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Wednesday, 28 January 2015

The day I knew I needed to go back to work....or something

Today has been a day!  So far I have attempted to leave my house three times - I have one more to go.

Scenario 1:
Miss Sunshine woke me up at 8.45am to tell me we had to go in 10 minutes.  I raised my just-woken-up head from the pillow and questioned where we needed to go.  I had promised to pick up her best friend and take them down to the movie cinema.  Apparently.  Maybe I vaguely remember something about that, but really, at 8.45am??  What was she thinking?

Scenario 2:
I had to go back and pick the girls up from the cinema.  At the time I should have been there I realised I shouldn't have been at home.  Talk about panic...I raced out the door yelling "I'm going to get Miss S....I'll be baaaccckkkk". 

Scenario 3:
I popped in to the mum of Miss Sunshine's friend when we dropped her off.  We're chat-chat-chatting and then at 1.05pm I suddenly went "OH NO, I shouldn't be here.  I have to go out!"  Miss Sunshine sorted out L Plates and such and off we went.  I got home, grabbed all my bits and pieces and rushed out the door with an apple and a banana because God made great fast food.

Good news though:  the girls got to their movie a little late but thanks to advertising didn't miss a second.  I remembered to pick them up and was there before they got out.  And I made it to work on time, and since they moved the meeting time back half an hour I had time to catch up, eat a banana (because who has time to eat when they need to leave the house yesterminute?), have a drink and set myself up.

People, it is really bad when you realise you no longer have the ability to leave the house in order to get to all the places.  I need to be at the physio at 9am tomorrow.  I'll probably be awake at 4am worrying about whether or not I'll remember to wake up, get up and get there.

I have now done all the work I have planned for the year - presenting a PD to my former colleagues.  I need a job.  I wander about the house moaning "I'm soooooo bored", but then when I have something to do I can't figure out how to get there.  And now I need to leave in 30 minutes...and the child I have to take needs food.

Jesus please help my brain come back.  None of us can operate if my brain falls over.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

I'll Sing You to Me


It was Australia Day yesterday.  Around here it was a very quiet day.  Just us.  No BBQ.  No lamingtons, although I seriously considered making some. 

The most "Australian" thing we did was for Miss Mischief and I to watch the movie "Australia", all the way to the end, last night.  Apparently I always falls asleep just after those "fat cheeky bulls" get driven up the wharf into the ship.  Not because I'm uninterested in the movie, but because it's long and staying up til midnight is not normally in my realm of do-able things.

As I watched last night I realised this movie is full of incredibly special moments and beautiful themes.  And heartbreaking ones too.  What were people thinking, back in 1939, to imagine that it was ever going to be OK to steal indigenous children from their families, to "breed the black out of them" because they would be better off?  How appalling and shameful!  Our past is not one to be proud of in this regard and it makes our present so tricky.  A present for which there are no easy answers or palatable solutions.  The hurt goes too deep for either.  Sadly I don't know any indigenous people because we live in very different locations, but I know I would have a lot to learn from them.  And the first thing I would say is "I'm so sorry".

What surprised me, watching the movie this time, was the way Lady Ashley embraces all those she encounters at Faraway Downs.  They are all immediately worthy of her protection, appreciation and solidarity, regardless of colour, race or creed.  Her only exception is for those who do the morally wrong thing.  Like stealing.  I love her fierce loyalty.

What endeared me most in the movie, was Nulluh, played by Brandon Walters (pictured above).  Is that not the most angelic, gorgeous face you've ever seen?  Well, apart from your own children of course!  Nulluh straddles two worlds with wisdom and intuition that just feels ... right.  I feel like no matter how I say this I'll say it wrong.  But Nulluh learns the ways of his indigenous roots from his grandfather and he learns the ways of his non-indigenous roots from the Drover and Lady Ashley.  Both are embraced by Nulluh and the adults around him embrace them too.  This gave me hope for us, as a nation. My hope might be naive and simplistic, but it is hopeful nonetheless.

My favourite line in the whole movie?  "I'll sing you to me".  It is a thread that resonated with me and I'm having trouble putting into words how those few words impacted me.  It's a picture of what I imagine God does for me.  I always thought about it in terms of God pursuing us.  But maybe he sings us to him.  He sings to our hearts and calls to us in the deepest places of our being.  A song that speaks and calls, and connects.  A song that tells me I am safe and loved and wanted and cherished.  That no matter how far away I get, that song will guide me back.  Nulluh told Lady Ashley that he would "sing you to me" as they were being separated.  A promise that they would be reunited and reconnected in the deepest of ways.  And their song guided her back to him.

How beautiful to be so known and so loved. 

Monday, 26 January 2015

Radio Silence...aka...internet ran out

Apparently we are now heavy internet users.  Well...four of us at home, not much to do, lots of interesting things to look at and read...you know how it goes, I'm sure.  Unfortunately our internet download limits need to be upgraded and Telstra don't seem to want to talk to us (read, Hubby) about fixing our little internet problem.  Four months after this became an issue we're still waiting.  Ugh.  If only we had another option, we would dump Telstra in a heartbeat.  But we have no choice and they seem be taking advantage of this aspect of our relationship.

In the meantime, when our data download is used up we turn off the modem and use our iPhones as hotspots.  Beats the mind-numbing excess bill we get otherwise.  My phone won't talk nicely to my computer, so while I can do some stuff on my iPad, I am too impatient to try and make blogger work for me.  Technology!!!

So what have I been doing while I've been radio (or internet) silent?

I have been reading.  Three books in three days and then I found Momestary.com, so I started reading through archives there.  I love Glennon's fragile, cautious, brave writings and have found myself challenged and entertained.

I have been getting a bit silent.  Quiet.  Asking Big Questions and letting God speak to me and answer them.  Having figured out the whole notes/highlighting thing in my Bible app is helping me keep track of what I'm learning and understanding.

I have been sleeping in.  Oh. My. Goodness!  Did you hear that?  I've been sleeping in!!!!  I didn't know I could do that.  And to be really truthful, the sleep-in comes after a bad night with little sleep, so really I'm just catching up before I have to get out of bed.  But 9.30am is about when I wake up the second time.  The first two times this happened the kids wondered what was going on!

I have been noticing my house.  Ok, so this is seriously a first-world problem.  But it's also a stewardship issue, I think.  But my house needs painting.  Desperately.  I didn't notice how many chipped paint spots we have until I've had nothing much to do.  And I've been noticing how dark and unfriendly my kitchen looks (black benchtops, dark wood cupboards).  My friend, who just moved house, has pristine white cupboards and a caesarstone bench.  I'm in kitchen-love (not envy...not choosing envy).  One day I want to go and cook in her kitchen just because it's so beautiful.  I'm sure she won't mind if I leave her all the food.  Right?

I have been applying for the few jobs available that are in my area.  Feeling a little hopeless with this one, but God keeps whispering that he has something in store; that something is coming.  Is it wrong to wish for the perfect 4-day-a-week job that someone has and maybe, like, pray that teacher out of that role?  Yeah, maybe that's a little bit not OK.  Alright, patience and rest are my lessons right now.

And the other day I was an overcomer.  About once a week (or maybe twice a week, or maybe every day when I'm busy and tired) I hit a huge big wall and I CANNOT COOK ANOTHER MEAL, EVER IN MY LIFE.  We got some Village vouchers for Christmas so we went to organise tickets, because who wants to pay the man on the phone $25 when I could walk in and do it for free?  I could have that $25 for movie food!  Anyway, we went to organise tickets and Dh decided the line was too long so we should get a cuppa.  And shop for shirts for him.  Now he knows I am the world's worst shopper.  I rarely win in this game (although I did win when I had to buy orthotic shoes and new 3/4 denim pants at the last minute) and so it all just goes bad so fast.  I got home and the kids said "Dad, I think you broke her....what will do for dinner if she's all broken?"  I sat down and iced my little plantar faciitis foot, because, well...pain.  And I thought about buying dinner.  Really, seriously thought about it.  And then I thought about the roasted vegetable salad I had intended to make.  And that won out after 15 minutes of ice.  And less pain.  Dinner was super late but teenagers are less concerned about that than toddlers.  It was really, really yummy, and I definitely won.

Except Miss Sunshine has a thing for hot chips and well...she lost.  The cafe at church opens up again in February and she can have hot chips every Sunday if she wants.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Big Transitions: Hints for Transitioning to Secondary School


It's a mere two, or so, weeks until school begins again for the year, here in Victoria.  If you have a child who is Autistic or an anxiety disorder I'm nearly 100% certain your child's anxiety levels are beginning to rise.  I have such a soft spot in my heart for the kids who struggle with school and need a lot of support through transitions, whether they be big or small.  This week I have been pondering the big transitions from primary to secondary school.  Even if your child is in a P-12 school that transition to secondary school is huge.  For a child with Autism and/or anxiety disorders that transition becomes bigger than Ben Hur.  Following are some hints to managing this enormous transition:

Visit the school before classes begin.
Your child may have already had an opportunity to attend an orientation session or two at their secondary school.  That may seem like a distant memory as the new school year approaches!  If possible, try and organise a time to visit the campus with your child before the new school year begins.  Administrative staff are probably already back, so it may be possible to have someone take you to see your child's home room and some of the other specialist classrooms.  If you know some other children in your child's class you could also plan to invite another family to have a picnic in the school grounds together a couple of times before school begins. 

By planning short visits to the school campus before school begins your child will have some time to become familiar with the school grounds before it is filled with students and teachers.  They will be able to orient themselves to where the lockers, drinking taps and toilets are in relation to their classroom.  They will be able to visualise all of these details clearly before they arrive on their first day.

Take photos.
When you are visiting take some photos of your child in various places in the school, hopefully with a happy smile on their gorgeous shiny faces.  In the lead up to school beginning you can review these photos together and talk about your visit.  You can also begin conversations about what they might get to do when they get to school.  If you've had an opportunity to speak to someone at the school you can remind your child about some of the things your learned.

Make a social story booklet.
If you're fortunate the school may have already provided your child with a transition booklet with some photos and information they will need to know for their first few days.  This is a practice I instituted in Our School because I could see that my precious school babies would need support over the holidays as they prepared to begin the school year.  Especially if they were heading into a new classroom with a new teacher.  My transition booklets include photos and information about the teachers they will have (all of them!!), photos of the classroom, where bags will be hung up, toilets and drinking taps and play areas.  If your child is in a P-12 school and remaining on the same campus it is important to detail the things that will remain the same for them.  Even if your child is moving to a completely new school there are some things that are the same in every school.  There is always a break for recess and lunch.  They will still change classrooms for specialist subjects, just like they did in primary school.  Following are the headings I use in my transition books:
  1. Calendar
    I include a calendar from the end of the school year through to the beginning of the next year with a little explanation of how long the school holidays are and when school will begin again.
  2. At the start of next year
    This information is all about how the beginning of the year will happen - what day of the week they begin and what to expect on the first day.  For example, there may be a whole-school assembly at some point in the morning session, there may be special activities the school does on the first day. 
  3. My teachers
    This page is filled with photos of teachers with their names and the subjects they teach.
  4. My classroom
    On this page are photos of the inside and outside of the classroom, the bag hooks and the lockers.
  5. Things I need to remember
    The details on this page are about where the toilets and drinking taps are, which play spaces they are allowed to use and the procedures for eating at recess and lunch time.  They may eat inside or be required to sit outside to eat.
  6. Children in my class
    This page contains a list of the names of the children in the class. 
Organise a meeting with your child's class teacher and aide.
As soon as it is possible in the school year, organise a meeting with your child's teacher and, if possible, with their aide (if they will have one).  Many schools have some student-free teacher preparation time before school begins so if you're able to meet before school begins that will be beneficial to you, your child and those who will be caring for your child.  If you can come prepared with information about your child that will help their teachers to plan for their transition to school this will help make those first few days as smooth as possible.  As an educator the questions I have include:
  1. What does your child enjoy doing for relaxation?
  2. What is your child really good at?
  3. What does your child struggle with the most?
  4. What kinds of things might trigger a meltdown?
  5. How do you handle meltdowns and the recovery?
  6. What are some signs that a meltdown might be imminent?
  7. What do you use as a circuit breaker?
  8. Does your child have a particular interest or passion?
As a parent, I think one of the most challenging things we are required to do is hand our precious, beloved babies over to someone else for hours and hours at a time.  Especially when we know our babies are anxious about being in the place we are required to leave them. Making time to meet with the people who will be responsible for your child, and share information with them, will get that important relationship off to a positive start.  At Year 7 level it might be a good idea to have your child with your when you meet their teacher.  Get your child to talk about their interests and the things they are good at in school.  They may even be willing to share some of the things they are worried about.

Organise your child's folders, books and timetable.
I am fairly sure your child's timetable is already organised.  This is usually completed by the end of the previous school year, in order to solidify staffing needs.  You should be able to request a copy of your child's timetable before the school year begins.  I would highly recommend colour-coding your child's timetable.  This will cater to their visual needs and help them decipher the information more easily.  If you could cover or label your child's books and folders with colours to match their timetable this will help them to independently organise themselves throughout the day.  In the front of each book or folder, it would also help if there is a list of the things they need to bring to class for that subject.  This is information you can ask for when you meet your child's teacher, or by phoning the school.

I have noticed, over many years, that children on the autism spectrum tend to have pencil cases stuffed full of so many things they are unable to find their pens and pencils in order to begin their work.  A pencil case with two pockets can really help with this.  The smaller pocket can be used to house the things they are likely to need in every single lesson.  These might include grey lead pencil, pens, eraser, and if the pencil case is long enough, a ruler.  The bigger pocket can be used to contain coloured pencils, textas, a glue stick and a pair of scissors.  Please be diligent and name the items!!  I know most schools provide class sets of scissors and glue sticks, but in my experience this seems to be the time when children with autism struggle.  The getting up and trying to find these items seems to cause some disorientation and disrupts their ability to maintain focus and concentration.  If these items are at their finger tips it is one less thing to distract them.

The other thing I would highly recommend is those erasable pens that are available now.  I have yet to meet a child on the spectrum who deals with errors in their work terribly well.  Liquid paper is always such a hassle, but an erasable pen is as easy to use as a pencil and eraser.  The only caution there is that they don't go through laminators - the ink disappears!  If your child's teacher wants to laminate a piece of work they'll need to photocopy it first.

I hope the beginning of the school year goes as smoothly as possible and that your child thrives in their new school environment.  I wish I could hold all of their precious hands and walk each step of the way with them in person.  I know that with some preparation now your child will be prepared for what will come!

Monday, 19 January 2015

Things to make you laugh, or at least smile...

This text conversation from this morning is still making me laugh-out-loud every time I think about it.  And I am still shaking my head in dismayed disbelief.  Said family member needs a sock intervention!

These two things made me smile today:
  1. First, I learnt how to take a screen shot on my phone.  Yes - I know you all knew how to do that already and I'm a dinosaur.  And...well, there's no excuse I guess.  Except I never needed or wanted to do this before.
  2. Second - I finally figured out why I couldn't highlight and write notes in my Bible app on my phone.  You need to be signed in.  I finally signed in.  It must have signed out after an update?
  3. Oh, third thing.  Because my iPad and phone are signed in to the same YouVersion account the highlights and notes sync automatically.
Are you wondering about the reason I had this text highlighted? 

In church yesterday our "God Stories" topic was about what happens when things don't go quite how you thought they would, even when you believed you were following what you thought God was telling you to do.  Haven't we all got a story on that topic?  I know I do!  And is not Job the absolute and highest example of that? 

Despite losing everything.  Every.  Thing.  Job chose to respond in worship and praise.   I'm pretty sure I don't do that.  No...I'm more of a David.  I pour forth questions and anguish and wring my hands in despair.  I may have even been known to head down the depression pathway once.  What Job did here, in acknowledging that God gives and God takes away, is to remind himself that God is still God, no matter what our circumstances would seem to tell us.  Even when it looks like God has left us hanging, or doesn't seem to be answering....or when the pathway you thought he had directed you down turns to dust.  Even then, God is still God and he has a reason for allowing things to occur in our lives.  He still deserves our worship and our praise because he is God.

You know what's really hard?  When you know with all of your being that something is true, but struggle to put that truth into practice in the every day.  And quite frankly, I don't really want a reason to put this into practice!  I'm content with hindsight.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Practicing Abundance


After you've done lots of thinking on something the best way to really learn it is to put it into practice.  Well, that's what my kinaesthetic self says.  A very precious friend from work (where I don't work anymore, but where my children still go to school....so I'm kind of still there....) moved house today.  The move was the result of a circumstances completely beyond her control, desire or choice.  Circumstances that are achingly gut-wrenching.  So today a few of us gathered to get her and her two young-adult aged children moved and re-settled.  Mr  Busy and I spent the whole day there because if you are moving house you need Mr Busy.  He is a house-moving gun and has been since he was three. 

When Dh and I popped over yesterday to assess the situation I offered to organise lunch for everyone who would be there to help with the move.  I prepared sandwiches and muffins for about 12 people.  When I offered I thought I'd have to do a bit of a shop, but as it turned out I only needed bread.  My pantry and refrigerator already contained the abundance I needed to care for my friend and those of us who needed sustenance throughout the day. 

It turned out to be a bit of a loaves and fishes affair, as there ended up being about 15 of us for lunch.  There was enough for everyone to eat their fill with a surprising amount leftover.  And that was eaten for afternoon tea in the new house (and still there was more leftover!!), washed down by a pot of tea.

Let me tell you about the abundance I didn't know I had....

Last time I was at Costco I had bought some tinned chicken, because Miss Mischief insisted.  I hadn't known what to do with it so it's been waiting for me to find inspiration, which I did and that inspiration required the celery and spring onions I had in the fridge, which needed to be used. 

A friend was here for dinner on Sunday night and she brought me a dozen eggs from her chookies at home. 

I had ham and lettuce and avocado from my last grocery shop and the avocados have just come ripe.  All I needed was to buy bread.  Literally everything else was already here. 

I always have frozen raspberries in the freezer and Dh always makes sure we have bananas so the muffins were also taken care of before I even began.  And the kids haven't eaten the grapes as fast as they normally do, so I took a kilo of those with us as well.

We had sandwiches with:
egg and lettuce
chicken salad (oh my goodness I love the southern recipe I found for this!!!)
ham, avocado and lettuce

From a willingness to choose an abundance perspective 15 people ate well without worry from whence their food would come.  They were free to work hard until it was time to eat.  My friend was blessed and cared for on a very difficult day.

And I experienced the truth that, with God, there is always more than enough.

Monday, 12 January 2015

Lessons on Abundance and Scarcity

Something I discovered about myself last year is that I have a bit of a scarcity perspective when it comes to how I view our family's needs.  These are messages ingrained through  my childhood and reinforced during my adulthood.  I fear scarcity.  I fear not having enough.  Even though my experience is one of God meeting all our needs, albeit in a minimalistic fashion, my experience has also been woven in with pain and difficulty.  So when you feel like God is directing you to be like Abraham - to leave everything behind and be open to going wherever God leads you - the whole scarcity thing comes bubbling up.  Again.  Not having a job will do that I guess.

I read this post, the other morning, from Glennon Doyle Melton.  I was starting to feel quite uncomfortable about the truth she shared and being confronted with my scarcity perspective.  As I read through the comments, one reader identified exactly what had been whispering at the back of my own mind and I knew that perhaps I was in deeper trouble than I thought.  That little scarcity perspective I knew I had is actually a full-blown fear I had been hoping to ignore or cover up or, I don't know, pretend it isn't there.  Because I don't have to deal with stuff that isn't there.  Right?  Wrong!

As I have wrestled and pondered and thought and wrestled some more I began to ask myself some questions about what I really believe.  And what I really believe about me.  At the end of my ponderings I had to ask myself the question:  am I doing something wrong?  I needed God to show me his blessings over me and to give me an abundance perspective.

When you ask questions like that God shows up.  He speaks into those fears, answers those questions and shows you how to step forward; He shows you a better way.

Yesterday in church the verse upon which the service was based was Matthew 6:31-33.

"So don't worry about these things, saying "What will we eat?  What will we drink?  What will we wear?"  These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows your needs.  Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need."
(NLT)

I knew I had to sit up and take notice when the text was about abundance and scarcity!  When it was dealing with the exact worries and fears I have been wrestling with.  This morning I spent some time looking more closely at these verses.  I had been asking what I was doing wrong.  Perhaps that isn't really the question I needed to ask - perhaps I needed to ask "what do I need to do?"  And these verses tell me exactly what to do:

Seek God's kingdom above all else.
Live righteously.

What does it mean to seek God's kingdom?  I thought about that for a good while, because believers already possess the kingdom within them.  If I have Christ dwelling within me his kingdom is already there.  Those thoughts and worries are things of unbelievers, but these verses are telling believers what they should do.  Even though believers possess the kingdom they are still told to seek it.  I needed a clearer, fuller understanding of the work "seek".  As I looked up "seek" on my dictionary app I sifted out all the meanings to do with looking for something you don't have and I found two that seemed to apply here:

"to go to", and "search or explore".

If I already possess the kingdom, when I am seeking it I need "to go to" it and "search and explore" it.  That means I need to spend time going to the Kingdom and exploring it.  I can do that by going to the Word and exploring it fully.  By doing that I will know what it means to be a citizen of that kingdom; to know what it's cultures are, how the citizens live, what the expectations are for Kingdom citizens and their responsibilities.  God's Word gives me all of that information so I need to invest myself in it and explore it above all else.

The second thing this texts instructs me to do is live righteously.  When I looked up righteous the dictionary said it means to act in an upright and moral way; to be morally right or justifiable.  When I know what it is that Kingdom citizens are expected to do and how they are to live, I am equipped to live righteously.  I am more able to embody Kingdom Truth in all that I do.

If I believe that God is a God of abundance and blessing, and that he is trustworthy to fulfill his promises every time, I need to have an abundance perspective.  In the text is instruction for what I need to do and it outlines the promise that God will give me everything I need.  Everything.  EVERY.  LITTLE.  THING.  Every time.

As I pondered that scary little challenge to this scarcity-orientated brain of mine I came across this post about abundance and scarcity.  I need to live in the truth that God has an abundance perspective.  I need to live expectant that God will show up and fulfill what he has said he will do, not in fear that he won't.  I need to steep myself in that truth and not worry about missing out.  I need to rest in the certainty that God provides everything we need and that there will be more than enough

When I do what I need to do, and God does what he promises to do I will have what I need:  a home, clothing, food, an incredible husband and children, precious friends, reliable transportation, work, income, profitability. 

Peace.