Thursday, August 28, 2008

My Olympic Wrap-Up

Well, it's all over for another 4 years. Those two weeks seem to fly. We've had the TV going pretty frequently over here but consider it an exceptional occasion. As usual, we were quite happy with the results.

Our swimming team did us proud again. A couple of our girls were outstanding, winning gold. The guys on our team were a little let down by ONLY winning silver on their main events. Perhaps we felt the loss of Ian Thorpe, who retired early, but people like Eamon Sullivan and Grant Hackett were fantastic anyway. It makes me think of something that I mentioned on this blog once before. Out of the 3 people standing on the podium, figure out the person who tends to get most depressed and need most counselling. It's not the bronze medallist, who is generally glad just to have won an Olympic medal, but the silver medallist, who regrets having been so close to the gold and just missing out. But I think the two fellows I mentioned realise that being second best in the world at their events is a momentous achievement anyway.

Having said all this, every other swimmer of every nation was overshadowed by Michael Phelps anyway. Wow, that guy is a powerhouse, a machine, and we all started backing him over here too, just to see if he could break that record of earning most golds at any single games.

I love it when surprising victories occur, such as our gold winning high-diver, Matthew Mitchum, who won his event on the very last day. I learned something from his story, too. Apparently two years ago, this young man decided his was getting disenchanted with diving and was on the verge of quitting. He stuck it out just for the sake of all that he'd already put into it and now he's made history.

I always find myself touched whenever I see a medal presentation, regardless of the nationality of the winner. There's something about hearing national anthems belted out that moistens the eyes. I know I'm an ignorant Aussie, but the only lyrics of "The Star Spangled Banner" I know are "Say can you see by the dawn's early light." I might look them up because I'm interested, it's such a stirring tune. I do know all the words to my own anthem, of course, but there was a time when that wasn't the case. When we used to sing "Advance Australia Fair" at Primary School, I'd never quite remember this line:- "In history's page, let every stage advance Australia, fair." Some of my friends, who knew even less, asked me and I said, "I think it's "For heaven's sake, let every state advance Australia fair." It fitted the tune so that was good enough for us.

So it's all over and I guess we'll start looking forward to London, 2012. Did you realise, the Olympic Games and the leap year happen in the same year? I figured that out during Athens 2004, the year my son Blake was born. Although he was overdue and wasn't born until March 26th, I was optimistic enough in late February to wonder if he might born on February 29th. Andrew and I were making a few jokes about how, if that happened, every three years we'd be able to tell him, "No party, it's not your birthday this year."

On that note I think I'll stop typing as I've already done a few deviations from the subject of the Olympics.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Funny things happen

I know one of the most rewarding parts of home education is the humorous conversation we'd miss if our offspring were at school .

I was reading to the kids from a book with a character named "Stewie" and had to explain to Emma that it was almost certainly short for "Stewart."

She commented, "Stewie must eat lots of stews," and I gave an obligatory "ha ha."

Emma grumbled, "That wasn't a proper laugh. I'll bet if Logan made that joke, you'd be almost rolling on the floor laughing." Her older brother is the quiet type outside the house but he has an acerbic wit and a knack of being a natural comedian. Just recently, she is beginning to wonder why she finds it hard going to get the same response.

And Logan quirked an eyebrow and said, "Emma, come on, you have to admit, my jokes have a bit more class than 'Stewie eats lots of stews.'" And although it might not seem that funny, just the way he said it made me begin to laugh. He has the facial expressions to go with his comments. And when I started laughing, Emma began to get really mad and said, "See, I told you!"

She's really trying to figure out what makes a joke funny lately. Both she and Logan love stories I tell them about my Dad, their grandfather, while I was growing up. For example, once we were out at a flash restaurant for a celebration and Dad went to the toilet, leaving a tiny inch of wine at the bottom of his glass. While he was gone, a waiter came over and re-filled the glass to the top. Of course Dad didn't realise this. When he returned he decided to polish off his last bit of wine. Without even glancing at his glass, he tilted his head and flicked it back with a neat jerk of his wrist, ending up with a full glass of wine splashed all over his face.

Emma says, "Mum, Papa must've been funnier when you were growing up than he is now. Because when we visit him, he usually just likes to watch the sport on TV." But I tell her, "The thing is, he used to be just the same when he was middle-aged. He used to love sitting around watching sport then, too." The key with humorous moments is that they're like looking for a 4-leaf clover. When you search for them they're elusive but when you're just going about your day, that's when they occur. And if you want to get a collection of good family jokes you just need to remember them.

As Doctor Seuss said in "Old Fish, New Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish," from there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Envy and Jealousy

I'll tell you what I've learned re: the above subject since we started our homeschooling journey about five years ago.

It started around May 2003 when Logan, my eldest, was very unhappy in school. I yearned to begin homeschooling but wasn't certain I'd have what it takes. I started by contacting a few friends who were homeschoolers, and the more I found out about their lifestyles, the more I found a wistful sort of envy welling up in me. Their leisurely paced days, close-knit bonds with every family member in the home, freedom to have late nights out on weeknights and then sleep in the following morning, the interesting sounding, wide ranging curriculum that seemed available to them; it all appealed to me more than I could express. Well, those who've been reading my blog know what happened, of course. After five years, we've been doing it for quite awhile and even get the occasional phone call from families who are just starting out and want to make enquiries. It's a grand life and I wouldn't change it.

Yet I have to admit that some days a tiny spark of the old envy pops up very briefly for the opposite reason. This is usually when we've finished a long week with messes, bickering and Blake's energy level being stifled on rainy winter days. My envy sparks up when I hear remarks from other friends and family who are doing the traditional schooling thing. Remarks such as, "I know I can really get a lot of work done between 8.30 and 3.30 so I thank God for that quiet time," or, "I know I'll be able to give the house a thorough tidy up on Monday when I have nobody underfoot," or, "I thought I'd meet a friend at a coffee shop for a leisurely talk after I've done the school drop-off." A couple of young mothers I know are actually ticking off the weeks and months until their last pre-schoolers are off with their siblings, giving them much needed "free time." That's when I snap out of it and remember the trauma that having a school aged child really used to be. It was really horrible for all of us. Then I have a bit of a laugh at myself and human nature in general, which always sees greener grass on the other side of the fence, even when you've been grazing on both sides.

Our memories are still too fresh for us to ever return to traditional institutional schooling, although as Logan gets older we'd consider home-based, on-line courses for him, and later for his sister and brother. I find it really helps on those not-so-perky days to remind myself, "This is what we want to do! This is actually fun!" And it will be over all too soon, just as the past five years have flown.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Those Crosses

Some of the aspects of writing and getting my latest book out have been annoying this last little while. I'm only going to use this first paragraph to summarise them all so here it comes. There's the loneliness, the expense, the misunderstandings with production people (which I might write about another time), the difficulty in sales, a certain lack of recognition and feedback, the constant re-writing, the time-consumingness of it all and the occasional reluctance to sit down and get on with it. And there are so many millions of other people out there who are writing excellent books, which begs the question does it even matter if I don't add to the glut? Without going on at length about any one of those, they've been enough to make me seriously consider whether it's worth going on with. A few times over these past few weeks I've thought I might throw it all in and say it's all too hard.

But then I remembered the great things about it. The fun of the creative side, the characters, the feedback that does come my way and the possibility of influencing and inspiring others. If there's anything that really makes me feel as if I'm doing what I should be doing, it'd have to be writing. And I remembered that when we don't do what we truly believe God has planned for us to do, then it's a sin of omission. There's too much good about it to consider giving up after all.

Sometimes, as Christians, we talk about 'bearing our Cross' and then when we have crosses to bear we just want to be rid of them. I know people who associate 'bearing our crosses' with standing up for our Christian beliefs in the face of persecution and even martyrdom. I think it covers this and even more. When Jesus spoke of cross-bearing in the gospels, he seemed to cover the inevitable annoyances that come with living your normal life and doing what you believe God wants you to do. "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take his cross daily and follow me," he said in Luke 9: 23. "Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple" he added in Luke 14: 27. So all of that annoying stuff I mentioned in my first paragraph in regards to writing Christian fiction is simply part of what Jesus warned about, and a very small part I might add. If we want to pursue any dream we simply can't escape the inevitable frustrations that are bound to come with it. I think Jesus said this about crosses not to make us feel gloomy but to encourage us to simply remember what He said and deal with them.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Has anyone missed me?

I honestly didn't intend to make my break so long but we've also had some unforeseen computer hassles. For awhile we were having real trouble with our internet connection. That was a pain in the neck, particularly because we didn't know if we were missing important emails, but all is well now. And then for a few weeks, I found I had a bit of what I can only call "blogger's block" during which I could hardly think of anything I thought worth saying. But now I'm back and will update with what we've been doing.

Blake and his naughty antics have been taking up a lot of my energy. He's our youngest, at 4 years old. Just lately he's been a real challenge. His older brother and sister, although they had their naughty moments, never used to throw such enormous tantrums and never dreamed of doing some of the things that he's been doing. For starters, my in-laws popped in one day when Blake didn't feel like seeing them. So he decided to flop on the floor and scream so loudly that none of us could hear anything that anyone was saying. I hauled him into his bedroom for some 'time out' but when I returned to our visitors, he started bashing and thumping the walls with anything he could lay his hands on. (Daddy, by the way, wasn't home for any of this. Although these hissy-fits appear totally spontaneous, Blake seems to choose his moments well.)

My mil suggested that he wasn't 'normal'. Perhaps we need to totally eliminate all possible chemicals and sweet foods from his diet, she thought. He might have some sensitivity to particular 'triggers'. I thought this sounded reasonable. However, when we thought about it, I wondered if it was really true. Many of those children I've heard of seem angry and uncontrollable at all times, or perhaps more consistently than he does. And Blake can be very docile and sweet when it suits him, with a very long concentration span. On the flip side of this long concentration span, he can keep his tantrums, crying fits and sulks going for far far longer than the other two ever used to. No, it seems to be plain bad temper. My older kids even said that he'd make a perfect case for "Super Nanny" and I think they were only half joking.

Another of his tricks has been to open the front door (because he's just worked out how to unlock it, drag over a chair and slide off the chain too), dash outside and race up the footpath as fast as he can. And he runs like an Olympic sprinter. Logan, Emma and I have really had to puff and pant chasing him down. But he grins and giggles. This one seems to be his little joke. Now that he can open all restraints on the door, I don't like it much. I've been trying to impress on him that running away could be dangerous.

I told some friends at our fortnightly Bible study that if Andrew and I had decided to call it quits with two children, we'd probably think we were quite good parents! I got quite a lot of encouraging feedback. Some of the children of others, who are now grown older, used to be very similar to Blake, they tell me. I was very relieved because these kids are now polite, well behaved members of the community.

So for now, we're just getting through this stage with him and trying to be consistent. If it's Emma's turn in the front seat, I'll just let Blake do his block in the back rather than caving in and letting him sit in the front for the sake of peace and quiet. Because that might be one of the factors that has turned him into a menace at times. In the past, I've often heard Logan tell Emma, "Let Blake have the biggest piece (or whatever) because he makes the biggest fuss if he doesn't get it." Definitely worth putting up with loud tantrums from him at this current time rather than having a complete obnoxious young man in the future. We're trying to explain each situation he objects to calmly and then not reinforce his behaviour with too much attention. But if these power struggles are what he's capable of, I feel sorry for the little girl he'll end up marrying. We'll have to persevere with lots of prayer and trust that he'll break through his 'nice person' barrier one day too.

Having said all this, he's very cute and smiley. Nobody sweeter when he's in a happy mood. I guess that's another of his weapons.

Another thing that's happened is that we've got a baby guinea pig. Emma found out that some friends of hers had a little male, Red American guinea pig (I think that's what they said he is) to give away, and she pleaded for him. So Andrew built a good sized hutch and we now have Bamboo as a new member of the family. I don't really know why she called him that but she wouldn't consider any other name. What's surprised me is that I've taken such a liking to him myself. Some readers of my blog may know of my extreme aversion to mice and rats. Yet this little rodent, who I admits looks very rat-like except for his wider nose and lack of a hairless tail, is charming!

I'll also mention that last night we watched the Olympic Games opening ceremony and it was so magnificent, I'm still thinking about it. Beijing put on a flawless show! Emma, who currently has a fascination with anything Chinese, and has watched the "Mulan" movies over and over, was spellbound. I love opening ceremonies. They're almost breathtaking enough to wait four years for. We're very interested in the Games in our family. One of Emma's little friends told her, "I don't know what all the fuss is all about" and Logan's opinion when he heard that was very gruff and sharp.

Watching the athletes parade is a very good experience for kids to understand just how many different nations our world contains. Emma badly wanted to see our own team walk in and I told her that she could, but they turned out to be almost last out. I think only China, the hosts, were behind them. She was getting very bleary-eyed and cross as it was getting closer to 1 am. It reminded me of watching our Christmas pageant when the commentators keep saying, "Santa Claus isn't far away." Last night it was, "The Aussies aren't too far now!" and we found out they were 202nd! The rest of us were having fun identifying the world leaders and athletes (especially tennis players) from the other nations.

This has been a particularly long blog post, so I must have a lot to make up for. I'll catch up with others this afternoon and I'm REALLY looking forward to that as I've missed you all. Will keep our eyes on the Games and no doubt share thoughts about them.