Thursday, September 27, 2007

How to make a chocolate cake.

Cass is feeling unloved. I swear I don't know how children talk themselves into these things. I figured she needed some time doing something she really likes with me as I've completely ruined her holiday by limiting her t.v time, her computer time & then insisting she both read & do her music practise! What was I thinking?!

Anyway, she has been agitating to cook chocolate cake for weeks. This apparently simple request was complicated by the fact Theo took my no~fail cookbook to school one day (yes, I know that was years ago!) & it never came home & the fact Cass' book has mysteriously ended up with all it's pages glued shut. I'm not even asking!

So we go on line & come up with a 'to die for' chocolate cake. The only thing we don't have in the cupboards is the dark chocolate. No problemo. I prepare Liddy her lunch & we plan to buy the chocolate when we take her lunch up. I'm a little uptight as it's not a recipe I know & I've not had heaps of success with these sorts of recipes but both Cass & I can read, right? I figure we can follow simple directions without too much trouble.

We walk into the store & the boss' son swarms all over Cass & announces he's coming to our house to paint. Really? Not without mummy's say so, bucko. He tells us mummy says yes. I love these ones. I can just see me walking out of the store with a child I don't own on child's say so. Thankfully mum then appears to be floored by her son's request & also highly embarrassed. I understand that. On the other hand I figure it's not much fun for the kiddo to spend his holidays at the shop. So we come home with chocolate & an extra child.

Cass gets down her minature project to show him. (yes, all right! I'll post some piccies given an eon or two to get my act together in.) This is a built to 1/12th scale model of a toyshop & the ladies have all spoilt Cass outrageously by contributing to it, to the point it has a workable light & a perspex front. Cass has made the shop & nearly all the toys. Our visitor was fascinated & treated everything very gently. I'm not a minatures person but Paul Bishop ( a t.v. celebrity Cass worked with during choir) had a longish chat with her about how the skills she was learning in minatures were the same ones used in set designing but the amount of mess it generates is phenomenal! Another post all on it's own.

Anyway we leave the boy running the tiny train around the roof of the toy shop & proceed to make cake. Cass is not good with directions; impatience is a major drawback & I'm already trying to melt chocolate in the double boiler we don't have. (yes, you read that right.) Does she have to put in the whole of all 4 eggs? Does it say to separate them? Well, then, put in the whole egg. Honestly. At which point we acquire the extra child. Cass is great. She props him on the stool & proceeds to read the directions to him & he puts everything in the mixer. Cass has it on high so the poor kid is half suffocated, chocking on cocoa dust. He promptly turns from very fair to a darkish shade of brown. The cat arrives because, hey, everyone's in the kitchen. I eye the 10 or so steps between the stove & the mixer with some trepidation. I have a panful of melted chocolate that needs folding into the mixture. Cass grabs the cat & tells our visitor to sit very still. He wants to do the folding. (about here I need an eye roll emoticon) We negotiate ~ very carefully. Giving my own child 3rd degree burns I can cope with; someone else's is another matter entirely! I've never been so pleased to see a cake go in the oven!

I turn round thinking about cleaning up to find paintbrushes & jars of water have now joined the pots & bowls & opened jars on my bench & painting is in progress. Both children have scraped the bowls & beaters so have effectively had chocolate for lunch.

The cake was beautiiiful. We returned the child to its owner covered in chocolate, paint & red dirt from the garden & much happier. I meditated on the unusual ways God invites us to minister to others.

Our house is not the tidiest around & if you've been reading this blog for a while my lack of organization probably boggles your mind but I remind myself these days of a friend whose children I minded while he dealt with a court case. It was a custody issue & dragged on & on so he sent his 2 kids elsewhere one day to give me a break. He only did it once & offended the other woman terribly because she'd been in my house & was not impressed! 'But,' this man protested, 'when I leave my kids with you & arrive to collect them all the kids are in the yard after dark screaming their heads off, unwashed, unfed & beside themselves. I leave them with Jeannie & when I arrive they're washed, fed, have stuff to show me that they've made & lots to tell that they've done. I don't care if Jeannie hasn't swept her floor & I bet the kids don't either.' Now I like a neat & tidy house as much as the next person but I am much more likely to put people before appearances, which may be why I get a ministry of chocolate cake & poster paints!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Hold the cat!

Aaargh! I knew spring was here! Last night...midnight... & Theo hisses up the stairs, trying to be quiet, 'Mum! Mum! Hold the cat!'

Good quetion.

I stumble out of bed & down the stairs. The cat does not want to be held. He is a most unhappy puss & squirming to be let loose. Theo arms himself with a broom & I hear all the furniture downstairs being moved around. It is only a matter of time before Cass surfaces. More bellowing for mum. I plonk the cat in our bedroom feeling much better being where I can see what's going on than listening anxiously as Theo lunges round the lounge room after a snake that very definitely does not want to be caught. Cass, who does not like snakes, needs her light on for reassurance.

Definitely no paddling through the house at night without the lights on ~ & no, Theo didn't catch the snake. It sensibly found some hole to slither through & will be well gone by now.


And what was Theo doing up at midnight? Well, he slammed his hand in the car door on Sunday requiring a trip to the doctor's to have two nails punctured to release the pressure behind them & his hand has been unusable for several days. He will lose the nails. I can only imagine he was on a Panadol hunt when he nearly stepped on the snake. He doesn't like snakes either. So why was he trying to catch it? Good question.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The heart of a home?

I'm used to being invisible. You know, Mrs Nobody who magically makes sure every one has clean socks & undies, keeps track of who needs to be where when, puts food on the table, feeds the cat, has spare cash for the boat, knows where that all important document got abandoned, & will roll out of bed at 1 am so you & your mates don't have to stumble home in the dark. It comes with the territory once you have kids.

So I'm out of the house for a week & I expect to find the washing up piling up till we run out of plates, the laundry steadily growing from a molehill to a mountain, the cat in meltdown & psychotic puddles, while I wade Cass to & fro through oceans of mud & torrential downpours so she can shine, however briefly & brightly. The day Liddy realised that absolutely no~one was going to be home to drive her to work, let alone bring her lunch on the dot of one thirty, & that she would have to be very grown up & responsible & sort herself out I expected her wails of outrage, poor abandoned orphan. What was completely unexpected where the solicitious enquiries she got. Is everyone well? How is your family?

Liddy is not without her own ironic sense of humour & comic timing. 'Well, Dino's at sea, I haven't seen Theo since Sunday, Cass in a week & mum in 3 days but dad & I are doing just fine.' The things people notice while we're busy living our lives! And didn't work pay her out about her lunches not arriving! Yet these same adults ring me when there is a work party to assure me that they are being responsible & keeping an eye on Liddy when Liddy knows perfectly well we're only a phone call away ; she has only to ring if she's at all uncomfortable or just had enough.

No~one has said anything but an almost audible sigh of relief has gone through my house this week. All's well: there are dishes in the rack, mugs on their hooks, clothes folded & the cat's stopped attacking everyone; mum's back at the helm. So nice to know I'm missed.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Earth to to Cass...

I do not function well on 4 hours sleep ~ which is all I got between performances & it will be some time before Cass comes back to earth ~ but she has been so good with all the travelling & the endless sitting still & quiet for the sound & lighting technos. She has loved everything about theatre ~ no surprises there! And what little girl wouldn't prefer the glitz & glamour to dull old school work? I am already being squeezed for her to continue with the choir ensemble. She has got her father on side but he doesn't leave the island. It will be me doing all the running around. OK, so I like it too. I am just a little wary of the whole 'drama, drama, drama' thing & Cass has stars in her eyes.

Cass has learnt so much from doing a professional performance ~ & I am still giggling having sat through endless rehearsals until even my dull brain picked up that the sopranos were having trouble with their counting; so I heard the sopranos falter in Honour the Earth & that their counting was wrong. 'It was sooo scarey,' Cass confessed. 'A~ (the choir master) just glared at us & lots of people stopped singing! Not me. I counted right. We are so dead!' Eye roll.

She is going to really miss the weekly rehearsals & there is all the catching up to do with her school work but I have promised we'll now do the community band, more professional than the school one, & that she can do this again next year regardless of whether or not she is allowed to join the ensemble full time. I think I will lose that battle, though if I am lucky not till next year. Over the next few days, as we settle back into our regular rountine & things return to as calm as they ever are around here, I am sure things will spring to mind that I will want to remember & blog about. Just now all I can think about is how exhausted I am & that anyone who does this for a living is completely & utterly insane!

Friday, August 31, 2007

What we've missed out on.

I rang the school this week. The organisers of Cass's choir were coming over & she wanted to join the grade 7 class for that period. No problem. We occassionally participate in things & they have generally been worth upsetting our schedule for. The staff are great about including her & the kids are used to her although they mostly seem to think she does no work. So I get given a time & we duitifully trot up to find they've screwed the times & the whole thing is just wrapping up but we sit down for the last 20 minutes or so prepared to enjoy what we can.

Forget it. The kids are behaving like a bag of monkeys on speed. Cass eyes got bigger & bigger (& they are pretty big to start with!) Apparently the rather nice chappie we've been working with for several months is a minor t.v celebrity ~ the kids all knew him off some show we've never watched & were swarming him like fleas. One very ADD boy was hitting him! Very few of the children would sit still & quiet to hear what he wanted to say. I could practically hear the cogs churning over in Cass' brain. My very silent child clutched her flute & eyed the pandemonioum with disbelief.

I thought of this wonderful lady directing her choir of 50 odd kiddies, one of whom is just 5, who behave so very proffessionally Cass doesn't look like an oddity & wondered how we got to the point where children have lost their innate respect for adult authority.

When I offered to drive them back to the boat Cass came too although she had a flute class about to start. Our famous friend shut the door with relief, turned to me & said from the bottom of his heart, 'Good call on the homeschooling.' Yeah, well I knew that. He then turned to Cass & gave her a pep talk about the 'bigger world' she will eventually move into where she will find like minded people to share her enthusiasims with. I appreciated the kindness of his intent but Cass is a hardy soul & she is savvy enough to know that there are some things that bigger world cannot give her: enough of nature's beauty to drown in, the sense of community, the love & closeness of family, a love of God. I know Cass sometimes feels deprived because she hasn't had the whole school experience but there are some things it's just as well to pass on ~ & for us school is now one of them. Honestly, if the kids behave that way at school, what are they like at home? And how on earth do their parents cope?

Monday, August 27, 2007

Running the Race.

We had a guest speaker on Sunday. This particular lady is excellent; her focus is mission to our schools, our kids. She likes to get her audience fired up. I don't fire well. Firstly I expect the world to behave like the world & tend to just roll my eyes. Secondly when I get asked what gets me fired up it's not the world. It's Christians acting like the world! I can feel a rant coming on so I will stop there.

However! ... amongst the exhortations to outreach she made a point that has stayed with me & it's stayed with me because I've got runners. Dino, Theo & Liddy are/were all long distance runners & regularly made up the bulk of the tag~team for the relay. Long time past, I was a sprinter. I usually ran last. I can't believe I was ever that fast! My kids have been running circles round me for years...but I digress.

The Point? Yes, there is one & I'm getting there! Christianity is like a relay. The faith has been handed on from generation to generation but for us, if you believe as I do, that we have entered into the end times, the stakes are considerably higher. We are the anchor leg, the last runners. We have to be the strongest & fastest to cover lost ground. We can't afford to 'drop the baton', to be distracted or jog along comfortably. We must run our hearts out. God is counting on us to finish the race strongly. I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me. Thank goodness I don't have to do it in my own strength or we'd be going nowhere fast!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Standardized Testing.

I hate standardized tests. What's more my ditzy Cass plays silly sods with them. I watched her do it (I was helping supervise) & there was nothing I could do because it's a test, you know. sighs!

Math paper. I looked through this one & freaked. I couldn't have done most of it to save my life. We haven't done most of the work in over 2 years ~ since the last test! Then there was the pre Algerba question! We have done NO pre~algerba. Hands were going up all over the room. Kids couldn't make head or tail of that question. NOT Cass' hand so I sneaked a look later. I think she aced that question! Mind you if she performs to usual she will ace the difficult questions & flunk all the easy stuff.

So yesterday was the English paper. I'd been pre~warned the written part was at high school level but I was hardly going to try & teach that 2 days prior to testing. Compare & contrast frogs & toads. So I'm watching Cass out of the cornor of my eye. I know this is her Waterloo. Unfazed. Totally. She starts writing. She keeps her writing neat & clear & writes steadily for 15 minutes. I'm madly impressed. Then she stops. She's done maybe 3/4 of a page. Everyone else is still writing like mad & is on their 2nd page. Cass is drawing a picture of a frog catching a fly. It was a great picture. Frogs aren't easy to draw. So I have a look at what she's written while the kids are on break. One short paragraph telling how frogs & toads are similiar, using & spelling correctly the word amphibian. A short paragraph on frogs. An even shorter paragraph on toads. I'm still laughing. Cass did the bare minimum, far too intelligent to waste her time on this nonsense & so obviously not interested. If I thought she was as dumb as her test results I would be seriously worried but knowing Cass I can pick every moment she just lost interest. Spelling; first half all correct, even the difficult words; second half all wrong but spelt phonetically & unusually ~ try possetions. Ouch! I think she's seriously playing with my head space. I distinctly remember teaching 'tion' says 'shon'.

Worse, the teacher confessed he'd 'taught to the test' for the past fortnight, revising what would be on the papers. Not in our house we didn't & I wouldn't have bothered even if I'd had any idea what was in the papers. Apart from comprehension where Cass usually scores well above the average, we are not one of those homeschooling families who blitz the test scores. You have to have an academic child for that & I don't. Do I care? Obviously not. I failed every math test I ever sat but I have effeciently managed my household finances for 40 odd years, & much better than my maths wizz of a husband!

On the other hand I am passionate about learning & seeing my child, who spends her days actively engaging even when she doesn't much like what we're doing, sitting in a classroom with her eyes glazing over & her effervesence flattened did not make me a happy mummy. Some things are too important to risk in a classroom. Train up a child is about more than just teaching a child to know & love God. It is about finding out how God made that child, the purpose He has in mind for that child & then helping them achieve their God given purpose. Thank God that should be the last of these silly tests we have to take.