Monday, 30 June 2008

Just checking in...

Just thought I'd check in and let you know how I am going. The truth is that recovery is taking longer than I expected. (I didn't let myself think about what the surgeon was going to do to me in advance, but now I think about it - it makes sense that I'm still feeling pretty awful.) At the moment my day consists of sleep, nasal irrigation, more sleep, watching Pride and Prejudice, more sleep, more nasal irrigation, then sleep. You get the picture. I'm not much use to anyone!

I won't be around the blog much this week. I've been sitting here 5 minutes and already I need to lie down! But I might manage to update the links in short bursts, and Dave even suggested he might do a guest post, so you never know what might happen (he actually put the poem up for me yesterday too).

Please pray for my recovery. I am improving compared to the first couple of days (I think 'zombie like' would be the way the describe me then), but it's slow. Dave is coping almost too well - he's making it look easy (with the help of my mum and some lovely friends from church who have made some meals). To top everything off, Elsie is sick with an ear infection, so if you could pray for her too, that would be great.

Sunday, 29 June 2008

Poetry Monday

More Roald Dahl - this time one from 'Dirty Beasts', that may (I suspect) have been an influence on this poem.

The Crocodile
by Roald Dahl

"No animal is half as vile
As Crocky–Wock, the crocodile.
On Saturdays he likes to crunch
Six juicy children for his lunch
And he especially enjoys
Just three of each, three girls, three boys.
He smears the boys (to make them hot)
With mustard from the mustard pot.
But mustard doesn't go with girls,
It tastes all wrong with plaits and curls.
With them, what goes extremely well
Is butterscotch and caramel.
It's such a super marvelous treat
When boys are hot and girls are sweet.
At least that's Crocky's point of view
He ought to know. He's had a few.
That's all for now. It's time for bed.
Lie down and rest your sleepy head.
Ssh. Listen. What is that I hear,
Galumphing softly up the stair?

Go lock the door and fetch my gun!
Go on child, hurry! Quickly run!
No stop! Stand back! He's coming in!
Oh, look, that greasy greenish skin!
The shining teeth, the greedy smile!
It's Crocky–Wock, the Crocodile!"

Saturday, 28 June 2008

Back home

Nic's back home now, as of this morning, and resting up after the operation. Please pray that the kids and I will be able to give her something vaguely resembling a convalescence!

Thanks for all the messages and prayers...


Friday, 27 June 2008

Too much information

Hi all

Just a quick update from me, to report that the operation went well. They took some bone out to open up Nic's sinuses, then siphoned out (to quote the doctor) "buckets of pus". The doctor is hopeful that the long term effect of the operation should be a big improvement in Nic's health, which is fantastic.

Thanks for all the prayers!


Thursday, 26 June 2008

Surgery day today

I'm off to the hospital this morning for my sinus surgery. If you get a moment today I would appreciate your prayers. I'm a little nervous, but am also looking forward to being on the other side of this surgery.

Dave will give you an update of how it went tonight or tomorrow and I'll at least have a Roald Dahl poem to share with you next week, but otherwise things might be a little slower around here for a while.

Some Dahl-esque poetry by Jacob

The other day when I was choosing some Roald Dahl poetry for Poetry Monday, I ran a few different poems by Jacob to see which one he liked the best. He actually felt all the them would scare people too much and I shouldn't publish them, so he wasn't much help in that respect. But it also inspired him to go off and write some poetry of his own, in the style of Dahl. Here's my favourite:


A hermit crab bath...

Today the girls and I gave the hermit crabs a bath. We had a great time watching them come in and out of their little shells while they were drying out. Elsie was especially transfixed. They are such great pets!

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

More on Scripture teachers

I got quite a few comments on this post from some very dedicated Scripture teachers who really need prayer - and HELP! Scripture teaching is something I had planned to do once my kids were all off at school (I did do some in a team before I had Jacob), but the response to this post made me wonder if I should delay that long.

I've already shared the effect that Scripture teachers had on me before, but I thought I re-post my tribute to two of them that I did back in my 'missional motherhood month' series in case you missed it the first time...

I wanted to share stories of the impact that two Scripture teachers* had on me in my early years. Both of these women didn't have young children at home anymore, but had decided instead of going back to full time paid work to leave some time in their week for doing things to advance the gospel within their local community. The impact their ministry had on me has remained with me ever since, convincing me of the worth of this type of ministry in schools (and let's pray that God keeps the door open for us in NSW a little longer at least!). It's probably not everyone's gift, but I'm so encouraged by the example of some of the women I have known over the years who clearly did have the gift (even if they didn't find it easy) and made themselves available to do it.

Mrs Cole - my year 1 Scripture teacher

I mentioned in this post that my parents became Christians later in their lives. What you may not know is that God was already at work in my life at that stage through the words of my first grade scripture teacher. I can still clearly remember being amazed when I heard stories about Jesus (I had never heard about him at home up till then) and being very keen to become a Christian when she offered us the opportunity. According to my mum and dad, I came home one day and said 'Mrs Cole asked Jesus into her heart when she was my age and today I did the same!' (a bit confronting for my dad at the time!).

Mrs McNeill - my year 5-6 Scripture teacher

Another example of a woman who had an impact on me through Scripture teaching was my teacher in years 5-6 - Mrs McNeill. While I was already a Christian at that age, she helped me to see that I should have a passion and love for Christ that should affect every aspect of my life (yes, even when I was 10!). Apart from being a great teacher, she would come up to the school every lunchtime, talking to the children in the playground, carrying her memory verse charts around with her, so we could get an extra sticker next to our name if we could remember that week's verse. She had prayer charts where she had the names of every child she taught written down - 10 to a page, one page for each day of the week (she taught most of the classes). And she would tell us that she prayed for each one of us - once a week - that we would all come to know and love Jesus. She would have each of us over to her house after school once a term (10 at a time again I think?) where she would get us to play games and we'd drink cordial and her lovely food - and we'd see our names up on the prayer charts on her fridge.
This all sounds a bit impossible nowadays (and perhaps it really is, sadly enough). But even in those days it was highly unusual and it really came about because she just loved the children so much, she persevered and poured so much of her life into her Scripture teaching that people loved her and trusted her. She was even given Wagga Wagga's citizen of the year award one year because the local community appreciated her commitment to Scripture teaching! Most Scripture teachers probably don't end up with a Citizen of the Year award, but I do suspect there are all kinds of wonderful, surprising rewards waiting for them in heaven as the fruits of their labours.

* In NSW we have legislation that provides for regular time each week to be set aside in State schools for Special Religious Education, popularly known as 'Scripture'. Students only take part if their parents have given permission and the classes are usually taught by ministers and/or volunteers from the local churches. (Some schools also have Buddhist, Muslim, etc Scripture classes).

Pic from AussieGall.

This morning

Today is the day that Jacob goes to school and Rebecca goes to preschool so it's just me and Elsie. I usually end up running around trying to get things done, which usually means a lot of errands, which means I end up at the shops and always end up spending up more money than I planned. So today I made a conscious decision to stay home - none of the errands was super urgent. It was a beautiful, sunny Sydney morning which helped. Elsie and I ate our morning tea together outside, hung out the washing and did some weeding in the backyard. Then we went to the park at the end of our street and she rode her bike and we played together in the playground. It was such a lovely, relaxed morning, and I really enjoyed the time with Elsie.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

The shadow of Monchberg

Here's another quote from Defiant Birth: Women Who Resist Medical Eugenics, that I wanted to share. It's from a mother with an interesting story. She grew up in Germany with a disabled brother who, if born 10 years earlier would have been sent to a concentration camp called Monchberg and killed in a gas chamber because of his disability. Years later, she moved to the US, studied, married and had children. When pregnant with her third child, she was told that her son would have Down Syndrome. She and her husband chose to proceed with the pregnancy against medical advice and much opposition from others around her. What really surprised her though, was the way people acted after she had given birth to her son, Peter:

I found, to my great surprise, that society still kept asking this question: Why did you have this baby? I have had people react with marked surprise when they hear that I knew Petey would have Down Syndrome before he was born. Though they do not ask aloud, you can see the question in their eyes: 'If you knew, why did you have the baby?' What's buried in the question, what's buried deep in their eyes as they ask it, is the perception of my son as 'a choice' -- specifically, my choice -- rather than as a unique human being, created in God's image, rather than as a fully fledged member of the human race.

What I see in their eyes is the lingering shadow of Monchberg that sometimes keeps me awake at night. I worry that the joint availability of tests and abortion seems to be eroding societal consensus about our collective responsibility for vulnerable people -- people with disabilities whose conditions were or could have been diagnosed prenatally, or even people born into difficult family situations or social structures. I am very frightened by the emerging attitude that if a woman exercises her 'choice' to have a child who can be identified in advance as 'vulnerable' for some reason, the woman herself bears the responsibility for dealing with that vulnerability. In other words, if the cost of a certain life is going to be more than its 'worth', someone has to make up the deficit. The assumption seems to be that if you 'choose' to impose that cost on society by having a baby you could so easily have aborted, you should pay the price.

Monday, 23 June 2008

Smileys from God?

I've mentioned before that Jacob's school has an elaborate awards system. Another thing his teacher uses as a form of discipline in the classroom is the 'name on the whiteboard' technique. If you are being especially good, your name goes up on the smiley side of the whiteboard. If you are misbehaving, you go on the side with the sad face. Then there's a system of ticks and crosses... you get the picture.

Well, yesterday, Jacob came home and told us he got on the smiley side. It's not that unusual that he did, but this time we were really pleased when he told us the reason. It was because he had comforted one of the other boys when he had got upset about losing a game. We talked about it for a while, and then he told us that he had actually told the teacher about his actions. As it happened, she said she had already noticed, but we felt we should tell him that he didn't need to tell the teacher whenever he did the right thing!

After we had explained that it really only mattered that God saw his actions, Jacob thought about it for a little while and then said: "Alright, next time that happens, I won't tell the teacher, I'll just imagine that I'm getting a smiley from God".

So here's the issue. Once, I think, I would have felt profoundly uncomfortable with language like this. I was taught to recoil with horror at the idea of getting 'brownie points' from God. And of course there is something correct that was being guarded in this reaction - we don't even begin to 'earn' anything from God, as if we were good enough for him to owe us something.

But lately I've been thinking that in all that contempt for the 'brownie points' mentality I was ignoring a big, big theme of Jesus' teaching, and the teaching of the rest of the Bible. I never want my kids to think that they can earn their way to heaven, but as sinners saved by God's grace, I do want them to live to please him, and to delight in doing the things that make God's face smile.

So we didn't trash Jacob's idea of the divine 'smiley faces' - though we did translate the language into an encouragement to think about God seeing and smiling (is that different? it feels a tiny bit different to me!). And now we pray that he does remember that, and that it becomes more and more the motivation of his heart.

Veggies etc

A few weeks ago when I was feeling particularly unwell and working out where to cut corners, I decided to have my veges delivered. So I went online (to a site my sister recommended) and ordered them and since then I have been HOOKED. I get a big box of fruit/veges delivered to my door for free once a week and it is really cheaper than if I were to get them at the supermarket (I did the maths, trust me!). In fact, we're actually getting a lot more veges than I used to get for the family for less money - but it's great to be eating so much healthy food!

The way the costs are kept down is that it works a bit like a vege co-op - you don't get to choose what's in your box. They just get whatever is cheapest at the market. Again, this is a positive, in that it forces us to eat a wider range of fruit and veges. It has meant I've had to rethink my way of planning meals - I usually plan them after I get my box of veges for the week now. It also means I have to search around for some new recipes (tonight I cooked a really yummy spinach, fetta and pumpkin pasta!). But some things I'm still not sure what to do with. Which is where you come in!

I know I'm in danger of looking hopelessly unsophisticated here BUT, what should I cook that has bok choy in it? I need recipes! Preferably easy ones. Please...

Photo by eyeflyer.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Poetry Monday

I thought this Roald Dahl poem was quite fun. It's very long, so I've just included the beginning and the end. It's published in Revolting Rhymes, if you want the full version.

Goldilocks and the Three Bears (an excerpt)

"This famous wicked little tale
Should never have been put on sale
It is a mystery to me
Why loving parents cannot see
That this is actually a book
About a brazen little crook..."


Oh, what a tale of crime on crime!
Let's check it for a second time.

Crime One, the prosecution's case:
She breaks and enters someone's place.

Crime Two, the prosecutor notes:
She steals a bowl of porridge oats.

Crime Three: She breaks a precious chair
Belonging to the Baby Bear.

Crime Four: She smears each spotless sheet
With filthy messes from her feet.

A judge would say without a blink,
'Ten years hard labour in the clink!'
But in the book, as you will see,
The little beast gets off scot–free,
While tiny children near and far
Shout 'Goody–good! Hooray! Hurrah!'
'Poor darling Goldilocks!' they say,
'Thank goodness that she got away!'
Myself, I think I'd rather send
Young Goldie to a sticky end.
'Oh daddy!' cried the Baby Bear,
'My porridge gone! It isn't fair!'
'Then go upstairs,' the Big Bear said,
'Your porridge is upon the bed.
'But as it's inside mademoiselle,
'You'll have to eat her up as well."

Picture from

Sleepless night

I was listening to Jane Saunders again yesterday (you can read my review of 'In his Hands' here) and this song reminded me of what I was talking about in this post. I've copied the lyrics below (you can listen to a sample here).

(By the way, those from Australia will be interested to know that you can now buy In His Hands at Koorong.)

Sleepless Night

Another sleepless night
I'm turning in my bed
Long before the red sun rises

In these early hours
I'm falling again
Into the river of my worries

When the river runs away
I find a shelter in your name

Jesus, only light on the shore
Only hope in the storm
Jesus, let me fly to your side
There I would hide, Jesus

Hear my anxious prayer
The beating of my heart
The pulse and the measure of my unbelief
Speak your words to me
Before I come apart
Help me believe in what I cannot see
Before the river runs away
I will call upon your name

Jesus, only light on the shore
Only hope in the storm
Jesus, let me fly to your side
There I would hide, Jesus

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Happy 1/2 Birthday Elsie!!

We've started a new family tradition today. Because Elsie's birthday is 4 days after Christmas, we've decided to celebrate her 1/2 birthdays. So, we did bake a cake when she turned one, but didn't do much else and said we would celebrate properly in June. Here's some photos of today...

With her new pram and doll that my parents gave her (complete with a hand crocheted rug my mum made her). I wouldn't have picked Elsie as a doll person, but in the last 6 months or so she has proved me wrong! I think she loves them more than Rebecca does.

We gave her a bike so she can ride with Jacob and Rebecca (something she's been pretty desperate to do!).

Afternoon tea with Jacob, Rebecca and her cousin Sam

Playing with her cousin Caleb

Looking cute.

With her birthday cake (see the 1 1/2 candles on it?). The cake was meant to be based on the nursery rhyme "Mary Mary quite contrary", because I've often sung "Elsie Mary quite contrary" to her... but there are no silver bells, cockle shells or pretty maids all in a row - so maybe it's just a girl in a garden!

Friday, 20 June 2008

Boys and girls

Here's Jacob and Rebecca playing with the dolls' tea set at my parents' place: Rebecca making pretend little cups of tea for everyone, Jacob piling his up into a tower. Vive la difference, I say!

PS. Speaking of 'play', my dad wrote a great post on playing with kids today (in which my children feature heavily!) which might interest some of you.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Pray for scripture teachers

Yesterday, I got an email from a friend who teaches Scripture which I thought I'd share with you (with her permission):
I just had my rowdiest Scripture class ever. Rowdy is an understatement. If I were not as tough as old boots I’d be in tears. But I am so I’m not. In the midst of the chaos though, one of the misbehaving kids came up with a really good question, out of the blue: “How do you know that God and Jesus are real?”

Please pray that I would faithfully prepare each week and that the seed sown in these kids’ hearts would take root and bear much fruit by the power of the Holy Spirit. (In spite of boys tying themselves to the teacher’s desk by their shoelaces and general rebellious rabble….) Please pray for wisdom for me in classroom management.
Please keep remembering to pray for the Scripture teachers who serve God in such a challenging and important ministry.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Casting our anxieties on Him

I've been worrying a lot about one of my children lately. I normally worry a bit about all of my kids (I am an 'anxious type'), but this worry has been, well, more debilitating than usual. You know that kind of worry when you have a knot in your stomach and a tight chest and a lump in your throat? It's been that kind of worry.

The other morning I was lying in bed, summoning up the strength to read my Bible and pray so I could get up and start my day. My mind had already started churning over the things I was worrying about, when I suddenly had this moment of clarity. I suddenly thought: "Hey, I can talk to the God who made me and made my children. I can tell Him who has all things in his control about what is bothering me and he will listen!" (I know, I'm a bit slow sometimes!). So I prayed. I told God every little detail of what I was worrying about. I told him all my fears for this child and through tears I begged for wisdom.

And so I got out of bed and faced my day knowing I had already taken my worries and cast them on the God of the universe. I didn't feel like jumping for joy, the situation was still there, but I did feel relief.

A little while ago I listened to a sermon by John Piper called 'Anxieties: to be cast not carried', in which he talked about how our anxieties are to be cast on God, not carried by ourselves:
God is willing to carry your anxieties the same way a donkey carries your baggage. One of the greatest things about the God of the Bible is that he commands us to let him work for us before commanding us to work for him. "Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28). "Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you" (Psalm 55:22). "Even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save" (Isaiah 46:4). "From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides thee, who works for those who wait for him (Isaiah 64:4).

God wants to be a burden bearer because it demonstrates his power and puts him in a class by himself among the so-called gods of the universe. "No one has seen a God besides thee, who works for those who wait for him." So throw the garments of your anxiety onto him. He wants to carry it.

When I go to my Father in prayer, I am saying that I need him and can't do it on my own. So often I carry my worries by myself - I hold them close, like they are precious goods. I'm glad that God in his mercy allows me to have moments like the other morning when he gently reminds me that I'm not to cling to my worries. I am to cast them on to him. And in so doing, I am acknowledging my rightful place in the universe.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Our worm farm

Thanks for all your advice in response to my questions about composting and worm farming. We thought about it a bit more, and decided to make a worm farm, partly because we don't have a huge backyard and partly because Jacob has been studying worms at school and we thought this would be interesting for him. We got the information we needed and set to work getting the right boxes from the local fruit shop, 'borrowing' some compost from some friends and buying 1000 tiger worms. It was a fun way to spend a Saturday afternoon (we even had a coffee/babycino at the nursery where we got the worms - that's the way we do things in the city!).

Monday, 16 June 2008

The Children of Men - Book Review

The Children of Men is not the sort of book that would normally attract my attention - for a start it's science fiction and I'm one of those people who hate that genre so much that I couldn't even watch Star Wars the whole way through. But because Dave gave this book to me for my birthday (and because he usually gets my taste spot on, even when he takes a bit of a risk) I thought I should give it a go - and I'm glad I did. This (in my opinion) is intelligent science fiction rich with ideas - ideas that fascinated me.

The story is set in 2021, in a world in which no human being has been born in the last 25 years. It is told mainly through the eyes of 50 year old history academic, Theo Faron, who has started writing a diary. PD James uses the premise of this world with no children to ponder how we would behave if we had no future. She paints a very dark picture of this imagined world. The last children to be born are elevated to demigod status and are called 'Omegas'. Love is lavished on inanimate objects like dolls. "Doll-making was the only section of the toy industry which . . . flourished; it had produced dolls for the whole range of frustrated maternal desire." When the main character, Faron, sees one woman dash the doll of another against a stone wall, its "mother" screams "the scream of the tortured, the bereaved, the terrified." People have their dolls christened in farcical ceremonies and gather to watch and celebrate a litter of kittens being born.

As well as the bizarre behaviour in the absence of children, there is a hopelessness which turns ugly. The Isle of Man is turned into a Penal Colony where prisoners are dumped and murder each other. The country is under the rule of a dictator (a man called Xan) who orders mass 'suicides' of the the elderly. There is a chilling account of one of these (called the 'Quietus'), in which old people are weighted with sandbags, put on crumbling barges, and, to the accompaniment of a brass band playing "Bye Bye, Blackbird" and "Somewhere over the Rainbow," are towed out to sea. It is the observance of one of these that prompts Theo Faron to go to Xan (his cousin) and demand an end to these practices. This is an action that ends up putting his life in danger, along with the rest of the group he becomes involved with (called The Five Fishes).

The book is broken into two parts, and in the second half of the book the tone changes, as the reader finds out that one of the women in the group, Julian, is pregnant. This adds a note of urgency to the plot as they run from Xan in an attempt to secure the future as well as their own lives.

The thing I liked most about the book was the way that the author explored some very interesting ideas. I thought the detail of the world she imagines was quite vivid. It gave me a lot to think about. She thinks through the implications of a world without children in relation to a number of realms. She looks at what happens to sex, work, marriage, religion etc etc, in a world with no future. One of the five members of Xan's Council summarizes:
"You [Theo] know what evils have been perpetrated through the ages to ensure the survival of nations, sects, religions, even of individual families. Whatever man has done for good or ill has been done in the knowledge that he has been formed by history, that his life-span is brief, uncertain, insubstantial, but that there will be a future, for the nation, for the race, for the tribe. That hope has finally gone except in the mind of fools and fanatics. Man is diminished if he lives without knowledge of his past; without hope of a future he becomes a beast."

Although I loved the philosophical elements of the book, I did find it lacking in other areas. I thought that most of the characters were a bit two dimensional, and I didn't really care that much about what was going to happen to them! There was also very little story and I found the ending hard to believe and was left feeling dissatisfied with its lack of resolution.

But, I think, at the end of the day, the book really is about ideas more than it is about characters or story, and as an ideas novel I loved it.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Poetry Monday

Here's another of the poems from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Once again it comes as a sober warning to those of us who are parents!

Veruca Salt, the little brute,
Has just gone down the rubbish chute
(And as we very rightly thought
That in a case like this we ought
To see the thing completely through,
We've polished off her parents, too).
Down goes Veruca! Down the drain!
And here, perhaps, we should explain
That she will meet, as she descends,
A rather different set of friends
To those that she has left behind —
These won't be nearly so refined.
A fish head, for example, cut
This morning from a halibut.
"Hello! Good morning! How d'you do?
How nice to meet you! How are you?"
And then a little further down
A mass of others gather round:
A bacon rind, some rancid lard,
A loaf of bread gone stale and hard,
A steak that nobody could chew,
An oyster from an oyster stew,
Some liverwurst so old and grey
One swelled it from a mile away,
A rotten nut, a reeky pear,
A thing the cat left on the stair,
And lots of other things as well,
Each with a rather horrid smell.
These are Veruca's new-found friends
That she will meet as she descends,
And this is the price she has to pay
For going so very far astray.
But now, my dears, we think you might
Be wondering — is it really right
That every single bit of blame
And all the scolding and the shame
Should fall upon Veruca Salt?
Is she the only one at fault?
For though she's spoiled, and dreadfully so,
A girl can't spoil herself, you know.
Who spoiled her, then? Ah, who indeed?
Who pandered to her every need?
Who turned her into such a brat?
Who are the culprits? Who did that?
Alas! You needn't look so far
To find out who these sinners are.
They are (and this is very sad)
Her loving parents, MUM and DAD.
And that is why we're glad they fell
Into the rubbish chute as well.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

My blogoversary

Today is my blogoversary! It was was one year ago today that I wrote this post and announced to the world (well, the two friends and three family members that I dared to tell about it!), that I was starting a blog. Looking back over the last year, I am so glad that I did start it. I wrote about some of the reasons why I'm glad about it in this post, so I won't go through all of them again, but I do continue to find blogging to be a source of clarity and encouragement in living intentionally as a Christian day by day.

You may have noticed that I have given the site a different look to celebrate my blogoversary. I meant to do it today, but ended up accidentally deleting my previous header so the 'new look' went up on Friday instead.

I've seen others use opportunities like this to ask those who read their blog and don't comment to 'introduce' themselves. I don't mind at all if you read my blog and don't comment, but if you want to say 'hi', now is your chance to post a quick comment and introduce yourself. I would love to hear from you. :-)

Friday, 13 June 2008

Parenting as justified sinners

In response to yesterday's post on teaching forgiveness to our kids, Janelle put me onto a booklet on parenting called Christian Parents and Their children, which you can download for free. Here's a tiny taste of chapter 1, that spoke to me when I read it last night:
The only way children can be secure is if their parents are secure, and, for sinners, this can only be the case by living in the context of God’s covenant of grace. The first duty of parents, therefore, is to be confident before God that their sins are forgiven. Where this is not the case, parents will anxiously lay burdens on their children which neither they nor their children can bear (cf. Matt. 23:4). Being unaware that they are justified before God, they will expect their children to justify them before their peers. On the other hand, if parents are convinced that God is gracious to them, they will be able to offer the security gained by that to their children. (So Ps. 127.)

I haven't read it all yet, and I'm still chewing over the 'covenant of grace' framework - how it relates to baptism, for example, and the changes that go with God's people no longer being a nation. Lots to think about! :-)

But the main point, about grace and justification, and what that means for parenting, I found so helpful!

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Teaching forgiveness

Before we were parents, we had the privilege of having friends who had already started down that road ahead of us and could help us think about the theology of parenting and talk with us about the things that had worked, and the things that hadn't worked, in trying to put that theology into practice.

One concept that we picked up from some close friends was how important it is to teach your kids to forgive as well as to say sorry. Obviously there are major ways that we teach our kids about forgiveness in the way we relate to others ourselves (particularly in our marriage, which the kids observe all the time!). And we need to to teach them the gospel so that they understand God's forgiveness. But the thing that our friends taught us was far more basic than that - we actually need to teach our kids to say "I forgive you".

There are many ways to do this, but the main way we've tried to do it in these early stages of childhood has been by incorporating it into our discipline strategy. Everyone has different ideas about how to 'do discipline', but the the basic pattern that we've thought through and adopted works like this:

1) The child gets sent away to another room, as both a punishment and an opportunity to think about what they've done. There might also be some additional punishment (eg. a smack, or the confiscation of a toy or some other possession) depending on the seriousness of what they've done.

2) After a certain period of time (we do a minute per year of the child's age), either Dave or I go and talk to them about what they've done. We talk about why it was the wrong thing, then they need to say sorry to us. And they need to go and say sorry to someone else if the behaviour hurt someone else. (Sometimes, though not always, we pray with them and they say sorry to God.)

3) Then (and this is the bit that often gets left out of the secular parenting manuals), we tell them that we forgive them, and we hug and we forget about it. If they say sorry to another member of the family they say "I forgive you" too and give each other a hug. Even Elsie (who can't say "I forgive you" yet) knows to give her big brother and sister a hug when they say sorry.

Our friends told us that if we practised something like this we would be so unusual that people would fall around laughing - as happened to them when people saw their pre-schooler saying "I forgive you" to her older sister. That hasn't been my experience, but I have noticed how many kids know how to say sorry but how few seem to know how to say "I forgive you".

Of course, I'm not saying that merely by teaching our children to say the right the words we'll automatically change their hearts. But I do think that we can teach powerful lessons about sin, punishment, repentance and forgiveness, through what we do and say within the family. I'm glad our friends helped us think these things through when we were first setting out on this difficult journey!

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Sharks and worms

Yesterday was World Environment Day at Jacob's school. It was celebrated a week later than the rest of the world because there was a clash in the school diary last week! Anyway, the day included a costume parade. This is what we came up with (admittedly with a fair bit of parental and grandparental involvement - thanks mum!!)...

He is obsessed with all things to do with sea creatures and his favourite animal is the Great White shark. He really wanted to go dressed as a Great White Shark, but we settled on going dressed as the ocean (the 'habitat' category) with a few Great White Sharks and other favourite sea creatures sewn on (the big yellow one in the middle is a Manatee)...

Plus a bit of activism for the poor Great White thrown in for good measure, on his insistence. I can honestly tell you that his was the only costume that was lobbying for the protection of the shark...

Speaking of the environment, something I've been wanting to do for a while is to set up a compost heap or worm farm in our garden. For those of you who have 'green thumbs', I need your advice! Which would be better - compost heap or worm farm? And should I buy one or make one? Any tips on how to make one more cheaply than the store-bought versions, but so that it still works?

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Thoughts on sleep

I listened to this talk on sleep by CJ Mahaney the other day, after Rachael mentioned she had found it helpful. As it turns out she also prompted Jean to listen to it as well (who provides an excellent summary here). After listening, here are a couple of thoughts I had about sleep and how it reflects my trust in God's sovereignty in my life.

The first thing I've been thinking about after listening to this talk, is my tendency to lie awake worrying and what it says about how I view God and his care for me. For most of my life, I've been one of those people that will toss and turn all night if I'm worried about something. I know it doesn't ever solve anything and that my perspective is always extremely marred at 3am in the morning, but that doesn't stop me doing it! This talk reminded me that if I'm lying awake worrying, then I'm not trusting that God has got it all under control. God is the only one who doesn't sleep, and that the fact we need to sleep reflects our absolute dependence on Him. David (in the Bible!) pursued by enemies who wanted to kill him, can still say: "I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me (Ps 3:5)."

The second thing I've been thinking about in relation to sleep, is that sleep as a mum is also about entrusting my kids to God's care. When I first had kids, I found that (despite my sleep deprivation), going off to sleep and entrusting them to God's care was difficult. This was especially the case with Jacob, as I had been anxious about him for whole pregnancy because of my previous 2 miscarriages. One day my mum said to me: 'You're just going to have to pray and ask God to watch over him when you sleep, and know that he loves Jacob even more than you do". This was a huge reminder to me that I was not entrusting Jacob to God's care. I thought that I needed to be awake to look after him properly, to make sure he was breathing. I had forgotten that those things aren't really under my control - it was God who was sustaining him, and whether I was awake or not wouldn't change his plans.

A correct theology of God's sovereignty is not a magic potion to cure all insomnia (and there are a whole lot of other things like a proper wind-down routine at night, and so on, that also help). But it certainly helps when the worries come, if I can remember to tell myself once again about the God who watches over me and my children, and neither slumbers nor sleeps.

A trip to the zoo

With Dave away over the long weekend (speaking at a conference in Tamworth), the kids and I went to the zoo with my dad last Saturday. We enjoyed the first sunny day we'd had for ages! Here are some photos...
Out the front....

Elsie (with a fish behind her...)

My dad and Elsie on the cable car... she's not looking too sure about it at this stage...

Monday, 9 June 2008

Thoughts from a courageous mother

I'm currently reading Defiant Birth: Women who resist medical eugenics by Melinda Tankard Reist. It's a collection of accounts from women who continued in pregnancies despite intense pressure from doctors to do otherwise. So far, it is riveting (and emotionally harrowing) reading. I intend to review the whole book when I finish, but I just wanted to share this one quote. It's from a woman who had two of her children die within hours of birth because of a condition called anencephaly. In both pregnancies she was aware this would happen from routine ultrasounds, but chose to proceed with the pregnancies against all medical advice:

There is no way to avoid the sad fact that these babies cannot live long after birth with this condition, but causing them to die earlier will not stop this from happening. Causing them to die earlier will only take from us the beautiful experience of knowing and loving them.

The value of Thomas Walter [her nephew who also died of the condition], Benedict and Charlotte cannot be measured by the length of their lives -- we don't apply this yardstick to adults, so why should we to babies? A baby is a gift, a new entity, a precious individual. We are created for a purpose, there is a reason for our being here. Even if that reason is unclear to us most of the time, we are constantly affecting other people in our families and communities. Who knows what purpose can be fulfilled in nine months and one day? I do know that Benedict left a lasting impression on our family. He made us slow down, savour life, and treasure our other children even more. He made us realise that we cannot control or predict what will happen in the future; he made us rely on God.

So don't pity us for carrying a child we know will die. Carrying this beautiful person is an honour. Grieve for the fact that our baby will die. We wouldn't wish away the time we had with Benedict or Charlotte, just to save us the pain of losing them. I've always thought of it like this: if your 3-year old was diagnosed with fatal cancer and had only four months to live; would you prefer the doctor kill your child straight away so that you didn't have to wait for his/her impending death? Or would you prefer to spend as much time as you could with your child and love him/her for as long as you had left?

Someone asked us after Benedict died. 'Was it worth it?' Oh yes! For the chance to hold him, and see him, and love him before letting him go. For the chance for our children to see that we would never stop loving them regardless of their imperfections? For the chance to give him everything we could? Oh yes! Love your children, and remember that they each have their own unique mission. Children are always and only a blessing, even if they don't stay long.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Poetry Monday

This is the second week of our Roald Dahl series. This week's poem is from his book Revolting Rhymes, which is a collection of fairy tales written in poem form. As you can guess from this one, they all have fairly different endings from the traditional versions! My dad used to read these to my sister and me when we were kids and we loved them - they are lots of fun. If you're interested, you can also listen to a recording of this poem being read here.

Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf

As soon as Wolf began to feel
That he would like a decent meal,
He went and knocked on Grandma's door.
When Grandma opened it, she saw
The sharp white teeth, the horrid grin,
And Wolfie said, "May I come in?''
Poor Grandmamma was terrified,
"He's going to eat me up!'' she cried.
And she was absolutely right.
He ate her up in one big bite.
But Grandmamma was small and tough,
And Wolfie wailed, "That's not enough!
I haven't yet begun to feel
That I have had a decent meal!''
He ran around the kitchen yelping,
"I've got to have a second helping!''
Then added with a frightful leer,
"I'm therefore going to wait right here
Till Little Miss Red Riding Hood
Comes home from walking in the wood.''
He quickly put on Grandma's clothes,
(Of course he hadn't eaten those).
He dressed himself in coat and hat.
He put on shoes, and after that
He even brushed and curled his hair,
Then sat himself in Grandma's chair.
In came the little girl in red.
She stopped. She stared. And then she said,
"What great big ears you have, Grandma.''
"All the better to hear you with,'' the Wolf replied.
"What great big eyes you have, Grandma.''
said Little Red Riding Hood.
"All the better to see you with,'' the Wolf replied.
He sat there watching her and smiled.
He thought, I'm going to eat this child.
Compared with her old Grandmamma
She's going to taste like caviar.
Then Little Red Riding Hood said, "But Grandma,
what a lovely great big furry coat you have on.''
"That's wrong!'' cried Wolf. "Have you forgot
To tell me what BIG TEETH I've got?
Ah well, no matter what you say,
I'm going to eat you anyway.''
The small girl smiles. One eyelid flickers.
She whips a pistol from her knickers.
She aims it at the creature's head
And bang bang bang, she shoots him dead.
A few weeks later, in the wood,
I came across Miss Riding Hood.
But what a change! No cloak of red,
No silly hood upon her head.
She said, "Hello, and do please note
My lovely furry WOLFSKIN COAT.''

Yet another health update

I thought I should follow Ali's lead and let you know all the gory details about what's going on with my health. Don't read on if you don't like too much detail when it comes to medical information!!

I mentioned in this post that I was going to go to an ENT specialist. Last Wednesday was the big day. First, I've got to say that no one should ever have to see the insides of their own nose on a TV monitor. It's just not an image I need to remember (and it has been a little hard to forget!).

Anyway, apart from sticking cameras and things up my nose, the specialist was really nice and offered a quick and convincing diagnosis. He explained that the openings to my maxillary sinuses (that's the ones in the cheeks for those that aren't doctors!) are completely closed off, which means that I have a constant source of infection in those sinuses. At the moment they are filled with pus that can't get out (I know, it's gross) and the only way I'm going to get better is if they can open the passages. So, I'm booked in for surgery in a 3 weeks time, when they are going to operate to open up the passages and to prevent this from recurring, he'll take some bone out to make sure the openings are big enough from now on (I don't like the sound of that, but he sounded like he knew what he was talking about!).

It's been an interesting few weeks for me health wise. It feels like a lot of things are falling into place that I haven't quite understood about my body for a while. At the moment, I'm feeling like I usually do when I'm 'run down', just really tired and a bit headachy - there are no other symptoms. The doctors are agreeing that this problem has probably been going on for years now and I've just learned to live with it. I'm praying that after the surgery my health will really improve overall - but I know it's all in God's hands, so we'll wait and see.

I'll let you know later when I'm about to go in to hospital so you know a) when to pray for me (!) and b) not to expect many posts that week!!

Friday, 6 June 2008

A milestone

Dave lectures Wednesday nights so I do the whole bath/bed thing myself (he's around for dinner though which is nice). Anyway, this last Wednesday night, Jacob and Elsie had already were already in their pjs but Rebecca still needed to be bathed (she's a really slow eater). Suddenly I had a brainwave. Jacob could read Elsie her stories! So, I set them up on the lounge with some of her books, and he read them to her and she listened attentively. It TOTALLY worked! Once I had got Rebecca out of the bath and dressed, all I had to do was read the Bible and say her prayers with Elsie and put her into bed, then read to the older kids.

This is the sort of milestone I could get very excited about. Now I'm just looking forward to the day when they can do this.

Jacob and Elsie reading (side by side) on a different occasion.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

My mum's testimony

I've interviewed my mum over at EQUIP book club about how she became a Christian. Here's the link.

A Meme

Therese has tagged me for a meme.

The rules of the game get posted at the beginning. Each player answers the questions about themselves. At the end of the post, the player then tags a few people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read your blog. Let the person who tagged you know when you’ve posted your answer.

a) What was I doing 10 years ago?

I was living in Springwood with mum, dad and sister, halfway through my 5th (and last) year at uni, leading a Bible study group of beautiful year 11 girls, attending Springwood Baptist Church where I was engaged to a gorgeous young student pastor... :-)

b) What are 5 things on my to-do list for today (not in any particular order):

Take Jacob to school, make dinner, write a blog post, put washing on the line (er, I mean in the drier - it's raining in Sydney!) and pack for the weekend.

c) Snacks I enjoy:

Banana bread (is that a snack?).

d) Things I would do if I were a billionaire:

I hope I'd be able to give it all away, but I'm thankful that God hasn't put me through that test!

I feel like I've been tagging people too much lately, so I'll just leave this one open, and if you want to join in - feel free!

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

CD Review - In His Hands

I mentioned in this post a few weeks ago that I had bought Jane Saunders' latest CD, In His hands at EQUIP. I wanted to write a bit more about because I haven't loved a CD this much in ages. As I've listened to it again and again in the past few weeks, I've found myself reminded of what Jesus' death has achieved for me and of the hope of an eternity with Him.

Her style would probably be classified as folk/country and I love the sweetness, clearness and purity of her voice. I've noticed that when I play it with the kids around they understand all the words and sing along and comment on them, which I think is to her credit. I also love the simplicity and depth of the songs on the album. In one song, she sings about her grandmother dying and the hope of seeing her again in heaven (a tear jerker!). In another, she sings as a woman looking back and reflecting on that moment she first believed in Jesus as a 7 year old (another tear jerker!!). She also sings some beautiful hymns, like 'He Leadeth me' and spirituals like 'Give me Jesus'. Actually, most of the songs have the potential to move you to tears, but they are beautiful, God glorifying tears as you are reminded of what we have in Jesus!

A few of the songs on the album are written by one of my favourite song writers and general legend around our house - Colin Buchanan. Here's what he says about this album:
...the latest episode in the unfolding story of Jane Saunders goes back to the wooden chapel at Bilpin where, week after week, enduring song met enduring truth. With neighbours and extended family, Jane would sing the hymns that inevitably brought tears to her grandfather's eyes, comforted the community in its losses and became the musical expression of their shared faith. Simple, enduring melodies. Grand, timelessly true statements, enfolded in tender poetry. Songs sung by apple growers that soared into eternity. "In His Hands" has both the humility and transcendence of the music that echoed out of that little assembly and drifted among the fruit trees and eucalypts on those dusty Sunday mornings.
You can read his whole review here. And while you are there, you can listen to some song samples.

My BlogRoll

Here are some of my favourite blogs...

22 words

Amy's Humble Musings

another something

Between Two Worlds

Church Matters

Desiring God blog

EQUIP book club

Gender Blog


in all honesty

Just in Case

Making Home


Radical Womanhood

Rebecca Writes

Rocks in My Dryer

something this foggy day


The Best Book Co-op

The Purple Cellar

The Sola Panel

Tim Challies

Tim Chester


Favourite Posts


Here are some of my favourite websites:

Baptist Evangelicals Today

Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood

Discerning Reader

Desiring God

Matthias Media

Sydney Morning Herald

Petersham Baptist Church

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

When being a mum isn't 'easy'

It struck me last week as I was looking at my blog that sometimes I might give the impression that motherhood is just an endless succession of lovely interactions with my children and none of it is hard work. To an extent I think this is the inevitable result of the fact that I am hopelessly biased and love my family lots, and like to talk about the things I love about them. It's also because I try not to write about things that would embarrass my kids, so a lot of the less lovable things get 'edited out'. And it's probably a little bit of pride on my part as well, which I need to repent of. When you have a blog there is a huge temptation to give a more glossy and attractive version of your life.

So, what I want to say today is while I LOVE being a mum, I don't find it 'easy'. Just a few days ago, I couldn't wait for the kids to get into bed so that I could just sit down and have a good cry. It's not a habit of mine, but there are days when I'm pushed to my limit (and there have been periods in my time as a mother where every day has been like that). Days like that, when I have pile of laundry so high I can hardly see over it, a 1 year old who likes to climb anything and everything and isn't responding well to discipline, a 3 year old who wants to play me her recorder right NOW and loudly, and a 5 year old who needs to prepare a 'news' presentation, and wants to tell me his tales of woe from lunchtime at school (and yes, they were tales of woe and they broke my heart), aren't easy. All trivial things in their way, but I find that sometimes when they build up enough, I don't cope too well.

So next time I trot out another sweet story about my kids, rest assured that there were probably plenty of other times in that week where I was pushed to my limit and beyond. But, I would rather talk about the good stories, because I would rather dwell on the fact that being a mum is a blessing. And at the end of the day, I wouldn't want it any other way. I want to be at the dining room table folding laundry while I listen to my 5 year old pour his heart out to me. I want to be the one who gets to listen to my three year old learning how to make a monstrous noise with the recorder (and the one who tells her when to stop). I want to be the one to teach Elsie what she can climb and how to obey her parents - and be there to comfort her when she does climb up on the stool and falls off when I'm not looking.

Children really are a blessing from the Lord, and no amount of laundry, or disobedience, or sad stories, or loud recorder playing will ever change that. Even if I don't always feel like that all of the time.

Jacob's card

Thanks for all the helpful advice about how to braid Rebecca's hair a little better! I had another go yesterday which (again) didn't turn out too well. But Jacob obviously thought she looked pretty good, because he made her a card when he got home from school and this is what he wrote on the inside:

SO sweet!

Monday, 2 June 2008

The Oprah filter

I need to say at the beginning of this post that I never watch Oprah (I feel the need to explain myself after yesterday's post!). But, yesterday I did sit down and watch it after I noticed in the TV guide that it was about a story that I had read about just the day before in this article, which had already sparked my interest.

The story involved a case of mistaken identity. For five weeks, one family believed their teenage daughter had died, while she was actually in intensive care with another family (unaware that it was their daughter who had actually died in the accident) keeping vigil by her bedside. Reading between the lines in the article in the newspaper, it seemed that both families were Christian, so I was interested to see what they said about such a terrible ordeal.

It was interesting to hear the whole story told by both families. Even more interesting were the answers that they gave at the end when asked questions about their 'faith' by Oprah. There were quite a few opportunities for both families to share the gospel and they did it well. One of the fathers gave an answer that specifically mentioned Jesus. He said that he could forgive some of the mistakes that caused them so much pain because Jesus' death on the cross had brought him forgiveness. I was very impressed that he seized the opportunity with both hands and did it so well!

After the show, I went and looked at the detailed summary of the show on the Oprah website. This is what the answer had become...
Both the Van Ryn and Cerak families say their faith in God was integral to getting through this ordeal. "I know there are other people that have asked, 'How come you're not upset? How come you're not bitter?'" Newell says. "I know it's because of the forgiveness that we have experienced through our relationship and our faith."

All mention of Jesus and the cross had gone. Interestingly, another answer that was given that actually quoted the Bible stayed in:

Over the years, I've learned that forgiveness and love is healthier than bitterness and vengeance," he says. "One of my favorite verses in the Bible says, 'What has the Lord required of you? To act justly. To love mercy. And to walk humbly with your God.' That one phrase—'to love mercy'—you don't see a lot of that today."

Predictably, it's Jesus that is the objectionable element. In Australia, I suspect, they probably wouldn't have let the Bible verses through either, but in terms of what gets through the sifting filter of 'Oprah', it's Jesus and the message of the cross that gets cut. It shouldn't be at all surprising. Just last week, our Bible study group read 1 Corinthians 1:18, which reminded me once again that "the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God".

I think there is still something good and God-glorifying about saying the kind of things that make it through the 'Oprah filter' - inoffensive things like 'prayer' and 'faith' and 'God' and 'forgiveness' (provided of course we don't say them in ways that give people the false impression that we all believe in the same harmless, generic god). But no amount of this sort of talk is a substitute for somehow finding ways and opportunities to talk about the saving, offensive message of Jesus crucified. And only by the power of the Holy Spirit will that message ever get through the 'Oprah filter' of the human heart.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Poetry Monday

My choice of this month's poet was inspired by a comment by Janelle in this post at EQUIP book club (thanks Janelle for pointing me in its direction and doing all the typing for me). Of course, Roald Dahl is best known as a storyteller, but he writes a good poem as well! This is one from his well-loved book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

The Rule of TV

Roald Dahl

The most important thing we've learned,
So far as children are concerned,
Is never, NEVER, NEVER let
Them near your television set --
Or better still, just don't install
The idiotic thing at all.
In almost every house we've been,
We've watched them gaping at the screen.
They loll and slop and lounge about,
And stare until their eyes pop out.
(Last week in someone's place we saw
A dozen eyeballs on the floor.)
They sit and stare and stare and sit
Until they're hypnotised by it,
Until they're absolutely drunk
With all that shocking ghastly junk.
Oh yes, we know it keeps them still,
They don't climb out the window sill,
They never fight or kick or punch,
They leave you free to cook the lunch
And wash the dishes in the sink --
But did you ever stop to think,
To wonder just exactly what
This does to your beloved tot?
'All right!' you'll cry. 'All right!' you'll say,
'But if we take the set away,
What shall we do to entertain
Our darling children? Please explain!'
We'll answer this by asking you,
'What used the darling ones to do?
'How used they keep themselves contented
Before this monster was invented?'
Have you forgotten? Don't you know?
We'll say it very loud and slow:
THEY ... USED ... TO ... READ! They'd READ and READ,
AND READ and READ, and then proceed
To READ some more. Great Scott! Gadzooks!
One half their lives was reading books!
The nursery shelves held books galore!
Books cluttered up the nursery floor!
And in the bedroom, by the bed,
More books were waiting to be read!
Such wondrous, fine, fantastic tales
Of dragons, gypsies, queens, and whales
And treasure isles, and distant shores
Where smugglers rowed with muffled oars,
And pirates wearing purple pants,
And sailing ships and elephants,
And cannibals crouching 'round the pot,
Stirring away at something hot.
(It smells so good, what can it be?
Good gracious, it's Penelope.)
The younger ones had Beatrix Potter
With Mr. Tod, the dirty rotter,
And Squirrel Nutkin, Pigling Bland,
And Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and-
Just How The Camel Got His Hump,
And How the Monkey Lost His Rump,
And Mr. Toad, and bless my soul,
There's Mr. Rat and Mr. Mole-
Oh, books, what books they used to know,
Those children living long ago!
So please, oh please, we beg, we pray,
Go throw your TV set away,
And in its place you can install
A lovely bookshelf on the wall.
Then fill the shelves with lots of books,
Ignoring all the dirty looks,
The screams and yells, the bites and kicks,
And children hitting you with sticks-
Fear not, because we promise you
That, in about a week or two
Of having nothing else to do,
They'll now begin to feel the need
Of having something good to read.
And once they start -- oh boy, oh boy!
You watch the slowly growing joy
That fills their hearts. They'll grow so keen
They'll wonder what they'd ever seen
In that ridiculous machine,
That nauseating, foul, unclean,
Repulsive television screen!

And later, each and every kid
Will love you more for what you did.

Rebecca's braids

This morning I thought I'd give myself a challenge and try and braid Rebecca's hair. I wasn't sure if I would even remember how to do it (it's been 20 years!). This is how it turned out. Not great, but good enough to leave in.

Unfortunately, half way through there were a few tears (hers, not mine), but she cheered up once she had a look at herself in the mirror and decided she looked like Bindi Irwin (??). And I thought she looked really sweet, so I might try and do it again. I certainly need the practice. If anyone has got some good tips for how to it well... I'm listening!