Long radio silences and worthy causes

Hello all my faithful readers. It’s been a long time between posts, and for that I can only apologise. I have a pile of things to post about, and just haven’t had the time to sit down and put my words together! 

Watch this space over the next couple of weeks for posts on learning to be still, whether all your family meals have to be home-cooked well-balanced gourmet feasts, and our experience buying beds.

Rest assured that I haven’t abandoned you all, and normal service will resume over the next couple of weeks.

In the meantime, I’d like to send you all over to visit a blogger I’ve been following for the last few months. His name is Steve Wiens and he blogs as “The Actual Pastor: Living My Life As IS instead of As IF”. Steve is a pastor, and he does blog about his faith and what it means to him. His blog is thought provoking, genuine and above all honest. Steve has decided to do this completely crazy thing. He’s running the GRAND CANYON from rim to rim. In ONE DAY. Apologies for all the capitalisation, but this guy is clearly insane. The reason he’s doing this? He’s learnt about the sex trafficking of teenage girls which goes on in Ethiopia every single day. Rather than just saying “that’s very sad, let’s pray for them” Steve has got off his butt, is running the Grand Canyon and raising money for these young women. $1000 will buy a teenage girl out of the sex industry, will give her a skill or trade, and make it possible for her to stay out of the sex trade. Isn’t that a worthwhile thing to do? His original target was to raise $50,000 and save fifty young women. He’s reached his target and is continuing to raise money. And in mid-September, he will run his heart out for the young women he doesn’t know. Do check out his blog, and check out how you can support this great cause.

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Judging other parents

I’ve read a couple of blog posts recently which take a very different stance on parents who are not coping with their children and which have really got me thinking. The first was written by Maisey Yates, over at Peanut Butter on My Keyboard, and you can read the full post here. She was out with her young daughter in a public place and heard a mother swearing at her own children. Maisey very bravely stepped up and told the woman that she shouldn’t be talking to her children that way. It requires a lot of courage to do something like that, and it sounds like the woman was totally out of line. Maisey wrote with compassion and was in no way saying that she was better than the other parent.

And yet. And yet. I think about the times I have raised my voice to my children, in private and in public and even though I may not have sworn at them, when I called them “little beasts” what I really meant was “little shits”. Am I any better than that mother actually swearing at her children? I’m sure my children got the message that I was abusing them from the tone of my voice, let alone my actual words.

Then I read this post by Leah at Becoming Supermommy. This post has been widely syndicated and requoted on Facebook and other social media (often without noting that Leah WROTE the post!). This is a wonderful post about how none of us is a perfect parent, and urges acceptance of us all with our failings and imperfections.

So where does this leave me? I’m firmly in the “we shouldn’t judge each other as parents” camp. Having said that, my husband and I do roll our eyes at each other and from time to time we do feel smug. Mostly, we think “wish we’d thought of that!” When I see parents at the supermarket at 9pm with their very small children, I work very hard not to think “that child should be in bed!” and try to work towards “I wonder if this is the only time that family can get out to the supermarket and there’s no-one they can leave their baby with”. I try to walk in their shoes. But the fact is that we all judge, even when we work hard not to. We all have an opinion about the right way of doing things, whether it’s breast or bottle, routine or freedom, working or staying at home, abortion or not. We mostly speak our opinions, and we certainly think them.

So what will I do when I am next confronted with the situation that Maisey faced? I hope that I will be brave enough to do what she did, and speak with the other parent. But I hope I’ll also be able to take a leaf from Leah’s book, and say to her “I know it’s hard and frustrating, but tomorrow will be better, or the next day. Please don’t speak to your children like that.” I hope I could do that. I hope I will be brave enough. I hope I will be compassionate enough. I hope the person I speak to will take my comment as kindness, not as a patronising statement. And I hope I can help to make someone’s life slightly better – the child’s, if not the parent’s.

What would you do?

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A Huckleberry Finn child

My boy would be in heaven if this was him!

My boy would be in heaven if this was him!

I have a Huckleberry Finn child. At first, I thought he was merely challenging, hard to manage and extreme.

Then a few years ago, I attended a Growing Great Boys talk presented by Ian Grant and he gave me an explanation for my boy. He’s Huckleberry Finn.  A Huckleberry Finn child is one who is uncivilised. He pushes the boundaries, is so far outside the box that there is no box. He doesn’t easily conform to the mores of society. He’s the kind of child who would have thrived a hundred years ago in an outdoor, hard work environment. He would have loved the freedoms I had in my childhood to roam, explore and discover. His mind is constantly busy and he’s not really interested in sitting down and passively learning. He likes to take things apart and put them back together or invent something completely new out of those old parts. He’s a delight – and some days a despair!

Ian Grant said he had four boyhood friends who were Huck Finns, and they have grown up to be leaders in industry, philanthropists, top flight businessmen – in other words, hugely successful in their chosen fields. Ian also commented wryly that these boys would probably be medicated in today’s society and pondered whether they would have reached the same dizzy heights if this had occurred.

Before anyone starts to climb on a bandwagon, I do think that there is a valid time and place to use medication – in some cases it is the only option. And I personally know parents who have agonised over this decision, and the positive changes medication has made to the lives of their children and by extension, their family know no bounds.

But my Huck Finn? He’s been assessed and it has been generally determined that he is a smart, high-energy, out there child. That’s it. And it has to be said, he comes by his Huck Finn tendencies honestly. I read back some of the things I have written above and a lot of them could have been applied to me, although asthma and a love of reading reined me in a little. My husband’s parents tell tales of his derring do and inventiveness as he was growing up, so my poor boy never stood a chance. In fact, it’s a wonder that we only have ONE outright Huck Finn (although a couple of the others certainly share a number of the tendencies above).

I look at my boy, and hope we can successfully guide him through the hoops that modern-day life requires, without crushing his spirit and his outlook on life.  And while we are still able to retain our hair! It’s a challenge, but I wouldn’t have him any other way. And I can see that he’s going to DO something with his life – he may be my only child who is a multi-millionaire or in jail. The jury is out on which one it may be.  At present, his ambition is to live in Africa and rescue animals from poachers. I could totally see him doing that too!

The niggling thing in the back of my mind is that I think MORE of us should be Huck FInns. I think we too easily conform to society’s rules, and we accept too many restrictions too complacently. Why aren’t we outside getting grubby? Why aren’t we trying to think of unusual solutions to problems? Why do we just accept that this is the way things are, without challenging them? Maybe we need to find that long-buried Huck Finn part of ourselves, embrace it, develop it and utilise it! Who knows what we could achieve if we did that?

Do you have a Huck Finn in your brood? How do you encourage and help them? I’d love your tips!

He'd be happy doing this too!

Doesn’t this look like fun?

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Princess, schmincess — a few very cool role models for a little girl

I’ve seen these photos in a few places now, and I think they are wonderful. My favourite is the Amelia Earhart photo. Which is yours?

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Loved this!

So my amazing daughter, Emma,  turned 5 last month, and I had been searching everywhere for new-creative inspiration for her 5yr pictures. I noticed quite a pattern of so many young girls dressing up as beautiful Disney Princesses, no matter where I looked 95% of the “ideas” were the “How to’s” of  how to dress your little girl like a Disney Princess…
It started me thinking about all the REAL women for my daughter to know about and look up too, REAL women who without ever meeting Emma have changed her life for the better. My daughter wasn’t born into royalty, but she was born into a country where she can now vote, become a doctor, a pilot, an astronaut, or even President if she wants and that’s what REALLY matters. I wanted her to know the value of these amazing women who had gone against everything so…

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What is life all about?

For us, the car is the place where many of our important discussions happen. Sex, drugs, politics, religion, current affairs, the meaning of life. This has always been the way, and I think it is because there is less distraction in the car. You’re trapped there for a certain amount of time with no TV, computer, book and so on.  Some of the time, there is yelling, fighting and tears – and that’s just from me! Some of the time there is nice conversation, and if it’s at the end of the school day, I always ask “What was the best thing about your day? What was the worst thing about your day?” (I learn more from the worst thing by the way). And some of the time, we talk about those meaningful issues I’ve listed above.

Negotiating after school traffic while trying to explain that we’re not really in God’s stomach is a little difficult (I’m inclined to refer such theological questions on to my father, the minister). Trying to explain why our neighbour’s 13 year old daughter wears a head scarf and clothes down to her wrists and ankles even when it’s 30 degrees C while her brother gets to wear shorts and t-shirts is downright challenging. Explaining why someone would want to set off bombs at the end of a marathon is near-impossible. Working on the words we do and don’t like to use and how we can deal with hurtful words from others is much easier by comparison. Then there are the heart breaking questions – “Mum, why doesn’t this other child want to play with me?” – and their ilk. Sometimes, we play loud music and sing all the way home; sometimes we wind the windows down and wave happily to random passing strangers (poor sods).

I’ve come to love the car, and I view those trips to drop children to various sporting events as a great opportunity to have some deep and meaningfuls.  Often, it is a time when I only have one or two out of the total tribe, and it is all a little quieter and there is more chance to connect. Someone once said that time spent in the car with your children wasn’t meaningful, but I’ve come to believe that that person did not have six children with their differing personalities, needs and opinions.  I especially like the evening practices – or rather the return home. Last year, I got to have a very entertaining road trip with four, fourteen year old boys and three, fourteen year old girls. THAT made for a lot of fun, and I was very sad on those nights when I couldn’t make it for the run. But there’s an intimacy about the evening practices or games, especially if there’s only one child. Something about sitting in the dark, just the two of us, encourages us to talk meaningfully. So I make the most of my car time, and every now and again, some utter gems emerge.

There are many gems I could share with you, but I’d like to leave you with a word of wisdom from one of my six-year olds. We were on the way home from soccer. He was quiet for a bit (unusual, as this boy’s a big talker), then he piped up with, “Mum, I know what life is all about.” “What’s that?” I asked, somewhat absentmindedly. “It’s all about love Mum. Living is just about love, isn’t it?” There’s not much more to add to that really.

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Post-it notes and affirmations

My girls have been inspired by David Levithan. His book, Every Day, finishes with the main character sticking post it notes all over another character’s bedroom. The girls have been inspired. Now their room is plastered with post-its.

They have collected lots of sayings which are inspirational to them – everything from Lilo and Stitch to song lyrics to quotes from important figures. Here’s a selection of the ones that resonate with me:

Ohana means family. Family means no-one gets left behind or forgotten.

If you’re not willing to risk it all, you don’t want it bad enough.

For every minute you are angry, you lose sixty seconds of happiness.

Be a fruit loop in a world of Cheerios.

I haven’t failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work. (Thomas Edison)

Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will get you everywhere. Albert Einstein

The girls have taken this one step further. Daughter number one is not shy about letting the world know she believes she’s awesome. She and daughter number two have applied the awesomeness concept to the post it concept. For each letter of the alphabet, they’ve found an adjective or two to go with awesome. They’ve put this above their bedroom door, so they see it every time they leave their bedroom. Pretty impressive affirmation for a pair of teenage girls. Long may it continue!

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I thoroughly recommend ‘Every Day’ by the way – excellent young adult novel!

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One small job and one big one

Sometimes having a tribe of kids and working full time gets to be too much for me. This results in a meltdown and inevitably a family meeting. We had one of these last week and the concept above came about because of it. I’ve mentioned the concept to a few parents and they think it is a great idea, so I thought I’d share it here.

Here’s how it goes. Each child should do one small job every day and one big job every week. Depending on the age of the child, the small job could be bringing their school bag out of the car and putting their lunchbox on the bench, or unloading the dishwasher – something that’s done every day. The large job could be vacuuming, hanging out washing, cleaning a bathroom, cooking a meal. Again, age appropriate.

They say it takes two weeks to make a habit, so don’t worry too much if it takes a while to get the hang of it. We decided that the children could decide for themselves what the jobs should be, and that will help with the concept sticking.

One small job each day, one large job each week. It seems to be working well so far for our mob – I’d love to hear how it goes for you!

The small boy was much smaller back then and much keener on housework!

The small boy was much smaller back then and much keener on housework!

The other small boy was also much smaller then, but still likes to water the plants.

The other small boy was also much smaller then, but still likes to water the plants.

 

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Cassandra Clare – The Shadowhunter Chronicles

Earlier this year, I wrote was about my favourite three NEW young adult authors that I came across in 2012. Cassandra Clare is not a new author to me, or she would have been top of my list!

My sister (a high school teacher and an excellent source of new young adult fiction recommendations) gave daughter number two the first three books several years ago. She read them. I read them. Her father read them. Her friends read them. We anxiously awaited the publication of the next series, book by book. We went on to Cassandra Clare’s Tumblr (still not entirely sure what a Tumblr is, so I’m just getting by thinking of it as a blog) and avidly pounced on every scrap of news about the new books and !gasp! a movie of the first book!

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What makes these books so good? Where to start? The world, first of all. This is a detailed, comprehensive, dark contemporary fantasy world. It has a rich history (so much so that the second trilogy is set over a hundred years before the first three books to be issued) and is consistent and beautifully described. From the very first page, you’re hooked into this magical world lurking beneath the surface of our world and yet it is instantly believable.

The characters are vivid, and although they make mistakes, these are often out of ignorance or impatience or stubbornness rather than an annoyingly stupid or uncharacteristic choice. The main characters are all teenagers, and their choices often reflect their age and life experience. Clary, the main character, is pitchforked into a world she had never even dreamed of, and her choices are informed accordingly.

There are some delightful characters in these stories; some unexpected plot twists and some satisfyingly evil bad guys. I’d recommend these for slightly older teenagers, although my fourteen year old has been reading and loving these since she was about eleven. She’s getting more depth of meaning and her awareness of the layers of subtlety has increased with each subsequent rereading.

Highly recommended books for keen teen readers or for those adults who enjoy well-written stories.

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A post for Genna, Nick and Morgan on the occasion of the Great Easter Egg Hunt 2013

Easter4 Easter1 Easter2 Easter3*an explanatory note for readers of my blog! For years now, we’ve been doing an Easter Egg hunt for our children. This doesn’t involve just hiding the eggs and telling the children to go find them. No. This involves anagrams, pictograms, puzzles, charades and various other cruel and unusual punishments before we will let the children locate and consume chocolate goodness. It also involves all 6 children going in 6 different directions at once AND obeying the rule that if they find someone else’s egg, they are a) not to remove it and b) not to tell the other person. The children love it, and this year, it has been really special as the three older children (16, 14 and 14) are doing the hunt for the three younger children (12,6 and 6). Makes our lives easier. Of course, it’s 10pm, and we are just getting started now…

For anyone (in NZ) who can correctly suggest where Genna, Nick and Morgan should look,  I’ll send an Easter egg!

PS This is in honour of our current family addiction to 4 Pics 1 Word

PPS No Easter Bunnies weer harmed in the making of this treasure hunt

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The dilemma of the modern woman – iPad or Kenwood mixer?

We have a simple financial rule in our house. If we can’t afford it, we don’t buy it. This leads on to an unwritten rule that purchases over a couple of hundred dollars have to be checked with the other wage earner. And if they’re something for you personally AND over a certain dollar figure (which interestingly, we’ve never specified) you basically have to be able to build a business case for your purchase. Which is how, today, my husband said to me “Which is it? The iPad mini or the Kenwood mixer?” This is not a question our mothers ever faced! And it’s not quite the association we normally make when faced with the “can women have it all and have a work/life balance” discussion topic.

I only have myself to blame. A month ago, I did a gluten-free cooking course (you can find my blog post here) and it fuelled in me a desire for a Kenwood mixer. You know, one of the ones that sits on the bench, has several fantastic mixing attachments, plus a mincer on the front and a proper food processor or blender on the top (so we could replace our existing slightly broken blender). I built a great business case for that one, and looked like I might be on the way to convincing my husband that we could really, really, do with one. Especially as daughter number 2 has been on a cupcake rampage since Christmas (thanks Auntie Vic for the cupcake recipe book) and has repeatedly subjected the rest of the family to cookies and cream cupcakes (amongst others) all with delicious frosting that would be MUCH easier made in a Kenwood mixer.  Also, I made some of the bread from my gluten-free cooking course, and although mixing the stuff for 4 minutes by hand may not SOUND like much, trust me, it’s a complete nightmare. So I could justify the need.

The Kenwood KMM770 - isn't she a sexy beast?

The Kenwood KMM770 – isn’t she a sexy beast?

I like to think that I’m fairly up with current technology. I’m reasonably IT savvy, operate my Blackberry efficiently, use an e-reader and a laptop, and I even have two blogs! I use social media and although I am still a paper diary user, that is only because I haven’t found an electronic system which works for me. And I couldn’t see that I would ever need to use a tablet – after all, I already have the smart(ish) phone, a laptop and an e-reader. Would I even use a tablet? Totally not for me!

I must now confess that I am being forced to eat my previous words. Two weeks ago, I attended a Leadership Council for work in Australia. At this council, they hired iPads for everyone who did not have one. One of our hot topics was digitization, and we were using a new internal social media tool called Tibbr. We were to use the iPads to post status updates, photos, video and the like to the Tibbr program to share in our new digital world.

Several people commented on how well I managed this new environment. I put up posts, I added photos and videos. What was interesting was that I had absolutely no trouble manouvering around Tibbr. What I did have trouble with was the iPad. I have used one before a little, and even set up one son’s android tablet for him. So I wasn’t a complete tyro. But oh my gosh! I couldn’t find the \ button. I couldn’t figure out how to open multiple applications. The whole swiping, making things bigger and smaller and most of all, when I lost the network connection, it took me a while to figure out where to look to fix it! It was a whole new world, and as I thought back to my six year olds (!!!) swiping and sorting and USING this tool so confidently, I felt just a little old, non-technical and out of touch.

I came away from that conference really wanting an iPad. But why? I still had all those devices that I previously owned and had decided were sufficient for my needs. And yet, I still WANTED one. I had to think about WHY this was. Am I just a consumer? Just an “I want the latest gadget and I want it now?” person? Here are my reasons for wanting an iPad:

  • I can listen to music while I’m reading.
  • I can take notes unobtrusively during conferences, meetings and so on.
  • I can replace my existing paper diary to-do list.
  • I can use our BYOD policy and get my emails on an iPad, as well as the aforementioned Tibbr application.
  • I can do my blog on an iPad (which means getting an external keyboard as well, because I can’t type fast enough on the on-screen keypad). I can also take photos on it, which means I don’t take the photos on my Blackberry and then email them to myself, then save them to my hard drive, then upload them. On the downside, it is a little harder to transfer these photos from our proper camera.
  • When I’m travelling, it’s a lot lighter than a laptop.
  • I want to stay current with technology and feel I’m slipping behind.
  • The iPad minis are way cool, and I would definitely go with a mini for a whole passel of reasons.
  • I want one.
iPad Mini - doesn't it just fit into the hand nicely?

iPad Mini – doesn’t it just fit into the hand nicely?

So there are some good reasons there, and some fairly pathetic ones 🙂 But are the good ones good enough or are they merely justifications for a selfish and unnecessary purchase?

Going back to our golden rule of finance – we only buy what we can afford – and we can’t afford both. These are both what I would class as luxury items.  So which one do I go for – and can I actually justify either? Do I really need either? Well, simply put, no. Would an iPad be useful for my work (and by that, I include blogging and writing)? Sure. Would a benchtop mixer make it easier for me to do gluten-free baking, especially bread? Sure.

Is this totally a First World Problem? Absolutely, and I even feel a little guilty for debating this, while there are starving children in the world! Perhaps I should just give the money I would spend on this to a charity to help poor children in my country instead. And that leads me on to another thought – when did we become so obsessed by things? By the hoopiest gadget or the fastest car? Is it just human nature to want more, more, more all the time? Perhaps it’s time for me to learn how to live more simply and covet less stuff.

What do you think, gentle readers? Would you go for the iPad or the Kenwood mixer – or neither? Have you faced similar decisions around wants and needs, career versus personal life? What did you do?

Postscript: here I am a week or so later, and what do I now own? A very beautiful iPad mini with my name engraved on the back. I’ve taken my friend Rhonda’s very sensible advice and am saving for the Kenwood. My birthday isn’t until November, so I can ask friends to contribute, and by then, the model I want may have come down in price. Huzzah! A solution. And I’ve joined the iRevolution!

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