Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Telopea ~ seen from afar

None can have a healthy love for flowers unless he loves the wild ones.- Forbes Watson

Telopea speciosissima ~ The Waratah, one of the oddest flowers to ever bloom. This is the floral emblem of N.S.W ~ my home state ~ & the waratah blooms there in its National Parks. It is related to the South African Protea, likes nutrient deficient, sandy soil , regenerates from the root stock after a bushfire, blooming again within 2 years & it won't grow up here.

I haven't even tried to grow it. I hate killing plants & I've done a fair bit of it in my time. I insist on trying to grow things where I know they won't be happy. They reward me as I deserve by curling up their toes & dying a lingering death. Worse I want a white waratah, which are unusual & rarer & therefore, I supposse expensive & thus beyond my purse. Probably a good thing.

I have managed to grow a N.S.W Christmas Bush up here in solid clay & what's more, it blooms each year in time for Christmas. Hm. How to explain we all grow this beauty for the bright red husks that remain after the flowers have fallen! It's not just our animals that are more than a little peculiar. The flora is weird too. It has a beauty all its own.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.Oscar Wilde
That feather is back & I'm reeling! I mean most of this year I've felt like I've been dragging a reluctant horse to water & stressing because it won't drink. Thanks Ditz. How that child can find ALL her work duller than watching ditch water is beyond me.

We are sort of, not really, kinda on break...meaning Ditz is doing a little bit of reading & not much else. Dearest is on record as saying we need the break to cope with the end of the year. Ditz has taken that to mean she can plonk herself in front of the t.v set & watch endless movies. Naturally, it being the holidays, the weather turned nasty & I just couldn't think of something else she could do.

Several years ago a dear friend of ours died of cancer. She was only a young woman & her mum was devastated. Each year since mum has held an art exhibition in honour of her daughter. This year she asked if we would contribute. Ditz promptly hoyed out the acrylics & began painting. It's good. I'll post a pic separately.

I fiddled for a bit but the oil caps have all hardened & half of them are now soaking in turps in a last ditch effort at allowing me to unscrew them. I abandoned the effort & went to sulk on the computer...where Ditz joined me using the sort of voice that makes me instantly wary. You know, the voice that begs yes but expects a no.

And what did my darling child want? To do a study on WWII!!! The catch? She wants to do it from movies.

I actually have no problem with this. There are heaps of good movies around from The Sound of Music to Schindler's List to The Great Escape. This I can live with. Ditz informed me I had to watch the movies with her [weep for me!] & stay with her while she wrote her project up BUT she was going to do the writing. No help required...or wanted! When a child so firmly takes control of her own learning I am not about to try & dissuade her. Quite the opposite even if it means abandoning the Greeks & the Peloponnesian War mid stream & plunging forward hundreds of years. Ditz & I are random learners so no problemo.

I have given her The Diary of Anne Frank & The Day Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit for reading because quite frankly I don't give a tinker's dime whether Ditz remembers the dates of the war or which battles were fought. If she grasps how the second war evolved from the injustices [by the allies, what's more] from the first & how good people can choose to do horrible things she will have learnt a far more valuable lesson. For art we might try a propaganda poster. Ditz is into Anime & graffiti at present so that should appeal. Wish us luck.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Pin.

...may there be no moaning of the bar,When I put out to sea...Lord Alfred Tennyson The pin............

...............no, not that pin; this Pin....

Jumpinpin, possibly the most notorious bar in Australia.

On the whole Australian history is rather on the dull side. Convicts, mostly bog Irish, Mad Englishmen barbecuing themselves in the Interior, failed crops & failed colonies & shanties following fool's gold.

Lots of people would berate me for not being more enamoured of my own country's history but things of genuine interest are few & far between...or unless you're possibly male. I happen to think the explorers were stupid as well as boring but that's just my personal think. I just don't happen to think there's anything particularly heroic about heading into a desert or the great Divide as ill prepared as most of these men were. They paid dearly for their arrogance.

Which is beside the point. The point being that there are occasional sparks of interest. The history of the Pin is one of those because up until 1898 there was no Pin. South Stradbroke & North Stradbroke were one long island, the biggest sand island in the world.

Now I could give you the prosaic version but that is nowhere near as interesting as the *Romantic* version so you must take this version with a large grain of salt. I recommend salt with any version of history as a matter of course.

Stradbroke hugs the coast between south Brisbane & the Gold Coast. It has some of the best beaches & the best surf in the world. On September 3rd, 1894 the Cambus Wallace was plying her trade when she ran aground in heavy seas on the sand spit at Tulbeen. Five lives were lost & her cargo was washed ashore on the spit. The locals swarmed to the wreck to salvage what they could to find the cargo consisted of barrels of rum & a load of dynamite. The rum was drunk & then the dynamite collected in a heap & set of. The resulting explosion separated north Stradbroke from the south. Big storms throughout the 1890's completed the separation leaving a gap that has claimed more boats that any other bar in Australia ~ or so I'm told.
Jumpinpin has a tidal flow of 4.5k across a stretch of shallow sand making the wave sets erratic & unpredictable. Even good sailors & locals have come to grief on the Pin. The sands are constantly shifting. Stradbroke is moving slowly northwards as the sands shift but Jumpinpin is still the shortest route to the open sea with some of the best fishing around: bream, flathead, mangrove jacks. It is also a big reason for not eating seafood ~ ever! 'Cause guess what the seafood's eating? Gross!

Friday, September 26, 2008

The old order changeth...

A mother's treasure is her daughter. ~Catherine Pulsifer
I had boys first, just as I was the sister to brothers. Girls bamboozled me. I never did get what it was with the clothes & the make~up & the purses bulging with unnecessay do~dads when you could stick all you needed in a wallet & ram the whole thing in a back pocket.
No I wasn't a girly girl. I played football. I sailed. I abseiled & hiked & camped. I read voraciously, which is one reason I can't do math. I hid books under my desk & read through math class. [I did it for science too with a different result.]
I worked with homeless youth, mainly boys. I was totally unprepared for girls. I was so unprepared [dareI admit it?] that when I clapped eyes on Liddy for the very first time my instinctive response was not, 'Oh, a girl. How nice,' but a horrified, 'Put it back; it's not finished cooking yet!'
Dearest, after 3 boys, was an experienced father. He sat in the rocking chair & rocked his big~ eyed newborn daughter while I climbed into the shower to recover from the shock. That was the only time Liddy let him anywhere near her for the next 3 years. She was not a daddy's girl, but mummy's ~ & she let the whole world know it.
Liddy was mummy's girl but unlike my boys she was not a cuddler. I adjusted to a girl who would not co~sleep [but at least she would sleep through the night] ,who slept spread out like a starfish, who objected strenously to being treated like a living, walking, talking dollie, to wearing dresses, long hair, any ornamentation, & shoes. Like mother, like daughter. What we share is a delite in feminine socialising: the girls round the table for a chat, coffee & cakes. Even at 2 Lid was all for sitting in her high chair with her cup of milk putting her 2 cents worth into the conversation ebing & flowing around her. I delighted in my daughter & though I mourned the absence of pretty frocks drying on the line amongst the grubby T's & holey shorts, I understood.
Then I got Ditz. Ditz was not the shock Liddy was. Girl parts, boys parts. I looked, I saw, I went, 'Ah, girl.' O.K, so we already knew & the kids had been calling her Ditz for months & talking to her through my tummy. Ditz too was prepared to sleep through the night. After boys who wouldn't I tell you that sleeping babies rates real high with me! Better yet, Ditz was a cuddler. She co~slept. Actually for the next 5 years she was more along the lines of a parasitic growth attached to my hip. My parents began to make comments along the lines of the child not developing leg muscles if she was never put down. The word*spoilt* got bandied around. Don't blame me. It was her siblings who caved in to her every time she screamed, not her mother. I was fighting a losing battle on two fronts.
Ditz looks like her daddy but temperment wise she is my daughter; poor thing. It is not an obviously attractive personality like Liddy's, though it has it's own charm. We got along well, though it was a battle royal when Liddy came home to school & Ditz discovered she had to share me! Share? Not on your nellie! Mind you she consistently drove Liddy up the wall by lavishly imitating her.
Things have changed! Oh my, how they have changed. Ditz is becoming her own person; her own person, not an off~shoot of mummy nor a Liddy clone. It is an uncomfortable business because what I discover I have in Ditz is a girly girl! Floored, I am. Speechless. [Well, ok, not too spechless to ramble in shock.] What's more she's good at the girly thing. As we went into town I peered a little more closely at my daughter's face. Yep. Make~up! Blush. Mascara. Beautifully done. A little lip gloss for effect. A silver heart on a chain around her neck. Small rings in her ears. Her clothes & hair are always immaculate.
I confess, I have no idea how to parent this child. I don't even know if she's normal. Seriously, why would you put gunk all over your face?
'But I have to mum,' my child explained patiently. 'It's for choir.'
'It's rehearsal!!'
I don't know whether to laugh or cry about the sparkly purple nail polish, the requests for eyeliner & lipstick, the emerging fashion sense in a notoriously unfashion conscious house. I'm not sure how much I can give because I do know it is impossible to reclaim ground once it's been ceded, so before I agree to anything I want to be very sure that I am stll going to be ok with it in a month, or a year.
God knows how much I like a challenge but I'm not sure I'm up for this one. I want nothing more than to pop the child back in a sling & carry her close to my heart, safe from all harm.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Getting it wrong.

''It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.” Tolkien

I do not often get fraught about living on an island..but I was yesterday. Nothing is more fraught making than watching a boat pull out without you when you have to be somewhere by a particular time.

My less than numerical ability has taken a rather extensive hike so even had we been on the correct boat I had unintentionally cut things finer than I like. Leaving on the later boat had Ditz as well as me stressing. You see it wasn't only the boat we missed. It was the train as well. We got to watch that pull out of the station too.

I know perfectly well that once this happens there is nothing I can do but that does not stop my stomach from tying itself in knots & my will urge the train to go faster than the Railways designate. It also gave me far too much time to fret about Ditz bursting out all over from the uniform we paid a small fortune for at the beginning of the year & which Ditz has worn exactly 3 times! Ouch.

All this for one hour in at QPAC; one hour where I got to sit in the foyer of the playhouse reading, a playhouse we might never have found if not for the luminescent orange of the Vocal Manoeuvres shirts. God faithfully delivered us before they'd quite given up on us & just in time for Ditz to go into the orchestra hall with the rest of the ensemble.

4.30 ~ 5.30pm is a reasonable rehearsal time ~ until you realise it takes us 2 hours to get in to town, & 2 hours + to get back out again, which is dinner time however you look at it. Ditz was ravenous. She is at that stage where she is always ravenous & constantly eating. Given she was a rather picky eater as a kid & we had just missed another boat [it was that sort of a day :( ], I had to find food, the faster the better.

Chinese take~a~way went some way to mollifying her that I had refused to drive into town & had made her take the train. [Liddy driving everywhere is spoiling her.] However it was cheaper for us to go in by train once I calculated fuel & parking costs & the peak hour traffic & the train station was, as advertised, directly opposite QPAC.

Ditz is extremely aware of the time & costs involved in lugging her round to all these things & remembers to tell me how much she appreciates it. That goes a long way to compensating for having to endure an hour of Ditz on the train hamming it up with exaggerated faces & voices. *sigh* What the other passengers thought doesn't bear thinking about but even a little contact with the performance arts sends Ditz into a lather of imitation. Yes, I know it's fun & a full carriage is irresistibly a captive audience but honestly!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Whatever my lot...

“Like all the best families, we have our share of eccentricities, of impetuous and wayward youngsters and of family disagreements.” Queen Elizabeth II.

I have 5 children. My oldest is 25 this year. I have not seen him or spoken to him in 3 years. I know he is alive. I know he is living somewhere in Brisbane & I know he does not wish to see or speak to anyone in his family.

I think Jossie may have Aspergers, a form of autism. I do not know because he has never been diagnosed. He was not diagnosed because when he was growing up few people had heard of Autism let alone Aspergers. He was in his teens before his behaviour became so outlandish we became alarmed. He is so high functioning (read diagnosed *gifted*) all the experts assured us his behaviour was normal teenage angst. I have raised 3 other teenagers. Nothing about Jossie's behaviour is remotely normal.

I have 4 other children. In retrospect I can see just how abnormal Joss' behaviour was but he was my first. I thought he was just odd & being different is no reason to be ostracised ~ but Joss was. He was clumsy & not good at sport, an almost unforgivable sin for a male in Australia's sport obsessed culture. He was easily angered by trivial upsets. He was manipulative & vindictive. He had trouble following directives & I would have to hold his face between my hands & make eye contact to issue instructions; never more than 3 at a time or he couldn't cope. The most telling thing is that he simply could not make friends. His grasp of the social niceties is almost non~existent. He was laughed at & ostracised by his peers his entire childhood. It did not help that he had an extraordinary grasp of language with which to abuse his tormentors & that he was obsessed with things of no interest to the average child.

I'm not a doctor. I could be wrong but as he entered his teens Joss became extremely aggressive. His rages were frightening & out of control. He shot up rapidly & became a gangly 6'6''. School became a nightmare & we pulled him out but Joss was on a spiral we were unable to halt. He moved out of home. For a while things would go well but Joss seems unable to manage his life or to grasp that there are consequences to his actions. Eventually someone or something would trigger him & he would go on a violent rampage kicking in doors & walls. I have never known him to hold a job; he cannot cope with the necessary social interaction. When he is calm he talks extremely intelligently & is an interesting conversationalist but his tendency to focus on the negatives in his life means he rapidly forgets kindnesses, positives, & that other people have feelings too.

He was living on the island with his only friend who, being homosexual, was nearly as ostracised as Joss. He was deeply into on~line computer games & seemed to spend all his time playing them when I picked him up for Christmas. It had been arranged previously, by Joss, so wasn't unexpected but he was put out at having to leave his game & not in the best frame of mind. Within 1/2 an hour he was smearing mango pulp all down our windows. It did not occur to him that this was socially unacceptable behaviour & flew into one of his rages when asked to desist. He demanded I take him back to his place of residence. He ranted the entire way about how badly he was treated & that he never ever wanted anything to do with us again.

A few weeks later, running into his friend, I asked how Joss was. His astonished friend blanched. 'But, I thought he'd moved back in with you!'

Joss was gone. He had told no~one & taken nothing, not even his wallet or phone, none of his clothing or possessions. The shock was devastating. You see, I love my boy. He is a piece of my heart & I have lost him. I cannot fix what is wrong. I grieve for his anger & sense of isolation; I fear for his safety. I know despite his height & age he has the emotional maturity of a young child, rather than a young man.

I am not one of those Christians who believe bad things never happen to true believers. I don't think the bible teaches that. Rather it teaches us to grasp hold of He who is our strength & refuge, our present help in times of troubles, our alpha & our omega. I cling to what I believe the Lord has promised me concerning my son & trust Him for the rest. It is all any of us can do.

Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well, with my soul. Horatio Spafford.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Thought of the Week

The difference between school and life? In school, you're taught a lesson and then given a test. In life, you're given a test that teaches you a lesson.— Tom Bodett


''The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because generally they are the same people." G.K. Chesterton

I have been thinking (& don't ask if it hurts?!). I blog hop all over the place & skim from link to link so I read all sorts of stuff & the thing I find hardest as a Christian is doing the tightrope walk of what I actually believe because I am not as liberal as I was raised nor as conservative as many conservatives think I should be. And that, friends, is undoubtedly the result of a misspent life.

I do not get all hot & bothered about what the world does. It is the world. There would be something amiss if it was not behaving according to its nature. I do not get fraught about Christians who hold different doctrinal views, practise their beliefs differently, or refuse to attend a denominational church. I have worked with the homeless, the homosexual, the battered, & the drug addicted without feeling the urgent need to ram my beliefs down their throats because God gave each of us free will & we are free to exercise that free will by our choices. It is not that I don't care but however much I disagree I need to respect another's choice. After all, God does.

What does get my goat & have me frothing at the mouth, tearing my hair out, & up on my soap box ranting & raving are *professing* Christians living in blatant sin & bringing our Lord & saviour into disrepute. No, I am not talking about well known public figures who fall from grace. There but for the grace of God, you know. I am talking about the ordinary people who sit in their pew week after week all sanctimonious & self righteous, spouting all the right things & out in the world, instead of living God's truth, they behave in ways,week after week after week, that make one wish not to be known by the same name as they are. By their fruits...

Liddy says working in retail has been a real eye~opener. She has got to see the church when it isn't in church. To say she has not been impressed would be a massive understatement. Yes, lots of the church is the same but too often they are not & it is in the little things it shows up the most: a lack of patience when forced to wait; rudeness to staff who are on their feet all day; magazines that should go home in a brown paper bag & be burnt unread; sexual comments around young girls. It does not matter that they may be sexually active or heard worse. Christians should be different! The world notices & takes note of who we are every day & it judges, not by how many *good deeds* we do (charity is obnoxious), or how much money we give, or who we vote for, or what we wear but by how we are!

I do not care if you wear dresses or pants, wear your hair long or short, cover or not. I do not care if you are *only* KJV, or read the Good News. I do not care if you sing loud & long with your hands in the air or sit in silence. How is your personal walk with Christ? How are you doing with your personal holiness? It's hard, this holiness thing...& it must be done. Not only does no~one see heaven without holiness but genuine holiness is one of the most attractive things on this earth. It draws people like nothing else. Christ was, & is, holy. It attracted multitudes. Our lack of holiness is turning people away, indifferent to the gospel. If we are doing our job no~one will be indifferent. We should be being persecuted because the world should be antagonistic towards us. We should be attracting those whom God is calling. If we say we are Christ's we are meant to be becoming more & more like Him, holy as he is holy. If we would stop fussing about what doesn't matter & concentrate on the things God says are important we might actually be the salt & light in the world that we are meant to be.

Here endeth the rant according to Ganeida.

Friday, September 19, 2008


Friday starts Liddy's weekend. Thursday evening the clouds inevitably come over bringing rain for Friday. Liddy argued O'Reilly's is so far down the coast the weather would be completely different so I agreed she could be right.

O'Reilly's is set in the McPhearson Ranges on the N.S.W /QLD border as part of the Lamington National Park & is one of the loveliest places on Earth. It is not as isolated as it used to be though the long winding road up the mountain is still one lane wide for much of it's length. I had family who used to live on Tambourine, which is on the other side of the Canungra valley, so was well aware of the O'Reilly family's history & *the lost world*.Unfortunately Liddy's directions weren't all that clear & we were nearly to Cooloongatta & right on the border before she realised we must have missed the turn we should have taken. Instead of backtracking we cut across country ~ into the Great Dividing Range. Not the biggest hills in the world; not the steepest, just rugged & wind~y & convoluted. I struggle with maps at the best of times. Completely disoriented I'm useless. Liddy snarled & put me in the drivers' seat so she could wrestle with the map. I told her to relax & enjoy the journey. Afterwards she was pleased because she now feels she has a good grasp of the overall area but at the time it wasn't pretty.
Meanwhile the clouds lowered & glowered & the day waned. By the time we finally started seeing signposts for O'Reilly's the cloud was covering the mountain & Liddy got her first experience of driving in fog on one way roads up nasty mountains.

We may be smiling but there is a huge drop under us because this is the tree top walk. Six people per span makes you remember every movie you've ever seen where the hanging walkway suddenly gives way! We opted out of the crow's nests because while it wasn't actually raining (that's fog you can see) everything was wet & slippery & none of us are huge fans of heights. Nestled in amongst the bush walks are the lovely Green Mountain botanical gardens. O.K, so not the best day for traipsing round but they were still lovely.

Liddy had really wanted a longish walk to a waterfall but we were so behind time that was never going to happen so we only really did the treetop walk. Not a waste from my point of view. I spotted a yellow breasted scrub wren with a too big feather in his mouth & watching to see where he was headed spotted this nest dangling amongst the trees in the mist. We also spotted yellow robins, a male satin bower bird (& its bower with all his *blue* treasures) & the gorgeous yellow & black male Regents Bower bird. The girls don't get excited about the bird life but I'm not the girls & I was thrilled to spot birds we don't get on the islands.

Plus, the girls having woosed & sent me to ask the ranger about where the shorter walks began, I gathered all sorts of information about the campsites ~no open fires, eco~loos (Ditz hates these with a passion), *hot* showers, BBQs, costs...
The one thing with my girls is they like to eat! And boy, do they eat! We decided the valley would be cheaper than the touristy things round O'Reilly's so headed back down the mountain to the wineries! No I didn't need a pick~me~up but in Australia the best Mediterranean meals are usually got at the wineries; rather like a Ploughman's Lunch at a British Pub.

We were greeted by 2 huge huskies & a disappointed owner. Four girls, two obviously under age, a learner driver on a zero alcohol limit & a nervous mother was not going to sell lots of bottles of his red! Liddy & I left the younger girls to their pizza & went for pitta bread & 3 dips (olive, pesto & 3 cheeses ~ yum!) & a shared Mediterranean platter for two. This came with salami, prosciutto, mushrooms, artichokes, sun dried tomatoes, black olives, a little salad & slices of sourdough bread. Artichokes should be buried at sea with full funeral rites & I'm not a fan of sourdough so left that for Liddy who was perfectly capable of scoffing it all on her own but the rest was lovely & I got a cappuccino after while Ditz ploughed through a generous slice of cheesecake; she was the only one who could eat desert. We are planning a camping trip for mid October to celebrate the October birthdays (October is the BEST month!). Our winery informed us there was a campsite a 3 minute walk away & if we rang they'd do us pizzas to go. Pizzas & a night out to celebrate drastically reduces the amount of food we'd need to lug. And while we aren't planning to do either the border walk or the 3 day trip either we would be central to lots of hiking (& food!) options. Luckily we like camping.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Losing my mind...

If I was Liddy I would have been in touch but I am not Liddy. I am me & my body is that thing I lug round to keep my brain in, like an old purse. I've had it a while now so it should not surprise me it is showing signs of wear & tear. It doesn't surprise me but it frustrates me no end.

I am not only losing words but sentences, even whole paragraphs while my children foam at the mouth & go, 'Would you finish what you were saying, mum!' I was talking?! Oh, right. So as I was saying...

I am not a high energy person. I can plod to some purpose if I pace myself carefully & am a long time night owl because night is the best time to write while it is dark & quiet & the rest of the house indulges in deserved slumber & can't annoy me! So I can't begin to tell you of my discomfit when I began doing what in my family is known as 'doing a Shirl' because my beloved aunt Shirley was notorious for nodding off as soon as the clock hands touched 7pm. Worse I nod of anywhere & everywhere ~ flute, band, choir, violin, on the jetty, watching t.v, on the boat. I am an embarrassment to the girls but my eyes just won't stay open!

It finally occurred to me, seeing as my cycle has always been hugely erratic that, I hadn't been plagued for some time & was in fact not losing my mind, or on the verge of a mental breakdown but simply menopausal. I am not enjoying it much! I thought I would. Rather my hormones have decided to play havoc with my emotions & unless I keep things very calm & stress free I am an emotional mess. Yes, I know. In this house! It is an uphill battle I can tell you. At least I now know what the problem is.

Ditz is not stress free at any time. Wednesdays are particularly bad. This week both boys decided to move back home temporarily. Theo is on R&R after his operation. Dino quit his job & doesn't start his new one till Monday. I have crabs & fish gut all through my kitchen along with Dearest's stamps. Theo arrived with a bag of fishing gear that I swear hasn't been washed since the last time I did it. It stank to high heaven. Wednesdays & Thursdays I am hardly here so whatever the boys get up to I walk into a full blown mess when I get home. No wonder I took Ditz to her violin lesson & promptly nodded off despite the wailing of two violins. I can sleep through anything.

We just had time to duck home for the mainland car keys before taking off for choir. Choir ran overtime so I was watching the clock like a hawk, calculating to the second how long I could wait before we would definitely miss our boat.

I find choir fascinating so rarely sleep there as it is far too entertaining & last night was no exception. Between the choir turning sulky as it battled the German & a difficult tune till more than half the choir dropped out & just listened & the news from Singapore I had far too much on my mind for sleep.

Alison spent last week in Singapore teaching & lecturing. She was such a hit she was offered a job, several jobs, more money, housing ~ the whole celebratory lifestyle! Wow! She was coaching Robert Redford! I know who Robert Redford is so I'm impressed even if the kids have never heard of him. She was such a hit one of the big~wigs is following her back to Australia in the hopes of changing her mind which means despite the school holidays, when choir is normally in recession, choir members have been asked to go in to Qpac next Thursday for rehearsal so Mr Big~wig can see how Alison rehearses her choir. I have this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. It means driving in Brisbane without Liddy!!! Ditz is going to have to learn to read a map! Next year's tour was discussed. I have no idea if, or how, God is going to manage this financially. I am in meltdown already & it is still 12 months away! See Ditz is one of the kids not struggling with the German... or the music. Dit aced last week's test. I think she lost something like 1/2 a mark. This is my beautiful but flighty flibberty~gibbet with the concentration span of a gnat. I just want to run round like a headless chook screaming. Put it down to menopause.

Dearest keeps asking how we landed in this musical morass. What is God up too? Why our Ditz? All we wanted to do was allow the child to experience a more professional choir than the little island school choir. All Ditz wanted to do is sing. If you can spare a prayer or two pray that we will find a way to raise the funds to get Ditz & I to Europe next year. Um, I forgot to mention, Ditz is making sure she doesn't get sent off without me. I'm not going there.

Monday, September 15, 2008

History is a forgotten song.

My Poppy was a Scotsman, a man, according to my mother who should know, who was better with his animals than his children. When I first remember him he was a dairy farmer ~ jerseys; cream like yellow silk & thick as butter; an accent as broad & wildly flavoured as when he left Scotland. He was also the only man my Liddy would let hold her & he would walk her round & round the home paddock murmuring to her softly in his broad brogue. Not even her father could hold Liddy. She screamed at men, about men, near men...any man. Her father quips she was three before she would let him anywhere near her. It is quite true.

But Poppy was different. He was my grandfather, so the children's great~grandfather & ancient in their eyes. He was also a different Poppy to the Poppy I grew up knowing, as that Poppy was different to the father my mother knew.

My grandfather intrigued me. Unlike everyone else I knew he wasn't Australian. He didn't speak with an Australian accent. He grew up in a foreign land. Then as now the lure of the strange enthralled me. I wanted to know very badly what it had been like growing up in Scotland. Poppy disappointed me. He had just two words to describe Scotland: cold, wet.

He lived over 70 years in the land where the sun shone, married & raised 8 children but he never went back in all that time. He never took my grandmother to visit his family, could rarely be induced to speak of Scotland, ranted about the 'Saess' & the unions. I saw Scotland before he set foot there again because he did eventually go back. He took my grandmother before she died. They did the tour as if he'd never been born & raised there & when he came home all his stories were of Scotland. He told the same ones over & over. He bored the family senseless.

The thing is he gave me a piece of history I treasure. There is no~one now alive who can sing the song. I have the words but no tune. Poppy never sang it for me but I suspect it was more a chant because it was sung by the children on their way to school, naming the crofts as they passed them by:

Cloch macrae, Langlan Bwrn, Craibstone,

Reamore, Midskeeth & Mains of Skeath;

Burnheads, Squardouch, Moss~side & Ardoch;

Brankend & the Clean, Lintmill, Tochenhill.

Last I heard they are all still there, many still in the same families.

Sin uile.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

...lose some.

Craft shops used to sell plaster of Paris. Now they sell something called *modeling plaster* which does horrible things like this. Disaster of the first magnitude. It hardened so fast we had no hope. It was only fit for the bin though Ditz did make a 1/2 hearted attempt to use it.
We had just enough left to try again ~ using something considerably smaller.

The really sad part is that Ditz was far less enthused than I expected so it was a struggle to get her involved to start with. Art is, apparently, now considered *baby work*. *sigh*. It never did what a fresco is supposed to do because it hardened far too fast & I got shocked looks because I wanted proper plaster. In our instant society it seems the kids can't wait to paint their plaster models so we now have this super quick drying stuff & thwarted fresco~ists.
It was a far better science experiment. We had quite a discussion about why the plaster was heating up & how hot it would get before it hardened & cooled off but as an art exercise it was not a success. Win some, lose some I guess.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Knock me down with a feather.

I know year 8 is a *transition year*. OK, Ditz, like many home learners & many visual/spatial learners is all over the board, & her learning is hugely uneven, but her age level is year 8: first year of high school; puberty; hormones; sleep issues; identity crisis. Ugh! Never mind Ditz, I don't think I have coped well. Dealing with Ditz in full flight just makes me feel old & tired & this year we just seem to have battled our way though heavy seas with an undertow, a rip, & the sort of groundswell that just makes me seasick.

For 2 weeks Ditz has been telling me the holidays are nearly upon us. I do not want to know about holidays. This has been a frustrating term but some idiot taught the child to read & she can use the calendar so she knows when school comes out & she can angle for an official break because *everyone's on holidays*. So I never said anything, just worried a little more about how we were going to get everything done that needs doing this term before the term is officially over & I have to battle us back on track after our break.

I won't go into all the other things that need doing round here. Suffice to say I was sitting on the end of Ditz's bed outlining maps for her scrapbook while she waded through her reading & before I read to her & before we locked heads over her math, slowly sinking beneath the rising tide of what Ditz likes to call her *artwork*, when she starts chatting to me. This is a fairly regular Ditz tactic so I sighed & wondered how long we'd digress before I could get us back on track. Still, even at 13, Ditz likes me to keep her company while she works. I find it frustrating when there is so much else waiting for me to do but figure this is one leopard that is never going to change its spots. I have to face it; Ditz likes company. At least she's outgrown wanting me round when she's on the potty just so she has someone to chat to in the bathroom.

''You know, mum,'' says my Ditz, ''I think I should work through these holidays 'cause we're a bit behind.''

Well, knock me down with a feather!

That girl makes me just glow with pride some days! Makes me wonder how much of her fussing is fussing for its own sake, but I will take whatever blessings come my way.

And while I'm at it...our choir music this week was replaced by a German lesson. Ditz did 4 years of German from about grade 2 to grade 5, then decided she wanted to change to French & we've just never got ourselves sorted out on that one so she hasn't done a language the last few years. My French isn't good but my German is non~existent so a neighbour, who is multilingual & very fluent, was tutoring Ditz for German but when we stopped I figured Ditz would forget most of what she'd learnt simply because she wasn't using it regularly. That appears to be not so.

Ditz is rarely bored at choir but she was bored this week as the unwilling class was dragged word by word through a couple of German folk songs ~ to be sung in German. I was cross because 30 odd children, mostly from expensive Private schools, & a 1/2 dozen or so talked throughout the entire lesson. I know it was boring but it is necessary.

Random children were asked to read the German & we got the usual stuttering responses that completely mangled the language. I hadn't realised how frustrated Ditz was until she was asked to read. Naturally she blurted, 'Why me?' but I think that was more a self protective thing because she read an entire page pretty fluently. She only stumbled on one word, one of those long German words that are actually three or four words run together. Even in English you would take it slowly, breaking it down into its syllables; & that's what Ditz did. Yep, one shocked teacher. One child who has been taught (twice over) how to deal with unfamiliar words.

Dare I hope we are making progress? Dare I hope all Ditz's ADD tendencies are maturing into something we can all live with & my lovely flibberty~gibbet is maturing into the Godly young woman we pray for her to be? Grubs are ugly & chrysalis' aren't much to look at either but butterflies are gorgeous & I know you don't get butterflies without grubs & chrysalis soooo...

Yes, I know I've raised 4 others but I haven't raised a Ditz before & Ditz is in a class all of her own!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Mind like a sieve.

My sister~in~law, who occasionally maintains a blog at duchess&theduke, is considering writing a book about my brother, Mark, for my nephew ~ the aforementioned Duke. I think this is a great idea as it will gather everyone's memories into one spot & help the Duke remember his daddy, warts & all. Fifty years down the track I still distinctly remember my reaction to finding out I had yet another little brother; 'Feed him to the sharks.' I have no idea why my parents did not take this very sound advice.
The thing is though, I have very few clear memories of Mark as a child. He was one annoying little brother & to say we did not get on would be one of the world's great understatements. I once threw him across a room & I riled him so much he threw a knife at me. It was war. I was a quiet & introspective kid. Mark, like my Ditz, was company incorporated. If he couldn't do it with company it wasn't worth doing. Actually he could easily have given Dino's quote as to why he came to school; to socialise & play sport. It certainly wasn't to learn.

We grew up & found that blood meant we shared a few more things in common than the odd gene or two. He became someone I actually liked & whose company I could endure without wanting to kill him. He married a wonderful woman who is strong enough to live without him but I find myself in a quandary when I am asked to talk about my memories of him. There's just this blank space that Mark used to inhabit when I was a child but we didn't share. Boy germs. He was 4 years younger. I was already in pre~school when he arrived & year by year of my childhood that gap just grew wider.

My brothers shared a room ~ not always equitably. Mark was not the easiest person to live with. My brothers sailed together. Mark was crew, John skippered. This suited them. John was the competitive one, so much so that in one disagreement Mark lept overboard & started swimming for the shore. John hauled him aboard, not out of concern for his safety but because he would be disqualified if he did not cross the finish line with his crew aboard!!!

Later on they abseiled together, flew together, shared the same friends, went to the same youth group, same schools, enjoyed cruising together~ all things I was not a part of or simply did not enjoy. Even when we had a shared interest we came to it from totally different viewpoints. Take the Arthurian Legend. Mark read & loved the whole Le Morte de Arthur. He loved Talesien. Both make me wild ~eyed because they are historically inaccurate in huge ways. I'm not sure Mark ever understood what I hated about them. Mark loved living out west in a small country town. I'm an island girl. Mark had a knack for simplifying things; I complicate them. Mark was the life of everyone's party & had more friends than he could count. I am the life of no~one's party & a decidedly acquired taste.
Mark was the world's worst driver. He rolled the family minor minor so often on the same corner coming home that the residents, on hearing him coming, would wait for the inevitable so they could help tip the car the right way up again. Definitely a hands on learner! He kept rolling it until he learnt not too! His driving was so appalling that John always insisted on doing the driving to & from their flying lessons & someone is on record as saying it was as well the boy wanted to fly ~ far less to hit up there. I always said the difference between John & Mark was Mark would go with his gut & John would go by the book. I figured by the time John had worked his way through the book it would be far too late to rectify any problem & always felt safer if Mark was doing the flying. I still feel that way two years after Mark's crop duster ploughed into the dirt. Whatever happened up there in those final moments I know Mark met it with courage & determination & the joi de vere that was so much a part of him. He was one of the happiest people I have ever known.

Friday, September 5, 2008

One weekend to go.

The question of the moment is: will I survive Liddy's weekends?

Yesterday we picked Theo up from the hospital & took him home before heading south to the Gold Coast. Now the Gold Coast is tourist destination un numero uno, for those of you who don't know. It's bigger than the Great Barrier Reef. It's bigger than Ayers Rock or Uluru if you prefer. It's bigger than The Twelve Apostles. It crosses a state border & sprawls in a great metropolitan tangle along miles & miles of what used to be pristine surf beach. It is incredibly ugly. The skyline is jagged with skyscrapers of units crushed uncomfortably close together so Ditz was worried about them falling on her... with good reason but we won't go into that. It is a shopping mecca.

I'm not a shopaholic. For one thing I don't have any money to spend. For another even if I did have the money to spend I am unlikely to spend it on clothing. Whenever I find clothing I actually like I need to mortgage my soul in order to acquire it so I never buy anything & never own the sort of clothing I actually like. Besides, why buy clothing when you can buy books? My girls do not share my book obsession. After all, that's what libraries are for. You cannot borrow your clothing from a library. So we went shopping.

The attraction of the Gold Coast shops is the name brand outlets , meaning the clothing is cheaper. No tomatoes. I don't care what the girls put on their backs so long as it remains modest & non~offensive & there is no doubt the huge malls (we were at Pacific Fair & Australia Fair) offer much more variety ~ too much variety perhaps? We walked & we walked...& then we walked some more. We were in & out of shops like rabbits down holes. Ditz began to complain. My feet cramped & Liddy turned white. Still we walked. I started to worry because Liddy was driving & it is over an hour either way on the highway & the weather was unpredictable.

We did all this for exactly 4 shirts. Liddy bought herself a tailored flannel shirt, which looks lovely on her. Ditz, who actually really needs clothing, got 3, all in black, all lovely & long enough to come down over her hips. The child is a wanna be goth, I'm sure. One shirt has lines of music notes across it, one has buttons with music things on & one has birds...which Ditz swears she doesn't like but which everyone else tells her is a Ditz shirt & looks lovely on her. Black is slimming & Ditz is getting to an age where her size & shape are starting to worry her. There's no doubt she is going to be a big girl. She is not built along Liddy & my lines but we think she is gorgeous & tell her so but human nature being what it is Ditz envies us the racehorse build. She is Junoesque.

Liddy, who insisted on pulling into Australia Fair after we were already in the car with the mentality we were going home, sweetened the pill by giving Ditz free reign in Darryl Lee. She bought chocolates to share. I found some coffee beans coated in dark chocolate which is an indulgence of mine on the rare occasions I can find someone who sells this particular oddity. However we were tired; I was limping ( the graze is infected & doing gross things though healing.); & we lost the car!!! Levels & levels there were & Liddy in full blown panic mode hurtling up all of them with Ditz & I wailing in her wake that it was 'Back there! Back there! '

Ditz eventually made herself heard & back down we went to find the car exactly where we had left it; not stolen, not mysteriously vaporized into the nether regions, not magically moved from one level to another.

We had good travelling & Liddy did pretty well with the driving. She has learnt that nothing is unfixable. Missed a turn? Just take the next one & go round the block. Lost? Stop & investigate the refedex. She is not panicking nearly as much when things don't go exactly according to plan & this is a good thing. We were on the 6.15 boat home but not surprisingly Liddy handed me the island car keys & got me to drive us home. She likes driving but even she had had enough for one day.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

On the Ancient Greeks.

A child who can cope with Shakespeare should be able to cope with Sophocles, shouldn't they? Translated. It's not like I want the kid to read the original, just, you know, get an idea of how a Greek play worked.

Not according to Ditz. Much eye~rolling. Aristophanes...ok, definitely not suitable. We skirted quickly around the whole Olympic Game thing. Eeeew! was Ditz's reaction to that! We are doing a lot of skirting because there's a lot of *eeew~ing* going on. I hate doing the Greeks; I really do & they just can't be avoided because they are foundational to Western civilization but oh my goodness I could do without the whole eye~rolling thing when we get to the icky bits. Deal with it, my daughter, & move on. No~one is telling you their *lifestyle choices* were morally right, just that that's the way things were.

I know people who've just avoided the whole issue but I've never understood how you could do Ancient Greece & do that because you miss the whole point of how they thought & if you miss that you've missed the point ~ at least that's the way I see it & I don't gloss my history. Doing that is at best getting closer to downright untruthful than I like.

So far there's nothing we've touched on Ditz has liked; gods & goddesses? Nope. Myth & legend? Give that a miss. The Games? As already mentioned...Eeew! Which leaves us with music, history & art (sorry folks, we don't do politics or the more usual stuff; that would be to have both of us glassy~eyed)~ I am on my way down for the third time. We are struggling our way through one essay. One. Ditz is digging deep into the trenches but I have one last card to play: Plaster of Paris!

Yes, siree, Plaster of Paris may yet win the day. One foil baking tray, 5 tubes of poster paint & wet plaster = one fresco painting a la Ancient Greece! I am reverting to type. All the colouring in is driving both Ditz & I a bit batty. Too much of a good thing & not enough creativity? So I found this book, Geography through Art, & thought I could mix that into my History mix & give Ditz a more creative outlet.

I do hope it's just puberty causing all this negativity & teenage angst because I sure am sick of it already & Ditz used to be such a happy little learner. It's hard work being all excited & creative on my own!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Argh! or words to that effect.

I love my computer ~ when it works. I am saying harsh things about it at present. It is behaving like the worst kind of psychotic. My DSL became dial~up & kept losing me my connection. The printer is chewing paper for lunch. The computer shuts down & restarts for no appreciable reason losing me all my work. The page I'm working on gets replaced with something I've never set eyes on before.
I blame Liddy. She unhooked all my wires so she could hook her laptop to the internet. Not being the most patient of children she was in a rush & not watching what she was doing. I think my poor old computer needs a professional going over. This I cannot do. All I know about computers I've learnt via trial & error ~ mostly error, which reminds me....
"I have not failed. I have successfully discovered 1200 ideas that don't work." Thomas Edison. Isn't that a great quote?

Monday, September 1, 2008

Strange goings on.

My cat is strange...but nowhere near as strange as Dearest.
Yesterday Dearest emptied the mouse traps. A normal man would have simply put the body in the trash. Not Dearest. Dearest took the mouse, trap & all, & waved it under Issi's nose. He then wondered why he got one of those 'if looks could kill' looks.
Iss is your typical male. Nothing gets his goat so much as to be made to look incompetant. So last night he caught a mouse. Nothing so unusual about that. Under normal circumstances he would bat it about a bit, eat 1/2 & leave the rest for some unsuspecting person to step on. We do not go barefoot around here in mouse season. But Dearest had thrown down the gauntlet. Iss had a point to prove. He raced over to Dearest with his prize, shook it wildly under Dearest nose (thinking I am quite sure, 'Now let's see you do this!') & proceeded to perform gymnastics with the poor thing. He was so busy showing off he let his prize escape & slunk away, his tail down, avoiding all eye contact with Dearest.
Unkindly we all laughed. Iss is a scream. This morning I woke to a banging noise & thinking the traps had been unkind I quickly went to look. Nope...but I had one crazed cat wildly batting round a mouse in a trap. Guess if you can't beat them the only thing left to do is join them...but if that cat thinks I think he caught that mouse in the trap all but his own little self he's completely delusional!