Friday, 25 July 2014

Holidays

Here are some photos of what we got up to in the school holidays. Dave was working, so the kids and I found things to do in Sydney. It was just the right combination of rest and adventure, and for once I didn't overschedule!

we enjoyed some of our local parks
We visited the zoo and the National Maritime Museum...
...where there was an interesting exhibition about whales.

We went to Luna Park for a belated birthday celebration for Elsie (along with a friend from school). 

We even managed to fit in a trip to the dentist. (That's our fabulous dentist in the shot!)
My favourite outing was a trip to Cockatoo Island in the middle Saturday of the holidays. Just a short trip by ferry and we arrived in this fascinating place with layers and layers of history. 



It was a prison for convicts and later a girls' reformatory...
...and later again had an interesting industrial history as a ship-building yard. There were 'clue trails' for both aspects of the history, which the kids enjoyed. 


Plus, it has some beautiful views!

We do live in a beautiful city! It was nice to spend some time enjoying it and seeing it with fresh eyes.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Jesus stood by the road and he cried

My three year old is a big fan Colin Buchanan fan. (She follows in the footsteps of all her siblings in this respect!)

Recently we bought a new 'Colin' CD and it's been played over and over and over again in the car. There's one song on it that's a bit of an oldie - I don't know the precise date it was written, but it has a kinda 70s feel! It starts: "Blind man sat by the road and he cried..." and goes on in a subsequent verse to speak about how "Jesus stood by the road and he cried... 'I am the way, I am the truth, I am the life'...".

The other day, when the song started, she started requesting the 'Jesus' bit. Not the blind man bit or the lame man bit or any of the other verses but the 'Jesus' one. I thought at first that it was just that she was more familiar with his name. But a few days later I came to the conclusion that the reason was a bit more complicated. As she sang along, I could hear that she was singing: "Jesus stepped on the road and he cried". Then she sighed at the end of the song. "Poor Jesus".

Then it hit me. She had interpreted the song as being a sad story about Jesus. Poor Jesus was having a bad day. He had stepped on the road and he was sad and he cried. Just like she cries from time to time for reasons ranging from big to the small (like stepping on the road).

So I filed it under "fun things that kids say" and smiled at the comical way in which she had missed the point of the song: when Jesus 'cries' in this song he is proclaiming, not weeping.

But then it occurred to me that there was a truth buried under her misunderstanding that was good for me to be reminded of. The message that Jesus teaches to the disciples and proclaims to the crowds is not a cool or emotionless message. When he 'cries out' to the crowds in John 12 (in similar terms to the message that he teaches his disciples in John 14) there is a note of heavy sadness that carries across into his words from the surrounding context. It is only a chapter earlier, in John 11, that he is weeping with grief and sympathy beside the tomb of his friend Lazarus, and in Matthew's gospel and Luke's gospel, in contexts not unlike the end of John 12, Jesus is weeping over Jerusalem because of the way in which they rejected God's messengers and refused his Messiah.

I'm glad that the Jesus I meet in the gospels not only 'cried out' in proclamation but also 'cried' with real, human tears; that he preached with a sympathetic and a heavy heart, and that he understands the pain of the world into which he came to bring salvation.

So maybe Lydia didn't get it completely wrong after all!

My 'baby' turns three

My littlest turned three this week. It's hard to believe she's not a baby anymore!

We had a little 'party' with some of her friends from church during the day (while the big kids were at school) and then had a family celebration at night. There are more family celebrations to come this weekend with the extended family!






Thursday, 5 June 2014

Ten toys I don't regret buying

I was recently having a conversation with a younger mum and commenting on how I could look back on the almost 12 years I have been a parent and identify plenty of toys I regret buying and some that I definitely don't regret buying. She asked me to write a list of those I didn't regret buying. So I've had a think about it and came up with this list.

1. Lego and Duplo

It's not necessary to have loads and loads of these toys (though one of our kids would happily be given lego for every birthday and Christmas present from every member of the extended family!), but all four of my kids have loved playing with these. Not only is it wonderful because of its durability (my mum and dad still have the stuff we had when we were kids), but it encourages imagination and co-ordination. There are some other construction toys and blocks we have also enjoyed, but I still think Lego/Duplo is my favourite in this category.

2. Wooden train set

A couple of our kids in particular have loved our wooden train tracks, but I also notice that most kids that visit love playing with our trains. We had a Thomas the Tank Engine enthusiast in the family so we ended up acquiring a lot of that brand, but the cheap IKEA ones are pretty popular too. They last well and appeal on a couple of levels - first there's the fun of making the track and then there's the fun of creating stories around the train set. Our son loved creating crashes, or acting out the Thomas stories he'd been read. Our youngest daughter tends to a more improvised style of story-telling, with lots of dialogue. Either way, it's fun!

3. A doll's house / garage / castle with little people / animals

We have had a couple of houses that the kids have enjoyed, but I've seen some great garages or castles which fulfill the same function. Often they can be expensive, which is where eBay is a blessing! I just bought a second hand one for an upcoming birthday for a fraction of the original price. I've found that (like the trains), these toys have been wonderful for imaginative play. I also like Little People sets for younger kids and Sylvanian Families for older kids for similar reasons.

A basic set of plastic animals also provides hours and hours of entertainment!

4. Sandpit

We've had two types: a bigger one that Dave made out of Koppers logs and (more recently) one of the plastic shell-shaped ones. Both have been great. The plastic one is smaller and less sociable, but one plus is that it is easier to keep the rain out (if you remember to keep the lid on!).

5. Good quality puzzles and games

Jig-saw puzzles and similar games are good for fine motor skills and problem solving, but some are better than others. Most of the ones sold at the educational toy shops (not the big chains) are pretty good; if you don't lose the pieces they last and last! They can be a bit expensive, so I look out for them in op shops and on eBay. We also try and swap with friends from time to time.

7. Basic sporting equipment

At times in our enthusiasm to initiate kids into this sport or that we went out and bought things that we didn't end up using much, so in hindsight we probably do regret some of the more specialised bits and pieces (e.g. the t-ball tee that broke the first time we used it, and the softball mitt that hardly got used at all). But a few decent quality, basic bits of sporting equipment (e.g. a soccer ball and a netball) can get used over and over and over again. We've also got tons of use out of the netball ring that we attached to the side of the house.

8. Bikes and scooters

I have found it was worth buying a decent bike for each stages (decent enough so that it isn't too heavy and has good balance and can then be passed down to the next kid). Scooters have also been a hit in our family. Both have the advantage of encouraging gross motor skills and helping the kids to stay fit. We've only recently bought our first balance bike, for for our youngest (we discovered them late!) and I highly recommend them.

9. Trampoline

When I asked the kids this question about toys we don't regret, my eldest immediately suggested the trampoline. I'm not sure if it counts as a toy, but he's right - I've been so glad we bought them a trampoline. They all use it every day without fail and it's so good for their general fitness levels. It's great fun too!

10. Doll, doll clothes and pram

A basic doll (nothing too fancy), some dolls clothes (I've been buying them off etsy lately for pretty reasonably prices) and a pram are also great toys. I'm keener on the baby-style dolls that you take care of than the Barbie-style dolls that you just dress and undress.

So that's my list of ten. I deliberately left off anything craft- or book-related as I would have ended up with a longer list. And things I do regret buying probably would number more than ten, I'm afraid.

What do you think? Any you would add?

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Mothers' Day



Me and my mum on Mothers' Day.

Caterpillar parable

My son was unwell and home from school the other day and we found ourselves sitting in the backyard, soaking up some Autumn sun. As we chatted I noticed a stick in the arch of jasmine over our back steps moving in a way that seemed unusual. Intrigued, we investigated. As we got closer to the stick we observed that it was the end of a cocoon of tiny little twigs, and the caterpillar was just in the process of sealing himself into this painstakingly made creation. We spent a few minutes admiring the work put into this little cocoon, counting the number of twigs the caterpillar had collected then stuck together before shimmering his way inside. What a lot of work! How lucky we were to be able to see the final stages of this phase of his life!

Then we got on with our days. I had to get some housework done and my son showed his younger sister a few birds in the backyard. Then, half an hour later, I heard a shout from my son. "Mum, the magpie we were watching has just eaten the cocoon!".

This may sound crazy, but I found myself feeling quite sorry for that little caterpillar. All that work he put into the cocoon, only to have it all destroyed within half an hour of completing his job. The futility of it all was heartbreaking. Not only that, but he would never become a butterfly now (or moth, as the case may be). His life was cut short just before the beautiful climax that had been the point and purpose of it all.

And I started contemplating how often I'm tempted to have similar fears about my life. In my weaker moments, I find myself wondering if I will have anything to show for my work at the end of it all.

The Bible study group I'm part of has recently been doing some thinking together about the meaning of Jesus' resurrection for our own lives, and the little caterpillar-tragedy that transpired in our backyard turned my mind back to those studies. All those labours of the caterpillar, intricately constructing his cocoon for his anticipated metamorphosis, are like a kind of parable for the labours of a Christian - the things that we do for the sake of the coming kingdom.

If there is no resurrection, if the kingdom is nothing more than a beautiful mirage, then we are (according to what Paul says in 1 Corinthians) as much to be pitied as that little caterpillar. But if Jesus really did rise from the dead, and if his resurrection is the first-fruits and the promise of our own, then a big part of the resurrection's meaning has to do with the things we spend our life on. It is Jesus' resurrection that gives me a reason to spend my labours on building something for the age to come, rather than just devoting my whole life to consuming whatever pleasures I can in the present. And because I will rise one day with him, I can keep gladly devoting myself to that work, knowing that my labour is not in vain.

Friday, 9 May 2014

Holiday

We managed to get away for a few days in the second week of the school holidays. I was still recovering from my tonsillectomy but was out of bed and was well enough to make the trip. Sitting on the beach in the warm sun was a lovely place to continue my recovery, and we had the added bonus of grandparents to play with the kids as well!

While I read on the beach the kids had a great time exploring rock pools, making sandcastles and enjoying the chance to swim in the ocean. We were blessed with beautiful beach weather!


 
with grandad




The kids also did a spot of fishing with not much success, but J did manage to catch a couple of small fish that we threw right back in!

 


 
My family comes from the north coast, so I had the chance to catch up with various aunts and uncles and cousins who I don't get to see too often, which was great. I also had the chance to go for a drive with Dave one afternoon (thanks mum and dad for babysitting!), to a tiny cemetery outside of Coolongolook and track down a few of my ancestors' graves. The one I was really keen to find (and did!) was that of Joseph Woodward. He was one of my many convict ancestors I discovered in my family tree research last year. He was found guilty of incendiarism as part of the Nottingham riots in 1831 and sentenced to death, but eventually had that sentence changed to transportation on appeal. While we were living in the UK we visited the place of the crime as well as the court room where he was tried and the gaol in which he was kept (here's my blog post about that little expedition if you're interested!). Once he arrived in Australia and had served his sentence he became a respected community member and lived until he was over one hundred! That was an amazing age to live to at the time, and even more amazing when you think of how close to death he was. It was wonderful to go to the place where his story ended, and reflect on just one of the many incredible stories that form part of my family story.
 

And now we're back to reality. We've had sick kids since we arrived back home, including one who still hasn't made it back to school yet! Still, I am grateful for a few days when we were all well and could enjoy some time together.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Resurrection


O God of my Exodus
Great was the joy of Israel's son,
when Egypt died upon the shore,
far greater the joy
when the Redeemer's foe lay crushed in the dust.
Jesus strides forth as the victor,
conqueror of death, hell and all opposing might;
He bursts the bands of death,
tramples the powers of darkness down,
lives for ever.
He my gracious surety,
apprehended for payment of my debt,
comes forth from the prison house of the grave
free, and triumphant over sin, Satan, and death.
Show me herein the proof that his vicarious offering is accepted,
that the claims of justice are satisfied,
that the devil's sceptre is shivered,
that the wrongful throne is levelled.
Give me the assurance that in Christ I died, in him I rose,
in his life I live, in his victory I triumph,
in his ascension I shall be glorified.
Adorable Redeemer,
thou who wast lifted up upon a cross.
art ascended to the highest heaven.
Thou, who as man of sorrows wast crowned with thorns,
art now as Lord of life wreathed with glory.
Once, no shame more deep than thine,
no agony more bitter, no death more cruel.
Now, no exaltation more high,
no life more glorious, no advocate more effective.
Thou art in the triumph car leading captive thine enemies behind thee.
What more could be done than thou hast done!
Thy death is my life, thy resurrection my peace,
thy ascension my hope, thy prayers my comfort.

From The Valley of Vision, p 48.
Pic from istockphoto.com.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Tonsillectomy - day 11

Eleven days post-tonsillectomy and I can now see the light at the end of the tunnel! For some reason tonsillectomy in adults is quite a nasty operation to recover from, compared with the same operation in children, so it will still be a while before I've fully recovered. It hurts to talk and eat and I and am only eating tiny amounts of cold food, but at day 11 at least I can talk and eat a little now. A huge relief! I won't scare you with all the gory details - there are enough other internet sites that can do that (just google 'adult tonsillectomy' and you'll see what I mean!) - but let's just say it hasn't been the best week and a half of my life. 

That being said, in a strange kind of way, being in the midst of such a hard time has made me more conscious of the good blessings God has given me. I'll share a few with you:

* A good medical team - no problems so far anyway! 

* A very supportive family. Dave has been amazing - juggling caring for me and the kids and work over the past week and a half. I'm especially lucky to have a wonderful mum, who came and stayed with us (on and off) for the first week. I don't know what I would have done without her: she looked after the kids while caring for me too, keeping up a constant supply of icy drinks and ice packs! My kids have been supportive and helpful and suitably concerned for their poor mum who suddenly can't talk at more than a whisper.

* Pain medication! I was on some pretty strong stuff for the first week and it gave me a lot of relief and helped me to be able to get a bit of sleep. I see it as a blessing!

* That I had prepared myself for the recovery period. I've been very glad that I did my research before the operation (as scary as those internet sites are). That meant I wasn't surprised by how hard the first 10 days after adult tonsillectomy are. I also picked up a few good strategies to manage the pain: my advice, for anyone contemplating similar adventures, is that ice is the key!!

* Friends who helped in various ways (picking kids up and taking them places, cooking meals and snacks for the family) and who let me know they were thinking of me in different ways.

* That this was temporary. Seriously, I was more conscious than ever of what it must be like for those who live with constant, chronic pain. ...

* That this will (hopefully!) improve my general health. It will be nice to be off the antibiotics after three months of them!

Thanks to all who have been praying for me. I really appreciate it!