Saturday, May 31, 2008

Who needs a dress?

I find people fascinating. As a result I can waste a lot of time cruising from blog to blog reading about people's lives & what they believe & one thing that fascinates me is the whole *dresses only* thing amongst conservative Christians. Now I know all about women not wearing men's clothing & vice versa, which is why the dress thing fascinates me so much because in a good part of the world it has always been men wearing the *dresses!*

I'm a history buff so that's where I immediately go. The Celts, the Scots, the Irish wore *skirts* ~ as an aside shirt & skirt come from the same root.The Romans wore them; the elite wore togas & the soldiers wore very short skirts & the male prostitutes could get up in some highly questionable shorter than short skirts. Moving right along, the Chinese wore them, the Greeks wore them, the Arabs wore them, hose & tunic were worn throughout a good part of Europe & priests still often wear them; think cassocks. So no, I don't get Christian women only wear dresses when it seems so many men of all shapes & sizes do too.

Having said that I do believe in *distinction of dress* between the genders, just as I believe in modesty of attire. I also really dislike yards of cloth flapping about my calves & ankles & likely as not sending me sprawling. I dislike skirts that ride up with the child climbing my lap & exposing me in a stiff breeze & the vulnerable feeling of nothing covering my legs. In short I like pants. So God brought into my life a charming compromise that meets His & my requirements to cover my legs in something that isn't going to send me crazy itching or balloon out like a parachute in a parody of modesty. It is called a *salwar kameeze*, the traditional Indian dress. It comes with a dupatta (lightweight stole) which is perfect as a prayer covering for those so inclined.

Thanks to my Sri Lankan friend I own a number of these pretty & feminine clothing items but wait, there is more. They are incredibly comfortable to wear & the cut of pants & top adjust month by month for a growing baby without the need to buy expensive maternity wear.

Even better, the style is simple & the sewing straightforward ~ perfect for inept little me who can't manage much beyond the sewing basics.

Thirdly the cut is often elegant & graceful. I own several that are quite tailored & they are a delight to wear. Durable & washable they are very economical in cotton or linen. Silk ones are simply gorgeous & flattering. I have a lovely cream one that I delight in wearing for special occasions. These are clothes that flatter most female figures. Actually, I haven't seen anyone look bad in one!

Bigger plus, it removes the whole fashion squeeze out of the picture. I don't have to worry about how high hemlines are going this year because my kameeze will come well down my thighs. I don't have to worry about how low cut jeans are getting; my kameeze hides that as well.

And I know, because I've done it, one can play soccer quite well in a salwar kameeze! So who needs a dress?

Counting my blessings.

I complain a lot about Ditz & it's true she can drive me crazier than a psychotic mouse on a treadmill but I should be grateful, or at least more grateful than I am. Why? For starters, I have a reader. No, that does not include all the lovely readers we get from Sonlight but she does read them & she reads fast. Apart from that, most weeks we go down to our local library & Ditz stocks up with the sort of things she actually likes to read...fantasy, fantasy & more fantasy.

Now I am well aware that this is not very acceptable in some Christian circles but in our house we do not have a problem with fantasy. We have problems with *realism* where children are rude & obnoxious & act as if they were the adults but everyone is very clear in this house that fantasy is just that ~ fantasy. As a fantasy reader myself I have read most of what passes through Ditz's hands anyway, enough to be able to chat sensibly about any touchy areas & it is far safer than much of the *gritty realism* that is passing for YA fiction these days. Liddy read that & I got to pick up the pieces halfway through one particulary ugly book.

Which brings me to an important point because while I monitor my children's reading fairly closely I very rarely forbid anything. I was a voracious reader as a child, much of it highly unsuitable, but I never persisted with anything that was too much for me & I give my children credit for having at least that amount of common sense. However, I realised I had actually done a much better job than my parents had of keeping unsavoury things out of the house as I flicked through the pile of things Liddy was reading at the time. I picked up this particular book & asked what it was doing in the house. Liddy was a bit surprised. As I said, I'm not in the habit of censoring my children's reading material, especially not a child who was 15 or 16 at the time.

Liddy told me it was really exciting but was starting to give her nightmares. Not surprising. It was *realism* but a Wiccan *thriller* & she had missed all the symbols & inner symbolism because she had just never run into it before & Liddy is not, never has been, a fantasy reader so did not realise how it was playing with her mind. I sat her down & we did Pagan symbolism 101 & I suggested returning the book to the library unread was the way to go.

Liddy was rather relieved, as much because she now understood why it was affecting her so badly as because she had an excuse to not finish it. Ditz benefited from this as she learnt early to avoid the subtle markers that are starting to appear more & more often in mainstream children's literature.

Then there is the nightmare of getting Ditz to write....only tucked into the bowels of my computer are over 20 000 words, Ditz's two novels in progress. I sneak in occasionally & have a read & if I thought I could get away with it I'd post some because her writting is very good but I know the kids read here & really it should be Ditz's choice. Plus there is over 50 000 words floating about my house that belong to Ditz. She is always begging me for new notebooks for her *works in progress*. Besides the novels in my computer she has two different fantasy ones under way. Using the computer she spells & punctuates & even ~ shock, horror, gasp! ~ edits!

Since NaNo my child has become super conscious of the language she uses. The thesaurus now lives in her bed & is referred to constantly as well as being used as a dictionary. She is starting to ask questions about more complicated punctuation, continuing sentences, for example, when a character is speaking. Now this is advanced writing & I know for a fact very few of the children round here are capable of that sort of writing. She has a burgeoning grasp of symbolism; the baby name book gets referred to for name meanings to reflect character attributes. This is something professional novelists do.

So I am counting my blessings because Ditz tests badly. Give her ten minutes & she's bored out of her brain. When Ditz is bored she does horrible things. She draws instead of writing. She understands phonics so plays phonic games with her spelling. We are working her math slowly & thoroughly so she is not at grade level. Her tests make her look illiterate, me a failure & homeschooling a disaster. I know this is not so. Her father knows this is not so. Her supervisor knows this is not so; she holds all Ditz's papers marked *very high achievement*. Tests are held in a regular classroom; disastrous for someone with Ditz's level of attention; there is far to much that is far more interesting to fascinate her than an extremely dull piece of paper asking stupid questions. (And yes, they are stupid; worse they're irrelevant & I can't really blame Ditz although I find the fallout hugely frustrating.) I hate the tests; they are no reflection of Ditz's capabilities at all. Ditz hates the tests. I resent the time lost for something so utterly pointless.

I do not mind being accountable ~ which is why we are under an umbrella school & have a supervisor instead of *flying under the radar* as so many Queensland homeschoolers do. We return work regularly. Our supervisor visits & looks at the amount of work covered as well as content & level. If I just looked at Ditz's school work it is nothing special. School is school. When I look at how she applies what she knows she amazes me. She will have a finished 50 000 word novel by November. (NaNo, here we come!) She has a huge vocabulary base & a broad historical foundation capable of making connections across historical periods. Her math is not shonky in the kitchen where she often adjusts recipes to suit herself & her ingredients or when she plays music. Education, in it's truest sense, is not about passing tests; it's about using knowledge to live better & Ditz is very good at that.

I have done the education thing over & over. First it was Jossie, who was incredibly stubborn & so afraid of failure he just refused to learn to read at school . When he decided he wanted to learn it took him less than a week to be reading above grade level. (Yes, he fell into the school's *gifted* category.) Dino & Theo, like Ditz, were quite simply bored by their whole educational experience. They were, & are, kinesthetic learners & school was sheer torture for both of them. In grade 11 Theo, who is hugely dyslexic, tested 0 in comprehension. Dino walked out about halfway through grade 9 & never walked back in. Liddy, a far more pliant child, practised passive aggression her whole school life. I don't do passive aggressive well & she didn't do it when she came home. I am so over the educational*experts* thinking they have all the answers. I just want to be left alone to get on with doing what I do best ~ educating my child for the glory of God.

Thursday, May 29, 2008


I have been thinking, in the quiet time between sleeping & waking before I get up in the morning, about what I have been asked to speak on by the Meeting: spirituality. What immediately came to mind was Philipians 2:12 Therefore my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear & trembling; for God is at work in you, both to will & to work for His good pleasure.
So this is what I am meditating on at present. I stand on the bedrock of mainstream Christain belief. For me there is no question about God the father, his son Jesus Christ, & the comforter he promised to send. Religion is about how one comes into a personal relationship with God. This is a pivotal thought for me. Christain parents hope & pray & work towards their children's salvation but the bottom line is that we can't save them. We can give them all the information, all the training. all the education & they may still choose to reject Christ because each of us stands alone, stands personally, before the creator of the universe & each of us must give account for their relationship (or lack thereof) before God himself. We do not get to hide behind our parents, or our denomination, or our upbringing, or our pastor so this verse seems to me to be just plain old common sense but it takes courage to strip away the trappings of religion & stand exposed before God; it is an aweful (full of awe) thing indeed to fall into the hands of the Living God! But there is no safer place to be either.
There aren't many things I like about getting older. The mind's going & the body's disintergrating but there are compensations. I can look back over my life & see so very clearly the path God ordained for me & the clear markings of His thumbprints painstakingly fashioning me into a tool for His glory. I love to gather with other believers & praise the Lord God. I love better to gather with other believers in the gathered silence & listen to what God would say to me. By this I know how very much I am loved by God himself, that he would deign to *walk in the cool of the evening* & converse with me. Adam & Eve must have been devasted when they realised what that fruit had cost them!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

To tootle or not to tootle, that is the question.

The sky is heavy with fat clouds & the rain is coming over the islands in low sweeping rushes that obliterate the shores & enclose us in a damp grey world that is cold enough to have the cat mooning round my feet begging to be picked up & snuggled into a warm lap. At this time of the morning he's got Buckley's. I have cancelled today's flute lesson.

Ditz, who finally decided to practise madly last night has been dragging her feet about practise because scales are sequencing & rote, two things that Ditz does not do well. *sigh* So I was rather surprized to hear her dutifully running through her arpeggios because...well, it turns out Ditz likes arpeggios! Huh? I think Ditz just likes odd.

So we are having another quiet week where we are doing more school than usual, which is how I always manage to keep Ditz's head above water & us more or less on track but it does not make for a happy Ditzy. Just the same I do not think Ditz wants to battle the boats & the long walk in these conditions just so she can tootle her flute for 1/2 an hour & while I don't mind the hour wait on the jetty to come home again when the weather is pleasant I definitely object when it is wet & freezing cold. Home definitely looks good today.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Running screaming through the streets...Again.

Argh! We've reached that horrible milestone again where Ditz is running out of curriculum & I have to decide what I'm ordering next. Because she works so unevenly at least we only run out of one subject at a time & at the moment we are down to just 2 readers left out of the 50 or so we actually ordered. Wow!

Now school in any shape or form is definitely not Ditz's favourite activity. Every day she asks if today can be a holiday, does she have to do this, does she have to do that, until I could run screaming through the streets, you know! So....I decided including her in the decision making process would be beneficial. I really am mad. She dutifully followed me to the computer & looked at all the pretty covers on all the lovely books for the next 2 Sonlight cores & declared all the books *boring*. Terrific! Nothing wrong with the idea, wrong outcome.

I asked if she'd prefer to move to a more textbook formula? Oops! That's writing & she wriggled out of that one really fast! Would she prefer level 6 or level 7, because I think all the books look pretty great though I know we won't enjoy all of them. Ditz decided she didn't care so I get to choose. Great! What is wrong with this picture?
And this is the child that thinks she would like regular school, says she hates home schooling. Yep, can really see her engaging well with a regular teacher. I'd be getting those lovely little notes home all the time about my child's *passive resistance* (Liddy excelled in these ~ only Ditz isn't the passive sort. Doesn't bear thinking about.) Hello? You have the child for 8 hours a day; you do something about it! Or how about report cards like these..Could do better if he tried; Joss' speciality. Or this: Dino needs to learn to exercise his mind as well as his body. I swear it's true. Or better yet, Theo is progressing well. The child was so dyslexic he still couldn't read at the end of grade 2, having begun a year late as it was ~ but hey, he didn't have a reading problem & was *progressing well*! Sheesh! Am I sounding a little wild?
Now I am the first to admit I'm not the world's most exciting teacher & sad to say I am prone to being rather academic. Worse I actually like history & literature. We will skim rather quickly over math but even science, from the purely theoretical & *big picture* format, is not beyond my interests. In fact I'm interested in most things; which is why I can become equally fascinated by Ditz's music program & Liddy's soccer....& why I just do not understand my child. How can anyone find learning everything so extremely dull? I suspect (hope!) the child is having me on.
Her father jokes if we sold Ditz on E~Bay they'd pay us double to take her back again! Sad to say I think he's right. To Drama Queen Extraordinaire add World's Biggest Contrary Mary. She's so much fun to play with!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Story Time.

I love to read aloud. I love having little kids about to read to but there's no getting away from it; to read aloud well one has to be something of a dork. One's audience is lost if one is too prim & proper. OK, being a dork comes easy for me. I am way past caring what anyone thinks of me at this level because generating a love of language & good books is far too important to worry about one's dignity. Self conscious one can not be.

There are no hard & fast rules when it comes to reading aloud but there are some good general guidlines it is generally wise to follow.

Choose something you like ~ chances are you will be reading it over & over till the book falls to bits.

Read with plenty of expression but don't make it too fancy; chances are ~ yep, you'll have to do it over & over the same way!

Engage your audience. This is why you need to choose books carefully. I look for simple things like repitition or sound effects. This makes it easy to get kiddies to join in & they love it. Books like Where the Wild Things Are are easy to elaborate on. "Show me your claws, give me a terrible roar ~ go on! Is that the best you can do? Gnash your teeth" & if you are very brave let them do their wild dance. Um, yeah, story time can get a bit wild at times.

Lastly, ditch the book. Some stories are great for just telling. My favourite is Greedy Guzzler. I have no idea where the origonal came from but kids love this & it is sooo simple. You need a balloon with a cat's face drawn on it & you begin like this: " Once upon a time there was a very fat cat called Greedy Guzzler who ate fish in a dish, milk in a mug & porridge in a pot but he was still hungry." For each thing you mention you blow up your ballon just a little bit more or get one of the kiddies to do it. I can no longer remember the order of what greedy guzzler ate but it does not matter as you can make up whatever you like & each time you add something the children have to recite the list in order & the balloon gets a little bigger. Finally Greedy Guzzler gobbles up the sun the moon & the stars. (If you have a child who won't scare you can let a child blow away until the balloon bursts or keep a pin in reserve.) Greedy Guzzler bursts & everything falls back into place in reverse order. This is so much fun but like I said, you've got to be something of a dork.


''...Vetrans from Vietnam seem to exhibit these trauma reactions more than vetrans from previous wars.....
In WWII only 15~20% of combat infantry were willing to aim their rifles to kill. In Korea the proportion was about 50%, while the operant conditioning of Vietnam soldiers aimed to ensure they fired to kill in more than 90% of cases...." Peace is a Struggle ~ David Johnson

Homeschool Highlights.

If you would like to join in Homeschool highlights click on the pic which will link you to Ellen's fun learning site. Have fun!
No, that's not our cat...but it may as well have been. While those of you in the northern hemisphere are enjoying warm balmy days we Down Under are slowly getting colder & colder; cold enough in fact that Ditz has barely moved from her bed all week but has huddled under her bedclothes with book & cat requesting hot toast & warm milo at appropriate intervals.

Piled into the bed with her was her history reading, her English reading, her science book, her history scrapbooking, the new novel she is writing, & a crumby plate. Her mug was perched precariously on her secretariat within easy reach. (We seem to have misplaced her math ~ Again! How those books do walk!) The coldest, wettest night we were at band on the mainland & were just pleased to get home. There are lots of things I like about homeschooling but seeing my child warmly snuggled on a cold winter's morning with her work about her is a definite highlight.

Going to Meeting.

Things never run smoothly in this house. I think it is the sheer numbers ~ all of whom are madly disorganized.

So Liddy tells me she would like to come to Meeting with me this week. Being me I don't check any of my details until Sunday morning & forgot the local meeting only meets once a month, which did actually happen to be today. However Liddy went out to check the crab pots with Dino thinking 2 hours would give her ample time to get home & changed & on a boat with me. Ditz, point blank, refused to come anywhere where people sat in silence for a whole hour! After an hour I thought Liddy was cutting it fine so organized me. No Liddy. I went to the shop & organized money. No Liddy. The hands of the clock crept inexorably closer to 9 o'clock. No Liddy. At ten to I bolted for the boat on my own. No Liddy.

Now it's not that I minded going on my own...well I did; I hate meeting new people without a child to use as a shield between me & them, but I'm not that big a woos. Really I'm not. However Dearest does like us to go as a tag team. He says there's safety in numbers & we use each other for discernment, which we do. I was supposed to have at least one child with me. I might have stayed home but having got ready & psyched I could feel the Spirit giving me the sort of nudge it's rather hard to ignore & we haven't been in church in over a month so I was feeling pretty desperate.

The local meeting is only a suburb or so away. Easy~peasy unless you are the sort of directionless wonder I am. I kept pulling over to check my map & still managed to take a turn too early before turning left when I should have gone right, all of which meant I didn't arrive on time & slid into a seat just as everyone was settling into their meditation. This works for me. I didn't have to run the gauntlet before worship & could face strangers under girded by communion with the Lord. Better yet, it was such a lovely day the seats had been set up outside & the silence was full of sunlight breezes & twittering birds.

It has been so long since I've been in meeting I thought I might be uncomfortable, have trouble stilling & settling into the silence but it was like coming home. My thoughts rattled round for a bit but honestly, for me, it is such a relief to not be bouncing up & down like a yo~yo, singing worship songs before I've gathered my thoughts, having prayers while my mind's still on singing, & finding communion with the Lord just as the offering is being gathered up. My wits get so scattered ~ & as another Quaker once commented, 'There's nothing wrong with the music; it's just it's not what I want to sing.'

And what I like about this form of worship & why I struggle so much in a regular sort of service is that I always feel so damnably rude, shouting at the Lord, telling Him this, begging Him for that, & never once stopping to ask if there's anything He'd like to say to us. In the silence God's still small voice can be heard. No, it wasn't earth shattering but I still needed to hear that He is Jehovah Jireh, my provider & his grace is sufficient for me. At least it was the song God wanted me singing in my heart.

The local meeting consisted of just 6 people, all older, but the main meeting has at least 30 members & 20 children on its books; big enough for a children's meeting, which will please Ditz. For Oz that's a decent sized church. The island churches get between 6 & 10 regulars at present; numbers always drop in winter. The Meeting House is set in an acre & a half of rainforest ~ rejuvenated by Quakers. Liddy is now very keen, especially as I said she can drive in! No one will be put out if she wanders out of meeting & paddles through the bush communing with God in her own way as she so often does at home. Now, don't freak mamaO, I have already been asked to speak & no, I did not put myself forward. Do I look insane? I was quietly minding my own business which was drinking coffee & nibbling bickies. As a newbie what did I know about anything?

Before heading home I went & found my singing cousin as I discovered she was just a few streets away. She is another Ditz so we were noisy & theatrical & happily caught up on all the family goss.

This is not a solution. Once a month & nothing for the children is more a band aid but it is better than nothing, which is what's been happening. I don't think any of us want to trot into town every week & it starts getting expensive so we will keep looking for something else as well. We don't have to stay with just one church & can alternate to give everyone a little of what they need for the time being. I hate having to do it & I loathe even more travelling; I do so much as it is, but I was blessed & for once I got to just sit quietly with my Lord, more Mary than Martha, which, we are told, is the better part. ~:}

Saturday, May 24, 2008


I have been so busy with the girls that I rarely have *me time*. Mummies don't, do they? I'm the one who holds it all together ~ rings warehouses about washing machines, keeps food on the table, multiplies non existant funds, sticks bandaids on sore knees & sore hearts & all the thousand & one other things that mothers do in the course of a day.
Which is why I appreciate my friends. They know the other me ~ the younger, quirker me who didn't suffer from *alzheimer moments* & isn't just somebody's mother, who will talk to me about ME! Nothing fascinates so much as ourselves ~ unless you are one of those very wonderful people I can only wonder at & fail to emulate.
So here's to you, Siano, for the laughter & the memories & for trusting me with those painful things friends only share with other friends & remembering that under all the day to day sludge the old brain is still ticking away.
Old friends can't be replaced ~ so why do you live so far away? I'm sure you've explained this to me before but the brain's degenerating along with the body & turning into some strange version of Swiss cheese where the holes are deeper & blacker than those in outer space & suck more into them as well. My life is disappearing at a rapid rate.
Thankyou for sharing our life, brief as it was. Come again soon. The door's open & the kettle's on.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Homeschooler's Rant.

I homeschool. I haven't always homeschooled; always wanted to but it took a while & some heartache to get Dearest on side. I've done the Public School thing. I've worked there & seen it from the inside out. Just so you know because I'm getting incredibly miffed. I am miffed all the way down to my toe socks.
I should really like to know where some people's head space goes. I would never, either on line or in real life, attack someone for their choice to send their littlest & dearest off each day into the jaws on their local Public School. Their family, their choice & I have enough to do with juggling my own life to worry about anyone else's choices. So why do people feel they have the right to wade into spaces clearly labeled *Homeschooling* & deride, ridicule, slander people who have made a different choice? I do not get it. Heavens above, there is plenty of variety to choose from amongst public schools: good schools, bad schools, mediocre schools, good teachers, bad, teachers, mediocre teachers, good kids, bad kids...& on it goes. I've attended enough P&C meetings, stood waiting enough times for classrooms to empty out their regulation quota of children to know there are lots of unhappy parents around but suggest that they don't have to put up with this & they are horrified.
I don't get this attack on the island where we are well known for being a little different & having great kids. I rarely get it at the supermarket or on the bus or while waiting at the cinemas on a Tuesday morning but any time I wander into a Homeschool forum (clearly marked as for homeschoolers!) some public menace arrives to tell all the homeschoolers just how wrong their choice is, no matter what reasons they have or how awful their local school was.
I sort of expect it from the secular left who would like everybody to be the same despite all evidence that God particularly likes variety & no two snowflakes are the same let alone two people, even twins, even identical twins! I know there are people who are great advocates of the great smelting pot called public schooling & they are entitled to their opinion; I just happen to disagree with them, as is my right. What stuns me is the number of Christians who wade into this debacle declaring that public schooling is going to pot because all the Christians are pulling their kids out to homeschool. Say what??? When did this get to be our fault. When did it get to be the wrong thing to nurture & disciple our own children before worrying about the *Great Commision*? When did it become the right thing to send immature, inadequately trained children to fight the sort of battles most Christian adults successfully manage to disengage from? Who decided they got to interpret God's revealing of His will to our family? And while we're at it when did people decide they had the right to be so jolly rude?!
Not impressed. Not by a long shot.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Footy faldelals.

If it's round & it rolls my house will watch it ~ golf, tennis, ping~pong, Gaelic football, cricket & most especially soccer . They will watch an oval ball too ~ not gridiron, but Aussie Rules (otherwise referred to as aerial ping~pong; if you've ever watched a game you know why), Ruby (Union) & League. With plenty of the right incentive ( like dark chocolate full of nuts) I can be induced to watch too, but not league, which is nearly as dull as gridiron. So I passed on last night's State of Thuggery ~ oops, State of Origin. I was not so wise at 4.30 this morning when Liddy tapped me on the shoulder for the UEFA cup final. (Soccer, ladies.)
I reluctantly crawled out of bed & dragged my doona downstairs with me to watch grown men put my youngest daughter to shame in the dramatics department. By the end of the game I was clutching my sides in laughter as the pitch was scattered with bodies like a battle zone, grown men clutching at their calves in agony or simulating dives in true Italian style. Medics scampered between players with their little black bags of magic fix~its & the blood flowed freely. It's a non~contact sport. Yeah, right it is!
I watched Manchester score first & Chelsea equalise before half time. I watched Paul Scholes get himself a bloody nose & carded in one stupid play. I watched into extra time when the whole thing threatened to degenerate into an on~pitch brawl & the ref handed out yellows & a red & if Liddy had come & got me to watch a replay I would have got up at 4.30 on some other freezing morning & done just that. What I will not do is watch penalty shootouts. I think it is an appalling way to settle on a winner & much more about luck than skill. I bailed without finding out who won. Liddy watched to the bitter end. Only a true fanatic can do that.
No, this is not about the things I do for my children, or not directly anyway. I have had Liddy in my ear like a flea all season. She lacks in the confidence department & having received knockback after knockback all season is starting to really doubt her ability. Dearest & I (who are not by any means biased) have been telling her three things. One, sport is as much about politics as it is about ability. Two, with that in mind players are chosen as much for their willingness to socialise down the pub as their on~pitch attributes. Thirdly, when you won't play the politics & won't abandon your morality & play as well as Liddy does you become a huge threat. It is not reasonable. It is not fair. It is not kind or just but that's the fact's of life & the sooner you accept that the better you are able to cope. Nope, Liddy's not been coping. Dearest & I have talked ourselves black & blue & got nowhere.
Last night God got her a beauty. (Thanks Alison! ) See, Liddy drove Ditz & I into choir & joined me up the back so she got to hear Alison's little pep talk because lots of the girls have been in competitions recently & almost none of them have gone through to the second round. Singing in public is all about huge amounts of self confidence. Without that self belief you just don't survive. How do you retain that in the face of knockbacks? Don't take it personally. Accept that some adjudicators will like you & some won't. That it's not about winning or losing but about how much you want something, how hard you are prepared to work for it, about fighting for what you want with character & determination. Liddy heard Alison all right. She turn a deep, deep red. I couldn't have orchestrated it more perfectly if I'd tried.
It's not easy growing up. It's never been easy. It's not easy to stay moral & virtuous in a world determined to go to hell just as fast as it can get there. It becomes even harder when you choose professions as worldly as soccer or singing. yet God's grace is merciful. Liddy soo needed to hear that message from someone other than mummy & daddy. And it's registered. Ditz on the other hand has the other problem completely. I'm sure there's a reason I got children so diametrically opposed but there are days I just feel overworked & under appreciated...oh, yeah, that's right. That's so I rely on His strength rather than my own!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Nothing much.

Dino, bless his practical little heart, has been busy putting in the second garden planting. I am just starting to pick the first of the beans & spinach & am racing the slugs & snails to get the Chinese cabbage. Ditz hovers like a gadfly ~ annoying & of no practical use!

H0wever I have been busily pouring cement, water & gravel down the post holes of the verandah, one post at a time. I have 2 to go & hope to get them done today before I have to go out. This verandah has taken forever to build but there is so little Dearest can actually do & the girls & I can only pick at it slowly, none of us being built like Mack trucks. I would love to have it in time for this Christmas & we are getting close to being able to screw the boards down; a job for Dino.

I have a full house today. Dino's boss has food poisoning so Dino's not working. Liddy has nothing on. Dearest has broken a rib (no idea how) & has gone back to bed. I had a shocking night thanks to his pain & have to take Ditz to choir again this week. The week off was sensible but she is straining at the leash again & I think we are back to the Benjamin Britten, & that at least is music I like very much indeed.

The icing on the cake: In one day (besides the broken rib) both the washing machine & the oven died. The washing machine has been shonky for some time & I have been nursing it along & coddling it dreadfully to get it to last just that little bit longer. No more. It is as dead as the proverbial Dodo. I suspect the blitz of power failures administered the coup de grace to the oven. Some maniac on the mainland decided shooting up all the power transformers was a profitable way to spend his time & right on tea time the lights went out suddenly. We eat early so I just popped lids on everything & let it finish cooking but I bet there were some wild & disgruntled island residents about. Meanwhile I sit here typing away trying to psyche myself up to deal with whatever this day brings. A little more sleep would have helped...or just uninterrupted sleep. At least Ditz will be happy. It will have to be an easy day for her as I am far to tired & ratty to take on anything too strenuous.

Monday, May 19, 2008

May 20th
Outside My Window everything is blue & sunshiney. Blue water, blue sky & so much of light glinting of the dew wet leaves as sharply as knives.

I am thinking... I'm not so sure about this Daybook thing. I might be busy but honestly I suspect my life is only really interesting to me...& then not always.

I am thankful for...Ah, now this is always a goody. Shelter over my head on these cold winter night especially when the wind blows & the rain buckets down; warm blankets to snuggle under & a cat to be my hot water bottle; family to love on & to love on me; my garden growing food for us to eat & hot rich coffee laced with cream.

From the kitchen... all's quiet down below & the kitchen I avoid unless it's absolutely unavoidable. There's food in there & everyone knows where to find it.

I am trackies, black zip up jacket, green head covering, heavy blue jacket, red fingerless gloves; a fashion guru I am not.

I am creating...bog posts galore & arrows for the Lord.

I am going...nowhere today! Tomorrow is another story but today I am home. I love being home.

I am reading...a biography on Nureyev & another on gardening both interesting & funny & the stories aren't repeatable in polite company. And this is the crazy artsy world Ditz wants to belong to. Ah well, it takes all sorts.

I am hoping...we have a better day today. Ditz is unwell & that always makes working with her extra hard. Liddy is unhappy not to be working & that makes her difficult. I am unhappy that everone else is unhappy & that makes me difficult....Catch 22.

I am hearing...Birdsong. It is a solid wall of sound round here this early in the morning. Birds always sound so happy. I wish I was always that joyful.

Around the house...this early it is sooo quiet. Dino has been up & gone to work already. The girls are still sleeping & Issi has headed outside to enjoy the morning. In a moment I am going outside to water the garden & sniff the clean, crisp morning air. Then I will turn the washing machine on & fill the kitchen sink to start washing up all the plates that somehow accumulated after I'd gone to bed last night.

One of my favorite things...Is being alone in a sleeping house like this. I know where everone is. I know everyone's safe & no~one is upset or bugging me & I can pray that when they get up we will be off to a good start to our day.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week: No. This one I'm not doing. Thinking about everything I have to do each week just makes me tired. I want to curl up in a ball & sleep away the days. Each day has troubles enough of it's own but if I can keep Ditz on track I may get round to finishing the cementing of the verandah posts. Maybe...

Here is picture thought I am sharing...

And here is where you go if you too would like to participate:

Homeschool Highlights.

Want to join in Monday's homeschool highlights? Click on the picci.
No matter how big a star you are eventually you have to come back down to earth. After weeks of build up & the excitement of a big concert & even bigger audience this was crunch time with a vengeance. Everything we've had on hold for weeks had to be dealt with. Ditz has not been a happy bunny. If she had her drathers she would do music, music & more music with the occasional break for extended art. She would read only that that she wanted to read & blow things up in science. Math would happily disappear into the nearest black hole (I'm with her on that one but, shhh! I'm not allowed to say so.) Yes, I own a Drama Queen Extraordinaire so it has been on, helped, no doubt, by the cold she picked up along the way.

Despite the storm clouds & flurry of drama driven theatrics we have managed to get some school work done. Officially our History is Around the World in 80 Days. I don't particularly like it & have been supplementing heavily from Sonlight readers & basically writing my own program. However I have been bugged that while Ditz sort of has the big picture in history she has absolutely no sense of its flow. I tossed around between SOTW & MOH as one way to correct this even if all she did was read the book. Unfortunately in our state we have to show what Ditz has learnt each term so I had to come up with some way to do that that both Ditz & I could live with because Ditz is not, has never been, a writer. Too much school writing falls into the *busy work* category for kids like Ditz. It's not that they can't, they just have no reason they can understand to do & I have learnt to choose my battles wisely.

After some thought & consultation with Ditz we agreed that we could do a scrapbooking timeline. No major writing required. She has been able to draw, paint, cut & past to her little heart's content & while it has been time consuming it has been worth it to have Ditz working happily enough. OK, we only have the first page done but it looks pretty good & now I have Ditz under way the next one will be easier & the one after that easier again. Now I just have to get a grip on the fractions that neither of us understand & aren't the least bit interested in. What I need is a magic wand. Anyone got one spare?

Sunday, May 18, 2008


This week it's some quotes about poetry by the people who should know best ~ poets. Enjoy.
A poet is, before anything else, a person who is passionately in love with language. W. H. Auden

Science is for those who learn; poetry, for those who know. Joseph Roux

Poetry is language at its most distilled and most powerful. Rita Dove

Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood. T. S. Eliot

It is the job of poetry to clean up our word-clogged reality by creating silences around things. ~Stephen Mallarme

And my personal favourite....
Perhaps no person can be a poet, or can even enjoy poetry, without a certain unsoundness of mind. ~Thomas Babington Macaulay

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Where are the Poetry readers?

I think I am living in the wrong Age ~ or perhaps I just don't know the right people ~ but where are all the poetry readers? In a century where there seems to be a dearth of readers of any sort poetry has become the first casualty.

corbis ~ T.S.Eliot

Generating a love of reading & good books is not necessarily easy. I should know. I have 3 dyslexics & 5 ADD kids. One of my dyslexics is so bad I thought I was going to have at least one illiterate child. I worked very hard to ensure that didn't happen but a child doing grade 11 who scores a zero in comprehension has big problems. If you understand how some forms of dyslexia work you will understand how that is possible even if the child can read, even read well, but that is a topic for another post.

I think I am the only household I know where children who came for a sleepover looked forward to bedtime. I had 4 children & our ritual went like this: Each child was allowed to choose one story book then I would choose a bible story & a poem ~ for each child. Start counting. That's quite right; that's eight storybooks, a chapter of Narnia & 4 poems heard by every child every single night. If we had extras they too got to choose something from the book shelf & yes story time in this house could literally go for hours. It helps that I did drama at Uni & worked in the Children's Library for a brief period. I am also the only parent I know who could attract children from the more amusing pursuits of face paint & water play at the Under Eights Day for the duller joys of Story Time. I do not mind making a fool of myself if it means a child's face lights up with pleasure at the telling of a good story.

At this period Jossie was working his way through the Narnia books, the twins were still in picture books & Liddy was a baby. Ditz, who is such a big personality, was not even dreamed of yet. Story books & bible stories I know lots of parents do but poetry? Who, besides that insane woman Down Under, reads poetry to their children? And what did I read? I read the sort of poetry I myself like. I read Australian balladeers like Banjo Patterson & Henry Lawson. I read things kids also rather like like Young Lochinvar & The Highwayman. I also read Marvell & Donne & Shakespeare, T.S Eliot, Judith Wright & Sylvia Plath & I read things like The Lyke Wake Dirge & The Green Knight. Did the kids understand much of it? Nope! Does it matter? I don't think so. Poetry works so strongly in images it evokes an emotional response. Understanding is a developed skill but one can still take pleasure from what one doesn't understand & to this day I prefer my instinctive response to The Hollow Men over an more educated analysis.

There is an added benefit, one I certainly did not anticipate. Jossie was certainly seen as gifted & one of the ways his giftedness showed up was in the way he used language. Even in primary school his story writing was littered with simile & metaphor, symbolism & symbols ~ caught, not taught, from years of hearing English used in beautiful & clever ways.

Do I have readers? Yes. Even my dyslexics read. My biggest dyslexic is also my biggest reader. He has found a genre that works extensively in strong images. Do I have poetry readers? No. I have poetry writers (if one uses a rather broad definition of the term poetry). One day that may change & when it does they will come to poetry as one meets up with a long lost & neglected friend, familiar & not too intimidating.

If we don't introduce our children early to the best our language has to offer then we can hardly be surprised if they find it too difficult & intimidating later on & dispense with books for the T.V, the computer or the wii (is that what one calls it?) And we lose a great deal when we lose our ability to deal with poets & their poetry for it is they who see *the whole world in a grain of sand* & that

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the act
And the motion
Falls the shadow.

I do like Eliot! I find him enormously satisfying.

There is another unseen benefit, one I am presently using to tease Ditz who likes to put her nose in the air & pretend her mother knows very little about the arts because she is the arty one in this family. Ditz is doing a term of Shakespearean drama, Macbeth to be precise. She was very snooty when I started quoting from the three witches opening speech & mortified to find I did actually know the play. A smattering of poetry can make even mother seem very well educated :D & that is a very necessary thing when one owns a Ditz!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

What Issi Saw.

I love my cat but there are moments Issi sorely tries my patience. I have to remind myself he is a cat; cats hunt. They hunt things I don't mind about ~ rats, mice, cockroaches, the odd snake ~ ok, I mind about the snakes. They hunt things you would prefer they didn't hunt ~ like native birds.

Twice in the last week there has been a mad scuffle & lots of shouting to effect the rescue of some of the dumbest of God's creatures. As my brother always says, 'There is a reason for the term *bird brain*.' None of the birds that live round here are what I would term overly bright... the Butcher birds maybe, but everything else wins awards for being bird brained.

Now Issi knows he's not allowed to hunt birds. The only time he gets in trouble with absolutely everyone in the house is if he catches a bird & I must say he's never actually killed one ~ or not that I'm aware of. I can hear the environmentalists clamouring already that he must have; he's a cat & as such should be killed without a 2nd thought. Perhaps... but Issi thinks he's people. We've found him sitting patiently waiting for us to get home, one large paw gently pinning a honeyeater down, to show us what a clever puss he is.
Glen Thelfo
Today Dearest found Issi circling round a Pitta. These bright little jewels are ground dwellers & Ditz was beside herself at the sheer loveliness of this tiny bird as I scooped him up from under Issi's very nose. Talk about one confused cat. The wings were a brilliant turquoise, the back & tail bright green with a gold flamed chest & russet crown. He was absolutely gorgeous & I was beside myself with delight to have found him in our garden. He was surprisingly tame though he'd hit a window & was more than a little stunned. I cupped him gently in my hands knowing that if he was ok he would soon make a bid for freedom & Ditz shoved Issi inside the house, mainly because he was owl~eyed with sheer jealousy that I was cuddling this unknown, uninteresting stranger rather than paying attention to him. Unfortunately Ditz didn't deal with Iss well enough I'm afraid. When the Pitta hit the ground Issi came running & had the bird pinned before it could gather its startled wits. I said they weren't too bright, didn't I? I grabbed Iss, wacked him one & shoved him back in the house, rounded up the bird & let him go somewhere safe.

I went inside, groveled to my cat, gave him tit~bits & told him what a good puss he was. Cat~like he fawned all over me, escaped back outside & sat on the verandah pretending butter wouldn't melt in his mouth. Ten minutes later he was missing. Yep, flushing the Pitta out of cover! He's slept the rest of the day All that exertion!
K Vang & W Dabrowka
Earlier in the week Iss found a Rail scrabbling around under the verandah. Again Issi hadn't touched it, just circling it with great interest. Liddy found the pair of them playing this dangerous little game & grabbed the Rail. Not being stunned by glass windows it was a far feistier proposition & the long sharp beak was used to make his point about Liddy's manhandling of his person!
This is another ground dweller & also very pretty though in a much more sedate way. I have only ever seen a rail round here once before, many years ago. I don't know if it's the building going on or just we've been luckier than usual in seeing some of the hidden visitors to our garden but it tells me that the garden is environmentally healthy, though a health hazzard if you're a particularly dumb bird & the cat spots you.
The kids, used to our more regular visitors & raised not knowing the word *bird* (there were kookaburras & culews, osprey & honeyeaters but they were in school before they heard the word *bird* used!) have been nearly as delighted as I have been to find newcomers in the garden. The Pitta flummoxed me. Ditz dancing round me in an agony of curiosity begging to know what sort of bird it was had to be sent to find the bird book because I didn't know. She didn't know such a thing was possible. lol. Now we are both wiser.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A change of pace.

I swear this is the worlds yummiest Ginger Cake, dense & moist & completely yummy.


2 eggs....................................6oz butter

1 cup white sugar................4 teaspoons ground ginger

1 small teaspoon bi~carb soda

2 cups plain flour (think you guys call it all purpose flour)

1 tablespoon hot water........1 cup treacle


Cream butter & sugar

Add eggs

Add treacle

Add ginger to flour & fold into wet ingredients.

Add soda & milk.

Add hot water last.

Mix well. The mix will be sloppy. Pour into a greased & papered 8'' tin.

Bake in a moderate oven 3/4 hour.

Ice with lemon butter icing. (we elimate this step prefering plain butter spread on hot slabs.)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Other Things...

While Ditz has been hogging the limelight Liddy's done her own crash & burn job. She finally had enough of the political wrangling & cat fighting & quit her job. The only one worried about her sudden lack of income seems to be me. Still, quite by accident, she worked the clutch out. Duh! Now she gets it! Her driving automatically improved out of sight & I let her loose in her own car on the mainland on Saturday. Interesting is the word one uses at moments like this. She took at least one corner on 2 wheels because she will put the clutch in & forget about it! We won't go into what I did round a round~about that wasn't there! Watching Liddy deal with so much traffic was also...interesting. No wonder I'm going grey.

Still, Liddy might be job hunting but Dino is working as well as studying ....on land!!! Yes, I am thrilled. I hate him being at sea & I know there are moments when he's not too thrilled about it either... like last Friday, when he spent & hour & a half in the freezing water doing his survival test for his Masters course. As she who learnt to negotiate a capsized boat without getting more than her feet wet I simply smirked. The whole idea is to stay warm & that is very hard once you are wet & there is a winter wind blowing. Another of my kinesthetic learners.

As for Ditz, no, she hasn't touched earth yet. I have had to peel her orange VM shirt off her forcibly as she was wearing it absolutely everywhere & so proud. OK, deprived child; she's never even had a school uniform before so the bright orange VM shirt is not only a real novelty, it's really bright & kid attractive. I've had to insist school work is now back to normal, with only nominal luck. She is playing on her sore throat for all it's worth & she is such an actor I don't know whether she's truly sick or not. I suspect not, or not as sick as she would like me to think. After all, if she is sick she can't be expected to do school can she? I expect a marked improvement Friday. I have sent Ditz off to do an introductory Shakespeare thing at the community centre. They are going to look at Macbeth from the 3 witch's point of view & I may be helping do some of the rewrite ~ in Shakespearean Rhyme!!! Yeah, yeah, I know where Ditz gets it from. Should be a hoot but it might make doing Shakespeare later just that little bit easier if she sees it as a fun thing now & Mia is good with the kids. This is for the older kids & the younger ones, like Ditz, have been hand picked for their ability to behave & follow directives. It's nice to know Ditz can do it when properly motivated.

Last shop I bought a cheap scrapbook so Ditz can start scrapbooking STOW. She thinks she should just have to read the book. Why does anyone need to know if she knows anything? I suggested since she likes arguing so much she might prefer a career in law to one in music...Ditz not impressed. Given her drathers she would do music, more music & nothing but music day in & day out. I couldn't stand it so thankfully some of the time she just has to do other things.

Monday, May 12, 2008


God could not be everywhere, so he created mothers. ~Jewish Proverb

Sunday, May 11, 2008

I have survived!

It is important to say that at the beginning because Saturday I didn't think I was going to. Ditz, for all her faults, is normally one of my sunny, easy going ones, & was in an absolutely filthy mood. Who knows why. By the time Liddy & I rocked up to rehearsals Ditz had lost it & was simply walking off the stage with a face blacker than thunder & for dress rehearsal completely missed her cue. So not like Ditz. She said she wasn't well ~ & maybe she wasn't ~ but she was so vague it may all have been the nerves she swore black & blue she didn't have. I wasn't the only one worried.

Alison explained how the chappie who now owns the Ten Tenors was one of her very first pupils when she was just starting out & had been asking her to give him a warm up act for 2 years ! She had never felt her ensemble was up to the challenge until this year. Bottom line: Alison's reputation & credibility were going on the line with this performance! By Sunday's sound check some of the girls were in tears ~ according to Ditz & already made up that was a mascara nightmare! ~ & apparently Alison came close to reducing Ditz to like form threatening to throw anyone who blew their stuff out of the ensemble all together. Ditz was firmly in her firing line after Saturday. She's lucky it was Alison. After 5 kids I can give lessons in how to dismember a child 101!
Liddy & I had done a dry run Saturday (which still didn't stop me getting lost coming home, but hey, it was only getting there I was worried about). Sirromet, like most wineries I've ever been to, sits amongst undulating hills. The stage was huge, perched at the start of one hill, the audience arranged up the facing one. Liddy & I goggled at each other, each of us thinking of Ditz who is a small community island girl dealing with this. When I saw the crowd Sunday (after it was all thankfully over) it was even worse. Think rock concert size. It was a huge, huge crowd Sunday & there were paddocks & paddocks devoted just to parking. We were early ~ but thankfully so was everyone else & Ditz was happy enough to be abandoned.
While Ditz did her thing I took myself to the Mt Cotton Rainforest Gardens.

I managed to find a quiet secluded spot with a glorious view out over Moreton Bay & read happily for a couple of hours before hiking up to the top of the hill for the view & strolling around the gardens. About 1ish as I knew the ensemble was getting warmed up, ready to go, I threw up a quick prayer for Ditz.

I know the Disney Dazzle nearly as well as the kids & could time Ditz's cue to the minute. As soon as I knew she was all done I finally relaxed & prayer works wonders. I knew as soon as I saw Ditz that it had gone well. She was her usual bubbly self & Alison was thrilled with her. Apparrently she had the audience laughing & as every performer knows there's nothing that will lift you like knowing an audience likes you! She did really, really well but is now completely voiceless. There are compensations! If you know Ditz you understand completely!

The down side (if you can call it that); VM is likely to get more engagements at this level & each one will be an exercise in nerves & drama. Ditz is usually a perfect angel for Alison...but I get to take her other persona home! Edited to add we are getting huge amounts of positive feedback & how *professional* the kids were. Being professional is something they've had drilled into them so that's great too. Question: How do I get my whirly~girdy to stop spinning so I can survive her?

Friday, May 9, 2008

On being red.

''Why aren't there more redhead jokes?– Someone told them to a redhead.''

''She was huge of frame, terrifying of aspect, and with a harsh voice. A great mass of bright red hair fell to her knees: she wore a twisted torc, and a tunic of many colours, over which was a thick mantle, fastened by a brooch. Now she grasped a spear, to strike fear into all who watched her." Dio Cassius about Boudicca.

I tell my children I married their father for his hair. When I met him he had long, luxuriant red~gold waves; absolutely gorgeous colour. Four out of five of our kids are red~heads. No they don't look it but they are. This is unusual as red is a recessive gene so we need two recessives to get red hair dominant.

Jossie was a copper nob, as is Ditz. When the light hits just so they light up like a Christmas tree. Mostly they look a reddish brown colour but that's very deceptive. Dino & Theo are even more peculiar. They have their mama's white blond hair ~ but they didn't start out that way. They had the most glorious mahogany hair for months after they were born & only became blond later. I went from blond to strawberry blond to a muddy brown colour but the root colour is still reddish.

Only Liddy escaped. She got the olive Spanish skin, the small brown Spanish eyes, the thick brown hair with no trace of red. Odd man out. Not really surprising we have a houseful of reddish haired people; Scotland has the highest percentage of redheads of anywhere in the world & both Dearest & I are of Scots descent ~ several times over! Yes, red hair is a pecularity of Celtic peoples & Ditz always reminds me of that most famous of Celtic Queens ~ Boudicca. OK, I don't expect her to go careering round the countryside in a chariot with spiked wheels burning & pillaging as she goes ( my goodness, I would hope not!) but the larger than life persona is pretty Ditzy. Which reminds me, the Scots also have an odd gene for cannabalism. Some things you just don't want passed on, do you?

Thursday, May 8, 2008


Breathe...just breathe.

Ditz behaved like un numero uno spoilt brat of the year last night until I was speaking to her through gritted teeth & Liddy waded in laying down the law...& all over a bra!!! She wouldn't look, she wouldn't hold a hanger & she wouldn't try one on properly. She wandered off while we were trying to decide on foundation & blush & generally behaved like a 2 year old on speed. Liddy had arranged to leave work early & come across with us to help. I was exhausted already & neither off us were impressed. I do not know what possessed Ditz but she was impossible & sulked about our crossness as the salesgirl rang up our purchases. As the figure totaled & I handed over every note in my purse the penny dropped. She was costing me an absolute fortune & had just behaved in the most abominable fashion.

I was fretting because I had never thought to bring her white shirt with us but it had never occurred to me there was more than one shade of tan in bra colours! I wasn't sure about what we finally got & at the price they were did not want to have to go back for another. Ditto the foundation as Ditz has a redhead's colouring. I was upset. I was very upset. You know how it is when you've made a huge effort for a child & they choose that moment to be completely unappreciative. So I wasn't speaking in case I threw a quite inappropriate tantrum of my own in the middle of the parking lot & told my youngest daughter exactly what I thought with no mincing of words ~ & believe me I can be extremely vocal when pushed.

With the amount she had just cost me now glaringly obvious Ditz turned contrite. She apologized in the shop. She apologised all the way across the parking lot. Guilt ate her up like a swarm of locusts. She said thank you a dozen different ways. I was way past contrite & over guilt complexes. Even Liddy was eyeing me with some alarm. No wonder I pulled out of the darkened parking lot & onto the main highway, drove through 3 sets of lights & 2 round~a~bouts & never realised I'd forgotten to turn on my lights!!! ooops! At least giggling restored everyone's good humour.

I dropped Liddy at soccer training & took Ditz on to band & at break Ditz spent her own money at the canteen & brought me over a *snickers* ~ appeasement time. Chocolate fixes all sorts of things & of all the things Ditz can't stand, me being really cross with her is highest on her list. I expect to~day will be a good day. Anything else & Ditz figures she'll be dead meat. Meanwhile I now have the other one to deal with. Liddy has not made the team she was trialing for & although she expected nothing less, having been out all last season, she is still disappointed & between extra training, Ditz's nonsense & work is over extended & over tired herself. I hate post mortems & Liddy's last such a very long time. Oh well. What are mothers for if not to listen while daughters go into meltdown & at least it's not Ditz.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Happy Mother's Day!

I am going into meltdown. Ditz is just completely doing my head in. She simply can not be calm & sensible & her theatrics are wearing me thin.

Now on Saturday at rehearsals the bad news arrived. Ditz was given a list of things essential for Sunday's performance. We have to buy a new bra. None of the ones she owns is suitable. She needs a flesh coloured one because of the lights ~ which means we have to buy a proper bra & not a sports bra ~ which means more expense. Believe me this will be an exercise in who melts down first; Ditz because she has to be fitted & she is intensly modest, or her mother, who has to deal with a traumatized child. I am not looking forward to this one.

It gets worse. The next thing on the list is make~up. I can hear all the cogs whirring as you wonder what is the problem with this woman?! No~one in this house wears make~up! No~one in this house has ever worn make~up. No~one knows the first thing about buying it or applying it. We are all highly allergic so just never dealt with the whole make~up thing. Ditz can't even do face paint & she loves face paint. Drama, drama, drama! Foundation, blush (what is blush? sounds dangerous), mascara & lip gloss. Lip gloss we have. I have limited opportunities to buy this stuff. I have Ditz ~ & believe me she will turn this simple exercise into a full blown circus.

Ditz is also going into meltdown because no~one is coming to watch her do her thing. Both sets of grandparents will be away. I refuse point blank to payA$80~ for a seatless ticket outdoors with no food provided. I have had 2 people offer to buy me a ticket this week. I told them to put the money towards Europe for next year. It is a better way to spend $80~ However, because I am not going the logistics of drop off & pick up become a nightmare that I just don't want to know about. Sound check is at 10am & I have to find this place ~ which means I leave the island before 8am. What a way to spend Mother's Day! I shall be so jolly glad when this concert is over.
I do need to add though Ditz's redemption: after 3 hours of non~stop rehearsal the natives were getting pretty restless. They stopped listening to directives; they began chaffing at the bit; the noise levels increased (hard to work over the top of); their attention became non~existant ~ & these are children attending the best schools in the city. Ditz & one other boy were the exception to this sad refrain & Alison began singing the praises of homeschool which had produced a child still able to focus after 3 hours of intense, non~stop work, still able to be quiet & attentive, still cheerful & prepared to keep working to get it right. This is my very ADD, ditzy Ditz! Way to go Ditz!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


Cat people are different, to the extent that they generally are not conformists. How could they be, with a cat running their lives? ~ Louis J. Camuti, DVM

On stories for children.

I was going to write about T.S Eliot because I think if you've read Eliot you've at least touched on every great influence in the English language ~ but that's not really possible without discussing the man & I don't like the man so I'm not. Instead I want to briefly talk about the man I consider the most brilliant writer for children of the 20th century: Alan Garner. If you click on the piccie it will take you to more information ~ I hope. I'm not very good at these things.

I used to work in a Children's library & I still own children so children's books still fascinate me & one of the saddest things I've been witnessing is the dumbing down of our children's literary acumen. I see library shelves stacked with Charmed or Babysitter, or Saddle Club books but finding a copy of the Wizard of Oz, or Little Women or Alice through the Looking~Glass sends you into the bowls of the library to Stack where they keep all the books no~one reads any more.

Now there is nothing wrong with a babysitter book occasionally if that's what takes your fancy but a steady diet will ruin your appetite for good literature because good literature the babysitter books are not.

Garner's books, on the other hand, are good literature. His sense of place & language is superb. He writes beautifully & that, as you have probably gathered from my previous post, is important to me. However his books are not for the faint of heart & one could certainly argue they're not even strictly children's books. However they are in my favourite genre & more than Tolkien, more than Lewis, who merely used mythology as hooks for their stories, mythos is integral to Garner's stories. His retelling of the welsh legend of Blodeuwedd as a modern fairy tale is one of the most powerful, most frightening things I have ever read in my life ~ & that is Garner's genius for me. He understands that fairy tales are not, were never, *twee*. They were frightening & powerful & terrifying.

He is also succinct. The Owl Service is short. The language is truncated but Garner's ear for language is brilliant. The Welsh sounds Welsh, the English very much upper class English.

Now I didn't read the Owl Service as a child. Way too frightening for someone like me. I came to it as an adult already knowing the story of Blodeuwedd having read the Mabigonion as a child. I do do things backwards & I'm not sure my mother would have approved had she actually known what was inside the covers but Welsh mythology sounds so harmless. So I thought I knew the story, which in the best Celtic tradition is a love triangle. Blodeuwedd is the woman made of flowers for Lleu. Gronw is the one she loves. She betrays one for the other & is punished by being turned into an owl. A simple enough story that Garner takes & twists with the premise that the ancient sorrow never ended so that this is a story that can be read on more than one level & that is unusual for a children's book. The bitterness & betrayal has passed from generation to generation & manifests in strange & powerful ways perpetuating the ancient bitterness in the best Celtic tradition. So thinking I knew the story I never saw the end coming. Every time I re~read this story I feel the same shock, the same delight, that it has not turned out as I expected.

I have a very extensive personal children's library. I own many of the classics & enjoy them enormously but if I had to choose just one book & say this is a *must read* it would be this one. For pace, for style, for plot, even morally, I don't own anything to compare with the Owl Service. It does not surprise me it won the Carnegie medal.

Monday, May 5, 2008

On Fantasy Writing.

Between Liddy & Ditz at present I am spending huge amounts of time just sitting round waiting. I am quite simply tired, tired enough to crawl into the back seat of the car last night while Liddy was at trials & cat nap.

Tingalpa was freezing. You could literally feel the cold air rising off the ground. The women are the last team on the ground & the club house is shut well before they are done so I can sit on one of the small stands & freeze like I did last week or wait in the car, which is what I chose to do this week. That equates to 2 hours of sitting. I am too tired to educate myself or use my time constructively so have fallen back on rereading an all time favourite book. I own a first edition of a book that has become a classic in the fantasy realm ~ Guy Gavriel Kay's The Finovar Tapestry.

Now this trilogy has remained a favourite for one simple reason; unlike many fantasy authors Kay actually knows his mythology. He has not randomly taken mythological symbols & dumped them hither & thither throughout his story. Nor has he conjured fantastical creatures just for the sake of yet another bizarre & unlikely phantom wafting through his fantasy world. Instead there is a beautiful & consistent logic to his work. Ok, if you know your Celtic mythology as well as I do, & believe me I do, certain things are glaringly obvious right from the beginning. I was pretty certain of the outcome of the sacrifice on the tree. I knew who & what the dog was & the warrior ~ & Jennifer. I knew what the cauldron could do & the names of the ravens. I was actively looking for people & symbols I expected to be there & my favourite character is one of the less likable, less obviously *good* characters; I like them complicated.

The other joy for me is that the writing is beautiful in the High Fantasy tradition. I get so tired of journalistc sounding writing, the whole *show, don't tell* thing so that the beauty of the language is discarded for something far more prosaic. Who makes these rules anyway?

However, & it is a very big however, what I want to know is where are all the Christian writers of fantasy? I know my Celtic mythology. It is, in essence, so very full of Christian symbolism that the first missionaries into Ireland had almost no trouble converting the Irish to Christianity. It was a seamless fit. I can point to image after image, symbol upon symbol & say here is the pattern; here is the pre~existing revelation of what is to come & be fulfilled in Christ.

I am so very tired of the rampant sexuality in fantasy. Please, if you know your mythology I am well aware of the sex driven rituals of Celtic mythology, amongst other mythologies. That is not my point. The foundation stone of fantasy writing has always been the violent, dramatic clash between the Light & the Dark ~ good verses evil, right against wrong. It is one reason I like fantasy so much & good fantasy makes these choices complicated & less than easy but in modern fantasy everyone seems to think sexual promiscuity is ok. Sexual purity is not seen as a positive thing, as a warfare of a different kind in the name of the Light. I find that incredibly bizarre. It makes me seriously doubt a character's integrity if they are casual sexually & I question how they can be a soldier in the army of the Light when they are so cavalier in this area. Why? Because the story immediately loses credibility for me. In real life sex is the one area everyone is incredibly vunerable in. When people are treated casually in this area they are hurt & damaged in fundamental ways. There are consequences. There are no STDs in fantasy. Good fantasy, strong fantasy, is grounded in reality. I wish someone would deal with, not me. I don't do sex in writing; I certainly don't do it well & I most certainly don't want to read about other people's private affairs~ pun intended.

I know, I know. I'm just hard to please. a lot of the more popluar recent fanasy has just left me cold. I disliked intensly, for example, Jordan's Wheel of Time. I thought it was just boring. Eddings, who started so well, just became repetative. So many modern wrters read & sound like the newspaper. Where are the beautiful writers? Where are those not afraid to use language in a truely poetical way? Why has beauty given way to action? Are we truely so impatient, so lacking in grace & finesse? It distresses me no end because if our art is indeed a reflection of our culture then we have become very ugly indeed.

Great fantasy is not about the whimisical, the strange, the exoctic, the impossible. It is about the big choices we each must make in the course of our lives, about lives lived above the small sum of ourselves, a bigger vision, a clearer understanding, about the nature of God & man's need for spirituality. This is why the Arthurian legend has such a hold on the imagination & why I return to the Finovar Tapestry again & again. God speaks to me through the *bright weavings* & rainbow flashes of the *first of all worlds* in what C.S. Lewis so aptly calls the shadowlands.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Ditz's funny.

Sunday was crash & burn time. I'd taken the girls down to the oval to watch the newly formed island soccer team play their first *at home* match when the first niggles of impending doom appeared. The men were already down 4~0 by 1/2 time with no sign that they would claw their way back so I grabbed Ditz & headed home thinking I could sleep the beginning migraine off. No such luck. It was not a good day & none of the things I had planned for the day got done. No music practise got done either. Flutes & migraines are not a good mix.

However at some point Ditz shared a huge funny which still has me sniggering to myself. I said Liddy attracted a lot of stares at the ensemble practise. Turns out that the entire ensemble bar Alison (who knew better) had Ditz figured as an only child with a very over~protective mother. Then Liddy shows up looking like the dead spit of her sister. The entire ensemble made a quantum leap from only child to *twin* sister. Talk about jumping to conclusions. And there are 3 more at home! Worse, Liddy looking young for her age & Ditz older than she is, the mistake is rather understandable but Ditz was mortified because Liddy truely can't sing. Not a note. Worse & worse. Ditz let slip she has brothers ~ older brothers. She attracted attention then all right! 'Are they hot?' the girls wanted to know. In all honesty Ditz had to admit that, yes, they are very hot but she was absolutely disgusted. That is the sort of silly talk & thinking we have never encouraged. Besides, she has brothers; it is beyond her comprehension why anyone would want one of those!

Now don't get me wrong. Ditz adores her brothers & they are rather fond of her but they invariably smell fishy &/or sweaty, borrow her doshka without asking first, eat all her treats in the middle of the night when they arrive home hungry, leave very smelly shoes & socks lying about, tease her in ways she doesn't find the least bit funny & boss her to death. Liddy & I quite see her point. Why would you want one of these as a fashion accessory? No, I don't know either but it seems plenty of girls do. Note to self: Never, ever take the boys to an ensemble rehearsal; the girls will eat them alive!