Thursday, August 30, 2012

{PHFR} - 30 August 2012

I don't feel I can write today without first making mention that my thoughts and prayers are with the families of the five Australian soldiers killed today, in our nation's worst day of combat since the Vietnam war.  I think lives cut short in these sort of events remind us all of the preciousness of every day.  Exactly what {PHFR} is about.


The ladies of our parish sewing group make a quilt for each of the new babies.  Given the rate at which they are arriving at present they have their work cut out for them.

This is Tom Kitten's quilt.  

They even hand-embroidered the words of the Lord's prayer on the binding.

Of course it is even more pretty with Tom Kitten lying on it.


A little boy discovers his toes for the first time.


I went to our local op-shop to order some new chiropractic mattresses - essentials as we have my in-laws coming in a week and they have great prices by having an arrangement with an Australian maker.

We are not meant to be buying any non-essentials.  But some picture books can't be left behind.


The theme at kindergym this month has been Shapes.  I love this rhyme we learnt:

Round is a pancake,
Round is a plum,
Round is a doughnut,
Round is a drum.
Round is a puppy,
Curled up on a rug.
Round are the spots,
On a wee ladybug.
Look all around
On the ground, in the air,
You will find round things everywhere!
I have been working with Ginger to consolidate her learning - I made a little activity to work with her on.  She didn't want to play by my rules for the game but set up her own activity - at least we can say she is good at classification; even if she couldn't actually tell you what each shape is called.

Couldn't let this {Real} opportunity go without including this snippet from the Woolworths magazine - did you see that that price is per serve for a 'weeknight meal'. That is a $28 soup!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Four Corners: The Autism Enigma

Did anyone else watch The Autism Enigma last night on Four Corners?

If not, and you are in Australia you can catch it again tonight (late) or later in the week on ABC News 24.  Or, of course on Iview.  I think it screened in the US last year.

In brief, it was about some new science coming out on what might cause Autism and what might be able to help with the symptoms.  The theory being expounded was that regressive Autism's development has to do with a imbalance of bacteria in the gut - based on the discovery that Autistic children having a very different gut bacteria profile to normal children.  There is a subset of autism which is regressive, ie. the child develops normally and then regresses into Autism. They think that many of these children may have been exposed to something (one environ they suggested was high doses of antibiotics) at a particular point in their first three years of life which throws the balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut.  The bad bacteria (can't remember the name) survives all but the most extreme antibiotics (in fact even with antibiotics designed to kill superbugs it only goes dormant and then reestablishes itself). The bad bacteria produces neurotoxins which they think is why it may cause issues in the brain.

They also looked at the theory that diet is playing a role as the rate of autism is nearly four times the rest of the populace in new immigrant communities.

In terms of help for Autism there was a suggestion that if the gut could be recolonised with good bacteria improvement would be seen in these children.  Essentially, the theory came out of a study done in the mid 90s of one child, which was then extended to a larger group.  At age 4 the little boy was put on a two month course of the high potency antibiotics, during which time his normal behaviour resurfaced, he learnt to speak and was potty trained.  When the antibiotics were ceased he regressed back to the closed world of a severely autistic child.  The trouble is, as I mentioned above, the bad bacteria killed off lay spores which re-establish themselves at the cessation of the antibiotic course. 

A group of Canadian scientist have taken the mid 1990s study as a launching point and what they are looking at is how to re-establish the good bacteria as the dominants.  But what interested me was the comments on the role of diet.  Essentially, the suggestion was that this 'bad bacteria' thrives on a high carbohydrate and dairy diet; precisely the foods that autistic children tend to crave and what constitutes the current western diet (perhaps some explanation for the rates in immigrant communities where there has been less time to adjust to this diet).  They noted that many parents of autistic children have noted huge improvements in behaviour when children are given altered diets and courses of probiotics.  (Also food additive E280 was noted as another good 'feeder' of the bad bacteria.)

What struck me was that though this documentary is about autism in particular, surely the same bad bacteria live in the guts of everyone else.  Certainly, they would be in smaller quantities and perhaps more 'outnumbered' but surely if they do produce neurotoxins those same toxins would be affecting both our brains and our children's brain.  Another confirmation for me that there really is something in the modern western diet that is hurting our kids, beyond the self-evident obesity issues. 

I started to think about our own family and how Ginger's behaviour is often impacted by what she has eaten the previous day.  I am no way, shape or form indicating that her behaviour is anything we can't handle, but she is definitely much more grumpy and 'acts out' when she has had poor food choices the day before. 

Furthermore, carbohydrates and dairy are her favourite foods.  She barely touches meat, and vegetables are negotiated.  I really think we need to make further changes in our diet towards wholefoods.  As my mum said, if there are no carbs on offer she will eventually eat the vegetables!  We have come some way but there is certainly room for improvement.  As the mother of the 4 year old who was in that groundbreaking study (her son is now 19) commented "the gut you establish in the first 3 years of life is what you will die with".  Powerful stuff.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Just a matter of punctuation...

I am reading a brilliant collection of essays: Unshackled:Living in Outrageous Grace.  The Keswick Year Book 2007.

When I was an assistant minister in Wolverhampton, I thought I'd better do a tour of all the meetings to meet as many of the people in the church as I could, so on Monday I went to the women's meeting.  They had a most worthy lady in Wolverhampton to speak to them, and, to my great delight, she said her text was, "I AM THAT I AM.  I thought; I've often wondered what that meant.  This was the substance of her address, "Whatever your need happens to be, whatever situation you're facing, whatever you feel would supply your need for that situation on that day, the Lord will come to you and he will say, "I am that.  I am".

That's what the name means.  It means the all-sufficiency of God.  It means that whatever situation arises, he is sufficient for it.  When his people need deliverance he's the Deliverer, and when they need salvation, he's their Saviour - 'I am that. I am.'

p23, from Exodus - Redeemed pilgrims: indwelling God by Alec Motyer

So much more to share....I am learning so much.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

On reading and book clubs

I have always been a reader, but not really a reader of so called Great Literature. 

I loved to read as a child having been taught by my Mother the year I was in Kindergarten (age 3 turning 4 for those who don't use the Australian terminology, what I believe the US calls Kindergarten we call Prep or Pre-Primary and follows on from Kindergarten).  Through primary school I was voracious.  I would read while I was waiting for my father to finish up teaching his classes and his meetings (my Dad was a teacher at my k-12 school), then for the half hour journey home, then into the late night by sneaking out from my room to where a crack of light shone through from the lounge area.  The morning, of course, saw me read again on the car journey to school and while I waited the differential time between my Dad needing to be at work and the Primary School actually opening.

But somewhere in high school in the midst of English classes where you were forced to read at the pace of the slowest oral reader (remember that!), to analyse texts in the minutest detail and soulfully respond I lost some of the joy.  I don't think I would have minded if we were reading seminal literature, but we were reading texts like a particularly awful short story called "Real Land" which was notable for the complete absence of any form of punctuation.  You just try learning quotes from that for an exam essay, when your brain automatically corrects the appalling grammar!

It was not that I wasn't good at English.  In a rapidly acquired skill that actually proved remarkably useful in my university and then short government policy career before children came along I learnt to give the teacher exactly the response to a text we were 'supposed' to give (our English department were virulent left wing feminists) whether I agreed with it or not - I could pick a mile off what the politically correct, from their point of view, response was.  The English course being all about reader response rather than the author's crafting of a text or its place in the wider scope of literature.

Then came university and I was fanatical about getting straight HDs (almost eight years on I am still smarting over Mathematical Economics....) and there was no time for reading except in the holidays.  That was until I did a semester abroad in the US and took two classes which had novels and non-textbooks as set texts.  I started to enjoy more challenging reading again.  I was exposed to Plato, F Scott Fitzgerald and I began to see what I had missed out on in my school and university education.  What is even sadder is that if you base a school's excellence purely on the basis of the results its students achieve I had the best education you could have in our state - our school topped the league performance table the year I finished school (based on the percentage of students achieving over 75 per cent on their four university entrance subjects; our school had over 90 per cent).  So, I can't imagine what sort of education those other poor blighters got!

After university finished I really started to read again. I had an hour long commute at my first job in Sydney and I could get through five or six books a week because my husband and I would also spend the evenings reading; actually he was rarely ever at home during this period so mostly I just had my own company and did a lot of reading.  During this time I also discovered the book blog circuit and began to amass an impressive list of books I wanted to read, many remain on there to this day.  Then came a move to Melbourne and my daily commute grew to two hours and so my reading time grew too.  That was, until I got pregnant with Ginger and it took all my willpower just to make it into the city without throwing up - reading was not really an option in a moving vehicle:)  I joined a book club at my work but ended up only attending two meetings.  When of the group of ten or so attending only you and the club organiser have actually read the book there seems little point discussing it.

With the arrival of Ginger my reading slowed again, before discovering six months into nursing her that I could hold a book while I nursed.  I used to love that last hour before her bedtime while she nursed and I read was a relaxed way to start the evening.  I am sad that I will never have that quiet time with Tom Kitten...Ginger being her ever-present exuberant self! At the moment I sneak reading time when I can, evenings, nap times, early morning wake-ups and night time feeds (though I have a tendency to realise afterwards I have taken in very little when it is 2am in the morning, unlike my husband who gets up and studies when Tom Kitten wakes for a night feed!).

Which is all a very long winded history to introduce you to a new book club which has been set up by Edie of Life in Grace.  When we lived in Sydney (oh, five years ago) I bought The Well-Educated Mind by Susan Wise Bauer with the intention of plugging those gaps in my non-existent classical education.  But the book has seen little attention and I am yet to read a single text from its numerous lists!  Anyway, Edie's plan is to cover similar ground to Wise Bauer but work chronologically.  The text they are starting with is The Odyssey. As soon as I saw that I knew I was meant to jump on in and join up.

Edie's words...

....I like the chronological approach better, as a way of following the development of western civilization and how one writer’s work builds on the writers before them—although we’ll even alter that as need be.    I’m still working on the reading list but I think we’ll start with The Odyssey first.   Reading classics is its own odyssey, if you will.  And there will be times when you feel as if you’ve been kidnapped on a strange island by a sorceress who is bewitching your mind.   But reading classics will definitely help you on your journey home!

As my husband had the right translation on the shelf I am now four chapters into The Odyssey and am giving way to the beauty of the language and the richness of the tale.  Interested in Edie's club...then head over here for general information, or here for her book club forum.  I'd love to hear if you are signing up too!

Simple 'Toys' - the Rice Tub

I have been reading a bit about Montessori education lately.  After a couple of months of procrastination I finally bought the Montessori at Home book which Meg had recommended on her blog Sew Liberated some months ago.  

Truth be told, I ended up ordering the bundle of book and printable materials and making the decision between purchasing the book alone or the bundled package was why I ummed and ahhed for so long!  I am nothing if not a procrastinator when it comes to making relatively small purchases:)  But I think, should anyone be interested, I would just recommend purchasing the book.  Particularly if you have young toddlers, the printable material is for much older pre-schoolers.

Anyhow, one of the life skills activities in the book is the Rice Sensory Tub.  This has been a real hit with Ginger since I set it up about two weeks ago.  On multiple occasions she has played with it for over an hour.  Well worth the five minute clean-up at the end.

It is simply a plastic tub, one-third filled with rice in which you place a number of household items for pouring practice and sensory play.

Our rice tub has some measuring spoons, a small jug, small plastic takeaway containers, an old spice bottle, glass jar (yes, I know, the wisdom of this with a toddler is questionable, but I haven't had any problems), some funnels and measuring cups.  All things I had around the house anyway.

One of the aspects that I like about Montessori is that though the child is allowed to play with a learning material when they like and, within limitations, as they like, they are expected to play with it 'responsibly' and return it to its home at the end of its use ready for the next child to play with it. 

I have been working with Ginger on her keeping the rice in the tub.  If you want to undertake this activity inside I suggest you have a dustpan and broom at the ready because there will be rice on the floor no matter how nicely your child plays with the tub.  While I have no problem with rice going on the floor during appropriate play, the rule I have enforced is that any deliberate slinging of rice outside the tub results in the lid going back on and the tub being put away for another day.  Ginger has been pretty happy to comply with this limitation.

Also, just to combine a little Montessori and Steiner methodology in one learning experience - why not get your child to help you with the clean-up?  Yes, I am well aware as the mother of a two year old that the 'help' is more likely to be a hindrance - Ginger wields the brush with such alacrity that the rice ends up all over the floor rather than just in the vicinity of the tub.  But, they have to start someday and one day the fact that they will willingly take up a dustpan and broom to clean up a spill will be a help!

Placing the tub contents back in an ordered arrangement at the completion of her time with the tub seems to be a little challenging for Ginger at the moment so we work on that together.  But, she has certainly got the idea of putting the whole tub away when she is finished with it, even if in actuality that means calling in Mummy since the tub is too heavy for her to lift.

Have you set up any activities for your toddler or preschooler to enjoy lately?  Or, have you any experiences with Montessori education you would like to share?

Friday, August 17, 2012

{Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real}

Well, long time between postings here.  It seems for me at least, coping with two children is a lot more challenging than one:)  I am so amazed at how women with large families do it day in day out.  All admiration to you!

So joining Like Mother, Like Daughter for PHFR this week.

Since I last posted I have spent three weeks back in Perth with my folks because Mr Provincial was away for work.


We saw some amazing images out the window on our return flight.  On the way to Perth I was just about surviving the flight unaccompanied with a two year old and two month old!  Mr Provincial joined us for the last week of our stay so I had some free hands to take photos of the amazing scenery on our return journey.

First up we flew over the Bungle Bungles!

Then over Lake Argyle.

Gratuitous shot of slumbering babe. 

Entertaining toddlers on long flights is fun:)


Daddy and Ginger built a trampoline for the backyard.

Ginger loves it.  She would bounce all day if she could.  I am so happy that after a week of having it she has started jumping on both feet, rather than just hopping from one to another.


 Doing "this little piggy went to market" is hilarious according to Tom Kitten.  

Even funnier if your sister does it for you.


I got a great shot of brotherly and sisterly love the other day. These two really do adore each other.

Two seconds later loving sister did this!

Obviously this is where the photos stop because I had to intervene to prevent injury.