Go mbeannai Dia duit.

About Me

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

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tuesday's Trivia.

I have an extensive vocabulary but for those of you who occasionally have trouble with my *Australianisms* today's trivia is about how much more incomprehensible I could be if I chose because Australians do some pretty terrible things to their native language.

Firstly I believe Americans eat something called a *sloppy joe*. Have no idea what that is but you'd be hard put eating one out here because a sloppy joe is a skivvy. I won't say jumper because I believe that's a dress but out here a jumper is a sloppy joe which is a skivvy.

If you put on your *wobbly boot* you do not have uneven footwear but have been indulging a little too freely in the *amber ambrosia* [beer]. Out Bogabilla way [yes, it exists] they named the local pub the Wobby Boot.

Moving right along. America has ranches. I believe they get pretty big. We only have stations. The Anna Creek Station covered 12 ooo square miles! No, that is not a typo. Sir Sydney Kidman owned a series of stations that covered an area greater than the U.K. The biggest of the stations still are pretty much self sufficient with what amounts to a small township on the property. Well, you'd have to wouldn't you, when the nearest neighbour is hundreds of miles away?!

And last but not least a salute to that Aussie icon the *thunderbox*, also known as *the long drop*. This is the outside dunny, usually a corrugated iron monstrosity with a big hole [the long drop] with an old open ended tin bucket & a splintery wooden seat. They are absolute shockers & usually home to an assortment of spiders & various other wildlife. ☺

The True Heart Award.

Nobody has ever measured, not even poets, how much the heart can hold. -Zelda Fitzgerald.

"Those who receive this award are of the sweetest nature. They are kind, friendly, funny, loving, eager to share their love for Jesus with others, and brave in their efforts to reflect Him to this darkened world. They are the kind of folks you're blessed to know, even if it's only in the bloggy-sphere."

Hmmmm....not how I'd describe myself but I am really honoured to receive this award because, you know, like my homeschooling, things are eclectic around here ~ a bit of this, a touch of that & something else just for flair. I mean God has put so many interesting & beautiful things in this world that one needs more than one life to sample them all & then he added mysteries just to tease & tantalise & get the old brain cogs whirring round & of course some of us just have to talk about all this, even if no~one is listening but ourselves.

My blog roll is pretty eclectic too. Ever noticed that? Every time I go visiting round I wonder how so many diverse & funny people ended up as bloggy friends with me. Anyway, just so you know, I cherish each & every one of you for your own particular way of being part of my life & if I could make these blooming awards [which I can't] I would have great fun designing individual ones for each & every one of you. However I have to choose & I would like to give this award to three of my quieter readers because even in their quietness & reticence they are impacting those around them in a positive way. More of it I say!

: Heidi, my love, you have been very quiet lately but this is for you.♥

:Mama Olive @ Nothing but Time in the Olive Grove who is the most generous of friends & has a house full of young & tender shoots.

: & last but not least, Jan Lyn @ Off the Beaten Path who with true Quaker simplicity & directness chronicles the ups & downs of her life.

Thank you, ladies, for sharing a little of your lives with me. ☺

Monday, June 29, 2009

Monday Memories.

"Heirlooms we don't have in our family. But stories we've got." ~ Rose Cherin

Liddy scored herself a long weekend so we took the opportunity to head north to my mother, who has a birthday shortly. My mother is a tiny woman, much, much smaller than I am. We all tower over her. She is also a very private person ~ though she reads here & occasionally sees her life go up in *Lights* & pings & other shiny things! Goodness knows what she thinks.

Growing up it was my father who told the stories ~ to be consumed with a liberal pinch of salt. Accuracy is not a family story~telling trait. My aunt told the best stories of all ~ a smattering of accuracy to a pound's worth of drama & I fear Ditz & I have inherited the tendency. It makes the more accurate of us inordinately wild because, you know, that's not how it really was ~ but it's more fun our way!

However since dad died mum's been telling her stories. Perhaps because she & Liddy are so alike I sometimes think Liddy is more like her ma than she is like me. For the first time I am hearing stories, not of her childhood, but of her life as a young single woman in the Brisbane when the night~life shut down at 5pm when the workers went home. Brisbane was a standing joke around Australia for years & years because it really was little more than an overgrown country town ~ & a backward country town at that. We have heard mum's version of how she & my dad met ~ as opposed to dad's more highly coloured version. I feel my girls are really getting to know their grandmother as a person, & not just as their *ma*, which is such a blessing: for Liddy because she sometimes feels lost in the bizarre world Ditz & I inhabit; Ditz because there is a solid stability in ma's past that can help ground her flights of fantasy.

Ma is first generation Australian, one reason I think I feel disconnected from early Australian history & why the whole debacle with indigenous Australians makes me so wild. Immigration history is a *whole 'nother story*. Poppy might have left Scotland but Scotland never left him & I can hear the echos of it still in my mother's stories because Poppy was a Scotsman till the day he died.

So when ma tentatively suggested we might like to hear the Brisbane Police Pipe & Drums band Ditz & I were charmed. Ditz harbours a secret desire to learn the pipes. Perish the thought after hearing her learn the violin! I happen to like pipe music, even when in a confined space inside. Liddy was a little less enthusiastic but being the easy~going young lady she is she happily agreed to come along. The best quote of the day belongs to Lid. As the band prepared to fall out Liddy leaned across to me & said, 'Haven't they got one more song to play?'

'Don't think so,' I answered but Liddy was insistent.

'Aren't they going to play Waltzing Matilda, then?'

Ditz & I stared at her because the very last song the band had played was ...yep! Waltzing Matilda! lol. Obviously unrecognizable when played on the bagpipes!

Actually Liddy was having a *blonde day* because she said to me earlier, 'Are they real police? Could they arrest me?' & I assured her yes, & yes, which made her rather nervous. As it turns out I was wrong. I would have been right once but as band members found it difficult to get promotion the police band is now professional musicians.

Yeah, I got chatting later with one of our kilted laddies, though, as it happens, not about the police force, [that was someone else] but about William Barton & how similar didgeridoos & bagpipes are, using, as they do, the same breathing technique & Willie has played with the police band. I think he's played with just about anybody who's anybody at all in the music world, including the big symphony bands. Interesting man.

None of us were real keen on coming home again. It was lovely to walk along the winter beach. The sun was out, there was almost no wind, & the surf was muted. The waves rolled gently on to the beach & the warmth soaked deep into our winter cold bones. Ditz & I are now on a school break but Liddy is back at work today, poor thing.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

It is hard to believe that a man is telling the truth when you know that you would lie if you were in his place. ~Henry Louis Mencken, A Little Book in C Major.Twice in one week! I shall suffer from a swelled head. Jillian@ Homeschooling for Christ has given me the honest scrap award. Isn't that nice of her?!

Now, to keep this award, I must complete the following:

1) Say thanks and give a link to the presenter of the award. See above.☺

2) Share "ten honest things" about myself.

*1 As much as I hated school I loved Uni. I miss it. I want to go back. OK, I'm not wrapt in exams & essays & deadlines but I loved the exchange of ideas, the conversations, the books! The Books! Oh my! I could almost sell my soul for the Uni library.

*2 I travelled twice to Fiji as a child. I love the Fijian people. Blue skies, warm water, rain at night. It's the only place I actually go swimming. You know, get wet. In the sea.

*3 My family are *boaties*. I'm the only one who hates living on board a boat. The salt gets into everything. It makes me itch. When I itch I get grumpy & bad tempered. When I'm grumpy & bad tempered no~one wants to live with me.

*4 When I was a child I read nothing but fiction, preferably fantasy, often fairy tales. As an adult I rarely read anything but non~fiction: archaeology, history, theology & education. No I don't know why. When I do read fiction I tend to return to the children's books of my childhood. Bit like a kneading cat returning to kittenhood really. At least I don't drool.

*5 Dogs really like me. I don't really like dogs. I'm a cat person.

*6 I really like the mindless tasks of housekeeping: mopping floors, washing dishes, hanging out the washing. I can think of other things while I do those chores. I don't enjoy cooking & I can't successfully think of something else while I do it ~ which is why I so often burn meals. *sigh* I wish I could just winkle my nose & whoosh! a meal would appear.

*7 My favourite colour is any shade of bluey~green. It reminds me of water & distant hills & shade from the summer sun.

*8 I like walking in the rain & at night under the stars. I don't like the heat or wind. I like the country, can't stand being surrounded by concret & steel & the constant hum of traffic.

*9 I'm allergic to all sorts of stray things: red wine [gives me migraines], certain deoderants & perfumes [ditto], soap, nylon/rayon [gives me hives] & just about all the make~up on the market. I never doll myself up, always wear natural fabrics & avoid red wine like the plague.

*10 I know my saviour lives because He has told me so. The Lord has chosen to speak to me very, very clearly on a couple of occassins. I know it's not the usual way he does things but it sure removed any doubt in my mind. Yes, there is a God. Yes, God is love. Yes, he wants a personal relationship. If I could somehow manage it I would manage it so I could bask in the presence of God but that's not how it works in this world & I long for the day when I no longer have to look in a mirror darkly, but am face to face & can lose myself forever in His grace & love.

3) Present this award to 7 others whose blogs I find brilliant in content and/or design, or those who have encouraged me.Well, I'm not home just now & I don't have huge numbers of readers. Nor do I read round lots & lots. It takes more time than I can honestly afford so I am going to leave this one open. I probably stretched the bonds of friendship enough last time. Everywhere I read regularly falls into these parameters so if you would like to play please leave a link so I can come read.

4) Tell those 7 people that they've been awarded HONEST SCRAP and inform them of these guidelines in receiving it.

If you add your name here consider yourslf informed! ☺

A little meditation on prayer.

But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. John4:23

I am half~way through Philip Yancey's book Prayer ~ does it make any difference? Interesting book.

I find books like this difficult though ~ & over the years I've read a few of them ~ because my issues with prayer don't seem to be quite the same as anyone else's. I ask different questions. I go about things contrary to how most people seem to do things. I'm not complicated. I'm a parent & you know the thing that drives me wildest about having a gaggle of children underfoot? The nagger. The kid who goes on & on & just . won't . shut . up! They remind me of this: It is better to dwell in a corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman in a wide house; & Solomon was in a position to know! With God I don't want to be a brawling woman chasing him down through all of heaven. Nope. I tell him what gives & then assume He will work things out as He sees fit ~ which may or may not be what I want, in my time frame, according to how I see things but He is God & I assume He knows what he's doing. Every so often I check back to see how we're going with something, touch base so to speak. It's not as though I wasn't able to express myself plainly enough the first time round.

Yes I do know all the verses about keeping on at God but I can't do that & not worry so given a choice between 2 sins I'll go with the first. It's not as if Christians have just one arrow in the arsenal either. Well, I don't. I have been known to sit at my computer screen & absolutely rant at God. *sigh* So much for a meek & contrite spirit! You want me to do this? Then you provide the weaponry! I figure I'm in good company. Job, Israel, Moses, Jonah....actually most of the prophets now I think about it stood up & went rank at God at one time or another. Understandably.

Most mornings I drop Liddy at work pretty early. I'm barely awake at that hour of the morning, let alone civil. I don't want to talk to anyone, let alone God. If I've had my coffee before we head out I use the return trip, the only time in my entire day when I am completely & absolutely alone [the loo doesn't count; the cat comes & I never feel real comfortable chatting to anyone on the loo] to pray. I pray out loud; in tongues. I can't seem to pray silently in tongues & it's not the sort of thing I want to do in my house where a child would invariably interupt & want to know what I'm talking to God about. Now if I had the gift of interpretation that wouldn't be a problem but I don't. I haven't asked for it. I figure the Spirit knows what He's doing too.

Do you see a pattern here? Yeah, me too. I tend to be passive, which is why the meditative prayer of silence suits me so well. I am uncomfortable telling God but perfectly o.k emptying myself & waiting with what patience I may for God to speak to me. Hardly the dialogue of relationship you might say but you don't know my household.

Seven people [& the cat] have lived here & for all seven of us it is the same. We don't do idle chit~chat well. If I'm going to talk I'm going to have something worth saying. I assume, yep, that if God has something He wants to say to me He'll make His wishes known.

This means I have a rather odd prayer life. Almost indescribable. I don't normally make a practise of setting aside a certain time to talk to God. When people talk about a regular *quiet time* I am puzzled. I don't fret about why bad things happen to good people. Genisis explains all that. I don't expect God to suspend all the laws in the universe just to make me happy, precious as I am in His sight. I know I'm not going to get out of here alive. BUT...not having read Practising the Presence of God I think this is what I do.

Have you ever reached out in the night & put a hand on your lover's heart just to feel the reassurance of their breathing? Have you ever tip~toed into a child's room at night just to watch them sleep? Ever stroked a cat just to hear it purr? Then you know how I go about prayer. I wake up & touch God. Yep, he's there & going about His business of keeping the world from flying completely apart. Sometimes I lie there for a bit & we sort of chat or he shows me things ~ I'm a visual so I tend to work a lot in pictures though I have never consciously practised visualisation in my prayer life. I get up, I wander about my house, make coffee, switch on the computer & every so oten I stretch out a thought...? Yep, God's still round. And so it goes. I spend my day putting out stray thoughts, reaching for God the way a shy child clutches at their mother's skirts, drawing reassurance from their presence. And things come back ~ the verse I couldn't remember; a thought about what I've been studying in the bible; pictures...oh, all sorts of stray things. After all God lives here too.

I hate it when things go catawumpus in this house. The first thing I notice is the absence of the presence of God. It's as though He too has sought a safe haven from the tumult.

Not terribly orthodox of me & I mostly have to keep quiet when people talk about prayer because while I do erraticaly practise other ways of prayer the bulk of my prayer life is the *in passing* kind. When I do consciously sit down to pray I very rarely leap into it. How can I? Sure there's always plenty on my mind & I could certainly rattle on for ages about what's bothering me but what would be the point? Those prayers seem to bounce of the ceiling in my experience whereas if I wait & ask God what He would like me to pray about we come into agreement. I am *in the vine* so to speak. Then I don't have to worry about whether I'm praying His will. I know I am. I don't have to worry about my prayer being genuine. I find I care about what God lays on my heart.

I grew up in a liturgical church so I know liturgical prayers too & they have their place, especially when the well runs dry. The psalms are liturgical though my tendecy is to run to the prophets who don't pull any punches when talking to God. Find someone else, Jerimiah commanded. You tricked me, ranted Jonah. I am a man of unclean lips, mourned Isiah. If all else fails I pray the bible. You promised, I tell God. There are prayers aplenty to choose from.

Yes, I struggle with prayer. I fall back on relationship. I reach out a tentative hand to touch the hem of His garment: for reassurance, for healing, for the peace that passeth all understanding.

God speaks in the silence of the heart. Listening is the beginning of prayer. ~Mother Teresa

And the winner is....

I don't deserve this award, but I have arthritis and I don't deserve that either. ~ Jack Benny

Sandra has given me an award. Don't you just love awards?! They make me feel all warm & fuzzy & temporarily keep the howling dervishes at bay.

So I have to tell you 7 things about me & then pass the award on to 7 other bloggers. Hmmm. I have mastered the knack of saying a lot without saying anything at all really so let's see what I can say without saying anything this time.

* 1. I am an extroverted introvert. Ditz is an introverted extrovert but I'm the other way round. See if people think you're all out there then they don't bug you about being shy & introverted & suffering agonies of angst, which needs privacy to be really anguished & angsty & how can you think deep thoughts without anguish & angst? Or write poetry? Or paint Starry, Starry Night? Or sing Carmen?

*2. My fist memory is of before I was 2. I was being rushed through the dark with whooping cough. I've checked with my mum & it's all good. I remember my first day of school too, which I hated. The sense of fear & abandonment never quite went away. I hated school with a passion but school is where children go. For a quiet introverted child who preferred reading or contemplating her navel in the middle of the bush it was hell on earth. No peace. No quiet. Organized to within an inch of my life. No time to really think. Once I could read I had no further use for school. What hope has Ditz got?

*3. I have a preference for useless thing: degrees that don't provide work in their fields [Yep! I have one of those]; wind chimes tinking under the eves in a summer breeze; cats sprawled in the sun; pretty shells spilling from a wooden bowl; knights in shining armour...I will choose the useless but pretty over something useful but prosaic every time.

*4. All the men I first fell in love with never existed. Sad but true. I wanted to marry Peter Wimsey. Loads of money & the man could quote Donne. What wasn't to like? So he wasn't any Adonis to look at & had a preference for red wine but the man could speak French like a native & quote Donne. Did I mention Donne?

*5. I play a mean hand of 500. Together Dearest & I are quite formidable. We stopped playing because so many people take their cards far too seriously & got peeved when we wiped the floor with them. I learnt to play as a child when it was one of the few activities everyone trapped on a boat in the wet could do.

*6. I can't play chess but I taught all my children to play. Joss initiated chess marathons during wet school holidays. When Theo started beating him Joss quit but Theo was the only one to ever take Joss on & win. I never played once I'd taught a child the basics ~ but then I really hate to lose.

*7. I have never read Lord of the Rings. That's right. I think I once got about halfway through the first book but seriously! Tolkien needs a good editor. He never knows when to stop. One of the few books improved by a transition to the big screen.

Now for the fun part if you are still with me.

#1. Diane at Tomato Soup Cake who writes a completely engaging blog ~ & she likes cats & children. Need I say more?

#2. Jan Lyn at Off the Beaten Path for writing with serenity & simplicity. Lovely, lovely style.

#3. Lobstar . Yes, I know I own her but I think she writes a good blog when she can be bothered to keep up with it. No~one said I couldn't practise nepotism.

#4. Jillian at Homeschooling for Christ. A fellow Aussie with interesting links.

#5. Seeking my Lord for spiritual wisdom, homeschool advice & art in her lovely restful bloggy space.

#6.elizasinterests. Not updated regularly but some gems hidden away here. The pics are the writer's own watercolours & photos & she blogs about a variety of different interests ~ sewing, music, art, crafts & gardening. Well worth a dip.

#7. Allison at Keep Calm & Carry on because she is witty & funny & interesting & she has impeccable taste. She told me so.

O.K., ladies. Your turn now. Have fun.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

How Ditz was mortified beyond belief & I enjoyed myself.

The study of the history of music, seconded by hearing the actual performance of the masterpieces of different epochs, will prove the most rapid and effectual cure for conceit and vanity. -- Schumann

I love Alison! No, really. She can get Ditz to work harder in 5 minutes than I can in 5 hours but of course she dangles the magical carrot ~ Music! And believe me she worked those kids hard last night! They are working a couple of a Capella pieces in 4 part harmony ~ a cannon & a madrigal. The madrigal is set in 4/4 time ~ only it's not because 4/4 time wasn't invented yet when the song was written so the lyrics sort of don't fit the music & the kids were having all sorts of problems reading the score ~ let alone singing it! Believe me, it sounded awful!

Yes, I do find this fascinating. I put aside my book, which I've been wanting to blog about for days, to watch this one go down. Alison gave the kids an earful about music being more than just singing the right notes in the right order in the right time! lol. She wants understanding as well as heart so the kids got a lecture on the meaning of a capella, on the difference between secular & sacred music, & the influence of the church in the 16th century! "History," said Alison, "is important." At which point I nearly lost it. Ditz was looking like she'd been ambushed. So not fair! Here she was peaceably passing time singing only to get the "Mummy really does know best" lecture all out of the blue. Oh, yes! I've been doing the, " You need to know your history for music" lecture ad infinitum for some time while Ditz just rolls her eyes. The look on her face was priceless.

It got worse. Alison gave the abbreviated version of the church silencing women. Ditz lives with me. She's heard the long version of this sad & sorry epistle. Not new news, no. Worse, the word metaphor got bandied around. I have never seen so many bewildered faces. Only Ditz was half~heartedly waggling her hand round because she understands about metaphor & got that the dying swan represented all the silenced women. Only child in a roomful. The younger ones, well, maybe, but the big ones? What do they teach them in school?! Sonlight mentions metaphor a lot! Ask Ditz. She's been rolling her eyes over that one for months!

I was thoroughly enjoying myself. Charmed. Completely. Mind you, I wish Ditz wouldn't do this to me. Just when I really start thinking I am doing a completely lousy job of her education & the child is going to be an intellectual Neanderthal all her life because of it, she pulls a stunt like this & I realise she has gulled me yet again. Something has gone in but she tries really hard not to let anyone know how much she knows in case, heaven forfend, they start thinking she is clever! Aaargh! She needs to put all that cleverness to a more constructive use.

Sadly I mortified her when they were all done by mentioning to Alison the Isiah verses that were the churches excuse for banning musical instruments as being "of the devil". Poor Ditz. She tried to silence me but, you know, history is so my thing!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Tuesday's Trivia.

Why is it trivia? People call it trivia because they know nothing and they are embarrassed about it. Robbie Coltrane.

Only it's actually Wednesday here. I got behind myself somewhere along the way. So today's trivia:

Firstly take some time if you have it to spare to toddle along here & wish Kimba a Very HappY BirthdaY. That should spin her out no end. She lurks round here reading everyone's blogs but is too shy to leave comments & make herself known so I am outing her. BIG Shout Out for Kimba: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, KIMBA!

Secondly: if you like pretty things or cooking or sewing {especially aprons} competitions & maybe even winning something for free go here! Diane is the most beautiful sewer & is particularly fond of vintage things ~ American vintage. She has made the lovliest apron that is up for grabs if you go & leave your mark on her blog & country of living is no barrier. If you win she is happy to post internationally.

Off to round up Ditz & start running for Wednesday. Honestly all this choofing around should keep me thinner than I am but I think I am turning into my aunt. Artistically that would be wonderful. Physically ~ less than charmed I can assure you!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Monday memories.

In winter, when the dismal rain comes down in slanting lines, and wind, that grand old harper, smote his thunder-harp of pines. - Alexander Smith Our yard has been looking like this again. It has rained & rained & then it rained some more. We have an outside line & no dryer so when it rains like this the washing piles up on the bathroom floor & the Indians start bleating that they have nooooothing to weeeear!

Once it was not a problem. It was keeping clothes on the boys that was the issue. However it never rains in bucket loads that I don't think of this picture. Not a good picture I grant, but you should just be able to make out 2 dark specs in the middle of the rather large puddle. That, dear readers, is my boys.

It had been raining like that for some time, as you can tell by the size of the puddle. Days even. Which is why they were given permission to go outside & play in the downpour. And what are they doing? Dear readers, I confess to you, they are fishing. That's right. You heard correctly. My not so bright not quite 3 year olds are standing up to their knees in a dirty puddle & the teeming rain with a couple of sticks staring fixedly into the water waiting for the telling tug on their lineless rod that says they have ~ a fish!

I did think they were short the full quid or so but then I once found their big brother perched on a pile of smooth round stones *hatching* them! So not going there!

So it has been raining by the bucket load & my yard looks like an overflowing swimming pool. The boys, who are landscaping, get the day off when it rains like that. I've never understood why. They come home. They eat all my food. Then they round up tackle & bait & rods & go & stand in the deluge somewhere waiting for that tell~tale tug on their line. Some things just haven't changed all that much. Bigger puddle but they were still fishless when they came home.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Children's Reading.

“If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.” Oscar Wilde.I have always loved history & some of the blame for that particular preoccupation must be laid at the feet of this woman: Marguerite de Angeli. I found her books in our public library when I was quite young, certainly before high school, though they are such lovely books I reread them for years & am slowly aquiring my favourite ones because I still enjoy these books & I'm all grown up now. At least, that's what the calendar tells me.

My interest in Quakerism began with Thee, Hannah. I had absolutely no interest in sitting in silence for an hour but I was charmed that someone thought enough of the plight of black Americans to help them before it became politically correct to do so. As an introduction to an important period of American history I was intrigued by something that would otherwise never have interested me in the least. Besides the illustrations are absolutely charming.
This was how I first learnt about the Amish & Mennonites too. I researched for ages, wading through all the available encyclopedia links in the years before internet usage provided more links than you know what to do with & the library catelogue. I learnt a lot about basic research skills chasing this one down.
And who now remembers the *New Sweden* of Delaware, founded in 1638? This one has some particularly fascinating tid~bits about the customs & anniversaries of the first Swedes in the New World. And of course, the Door in the Wall is still a text in America for the medieval period.
Marguerite was a lovely person as well as a lovely illustrator. Born to people named Shadrach & Ruby [can you imagine?!], she was one of 6 children & a gifted contralto who sang professionally before marrying her violinist. She also had 6 children, one of whom died early & left an enduring heartbreak.

I am trying to get my hands on her autobiography via the library, Butter at the Old Price, though if I get desperate I will resort to Amazon or L'Abri, both of whom carry it.

I think I have always been a Quaker at heart. These books speak to me of the the need to love despite differences & diversity, in the midst of trouble & hardship, of loving through being vulnerable to those who most need us, of standing firmly in the Light so that we can uphold those around us.

I like the old books with their moral certitude & sense of duty. I don't like how modern books for children so often seem to pander to their selfishness. That certainly needs no pandering. We are all born with a good pinch of selfishness in our make~up. It takes character to overcome it & these are books that show children developing the character to stand up for what is right, to do what they know is right & to then act righteously. No, they're not as exciting as Harry Potter but even dessert freaks like Ditz & I occasionally like plain bread & butter.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

“Politicians are the same all over. They promise to build bridges even when there are no rivers.” Nikita Khrushchev

Brisbane City Council has visions of being a regional & world city. I can't see it myself. Anyone who's read here for a while knows I have a rather passionate dislike of our capital city. There is something decidedly wrong with people who build a city on both sides of a meandering, winding river & then proceed to build 13, that's right 13! bridges [& more being built] across that river.

I might forgive council if they signposted anything but they don't. I am so tired of finding myself going the wrong way up a one way street! Oh, & Brisbane is ugly. Really, really ugly. It undulates so there are smoggy little pockets all over the place, heat ridden, mozzie infested hell holes. Nope, I don't like Brisbane.

Brisbane is not where I wanted to be today. Definitely not. I was in migraine recovery. I spent a good part of yesterday trying to sleep it off with limited success. Migraines are like that. They hang round making you feel icky & wishing your household understood the meaning of quiet & that the sun didn't shine quite so brightly. So after Ditz's piano lesson I planned to revisit my bed. I like my bed ~ particularly when I'm feeling icky.

That was my plan. Unfortunately Dearest had switched on his computer & the monitor was not talking to the computer & when that happens he can't use the thingy that magnifies his stamps so he can tell which are the super expensive ones that are going to make us very, very rich one day. Yes, that's sarcasm you hear. Stamps = coloured bits of paper; good for lighting fires. When bits of the computer aren't talking to other bits of the computer Liddy & I have to round the various bits up & lug it all in to town so they can fix it. Major pain in the proverbial! If I'd had to drive it wouldn't have happened.

We have done this so often you'd think we'd have it figured out by now but as I've said before Brisbane is a maze of one way streets & bad signposting. All it takes is one wrong turn. We invariably make that one wrong turn. Liddy heads for water with the unerring homing instinct of a salmon! Head for water round Brisbane & you invariably find yourself crossing one of the 13 Brisbane bridges which takes you to the wrong side of the river! Getting back again requires a PHD in navigation ~ something neither Liddy nor I have managed.

So it was with some dismay I watched Brisbane River pass under the Victoria Bridge taking us deep into the Brizzie heartland. Liddy followed the traffic while urging me to find the refedex & the map & where we were on the map ~ which would be easier if Brisbane ever bothered to signpost anything! As we were dragged out of sight of the river we became more & more disorientated. Liddy began to lose her cool. I began turning the map round hopelessly trying to work out where we were. Words were exchanged.

As I am wrong when directing at least as often as I am right I invariably defer to Liddy's judgement & Liddy is wrong as often as she is right, just she sounds more confident about what she's doing. End result, we missed the turn for the Story Bridge first time round!

Meanwhile a 45 minute trip had turned into an hour & 45 minutes & time to get to the computer shop before they shut was seeping away. We were getting more than a little frazzled as we shot back over the Story Bridge & I found myself reading the map back to front ~ which did not help matters at all! Luckily by then Liddy was recognising landmarks & sort of knew where she was. We shot into the computer place with 10 minutes to spare before closing. The techie replaced the graphic chip in about 2 seconds & we were back out the door before they were officially shut for the day.

Forty~five minutes later we were back at the jetty loading the computer on to a boat & somewhere along the way I had lost my glasses. Without them I'm pretty blind. No, not a happy bunny. Please do not suggest practising Christian patience & forbearance. All my household retain their heads. I haven't killed anyone. I even managed not to swear ~ though that was a close call when Liddy headed straight over the nearest bridge! Did I mention I hate Brisbane.
Images thanks to Figaro.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A change of subject.

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless--it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.” C.S.Lewis.

Just so you know; I was going to write about something completely different but then I went to the library! Great big honey ants got in my printer after the ink & now the scanner won't scan so this close to the end of term I'm constantly rattling off down to the library to photocopy stuff that has to be returned to our umbrella school. Just so you know.

I was standing there waiting because I got there right on opening & there was a little crowd of oldies [all right, older than me, ok?!] waiting to pick up orders so having nothing better to do I was randomly picking out books from the nearest shelf. This is not generally a productive exercise but just sometimes I strike gold ~ in this case White Gold by Giles Milton.

This is the most extraordinary story! Whenever I start thinking the times are bad something like this comes my way & I'm reminded that people have always been capable of uttermost cruelty & depravity. White Gold is the story of European slavery in Africa ~ no, not Africans being captured & lugged to strange & foreign lands; Europeans being captured by Barbary Corsairs & sold throughout Africa as *white gold*, beyond the ability of their own governments to help, mostly forgotten.

The corsairs were extraordinary seamen & their reach extended as far as Iceland & North America. Seriously. Did anyone know that about the time America declared it's independence from England Americans were being captured & sold into slavery in Africa? I didn't. I knew vaguely about white English slaves, lots of Cornish men, women & children. Cornwall has a murky history that includes smuggling all sorts of things but they were also constantly raided by the Corsairs & whole villages depopulated.

What is most extraordinary to a modern mind like mine is that a whole string of governments between the 16th & 19th centuries seemed chronically unable to deal with this problem: 2 James', a Charles, an Anne & one of the Georges ~ I think. I'm a bit vague about this period of English history. James basically refused to acknowledge the problem. Charles entertained a Moroccan ambassador for 6 months while his people languished in slavery & got no concessions for his trouble. Anne was inept. George unsuccessful. And this is just English slaves I'm talking about. The Corsairs weren't discriminatory. They took French, Spanish, Norse, Dutch, Belgian, Portuguese & Americans into slavery as well.

But wait. It gets better. While the corsairs were trading in white flesh the European governments were trading in black flesh! My poor little mind just boggles. It is ok to buy & sell a person if their skin is dark but not if their skin is fair? Frankly the buying & selling of human beings, who are made in the image of their creator, simply appalls me. The thought of *owning* another human being makes me sick to my stomach. To do so one must have to *dehumanise* the slave in some way. Slaves, as we all know, aren't real people. They don't have the same sort of sensibilities real people do. They don't feel the way real people feel. Heck, not sure they even have a soul!

Somewhere along the way the European nations grew up & the buying & selling of human flesh, whatever its colour, was outlawed. This is not true of every nation & societies exist in our age & time to combat the abuse of women & children caught in slavery. Women & children have always been the least valued members of most societies. The sense of despair, hopelessness & abandonment must be overwhelming for those who are least able to defend & protect themselves. Their lives are short & bitter. Most will live & die in slavery. Are we so hard of heart that their plight does not move us to action? Even to the action of prayer? It is hard to fathom that in this day & age such medieval atrocities still exist.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Looking ahead down the track.

A gold medal is a wonderful thing. But if you're not enough without it, you'll never be enough with it. - Cool Runnings

Vocal Manouevres is a wonderful thing but I am always panicking about money. Each year we have a series of concerts to get to & from here add 2 boat fares to petrol costs. Come October the kids are heading down to Sydney for 3 days. Here is what they are singing the opening songs for.

Yep, the World Masters Games. Liddy is already trying to figure out how to wrangle herself into this. So strange that the one least interested in any sort of sport gets these opportunities but if Alison has her way VM will be the children's choir very shortly & there will be ever more of these events.

Ditz would dearly love a part~time job to help pay for these things [& get her out of school work ;)] but she is still too young so it is up to Dearest to juggle the finances. In the background Singapore & Europe still linger like monsters. If I could trust Ditz to work successfully without me constantly there I'd seriously consider some part~time work just now because there would still be a parent at home but as it is her maturity levels prohibit that. Even if Ditz can't participate in absolutely everything she is still one incredibly lucky little girl to be offered these sorts of opportunities.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Cat Tales.

The kind man feeds his beast before sitting down to dinner. Hebrew Proverb

The girls have guarded their hearts, loath to love until love was a sure thing, so I was the sucker putting out food & water for our stray. It spent Monday, which was bitter & wet, perched on the verandah. Iss hissed & spat at it through the glass door but any time the door was opened the stray tried anxiously to get in.

While I was out Dearest, who was cooking chicken, gave both Iss & the stray a wing ~ the first crack in Dearest's armour. Poor man. He has a houseful of soft~hearted females but when I took biscuits & water out to the stray when it arrived yesterday afternoon Dearest stood there aghast & furious. The poor thing was too frightened to eat, desperate for some affection even more than food & thin to the point of emancipation. It has been beaten &/or attacked, probably by a large dog; we've plenty of vicious ones round here. He went himself & found a good sized box as last night looked like being another bitter wet night but the stray was too frightened to find a box comforting & in the end Dearest just said; " Let it in & let them sort it out."

I have had more pleasant evenings. My friend Siano, who works in a cat shelter, says Iss displays all the characteristics of an alpha male so an un~neutered male was bound to send him rank. The horrible part was Iss wasn't in the least bothered by the intruder eating his food, using his litter box or wandering through his territory. What Iss really didn't like was the way Sir Ginger clung to me, sitting at my feet, walking at my heels, parking his butt under my chair ~ all Issi's spots. As Dearest commented, two protector purties & I could barely move. Both cats know exactly where I am & what I'm doing at all times.

I thought bedtime was going to be a nightmare but ginger slept with Liddy like a lamb & I took Iss to bed with me as per usual. We had no trouble until just before I got up when Iss discovered ginger had snuck up the stairs. I stepped on him as I attempted to negotiate the dark room.

I have never seen such a small cat eat so very much! Not a lot at any one time but it keeps going back to the food bowls unable to believe that there is always food available & the people aren't chasing it away, though in an effort to sooth Iss's injured feelings I have been feeding him little speciality tid~bits just for him ~ & he knows it!

We have almost always been a two cat household, mostly because it is easier to share 2 cats between the number of children than just one & we have almost always had wonderful cats. Ever since we lost Gyver the girls have been angling for another cat because Iss is most definitely mine but Dearest was adamant one cat was adequate & the resident cat wasn't to be unnecessarily upset. This has been hard on us girls. We all adored Gyver. He was the sort of cat that made you want another cat ~ affectionate, amusing, sweet tempered, vocal. Liddy suffered from that last the most as her room is by the front door & that is where Gyver made his requests to come in or out known.

Liddy has taken to calling ginger Pippi. I'm struggling with that. Ditz wants Mozart now but I can't see me crying that round the neighbourhood. I am considering Purcy, short for Purcell. He's definitely something of a vocalist!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Home Economics Curriculum.

The average girl wants to be able to keep her house with the least possible strain, and in order to do this she must have good training. This can best be achieved by taking a good course in home economics." Eleanor Roosevelt

I confess; I love Mennonite curriculum! It is simple & straightforward so that even a dunce like me can grasp what's going on.

I have a highschooler ~ middle school for my American friends but in Oz high school starts in grade 8. No middle school. By this age a child should have grasped the basics of reading writing, math. The more academically gifted will continue to build on those skills looking toward college but what to do with the child who declares they don't want a uni degree? Who is not academically gifted? Whose main interests & gifts lie elsewhere?

I have had a fistful of the bright but not academically interested children ~ & not for want of pushing on their mamma's part because I have a university degree & a good education ranks right up there with me. But what is a good education? Is it a degree or is it fitting a child for life? I would argue the practical skills that fit people for life are equally important with a sound academic footing ~ & some are quite simply fundamental. Home economics is fundamental.

Now most of our daughters are going to pick up the very basics from us just because they live in our house & those of us with larger size families know perfectly well things just won't tick over at all unless everyone shoulders some of the responsibility for the smooth running of the household. Necessity meant all mine learnt to cook early. Cooking is my least favourite home management activity of all time. I'd rather clean the toilet & I have 4 men using the facility! Everyone from Joss to Ditz can plan & cook a 2 course meal. So why a home economics course? Because I am academically inclined & my weakness is in the practical life skills department. A curriculum ensures I will cover all the things that should be covered.

Why this particular curriculum? Firstly because the Amish & Mennonite women are housekeepers extraordinaire! Everything from canning to child care. Secondly, this is housekeeping from a Godly perspective & there is no better reason. Thirdly, it is clear & simple & believe me for things like sewing I am easily confused!

I was making vague noises along the lines of I think I'd like this curriculum & doing nothing because I spend a small fortune on basic curriculum as it is & a rather larger fortune on music for Ditz & I was having trouble justifying to myself spending any more money on anything. Then my good friend Mama Olive at Nothin' but time in the olive grove offered to loan me her curriculum. Mama O is in England! She packed it up & posted it off & it arrived yesterday.

I haven't had a chance to have a thorough look at it yet but even a cursory study has been enough to tell me not only Ditz but Liddy as well will benefit from this study. It is as clear & straightforward as I expected from a Mennonite curriculum. It starts with the basics & builds on a firm foundation. In many ways Ditz is an extremely practical child & whatever she decides to do with her music, & consequentially her life, knowing how to run a well ordered household will never go amiss. Cooking, cleaning, sewing are with us till the end of the age, unfortunately, & that being the case doing it efficiently will not only save her time for other things but will provide pleasure & a sense of satisfaction for an inevitable part of life that far too often, for far too many women, has become an onerous burden for which they are ill prepared. Luckily for me my daughters are far more orientated towards household skills than I ever was.

Tuesday's Trivia.

"Happy is the home with at least one cat" - Italian Proverb
In ancient Egypt killing a cat was a crime punishable by death. I wonder if that included abandonment? Abandonment is such a cruel betrayal.

Introducing a second cat is always stressful & we are having to do it. We've been adopted & even Dearest, who has held out the longest, has caved & was busted handing out tit~bits to our hungry visitor. Cats are social but they are also extremely territorial & full toms get the largest territories. Iss is neutered & we have discovered to our consternation that Miss Ginger is actually a Ginger Meggs [ for non~Aussies Ginger Meggs is a streetwise cartoon larrikin & most definitely male]. His saving grace is that he is still a kitten, which is why I thought it might be female, though I know ginger females are rare; genetic quirk. A full grown tom would be 3 times the size of this animal.

Cat gut does not come from cats. It comes from horses, sheep & pigs. Reminds me of the toddler who calls everything with 4 feet a "doggie". An average cat meal is equivalent to 5 mice ~ assuming they don't lose their prey while showing off to their owners, like a certain cat who shall remain nameless.

Most deaf cats do not meow. This is a distinct disadvantage as hearing cats develop a range of communicative sounds ~ often a different greeting call for each person in the house. Make no mistake. I know Issi's greeting call, a very excited chirruping. I'm the only person in the house greeted that way but then I'm Issi's person though he is fond of everyone.

Cats have 5 toes on their front paws but only 4 on their back ones & have true fur which includes an undercoat & an outer coat. Cat saliva contains a detergent that keeps their coat clean. The colour of the coat is sex linked so it is rare for a male to have both black & ginger markings. When it happens the tom is always sterile. Being licked is a sign of affection. My mother's cat is a licker. Drives her to desperation!

The Egyptians weren't the only ones odd about cats. The Norse goddess Freya was supposed to have a chariot drawn by cats.

By far one of the nicest things cats have given us [besides the purr] is a collection of highly entertaining words: gib[neutered tom]; clowder [a collection of cats]; catling [yes, it is a word! meaning kitten] molly [a queen] & my personal favourite: moggie, from Maggie/Margaret a common name for cows & calves & later applied to cats during the Victorian era.

So we are considering names. Meggs is high on our list but Hagar & Pippin are worthy of consideration. Personally I'm leaning towards Meggs for being a not so obvious pun on ginger but Liddy objects on the grounds it sounds like a girl's name. Once he's been snipped does it really matter? Oscar is the top Aussie name but seriosly, that's a human name. Or how about Pekoe, an orange tea, or Quwilla, Irish for cub? Oooh, I just thought. Ribh is Irish for stripped cat. Add an "a" for calling the thing, pron., riva...I'll just go check if that's a good fit.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Monday Memories.

Abseiling is a thrill to stimulate every cell in your body. The heart beat increases, apprehension and flashes of fear pump adrenalin as the abseiler considers the 90 metre descent. Philip Hammond.
I was 16 the first time I dropped off a cliff. It is one of the scariest things I've ever done but the thing is its only right at the top of the cliff it's scary. The very hardest part of abseiling is dropping onto the rope & trusting that the rope will hold you. After that it's a piece of cake; even extraordinary fun.

Flying down the rope is exhilarating & I don't like heights.

We started with the little 30 metre cliffs down near Heathcote. They looked like Everest that first jump. Such a long, long way to fall. That experienced jumpers were making it down without cracked skulls was no reassurance at all.
One by one we strapped our webbing on & secured the crabs. One by one we clipped ourselves to the rope on top of the cliff. One by one we battled our fear as we dropped that mere 2" onto the rope & felt the rope draw taught with our weight before cautiously negotiating our way down the cliff. Before long we were swinging off our ropes like Tarzan.

We graduated to bigger cliffs. We abseiled into caves. We did an all day hike, jumped 1 000m in 3 stages & climbed out. We found all the best cliffs in the National Park & jumped them. We got cocky.

In the middle of a Sydney summer we dropped a rope over an 80m cliff, with overhang & deep pool, & proceeded to jump. You leave the rope a foot or two short so you come off the rope & free fall into the water at the bottom. Heaps of fun for a bunch of teenagers who had sweltered to lug all the gear in & would swelter some more to lug it all back out but hours of fun in between.
There'd been rain so the waterfall was running & there was plenty of water at the bottom. One of the supervisors did a check of the pool & did the first run to make sure the rope was short enough. As an experienced jumper I was happy to let the younger kids go first & pretty soon there was a wet gaggle of kids sprawled around the rock ledge sunbaking like lizards.

The rope had stretched, as wet rope tends to do, but there was still plenty of height when I clipped myself in & happily proceeded to swing out down the cliff face like an overgrown spider on its length of silk thread. All went well until I swung out over the overhang.

Now I'm five foot five inches & for most of my life have struggled to weigh 99 pounds. Scrawny is the term most often used. I swung out over the overhang but with nothing to push off against & no weight to speak of the swollen rope simply jammed in the crabs & there I hung, to everyone's delight, swinging in & out of the waterfall like some strange & exotic hallucination: now you see her, now you don't.

I jiggled. I wiggled & squirmed. I forgot the first rule of abseiling & removed my brake hand from the rope with the predictable result of upending myself. Now I was upside down & still swinging in & out of the waterfall.

Down below people started laying bets as I performed gymnastic feats to right myself. I bounced on the end of that rope in the vain hopes of suddenly gaining a few extra pounds. Inch by inch I squirmed down that rope. I was so intent on moving I never realised I'd reached the end. I came off the rope in a whooping whoosh & plunged into the pool like a breaching whale.

I wasn't allowed a 2nd jump. The only time in my life I've seriously regretted not being built like the proverbial outhouse & weighing double what I did.

Liddy was so excited when she got to try abseiling. She even took pictures. I looked at them sadly. It was all so safe & antiseptic. There was my little girl with a hard hat on her head carefully negotiating her way down a flat wooden wall & if it was 10m she was lucky. She was thrilled so I held my peace & thought about the size of the cliffs we jumped just for fun. Sometimes without the risk you miss most of the fun.

Friday, June 12, 2009

A little musical excursion.

I've been making a list of all the things they don't teach you in school. They don't teach you how to love somebody. They don't teach you how to be famous. They don't teach you how to be rich or how to be poor. They don't teach you how to walk away from someone you don't love any longer. They don't teach you how to know what is going on in someone else's mind. They don't teach you what to say to someone who's dying. They don't teach you anything worth knowing. Neil Gaiman.

Here is where we were today. Wynnum is one of the older suburbs: quarter acre blocks; old high~set houses; tree~lined streets; old gardens. I like Wynnum. It has character, rather like the school.

Founded in 1901 the school sits on 50 acreas. In other words it's huge! It has its own road winding through it & what amounts to a small township on the grounds. Most of our schools don't come close to being this big ~ which meant we not only got lost getting there we got lost on the grounds themselves!

We've just done Creative Generation ~ state school oriented; the comparison was obvious & glaring. I was on my very best behaviour. So was Moreton Bay. The girls were very well drilled but it must have made it so much easier for Alison to work with them because they remained quiet for the duration of the rehearsal & the rehearsal, as most rehearsals do, contained long periods of boredom. What's more both bands were the beginners bands. I don't think there's anything quite so excruciating as beginner violins ~ en mass! Truly awful. Awful of me because they were all really young & learners but I thought Ditz was going to have a corony about the bowing, which was all over the place, let alone the wind band which was having serious problems with their counting. If both Ditz & I noticed it, it was major. It was such a relief to listen to VM. Not that the MBC choir wasn't good. It was excellent but the girls voices had the thin reedy sound so many young choirs have & lacked the beautiful harmonic mastery VM has, the fuller, rounded sound, the subtlety. I am so spoilt. *sigh*

MBC was extremely hospitable. The modern music centre was a wonder to behold & very comfortable though I thought the acoustics could do with improvement.

Brisbane Girls Grammar[1875] & St Margaret's [1895] are both older but right in Brisbane proper so I'm pretty sure this is the oldest girls school round here. Most of the elitist schools are single sex schools holding to the belief girls & boys do better academically if they are separated. I tend to agree & have no problems with segregation per se. However all the schools provide a pretty standard education ~ for a price. They sprook about individuality & different learning styles but the truth is they can't possibly cater to that in an institutionalised setting though I must admit today was the closest I've ever seen to *helicopter teaching*. You know, like helicopter parenting & with one music teacher to every 7 or so students they were doing plenty of hovering. My jaw nearly dropped watching 4 other music teachers conduct with Alison, push, poke & prode students & otherwise meddle to the point if I'd been a student they'd have worn the violin or trumpet as a neck~tie. I thought they were making it very difficult for their girls but of course the school was on show & they did want to impress. They didn't impress me musically but I was certainly more than impressed with the girls manners & self~discipline, which really were excellent.
I was also made very aware of how blessed Ditz has been with her music teachers & training because I know next to nothing & God has made sure every opportunity to come Ditz's way has been of the highest calibre. So weird because when we started we couldn't possibly have known how musical Ditz was. We had other tags for her: drama queen extraordinaire; theatrical muse; ADD; Wild Child...Ditz! Yeah, there's a reason for that nickname.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

rambling bibs & bobs.

If it's incomprehensible, it's mathematics. -- Bennett Cern

Mathematics are well and good but nature keeps dragging us around by the nose. ~Albert Einstein

The cowboys have a way of trussing up a steer or a pugnacious bronco which fixes the brute so that it can neither move nor think. This is the hog-tie, and it is what Euclid did to geometry. ~Eric Bell,

Black holes result from God dividing the universe by zero. ~Author Unknown

I know that two and two make four - & should be glad to prove it too if I could - though I must say if by any sort of process I could convert 2 & 2 into five it would give me much greater pleasure. ~George Gordon, Lord Byron

OK, just having a little fun at the expense of math. I should stop. The running joke in my house for years was I had 5 kids because I knew how to multiply by 5. However in real terms there are actually 7 of us & I cannot multiply by 7. Whatever it is that allows people to memorise times tables I missed it. Fingers are admirable things & I have always made excellent use of them. No, I am not joking. So when I say Ditz has better math than I do, believe me, it's true!

Thankfully life is more than maths. I was blessed recently by a visit from one of my oldest friends, Siano, who stops in on her way through to visit her mum & who is going to be passing through again soon. Though her reasons for coming are sad I do so look forward to her visits. She brings chocolate...Nah, just kidding. She does bring chocolate but she is a very witty & interesting conversationalist though Ditz one~uped her last time.

Siano sharing that her father's ashes were still in two different continents got Ditz quipping, "Puts a new light on being in two places at once!" Cracked us all right up. Ditzisms have been rife recently. She also complained:" I can't breath at both ends." Really?! Must be the age or something. Or, "The way you walked sounded like yes." Siano says it's being my daughter. Poor child.

Ditz also spotted an ad saying someone down the south end of the island had lost their ginger moggie so we left Liddy in charge of capturing said purdy & ringing the number. Not their cat but in our doorless house Liddy thoughtfully locked the cat in our pantry. I came home to an irascible Issi who couldn't believe a strange feline had been locked in with his food! Yes, we are still being visited but I am not yet convinced this cat is homeless. I do think it might be male on the verge of testosterone troubles which is what's sending Issi so rank. I can hardly run someone else's cat to the vet for a little snip job. I wish I could but I can't though it does need to be done & done sooner rather than later. Lovely cat but we are trying with limited success not to fall in love with it.

In other news we are suffering through the coldest days on record with our night temps only just above 0C. Yesterday was bitter & windy & I made quiche for dinner just so we could have the oven on. Unfortunately the boys then arrived home & there wasn't quite enough to fill everyone up so Dearest baked some spuds but as soon as the oven went off the cold pressed in like a fist. It really was unpleasant & our house, being a summer house, just isn't designed to hold the warmth. Lots & lots of glass without curtains. Brrrr. We are all too fond of our views to actually want curtains though I have been contemplating blinds for some time. Maybe. One day.

However today is better & Iss has taken up residence in the sun on the verandah. I'm off to join him. There's something beatific about the sun soaking into cold weary bones.

An excessive study of mathematics absolutely incapacitates the mind... Sir William Hamilton
Yes, we do school at home...just not this week. Well, Ditz has done some reading but mostly she's slept & coughed & slept some more. As we've mostly been on track all term [once we ditched the math] I haven't been too fazed about having this week off. We're actually ahead on the music & we've had a concert in there as well so I think we've done pretty well.

One of the nice things about homeschooling is you pick up exactly where you left off. No worry about the class getting ahead of you or missing learning a vital step. Nope. You just pick up exactly where you left off. Just the same Ditz appreciates these unexpected little breaks in routine & was happily wallowing under doonas with a good book [of her choice] & her drawing materials when our supervisor rang. Something has been sorted out about Ditz's math.

Now *something sorted* is unlikely to thrill Ditz to the ends of her little pink toes. It hardly makes me dance with joy either but a certain amount of math is necessary to function in society. The *enrichment* people have put together some booklets for us ~ going back to somewhere Ditz is more comfortable & which she should just wizz through ~ at least that's the idea. Then we do the practical stuff in years 11 & 12. I can live with that. Whether Ditz can remains to be seen.
Plus somewhere in the conversation I pointed out that Alison is starting to slot her graduates into the music industry ~ & not as stars [though some of them will be] but as work horses who can do anything asked off them. Our supervisor now has the picture Ditz doesn't just have stars in her eyes but is actually training to work in a very fickle industry & in such a way that she should always be employable. Let's hope so at any rate.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Opinionated ramblings.

Wise are those who learn that the bottom line doesn't always have to be their top priority. ~William Arthur Ward

Instead of piano this Saturday we will be at one of the leading girls schools in Queensland ~ Moreton Bay College. Naturally we will not be there for academic purposes but they have a very snazzy music centre. I think about the only thing I envy about elitist schools is they have the funds for this sort of thing. Our state schools certainly don't & then the government adds insult to injury by funding the private schools & all too often they get more government funding than the state schools do. It is a long & involved argument with rights & wrongs on both sides but having gone to an elitist school I happen to be of the opinion that they are extremely over~rated.

Yes, I like the emphasis on good manners & respect. No, I don't like the conveyor belt mentality that wants to churn out a long assembly line of clones. I have always had an overly high regard for individuals who dare to be just that ~ individual ~ so schools like this rather make my blood run cold. Actually any sort of herd mentality tends to have that effect on me ~ yes, even choir though I quite understand that without it it is absolutely impossible to achieve a united sound. I just happen to have an aversion to things like crowds, herd mentalities, & popular opinion. Think Hitler ...

Yes, I'm rambling rather more than usual this morning. It is bitter here & our big rooms are freezing cold even with the heating. However Moreton Bay is one of our older schools with a bit of history attached to it & lovely old grounds so I will enjoy having a poke around though our camera is on the blink, so sorry folks, no pictures.

I didn't think Ditz would be going. Her new VM uniform was ordered more than 6 weeks ago & the poor child can't possibly squeeze in to her old one. She is bursting out all over. To save her blushes I won't say how many bra sizes she's just gone up but I nearly died when I bought her new ones this week! Seriously?! I've nursed 5 children & never even come close!

Anyway the uniforms arrived last night so we are good to go. I was starting to think Ditz wouldn't get to wear it even once before she'd outgrown it. They are doing a joint choir thing with the college with a repertoire that includes: Non Nobis Domine & Ave Maria as well as things like Little Fishy which Ditz assures me is a pirate song & which we both love to hate. I have been listening to the repertoire for weeks but Ditz, who has picked up a cold, is struggling with some notes & was in hot water last night for consistently singing something wrong. Not often that happens & she was not a happy bunny. She got to rehearse all on her own in front of the whole choir. It's not kind of me to snigger but I sure did find it funny.

So another early start & given how far our temps are plummeting overnight I can't see either Ditz or I enjoying that early morning boat ride. I do not know how those of you in snowy climes manage at all!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

"Just the person I want to see."

Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing worth knowing can be taught.~ Oscar Wilde
We live in a very small community. Sometimes it seems suffocatingly small; inbred; insular. There is a huge transient population. People come to live here because it is cheap, find themselves trapped on *the rock* & start going slightly bonkers. Many move on to the bright lights, the night life & the malls of urban living. The ones who stay learn the knack of small community living: choose your friends wisely; be self~sufficient; develop an off~island life.

Even now the community numbers are small; growing but small. People you've never met still know your business & we are the resident *wackos*. We homeschool. Every so often someone has had a gutful of the local school & heads our way thinking they might like to homeschool & every time I take the time to refer them to resources, list curriculum choices, forums, umbrella schools, homeschool groups though I know that most will never do it. They don't want their kids home where they have them underfoot all day, every day & are responsible for them. They want them in school & gone for the better part of the day, someone else's responsibility.

I have noticed one thing all these people have in common & it is an interesting thing given that our schools are purportedly there to educate our children. Not once, not ever, has someone come to me & said, "I'm unhappy with the educational standard of the school & think I can do a better job at home." Nope. Not once. Education, or the lack of it, is not what is sending parents scurrying after an alternative. I hear: My child is being bullied; my child has no friends; there is no discipline; the children have no respect; the teachers are too busy dealing with the behavioural problems to teach; there is so much time wasted...on & on. Even if their child is doing badly in school it never occurs to them that they might just learn better at home.

I do understand this. When we started pulling our kids out it wasn't for academic reasons. The academics were an added bonus. We pulled them out for moral & ethical reasons & for their own safety. Nope. We didn't initially pull them out over religious concerns. In Ditz's case she wasn't even put in for purely selfish reasons. I'd done the bright child = behavioural problem with Jossie. The child was reading in preschool & I just felt too old to do the whole thing over again with the school knowing there would never be a resolution, never be an acceptable result, never be the help & support bright children really need. She would have been bored. I live with Ditz. I know the inevitable results of a bored Ditz & it is never pretty. Practically, what was my reading child meant to do while the rest of her class learnt their ABCs?

Nowadays of course Ditz has set a path that means lugging her round the traps musically & regular school would still be a lousy fit with the added drama of missed classes, homework, & assignment deadlines. Not fun.

We are still paying for Creative Generation: sore throats, headaches, runny noses, tiredness. I've been slack about getting Ditz back on track because I haven't been up to par either & the little twinge of guilt has been niggling away. So finally catching up on the overdue shop & staring vacantly into the vegetable stands I wasn't expecting a voice out of nowhere going: " Just the person I want to see!"

What they wanted to see me about was homeschooling. The school up here has always had issues. Weak Heads & aggressive parents are a bad combination & it has been getting steadily worse. They have a sweet little kiddo they are worried about sending & are looking for alternatives so I spent last night encouraging & sharing & showing how we homeschool. It is also a good reminder that homeschooling has never been primarily about education, however important education is. It is about passing on values to raise children who are decent, caring, confident, capable human beings. I needed the reminder. Watching Ditz care for the little one to free mum & dad up to chat & Liddy sharing what homeschooling meant for her I could only think how we've got the important things right. I have wonderful girls: caring, thoughtful, considerate, warm & funny. They are the sort of human beings I would want as friends & am blessed to have as daughters. I have another friend who pulled her child out of school & began her homeschool journey because she wanted her daughters to turn out just like Liddy & Ditz & she did not like the little people her school was turning them into.

It's not about education; it's about people ~ the sort of people we want in our society. We need to keep our priorities straight. Helping our children become humane human beings is our first priority under God. Education is a poor relation. If we get the first right the second will follow. What I don't understand is how we ever allowed ourselves to get so lost in the first place.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Tuesday's Trivia.

Fling away ambition. By that sin angels fell. How then can man, the image of his Maker, hope to win by it? Henry VIII.
History is taught badly. I have never understood why you would teach dull things like dates when you can gossip about people. Dead people but still people with peoplely quirks & humours, personalities, likes & dislikes; people you are pleased are long dead & people you wish you could sit with & have a long chat.

Henry the VIII is one I'm pleased is long dead. He had a small ungenerous mouth combined with a sensual nature & far too much unadulterated power. You know the saying: power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely. He was a living example of corruption. His daughter, Elizabeth, was far smarter but I suspect she got her wits & brains from Anne Boleyn who took as her motto Grumble all you like; this is how it's going to be. O.K, so she said it in Latin but somehow I don't think it endeared her to anyone. Her sharp tongue lost her her head in the end. Henry's answer to most of the problems in his life was the end of an axe.

Elizabeth had quite a bit of her father's arrogance. John Dee caste a horoscope for her to give her the date of Mary's death so she could plan, you know, for her role as the future queen of England. Absolutely charming.

And it's ironic, too. All Henry's reign was about a male heir. He divorced his women over their failure to provide an heir. He fell out with the pope because the woman he'd married hadn't provided a son. He chopped of heads in his frantic need to have a son & yet he had sons & to spare. Katherine, his very first wife, provided him with two perfectly legitimate sons. She was hardly barren though her unfortunate children rarely survived. Only Mary made it to adulthood & then her sister popped her off. Mind you, Mary wasn't guiltless. Sibling rivalry was rife in the Tudor household & the stakes were high.

Then there was Edward VI, the son of Jane Seymour, who did actually become king with a privvy council as he never reached maturity.

And then there was Henry Fitzroy whom Henry actually acknowledged & John Perrot whom he didn't. Sons & to spare. The silly man should have married Bessie Blount & legitimised Henry Fitroy. Makes you wonder what would have happened to England without our Bessie at the helm.

Love him or hate him Henry was an interesting man to the very end. On his deathbed he was attended by 2 men: Archbishop Cranmer & Master Will Sommers, his Fool. Pretty much sums it up.

Monday Memories.

I'm not about to go out and buy a snake for a pet. I mean, I may have faced a few fears but I'm not insane. Kristin Davis

Living where we do I have a snake story or two....actually once started more than a few but most of our snakes are of the non~venomous variety. We've a big carpet snake living in our roof. Every so often he bumps our t.v antenna & all we get on screen is snow. There's a green tree snake that slithers across the kitchen on occasion & the unknown snake that Theo chased round the house one night with the butcher's knife & a very over excited cat. We've found them curled up in discarded clothing & the skins draped down our walls. They adorn the road where it's warmest & curl around the lip of the compost bin. Our cats chase disappearing tails & the snakes chased the hens' new laid eggs.

Snakes don't particularly bother me. Leeches freak me out more but just the same we have most of the world's most poisonous snakes in this country & as I can't tell the difference between most of them my children learnt to be cautious. Joss came in one afternoon rather agitated because there was a snake where they wanted to camp & would I come look. I looked, I saw & declared the snake harmless so Joss picked it up to deposit it elsewhere ~ at which point I freaked. Prominently displayed was a very red belly & only 2 Australian snakes have red bellies ~ both of them poisonous!!! That snake was air born & flying into the bush in double quick time.

Eventually I managed to train my children to leave snakes alone, to avoid agitating them & not to freak as most snakes aren't aggressive unless threatened but before we got to that happy state of affairs we had some interesting moments.

My twins were notorious for collecting & hiding forbidden items. Dearest, who lost every tape measure he ever owned while building the house, eventually found them at the bottom of his brick pallets, his son's treasure trove rusting away in happy oblivion. The boys'd been posting them surreptitiously for months. They were so notorious that spotting Dino slinking round I hastily made enquiries.

"What've you got there, Dino?"

I dragged out his hands but all I found was an old coke tin. Rubbish certainly but harmless enough.

"Go put it in the bin," I instructed. He trotted off but knowing my small sons weren't particularly obedient I followed him only to find him secreting the tin out of sight ~ not a good omen!

I was suspicious but from experience more than a little cautious.

"What's in it, Dino?"

"My new pet," Dino confessed. " I watched it crawl all the way in before I picked it up." Alarm bells rang. What sort of pet is small enough to fit inside a coke tin? Somehow I didn't think my young son was collecting lizards, which were a dime a dozen round our place. In a burst of confidence, Dino continued. " Can I keep it mum? It won't eat much."

"That depends, " I hedged. "What exactly is it?"

What it was, it turned out, was small & black & legless ~ with a red belly! A small~eyed snake. I can handle most things, even snakes, but I didn't think my small son was up for a venomous snake as a pet. I took the tin a long, long way away & discarded it, snake & all. Some things just aren't meant to be & I was never destined to be the mother of the next Steve Irwin!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Cat Drama.

"After scolding one's cat one looks into its face and is seized by the ugly suspicion that it understood every word. And has filed it for reference."- Charlotte Gray
So I got home Saturday night totally exhausted. Wiped. Zombied out. My mind was on bed. Zero luck with that one.

"Deal with your cat," said Dearest. "He's been like that for 6 hours."
I had noticed Issi hadn't rushed to greet me or been waiting anxiously watching for the car but he's like that sometimes, curled up & too lazy to perform his catly duties. It was late, close to 1ish, so I hadn't really expected him. I thought he'd be curled up with his favourite thing of the moment~ the heater!

Nope. I stuck my head out the door & there was Issi pressed up against the glass looking completely bewildered. According to Dearest Iss had tried his usual trick of huffing & puffing & growling like a bull mastiff to get rid of the ginger intruder on his territory but Miss Ginger was in love & not prepared to be run off by a bad tempered cad in a grey suit & white bib. Iss then wasn't sure what to do. I said hello to both cats. Miss Ginger, totally domesticated & very affectionate. Iss was upset but not overly so until I picked him up & brought him in with Miss Ginger hot on my heels!

Oh boy! Iss was outraged, especially as the very first thing Miss Ginger did was hop in his litter box, dig a huge hole & make a hefty deposit. Liddy was delighted & scolded Iss with, " See Iss; that's how it's done!"

Now I could very easily be the proverbial cat lady. Cats & I, we're simpatico. Dearest is a dog man. He's fought a losing battle for the canine species for years but as I'm the one who looks after the animals we've had cats & because we've had cats the kids are cat people too. However Dearest has formed really close bonds with our cats & he is always adamant the resident cat not be upset by an intruder. It's not fair. True, but cats, like kids, get over it & generally learn to tolerate each other reasonably well.

Iss was having none of it so out Miss Ginger went. I put down some food for her but agreed with Dearest. She is far too well groomed to be completely homeless. Unless, of course, she is newly dumped. However I had a cat outside who desperately wanted to come in & a cat inside desperate to get out & the howling & wailing & snarling went on until I hung a sheet between them. Out of sight out of mind.

Iss joined us for church this morning, plonking himself in the middle of our circle. He's always been a worshipful cat so I scooped him into my lap & he settled down purring happily & praying, I am quite sure, Miss Ginger would get lost.

Later in the afternoon Iss went outside, as he normally does. He likes to sit & watch the afternoon slide past outside until his stomach insists it's feed time. Today he didn't come in. He was perched in a favourite spot looking spooked but I scooped him up & brought him in. He wasn't having any of it & rushed back outside at the first opportunity. Eventually I went looking for him to bring him in for the night. I couldn't see Iss anywhere but Miss Ginger was perched like an Egyptian goddess guarding the firepit. She is such a pretty puss, very silky & sweet tempered so I went to scratch her ears & rub her cheek & coo silly cat nonsense in her ear. In the midst of our mutual admiration I spotted Iss, hunkered down in the Mondo grass glaring balefully. Oops! So not happy.

I grabbed Iss & rushed for the door, Iss howling & Miss Ginger frantic to get there before us & slide inside. Iss yowled like all the denizens of hell while I put the sheet back up. What a circus. Getting along until I separate them. *sigh* Ditz scolded me but I'm a big softie & I snuck back out with food & milk & a box with a bit of old blanket. Iss was suspicious but I'm not confessing anything to that cat. He can draw his own conclusions when he goes looking for trouble in the morning.