May 30, 2008

Teenagers get good press

I saw this very rare breed of news article this evening and thought it warranted more attention.

The abridged version: three Bay of Plenty teenagers had been at a party, were on their way home at 2am, saw a house fire and, with no thought of personal safety, pulled a man from the burning house and applied appropriate first aid until emergency services arrived. From Stuff

Yay

May 28, 2008

Bean feast

Cooked a yummy dinner this evening. Hooray for Alison Holst! This was in her big red book. Everyone who is from New Zealand will know which recipe book that is, and it will likely be irrelevant information for non-Kiwis. Alison Holst is one of the patron saints of New Zealand cookery, the other being the Edmunds "sure to rise" company. Someone I knew when I was a student used to regularly praise St Edmund and St Alison.

I cooked a batch of chickpeas today in my crockpot - no soaking needed, you just whack them in with the water and cook on High for 5 or 6 hours.

4 o'clock rolled around and I needed to be inspired about those chickpeas (I think they're also known as garbanzo beans?). So out came my trusty big red Alison book. I cooked up the Bean Feast (but adapted it to what I had in my fridge):

In my trusty cast iron dutch oven I fried up (in lard Mmmmm)
2 onions,
2 cubed potatoes (skin on),
2 cubed carrots
and the chopped stalky leafy bits off a broccoli.

When this was good and hot I added
1t paprika,
2t salt,
1t oregano,
2t basil,
a small tin of tomato paste (about 1/4cup ish),
the beans (it had been 2 cups when they were dried beans)
and 2cups of the beans' cooking fluid.

This all got simmered together for about 15 minutes or so. Then I added
the head of broccoli, chopped into florets
and 1 red capsicum (bell pepper), sliced

I popped the lid on, turned the heat off and forgot about it until 5 o'clock, when I started the brown rice cooking and turned the heat back on for the bean feast to warm it through and finish cooking.

Yummo. Especially with some unsweetened yoghurt on the top. Miss4, as usual, ate mostly rice and spurned the topping, while Miss1 ate mostly topping and spurned the rice.

This recipe makes a ton of very filling food - good for potluck dinners. We've got 2 meals in the freezer out of this recipe, leftover from what I cooked this afternoon. Read more...

May 27, 2008

Locally made clothes!

One of the Mums at kindy has just brought out her own line of children's clothing. All New Zealand Merino tops, leggings and an adorable baby blanket/wrap. They're still in the early production stages - her second run is to be made up this weekend - but she hopes that with the current desire for locally made goods that she will be properly 'established' quite quickly.

She has contacts with a local clothing manufacture company so the clothes are made right here in Dunedin, not out-contracted to China like so many other so-called "NZ Made" clothes. (You can claim to be "Kiwi made" if the company is owned in New Zealand, even if the good are manufactured overseas). The price is even competitive with those other brands, which is excellent.

We've put in our order :)

May 26, 2008

The answer to everything

We had takeaways this evening. I am discovering that Mondays are often a complete write-off in terms of domestic activity. Theoretically I'm supposed to do my big weekly clean on a Monday, but I can't remember the last time that happened. Usually I also plan things like meeting up with a friend to pray together, cooking dinner, being an attentive Mummy and all that sort of stuff as well.

Today, all I accomplished was putting washing on the line too late in the afternoon to actually make any difference to its dryness, and attentive Mummying. Oh, and I was going to make a bean thing for dinner, but I've been boiling those beans for ages and they are still tough.

So. Takeaways.

From an American burger chain that shall remain nameless, but is not the one with yellow arches.

So, the kids had cheeseburgers, so we could claim the pickle as a vegetable. Merl had a double-w**pper with cheese, so had lettuce, onion, pickle and a tomato slice. I tried a new triple-stack burger. I searched the burger, but came up with nothing that could possibly be called a vegetable, except perhaps the steak-sauce in a distant past life might have contained some tomato essence. Further searching revealed a bit of 'bacon' (possibly), and so I announced "Ah, here we go. Bacon. That's a vegetable."

Miss4, naturally, protested this statement.

When Daddy said, "But, why isn't bacon a vegetable?" she looked a bit bewildered for a bit, then triumphantly played the explanation trump-card...

"Because that's how God made it."

May 25, 2008

"We've got socialisation covered"

Found this yesterday while looking for info to pass on to family members

Published: Sunday, Aug. 28, 2005 10:23 p.m. MDT, Deseret News

When my wife and I mention we are strongly considering home-schooling our children, we are without fail asked, "But what about socialization?" Fortunately, we found a way our kids can receive the same socialization that government schools provide.

On Mondays and Wednesdays, I will personally corner my son in the bathroom, give him a wedgie and take his lunch money. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, my wife will make sure to tease our children for not being in the "in" crowd, taking special care to poke fun of any physical abnormalities.

Fridays will be "Fad and Peer Pressure Day." We will all compete to see who has the coolest toys, most expensive clothes and the loudest, fastest and most dangerous car.

Every day, my wife and I will adhere to a routine of cursing and swearing in the hallways and mentioning our weekend exploits with alcohol and immorality. If our kids attempt to use the bathroom without permission, we will punish them immediately.

And we have asked them to report us to the authorities in the event we mention God or try to bring up morals and values.

Alan Brymer


May 24, 2008

Quotable quote - church community

"...there has been a clearer recognition that [the church] community is not an end in itself but a means toward ministry and mission."
Ronald L Klaus, as quoted in Living More Simply. edited by Ronald J Sider.

Thank goodness for that. Churches should not merely be happy groups of people getting together each week to pat each other on the back about how nice they are and sing praises to God.

Yes, we are created to worship. We are also created to work with God to bring reconciliation and healing to the world.

Having wholeheartedly said that, I am aware that my life is basically inward focused, but am being challenged to risk more and be less security-focused.

Not sure where God will lead us, but if it prevents us living a life of mediocrity and small dreams then I'm tentatively for that.


May 22, 2008

The church in the world

I'm reading Living More Simply, edited by Ronald Sider, of Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger fame. This book is the published proceedings of a conference in the early eighties to look at the response of the Western evangelical church to world hunger and suffering - a situation that, arguably, has gotten more extreme in the intervening 25 years.

I thought the following was worth repeating
"A biblical lifestyle will necessarily recognize itself as being in opposition to the prevailing values and lifestyle of its culture. It is informed by a different view of reality. God calls "blessed" whom the world calls "miserable," and "miserable" whome the world calls "blessed." The world, lying in darkness, cannot understand the light of Christ, cannot comprehend that a poor weak church is ultimately more powerful than its mightiest empires, weapons and strategies. Therefore the Christian community must be on its guard against being co-opted by the world on the one hand and succumbing to triumphalism on the other. The church may appear to win as the world adopts some aspects of the Christian lifestyle, but there is no hope that the world as a whole will ever willingly adopt Christ's values. Although the church must reach out to the world, its ultimate hope is in the eschaton (the final consummation). When the church thinks that it is triumphing and becoming influential, it probably behooves the church to ask if the world has not succeeded in domesticating it."
Peter H. Davids

Something to keep in mind during election year as we will no doubt be subjected, once again, to militant political christianity. A brand of christianity that doesn't care about your heart, soul, or spirit, that can offer you no hope for your drug addiction, or despair. These guys seem to only care that you look and behave "respectably" - something that Jesus failed to do in the eyes of his own culture. Read more...

May 20, 2008

Where the edges overlap

After our great trip to the Aquarium yesterday it occurred to me that once again I am making a choice that puts me alongside some strange bedfellows.

The first time I was aware of this was when finding out about Fertility Awareness. There are, in general 2 groups of people who feel strongly about Fertility Awareness method of Birth Control - Those who reject chemical or barrier methods for religious reasons, and those who reject them for hippy tree-hugger type reasons. I was surprised at the time, since many people in these two camps have very little understanding of each other's worldview.

(Although, of course, I know several tree-hugger hippy evangelical Christians, so that just proves that stereotypes are only broadly useful, not all-inclusive). I fall neatly into neither camp, choosing it for largely pragmatic reasons.

And yesterday I saw the same two groups, overlapping quite happily. Again, I fit neatly into neither camp. Yes I am an evangelical Christian, but I am not homeschooling primarily to isolate my kids from 'the world' (btw I have discovered few Christian homeschoolers here who feel that way, although perhaps those families are not known for attending group outings...). Nor am I of the opinion that any sort of structure and expectation of my kids will in some way inhibit their development, that they should grow wild and free like flowers (likewise have discovered few parents who think that either, even the unschoolers see value in kids learning self-discipline and following through a commitment).

Then Merl pointed out that there was something similar going on with Sproutman's Kitchen Garden book and Nourishing Traditions.

We were philosophising about this late (for us) last night, and decided that when you get people who are passionately committed to something, to the point of being counter-cultural, that that is where you find some good ideas. That good models of 'best practice' exist where extreme views overlap. Best practice is not found with Joe Average - that is what is called mindless apathy - just doing what everyone else is doing.

Best Practice is found with people who seek after better ways of doing things and try them out. OK sure, some of these ideas will suck, but when you find multiple passionate groups, of quite disparate character, doing similar things, then it is worth prayerfully considering where the Spirit of God is at work in this world, and what He would have you do in response. Read more...

May 19, 2008

Aquarium trip

Or, "I am now officially a homeschooler".

Hector's Dolphins

The homeschool groups in Dunedin had a trip to the Aquarium today. Most excellent, on so many levels.

The first and obviously best thing was that Miss4 had a great time, met some 'new friends', loved playing in the Touch Tanks, was really interested in the talk on Hector's Dolphins...

The second was that I felt really at home with the group of Mums (and a couple of Dads) there. In general found them to be very friendly and easy-going.

The presentation by Aquarium staff was terrific. The kids split up into Under-9s and Over-9s so the programmes could be a little bit age-tailored. We had a talk about Hector's Dolphins from somebody who is spending all this year researching them while on leave from her day-job of primary school teaching. Extremely interesting, and she led the kids through some group games demonstrating how dolphins find fish using sonar (like Blind-Man's Bluff), and how pollution accumulates in food-chains. Then we walked down to the actual aquarium with another staff member, who was very engaging, and explored the touch-tanks and found out about sea-stars (what used to be called star-fish) and other rock-pool inhabitants.

Miss4 is now quite positive about the thought of homeschooling, since she can see that it's not so much 'missing out' on stuff, as being able to do different stuff, more flexibly.

Then when we got home, after Miss1 had been settled to bed and Miss4 had had some important unwinding 'unstructured playtime' outside with her bike, I produced a little fold-out page with a Dolphin outline drawn on it ("here's one I prepared earlier..."). While she coloured in a "Rainbow Dolphin", she told me a bunch of interesting things we learned today about dolphins. I wrote these interesting facts down on little shapes of paper, then Miss4 read the notes out to me as we glued them around the picture of the dolphin. I wrote "Dolphins" in pencil on the front of the fold-out, and she traced over that with various pretty coloured pens. Miss4 also invented a lovely story about how Rainbow Dolphins are different from other dolphins; they are bigger than Killer Whales and know the difference between nice sharks and nasty sharks, but even nasty sharks know not to hurt girl dolphins...and of course her Rainbow Dolphin was a girl. "You can tell it's a girl because it has eyelashes, and lots of pink." No arguing with that I suppose.

When we had finished dinner, this bit of paper was very excitedly produced for Daddy. It's also going to be taken to kindy tomorrow so she can share it at "news time". So that was a hit :)

All in all a very good outing.

May 17, 2008

No tricking this one

Merl's Mum gave us a set of early-numeracy books, and I've decided to begin working our way through them - one a week. Each book has little helpful notes in the back cover of games to play to engage interest in the concept being introduced.

Yesterday was "Zero Spots", and, following the spirit of one of the suggestions, I asked Miss4 whether she would prefer zero chocolate bars, or zero piles of poo...

She gave me a level look and then a grin and said "I'd prefer 30 chocolate bars!" Read more...

May 16, 2008

Sprout Bread, and review of Sproutman's Kitchen Garden

Sprout Bread a la Sproutman

Well, we baked it and ate it. Verdict: edible, unusual, tasty, but probably not going back for seconds.

The basic recipe is to take 2 cups of whole wheat berries, sprout them the same way you'd make your own mung bean sprouts or whatever, but when the shoot is not quite as long as the length of the berry, puree them to a paste in the food processor. Then shape it into little roll-sized loaves and 'bake' at 125degC for about 3 or 4 hours.

The flavour is quite sweet and malty, because when the wheat berries sprout their enzymes all kick into action and produce a fair amount of maltose. So that's quite yummy. And the sprouts are way more nutritious than straight wheat flour. I think the flavour would go better in a biscuit (what the North Americans would call a cookie). There are recipes for such in the cookbook, and I'll try them next. Just think, cookies with no sugar, no wheat flour, no baking soda etc etc. Good stuff.

It's funny, but despite the Sproutman being a near Vegan, there is a whole lot of cross-over between the recipes in his "Kitchen Garden" book and those in Sally Fallon's "Nourishing Traditions" book (fan review here), who is a confirmed meat-o-saurus, and whose book we now own because I thought it was so good. The cross-over comes because both authors/food philosophers believe strongly in reducing the 'processing' of food to almost nil, in maximising the enzyme content of your food, and have a strong emphasis on lacto-fermentation. Most of the recipes in the Kitchen Garden book would not be at all out of place in the Nourishing Traditions book.

All in all, I recommend the book, but not, perhaps the bread :) Read more...

May 13, 2008

A day in the life...

...of a full-time Mum.

3.30am - aware of Miss1 grizzling. Check to see what problem is - she has kicked off all her blankets and is now too cold. Fix. Check Miss4 - also half out of her bedclothes. Fix. Aware that house is probably too warm for comfort. Turn off heat-pumps. Go to back to bed.

5am - aware of Miss1 banging on the side of her cot and chatting away to herself. Ignore. Attempt to go back to sleep.

6am - alarm clock goes off. Earlier than usual because Merl needs to be out the door to catch the bus at 7am this morning. Despite not being a morning person, I was relatively cheerful as grizzly toddler and Miss4 crawl into our bed for our morning family time.

6.45 - Merl gets himself breakfast and feeds Miss1 out of the same bowl. Usually we all eat porridge together, but I don't eat before about 7.45am, and this morning was a special "pyjama breakfast party" at kindy for Miss4. All good so far.

7am - Merl heads out the door and I turn my attention to getting our morning routines done - clothes on bodies, laundry in machine, that sort of thing. Miss1 looks tired (unsurprisingly), Miss4 walks into about 4 different pieces of furniture, adding weight to my working theory of her ears being blocked again. Retrieve the clean pairs of pyjamas from the drier. (Yay for flylady - without her I would never have remembered to plan for the pj party last night). The pair that Miss4 had gone to bed in met an unfortunate urinary accident about 11.30pm last night, so a clean set for kindy were a must!

7.40am - Miss1 still looks hungry, and Miss4 can't wait for kindy, so we all have a piece of my fabulous fruit bread (toasted, Mmmm) for breakfast.

8am - get text from the leader of our Mainly Music group (preschoolers music group hosted by our church). She is sick and won't make it, would I be able to help things go smoothly. "Sure!" I reply. She says another Mum has offered to lead in her place, I'll just need to help things along a bit. No problem, I say

8.15am - get a call from Anna to see if I can take JB to music this morning - Sure, I say, I'll use the car, drop Miss4 at kindy, come pick up JB and be at music about 9am. Perfect.

8.25am - Everyone into car, along with nappy bag and stuff to take to Mainly Music that I forgot to take last week.

8.26am - tick tick tick tick tick. That's the only sound I hear when I turn the key in the ignition.
tick tick tick tick tick
8.27am - Everyone out of the car. Miss1 into stroller. Hats on. Coats on. Walk to kindy (fortunately just around the corner from us). Safely deposit Miss4.

8.45am - Back at home, phone Anna and explain situation, we cancel. Phone another Mum from Mainly Music to give her a heads up. Fortunately she is one of those Mums who just takes it all in stride and nothing is a bother. Yay.

9am - Phone Dad to ask whether to phone the Automobile Association or if he has any other ideas. He says he'll be up in an hour with his jumper cables and charger. yay. (we do have jumper cables, but Dad loves to do that sort of stuff, and would prefer to use his own tools anyway). I give up on making it to Music this week. Oh well.

Laundry, tidy up, wipe bathroom ceiling (black mildew - ick)

9.45 - Miss1 to bed - earlier than usual, but I can't blame her for being tired. Aren't we all?!

9.50 - what's for dinner? how about crockpot Lasagne? Perfect. Start assembling.

10am - Dad arrives

10.15am - jump starting failed, so we push start on our hill. Car eventually kicks into life and Dad drives off in it to charge the battery.

continue with dinner prep, folding yesterday's laundry, hanging today's on line. Also sit down for a cuppa for a few minutes

11am - Dad arrives back. The car had died. He'd needed help from passers-by to get it to the side of the road out of the intersection it had died in. Then he'd had to slog it up our hill on foot... Have a sit and chat with Dad for a bit. He suggests going back to his place, waking my brother (who works nights) and seeing if he can give us a hand to tow the car (Miss1 is still asleep - I can't leave the house while she's sleeping!). Sounds good to me. I suggest towing it straight to my mechanic, who is not that far from where the car is (I know the battery is flat - but why it wouldn't keep running once started confuses me). All good.

11.20am - Dad leaves, I phone mechanic. Get the answerphone. Leave long pathetic rambly message.

11.30am - Miss1 wakes up. Change gross nappy. Feed/eat lunch.

12noon - Dad and my brother arrive, having deposited car at mechanic. They will phone when they know what the problem is. Have coffee with family. Miss1 still eating. Dad and brother both express 'concern' at our decision to home educate offspring. Spend 15 minutes discussing pros and cons of various methods of schooling. Was interested that neither Dad nor brother were concerned about academics - was the old bug-a-boo of socialisation, and access to competitive sports teams. Responded that there were ample socialisation opportunities, especially with the local homeschooling group, that meets weekly so the kids can play together etc. Regarding sports teams, if anyone shows inclination/aptitude for competitive grade sports, then there are plenty of club teams around for kids - softball, cricket, soccer, rugby... Also assured them that we wold take it on a year by year basis and if at any point we thought that the school system offered more than we could that she would be back in school like a shot. Also reassured them that I was fully aware of homeschooling disaster stories, but reminded them of formal schooling disaster stories too.

12.25pm - 'bye to Dad and brother. Miss1 into pushchair, and off to kindy to collect Miss4

12.45pm - 2pm You know, I can't really remember. Miss4 spent some time without trousers on, but I can't remember why - I suspect that she couldn't have told you herself - she just wanted to. Miss1 and I spent about 20minutes hanging more laundry on the line before Miss4 put her trousers back on and came outside. Kids happy outside (This is termed "unstructured play" in educator-speak), quite a warm afternoon - comparatively, so I grabbed some secateurs and did some hack-and-slash gardening. Cut back the hydrangeas. Miss4 alerted me to another icky nappy. Change it.

2pm - 2.30pm - Reading books, playing with jigsaws, conflict mediation. Miss1 to bed again.

2.30-3.30pm - Look up 'dolphins' on National Geographic website for Miss4. We have a home-education group field trip on Monday to the Aquarium and will hear a talk about Hector's Dolphins (NZ native, very very endangered), found cool video and sound clips of dolphins herding fish and talking to each other. Read stories. Do some 'writing'. A favourite book at the moment is 'The Hungry Coat', where Narettin Hoca says "Eat, coat! Eat!" multiple times, so I suggest she writes down "Eat, coat! Eat!" in her writing book - this is the first use of the 'writing book'. I write it down and she copies it. A little cubist/modernist in her approach to letter placement, but if you know where to look, the words are there. Miss1 wakes from her little nap.

another icky nappy. What did I feed her yesterday??

3.30-4pm feed both children afternoon tea. yoghurt, pretzels and sultanas. Leave Miss4 in charge of feeding Miss1 her yoghurt while I go whisk the washing in off the line before it gets any colder and damper (I can see the sea mist rolling in). Wipe yoghurt from Miss1's hair, send Miss4 to the toilet 'just in case'. Put coats and hats etc on for a trip in stroller to the Doctor. (Thank goodness our local GP is in easy walking distance. I set up this appointment yesterday, before we had any inkling of car troubles!)

4.20pm - Arrive at doctor. Persuade Miss4 to keep in her pocket the pile of road stones she has collected on the way, not sprinkle them on the carpet. Take off hats and coats etc. Read story in waiting room.

4.30 - appointment time. I love having a small local doctor who keeps to her appointment times. It feels like a luxury. Our last GP in Palmerston North would be running 45 minutes late by 10am some days. Anyhow, yes, both kids are full of the cold, yes it is probably viral, yes Miss4 has blocked ears, but can probably still hear out of one of them, would we like to try a nasal spray (yes), if still blocked in a few weeks we'll send another letter to the ENT and look at having those adenoids out (this is good news - from what the ENT said last year, with her super-sized adenoids we can look forward to a deaf child every winter until she's about 8 unless we remove them. I believe him - I had the same problem as a child, but a GP who was very non-interventionist. I am consequently less non-interventionist than I might otherwise have been). Miss1's ears okay. good.

4.40 - hats, coats etc back on, cross road to the pharmacy (which Miss4 repeatedly called the 'cemetery', for some reason - I guess it has 3 syllables, and kinda rhymes), filled 'scripts.

4.45 - walked home past mechanic - car still where Dad left it with the hood up. Didn't bother the busy men - there were at least 30 cars in their yard, and ours was an unexpected arrival mid-way through the day. Shall give them a call mid-morning tomorrow if we haven't heard from them before then.

5pm - Home again. Out of coats, hats etc. Another Icky Nappy! Blow up balloon Miss4 was given at pharmacy. Negotiate balloon truce, by pointing out another balloon behind the living room door. Put on Computer so Miss4 can write a 'Monk-e-Mail'. Start chopping broccoli. Take Miss1 away from computer and restart it, finding the Monk-e-Mail for Miss4 again. Make mental note that Miss1 is now dragging small chair across the room to climb it to reach things. Bring Miss1 and small chair into kitchen while I finish putting broccoli into steamer and start it cooking. Shut curtains around house. Sit down, read stories. Miss1 is particularly in favour of Hairy Maclary today.

5.45pm - Merl home. 'Yay's and clapping hands all 'round!

6pm - Dish up dinner while listening to details of Merl's day. Eat dinner, sharing details of my day. Miss4 shares all about having breakfast at kindy in her pyjamas.

6.20pm -time to turn the shower on and get the baby bath filling up. (we have a wet-floor shower. No tub. We are still using the baby bath - both girls like a turn sitting in it!) Time for kids to do mad running laps of the house (up the hallway, around the corner, through the lounge, through the dining room, through the kitchen, up the hallway...), in various states of undress. I don't know when this tradition started, but it is now a fixed, nightly event. Daddy gets the final Icky Nappy of the Day! Mummy sneaks 10 minutes on the internet while kids are in shower.

6.45 - out of shower! towel dry, into pyjamas, Mummy dries Miss4's hair with the hair dryer, administers anti-fungal cream, nappy rash cream, garlic oil into ears, and Vicks as appropriate.

7pm - To bed! Oh wait, Miss4 needs fresh sheets. Daddy reads bed-time stories and evening devotions on couch this evening, while Mummy makes up bed. Miss4 into bed. Miss1 into sleeping sack. Prayers, Bed-time song, BED for both kiddlies.

7.15pm Merl off out the door to a Children's Ministry meeting. Fortunately this is at a house not far from us, because he is, in the absence of the car, walking. I take a look at the wheat sprouts (that have been rinsed during the day too - but I couldn't tell you when!), and make the sprout bread (more on that tomorrow when we find out how it tastes).

8.30pm Bread into oven. Oven set to turn itself off at 11pm. Sprout bread is very different to 'real' bread.

Mummy gets a turn on the internet!

9.40pm Mummy gets off internet to go finish cleaning up kitchen and get the jump-start on tomorrow.

About 10.30 I will get Miss4 up and sit her on the toilet, then climb into bed myself.

I am tired just reading it...

May 12, 2008

wheat sprouts

I am sprouting wheat at the moment. I have two jars on the windowsill of the kitchen with 2 cups of wheat berries between them, all starting to poke their little sprouts out.

weird huh?

The idea is to try some of Sproutman's basic sprout bread. I will post more about it when I have tried it and can give you a verdict. Read more...

May 11, 2008

There is no Mr Right

This is a conversation I've had on and off with a very old friend for some time. We are both in utter agreement on this point; Mr Right is a myth. He just doesn't exist. Utter fantasy.

Relationships that work are not made up of two people who are 'Right' for each other, who then magically cruise through life with nary a cloud of dissent or angst on the horizon. They are not made up of two people who read each other's minds and simply know what the other person means, without being told. They are not made up of two people who never say unintentionally insulting or stupid things to each other.

Relationships that work are made up of two human beings who say stupid things all the time. Human beings who are intrinsically selfish and need to work hard to consider the other person's point of view. Who come from different backgrounds with different expectations and different desires. Who on some days would really prefer a slave to a spouse, at least for short periods of time (I'd like a dishes slave...), and who both have really irritating habits (that might even have been endearing and attractive long ago).

What is absolutely necessary is TRUST and TRUSTWORTHINESS. Because this sort of relationship needs open, honest, vulnerable communication. Without trust, vulnerability cannot exist for long, and without vulnerability there is no true communication, and without true communication there is no intimacy, and without intimacy you are in big trouble.

COMMUNICATION is very very very important. Each person needs to be able to say what they would like to say, clarify the situation, ask what the other person means, let them know when feelings are hurt etc etc without fear of relationship armageddon. I've had to learn that when Merl asks what the problem is, or why I did something the way I did, that the question should be taken at face value. He is not accusing me of anything, he is not setting the framework for a big argument - he just wants to know what is going on in my head, and has no other way of finding out.

Communication does not ever stop, because people change all the time. Life changes, expectations change, experience changes us. The person I communicated with in our pre-married angsty phase is not the person I am now married to. And, thank goodness, marriage has changed me too.

The next thing is FORGIVENESS. We all screw up. When I'm a hose-beast with raging PMT I am very grateful that Merl is fully capable of rolling his eyes, not taking it personally and being instantly forgiving when I come to my senses and apologise for being a cow. (Incidentally, I am also getting better at not being a cow). Likewise, when he has a sore back or has had a bad day at work he can be snippy and short-tempered. Instead of taking it personally, it pays to give them the benefit of the doubt - after all, not everything in their life is about you! Not even your life is all about you.

So. Mr Right does not exist.

Instead, there's Mr and Mrs We Want This Enough to Both Work at Making it Work.

Not so catchy, I'll admit it, but most things in life are more complicated than your average bumper sticker.

Hmmm. This sounds a bit like a rant, and I guess it is. I have recently observed someone giving someone else bad ('your way or the highway' type) relationship advice. It made me sad and cross at the same time. If you both like each other enough to learn new skills and be patient with each other then you can have a beautiful thing. If on the other hand, you get to have tantrums and be irrational, but he has to be the world's best psychic and never put a foot wrong, then what you want is a fantasy - better stock up on your Mills and Boon because psychic lovers only exist in fiction. Read more...

May 10, 2008

no-knead wholemeal fruit bread

After reading this post on Planet Green, I thought it might be a nice idea to bake bread at least once a week.

I found myself on Wednesday trying to remember to write "fruit bread" on the shopping list, as it's a good thing to have sliced in the freezer as a good snack for the kids (and myself) for morning or afternoon tea. Very nice toasted with butter. Mmmm.

Then I had a light bulb moment, and decided to bake my own. I've made variations on this recipe on and off for years - we found it in an old fund-raiser recipe book for La Leche League, that Merl's Mum had. It is excellent - just mix it in a bowl, stick it in the loaf tins, rise it and bake it - no kneading! Also, much cheaper and more nutritious than store-bought bread.

Here's the basic recipe. To make fruit bread, add 1Tb cinnamon and 1Tb mixed spice or garam marsala to the dry ingredients, and about 1 cup raisins (or other dried fruit) to the wets.

Bread" - La Leche League NZ Mothering Time Cookbook, 1977

Yields two moist nutritious loaves - particularly delicious toasted

1. Put into bowl
  • 1 1/2 pints (900mL) warm water
  • 1 Tablespoon dried yeast
  • 1 good dessertspoon treacle or molasses
and leave to stand for a few minutes.

2. Put into a large bowl
  • 2lb (910g) wholemeal flour
  • 1 round dessertspoon salt
3. Grease two one pound bread tins well with butter. (Very well - I line mine with baking paper)

4. Beat the liquid with a rotary beater and pour into a well in the flour and salt. Mix togethr and put into the two tins.

5. Leave in a warm place to rise and then bake about 40 minutes at 190degC (375degF).

The bread turned out even better than I remember. Highly recommended!
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May 6, 2008

sick and tired

I remember someone saying years ago that if you find yourself saying repeatedly (or, in my case, thinking it) "I'm sick and tired of..." then that's probably exactly what you are; sick and/or tired.

In my case I think more tired than sick, but either way, it's time for me to have an early night tonight. Too many nights of getting up at least once to either the teething one or the "Mummy, I've just wet my bed" one.

night night

May 3, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me

I turned 31 today!

I had a lovely day, and just went out for dinner on the spur of the moment with Merl and the two kids. The Lone Star do good family dining, with a high chair and things to colour in and a menu that Miss4 wanted to order from. Also, they are open for dining from 5pm, which would have been unthinkably early for us only 5 years ago, but with kids in tow has become a necessity.

Then, on returning home, we had some luvverly chocolate cake with plums and cream, which my Auntie Kay had dropped around earlier in the day. The Pavlova that Dad brought around will be eaten tomorrow.

Friends and family have given me such lovely thoughts and gifts that it really was a perfect day, with only a thread of sadness running through it that Mum wasn't here to join in. Just can't help thinking "I wonder what we'd have been doing today if Mum were still alive".

sigh. This whole next week is going to be hard, with all the Mother's Day advertising around - even without a TV and not listening to commercial radio I feel swamped by it. Read more...

May 2, 2008

What Katy Didn't Do

I have just re-read What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge to check whether it might do as our next read-aloud chapter book. I'm on the hunt for good books, which contain nothing scary (Miss4 has a very vivid imagination), which don't condescend to kids, and have enough happening in them to engage her. Verdict on 'What Katy Did': not yet, probably better for them to read themselves when they're about 8 or 10.

But I was forcibly struck by one incident in the "Katy at School" part of the story. Katy is nearly expelled and is very definitely punished (unjustly), for 'unladylike conduct'. A note had been passed from one of the girls in the boarding school to a male student at the next-door college, signed "Miss Carr". This action of passing the note to a boy was considered to be wantonly forward and disgraceful conduct.

What struck me was the contrast between this standard of moral behaviour in 1860s America, and the expectations of our own society for teenage girls. Back then, merely communicating with a boy without your family's knowledge and permission was considered brazen and wanton - a reason to be sent home in utter disgrace. Today, if you are still a virgin at 18 you are considered hopelessly prudish, unattractive and uncool.

While I do not wish to return to the limited life choices that women had in those days, or any of the other social evils of the day (slavery, indentured servitude, a rigid class system of 'Society', arranged marriages) , there was a baby in with that bathwater.

In looking around at the dolls, clothes, greeting cards and magasines targeted at "tweens" (8-10year olds), it seems that the marketers and whomever else is driving pop-culture, is telling our 8 year olds, that in order to be a success you must dress and act like a whore, boys must like you "that way", and you will have ''romance" in your life. Excuse me? Since when has playing the market been the key to happiness? Since when have pre-teens (or even teens) been mentally and socially capable of the whole dating mine-field? (I know grown-ups reduced to tears at the thought of being back in the market - why are we putting that sort of stress on children?)

In this supposed age of feminism and choice for women and exaltation of all things female, there is a total absence of reverence for the Maiden phase of the cycle. How much more freeing it might have been to be a teenager in the days when you were not expected to be mate-hunting throughout your adolescence. How much energy could we have poured into other things? Read more...

May 1, 2008

The Dollar Stretcher

An on-line frugality magazine - a great resource for frugal stuff. I read it religiously every week for a couple of years, and have learned heaps and heaps - some of the ideas and articles I think are ridiculously obvious, some I'd reserve for times of extreme hardship, but the vast majority of articles have at least one good idea.

I've noticed that they're recycling their articles, so I only browse through once a month or so now, but it's still a good place to go for ideas on how to do something on the cheap. Read more...
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