

Have you ever seen this thing? Something like 15 roads feed into it. There are no lights & no lanes. It was peak hour. As we arrived we watched as two different cars flung open their doors in the middle of the traffic, the drivers leap out & with much Gallic waving of arms & vitriolic French hash out their differences as the traffic flowed around them. The gendarme threw up his arms in disgust & wandered off to have a quiet ciggie out of the fray. Meanwhile Dearest found himself being pushed further & further towards the centre of the incoming traffic, like a screw being tightened. He was not a happy Dearest & it was all my fault.

The French are a wonderful people & their escargot are to die for but there is no escaping the fact they are among the world's more erratic drivers. They understand only one thing. Dearest dropped the clutch, revved his engine & headed straight for the nearest exit. The traffic miraculously parted like the Red Sea.

At some point, when I am again childless or alternatively when Ditz is rich & famous & can pay to fly mummy around the world, I have plans on returning to Europe. Paris is not on my itinerary.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Music & Books.

Life is a shipwreck but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats. ~Voltaire
Ditz is blossoming. Indeed Ditz is blossoming so well she threw the entire firsts section off it's stride on Wednesday.

I think I said Ditz was singing 1st seconds. You should see Dearest roll his eyes over that one. He says no wonder Ditz is having trouble with her math if we are counting like this. What can I say? I'm a parrot. I have no idea. All I know is we end up with 5 part harmony.

I digress. Ditz was all on her lonesome on Wednesday. Her partners in crime for 1st seconds were not there, which meant for the harmony to be heard Ditz had to sing out. Now Ditz has all the attention span of a gnat & can get lost with the best of them if she allows her attention to wander but she very rarely muddles her part or hits a wrong note so she happily began chugging along singing her part, & singing to be heard. Then something very odd began to happen. The firsts, who tend to be younger & have higher voices, faltered & voices began dropping in & out as the confused 1sts followed where Ditz led. Oh my! Hours & hours of band practice paid off right then & there! Ditz stayed steady as a plumb bolt where she was supposed to be & the confused 1sts found their way back to where they were supposed to be. And that, my friends, is why each section has an experienced singer who is not going to take off down enticing bunny trails.

Three hours later Ditz wandered off asking if I'd brought food as she was simply ravenous & had a splitting headache to boot. I'm not surprised. I had one too. Our boy soprano has a big strong voice & had spent the evening busily hitting the high B. I wish he'd come down an octave or three. Yeow!

Anyway I left Ditz home on Thursday to go second hand book shopping with my friend, Sian, whom I also go camping with. Like me, Sian has many & varied interests though she mourns my disinterest in food. To really do food she needs Liddy who always thinks eating is the best part of any excursion. I reluctantly stop to eat only if someone [like Liddy] becomes very insistent.

Anyway we took off early with high expectations & a good cash flow to find that Sian's car had a flat battery. It was very obvious the day was never going to be the day we'd planned so I wandered off to the phone box & asked Ditz to get Dearest to put Liddy's car keys on the next ferry & we went & had coffee while we waited. We then swapped cars & went & got Sian a new battery & detoured to check on Dino who has busted his shoulder yet again & has been told he has no other option than surgery ~ the sooner the better. He is not a happy laddie.

Most of the morning had evaporated but we changed the battery over & headed off only to find the bookshop was closed for lunch. Sian looked at me with disbelief & we headed off for coffee while we waited!

Great bookshop. Nothing from my *if you ever see one of these, nab it* list but I got a shell identification book quite cheap. We spent several happy hours rootling through stacks & piles & three deep in the shelves before paying for our purchases & heading for the 2nd shop. This too was closed. You wouldn't read about it, would you?! Bold as brass the notice declared the shop was open Monday to Thursday from 11am to 5pm & here it was, 3 o'clock & locked up tight. We went for coffee on the off chance the owner was having a late lunch. We gave her plenty of time & had lunch too. I ordered this very yummy honey & mustard salad that I must try & emulate at home : baked sweet potato & pumpkin, cooked carrot, grilled capsicum, wilted English spinach, very young & tender, with just a taste of honey & seeded mustard. It was very yum.

The shop remained tightly locked & padlocked so we came home detouring to the dump to dump the old battery & my, wasn't that fun! Nope, I can't share. Sian can't believe they actually let me loose on proper roads driving proper cars ~ in traffic but I ask you; What is a girl to do if she misses her turn on a one way circuit? No, I wasn't driving but I knew just what to do. If you ever found yourself heading back down a highway into a country you've just left & have no desire to return to in a hurry you'd know what to do to. Come to think of it my reaction was rather like Sian's. Maybe I've just lived with Dearest too long. He used to ride bikes. Enough said.

And Ditz missed me. I don't think she did more than look at the work I left her but she did bake. She did not wash up. Iss missed me too. He told me so by dancing at me pretending he was a big ferocious lion until I picked him up & he began to purr. Liddy was relieved she didn't have to cook dinner two nights running & Dearest was just relieved to get fed. It's nice to be missed.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Ditz[N]: N. Am., Silly or scatterbrained

“God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform. He plants his footsteps in the sea, and rides upon the storm.” William Cowper
Miracles come in all sorts of shapes & sizes, big, small & in between. We have had a small miracle this week.

I think I have mentioned, just once or twice, that Ditz is not real keen on her academic work. Less than enthusiastic even. Worse she has been agitating to go to a *real* school. The public schools are less than ideal round here. Worse the islands are stigmatized as a home for *ferals* & our kids are the prime targets of bullies. The closest school is particularly bad but even the one our older children went to has since gone downhill with a change of Headship. Seriously, the stories I hear make my blood run cold but I'm pretty sure Ditz thought I was making the whole thing up just to spoil her fun.

Apart from any other consideration there is no way we could do all Ditz's music if she was in public school. Between travelling & homework there just aren't enough hours in a day. I might as well have been talking to the wind. I just got attitude & more attitude until I was whinging in the Lord's ear like you wouldn't believe. I do a lot of that, whinging at the Lord. I wanted Him to do something. A major change of attitude was called for. I love my daughter but she was not acting in a very lovable way & I was starting to unravel. It is not pretty when I unravel.

Then the other night the majority of my household was gathered round the other bane of my life ~ the T.V set. The girls were waiting on the news finishing so they could put in a movie when what comes up but a special report on bullying in Queensland schools. Now I missed this whole thing. The t.v irritates me beyond all reason so I rarely watch it but by all accounts it was an eye opener for Ditz. Her eyes got bigger & bigger as the long list of stats started scrolling showing the increase in the level & types of violence in our schools. Some things are up 100% ~ everything from name calling to cyber bullying, stalking, rape, assault & it's kids like Ditz, a little different, a little clever, gifted in unusual areas, who are the primary targets. They interviewed the victims, showed the horrific injuries. Dearest was taking note.

Now Ditz didn't say anything to me but I have been pleasantly surprised the last two mornings to find my reluctant learner more co~operative than usual. In fact we are back to having fun together with her learning rather than me dragging Ditz reluctantly through the motions of learning. This is how homeschooling used to be in our house before Ditz got a bee in her bonnet about missing out on something. We laugh a lot together, make bad jokes, & in between Ditz manages to concentrate enough in short spurts to zoom through her work. She is a clever bunny when she puts her mind to it.

Now we use Sonlight & we aren't bookwork sorts. Drill is just boring so when we began Sonlight I just threw Ditz in at the deep end with her grammar, teaching it like a jig~saw puzzle. Over & over I'd parse sentences with her as they came up ~ interesting because my grammar is not at this level either! The more obscure stuff I just delete but after an 8 week holiday I was expecting to have to run Ditz through a refresher course on even her basics. With a change in attitude Ditz just blitzed her grammar work. Prepositions, that have troubled her for 3 terms, she nailed. Subject V direct object, no problem. Passive V active voice, well her mother likes the passive voice so we have a few problems still with this because sometimes the rhythm & flow is just better in the passive voice.

Ditz is working her way through the next chapter of her science & is on top of her history research paper. She has finished her first 3 readers & reading history is so not Ditz's thing. Her dictation has taken a decided turn for the better as well, which is astounding because I don't do spelling as a subject & haven't since we abandoned BSDE. Ditz rarely makes spelling mistakes though her punctuation can be a tad shaky but she has been asking me to reread her dictation aloud & checks for comma pauses etc then. I've been impressed. There are far fewer grammar errors this year. I'm not relieved so much as I feel things have returned to normal. Ditz is never going to be a brilliant student but I can live with that so long as she does her best with those things that don't interest her as well as those things that do.

Once we had got her wok out of the way this morning I rang her violin teacher to discuss suitable days & times to resume lessons. Althea is lovely & takes so much care with Ditz though violin has taken a third place in Ditz's affections well behind singing & flute. Althea knows this but considers Ditz too gifted with the violin to allow her to give up easily. She has waited patiently for me to sort out our other commitments before slotting in violin. Actually I think she was probably starting to wonder if we were continuing.

Now Althea is a smart lady & her first question was whether Ditz was doing grade 4 flute this year. Yep, Ditz is though I've agreed to forgo the exams this year. Althea is perfectly happy with that. Grade 4 is, she tells me, difficult & you are really getting somewhere if you have got that far. Singing 5/6 part harmony is also difficult. With this information she will bolster Ditz's ego & cajole her into actually working.

Now Ditz is a random visual/spatial learner so what she can't do on the violin she applies to flute & flute to singing & singing to violin ~ any or all of the above combinations. I watch this & stand in awe of the wonderful people God has given Ditz because every single one of them deals with her ratty attention span & erratic learning pattern without batting an eyelash.

Yep, we get miracles in all shapes & sizes round here.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sunday, Sunday...

The god who is reputed to have created fleas to keep dogs from moping over their situation must also have created fundamentalists to keep rationalists from getting flabby. Let us be duly thankful for our blessings. ~Garrett Hardin

Being neither a rationalist nor a fundamentalist I can only giggle because I am more with Chesterton:Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair. Love affairs are messy but but have the inestimable value of being all about relationship & nothing whatsoever to do with dogma.

I can't argue Christianity. I wouldn't even try. I leave that for Liddy who seems to think you can argue people into things. If that were true we'd all be rationalists because I'm pretty sure Christianity is the most contradictory, illogical, religion out there ~ except for one thing. The bible pulls no punches when it comes to discussing human behaviour & humans have got to be the most irrational, illogical creatures God made. We don't seem to be real strong on consistency either which means we can say one thing & do another without even blinking an eye.

Over the years I have worshipped in all sorts of places. Our mangrove walk is my all time favourite place ~ except for the swarms of mozzies & an incoming tide. Stave churches are nice but questions would be asked if I erected one of these in the back yard. So having *church* in my living room doesn't rattle my brain box too much. The very first churches met in each others homes because all a church is, if you want to get technical, is the body of believers & not a building.

It was a very quiet & humble beginning to home churching on Sunday ~ & a jolly good thing. The Lord knows us very well & made sure we weren't overwhelmed & that was a good thing too because the house went under spiritual attack. You would think I would learn but I remain convinced we are so useless & unimportant I can never believe the demonic hordes would be the least interested in any of us. Nevertheless the fact remains that on Friday Dearest, who is not prone to headaches [they're my province] went down with a terrible headache that medication wasn't relieving. He went to bed very early & slept like the dead. Saturday I woke under the sort of oppression I only normally get if I'm preaching. This is not good news for my household who tend to avoid me under such circumstances as being something of a Jonah & best avoided. I see their point but it's no fun for me either. Dearest annoyed me no end by rejoicing that it was more confirmation. I saw his point but I can seriously do without that sort of confirmation.

The girls were asked to put some music together. They're the ones with all the Christian CDs. Dearest & I rely on the radio. Liddy really got into it & chose a Rebecca St James & a Casting Crowns song for us to listen too that she knew Ditz liked though Ditz is terror struck she will be asked to take on the music ministry & is pretending she's not here. We wouldn't do that to her. It's important that the girls feel a part of this too though Ditz seems to be having some sort of spiritual crisis at the moment. She wants to be careful because the Lord is a far better disciplinarian than I am. Liddy was validated. Her choice of songs spoke to people ~ tears in the eyes even ~ so she was pretty chuffed as she toddled off back to work.

We need to relook at how we slot Liddy in because of the disruption to what's going on & we still have some kinks to iron out with everyone else but I am hopeful something worthwhile will evolve so long as we listen carefully to the Lord's leading & don't go chasing after our own phantoms. For the first time in a long while Sunday has resumed the sort of ambiance it should have & we were given a word from Revelation to the church at Philipi which sort of spun me out. I might have thought it was all in my head except that it was confirmed.

By the time we were done I felt like a wrung out dishcloth. I do find people exhausting ~ interesting & fun but exhausting non the less. I was pleased to crawl into my bed last night & sleep the sleep of the just but I woke this morning feeling spiritually refreshed & with my spirit singing so even though it was a lot less than perfect yesterday something was very right because I would certainly not be feeling so spiritually well today if it was wrong. We've had a lot of experience with spiritual sickness last year & are well acquainted with how that leaves us feeling. This is a nice change. It is not feeling burdensome either & that is always a good sign that we are on track. I am looking forward to next week.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Oh, what a week!

Family: A social unit where the father is concerned with parking space, the children with outer space, and the mother with closet space. ~Evan Esar

My brain is fried. It's been one of those sort of weeks. Not difficult exactly. Not even particularly tiring but now I'm at the end of it I just feel incredibly bad tempered. Dysfunctional even.

Not helped in the least by the rain. Now I like rain but I am starting to get a Liddy complex because the rain inevitabley kicks in late Tuesday night & is pouring down by the bucket load come Wednesday morning when I have to go paddle in it. When it rains the washing piles up & people start aggitating for clean underclothes. Well the undies are clean but if you want them dry as well, well that is a different story!

I sat in on choir again this week & now have the inside scoop on the small choir, which has been formed to give the students who have been round a while more intense training. Not sure how Ditz wrangled that except she doesn't need to be told over & over to stand or sit quietly, have good posture, highlight her part & mark as indicated. Her sight reading seems to be pretty good, much better in fact than I thought it was. The AVAE choir is doing a number of songs in German. Lots of gutteral spitting. Eeeew! Ditz sings seconds, which has always been a very small group of about 4 kids. This particular song has about 8 singing seconds because the seconds part divides in two. Ditz sings the higher part, one of just 3 students & even knowing I'm biased & naturally my kid is just wonderful [that's a given, right?] I was still shocked at how quickly Ditz got the *grunt* going, that was asked for. O.K, I know she can do it; She & Sian play games where Ditz sings down in her boots with plenty of grunt but Ditz has been quietly hiding her light under a bushel so I was more than a little astonished to realise the one voice I could hear clearly, on pitch, was Ditz! Yep. She's prepared to twinkle brightly. Alison is very pleased with her progress & says she's so much fun to boot. One of Ditz's charms has always been that she is usually a happy person to have around. O.K, so school work doesn't make Ditz a happy Ditz but that aside she is usually a pretty cheerful soul & a willing little worker.

The downside of choir night is we get home lateish, pretty wired. Ditz takes ages to settle & we are finding Thursdays impossible. I am now relooking at how I've scheduled because I think I need to move all the written work & intense stuff to Monday/Tuesday & all the reading to Thursdays. Ditz just isn't functioning. I was sort of expecting that & have waited to see how we were managing before slotting in violin but that will have to be Tuesday afternoons. Scheduling it later in the week is so not a good idea.

To really complicate things we have been struggling churchwise for ages. Getting to the mainland every week is just impossible. There are 6 churches on the island & none of them work for us. The Pentacostalists do a great *touchy~feely* service devoid of the word of God. Not for us. When even the girls can pick holes in the theology something is very wrong. The Catholics & the Anglicans with their liturgy are too ritualised for our girls & the preaching is weak too. There is a music ministry which also eliminates the word of God & the little non~denom church is in serious sin in our view because we believe the bible is very clear about the character traits of those in leadership roles within the body of Christ. Talk about frustration. All we want is a spiritual home where we can worship as a family each week but to get the bare minimum of what we want we have to travel off~island. This is expensive, time~consuming & sheer exhausting & it should be so unnecessary. There are other families like us. End result we are all getting together to home church. This is not very common in Australia & I have only ever heard of people in the States doing it but for the present it seems the only reasonable solution & we can get Liddy home for some of it too.

For the time being it looks like we will be focusing on listening to God in prayer & reading straight from the scriptures ~ no preaching. Dearest did ask me to do some background notes ~ a whole 60 seconds worth! For now we will just take it slowly & see where the Spirit leads. Liddy has a song she will play on C.D for us but even so early we are getting glimpses of how God might lead. Liddy's gift is missions & there are several young people we could get in a bible study with Liddy leading & me as back up encylopedia. Hospitality is so not my gift I find opening my home this way completely fraught making ~ you haven't seen my home! We have been building for 25 years & are nowhere near finished yet! The constant rain means we still haven't got our verandah rails up!

As our year begins to pick up pace & race full steam ahead I really like my schedule to stay pretty stable ~ no unexpected blips, no sudden death changes, nobody running round like headless chooks bleating that they were sure they'd told me when quite obviously they haven't...& already Liddy has thrown a spanner in the works. Her timetable is pasted to the fridge with her work number & lunch times for whichever of her accommodating parents is responsible for her on any given day. Yes, I know she's a big girl & could get herself to & from work on her own if she had to but if we're home & available why should she have to? Besides when she gets overtired the CFS starts kicking in again & believe me it's just not worth it! Liddy, who is competant & user friendly [at work at any rate], is being moved from customer service to being in charge of the dairy section. The manager wants Liddy in a managerial position as quickly as possible though his plans are being somewhat sabatoged by needing Liddy out the front to help train new juniour staff & fix the computers. Only Liddy hasn't got a timetable yet!!! Now you tell me, how am I to schedule without it? She may be able to get hours that suit her better & be home a little earlier, which would make all of us much, much happier little vegemiters. I hate her late nights. By the time I pick her up I'm exhausted & she's rarely on time. Someone's till always has to be recounted because the juniour staff seem chronically unable to add up.

So that's my week. How's yours been?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

So Pardon Me if...

The fairies went from the world, dear,Because men's hearts grew cold:And only the eyes of children seeWhat is hidden from the old...~Kathleen Foyle
Have you seen the news today? A 13 year old boy in Britain, who looks about 8, has just become the daddy to an adorable little girl ~ pending DNA testing. His *partner* is just 15. I am neither shocked nor disgusted, certainly not surprised. We have taken our children's innocence & this is the unenviable result.

Certainly healthy children want to grow up. Most eventually want to become mummies & daddies themselves but as I look around I seriously wonder about the world. There seem to be a lot of *Peter Pan* parents around who seriously don't ever want to grow up & take responsibility for anything, certainly not for their children, while their children, in their anxious rush to be thought all grown up, have latched on to the worst aspects of the adult culture they see all around them.

Nothing convicts me more of the idea of original sin than my children. Now my kids are blessings & most of them are grown up now but I remember they couldn't wait to be stained by the world. They didn't want to be fresh & innocent, especially when they were the only ones not allowed to watch particular t.v shows, not allowed to wander willy~nilly around the island & whose parents had a terrible habit of insisting on knowing who they were with, where they were going & what they would be doing. Nothing saddens me more than to watch so many of Liddy's peers succumb to the pressure to be sexually active then pregnant & unmarried. They have no job, no savings, no hope of better things to come to offer a child.

My issue is not really with children having sex. Ethiopia has child brides of just 8 & yes, I believe the fathers know the men concerned will not honour the agreement not to violate the child until she has matured. Many countries practise teen marriages~ India, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia; the list goes on & on. You can make all the rules you like & people will circumvent them because they want to. I don't even get indignant on a moral level because I think the bible is pretty clear about that. Those who belong to the world act as the world dictates. No surprises there.

Nope. What gets me really worried is not all the symptoms ~ & that's all these things are: symptoms ~ but what I believe to be the root problem, a deep disregard for the intrinsic value of another human being. The bible doesn't limit sexual activity to the marriage bed to spoil people's fun but because we shouldn't use each other to pleasure ourselves selfishly. Again & again the bible teaches to consider other peoples needs, other people's feelings, other people, period! It is not all about us!

The teen years are essentially selfish years. Most teens are pretty obsessed with themselves one way or another. Grown ups need to consider each other as well as themselves. They need to be able to put their children's needs before their own. They need to be able to consider what's best for the family as a whole, their church or community as a whole. They need to be able to wait & practise self restraint. And we have societies in the west that are struggling to do any of these things. We have children birthing children because they have not been taught that controlling one's instinctual urges might just be a good thing. We have a culture out of control on alcohol & drugs because people have put personal freedom of choice above duty & responsibility to others.

So pardon me if, much as I adore my kids, I don't tell them they're the centre of the world & do require of them some vestiges of adult behaviour the older they become. This can be a bumpy ride but I am the adult & it's what I signed up for when I had kids.
Come away, O human child!To the waters and the wild With a faery hand in hand,For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand.~William Butler Yeats, "The Stolen Child"

Monday, February 16, 2009

A Perfect Mystery.

I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves. ~Anna Quindlen.

My children are debaters. They debate, I provide the bullets they fire. So last night after Liddy kicked me off the computer she had me calling out biblical quotes for her so she could clobber some misinformed person who told her she was an atheist who didn't believe in Creationism. Oh, & obscure scientific facts like the sun pulsates to a beat, that if the world were off it's orbit by the size of a pinpoint life couldn't exist on this planet & ditto freezing water expanding rather than contracting. BTW, there are more atoms in a bucket of water than there are buckets of water in the Atlantic ocean. Just so you know. I have no idea how scientists come up with these *facts*. Probably some mathematical equation I have no chance of comprehending. And I don't specifically teach Creationism, only wonder. Seriously, I'm the lady who tells every one I know some Japanese biologist put the DNA of bog moss & mice to music & came up with something that sounds like Bach. Weird or what?

So I spent last night paddling round cyberspace reading some really random stuff & I got what I so richly deserved ~ the Voynich Manuscript!

It is beautiful ~ & completely unreadable!!! How frustrating is that for a chronic bookworm?!Cryptologists have been trying to decode this for at least 4 centuries & aren't even close to being able to read this. They're not even sure it's not someone's idea of a massive hoax. The beautiful illustrations of plants look like they belong in a herbal ~ except they aren't real. The drawings seem to be composites of several different types of plants. As the book belonged to several different alchemists one can only wonder if they had some weird experiment going on.

Then there are the weird *plumbing* drawings full of naked ladies doing weird things in water. OK, bypass the ladies & try the astronomy. I took one look & figured I was looking at a spiral galaxy before remembering you can only see galaxies from out in space, which a Medieval alchemist certainly wasn't doing. Other drawings look like they are from a microscope. Mind you the mind that came up with making gold from a base metal had an eye for the main chance so anything produced from the medieval era I would view with a good dose of scepticism.

More things, Horatio, & all that. Something to mull over in those quiet moments when you have nothing better to do ~ or if you're of a mathematical persuasion [which I'm not] have a go at decoding the thing yourself.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Images from Hell.

If you think nobody cares if you're alive, try missing a couple of car payments ~ Oscar Wilde

No, not as facetious as it seems. Some banks are completely without mercy, no matter what you've lost.

From the Sunday Mail [our Sunday paper]:
images Alex Coppel.

One end of the country's burning, the other's under water. I know this image has gone round the world. What gets us is that koalas don't normally drink water. They get their moisture from the gum leaves they eat. It says more than words to us about how hot an inferno that fire was. Actually it's pretty amazing the thing's even being friendly. I know Moly thinks they're cute & cuddly but they're not. Dearest has seen a lone koala clear a room faster than anything else, even a poisonous snake. They really aren't nice customers.I've lived backed on to National Parks or large tracts of bushland nearly all my life & seen some wild fires but I've never seen anything like this.This was taken out of Melbourne airport. Firstly Melbourne's not burning so that smoke has traveled an awful long way. Secondly that's an awful lot of smoke.
The NASA satellite image shows how far the smoke is spreading. You may have seen many of these images already but as the death toll continues to climb & people try & come to grips with what they've lost & how to rebuild shattered lives please spare a prayer or two, especially for those who lost children.

Friday, February 13, 2009

I'm going to regret this but...

Science is for those who learn; poetry, for those who know. ~Joseph Roux, Meditations of a Parish Priest
Every so often my Ditz likes to astonish me. She fusses & pouts & makes a great to do about nothing & just when I'm ready to dig a hole & drop her in she changes horses mid~stream.

Those who have been round for a while know that we struggled for years to get Ditz to write. She could write but she didn't like it so she fought doing it & she fought hard. I was starting to get a little wild~eyed. People were asking questions & we were getting *those* sort of comments about homeschoolers. It's one thing to know your child can do something but when she objects to proving it ....!

Anyway I got sneaky. Each year I do NaNo & I make a bit of a thing about it. [Please, no comparisons; don't you know comparisons are odious; Disraeli said so.] NaNo is my excuse for being allowed to concentrate on writing for a whole 30 days despite November being a terrible month for something so time consuming & fraught making. Ditz watched this for one November. She saw I got unlimited computer time. She saw the cute little book thing. She saw you got a friends list. The next year she was lining up to do NaNo. We fought over the computer. Ditz wrote up a storm. I think she got about 6,ooo words done. I was flabbergasted. Mind you, she now costs me a small fortune in stationary because she hasn't stopped writing since. She's discovered it's a great way to torture all the people who upset her [please, she a teen; everyone upsets her!]

I still struggle to get her to write for school but I've been privileged to see some of what she's written & she's good...& getting better. English & History are my strong areas so while we are often highly unorthodox I'm pretty secure that Ditz has got some sort of a grasp on these subjects however much she fusses about *the boring stuff.* I also know that as a visual/spatial learner she is both random & extremely lopsided with her learning & mostly I'm o.k with that. I know it evens out a bit before lopsiding in another direction. That's just Ditz. I also know that in her own mind [& her mind alone] she thinks the only thing she's good at is music & then she's only really good at singing. No~one yet has been able to convince her that all musicians must work really, really hard to be any good ~ which is why so few people become musicians.

Anyways.....I digress. I do have a point. Ditz, who has fussed at me all week [& yes I get tired of it] sidled up to me last night & said, "I'm going to regret this but..." What an opening line! My heart quailed within me. "Could you teach me how to write poetry properly?" I very properly hid my absolute delight & amusement. Yes, I can do this standing on my head. Ditz has no idea what she's just let herself in for. And why, you may very well ask, does my Ditz want to learn all about poetry? Because, Dear Readers, she has made the connection between poetry & lyrics! She sees it will help her song writing to learn the mechanics of poetry. Oh Joyous Day! Oh, Rapturous Wonder! Dancing a little jig here.

Whatever else, I can never say that life with Ditz is dull.

A poet can survive everything but a misprint. ~Oscar Wilde

Thursday, February 12, 2009

No Leftovers.

“If you've broken the eggs, you should make the omelette.” Anthony Eden

Omelets are of French origin ~ naturally ~ & date back to the 14th century. They are a great way to use up an excess of eggs, a filling alternative to a meat meal [especially if you add a salad] or even as desert.

Our favourite omelet recipe is actually a sweet omelet & it is so scrumptious & filling that we use it as a main meal, sometimes when we have time for a prolonged breakfast & very occasionally as an evening meal.

Last night Dearest wasn't feeling up to anything much except fruit, Liddy was working late & left to our own devices neither Ditz nor I are big meat eaters so I suggested we make sweet omelets for dinner. The idea was greeted with rapture by both girls.

The filling is basically a fruit salad of whatever is in season or fruit that you like diced up. I do the fruit first as each omelet must be made individually.

For each omelet separate 3 eggs. Beat the whites till they are nice & stiff & set aside. In a separate bowl add 1 tablespoon of sugar, 2 of plain flour & 1 of cream to the yolks & beat until smooth. Fold in the whites & pour into a hot skillet.

This omelet does fluff up quite considerably & like pancakes I wait till the surface is bubbling before I try & flip it over. When it is golden brown on both sides slide it onto a plate. Add the fruit along one side with a sprinkling of icing [powdered?] sugar & some cream & fold it over.

No~one here can eat more than one of these at a time & of course if you want a healthier meal just omit the sugar & cream. There are no leftovers either so if you want a taste, I'm sorry but you'll have to make your own.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Ever consider what pets must think of us? I mean, here we come back from a grocery store with the most amazing haul - chicken, pork, half a cow. They must think we're the greatest hunters on earth! ~Anne Tyler, The Accidental Tourist
I know Iss knows when we've been grocery shopping ~ & he knows some of the tins in the bags are his. He knows other sorts of bags mean we're going out so he was less than impressed yesterday to see an assortment of haversacks getting filled. He thought we were going away again.

Iss has taken to living on the fourth box in Dearest's stack ~ high rise deluxe apartments for cats where every breeze passes, every person halts to pat & he has a bird's eye view of eveyone's comings & goings. So I was hardly surprised, standing beside the stack while regaling Dearest with our adventures, to find a little paw [ok, so Iss's paws are not so little] batting at my hand inviting me to play. In his relief at finding we had come home Iss practically turned himself inside out in sheer delight & though he squirmed alarmingly all over the box lid while I rattled my fingers round the rim for him to chase he kept his claws carefully sheathed. He might be the loopiest loop but he is the gentlest cat.

He will quickly adapt to our new routine though he won't like Wednesdays when we are gone for so much of the day. What Iss likes is to have his people constantly available to fawn over him on demand; none of this running about doing their own thing, thank you very much!

Anyway poor old Ditz was overstimulated by her evening. Only to be expected but very wearing on the rest of us. I turned the lights off at 11 pm but Ditz was still not ready for sleep though reading quietly in bed. I left her to it. I had planned a quietish day today knowing choir can be all too much for all of us & the first one of the year, when the year ahead is mapped out, is particularly exciting. Ditz was as over~excited as Iss. Firstly she got her first certificate from Vocal Manoeuvres which can go on her CV. Secondly, in front of the whole choir, Alison confirmed Ditz is the only student in AVAE not having private lessons, so she was feeling both pretty special & pretty clever. Not sure what made that happen really though I do know what Ditz understands musically, even when she has trouble expressing it, is quite phenomenal & mostly instinctive. I think the theory she gets from violin & flute combined with the class singing lessons Ditz has put together in her head somehow so is on par with the other students & choir is one area Ditz works really hard.

Meanwhile the Lord blessed me. I have been looking for Schindler's List for months for Ditz's study on WWII. She had wanted to just do DVDs or videos but I sent her scouring the Internet & assigned some reading as well just so I knew she had some background to put the rest of what she learnt into perspective. She was inspired by our Irish friends who pointed out her ignorance about all things military [which is not about to change any time soon].

WWII is such a big subject so I tried to narrow it down. Ditz wanted to learn about Hitler & has since informed all & sundry the man was a vegetarian! OK. My child has no interest in the political significance of the man. This could be a very interesting paper. She knows about the autobahns, which I still talk about. I wish Australia would take note of what Hitler did with the autobahns & follow suite! Ditz, being very much her mother's daughter, has tended to focus on the human aspects of the war. The battles are just what happened while people were trying to live their lives. This amuses me.

What has also intrigued me, & what probably won't come out when Ditz goes to actually write her paper, when brevity will be the name of the game, is what she has had to say about listening to Hitler's speeches. Firstly she was shocked that her German was good enough that she understood a lot of what he was saying. Actually that shocks me too. We stopped German about 18 months ago & haven't even been listening to a lot of spoken German the way we were. Secondly she really picked up on the way he delivered his speeches. Guess that's not surprising for a musician. She really noted his use of stress & emphasis, intonation, articulation, emotion & not so surprisingly it scared & shocked her because he was so good! Yes, well. The man did convince an entire nation to follow him down a godless path.

Plus Choir does quite a lot of languages. Ditz has really had to use her German & as she has a good ear for language has not found that aspect too onerous. Latin, French & Hungarian are also on this year's menu.

So where was I? Right. Anyway, WWII can be such a dark study I really wanted some of the inspirational things to come through showing that there were still people who acted with dignity & humanity amidst the most terrible horror. Schindler's List is one of those things. Kolbe is another & Corrie Ten Boom. I also picked up The Pianist, which not only won 3 academy awards, but tells the inspirational story of Wladyslaw Szpilman. That was an expensive little trip to the DVD shop. So today for school Ditz gets to veg in front of the t.v & watch DVDs.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Water, water everywhere...

Ocean: A body of water occupying two-thirds of a world made for man - who has no gills. ~Ambrose Bierce

I like the ocean. I like the sea. I like the way waves curl & the salt smell, the way sunlight dances across the dimpled surface & the sloshing sound of water sneaking through the mangroves. I don't want to be in it or on it ~ just watching it.

Today I have to be on it ~ times 2. Once to another island for flute, once to the mainland for choir. It's at moments like this I look at the body of water separating us from the mainland & actively dislike it.

Now when I have time on my hands I don't much mind wending my way between the islands. It is oddly peacful slipping through the slick water with the engine chug~chugging away & not having to do anything to get me to where we're going. It is different when I have things to do.

When Ditz was younger I would take school work with us. It was an unsatisfactory arrangement. Ditz was, & is, highly distractable. She can't concentrate to read either but she will draw. She will sit & read music ~ which I think is beyond weird & verging into the realms of lunacy.

Travelling exhausts me. I am not looking forward to today & yet I actually enjoy Ditz's music. I enjoy listening to a lesson I neither understand nor comprehend & Ditz huffing & puffing into her flute. Jan, bless his little heart, knows how to silently terrify my child into working her butt off for him. I enjoy choir. Listening to Alison work a difficult song until those kids can sound professional, in 3 or 4 part harmony is an absolute joy...but I still have to get there & getting there means boats & boats mean waiting & travelling & time out of my day with me always thinking ahead to the next thing that has to be done to keep the whole circus revolving. I exhaust me just thinking about it.

Monday, February 9, 2009

mummy brag 'n' sag

Learning to perform on stage is really learning to live comfortably with fear. ..Isaac Ster

"Congratulations! Ditz has been successful in gaining a position in the Australian Vocal Arts Ensemble within the Vocal Manoeuvres Academy for 2009."

I love my Ditz...& I'm really proud of her. Oh she drives everyone wild & [edited at Ditz's request], just the same she's a pretty terrific kid.

She's been hanging out for that e~mail for nearly a week knowing that there were just 16 places for that ensemble & unless something really untoward happened quite a few of those places were already allocated. Everyone else takes private lessons too & most of the choir has been conscripted from the private lesson people.

Music is expensive & last year, when we were totally new to this whole circus, I came home from the orientation class having a total breakdown with Ditz fussing about me in a whirl of worry. Never in my wildest dreams had I imagined my little canary would incur the sort of costs we had to consider. This year we thought we knew what we had to deal with.

For a month or more my household has suffered Ditz. If the child confined herself to practising her choice of song we might have grown bored but she would have raised no comment. Ditz makes noise the way the sun makes shine; it's an act of nature, an irrefutable law of cause & effect. Not Ditz. She has had a year of Alison. She has had 4 very public, high profile performances & if Ditz has learnt nothing else she's learnt a certain amount of professionalism.

Professionalism sounds sooo good, doesn't it? *sigh* What it means in practise is you're driving along thinking quiet thoughts & Ditz goes, 'Wheee!' Liddy nearly drives off the road. Ditz goes, 'Whooosh!' Followed by doe, ray, me & far, so. la Then scales & arpeggios. Liddy begs for the radio to be turned on. Ditz screams that the radio will put her off pitch. I wish my car were bigger or than one or other of my girls weren't in it. And so it goes. Ditz warming up & Liddy totally convinced all musicians are incurably mad.

Ditz mightn't have private lessons but what she's learnt in class she's applying. She was also far less nervous for her audition this time round because she knew exactly what to expect & if Ditz is nothing else she's a superbly confident young lady. I thought she'd done a pretty good job at her audition. Ditz thought she'd done a pretty good job. Whether it was enough to secure her a place in the smaller, more elite ensemble we weren't sure. Ditz thought so; I hoped so because not having private lessons this is the next best way to get the best learning time.

I tend to only focus on one hurdle at a time. No point in worrying until I know what I'm worrying about, right? Now Ditz is in I get to worry. Last year Ditz did an hour of theory & an hour of rehearsal. We got home about 8pm which isn't too fraught making though we were always tired & meals got a tad erratic. We just added another hour to that. I'm looking at being parked in a freezing cold high school classroom for 3 solid hours through winter & we won't be home till 9pm in the middle of the week.

See Alison has this tendency to take a small group of kids & work them super hard. They then form the core of a larger choir & drag the other choir up, plug the mistakes, hold them steady ~ which is why, of course, we wanted to be in the smaller choir. The training is much more intense. It is also far more time consuming. I feel tired already.

And just so you know because I whinge enough about Ditz's academics, I know nothing whatsoever about music. For Ditz to have auditioned at all she had to work everything out on her own ~ choice of song suitable for her voice & range, practise, a way to learn the music without a backing tape, warm up, posture, recall everything she'd ever been told about music for the sight reading & sound tests, everything she's learnt about performance & put it all together on the day. Which she did. Now why can't she apply the same skill level to her academics?

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Spare a Prayer...

Art, like morality, consists in drawing the line somewhere. ~G.K. Chesterton


The media has an eye for a good headline. Sunday's Courier Mail screamed HELL ON EARTH.
And that was before it got worse. I rarely even see the news & even more rarely find it interesting enough to comment on but while the north of my state is under water, with more rain to come, the southern states are battling the worst fires ever in a land used to dealing with raging fires.

Thirty~one fires are burning across N.S.W & Vistoria & 25 of those are out of control. That's hundreds of hectares of land charred to a crisp; 750 homes up in smoke; 93 confirmed dead. The death toll will rise.

The satellite pictures are amazing. The bottom eastern corner of Australia is obscured by a huge billowing plume of smoke!The temperatures, which have been over 100F, & the winds have created havoc with the fires coming through so hard & fast people have been unable to escape.

There's nothing quite like a raging Australian bushfire. The high oil content in eculypt leaves means trees will spontaneously explode into flame with fire racing through the tree tops as well as along the ground. It's bad enough that fire crews from other states are going in ~ & they aren't trying to put these out either, merely contain them & let them burn themselves out. Not much they can do. The fires are coming through as a solid wall of flame.

The most horrible part of all this, the thing that just confounds me completely, is that not only were many of these fires deliberately lit, while the fire crews were frantically trying to contain the damage & save lives someone was going around relighting fires & starting new ones! Some people just boggle my mind.

What I do know is I won't be watching the news as the horror stories start coming through because that's the stuff nightmares are made of but spare a prayer for those left homeless or orphaned, parents who lost children in the blaze & especially for those where whole communities have been burnt out & many died in the blaze. All the Governmental handouts in the world is not going to fix this one in a hurry.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Animal Crackers.

Riding: The art of keeping a horse between you and the ground. ~Author Unknown
I don't do horses.
I tried them when I was younger & bounced better but the horse had a much better idea of what he was doing with me than I had about what I was doing with him.

What I want as a pet is one of these.

I'm told they make very good pets being far more trustworthy than a tiger, you just have to watch the dew claws when you're playing tag. Apparently any cuts are very prone to infection.

Dearest is not being encouraging. He says they'd cost too much to feed & Issi is psychotic enough already. I see his point about Issi. When mum visited Issi's nose twitched so fast I thought it would fall right off his face. You could practically hear him thinking, 'So this is where they go when they desert me. I can smell that other thing,' meaning Pixie. Mum was accepted though. Issi has been known to growl like a bull mastiff when he doesn't like someone & freeze them in their tracks. He terrified a visiting Pentecostalist by twining round his ankles purring like a coffee peculator while growling like the mastiff at the same time. The poor man didn't know if he was friend or foe, being loved or about to become dinner.

The thing with Iss is he's always had an overinflated sense of himself despite being the world's biggest woos. Months it took of gentle encouragement to get him to go outside. If I disappeared from his sight he lay down & cried ~ literally! Outside he had to go because I only keep kitty litter for emergencies when outside is not possible. When he began taking himself it was a moment for rejoicing. Worse than toilet training a toddler I'm telling you but as I told my son at the time he was removed from his mummy far too soon & he hasn't developed right.

When Issi first arrived we owned another cat ~ my part Siamese, Gyver, who was not impressed by this interloper at all. Iss, on the other hand, adored Gyver & wanted to be just like him when he grew up. Gyver had inherited the Siamese raucous ability to make himself heard over any amount of noise. Despite his best efforts & considerable size Iss has a squeak softer than a mouse's. After finding him crying softly at the door on more than one occasion we took to leaving the doors open while we knew he was outside.

We knew Iss wasn't very brave but we also thought he was pretty brainless & as we were having trouble with feral cats of an enormous size we took care to keep the cats in at night. This particular evening Gyver had already come in & was quietly grooming himself when there was a kerfuffle at the front door. Iss shot down the hall at a 100 miles an hour, hurtled round the corner & out the verandah door. Hot on his heels came the most enormous black cat I have ever seen. He screeched to a halt on finding people about but before he could gather his scattered wits Gyver reared up from beside the wall & soundly boxed his ears while Iss slunk back to watch with a smug smile of satisfaction.

And the motto of this story: When in doubt bring them home to mum.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Random thought on Christianity.

There is enough light for those who desire to see, and enough darkness for those of a contrary disposition.’ Blaise Pascal ~ Pensees

I've been thinking about this for some time in my own disorganized way & it's still bugging me so bear with me or not as the whim takes you.

The greatest fault of the organised church as I see it is that they have misunderstood a basic tenet of the faith. They have taken the premise known as *The Great Commission* to go into all the world & make disciples as permission to convert the heathen. The arrogance, the sheer audacity, of the assumption boggles my mind for one simple reason. Scripture does not say to convert the heathen. It says to make disciples.

Jesus had disciples. They walked, ate, slept with him. They sat at his feet & listened while he taught. They saw him perform miracles. Under his guidance they had a shot at one or two miracles themselves. They argued with him. Peter was particularly prone to that; I have rather a soft spot for Peter. In Jesus they found something they desperately wanted & they hung around, even when it started to get dangerous. The surprising thing is not that Peter betrayed Jesus but that he even followed him so far! Come on people! Judea was a subjugated nation living under military rule. Walking into that courtyard was courting disaster.

Tradition has it that Peter was crucified upside down because he did not deem himself worthy to be crucified as his Lord & Saviour was, so what happened? What changed the man whose nerve gave out on that first Good Friday? He met the resurrected Christ. And this is where the church in general & Christ's people in particular, have failed.

It is so much simpler to say, ' Well, you need Christ or you're going to hell', or 'Just pray the sinner's pray & you are saved.' It's not that those things are necessarily wrong in themselves but they don't go far enough. You can tell about; that is easy. Really introducing someone to Christ is a much much harder thing. Firstly it requires that I am living my life in such a way that I can invite someone into my life & have them examine it without fear. Oh my! That means putting away all my little pet sins that no~one knows about except me. That means living what I preach. That means having an answer for the hope that is in me for anyone who asks ~ which means I have to examine my faith & understand what I believe. See Christianity is not for wooses. It requires commitment. It requires endurance & perseverance. It requires time.

The church has boxed religion up into neat compartments ~ Sunday worship, Wednesday prayer meeting, Saturday youth group & I don't think it was ever meant to be like that. It was meant to be life. When people asked Jesus he didn't say, " Come along to Sunday worship & all will be revealed.' He said, " Come & see' & took them into his own home. Hands on teacher! :)

Christianity is not a philosophy. It is not a moral guide. It is not a legal system. It is a relationship. If you do not have relationship you have nothing. Your hands & your heart are empty & it is for this reason I take umbrage with the evangelical movement. They are good at telling people about Christ ~ who he is , what he has done for us, what we need to do to come into relationship with him, but all to often that's where it begins & ends & that is just not good enough. We are meant to disciple people so that they learn from us how to be in relationship, how one holds oneself constantly in the presence of Christ, constantly in prayer while going about one's daily life with joy.

I know we all like to sing 'And they will know we are brothers by our love' [ouch!] but what I have noticed marking my life more & more is not love per se, not happiness, but joy, the joy of the Lord & it is this joy I wish I could express better, this joy I wish I could share because it is not mine, it is a gift & it is born of knowing Christ.

I have such a fellow feeling for Peter. He wanted to stay on the mountain top with the visions & the ecstasy; me too. Christ sent Peter back down into the valleys of life, to the everyday trials & tribulations, the failures & frustrations; me too. But, & this is the thing, having sent me back He came with me. So when my brother, Mark, died, yes I grieved but I had Christ's joy as well. At my centre there is a place that nothing in this life can disturb. Here the well of living water springs forth.

I am blessed. I have experienced the reality of Christ in deeply profound ways. I have no doubt of the reality of God. Living out that reality is much harder. I don't suffer fools gladly. I get frustrated with glibness. I'm opinionated & stubborn & bone lazy. I want to spin in my cosy little world with well behaved children, a good book & plenty of coffee & chocolate. I don't want to be getting my hands dirty in other people's messy little lives & that is exactly what I am called to do ~ with love & patience & infinite kindness when I am not loving or patient or kind; & I'm to do it joyfully! Uh~huh.

What I have learnt as people have passed through our lives is that while lots of people want what we have as a family very, very few are actually willing to pay the price. They want to be blessed with no strings attached. They want to be saved without repentance. Many are deeply cynical because they have been damaged by a flawed church system. It's not that they haven't heard the good news; it's that they haven't met the one the good news is all about.

So how do you share the Good News in such a way people meet Jesus? I don't know. I know Jesus found me, not the other way round, & having experienced His presence I long desperately for that day when I will no longer *see through a glass darkly but face to face.* I have met the one who undergirded people like Kolbe & ten Boom, Peter & Paul & scores of others all down the centuries since Christ rose from the dead & sent His Spirit out into the world to seal those who are His unto the day of Redemption. We do the world a disservice when we only tell people about Christ without introducing them to our Hope but I still struggle each & every time to convey the reality I know to people who are not even sure God exists, let alone if they have a soul worth saving & a life worth living after death.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

But at my back I always hear...

For disappearing acts, it's hard to beat what happens to the eight hours supposedly left after eight of sleep and eight of work. ~Doug Larson

Time literally melts away round here. Each day has the same number of hours in it but as I work my way down the list of things that have to be done the minutes get whittled away until I literally have none left yet seem to have achieved very little.

I have the academics desire for a perceivable outcome: do your research, write your paper, collect your A but running a family does not work like that. After 5 kids you would think I had that one worked out but no. I still wonder why the daughter work perceives as highly organised with good managing skills is running round like a headless chook begging me to iron her work shirt, find her socks & a hairbrush, make her lunch & then leaves one or all of the above sitting on the kitchen bench?! Meanwhile I, who do not have good managerial skills, is stolidly plodding down her list getting one thing after another done because Liddy in a right old tizz because she can't make life do what she wants it to do is unlivable with. Liddy is already there at work before she has ever left the house. Tanned & with her cheeks filled out instead of model gaunt she at least looks like she's had a holiday but stocktaking starts today now they have Liddy back so that relaxed serene look is unlikely to last long.

Meanwhile the list of things I wanted to get done [wash the dishes, sweep the floors, put on the wash, copy the map work for Ditz's history] has to wait & Ditz, who has all the attention span of an oversized gnat, has wandered off to do something else from which she is loath to be removed for school work. On days we go out it is even worse & I keep a running list of things I need in my head: boat fares, mainland keys, reading material, flute times, choir times, violin times. Ditz at least can be relied upon to organise herself & be ready, hair brushed, music & instrument packed, when I yell at her to head for the car.

Frantic, frenetic & frazzled are terms that come to mind. My goal this year is to try & achieve all that has to be achieved at a more peaceable pace. If the boys head north this may just be possible. Liddy is an excellent little 2nd in command & willingly picks up the slack on those days I am on the mainland with Ditz organizing dinner for herself & Dearest, putting her own wash through, leaving me a note before she heads to bed if there is any change to the morning routine that I need to be aware of. Ditz is getting older too & I am considering sending her island hopping for flute on her own this year, which will give me some much needed breathing space. There is nothing I can do about the mainland activities. Despite what Ditz thinks letting her parade round town after dark is just not on & only someone who has tried to untangle what Ditz has understood from a set of instructions has any idea of how confusing that child can make a simple requirement.

In the shermozzle blogging becomes a little erratic but I like to blog. It helps ground me; keeps me sane; puts my life back into perspective & reminds me that the can I'm carrying is no heavier or harder than anyone else's & is considerably easier than some. So I'm off to find my erratic daughter & do our re~aloud, the map work I finally got printed out, the science & her dictation ~ all of which require little me ~ remembering that not only do I choose to do this but I do actually enjoy homeschooling. Pity I can't say the same for Ditz!


We acquire friends and we make enemies, but our sisters come with the territory. ~Evelyn Loeb

Ditz has been an only child for a week. She likes being an only child. Liddy says bluntly we should have discarded the male prototypes & only kept the one perfect girl ~ her!

Today Liddy came home.

Today Ditz had her singing audition.

Today Ma came over to the island for lunch having driven Liddy down the coast.

Ma thinks Liddy is pretty special too. Not only was she the first grand~daughter after all those boys but her misguided parents named her after her maternal grandmother. Dearest, who has a wicked sense of humour, arrived home from the hospital shaking his head & announcing sadly that James James, Morrison Morrison, or whatever name we had actually decided upon for a boy, was a wonderful name but unfortunately inappropriate for a girl! My mother went from concealed disappointment to tears of happiness in a matter of moments & Liddy has a special place in her heart in consequence.We got a pretty pleasant day & had lunch on the verandah. Ma does like a good water view!

It was a pretty quick visit. Ma had a psychotic cat waiting for her at home too & a long drive back to boot ~ & we had Ditz. If you prayed ~ Many Thanks. Ditz was nervous but not overly so. Some of that was simply she knew what to expect this time. Some of it was we've put up with Ditz for weeks going up & down her scales & doing her "Whees" & "whooops"! And practising her choice of song over & over...& over.

Triads ~ consistent, which is good news. Sight reading ~ good. Scales ~ yep. Only then was Ditz asked to sing. Now Alison, like me, can remember back 18 months to when she first worked with Ditz, a Ditz who hunched her shoulders & slouched & sang so softly there was no way anyone was going to hear her over the big sound of other singers. That was not the Ditz who fronted today. Todays Ditz stood tall with excellent posture & she let rip. When she was done Alison was silent & then she just said 'Wow.' Even I can hear the difference in Ditz's voice. We have our fingers crossed that Ditz has made the smaller, more select AVAE ensemble which will have only 16 members. If Alison runs true to form this will form the core of the larger choir & Ditz would perform with both.

Nice things got said about Ditz's singing...& about how her voice is developing. That makes for a happy Ditz because Alison Rocks!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A little schooling is a dangerous thing.

It's what you learn after you know it all that counts. ~Attributed to Harry S. Truman

My beautiful Ditz is not madly keen on anything school despite my best efforts. Mind you I did dyslexics ~ 3 of them with varying degrees of dyslexia ~ so if nothing else the girl reads well. No way, no how, was anyone leaving my house unable to read & write. We won't go into the math.

What Ditz does well is aplomb! And attitude; Ditz does a great attitude. Which is why I was dreading the start of the school year & the dreaded, 'But what do I need this for?' Basically I don't want to go to jail, dear, so smile & pretend you like it. Capiche?

We do not have the Home Beautiful homeschool family with a neat & organized mum supervising neat, enthusiastic & brilliant children. Heck, Ditz rolls out of bed looking like a bomb victim & doesn't function till after lunch these days. We should be unschoolers ~ only we'd do nothing but read fantasy & watch movies in between singing & painting ~ which does not make for a well rounded education. Not that Ditz would mind only it would be a little hard to explain to our umbrella school & they already do a great job covering us because Ditz likes math so much she is several grades behind but several ahead in English/history & she only really likes art & music but hates exams. Try juggling that in practical terms. It works like this: On Saturday we visit Sian who gives Ditz a two hour piano/singing lesson while discussing theology with me; On Wednesdays we travel for an hour each way so Ditz can do a two hour singing lesson & travel 1/2 an hour each way so Ditz can have a flute lesson. On one other day we have 1 1/2 hours of violin. That's 6 hours of music lessons a week. Add in practice ~ an hour per instrument each day [no, Ditz doesn't often actually do all that but that's the general idea] & you begin to see there's not a lot of hours left for other things ~ like math.

Now being a sneaky mama I figured out I could make some subjects more palatable by tying them in to art &/ or music ~ which is why we do so well in English & history & manage science & do not do so well with theoretical math. I have my eye on getting my hands on a very practical hands on everyday math program ~ if such a thing even exists; you know, how to balance your cheque book, budget for a family of 5, measure up a set of windows for curtains, convert strange American recipes into understandable metric, work out how much petrol you need at what cost to travel from Brisbane to Noosa, negotiate a rental agreement & make sure your record company isn't fleecing you dry ~ especially that last. Do you know how many musicians have been fleeced by their managers? Nor do I but I bet it's a lot!

Unfortunately for me Ditz has outgrown the *make it look pretty* aspect of her school work. Her art has improved. Her art, like her music, is brilliantly impressive but drawing amazing dragons with glinty eyes & toothy smiles is not the sort of decoration required on maps of Ancient Rome ~ but it is glinty eyed dragons Ditz is into drawing at present. So I opened the test papers required at the beginning of every school year with some trepidation.

"Do I have to?' Ditz whined. 'Why do I have to?' There is no good answer to that question except that the school requires it so they can keep the government of their backs & keep their funding which means they can keep the government off our backs ~ none of which is an adequate reason in Ditz's book. Ditz blitzed the reading/comprehension. I don't think she got an answer wrong. Her writing was adequate & it was about something she learned while she was on holidays so double bonus. Besides she used paragraphing. This is impressive from a child who believes in making up her own grammar rules as she goes. Which left the math paper & the math paper was all Algebra. Ditz managed one sum, the one that wasn't an Algebra question. I am so over worrying about my kids' education. Experience has taught me my kids are really good at learning what they really need to know when they need it; that is, they know how to learn & that's the important thing.

I bundled the tests up before I could start fretting & shoved them in the mail & got home to find an e~mail from our supervisor , who is lovely beyond words & appreciates Ditz [although being a math teacher she doesn't appreciate trying to teach Ditz math] saying not to worry about the math, just stick a note on it saying we're not at that level yet, which is what I'd already done.

I love this lady. Ditz basically took a fortnight's academic leave of absence last year for the QPAC concert & she didn't even blink an eye, just said to make a note of it so it was included in Ditz's assessment. Ditto the whole flute thing with Ditz in full meltdown so that her exam results arrived too late for inclusion but because she'd heard Ditz on a home visit she just included it *pending results*. The Lord has truly blessed us with this wonderful lady & trust me, we suffered some shockers in the State Distance system with their *one size fits all* thinking.

Today began our first real school day of the year. It will take a little bit to get our rhythm back. I don't schedule well & while I love the literature rich programme we use for History & English I get lost pretty easily. I just need to make sure Ditz has all the books she needs marked & basically she reads her way down the list until I'm ready to work with her. Yeah, there's a reason the kid reads well!

I'm still waiting on her music history & bible curriculum but having the workbook we've still been able to do most of the first music lesson & get the workbook set up. History picks up where we left off moving into my favourite period before heading into Medieval Europe. Ditz fusses but actually has a pretty good grasp of this subject in her own inimitable way. Ditto English & while it is like bleeding stones to get her to write an English paper she has notebooks full of her stories & I've noticed a marked improvement in the quality of her writing just from all the reading she does. Science got a little messy last year. We were using 2 very different curriculum as the Apologia, which I like, proved far too academic for Ditz & I had to compensate heavily. By the end of the week I really hope we will be up & running properly, ready to add all the extras next week.

Oh, & if you're the praying sort send a little prayer up for Ditz tomorrow. Tomorrow she auditions again for her ensemble & while I have no doubts she will be accepted it is still a fraught making process & I do have to live with the child while not actually braining her. She will sing a Capella, which means she has to pitch herself & stay on pitch without any help. Rather her than me. Seriously, regular academics looks a cinch by comparison.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Cat posts, no ghosts.

I had been told that the training procedure with cats was difficult. It's not. Mine had me trained in two days. ~Bill Dana
You have not been welcomed home until you've been welcomed home by a cat. When Iss is depressed he curls up small & his ears go down. Happy he sprawls with his ears constantly pricked listening for my least step about the house. He always knows exactly where I am & what I am doing & is there in a flash if he thinks I need protecting from something.

He does not like it when I go away. Dearest pays for my absence & frets constantly that the cat is fretting. I come home & Issi waits to see if I remember him. He has an anxious evening waiting to see if I remember the routine or if he will be forgotten in the muddle of coming home to a house that has been inhabited by males who don't actually live here any more. [A sink full of dishes & 3 loads of washing but nary a lad in sight].

There is a satisfied sigh when I finally scoop him up to take him up to bed. Now this cat didn't even know he had legs until he was about 6 months old because Ditz carried him absolutely everywhere, even tucked under her arm while she played soccer. Not many cats would have tolerated that but Issi will put up with most things if it means he's with his people. I did think he was a bit short the full quid for a while but nah, he's just one of those cats wired for people.
Scooping Iss up for bed is his cue for a deep & rumbling purr to begin. Iss is supposed to sleep at the foot of our bed between Dearest & I but after I've been away he invariably slinks up the bed, wriggles onto my chest & lays his head over my heart. A paw reaches out to fold over my hand or both paws cup around my hand. This is not comfortable for either of us & sooner of later he shifts, in stages, down my body to where he belongs but all night long I wake to him gently patting my foot. Yep, he's one odd cat but the gentlest of pussies.

Now people who have dogs like to tell me what good companions they make ~ better than cats. They haven't met my cats. Iss is notorious for following me about so closely he's constantly in danger of being trodden on. He's company while I garden, keeping a watchful eye out for snakes & birds. He joins me to mark our territory by raking up all the leaves & on a cold winter's night is an excellent hot water bottle. He will even come on walks though we stay away from roads & for a quick game of tag or *knuckles* there is no~one better.

OK, the cat's spoilt rotten & completely neurotic [& he wasn't even mine to begin with but seeing as his owner took off to sea & *forgot* to send the necessary money for the unkindest cut he became mine by default.] I have never seen an animal plunge so quickly or so far into depression as Iss did when I took him over to the vet's for his little operation. It was heart rending & nothing anybody could do for him made it any better. When I arrived back that afternoon to bring him home again he began a loud & rumbling purr that went non stop for 3 whole days! Seriously, you could hear him all over the house.

My mother has a cat too ~ an energetic & enquiring soul called Pixie who gets fussed over by the entire village & is something of a peeking tom. She is a well regulated puss who is only allowed outside under strict supervision though she has been known to slip mum's eagle eye & go snooping through the neighbour's yards & peeking in their windows. More than one old dear, lying down for a well earned rest, has been startled to find a furry face sporting a fine set of whiskers peering over the windowsill at them. Pixie too is mum's by default. Dad bought her & she was very much my father's cat; one reason she's so incredibly neurotic. Mum took dad away & never brought him home again. Not mum's fault but the cat's never forgiven her.

There is a point to this rather rambling post. You see Dino has plans to head back out to sea on the Gulf trawlers after prawns. Issi began as Dino's though Dino has had the good sense not to acquire another animal when he inevitably spends so much time at sea. Now Theo is going with Dino. Both my boys will be at sea. They aim to be on the same boat so they can watch each others backs & work well as a team but Theo has lived away from home for the best part of 12 months & I am wondering what he's acquired that I am meant to find a home for. Cats are easy compared to some of the things I can think of. If anything should happen smelly old sneakers are not quite as comforting as a furry friend.

I truly hate my boys being at sea but it is very good money & there is nowhere to spend any of it. They have plans & have matured ahead of their friends. They want to do things besides party each weekend & a couple of seasons on the trawlers will achieve their ends fast. Truly. There is no rent. There is no utilities to pay for. No car; no car registration; no petrol costs. Food is supplied in abundance by the boat company. They don't need flash clothing or expensive shoes. In short every cent they earn ends up in their pockets. Dino already owns a block of land outright. He wants to build on it. Theo is in the same process & far more motivated because he has a serious girlfriend. Dino has never wanted to do anything but fish. Theo is less keen on being so dirty & smelly but hey, he likes to live well.

The season opens in March. Each week I will compose an epistle that will wend it's way up a coast presently unhappily waterlogged by the latest cyclone & across the top end to whichever outpost supplies the trawlers. Knowing my boys I won't hear anything back too often but that's ok. Iss knows my every mood & any time I get too fraught or anxious, if I'm particularly sad or unhappy, he climbs into my lap, lays his head over my heart & begins to purr. It's not quite the same thing but it will do in a pinch.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

And so it goes.

Families are like fudge - mostly sweet with a few nuts. ~Author Unknown

Kondilla was wonderful & we happily picnicked in the park for lunch but then...ah, then we drove down into Montville & the damage was done! The Poet's Cafe ~ one of many cafes along the tourist strip offering a tempting array of goodies.
The only way to resist temptation, as Oscar Wilde so rightly pointed out, is to give in to we did. We practically rolled down the hill homeward we were all so full, undoing all the good work a stroll up & down a nice big hill had done us.

Mum's garden is getting pretty overgrown thanks to all the rain & I guess once Liddy comes home at the end of this week she will begin the serious business of cutting everything back.

Ditz & I meandered home alone because today is D~day. Ditz has squeezed an extra week of holidays in but we are down to the wire & today we start back at work. Choir audition Wednesday. Ditz has chosen to sing the theme song from Prince Caspian, which is lovely & really suits her voice. She won't say if she is nervous this year or not. Hm. Flute will be Wednesdays too so a really big day mid week but I'd rather squeeze as many extras as possible in to one day. I will probably move violin to Thursday afternoons. We'll see. Ditz may be too tired after such a full Wednesday & all her worst ADD traits in full flight.

This is the bit I really hate, juggling my schedule round to get the best fit for all the things we have to manage to squeeze in. Oh, & doing the stupid start of the year tests. We have those today. They are pretty short but seriously, we haven't looked at Algebra yet so who's the bright bunny sending us Algebra papers? And if I have my way we will never look at Algebra. Once our unit on fractions is done I will be wanting some very practical math ~ book~keeping & budgeting & stuff like that. My Ditz ain't no rocket scientist & we have no use for Algebra.

To add to my joy the curriculum I ordered way back in November, knowing full well I needed to allow for international transport, still hasn't arrived! And shows no signs of arriving any time soon. Plus it is raining, dank, dark & gloomy. I also think Ditz is lying doggo. She's been up with the crows for days but today not a sign nor a squeak. I think that's highly suspicious, don't you?