30 June, 2009

Fun in the sun and some great news!

Today we had a great family day. Boat trip out to Green Island, glass bottom boat tour and a swim in the ocean at the gorgeous beach there. We almost lost a backpack, but primarily due to my husband's mean 400m dash (hah!) it was retrieved before the boat left the island. On the way home we gathered our energy to visit yet another park along the esplanade which has beaut (I'm working on my Aussie vernacular) play equipment. This is truly a beautiful place. We wish we had more time (and money) to explore it in greater depth. The green-ness is particularly stunning, particularly for people who've spent most of the last four years in the concrete jungle of Tokyo. We all came home tired, but happily so. I didn't have a headache. Probably because I didn't try to take the boys into a shopping centre :-) We ate left overs tonight too, so I just needed to warm up dinner. (Fish and chips tomorrow night! Something we haven't had in a looong time.) When we arrived home, a note awaited us. We'd missed a Real Estate Agent's call by five minutes this morning! We tried to call back, but they were already closed (5.15pm). Wondering, wondering what this all meant...but just before we put the boys to bed, I logged on to send an email and found the email we'd been waiting for. "Application approved!" We have an address to aim for next Thursday (9th)! Yay!!! Praise God for His kind mercies. Now, we're looking for help to move furniture into the house. Various people are lending us things which are being moved in this Saturday as well as on Tuesday afternoon when my parents are bringing stuff they've stored in their house. Do let me know if you have some muscle !! to lend.

29 June, 2009

Not-so-fun transition moments

A couple of days ago I wrote about some of the funny and positive things happening around this transition to Australia. Today I'm going to touch on some negatives. Transition makes you tired, not just the plane trip, but all the adjustments too. Nothing is 'normal'. Just like when you start a new job you are exhausted after the first day. Same for us now. Small things are making us tired and the boys too. Looking after them during this time is very wearying. They are more whingy and impatient than usual. They have many questions and as I mentioned in a previous post, our eldest son particularly, is very persistent and detailed in his questioning. We've been expected to be experts in sausage making and sugar cane growing and processing, to name a couple that have cropped up in the last two days. They're also very perceptive and know that at this time of stress, they will likely be able to get away with more, so apply lots of pressure. They need us to be consistent, but resist us more strongly than usual. That makes for challenging parenting. We are trying to simultaneously rest, look after boys (always a hard combination), see some things in this special part of Australia, plan for our long drive on Thursday (about 900km), wait for news about a house in Brisbane and generally long to settle down again. It is a lot. We were tired already before we left Japan. We feel crazy at times. This afternoon I struggled with a very foggy, achy head. I'm headed to bed early tonight. Tomorrow we're headed out to see the Great Barrier Reef and Green Island. I just hope the boys have a better day. A day when they are more thankful, more willing to obey, less grumpy and more responsive. I, for one, am thankful we're going through this part of our transition to Australia without living with other people. That might seem a strange thought, but at least with the limited resources we have, our attention is not divided. We can focus as best we can on helping the boys. I say this because I know what the alternative is like and it is even worse. After Thursday we have a week of visiting with family, I hope and pray that we'll be a little more rested and the boys will be easier to manage!

27 June, 2009

Culture shock, swimming and shopping.

We're into day two of our holiday in Cairns. Today at least we've found the energy to do something. A good night sleep really helps. 

Our youngest was asleep amidst the noise and light at 5pm, we roused him for a banana for dinner and he was in bed by 6pm. He slept until about 7.30, as we all did. Our middle son had a good nap after lunch yesterday, so was very late to bed. David and I got about 10 hours of most welcome sleep. I was so tired last night that when I washed my hair I forgot to put conditioner in and today I feels like straw. Nice! 

 Today we went down to central Cairns, which is almost on the beach. There is a great pool-like area just off the beach called The Lagoon. For those from Brisbane, it is somewhat comparable to South Bank, but with more grass (!!!!) and trees. 

 Culture shock? I could show you a photo of all the shoes at the front door - we can hardly bear to walk inside with shoes on! There is no rubbish sorting, all in the one bin - that is a hard one. Australians come in such different colours and shades AND sizes. Some big people out there in bikinis who just shouldn't be! I'm not sure how formal to be in my speech sometimes and find myself apologising perhaps too much. That is the Japanese side of me coming out. Sometimes we're sprouting Japanese words too, even my 10 y.o., who for all appearances, hates the language. 

Other than that we're doing okay, although we had to work hard to persuade our boys before we left to swim, that Australians don't wear swimming caps and goggles if they are just swimming recreationally. The grocery store this afternoon was full of so much stuff, food I've dreamed about for years, and some I've never heard about. Couldn't find my youngest's preference for a calcium drink. He doesn't like milk, so we've been buying drinking yoghurt. Doesn't seem to be much of that around. 

For all those agonizing (is this the Australian or US spelling?) over yesterday's post, I did bring myself to decide on some chocolate, buying some Mars Bars. Decided we couldn't delay any long in introducing our boys to those. I also brought home Minties! 

 At the same time as all this frivolity, our friend is still looking for and applying for a house for us to rent in Brisbane. We're praying we'll be able to take out a lease by the 4th of July so that we can move in on the 9th when we finally arrive there. 

 My biggest encouragement these last two days has come from our 6 y.o. He is the one who has the most difficulty adjusting to new experiences. He like to stand back and check things out first. However, he is so excited to be in Australia. He is taking the new things in his stride. As we walked back yesterday, after sampling Australian ice cream (I had a White Magnum, for all those worried about my problem with chocolate yesterday morning), he declared that this could be our "Australian Adventure!" Obviously that mentality makes all the new experiences much more fun.

26 June, 2009

In Australia at last

We landed at 5.15am this morning in Cairns. Exhausted, but relieved that we're finally here. We had a good flight and got a little bit of sleep, but nowhere near enough. JetStar was fine, despite some warnings we've had. The boys were great, most of the time. Not, though, when we tried to have a rest time after lunch today! It is lovely and warm here in Cairns. The boys are swimming at the moment, while I dash off a couple of emails. I'm so tired I didn't even have the heart to buy some Australian chocolate this morning. Hopefully we'll all sleep well and long tonight.

25 June, 2009

Flying Day

Even though I've travelled on aeroplanes a few times, I am still not used to it. Especially international travel. We've been in Japan since 2000 and have only travelled to Australia twice before. "Travel Day" has its own special stresses, especially with children. As a parent you are trying to meet your own and everyone else's needs and keep your mind around where everything and everyone is, as well as be aware of the timetable. Especially trying is the varying emotions flying around, not just my own, but the children being even more volatile than usual. From euphoria to quiet concentration to despair, the whole spectrum of emotions flying around are stressful for all. Thankfully today we are not straining to get to the airport on a tight schedule as well, but the boys did wake up before 5.30am. Our flight leaves at 8.55pm - that is a LONG time to wait. And my children are not especially good at waiting with grace! My backpack is almost packed, except for this computer. Trying to be Mrs Mum-Scout is a little trying, especially not just being prepared for anything, but remembering where I put everything! Which reminds me, I'd better go and put some more bandaids in - our youngest is crying for a bandaid at the slightest injury today. I also want to have a shower now before we leave, that'll help me feel just a little less grotty tomorrow morning when we have to struggle through Australian customs at a bit before 6am! Pity the folk who've driven all the way from Brisbane to meet us with the van. We'll be a sorry looking lot tomorrow morning!

24 June, 2009

Car story

I've been meaning to write about this car we're being lent when we arrive in Australia. It's quite a story. The missionary lifestyle is a challenging one when it comes to things like cars. When we're planning to be in Australia for only one year what do you do about a set of wheels? We prayed and generally hoped someone might have a car spare that they'd lend us for a year. Strange? It happened last time, though it was my parents who were generous that time. After some time when we'd received no offers, we started to make some other plans. Other options - lease a car from a mission group in Sydney who do this kind of thing, or from another denominational group who had some smallish cars available. But nothing stood out as a really good option. Especially for a family with three boys who'll be travelling with extra deputation stuff to tote around. A little aside here to explain an extra complication. We're flying to Cairns, not our final destination, Brisbane. Our logic for this is not the shorter flight, but so that we can have a little bit of holiday time and then visit family members in Central Queensland on our way to Brisbane. Of course, to do this we need a car. Initially our plan was to hire a car, this proved to be an expensive option. Eventually our homeside ministry team suggested we could buy a car through an agent they had experience with and they'd sell it for us after we left. Interesting idea. We explored it and it seemed feasible, especially as our savings are gradually building up in Australia when we're not there to use it. We even flirted with the remote idea of finding a car in Cairns to buy. Then, with only a couple of weeks to go a friend popped up and said, "I have a van that is surplus to our needs, I want to sell it before October, but you can use it until then." The phrase that particularly caught our attention was, "I could even ship up to Cairns if that is cheaper than hiring a car up there..." We suspended our packing mid-box and quickly asked some important questions. Especially, about the option of buying the car ourselves. It seemed like a good deal, especially if it could be sent to Cairns at less than renting a car would cost. Last week when we went away to conference, we waited for news about whether our friend had been able to get a train 'seat' or even a truck to take it up. We waited in vain. Nothing. Then the day we came home after driving five hours, we dropped by the house to pick up some food and suitcases and found a general email sent by our friend around our home church network asking if someone could drive the car up! A long shot. But we were praying. The next morning when we eventually got back to the house for the final days of packing, amidst myriad boxes and the filth that comes when you disturb things that shouldn't be disturbed, I got an email to say that a (mostly) retired couple from our home church would drive the van up and had already booked their flights home. They even planned to meet us at the airport up there with the car that they'd driven 2000km, just for us! We stopped mid-box again. Such generosity! In the middle of the disordered mess that our lives had become last week, our heavenly Father was taking care of our needs.

23 June, 2009

Finding a house by remote

Have you ever let someone else find a house for you to live in? We've a wonderful bunch of friends in Brisbane who have joined together to help us by being a home support team. Their brief is both practical and spiritual. At present they are embroiled in finding furniture, groceries and a HOUSE for us when we arrive. We don't want to spend the first weeks back looking for a place while we hole up in more temporary accommodation. Minimise the transition pain - is our motto. Also the boys will (hopefully) be starting school only seven days after we arrive. By then we'd like to be settling into the abode we'll be living in for the next 12 months. So...we have to trust someone else to do this for us. Earlier in the year we were offered several unsuitable places to live. Nothing worked, so now we are going for private rental, which we've budgeted for, so it is okay. In our target area (near the school) there are lots of newish houses for rent. What we've seen seems suitable, so hopefully we might even get a choice. It is still not a fun process - looking for houses to rent. Even in remote. Each place has its pluses and minuses. What to compromise on, what to stand firm on - these things are not always clear! Pray for Catherine, who is looking. Pray for us, as we answer her queries as best we can from afar. She may need to talk to us on Friday, after we've lost a night's sleep on the aeroplane. Pray we'll make wise decisions and that God would provide just the right house for our needs.

22 June, 2009

Moving day

Today is moving day, though it feels like a bit of an anticlimax after the craziness that preceded it. I am not even present. I am entertaining children on the other side of the city while my husband does all the hard work of supervising fast working Japanese removalists. (Sorry to the Americans who read this, you don't have this term. I think you use 'movers'.) Here is a photo taken during one of the last visits I made to our 'old' house. Once it gets to this stage, I am just plain sick of the whole deal and more than ready to move on. We did suffer a little bit of culture shock as we 'moved on'. The place we stayed last Thursday and Friday nights is only about 20 or 30 minutes from our 'old' house. But it looks like this: Clearly not built along Japanese housing lines, but American ones. I felt like I needed to take a packed lunch to go from my bedroom to the kitchen. Then on Saturday we moved into our mission's guest home. A two bedroom apartment. The boys' room is small enough that my husband and I can touch feet across the length of the room while leaning on the walls. Talk about contrast. We actually quite like the smaller place, but I'm missing the extra toilet that the large house afforded. We are used to only one toilet, however this apartment has the toilet in the bathroom. Massive BPU (bathroom pile up) yesterday evening, when, in the midst of the post-dinner bath routine, our middle son hijacked the toilet pedestal for a lengthy period of time. Actually it is the usual time for his bowels to move, but in this location brings the whole going-to-bed routine to a complete halt! Only three more nights, however. I can hang on (sorry, bad pun) for now. Actually we're probably going to be squished for a while yet. First an aeroplane overnight (not the roomiest accomodation), a couple of motels and relatives' houses for a couple of weeks. We probably won't be able to spread out until we finally get to Brisbane on the 9th of July. However, we are probably more comfortable squished than spread out, if last week's experience is anything to go by. My husband and I huddled together in our bedroom after the boys were in bed, not really sure what to do with ourselves in all that open space. At least we're not in a house that even has its telephone packed. The quiet in the lounge room right now also attests to the benefit of videos for the sanity of parents at a time like this.

21 June, 2009

Dwelling forever

This morning I was grazing in my Bible and I found this verse:
I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings. Psalm 61:4
If you've been following this blog for a while you've probably figured out that I hate moving. Many aspects of it, the disassembling of my life, the changes in routine, the actually packing of boxes, the good-byes, the stress of change. When reading this verse this morning, the words 'dwelling forever' seemed like a perfect antidote to the pain of moving. Imagine dwelling somewhere forever. Somewhere perfect, somewhere you are always satisfied with. Imagine not having to pick up your roots and drag them elsewhere ever again! Imagine not being tied down by earthly goods, having to sort through them and make decisions about them. Imagine never having to be sure you still have your passport on your person. Ohhhh, the imaginings I could do on this image.

20 June, 2009

My backpack

For us as a family, travelling and backpacks are synonymous. Now that we have no place to call our own, things that otherwise would be on a shelf 'at home' are in our backpacks. As I travelled across Tokyo today I thought, wouldn't it be fun to write a blog about the contents of my backpack. Don't worry, I won't include everything...
  • shower cap - snatched off its hook at the last minute before piling out the door to our new acoomodation
  • dried apricots - for snacking on in the car
  • alcohol hand cleanser
  • Sudoku electronic game - great for passing the time in the park while supervising your children while your husband finishes packing up the house
  • bandaids and tissues
  • a list of all the boxes packed over the last 6 months. Tremendously long list!
  • paper cars for boys to construct and play with later in the week when they're bored
  • two old magazines for reading at odd moments before throwing away (I recycle magazines, I read them twice before I toss them and then sometimes they also get used for cutting and pasting with the boys too).
  • insect repellant - for all that park sitting (it is summer here - my eldest was pondering ponderously out-loud the other day about how much better it would be if mozzies would be around in winter and not summer, when we have our legs and arms all covered up!)
  • a banana (at the bottom, of course)
  • travel chinese checkers
  • laregly blank 2008 diary for use for children who want to draw
  • laptop powercord
  • iPod, mobile phone and camera
At one point I also had an action figure in my bag. Good thing it is a pretty big bag. By the time we get to our 'new' home in under three weeks, my backpack will be like my second home. Certainly all will rely on it at one point or other. The one thing which is missing is my house key. The one I've carried in my bag for the last four years. Something is happening, don't you think?

Having fun yet?

"Are you having fun yet?" No, actually, we're not really having fun this morning. Yesterday my husband and I worked hard all day trying to finish up at our 'old' house and then late into the evening trying to finalise our luggage for Australia. While we had some help with childcare, in between these 'less-than-fun' tasks, we had a challenge of looking after three boys who are struggling with their own emotions. From despair to practical hysterical hyperactivity, it was a roller-coaster with an unpleasant aftertaste.

Today isn't much better. We're leaving again. This time from our temporary abode to another one on the other side of Tokyo. The guest house that belongs to our mission. First sighting of our my eldest boy told me he was not coping with yet another transition. Melancholic and irritable. To add to that we discovered as we packed the second-hand game boy, which we were given on Sunday, is missing one of the games. It happened during our absence yesterday morning, when anarchy basically reigned. A high schooler was looking after our boys, but she didn't exercise much authority and they didn't show much respect. Now the boys cannot find the missing game and it looks like we'll have to leave without it. Best of all, our eldest seems to be blaming us. Not logical, but works for him, apparently.

Before we can go to our next place, we need to finish up totally at our 'old' house because the removalists are coming early on Monday and we're not working here tomorrow. This means that I need to take the boys to the park for a few hours while David works at the house, because it really isn't inhabitable by children.

Ah, good news, the cartridge was found! AND by the boys. Yay. I can only hope they might have learnt a lesson? Luckily I'm an optimist!

18 June, 2009

Saying goodbye to home

This is new. Typing a blog entry in the car! We've travelling back to Tokyo since 1pm. It is now 6.45. We've just had dinner and are only minutes away from stopping by our 'old' house to pick up some food, a couple of suitcases and to enable the boys to officially "say goodbye" to the house. We will not be sleeping there again, still we call it 'home'. On Monday when we got to conference the boys wanted to know when we'd be going back 'home'. I had to admit we weren't going to be sleeping there anymore. That was a difficult concept for them to absorb and accept. They've thought about it during the week and are happier about it now, but we'll see how this goes. Enabling them to move on. That is our purpose. Saying goodbye is important. Tomorrow, they are looked after elsewhere while we pack the remaining 5% as fast as we can. Hopefully we'll have nearly nothing left to do on Saturday. That is our goal.

Third day of conference

I don't really have any time to post this morning, but just a short note to let you know we're into the fourth and final day of conference and are surviving. We DO have to reverse Monday's drive and go back to Tokyo after lunch! Pray the kids will be tired enough to have a snooze. They did stay up late last night at the Family Fun night. Our 10 y.o. even surprised everyone by doing a magic trick in front of everyone (about 80 people). AND doing a great job! I don't know when I'll be back...but as soon as I can.

17 June, 2009

Day two at conference

Second day at conference we settled into the routines. The program is pretty similar from year to year, so it is not too hard for us adults. Our venues have varied, so you cannot be sure what the food standards will be. Breakfast was fine. A buffet including sausages, tomato sauce and bread will do our boys any day. Not that they usually get sausages for breakfast! They sat calmly and ate. The most any parent can ask for in a communal situation like this where you have no control over food. Lunch was not so successful. They served us up soup with bits in it that was a bit spicy. None of the boys ate it. The only other thing served was sandwiches liberally doused with salad dressing - again a big no-no. So our kids practically ate nothing for lunch. Add to that a tantrum from our youngest about a tiny ball that he wanted to play with instead of sitting at the table. All afternoon was free time, most people went to a tourist place called Matsushima (pine tree island). We didn't catch the scenic ferry with most, but drove instead, knowing that private transport is less stressful than public at any time for our family and even more so at present. Instead of going around shops, we went to an aquarium. A fairly run down place, but still they had some terrific aquatic creatures. A nice be furry-looking octopus, a couple of dolphins, seals, sharks, eels, gropers etc etc. The boys enjoyed it. Our oldest chucked a 10 y.o. tantrum on the way back to the car, but if we blot out that memory, it was a pleasant afternoon. We stopped on the way home to buy some supplementary food to make it easier if there was food the boys don't like. It is not like at home where we can prevail on them to eat what they're given. Much more complicated in a communal situation and it is only short-term anyway. Parental flexibility is a virtue in these situations. Dinner went off okay. Main problem was that once they were finished eating, the boys just wanted to run off - not chat like their parents wanted to. Knowing that they'd probably start running and shouting all over the hotel if I let them go (never a good idea in a motel), I insisted they stay in the room. Difficult, when other parents haven't made the same restrictions! So, they ran in the dining room instead. Sigh. Our 10 y.o. predictably disobeyed and ran out. Promptly running into a door that someone unexpectedly opened in his face. Sometimes I smile at the way natural consequences make my point for me! It it time for the next session, so I must go. Before I do, I just want to ask you to continue to pray. The car hasn't yet found a way to get to Cairns. Please pray for a way.

16 June, 2009

First day of conference

Yesterday we had breakfast in our house for the last time. We packed our bags and left for Sendai, a mere five hours drive away. From the beginning of the day we had, "When will we get there?" type questions. But generally the trip went well. Our iPods helped a lot. Yes, we have two. One we bought last year before we travelled away at Christmas primarily because the CD player in our car had ceased to function. Then when we went to buy our new computer, there was a special deal going which included an iPod. It's been interesting getting them both up and running, but it all paid dividends today. Knowing that we had some long car trips ahead of us, I spent some time a few weeks ago downloading free stories from these two websites, Storynory and anther one I cannot remember at present (I have only 5 minutes to do internet access right now, so cannot go looking). We listened to a few stories today, although one of them caused us to get lost at one point and nearly caused a domestic. All because the driver was concentrating too hard on the story and not reading the Japanese road signs :) Very easy to do! Earlier in the drive we had some blissful quiet time in the front seat while all three boys listened to the two iPods using earplugs or headphones. The smile hardly died off the face of our 4 y.o., who obviously thought it was a great activity. We're going to have to do some iPod management education, though, as it was a pretty full-time job for the non-driver to get them fixed up, playing the right songs (they weren't impressed with the bird calls or the Chopin piano piece) and at the right volume. We discovered the last problem when our 6 y.o. shouted every time he had something to say. Yes, he was shouting over the music. Lunch was great. Japanese expressways have a culture of their own. You are pretty much sealed onto the thing until you get to your exit, so they have designated rest stops. The biggest ones have about 300 toilet cubicles and many shopping opportunities. Of course we're always looking for places to 'exercise' the children and not all offer much in that department. The trick is that you cannot tell what it'll be like until you stop there, by then it is too late, everyone is desperate to get out of the car and chances are the next stop is not for 15 or 20 km. Today we were lucky and the stop was gorgeous. Picnic benches (at the same angle as the hill) that were not inundated by smokers AND under established shady trees. Rice paddies in the distance and little nooks and crannies to explore. We spent about an hour there. Made us a little late for conference, but we don't regret it. Probably the worst fight of the trip was within 5km of our destination. Given a mere one small bag of biscuits to share, the 4 y.o. bravely held them captive, not trusting his brothers to share. We were all at the end of our tethers by then (my beloved had barely recovered from being mad at himself for making the wrong turn I previously mentioned). After a nightmare welcome session (where boys who'd been cooped up in a car for 5 hours were required to sit in a large room of people silently), we found out there was a big park nearby. My husband couldn't get the boys there fast enough! Back to the feed and exercise treatise I mentioned here. Well now it is night-time and the two of the boys are snoring softly. I guess I could go to the session that started 1 hr 40 min ago, or I might not. Maybe a leisurely shower and early to bed would be a better idea. I don't know about how easy it will be to access the internet at this hotel, so you'll won't get this in real-time. Nonetheless, it's been fun writing!

14 June, 2009

Phew - fast answer

Just figured out a child care option for Friday. Someone prayed, I know it! Now, the CAR people, the CAR!

Almost out

Okay, we're still packing...are you sick of that word yet? We are! Our 10 y.o. is particularly sick of it, he was quite thrown by not being able to lay his hands on anything this morning. Unfortunately we'll be living out of suitcases for nearly a month now. Hopefully we'll get into the rhythm. We went out today, to church and then to a large park with Japanese friends for lunch. It was a lovely time, and I even forgot for a little while about the awful state of our house. When I walked back in the door, the naked look of the place hit me. It echoes and looks bare, already. This photo of our fridge is indicative of the rest of the house. Stuff that was there and that we were used to being there, is there no longer! Tonight is our last night living here. Tomorrow we pull up stakes and head to Sendai (about 5 hr drive) for our missions' annual conference. Thursday afternoon we'll be back, but sleeping at a different address. Friday and Saturday we'll be finishing up everything here in preparation for the removalists coming next Monday (22nd). From Saturday night we'll be at our mission's guest home on the other side of Tokyo (1.5 hrs away). We fly on the 25th. You can see why our eyes grew wide and unfocussed every time someone asked us recently, "So, when do you leave?" Leave where? If you are a praying person, could I include a couple of imminent prayer needs here?
  • We are trying to find childcare options for the boys on Friday. Lots of people are busy with various things and the one person who is not, is a high school student (who is great with our boys) but whose house we cannot use. The forecast is for 30% chance of rain.
  • A car situation. We have been offered a van in Australia. The complicating factors are: it is in Brisbane and we will land in Cairns, needing a car from the start. One option for getting ourselves to Brisbane (about 2000km away) via family is to rent a car, but it is very expensive. The owner of the van has offered to send it up to Cairns on the train (cheaper than renting), but the train berths are very limited in number. Please pray we'll get the van in time.
Now I'd better go and do what needs to be done...

12 June, 2009

Drowning in clothes

I'm working up the courage to go back to my bedroom...not for time out! We're thrashing around in the deep end of the pool of the whole families entire wardrobe, and most of it is on our bed! We think we've got 78 kg packed so far, only 22 kg to go. After that leftovers go in boxes to be posted next week! The compounding factors are that we're going on a four day conference on Monday. To get there we have a five hour car drive. So, do we pack for that first? Or to we pack for Australia first? How do we make sure that we have the 'carry onto the plane' stuff separate from everything else, especially when some of it we could very well need in the car on Monday? When we get back we're not coming back to our house to sleep, rather a nearby place, to enable us to finish packing all those things you need everyday, like kitchen, bathroom and bedroom stuff. From past experience we'll be refining this packing thing right up until the night before. So basically we're just trying to stuff as much as we can into the suitcases, to find out approximately how much we can fit...too bad if we cannot find underwear tomorrow, at least our bags will be approximately packed! I cannot wait until all we have to worry about is whether my backpack is zipped up and whether I can lay my hands on all our passports at short notice. There is a simplicity about life at that moment between countries that is appealing at times like these. Oh, I need to mention that we are, at the same time, thinking over an important decision about buying a van in Australia. And, just to top off my day, I found out today that a devotion I wrote a year ago will be published next year in The Upper Room. My brain is feeling a little crowded out to celebrate, however. I suppose I'd better stop procrastinating my return to our bedroom now...byeeeee.

11 June, 2009

A looser hold

How much more can I say about packing? The boys were looked after by a fellow missionary family today for five hours. It is amazing how much can be achieved in five child-free hours! The outside of the fridge is largely naked (almost all the magnet and photos are gone), the cupboards are echoing and towers of boxes loom everywhere. After that effort, I felt satisfied enough to pick up a book and read for over half an hour. Little step by little step, the mountainous task is being completed and now we're not overly stressed about having this house packed up in time. Unlike back a month or two or even three. Occasionally the reality of what we're doing comes into focus. Tonight, for example, when I told the boys they could help us pack up some of their toys tomorrow. "But why?" they asked. "Because we only have four days left living in this house." I had to reply. Sad, but true. In nearly 12 years of marriage, this is the house we've remained in the longest. But not because we have itchy feet. Almost all of our moves have been ministry related. We've lived in seven different houses or apartments. In this house we've stayed almost twice as long as we've stayed anywhere else. Four years! Not that we're terribly attached to the house itself. It is not our dream house, but it has done admirably for the years we've needed it. Actually, while we're in this missionary business, I hope we never get very attached to a house. Because the grief when we have to leave would be much greater. And, after all, it is just a house. Something far less than permanent or eternal. The missionary lifestyle teaches you to have a looser hold on physical possessions. This is good. As the things and people around you keep changing, your eyes turn heavenward. If they don't you go crazy. We're looking forward to inheriting our heavenly citizenship.

10 June, 2009

It's getting close

Today is the day I've been waiting for. The day my husband finishes work. But I'm really too tired to be celebrating. Perhaps it is all getting on top of me or possibly we've just had one too many celebrations. Last night we attended the staff-board final dinner of the year event. Today I'm definitely feeling like it is the morning after the night before, even though I was in bed by 10 (though not asleep). It is another "must be getting old" day. We're not feeling too stressed about the fact that we're leaving the country in 15 days. Packing has been moving along at a reasonable pace and we have lined up quite a bit of childcare help during the next few days. I have this feeling that we'll be practically camping in our house by Sunday afternoon. Probably a good thing, though, as we have to dash off to a four day conference on Monday. Once we come back there will only be seven days left. No holding back then. Meantime, I have to get through today. Very soon get to take my 10 y.o. to play at a friend's house (good move - the younger two are generally calmer when he is not around). Lunch time my husband gets home. The tricky thing is at 3pm. Our 6 y.o. has a kindy reunion (yeah, 3 months after finishing!). Problem is that he doesn't really want to look back. His eyes are firmly on the future and the new friends he'll be making in Australia. He doesn't want to go and I'm beginning to believe that I don't want to go without him and make all the explanations (in Japanese). I might call a friend and make my apologies and ask her to pick up the remaining photos we've ordered of the various March celebrations. So, I'm hoping the coffee and paracetamol I've just had will kick into action soon.

09 June, 2009

More on left and right brainedness in teachers

I went hunting and found a better set of descriptions of left and right brainedness here. It makes sense that there are right-brained teachers and left-brained teachers. We all know that maths teachers and art teachers are in completely different ball parks most of the time, don't we? Maths and music go together sometimes though, did you know? In me they do. At my high school the head of the maths department was also a gifted musician. Anyway, see if these descriptions work better for you:
The Left-Brain Teacher Teachers with left-brain strengths generally prefer to teach using lecture and discussion. To incorporate sequence, they put outlines on the board or overhead, and they like to adhere to prepared time schedules. They give problems to the students to solve independently. Teachers with left-brain preferences assign more research and writing than their right-brain peers. A reasonably quiet, structured classroom is preferred. The classroom tends to be clean, with items in their place
The Right-Brain Teacher Teachers with right-brain strengths generally prefer to use hands-on activities over a lecture format. In concert with the right-brain preference of seeing the whole picture, these teachers incorporate more art, manipulatives, visuals, and music into their lessons. They tend to embrace Howard Gardner's multiple intelligences. They like to assign more group projects and activities, and prefer a busy, active, noisy classroom environment. The classroom of a strong right-brain teacher will typically have materials and books scattered all over.

Right brained teachers?

I just found this Right brain-Left brain explanation on Facebook. I'm a little concerned that both politicians and teachers are described as having difficulty explaining ideas verbally. Also that they are impulsive, spontaneous and don't like time limits? My experience of most teachers is exactly the opposite, that they rule by time limits. The worst teachers were the ones who couldn't explain...
Right brain individual: Right brain individuals are intuitive, creative and imaginative. They are flexible and are concerned with the bigger picture rather than details. They are impulsive and spontaneous and do not like time limits. They have difficulty explaining ideas verbally and prefer illustrations to verbal instructions. Careers: Architects, Artists, Salespeople, Psychiatrists, Musicians, Politicians, Teachers.

08 June, 2009


I've just been outside with my boys, getting the jiggles out. Ever since our eldest son was very young, we've figured that boys are pretty much like various furry animals. They need to be fed and exercised regularly. Some people take this kind of observation the wrong way. However, it is just the best formula for sanity that we've found in our house. So, when others can be found out walking their dogs, we're out exercising our children :-) Some days this is a challenge - not only the rainy days, but the days, like today, which seem to hover between rain and just cloud. The parks are too wet to play in, but it is not actually raining. We are so thankful to live on a quiet sealed street, so that there is hope when the ground is too wet. Even so, our boys are very energetic and there is a limit to what you can actually do on a narrow street that will keep them busy. Today I drew on my fading memories of ball games from my school years - tunnel ball, captain ball etc. I cannot even remember the names or the rules of most the rest of the games. I do have vivid memories of inter house ball games and all the practising we did beforehand and even one or two inter school ball games meets. Not that I was that good at the ball bit (even though the ball was big), I did have the advantage in being pretty speedy - in about the top four or five girls in my grade, as well as having considerable enthusiasm for competitive sport. Anyway, with four of us out there today, we had a go as making up rules for some simple ball games and even our youngest enjoyed it. With an age span of six years, it is hard to find sporty activities that involves them with sufficient challenge for the eldest and not too much defeat for the youngest! It worked fairly well for a little while this morning. So the seemingly pointless highschool ball games have had a point at last - to entertain my kids! Yah!

07 June, 2009


My sister-in-law had her first baby on Friday. A bonny baby boy called Wylye, named after an English town, his father's home town, I think. The birth was a caesarean or C-section as Americans say. I've had three of these. Someone laughed at me the other day when I said that caesars are fine if you have good pain medication. And it is absolutely true. My second son was born in Japan and they gave me very poor pain medication. My recovery was slow and, yes, painful. We spent 10 days in hospital too (standard in Japan after Caesar). My third son was born in Australia (after #2 son, I wasn't keen to do it again in Japan). I quickly became my doctor's favourite patient when I thanked him for the great pain medication every time I saw him. Guess what - my recovery was fast and the pain was not unbearable, even though it was my third! I think the 'humble' pain killer is taken for granted in Western society. We demand pain free lives and complain more readily that necessary. In reality it is a luxury, and one only recently enjoyed by a minority of the world's population. So I stand by my statement. Caesareans, if you have to have one, are fine and not to be dreaded, as some seem to think. Especially if you live in a society which values good pain management. My main advice would be to avoid getting a cold with a cough soon after your prescription medication runs out. THAT really hurts.

06 June, 2009


CAJ's graduation was pretty formal, but not unbearably so. I had the joy of sitting between friends, and particularly beside a New Zealander (we shared a few raised eye brows).

Some stuff was weird, some of the terminology particularly for example: 

  •  valedictorian: dux for Aussies
  • salutatorian: runner-up dux
  • invocation: not sure what this was 
  • commencement exercises: graduation 
  • Alma Mater: school song 
  • diplomas: graduation certificates 
  • recessional: the graduates and teachers leaving the hall.

One disappointment was not being able to understand much of the Senior address, given by the young man who received the Public Speaking Award. We've concluded he probably mumbled a little, the mike was possibly a bit distant and possibly it wasn't his best-ever speech. Pity.

 Another disappointment was that many of the announcers of receipients of prizes seemed to swallow the names - they were hard to hear. But for the most part it was quite a satisfactory experience. Nice to have an opportunity to dress-up and act like a child-less adult for a change.

Overall the ceremony was like a combination between an Australian high school speech night and a university graduation. At least my experience of these two events. Certainly it dredged up memories of Speech Nights. For those who aren't Aussie, this amounts to lots of awards given, teachers dressing up in academic gowns (not the students) and speeches from various individuals. Thankfully we had no politicians last night!

Our boys watched a video during the ceremony, but were very pleased to be released from that and allowed to partake in the after-ceremony 'refreshments'. Cake, punch, fruit etc. And at 9.30 they were pretty hungry, again!

 From a different perspective, we had three OMF (our mission) kids graduating last night. They received so many awards, it was exciting to be there to see that! Their parents are colleagues, so in OMF circles we are considered pseudo aunties and uncles. A bit strange, but it works, especially in the absence of other extended family. We were a proud family last night. Had a 'family' photo taken too!

 One last impression of the evening is how much energy these kids have. The amount they've achieved in the last year or four is impressive. And, by comparison, how old I am! I once had that level of energy. Ran myself ragged in senior, I did. Maybe I'm more sensible (and boring) now?

05 June, 2009


We confused our boys this morning.

You see, today is CAJ's American-style year 12 graduation. At breakfast we managed to dredge up the memories (or non-memories) of our own Australian-style high school graduations.

My husband didn't even get to parade across a stage and receive his certificate, let alone receive his dux award (the highest acaedemic award of a school, for my international readers) in front of an audience. It was announced when the Tertiary Entrance scores came out a few weeks later.

Both schools had Speech nights, but David's was very low key (non-elitist). Mine was big; lots of awards and speeches, but weeks and weeks before graduation, so not a real comparison.

 The biggest thing for both of us was the formal, getting dressed up (partners - grimmace), dinner and dancing (more grimmace). The boys were impressed with our after-party stories - that I stayed up all night watching videos and eating. In comparison their dad went home to bed!

The difference between our own experiences and CAJ's graduation is vast. Or so I believe. I've only seen photos of CAJ's graduation (like the one here from a previous year) and they look grander than even my university graduation! But tonight I'm going to end the trail of speculation and witness one for myself. Usually it is impossible for me to go because anyone who is even remotely connected with CAJ seems to go (and that includes the total field of my after-hours babysitters).

04 June, 2009

Blessing of receiving

A missionary friend of my blogged recently about the blessings of receiving. It is true. We are on the receiving end of many gifts of varying kinds and it is a real blessing and joy. This afternoon we unexpectedly received. Last week a friend rang and volunteered to let our children play at her house this afternoon. In our minds we'd get them home for dinner, but when I dropped them off she said, "Why don't you leave them here longer and go on a date yourselves?" What a delightful, spontaneous suggestion. When you have three boys in a foreign country, those kind of offers don't come around often, so we took it. And we had a delightful, peaceful, adult-conversation-type dinner at a nice restaurant. Thank you Theresa. Thank you God for showering us tonight!

"I don't mind girls"

To keep my youngest son busy while I was homeschooling, I've been having him do some craft and stumbled upon Alphabuddies. He really took to them and now all three boys are on holidays they've all adopted the task - to get all 26 Alphabuddies done. Each letter of the alphabet has become a 'person' with a name. I print out a line drawing which needs colouring in and cutting out, then all the bits pasted on. They only have six left to make. The boys can hardly keep their eyes off the wall in their bedroom that is adorned by all the Alphabuddies (helps to keep their eyes off all the other places where things are missing). Inevitably some of the Alphabuddies are boys and some are girls. Which can cause problems! Considering my middle son is practically allergic to all things girly (except his mum, who is not particularly girly and never wears pink). Last year I attended an open morning at kindy and he ended up the only boy in a girly group which had to decorate a poster for the upcoming festival. The girls overwhelmingly voted to decorate the poster in pink (they could only choose one colour per group). My son totally spat the dummy and refused to participate further in the rest of the craft activity - in front of all the mums from the class. The teacher was very embarrassed. Thankfully, therefore, that when the boys randomly chose letters this morning (before they knew which were girls and which were boys), it was my youngest which got the "Jenny J" and his comment was, "I don't mind girls." And I'm grateful!

03 June, 2009


What is the saying, "It doesn't rain, it pours."? It is happening to us now in a good way. We've been trying for weeks to get 'baby'sitters to help us so we can pack - as scarce as hen's teeth, it seemed. Starting from last night, however, we've had a run of offers. I don't understand, but am happy nonetheless. Now we just have to work at not double booking them - i.e. getting too many babysitters lined up for the same day :-) Now I might be left without an excuse not to pack a box myself...

The end of home schooling

It is only just over two months since I began full-time home schooling our 6 y.o., but as of yesterday we've now finished, formally anyway. It was easier than I expected, most days. For the first time I got a glimpse of the thrill of it (have you even heard passionate home schoolers talk about that?). Seeing my son grow in confidence at the very beginning of his reading journey on my watch is something I won't quickly forget. An unexpected outcome is our 4 y.o.'s journey too. In the course of teaching his brother, it was easiest to just include him with pre-school activities. He has built on the foundation built through fortnightly classes based on the alphabet over the last nine months at CAJ. But his fine motor skills (speaketh the OT) and ability to concentrate on table-activities have improved. I still cannot imagine myself doing it long-term. I have a friend who is in her 13th or 14th year of home schooling and still has a child in lower primary. My hat is off to her and the many like her, willing to make a career out of home schooling.

02 June, 2009

Sending out our prayer/newsletter

I'm just about to email out our prayer/newsletter. It was really easy to write this month, not that I usually find it a chore. Our schedule for the next two months and photos from the previous month have taken up most of the space easily. Glad to have another job ticked off and completed. Now I'm going to indulge in some jelly and chocolate (another thing we're clearing out of our cupboards - such a chore!).


When I was in Primary School, our school choir sang the theme song to the popular TV show MASH4077. You can read the lyrics here Now as I look at the words as an adult I am shocked that a church school (Lutheran) would allow their students to sing a song that talks about taking your own life. I am reminded of it because yesterday we heard the tragic news of someone, with many similar labels and responsibilities as us, who went to the place of no return. Despite the turmoil going on in our own house, I cannot but help to stop and pray regularly for this man's family and the many touched by his loss.

01 June, 2009

Bits n Pieces

I mentioned a soup tin yesterday. Well here it is - what you do with flowers you receive after you've packed the vases! Dirty green slime? What shouldn't you do if you throw green slime at your brother and it misses and hits the dirty floor that your mother hasn't cleaned in ages? DON'T WASH IT! If you do think it needs washing, then DON'T DRY IT - and certainly don't use a towel to do so! I got up on Saturday after a small sleep-in to find my husband scrubbing a greenish hand towel! A Lego cake - can you tell? Probably it is better with the lights off. I preferred looking at it from the next room with my glasses off! Not the most impressive of cakes...but it tasted good. Don't have a photo of the broken telescope. It was a present from a 10 y.o. who is an only child and doesn't have younger brothers or sisters who break things. The telescope didn't even make it past its first evening with us. I have to say, we don't know who broke it, it could even have been the birthday boy, who was seen running around with it pretending it was a sub machine gun. What cheap telescope is going to survive such treatment?