Wednesday, 14 January 2009

chicken-pox... maybe not

We're now thinking that Sophie probably doesn't have chicken pox.

The DNA swab came back negative and the spots are just not behaving like chicken pox.  They are still spreading, very slowly, and aren't blistering like chicken pox.

It seems that they are more like Mulloscum contagiosum which doesn't sound great, but is relatively harmless, apparently.  

a compliment, I think

This morning, Matthew was so pleased that I was setting up his train set for him, that he exclaimed,
"Good boy, Mum!"

Monday, 12 January 2009

The essence (?) of Alexander McCall Smith

Alexander McCall Smith has been the flavour of my holiday reading, having read five since being back in Australia. My favourite has been La's Orchestra Saves the World, and I might blog about that another time.

I have just, today, finished the The World According to Bertie, the latest in the 44 Scotland Street Series. In it, I found a couple of quotes which I really think sum up Alexander McCall Smith's books. Even the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, the most out of the ordinary of all, is not outside the scope of these sentiments.
In the interstices of the big things of this world, he thought, were the hidden, small things; the small moments of happiness and fulfillment. p33
"There's not enough kindness in the world," said Angus. [...] Angus wanted to paint something which spoke to that distinct human quality of kindness that, when experienced, was so moving, so reassuring, like balm on a wound, like a gentle hand, helping, tender. That was what he wanted to paint, because he knew that that was what we all wanted to see." p308
I think this is what Alexander McCall Smith wants us to see; the small moments of happiness and fulfillment in ordinary lives. He wants to remind us of this distinct human quality and urge us simply to be kind, to see how much happiness and fulfillment can be wrought by being so.

He is typically so gentle and understanding with his protagonists, that I feel I am acquainted them intimately, sympathetic with their every doubt and forgiving of their every weakness. I come away feeling that I now understand much better what makes people tick, and feeling that he himself (McCall Smith) must be a very kind man indeed!

Mind you, dealing with the ordinary has its limitations, and particuarly the 44 Scotland Street series can be a little frustrating and anti-climactic; nothing much actually happens. I find I am spell-bound as I read (although I must admit I skip some of the chapters about certain characters), but dissappointed with the endings.

I'm glad that the ending to which I look forward is more glorious than this, and while I enjoy the small moments of happiness and fulfillment, they are not the goal to which I work nor the treasue I delight in.

I'll also blog a little about the issues that come up in his books over the next month or so.

Sunday, 11 January 2009


We went for a bushwalk this afternoon. Just down the behind the houses on our street and along the firetrial.

Matthew set the pace...

but later needed a rest...

as we all did, down at the water hole (what is left of it).

Bethany is learning to stop and look at flowers.

We saw Flannel Flowers, Mountain Devils, Swamp Baeckea, Flax Wattle, Coral Heath, Crinkle Bush, Trigger Plants, Saw Banksia and some others which I am saving for a new series of 'which flower is this?'.

We also managed to see some native fauna, which because it can move, is even more difficult to spot than the flora.

A water skink...

and a baby dragon...

... and, of course, the elephants.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Martin Luther had a Wife

One of the things I love most about staying with Mum and Dad is the pleasure of exploring their bookselves and delight of finding treasures therein. Martin Luther had a wife is one such treasure. It is short, it is easy to read and it is thought provoking. In this small book, the author (William J. Peterson) explores the marriages of five eminent christian leaders; Martin Luther, John Wesley, Jonathan Edwards, Dwight Moody and William Booth. He gives a short biography of both husband and wife and describes their marriages. He explores their relationship from the eyes of outsiders and from their own eyes. He encourages us to learn from them and asks us to consider what it is that makes a happy and enduring marriage.

I was disturbed to notice two vastly different attitudes to marriage. One man said,
"Of course the Christian should love his wife. He is supposed to love his neighbour, and since she is his nearest neighbour, she should be his deepest love. And she should also be his dearest friend."

Another said,
"In respect of travelling abroad, the [...] preacher who has a wife should be as if he has none."

I was not so much disturbed by the first, but disturbed to find a second so different. How can one love his wife as Christ loved the church if he must live as if she does not exist? However, I have found the text that no doubt inspired the above sentiment,
"29 This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, 30 and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, 31 and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away."
(1 Corinthians 7:29-31.)
And so now it remains for me to do the hard work to think about what the apostle Paul is teaching here and why it is so easily ignored.

Martin Luther Had a Wife is an easy read and a great introduction to some of the men and women that have changed the way we think about Christianity and Church.

Resolution Number Two

My second resolution of the year is not to make any more resolutions, but just to work on one at a time.

Friday, 9 January 2009

Leura Cascades

While Sophie has chicken pox, she is not very ill with it and has been full of beans the last few days. We have been trying to think of things to do that allow her to get out of the house and yet maintain her 'isolation'. Today we decided to go to the Leura Cascades. It was one of those bleak midsummer days that make walking in the mountains so embracing. It was 10 degrees (celsius) at Leura, and after sweltering at over 37 only two days ago, I can tell you that it was very brisk. A last minute dash back into the house to grab some warm clothes was fortuitous (even if the socks were all odd) and Bethany made the happy discovery that Grandpa has warm hands.

It is a easy walk along the cascades. It took us roughly an hour at toddler pace, as Matthew refused to be carried. In fact he quickly picked up the appropriate behaviour, stopping here and there to say 'dook' (look) and 'wow'. The walk up and out is a little more difficult by virtue of it being 'up' and out.

As always, I was held up by the flora (!!). It is so easy to walk by our flora; small, delicate, unassuming. Easy to passover en route to the spectacular... the views. Sophie said, 'its just like the view from Echo Point'. That is, you've seen one view in the Mountains, and you've seen them all.

I think I will always call the Blue Mountains home. I love the cold air in my lungs, choking yet quickening. I love the views, similar as they are, their green blankets spread over unmade beds, hiding yesterday's mess. I love the flora, often hidden, but delightful and tenacious. I love the mist hanging in the valleys, and the feeling of being, as Sophie said today, right up in the sky.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Resolution Number One

Can I still make new year's resolutions? It's only the eighth?

I resolve not to read novels consecutively this year. After each novel there is to be a book of a more serious nature; history, theology, biography, books on parenting....

I'm still interested in recommendations for a good read.

Ideas, anyone??

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

chicken pox

Sophie has chicken pox. Again.

Can you believe it? She was immunised when she was three and a half. She had chicken pox when she was four and a half and now again when she is six and a half. What's going on?

The first time she had chicken pox it didn't really concern me that much. It was an extremely mild case anyway. It does concern me now that she has it again. It seems that the vaccine has not only not protected her from the disease but has also prevented her developing natural immunity. That's what concerns me.

Both times have been very mild manifestations of the disease. This makes me think that perhaps it doesn't matter so much if she has repeated cases. But, if she is infectious and can pass on the disease to others, then it does matter. Besides which, the poor thing is very itchy!

So what's going on? I don't know. The immune system is amazingly complicated and clever. So are viruses. I know a very little about viruses, and even less about immunology. But I think there are three possibilities.

  1. The vaccine worked but one or both cases have been misdiagnosed. This is unlikely as both cases have been verified by a GP. This time, the doctor took a swab* to test for DNA from the varicella virus which cases chicken pox.
  2. The vaccine didn't work at all (out of date or mishandled in some way), and she has been unfortunate to have had two cases of chicken pox. This is not unheard of.
  3. The vaccine is working in as much as it prevents serious manifestations of the disease. Unfortunately, this seems to mean that natural immunity has not been acquired.

Can you think of other possibilities? Have you heard of other, similar cases? Can someone recommend a good (simple) text on immunology? Does any one know how the chicken pox vaccine, in particular, works?

*Interestingly, when taking a swab, the intent is to take the fluid from inside the blisters, only there didn't seem to be much of it. Not sure how significant this is.

our bethany

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Fire Escape Plan

This afternoon, Sophie found the 'showbag' she had been given when the Fire Brigade visited her school late last year. Inside the bag was a 'Home Fire Escape Plan' which she sat down and studied.

The first instruction said to 'know two safe ways out of every room'. We toured the house, investigating the windows and noting which were safe to climb out of and which were not.

The second instruction said 'draw your escape plan on paper and discuss it with your family'. So she did.

I don't know about you, but I think I might need rescuing!

(actually, once you get used to it, she's done a fantastic job)

Monday, 5 January 2009

Turn the heater on, please!

Coming over the Blue Mountains the other night as we came back from Dubbo, we were bemused to discover that Sophie had no word in her vocabulary for a heater.

When we left Dubbo it was 32 degrees (celsius). It was getting a little chilly at Lithgow and as we climbed up Victoria Pass the temperature plummeted to only 10 degrees (Vanuatu is it's coldest if it makes it down to 15 degrees).

The question came like this:

Sophie: Can you air condition hot air?

Me: What do you mean?

S: Well, the air conditioner makes the hot air cold. Is there any way that we can make it hot?

Me: Ah! Yes, there is, but we usually call that a heater.

S: Oh. Can you turn the heater on, please?

our Matthew

Sunday, 4 January 2009

book list

I've added a book-list to my blog, just below and to the right.

Some books I've already read and want to write reviews for... stay tuned. Some I'm currently reading. Some I'm hoping to read soon.

I'm also interest in your recommendations for books to read. Need to balance those McCall Smith books...

christmas fun

We did this last year.  It was so much fun we did it again this year.  Does that make it a Christmas Tradition?

We use different sized star biscuit cutters to make large, medium-sized and small star shaped biscuits.  We made ginger biscuits.  Then we made that 'egg-white and icing sugar' icing (it's real name is 'royal icing'and it is used for piping decorations on cakes, there's a recipe in the common sense cookery book, or you can read how I make it here) and used it as glue to stick 8-9 biscuits on top of one another, in order of decreasing size and offset to make the whole construction look like a christmas tree (a little bit like, that is).  Then we stuck on smarties and those shiny ball decoration thingys to make it look like a decorated christmas tree (a little bit like, that is).

Sophie and Bethany loved it and even Matthew made one.  I can't believe how much the younger ones just pick up from watching their siblings.  It's much easier than a Gingerbread House; and healthier, as you can't quite stick so many lollies on one of these.

The idea came from an evangelistic event run at Petersham Baptist Church in 2003.

how I make royal icing

Royal icing is the white icing that is used for piping decorations on fancy cakes.  It is also used as the 'glue' in Gingerbread Houses.

When piping decorations, it is important to follow a proper recipe with very precise instructions.  This post will NOT tell you how to do that.  If you are using it as glue for Gingerbread Houses or other such constructions, there is no need to be so precise.  However, if you have absolutely no idea what you are doing, it would be best to follow a proper recipe, like the one in the Common Sense Cookery Book.

This is what I do:
  1. Separate an egg.  Keep the egg-white in a small bowl. 
  2. Mix in some icing sugar adding a little at a time.  Use a wooden or plastic spoon.  Add enough icing sugar (I just use icing mixture... you would have to use pure icing sugar if you are using it for cake decorating) to form stiff peaks when it is all mixed in with the egg-white. 'Stiff peaks' is when you pinch the mixture and two peaks form either side of your fingers and they don't fall down.  You will need 1-2 cups of icing sugar.
  3. Add a small squirt of lemon juice.  I use a real lemon if I've got one and commercial lemon juice if I don't.  The lemon juice helps the mixture dry and set.
  4. Add a little more icing sugar until the mixture will form stiff peaks again.  You don't want them too stiff if you are piping because then it is too difficult to push the mixture through the piping bags.  Use your common sense.  It needs to be soft enough to be malleable and easy to use but strong enough not to be sloppy.
That's it.  Easy.

Saturday, 3 January 2009

a desire for holiness

Dr Helen Roseveare...
"All my Christian life, I have had an ever-increasing desire to know more, in practical experience, of what Holiness really means... From the moment I knew that Jesus Christ, God's Son had died to save me, bearing the penalty and guilt of my sins, I became conscious of a need to search for Holiness, a way to be holy - not that I called the object of my search 'Holiness'; rather, it was to be what I considered good, and to cease to be what I knew was bad.

"No one told me that this longing in my heart was the work of the Holy Spirit and the beginning of what is called 'sanctification' - the process of making me holy, like unto the Lord Jesus. In fact, no one told me that this sanctifying work of the Spirit in my heart was the essential proof that He had regenerated my life. As soon as one is justified and saved, the work of sanctification must begin, and it is the Holy Spirit Himself who causes one to 'hunger after righteousness,' to want to be good, as He makes real in one's heart that which God sees to be good; and to want to cease to be bad, as He shows one those things that displease God."
Living Holiness, p27

Bethany... (in response to the question, 'What are you looking forward to about Heaven?')
"Mmm... not doing bad things anymore."

an interesting conversation

Sophie to Daddy: Are you happy that Matthew was born?

Matthew: No. (pause) No born, go back.