29 April 2010


Thankyou for the world so bright
Thankyou for the stars at night
Thankyou for the birds that sing
Thankyou God, for everything.
Please bless the food,
Thankyou for the food,

26 April 2010

One good turn deserves another

Those who were reading Killing A Fly back in early October 2008 just prior to the kitchen renovation might remember this blog post.

Mum was helping me put every item from my kitchen into boxes before the old kitchen was demolished and the new one was installed.

And she labelled the boxes. Presumably, the labels reflected her opinion of what was inside the boxes.

After reading through the labels she'd put on my boxes, I got the strange feeling ...

... that I'd read all this junk before.

Hmm.  I'm not sure which was the greater problem: that approximately one third of my possessions had been labelled "Junk" or that if I went in search of some actual "junk", I wouldn't know which of the 9 boxes above it would be in.

But what goes around, as they say, comes around.

My dear mother, after 25 years in a rapidly-dating kitchen with lime green laminex benchtops, is having her kitchen renovated this week.

Oh, the possibilities.

I've taken the liberty of preparing some labels for Mum.

Just to save you time, you know, Mum?

Don't mention it. I'm here for you Mumsy.

I just wanted to help.

25 April 2010

Lest We Forget

Today is ANZAC Day.  I am beginning to celebrate it more each year as I grow older and become so acutely aware of the freedoms we enjoy in Australia, and I realise the price paid for this freedom was the enormous sacrifice of those who fought for my country.

Since ANZAC Day falls on a Sunday this year, our church had a special ANZAC Day service.  There was a video of the local gentleman who co-ordinates all the local ANZAC Day services speaking about the meaning of the day, and why we pause to remember those who fought for our freedom.

A friend of ours is the Army Chaplain at the local barracks and he spoke so movingly about the sacrifice of soldiers who fought for our freedom, and of Jesus' ultimate sacrifice buying our eternal freedom.  For reasons I didn't understand because I missed the first 10 minutes taking Buzz and Jessie to their children's program, the Chaplain also used a huge shepherd's crook to illustrate -er- something.  I will have to ask him.  But as he finished, he used the giant crook to thump on the platform - whump - and I decided that I need one at my house to maintain order.

- Whump! -

Yes.  Good.  That could work.

The worship pastor, Brendon Walmsley, sang the title song from his 2004 Album, "Bottle Tree Lane."  Check it out here.  If you did just listen to it, you'll understand why I always get teary when I hear it.  I nearly emailed him last night to say, "I have a feeling that you're going to do 'Bottle Tree Lane' tomorrow - please don't do it: I'll cry!"  And in the service, I sorta did a little.  I wasn't the only one. 

(We've recently been playing "Mister Walmsley's music" in the car, despite Jessie's protestations.  Mister Walmsley's album has replaced The Newsboys, and this is hard for a three year old hard-core Newsboys fan to take.  Redemption came this morning in our church service when Mr W. led worship and played "You are My King," which is of course, on the Newsboys album recently deposed by "Bottle Tree Lane.")

In all this, it was obvious that ANZAC Day is in no way a glorification of war (unwisely reading this article made me feel like I'd received a slap in the face), but a day to remember the fallen. 

And today, I remembered my grandfather who did come home from WWII.  He came home, but he was traumatized by his experiences and he rarely spoke of the war.  He never marched in an ANZAC Day parade.  He had nothing good to say about war.  He was haunted by the deaths of his comrades, he was haunted by the deaths of his enemies.

Today, I wish my brother was with me at church, wearing our grandfather's medals.  Not to glorify war, but to honour the men and women who were involved.

24 April 2010

Very Patient Trainers

Buzz is having a go at AFL Auskick.

Those are some Very Patient Trainers down there.

Because you see, although Buzz and I have grand ideas of him participating in a sport, learning the rules, enjoying playing the games and practising his skills at home, the reality of the first session was:

"I've lost my ball."
"Which one is my ball?"
"That big kid took my ball!"
"I'm so upset because I don't have a ball."
"No, I won't share Jack's ball, I want my ball."
"I'm not going to practise kicking until I've found my ball."
"I went to pick up a ball over there, but some other kid got to it first."
"Does that ball have a little mark right there because mine did, and if there's a little mark right there, then it's probably my ball."

On the day, our most keen Auskicker was ...

... Jessie.  She's down there in a pale yellow shirt and black pants, lining up with the big kids while the small boy in the blue hat pleads with the Very Patient Trainer regarding the whereabouts of his original ball.

It might be better next week.

23 April 2010

Space to think

Today was my second day back at work. I am working on Friday afternoons while Mr de Elba has a Daddy afternoon at home.  And as with many Mums of small children heading back to work, I am loving it!

Part of it is because I work in a wonderful office with three other great speech pathologists and a receptionist who does so many little things for me (and other people on the front desk who I don't see on my Friday afternoons.)  Part of it is because the offices are so nice, so well outfitted and so professional.  And part of it is because this whole deal is located about 700 metres from my house (0.43 miles) and it's less than a ten-minute walk away.

But I think one of the biggest parts is that I have  s - p - a - c - e  to think.

I have started slowly, with a few clients each day and long gaps between them.  Once I have prepared for all the day's clients and even had a look at next week's, there's not a lot to do.

Except sit.

In my chair.

And ...





Think about ...

... nothing.

Saying ...

... nothing.

Answering nobody's questions.

Watching nobody doing anything and murmuring words of approval.

Not having to raise my voice to be heard over anybody's chattering.

Just ...

saying ...

and doing ...


 Man.  It's good.

17 April 2010

Things I can do - Things I can't do

Apparently, I can sew flat things.  I made another apron today.  Again, it's fully reversible.  the other side has the same fabrics in opposite positions.  And it's pretty neat too, except where the thread tension was unavoidably crazy (I think my machine needs a service).

I didn't actually set out to make Buzz and Jessie aprons.  I set out to make ME one, but my small friends were not too happy shopping for fabric for an apron for MUMMY without shopping for fabric for aprons for THEMSELVES.  In return for making them some aprons, I decided to do theirs first.  I have to get my eye in.

Apparently, I cannot arrange for some simple business cards, letterhead and with compliments slips to be printed for my work.  I started working in an established private practice yesterday (oh it's so good!  What a lovely workplace!!) and the only thing taking the shine off my first day was my inability to get some simple stationery for my first day.  I have designed some pretty nice stuff, but three printers have now been unable to:
  • print in the colour I wanted, despite my clear explanation that I wasn't set on the exact colour - anything near-enough would be good-enough
  • give me a good enough quote
  • accept my PDF which I made using my leet skills in a program I took 6 months to teach myself to use - Photoshop, instead telling me to make the whole design again in Illustrator (there goes the next 6 months), and finally
  • print in the colour I wanted, despite another clear explanation that I wasn't set on the exact colour.

Am I going mad?  Is this too much trouble?  It shouldn't be this difficult should it?  How does the Average Joe off the street ever get stationery made up?  I thought I was half-way clever, but it seems I am not.  Humph.

The thing that made me cry in the car after one visit to a printer was that they didn't even say my design was nice.  That was hard to take.  Perhaps they should have said something nice after lampooning me for not using the right computer program. 

Word to the Wise: if you're working with, married to or parenting someone whose "love language" is words of affirmation, don't forget to say something nice about their design!  Or about their hair or their cooking or their parenting!!  Okay?

I am so frustrated.

15 April 2010

Don't tell me ...

Don't tell me that breastfeeding "shouldn't hurt."  Once they start growing little knives from their gums, sucking vulnerable parts of another person's body across the knives hurts.  Having dracula teeth adds a level of "sinister" to the whole thing.  If you don't believe me, I'll let you have a go.

Don't tell me spiders are busy creatures.  It seems to me they have too much time on their 'hands.'
This spider seemed to do pretty well, then spaced out a little every 9 or 10 rows.  Interesting.

Don't tell me I'm brilliant ...
I already know!  After YEARS of not sewing anything because I am absolutely hopeless, I have made an apron!  Everyone cheer now.  It's fully reversible, due to a small boy's inability to choose which fabric he preferred.  The neckstrap has a snap on it instead of being long enough to accommodate a head going through it.  This means the top part can go right up to the neck instead of flopping down.  Yes, I am clever.  Yay for me.

Don't tell me ...

...we had enough pink in our lives.  Somebody is now three.  Now we have pink curtains, clock, clothes, dolls' stroller, sunglasses, etc.  Because you can never have too much pink.

But don't tell me I've got it all together.  Sadly, the story my sister told is true.  Sometimes you just wangle your turds.  Oops I mean tangle your ...oh nevermind.

14 April 2010

At the dinner table ...

Jessie:  What's that word I say when I burp?

Me: "Pardon" (in a French accent, for she excuses herself in French, which is mighty cute.)

Jessie:  Ah, yes, pardon.  (Reaching for her lemonade:)  Are you ready?

11 April 2010

In Jessie's Hair Salon

(Jessie comes over to me with a brush, some hair elastics and a bottle of detangler.)

Okay Mummy.  I'm going to do your hair, okay?  Now sit still...

Now don't skeem or ky, okay?

Now stay still!  Now look up (brush brush) ... now look down (brush) ... now look up (brush brush brush) ... now look down (brush brush) ... now look up (brush brush brush) ... now look down (brush) ...

There!  All done!

Wait.  Now stay still!  Don't skeem or ky.  Now look to side (brush brush) ... now look to other side (brush) ... now look to other side (brush brush) ... now look to other side (brush brush brush) ...

There!  All done!

Now stay still.  Now don't skeem or ky.  Now look up (brush brush) ... now look down (brush) ... now look up (brush brush brush) ...

There! All done!  You look boo-ful.

(Thankyou, sweetheart.)

09 April 2010

Achilles and my Laundry Basket

In my last post, I explained why Achilles will never catch up with a tortoise if the tortoise has any sort of head-start on the great warrior at all. It was very depressing.

Please enter the equally depressing never-ending world of my Laundry Basket.

From time to time, I find piles of dirty clothes on the floor.

But I can't put them into the clothes basket because ...

... it's full. and I can't make any room in there by putting some in the wash because ...

... the washing machine has a washed load in there that has been waiting for at least six hours to be hung out to dry. But I can't hang anything out to dry because ...

... the clothes airers are full. Usually they are full of clean dry clothes that have been waiting to be folded for anywhere up to a week. But I can't get them inside to start folding them on our bed because ...

... I already have an ever-so-slight folding project going on there as it is.

But when the folding is eventually done, you know what happens, don't you?  Oh yes.  The folded piles go back where they belong, we pull out clothes one by one, wear them, and then ...

It's enough to make you cry. Or at least put you in a blue mood with the futility of it all.

Instead of seeing this laundry problem as a finite but vicious circle motivated by our disinclination towards nudism, I have started thinking of my laundry basket as an infinite well of items to be washed.

Let's say my laundry basket is full.  It's not that big a supposition.  Now, I usually can't fit all the items in my washing machine, so I'll wash HALF the items in my basket, and leave the other half for later.

Heh.  I like that.  "Later."

While the machine is washing my clothes, I have some time available.  I walk into the bathroom and find some clothes from bath-time last night, then I head into our room, Jessie's room, Buzz's room and Woody's room, collecting items that need to be washed as I go.  I move into the kitchen and decide to freshen up the tea towels, the hand towels and face washers.

I then take the little pile into the laundry, put it in the now-vacant top half of the laundry basket, and realise that the top half of the laundry basket is no longer vacant.

It's the paradox of Achilles and My Laundry Basket.  Forget the tortoise, I have bigger fish to fry.

I wash some of the items, but by the time they're finished, there are more to wash.  By the time they're finished, there are more to wash.  And by the time they're finished ... you get my point.

The way I see it, there are two ways to halt this insanity, both of them with less-than-satisfactory outcomes.

1.  I wash everything.  Since the infinite nature of my laundry dilemma is caused by my inability to wash more than half a laundry basket of clothes at any one time, I put in a massive effort and get it all done, perhaps with the help of a maid.  Every item clean, dry, folded and returned to its place.  That Utopian scenario will remain in place for three and a half minutes, at which point Buzz will wipe his food-encrusted mouth on his shirt, Jessie will spill a drink down her front and Woody will eat something.  Anything.  And lo, the Law of the Infinite Laundry Basket will again govern all things Laundry-Related.

2.  I wash nothing.  I stop bothering.  I just stop.  At some point, every item of clothing we own will be stuffed into the laundry room, and as a family, we will embrace nudism.

Both outcomes are, as I said, less than satisfactory, and while I'm on the topic of things that are less-than satisfactory, I will mention ...

... ironing.  The number of shirts hanging there waiting to be ironed is my sister's fault.  She was, for a while, coming over every Monday morning for an "Ironwoman Morning."  She'd bring her ironing board, her iron and a pile of clothes and hangers.  We'd iron in tandem, then she'd leave.  It was great - so great that she hasn't come over for weeks now.  And it would be completely beyond me to go to her house to iron, so there we are.

But I digress.

In closing, I wanted to share with you another of Zeno's paradoxes: "The Dichotomy."  According to Zeno, in order to complete any journey, you first have to complete half the journey. Then you have to complete half the remainder. Then you have to complete half the remainder of that. Then you have to complete half the remainder of that. He said that logically, no matter how close you get to finishing your journey, there should always be some ever-decreasing distance left. (He then proposed that it was impossible to complete any journey, it was not even possible to get started, and that motion itself was impossible.  Some of the recent philosophers who have studied this e.g., George Cantor, ended their days in mental hospitals.)

So, my next question is:

When does all the laundry stop?  

Does it ever stop?  One would logically assume that my constant treadmill of laundry would be put to rest once I pop my clogs.  Snuff it.  Kick the bucket.  Shuffle off the mortal coil.  Enter my Eternal Rest.

But when will that be?

Perhaps the nature of my recent musings on infinity are in the nature of a mid-life crisis, so let's say for argument's sake that now, at the age of 33, I am truly midway through my seemingly-infinite mortal laundry toil (neglecting those blissful pre-laundry days when my poor mother did it all, with scant regard for the influence of Zeno's paradoxes and the nature of infinity as applied to laundry.)

This argument shall assume my mortal account was credited with three score years and ten, minus four due to hardship faced in the laundry room.  That's 66, in case you're lost.  I'm nearly lost, myself.

So as of this year, I have completed half my earthly laundry.  In 16½ years when I am 49½, I will have completed half of what remained.  Then 8¼ years later when I am 57 years 9 months, I will have completed half of what remained.  I could continue this example a few more times, but I don't know the alt codes for eighths and sixteenths, so I will stop there.

Suffice to say that I will keep on completing half of each new remainder and on and on I will go, getting ever closer to being 66 years old, but never quite making it and never quite popping my clogs either.

Forever to be denied my Eternal Rest from laundry, forever to decay slowly, growing ever-closer to blowing out my 66 candles but never actually making it, all the while putting piles of clothes into and taking piles of clothes out of the washing machine, putting laden airers into and taking laden airers out of the sunshine, putting piles of folded clothes away into cupboards and putting piles of dirty clothes into the laundry basket.

It's a pity it will never be finished, really.  If it WAS, I'd be able to devote my time to cleaning my kitchen.  Organising the playroom.  Doing the floors.  Bathrooms.

Ad infinitum.

08 April 2010

Achilles and the Tortoise

Through a random but fortuitous and perhaps inspired accident, I found myself the happy borrower of the following volume from the local library:

Mulling over the writings on the paradoxical nature of infinity has given me a great insight into my recent blue mood regarding my housework. Today I will give the first of a two-part explanation on how the concept of Infinity relates to my Laundry Basket.

The Greek philosopher Zeno of Elea had a thought. Perhaps he was in the shower at the time, perhaps he was "indisposed." ("In de what?" you may ask. "Indisposed. In de ... oh nevermind.") This is how it goes:

The Greek warrior Achilles was going to have a race with a tortoise. Because he was much faster than the tortoise, he decided to give the tortoise a head-start.

Zeno, through logical reasoning, proposed that Achilles was never able to catch up to the tortoise. The reasoning follows thus:

First, Achilles must reach the tortoise's starting point. But by the time he reaches it, the tortoise has moved to a point further on. And by the time Achilles has reached that point, the tortoise has moved even further on. By the time Achilles has reached that point, the tortoise has moved even further on, and by the time Achilles has reached that point, the tortoise has moved even further on.

Zeno said that it is obvious that the series is never-ending, and that there will always be a distance, however small, between the tortoise and Achilles.

Below is a nifty little fractal sometimes used to illustrate this paradox. Achilles has been replaced by a girl. The description on Wikipedia is:

The girl is assumed to walk three times as fast as the turtle, but whenever she turns a corner the turtle will, too. Even though she is faster, she will not see the turtle within a finite number of turns.

In order for Achilles (or the girl above) to catch up to the tortoise, they have to complete an infinite number of "travels" and Zeno went on to say that you can't complete an infinite list of Things To Do in a finite time. (Those of us who have ever looked after a husband, and/or children, and/or a house, and/or a dog, and/or paid employment didn't need a philosopher to tell us that.)

Hence, Achilles will never catch up to that darn tortoise.

Richard Morris, the author of my book, makes the point:
Of course, we all know that Achilles would catch the tortoise fairly quickly, but pointing this out does not refute Zeno's argument. Zeno is saying that Achilles must complete an infinite series of acts, and this cannot be done in a finite period of time. If we choose not to believe this, we must demonstrate where the fallacy lies.

I am certain that by now, you will have seen the obvious parallels between The Paradox of Achilles and The Tortoise and my Overflowing Laundry Basket, but for those of you who can't I will post all about it another day.

Next Up: Achilles and my Laundry Basket.

07 April 2010

An infinite number of infinities

Infinity is an interesting beast. It seems though, that people who have worked with it tend to go mad.

One such mathematician was the German, George Cantor. He defined an infinite number to be one that could be put into a one-to-one correspondence with some part of itself.

One example of this is agreeing that the list of positive integers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 ... (that dot-dot-dot- means that it go on to infinity) is infinite ...?

(at this point you all nod with me and say "ye-e-e-ess...")

and that the set of square numbers (1, 4, 9, 16, 25, 36 ...) is also infinite ...

(nod, nod, "ye-e-e-ess...")

and you can put them together in one-to-one correspondence ...

1...2...3...4....5....6 ...
1...4...9...16...25...36 ...

and they match up and go on forever ...

(a little less certainly ... "ye-e-e-ess...")

so here we have a set of numbers (positive integers) that can be put into a one-to-one correspondence with a part of itself (the subset that we call "square numbers") and hey presto, because the second set doesn't "run out", we can call them "infinite"!

(everyone go "aaahhh!!" then back away slowly.)

But Cantor, not wanting to stop there, proposed that there isn't just one Infinity. Oh no. Because where would the fun be in that? He proposed the idea that there were an infinite set of infinities. And this is how it came about.

One day in 1874 while on the toilet (I just made that part up), Cantor set out to prove that the number of points on a line were less than the number of points on a plane (or in a space of 3 or more (!) dimensions) but what do you know, he couldn't prove that. Instead he proved the opposite, that the number of points was always the same.

I don't get that. Even he didn't get that, and confessed as much in a letter to German mathematician Richard Dedekind in 1877. But I digress.

All this thinking about those infinite points on a line made him wonder if he could put the infinite series 1, 2, 3 ... into one-to-one correspondence with the infinite points on a line.

Could he do it? Do you think infinity works like that?


Duh, no of course not! I am a speech pathologist and even I can see that you can put 1 and 2 on really really really really really reeeally close points on that line but there will ALWAYS be a point in between those where the 2 should have gone!

So he had a think while in the shower one day (I made that bit up too) and decided that the infinite number of points in the line was a greater infinity than the infinite number of positive integers in the series 1, 2, 3 ...

Thus began his cogitations on the possibility of a number of "infinities."

And how many infinities did he propose there were? An infinite number.

Of course.

An infinite number of infinities, called "transfinite" numbers. Just what I need.

And with that, I go off to bed. Good night.

06 April 2010

Taking Jessie to the library

A year ago, my sister blogged about borrowing random non-fiction books from the library and learning really interesting stuff.

Picking random books from the non-fiction shelves has educated her on topics like dogs, conspiracy theories, etiquette, the Hindenburg disaster and syphilis.

I was at the library tonight with little Jessie, and I decided to do a similar thing. I now have "Don't Fence Me In - from curse to cure: leprosy in modern times" which I'm actually excited to get into!

Unfortunately, due most probably to the presence of the small Jessie, I discover now that I'm home that I also have this little volume to mull over during the next month:

"Achilles in the Quantum Universe - The Definitive History of Infinity."

04 April 2010


I've enjoyed my daily Bible readings leading up to Easter. Some things have struck me:

1. The people who accused Jesus. How esteemed they were in their society! How religious! How righteous, how proper, how exalted! And look what they did! But would I have done the same? Especially if the crowd was hyping me up on emotionalism?

2. They accused Jesus of "many things" (Mark 15:3-4.) Oh my, what on earth else, I wonder? How many trumped-up charges? Some ghastly accusations that didn't make it into the Gospel accounts? How humiliating for an innocent person to bear!

3. One of my recent readings asked me to "Spend time now enjoying what Jesus has won for you - an intimate relationship with God." It struck me anew how easy it is for me to just pray, and how that easy access to God was won by Jesus' death on the cross. As I was marvelling at that, I heard my son Buzz praying out loud after he finished his bedtime stories. A huge wave of thankfulness swept over me as I realised that Jesus didn't just win this for me, but for those Mr de Elba and I love most in the world. That He gave that gift to them, our little loves. Wow.

4. Mark 15:40-41 tells of a few women who had followed Jesus and cared for His needs. That sounds like my sort of job! I love cooking for people and caring for whatever 'needs' need caring for. Imagine getting to do that for Jesus. How cool. I hope I would have done that if I'd been there.

5. Joseph of Arimathea ... now I've been meaning to blog about the name "Joseph" for a while.

It's been bothering me how every second library book or TV murder mystery seems to have a "Joseph" for its antagonist. I think Joseph is a great name, and I am a bit miffed to see that it's getting sullied with all these murderers with that name. Come on, fiction writers! What's so evil about the name Joseph? Huh? HUH?

Anyway, I have been encouraged over the last few months by reading of some of the Biblical Josephs. Good blokes. Joseph with his technicolour dreamcoat whose story starts in Genesis 37, Joseph the earthy father of Jesus, and this guy - Joseph of Arimathea who donated a tomb for Jesus' body. A good guy, I think.

Although my readings say, "Joseph must have been tormented over his own part in the event that led to Jesus' death (Mark 15:43). As a "prominent member of the Jewish council" he must have been one urging for Jesus' death (mustn't he?) Why the backflip and donation of a burial site? Maybe he had a huge change of heart. What do you think? Goody, Baddy, or Baddy-turned Goody?


And now: three de Elba kids on Easter:

Mr de Elba: Hey Buzz, did you have a good day at school?


Mr de Elba:
What did you do? Any craft?

Yep. But I didn't finish it. I brought it home to finish.

Mr de Elba:
What does it look like?

Umm, it's a giant bottom. It turns into a card.

Mr de Elba: A giant -? I don't think -?

Yeah! It was! A giant bottom, with an Easter Bunny on one side. It's in my bag, here, look!

Mr de Elba:
Oh! Yeah. Wow. A giant bottom with, yes, with an Easter Bunny on one side.


On a similar note:

01 April 2010

Lent 2011 - cancelled

Today I had a discussion with Buzz and Jessie about the various traditions people have at Easter Time.  I told them about how people often eat fish on Good Friday, and I asked if that was a tradition we night want to hold in our house.  We decided to look up on the internet to find out why people eat fish.  And so we shall.

We talked about how we already eat hot cross buns on Good Friday, we talked about how people eat Easter eggs on Easter Sunday, and what those traditions mean.

Then, inspired by Tracy's recent musings, I said, "There's another tradition people hold around Easter time, and we didn't do it this year, but it's something we might do next year.  It's called Lent."  I explained about how people often give up something they love for Lent, and how they do it because they love God.  I also said that during the period of Lent, people must often really want what it is they have given up!  I explained how the yearning can lead you to pray and get deeper with God.

But Buzz was stuck at the concept of giving up something he loved.  "I don't wanna do that," he said.

Sigh.  Okay.