Saturday, 27 June 2009


Thursday, 25 June 2009

TwiSaga: Midnight Sun story line

~ Twilight ~ New Moon ~ Eclipse ~ Breaking Dawn ~

***WARNING: Lots and Lots of Plot Spoilers Ahead***

Midnight Sun

Midnight Sun is presently only available in a partial draft 12 chapters long, online at Stephenie Meyer's website. Begun as a character study into Edward Cullen, it presents his point of view for the events during the time covered in Twilight chapters 1-11, just before Edward takes Bella to the meadow. I will only cover the additional events of Midnight Sun here.

Of all the TwiSaga books, this is my personal favourite because it gives such insight into Edward's character - although I must admit the intensity of the Biology scene in the first chapter was pretty hard to take the first time I read it. Being only an unedited draft, there are numerous grammatical errors in the text, so keep that in mind when reading the quotes.

The first chapter relates Edward's disparaging boredom over the thoughts of the human students who seem overwhelmingly enamoured with the new girl, Bella Swan, and the spark of curiosity he feels when he realises he cannot read her mind, unlike that of every one else he has ever known. When she walks past him in Biology, he is struck with her particularly delicious scent and is very, very close to attacking her in the middle of the class; he is filled with hate at her for inspiring such violence from him, when no-one else's blood had been able to tempt his inner "monster" in such a way for decades; the only things that keep him from attacking Bella are his fear of disappointing his "father" Carlisle and the way he is able to stop breathing, avoiding her scent.

Edward takes off from Forks in an attempt to flee temptation and ends up with a coven of vegetarian vampire friends in Denali, Alaska; Tanya tells him she expected he would face his problem head on; determined not to be a coward, Edward returns to Forks. When Edward instinctively protects Bella from Tyler's out-of-control van in the school car park, he reveals his vampire strength and speed to her, and his family are furious at the risk of exposure; Jasper wants to kill Bella to prevent her talking about Edward's strangeness, but Alice has visions of Edward falling in love with Bella, and Bella becoming Alice's friend, so insists Jasper doesn't attack her. However, Alice also has visions of Bella as a vampire or drained of blood by Edward, which shake Edward to the core.

If I forced her into this empty half-life through my weakness and selfishness, surely she would hate me. ... Alice's bleak vision filled my head, and I writhed internally with the agony it caused. Meanwhile, the monster in me was overflowing with glee, jubilant at the likelihood of his success. It sickened me.

Attempting to avoid Bella, and thus put off the danger he poses to her life, Edward spends a month pretending to ignore her but actually examining her every move from the perspective of the eyes of those around her, reading her fellow students' minds. He begins to develop a list of character traits that differentiate Bella from other humans, such as her unselfishness, bravery, patience, kindness, unselfishness and (in Edward's estimation) genuine goodness; it is this list combined with Bella's apparent indifference to him and his jealousy at the attentions of three other boys from school that eventually lead him to give in to his curiosity; he creeps into her bedroom one night and listens to her talk in her sleep, and when she calls his name in a dream, he realises he does love her.

Edward feels as if Bella is the sun rising in the midst of his life of perpetual midnight. This description, taken from later in the text, portrays Edward's speculation on his reasons for falling in love with Bella:

With a heedless smile on her lips, her sky-coloured eyes full of mischief, the angel formed Bella in such a fashion that there was no way I could possibly overlook her. A ridiculously potent scent to demand my attention, a silent mind to enflame my curiosity, a quiet beauty to hold my eyes, a selfless soul to earn my awe. Leave out the natural sense of self-preservation - so that Bella could bear to be near me - and, finally, add a wide streak of appallingly bad luck.
With a careless laugh, the irresponsible angel propelled her fragile creation directly into my path, trusting blithely in my flawed morality to keep Bella alive. ... I was not Bella's sentence; she was my reward.

The next day he begins to court her attention in earnest, although part of him still hopes she will protect herself by staying away from him; he manages to control his blood lust for her through a gradual acclimatisation, but later he will be equally drawn by her body heat and certain physical elements which pinpoint her human fragility, such as her collarbone, like "silk over glass". Edward's happiness at Bella's apparent interest in him bears fruit in a piano composition of a Lullaby, which fills Esme with motherly joy.

"You, out of everyone on this plannet, are perhaps best equipped to deal with such a difficult quandry. You are the best and brightest of us all."

The others don't react in quite the same way: Edward realises that Rosalie's antagonistic attitude towards Bella is born from her vain jealousy over his interest in someone who is much less beautiful than herself; Emmett is merely confused, "Honestly, I can't really see the draw." And Alice is impatient for Edward to introduce her to Bella so they can begin the friendship she has forseen.

When Jasper's friends (non-vegetarian vampires) come to visit for a short while, and Edward begins to see himself in the role of Bella's protector, and he continues to watch over her in her bedroom each night, although a string of sunny days keeps him restricted to the shadows of the woods. Edward follows Bella's excursion with her friends to Port Angeles, but isn't paying close attention to Angela and Jessica's thoughts so he doesn't notice when Bella leaves them, while anxiously scanning minds to find out where she is, he realises she is about to be attacked by a serial rapist and murderer; filled with dread, he frantically searches for her, and when she is safe in his car he struggles again with an immense desire to commit murder: this time it is not Bella's blood that is bringing out his inner monster but his fury at her attacker. Edward's need to stay with Bella to protect her and his accompanying desire to be worthy of her love keep him from hunting her attacker, but after taking her safely home he returns to Port Angeles with Carlisle, who has agreed to resolve the problem (he incapacitates the man and anoymously delivers him to a police station interstate). The conversation between Edward and Carlisle is very revealing, here; it shows Edward's struggle to do the "right" thing as well as Carlisle's admiration for his efforts, and the reason that Carlisle attaches to Edward's internal war for self-control, while also providing a glimpse of the debates on a moral justification for salvation which are sprinkled throughout the TwiSaga.

"I've got a dilemma, Carlisle. You see, I want... very much... to kill him." The words started to flow fast and passionate. "So much. But I know that would be wrong, because it would be vengance, not justice. All anger, no impartiality. Still, it can't be right to leave a serial rapist and killer wandering Port Angeles! I don't know the humans there, but I can't let someone else take Bella's place as his victim. Those other women - someone might feel about them the way I feel about Bella. Might suffer what i would have suffered if she had been harmed. It's not right -"
His wide, unexpected smile stopped the rush of my words cold.
She's very good for you, isn't she? So much compassion, so much control. I'm impressed. ...
Carlisle was thinking of Bella, too.
I didn't forsee that she would be so good for him. That's unexpected. Perhaps this was somehow meant to be. Perhaps it serves a higher purpose. Only...
He pictured Bella with snow cold skin and blood red eyes, and then flinched away from the image.
Yes. Only. Indeed. Because how could there be any good in destroying something so pure and lovely?
Edward deserves happiness. He's owed it. The fierceness of Carlisle's thought's surprised me. There must be a way.
I wished I could believe that - either one.

Later, the newer, more compassionate side of Edward shows itself again when Edward determines to repay Angela's kind thoughts and friendly actions towards Bella (in contrast to Jessica's jealousy) in some way; he and Emmett converse about Angela's attraction to Ben in his hearing, in an improvised attempt to convince Ben to ask Angela out, as Edward's "anonymous gift" to her. In contrast, Edward's antipathy towards Mike continues to spiral upward as he seeks to win Bella for himself, despite having begun dating Jessica. And despite Edward's developing ability at understanding Bella's thoughts from her facial expressions, he is still mystified at times by her words and actions, particularly when she doesn't react as a human would, in his opinion.

Why can't she see what a circus sideshow he is? Like they all are. The way he stares at her. It gives me chills to watch. "He looks at you like... like you're something to eat."
I cringed, waiting for her response.
Her face turned bright red, and her lips pressed together like she was holding her breath. Then suddenly, a giggle burst through her lips. ...
I leaned against the gym wall and tried to compose myself.
How could she have laughed at Mike's accusation - so entirely on target that I began to worry that Forks was becoming to aware... Why would she laugh at the suggestion that I could kill her, when she knew that it was entirely true? Where was the humour in that?
What was wrong with her? ...
Brave - that was one word for it. Others might say stupid, but I knew how bright she was. No matter what the reason, though, this lack of fear or twisted sense of humour wasn't good for her. Was it this strange lack that put her in danger so constantly? Maybe she would always need me here...
Just like that, my mood was soaring.
If I could just discipline myself, make myself safe, then perhaps it would be right for me to stay with her.

This last sentence provides the key to a major theme of Meyer's TwiSaga, the submission of natural desires and the victory of self-control in the choice between good and evil. I will discuss this in my next post.

[All excerpts are taken from Stephenie Meyer's Midnight Sun Partial Draft 4, and are used here solely for the purpose of criticism. Copyright for the material belongs to Stephenie Meyer. The first cover image is from the Borders exclusive Midnight Sun excerpt, given free with purchases of The Host, Meyer's scifi novel (marketed at adults, although I am not sure I know why it qualifies as adult and Breaking Dawn, with its graphic violence and adult content of marriage, pregnancy and traumatic childbirth doesn't. The second cover is an amalgamation of several fanart covers I found on the internet, none with their original attributions so I can't pass them on, sorry.]

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Christian Home Education Seminar and Show - Perth

CHESS is on again! I went last year and purchased some helpful curriculum resources as well as enjoying the help of seminars on various home ed topics and time to catch up with other home eders I know here in Perth. If you are thinking of home educating in Western Australia, CHESS will be a very useful day.

From the brochure I received in the mail this week:

Saturday 12 September 2009

9:00 Registration
9:30 Session 1: Providing Tools for our families
10:30 Morning Break
11:00 Session 2: Preparing for Home Education
12:00 Lunch
1:00 Session 3: Teaching Australian History
2:00 Session 4: Curriculum Summary
3:00 Session 5: LEM Phonics
4:00 Book Browse and Buy
5:00 Close

@ Bull Creek Westminster Presbyterian Church,
32 Bull Creek Drive, Bull Creek

$10 individual or $20 Family
Payment on the day, no pre-registration required

Children are welcome to attend, provided they are quiet and accountable to their parents

CHESS is run by Light Educational Ministries, and other Christian curriculum suppliers are usually there as well. (I have used the LEM Phonics materials with Joshua and Anna to great success and Abigail will start using them next term as well.)

TwiSaga: Breaking Dawn story line

~ Twilight ~ New Moon ~ Eclipse ~

***WARNING: Lots and Lots of Plot Spoilers Ahead***

Breaking Dawn

This book is written in thirds. In the first third, Bella is married to Edward with her father's grudging permission. They honeymoon in privacy on "Isle Esme", off the South American coast, but when they first make love Edward finds his vampire strength is too much for him to adequately control, and he leaves her bruised, with feathers everywhere from the pillows he bit to keep from biting her. [The details of the event are not given in any detail: it begins with Bella's thoughts of shyness for being naked with her new husband, skips over the next bit, and is completed with her waking to find Edward stewing over hurting her, although she feels only a bit stiff and sore. More of a discussion on passion in the Twisaga in another post, probably.] Their honeymoon ends when Bella realises that despite all their assumptions that Edward must be infertile, given his vampire status of "immortality", he has indeed impregnated Bella, and the baby is growing fast within her.

The second section, unlike the rest of the series, is written from Jacob's point of view. Jacob is determined to kill Edward for hurting Bella when he finds out she has returned and is "sick" at the Cullen's house. But when he finds out she is pregnant, he sees her having a torturous time of it carrying a baby that is growing at an astonishing rate and already has her appearing to be in her last trimester. He finds that Edward had wanted the baby aborted to save Bella's life, but Bella is determined to keep it and has enlisted Rosalie's help in protecting her throughout. Jacob tells his wolf pack leader, Sam, of the pregnancy, and Sam decides the monster-baby must be destroyed, but Jacob defects from the pack, followed by Seth and later Leah, and takes the role of guard dog, protecting the Cullen's from attack by the other Quileute werewolves. On Jacob's suggestion Bella is given human blood to drink and this satisfies the growing baby's nutritional needs, but as it continues to grow, it's enormous strength leads to several broken ribs. Bella stumbles and the placenta detaches, leading to an emergency caesarian (Edward apparently must cut into the vampire-strong uterus with his teeth) and with a shocking loss of blood, Bella is doomed to die. At the last moment, with Jacob's agreement that in "saving" Bella's life he will not be in contravention of the Quileute pact, Edward injects his venom directly into Bella's heart and begins the process of her burning conversion to become a vampire.

The third section begins with Bella's immense burning pain as her body is healed but also turned to vampire stone. On waking as a vampire, Bella is astounded by her magnified senses and new grace and beauty. She is also introduced to her new daughter, Renesmee, who continues to grow at an astonishing rate and whom Jacob has imprinted upon. Irina, a Denali vampire, sees Renesmee playing in the distance and assumes she is a forbidden "immortal child" and travels to the Volturi to tell them of the Cullen's secret. With Alice's premonition to warn them, the Cullens seek out other vampires to witness to the Volturi that Renesmee is something other than what she appears (she has a heart that beats, along with the gift of being able to draw pictures in other people's minds at the touch of her hand). When the Volturi do come, it is apparent that they are not seeking justice but an opportunity to acquire the particular gifts of Alice, Edward and Bella. Only the use of Bella's gift of mind-prtection and the fortuitous return of Alice and Jasper with another half-vampire boy, who demonstrates the lack of threat from Renesmee's existence, persuade the Volturi to stand down from their grab for more power. The book closes with Bella and Edward secure in the knowledge that Renesmee will stop growing when she reaches maturity (after about seven years) and they will all be immortal together.

~ Midnight Sun ~

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

TwiSaga: Eclipse story line

~ Twilight ~ New Moon ~

***WARNING: Lots and Lots of Plot Spoilers Ahead***


Meyer's third novel in the TwiSaga begins with Edward anxious that Bella does not continue her friendship with Jacob, given his werewolf status, and Edward's jealousy over their friendship. Edward does all he can to prevent her spending time with Jacob, even to inviting her to spend a weekend away in Phoenix with Bella's mother Renee and her second husband, Phil; Renee is disconcerted by the intensity of their relationship, but not worried. While they are away, the vampires and werewolves realise Victoria is still searching for a way to attack Bella in revenge for James's death and on her return, Jacob meets Bella at school to let her know of the danger. Despite Edward's overprotective care, Bella is able to make a spur-of-the-moment trip to La Push while he is off hunting, and they renew their friendship, despite Jacob's antagonism towards Edward and the other vampires. In an attempt to keep Bella away from the werewolves, Edward organises for Bella to stay with Alice the next time he hunts, and Rosalie takes the opportunity to warn Bella of the losses she will suffer if she is changed to a vampire. The next day, Jacob turns up at Bella's school on his motorbike and is quick enough collecting Bella that Alice doesn't have time to stop her wagging school at La Push; when Edward returns he lets her know that he has decided to trust her own assessment of her safety around the Quileute werewolves rather than have them argue over it. Then when Edward smells the scent of a strange vampire in Bella's bedroom (they later realise some of her clothing was stolen for her scent), the danger that she might be in convinces him to share protection duties with Jacob and the relative safety of the La Push reservation. Jacob takes the opportunity to tell Bella he loves her, and even kiss her, but Bella is determined they will only be friends.

Escalating stories of unexplained deaths in Seattle convince the Cullen family that an army of extremely strong but unpredictable "newborn" vampires is being created by an unknown vampire; they worry that it might be the beginnings of an attempt to destroy the Cullen coven. On the day of her graduation, Bella realises that the newborn army is being created to hunt her, not the Cullens, and they think it is probably the work of Victoria. At Bella's graduation party, Jacob and his fellow werewolf friends Quil and Embry agree their pack will fight with the Cullens to protect Bella. The Cullens show the werewolves how to fight other vampires, and they plan to use Bella's scent to attract the vampire army to fight in the clearing, while Edward and a werewolf keep Bella safe elsewhere in the woods. Before they head out, Bella renegotiates with Edward over her future change to a vampire: Edward had said he would change her into a vampire himself (rather than having Carlisle do it) if she married him first, now Bella agrees to marry Edward if he will make love to her as a human before he changes her, so that she can experience that humanly, without the overwhelming newborn bloodlust. Hiding Bella's scent with Jacob's werewolf scent, Jacob and Bella head to a campsite Edward has set up the night before Alice's premonitions tell them the vampire army will attack; Jacob, Edward and Seth watch over her through the freezing cold night, and then at dawn Jacob leaves for the clearing to face the army with the others. Of course, plans do not always cover every eventuality, and Edward and Seth's remote observation of the fight is interrupted by the arrival at their campsite of Victoria and a newborn, Riley. Seth attacks Riley while Edward and Victoria spar, and when Victoria and Riley are defeated, their dismembered bodies are burnt (ensuring they will not regenerate); the other group was also successful in their fight against the larger group of newborns, although Jacob is hurt. Alice has also forseen that the Volturi will arrive, in their role policing the only vampire law: "Keep the secret". Disconcerted by the fact that the Cullens have apparently defeated 20 vampires on their own, the Volturi guard leader Jane does not insist that Bella be changed immediately, but threatens again that it will have to happen soon.

When Bella visits Jacob back at La Push, he is already healing well. She reiterates her decision to choose Edward over him, despite the knowledge that with Jacob she would have a chance at a more normal, human life. The book closes with Bella and Edward about to tell Charlie of their decision to marry before her 19th birthday, and Jacob running away from Forks in his wolf form, determined to run far enough to forget Bella.

~ Breaking Dawn ~ Midnight Sun ~

Monday, 22 June 2009

TwiSaga: New Moon story line

~ Twilight ~

***WARNING: Lots and Lots of Plot Spoilers Ahead***

New Moon

In the opening chapters of New Moon Edward takes Bella to the Cullen's home for a birthday party in her honour as she turns 18, while Bella is mourning being officially older than Edward's permanent age of 17. Bella receives a paper cut while opening her presents, and after Jasper has to be restrained from attacking her, Edward tells Bella he is leaving her so that he will never bring danger into her life again, and that he does not love her any more. Bella goes into an almost catatonic state of grief for four months, but gradually awakens.

At her father's suggestion she begins to develop a friendship with Jacob, finding in his open, sunny attitude an antidote to her depression over Edward's disappearance. Out with Jessica one day, Bella discovers that she can inspire visions of Edward's voice speaking to her if she puts herself in danger in deliberate contradiction of her promise to him to stay safe. So she acquires some dirt bikes which Jacob restores to working order, and they go biking together. Rumours are abounding in Forks of people seeing giant bears in the woods; when Bella searches alone for Edward's meadow, she sees Laurent again and he is about to attack her when a pack of giant wolves enter the meadow and chase him away, saving her. When Jacob is suddenly incommunicado for a fortnight, Bella is again devastated; she later finds out that Jacob has gone through a transition to become a werewolf (traditional enemies of vampires), joining the Quileute pack led by Alpha male Sam. Bella realises that the werewolves are being blamed for hiker deaths that are actually caused by vampires, and since the pack has killed Laurent, it is actually Victoria, desiring revenge for James's death, who is ranging nearby. Bella spends more and more time at La Push, where the werewolves can protect her from Victoria.

Bella jumps off a cliff (Jacob thought it might cheer her up to cliff-dive with him, but she attempts it when the seas are rough and he isn't with her) and the Cullens return in response to Alice's premonition of her death. Jacob saved Bella, but Alice couldn't see that in the vision (she has a blind spot for werewolves) and Edward is convinced that Bella has died. Distraught, he travels to Italy, determined to convince the Volturi to take his life also. When the Cullens find out Bella is still alive, Alice and Bella fly to Italy to stop Edward's attempt to force the Volturi's hand. Bella catches up to Edward, but then the Volturi find out that she - a human - knows Edward is a vampire, and they only let her leave once Alice promises that Bella will one day soon be made into a vampire herself, or be killed. Edward has never wanted this to happen, fearing Bella's soul will be lost when she is changed, but Bella wants to be with Edward forever and sees this as the only way. When Edward and Bella return to Forks, Bella asks Carlisle to change her when she graduates, but Edward offers to do it on the condition she marries him first. The only problem with this plan comes when Jacob reminds them that the pact between the Cullen vampires and the Quileute werewolves states that the vampires are restricted from killing humans and also biting them: the pack will most certainly consider Bella being changed to a vampire cause enough to declare all out war.

~ Eclipse ~ Breaking Dawn ~ Midnight Sun ~

Sunday, 21 June 2009

A Wonderful Gift

Joel, our previous minister's son, visited our Sunday evening service tonight along with David, another of the young adults. Afterwards, he gave us a wonderful gift: his collection of Castle and Pirate Lego from when he was a boy!Are you jealous yet? When he saw it all, Joshua could hardly keep his eyes from popping out of his head!

Saturday, 20 June 2009

TwiSaga: Twilight story line

I posted recently about why I read the Twilight Saga (hereafter the TwiSaga, to distinguish from the first book of the series, called Twilight), and promised I would write a response to the books. Before I can discuss the books though, I need to give a summary of the events in each book so that the stuff I write in later posts makes sense. For Twilight, I am giving a blow-by-blow account of the book's events, but a somewhat shorter account for the others. Obviously if you have read the books yourself you won't need these post, but if you don't want to read the books, or don't have time to read them, these posts should be useful in allowing you to have an informed discussion with one of the many, many eager readers of this series, whether she be your daughter, your sister, or just a friend.

***WARNING: Lots and Lots of Plot Spoilers Ahead***


Bella Swan's ditzy mother Renee has remarried and Bella chooses to move in with her father Charlie, in order to give her mother and Phil space. Charlie is the town cop in a small, rainy town called Forks, in northwest Washington State. Bella is academically smart but physically very clumsy, and socially she expects to be a misfit at her new school. On her first day at school she is met with a surprising level of interest from the local boys and an almost equal level of jealousy form the girls. Only the stunningly beautiful and mysteriously pale-faced Cullen family, five adopted and fostered Junior and Senior students (Edward, Rosalie, Emmett, Alice and Jasper), remain aloof - as they are from everyone else in the school. Bella's interest is immediately caught by this family, in particular by Edward Cullen. Later, Bella sits next to Edward in Biology, and is shocked to find he is unaccountably furious at her. She gets the idea Edward is revolted by her smell. At the end of the day, Bella runs into Edward trying to switch out of the Biology class, and is further confused by his apparent instant dislike of her. So much for the first chapter!

Edward is missing from class for the next few days but when he returns he is courteous and even friendly, confusing Bella further. Then the next day Edward saves her from being squashed by a student's van skidding on ice in the school car park, and in doing so he demonstrates immense speed and strength, which he refuses to explain; he then keeps his distance for a month or so. Bella is invited by three boys to the spring dance, but turns them all down because of her physical ineptness and to prevent further jealousy from the Junior girls; when Edward offers to take her to Seattle that day ("I'm tired of staying away from you"), she jumps at the chance. The next day Edward invites Bella to sit with him during lunch, and then in Biology class Bella faints during blood typing, and Edward, who is wagging the lesson, drives her home; at some stage their hands momentarily meet and Bella is shocked by the coldness of Edward's skin. The mystery of Edward's nature deepens.

Bella goes to the beach at La Push, the nearby Quileute reservation, with some of the other students; in an attempt to avoid the persistent attentions of Mike, Bella goes for a walk with local Jacob Black, who regales her with Quileute legends of the "civilised" clan of blood-drinking cold ones who made a pact with the tribe (themselves descended from werewolves) to stay out of La Push in return for their secret being kept - and Jacob said it was the Cullen family who made that pact with his great-grandfather. Bella dreams of Jacob turning into a wolf and warning her to run from Edward, who murmurs "Trust me" through sharp, pointed teeth; upon waking she researches vampires on the internet and comes to the conclusion that it is likely Edward is indeed a vampire, yet she recognises she is already too drawn to "his voice, his hypnotic eyes, his magnetic personality" to want anything other than to be with him, whatever he is. Bella visits the nearest large town, Port Angeles, with the jealous Jessica and friendlier Angela, so they can shop for clothes for the school dance; separated from the others, Bella finds herself in an unfamiliar part of town and is rescued from a threatening group of men by the sudden appearance of Edward in his car; he takes her to dinner to give them both a chance to recover; Bella confesses she feels very safe with Edward, then he admits he can read minds, although for some reason not Bella's. On the drive home, Bella shares her suppositions of Edward's nature and he confirms them, shocked at her nonchalant attitude to the danger she faces in his presence, though he also confirms he drinks animal blood rather than human, because "I don't want to be a monster"; they also confess to a shared anxiety when they are away from each other's presence. So Bella knows Edward is a vampire, but she has also come to realise that she loves him.

The next morning Edward shows up with an offer to drive Bella to school; in Trigonometry Jessica grills Bella on her dinner with Edward and Bella knowing Edward will be listening to Jessica's thoughts, admits she likes him "Too much, more than he likes me..." and at lunch Edward declares that the reverse is true. [It might seem like it's getting a bit soppy, and indeed the abundance of adjectives can become tiresome, but the dialogue is neatly written.] On the way home they discuss Edward's hunting, and the next day he asks her questions very typical of a new couple bound on discovering every nuance of each other. When Jacob visits, Bella sees first hand the antagonism Billy Black feels towards Edward, and at lunch Bella learns that Edward's family has reservations about their relationship as well, fearing that Edward will be unable to control his desire for Bella's blood, a fear that Edward himself shares, especially as they plan to spend Saturday alone together in the woods. In the woods, Edward shows Bella his favourite place, a meadow where he can stand in the sun unseen by any person (his skin sparkles like diamonds in sunlight); he demonstrates his predatory skills of strength and speed, inspiring her fear for the first time, and also reveals that her scent holds a special allure for him, in his words, "you are exactly my brand of heroin." But Edward also explains that it is the mystery of her thoughts being secret from him that drew his attention despite his determination to stay away from her, and says that now, he could not live with himself if he hurt her... eventually Edward kisses Bella.

He tells her how Carlisle Cullen, a doctor, came to change him into a vampire when he was almost dead from Spanish Influenza, at the age of 17 in 1918. He also takes her to meet his family, where she receives a mixed welcome and hears the story of how Carlisle became a vampire, and, seeking a way to live without causing the death of humans, discovered that animal blood provided a nutritionally adequate though aesthetically bland alternative. Edward also tells her that he has not been "vegetarian" his whole vampire existence, but for a short time survived upon the blood of violent criminals, before realising that this made him as much of a monster as his prey, and returning to live with Carlisle and his vampire wife Esme. Edward is formally introduced to Charlie as Bella's boyfriend before he takes her to play baseball with them during a thunderstorm in a clearing in the wooded hills (the thunder provides a cover for the noise they make hitting the ball).

The Cullen's baseball game is interrupted by the arrival of three non-vegetarian vampires, Laurent, James and Victoria; when James catches Bella's scent, Edward crouches to defend her, sparking James's hunting/tracking obsession; they flee to Forks, determined to outrun James's pursuit. Bella returns home only to provide a hastily-devised excuse for leaving to Charlie, before leaving with Alice and Jasper heading to Phoenix leaving the others to confuse James's tracking attempts. In a hotel room in Phoenix, Bella, Alice and Jasper wait for Edward's "all clear", and Alice explains the mechanics of how humans are changed to vampires: it is an after-effect of the venomous bite of a vampire, if the vampire does not kill his victim at once, driven on by bloodlust; Alice also has a vision of James in a room of mirrors, which Bella identifies as her childhood ballet studio; frightened, Bella leaves a message on her mother's answering machine. Bella gets a phone call from her mother, but then finds that her mother is James's captive, and is told she must go to the ballet studio alone if she wants her mother freed. Bella evades Alice and Jasper's close supervision when the go to the Phoenix airport to collect Edward and the rest of the family, who now know James is in Phoenix; when she arrives at the ballet studio she finds that James was using a recording of her mother's voice from an old video, and her mother is actually safe, but Bella is obviously not; James attacks Bella, breaking her leg, cutting her scalp severely and finally biting her arm. It is at this moment that Edward arrives and with a growl James is gone; as through a mist, Bella observes Carlisle work to stanch the blood flow from her head; when they realise she has been bitten, Alice holds her down while Edward sucks blood from the bite wound to clear it of James's venom. Bella wakes in hospital and Edward reassures her that James is gone and they have fabricated a story of her falling down three flights of stairs and through a window to explain her injuries; Renee accepted the story and notes that Edward seems to be in love with Bella; Edward promises never to leave Bella as long as his staying makes her happy and is what is best for her, but he refuses to change her into a vampire so they can be together forever.

Finally back home in Forks, Edward takes Bella to the prom, insistent that she doesn't miss the "human" milestones, despite her fear of dancing and Jacob turns up unexpectedly and passes on his father Billy's earnest request that she stay away from the dangerous Cullens. Despite this plea Bella again tells Edward she is prepared to give up her humanity to be with him forever, but he again refuses to change her, saying his promise to stay with her forever despite her humanity must be enough.

~ New Moon ~ Eclipse ~ Breaking Dawn ~ Midnight Sun ~

Friday, 19 June 2009


Last night I watched the 2003 movie Luther (starring Joseph Fiennes in the title role). I already knew the basic story of Martin Luther and his struggle to convince the Roman Catholic church to base their theology of salvation on what the Bible has to say about it, rather than on their convenient selling of indulgences and promulgation of sacred relics. This movie brought Luther's story into focus, giving me pictures to fit with the words I knew in my head (as all the best movies do). The script, acting, costumes and scenery were all of a very high calibre. There are some violent scenes (eg, at one point, Luther is warned "you don't want to go in there," but he does and finds a church scattered with the body of peasants, whose revolt was put down by the German princes). It would be best for parents to watch with their children, but given the topic that would be ideal anyway.

The movie contrasts memorable scenes with Johann Tetzel, indulgence salesman par excellence, with Luther's sermons and lectures on salvation through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Tetzel, who was known for his indulgence jingles, is quoted pronouncing one of his easily remembered sales pitches with this line: "When a coin into the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory springs." Indulgences, pieces of paper promising a decrease in the time a soul would spend in purgatory, were sold by the RC church to raise money to finance, among other things, the building of St Peter's Church in Rome to house the bones of "the apostles". In contrast, Luther preaches, "So when the devil throws your sins in your face and declares that you deserve death and hell, tell him this: 'I admit that I deserve death and hell, what of it? For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction on my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, Son of God, and where He is there I shall be also!'"

At the Diet of Worms, Martin Luther refused to recant (take back) his writings. In the movie he states, "Unless I am convinced by Scripture and by plain reason and not by Popes and councils who have so often contradicted themselves, my conscience is captive to the word of God. To go against conscience is neither right nor safe. I cannot and I will not recant. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me." Later he says, "Only let my errors be proven by Scripture and I will revoke my work and throw my books into the fire." I am not sure if these quotes are perfectly historically accurate, but they are definitely pretty close. These words set the tone for the Reformation which was to follow and spread across Europe. Luther was proclaiming the final authority of Scripture over that of the Pope or church tradition, in defining any church doctrine. Sola Scriptura "Scripture alone" as the authority for matters of faith is a core tenet of all Reformed and Protestant denominations.

The only thing missing from this movie was the background of Luther's first readings of the New Testament. He does have a few conversations about how many priests have not read the New Testament for themselves (access was strictly controlled by the RC church), but the movie does not show how it was that Luther actually came to believe that people may only be saved through faith in the saving work of Jesus Christ. Luther was convicted of this when he was given access to the Scriptures (from memory I think it was because he was working as a copyist for a short time, but it may have been when he went to do further study in theology) and read Paul's explanation of salvation through faith in Christ alone in the book of Romans. One counterpoint to this lack is a scene which gives insight into Luther's struggle to translate the New Testament from the original Greek into his own German language.

Another important insight into Luther's life from the movie is Luther's wrestling with Satan's temptation, which was portrayed with historical accuracy as well as with insight and empathy. There are several scenes where Luther argues aloud with the devil and his conscience. From what little I know of Luther, his writings and his wrestling with sin, I can see that these scenes accurately portray a man who was known for his earthy language and actions, as well as his anguish - before he learnt of the Bible's promise of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ - over his sins and the deserved wrath of God. Some viewers would perhaps consider that these scenes were only showing Luther's "dark side" of depression (discussed openly later in the movie when he talks of marriage with Katherine van Bora. But I think they show the reality of a man who was personally attacked by the devil because of the importance of his live and convictions for the future of the Christian church.

I highly recommend this movie.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009


This prayer is adapted slightly from "A minister's Bible", a prayer from Valley of Vision, a collection of Puritan prayers edited by Arthur G Bennett.

I prayed this prayer this morning before I got out of bed. Today is the day I go to my BSF class and when I complete my preparation for the Bible Study section of our Women's Gathering tomorrow. So it was especially good to pray about the many blessings of studying the Word of God.

I thank you for the Holy Scriptures,
their precepts, promises, directions, light.
In them may I learn more of Christ,
be enabled to retain his truth
and have grace to follow it.
Help me to lift up the gates of my soul that he may come in
and show me himself when I search the Scriptures,
for I have no lines to fathom its depths,
no wings to soar to its heights.
By his aid may I be enabled to explore all its truths,
love them with all my heart,
embrace them with all my power,
engraft them into my life.
Bless to my soul all grains of truth garnered from your Word;
may they take deep root,
be refreshed by heavenly dew,
be ripened by heavenly rays,
be harvested to my joy and your praise.
Help me to gain profit by what I read,
as treasure beyond all treasure,
a fountain which can replenish my dry heart,
its waters flowing through me as a perennial river
on-drawn by your Holy Spirit.
Enable me to distil from its pages faithful prayer
that grasps the arm of your omnipotence,
achieves wonders, obtains blessings,
and draws down streams of mercy.
From it show me how my words have often been unfaithful to you,
injurious to my fellow-men,
empty of grace, full of folly,
dishonouring of my calling.
Then write your own words upon my heart and inscribe them on my lips;
So shall all glory be to you in my reading of your Word!

I would like to publicly express my thanks to Amy, who gave me the Am*zon gift voucher that I used to pay for this book and its postage across the Pacific to Perth.

[Image from Amazon.]

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Holiday Tickets!!!

Jeff and I are flying to the US for five weeks next year!

I'm gonna get to meet Amy.
I'm gonna get to meet Amy.
(Will you think I'm overdoing it if I say it again?)
I'm gonna get to meet Amy.

Suffice to say I am very excited. We have plans to spend the first two weeks of our holiday visiting with Amy's family in Kansas and going on a road trip with them to see some of the sights in the central/south west of the US, such as the Grand Canyon and the Hoover Dam. Then we will head north to Washington State (among other places), because Jeff wants to attend Sunday services at Mars Hill Church in Seattle. Finally we will drive south down the Pacific Coast Hwy through San Francisco to Los Angeles and visit some amazing Californian national parks.

Woo hoo! I am very very excited and it is still ten months away. I just hope the kids can bear to be with their grandparents on the farm and camping etc for five whole weeks without us.

[Image from here.]

Book Week at Joshua's school

This week is Book Week and this morning Joshua went to school dressed as a pirate from Treasure Island for the "Dress as your favourite story book character" day. Hopefully I will be able to add a picture or two to this post later today.

I took the younger children to their special Book Week parade and they were captivated. Among the costumes the children recognised a frog and a toad: Mr Jeremy Fisher (from the book by Beatrix Potter of the same name) and Toad of Toad Hall (from Kenneth Grahame's Wind in the Willows). We also recognised two Dorothys (The Wizard of Oz by Frank L Baum); Cinderella and numerous other princesses or fairies; Little Miss Naughty and Little Miss Busy and assorted other Mr Men/Little Miss characters (Roger Hargreaves). We were also overjoyed to see Nurse Nancy, of Little Golden Book fame. We were introduced to Molly with her Jolly Brolly (Erica Jane Waters) and Zac Power (H I Larry) - in at least 9 different versions.

From the grade six/seven class I was surprised to see a character from Confessions of a Shopaholic, and then Alice Cullen from Twilight. These two girls are probably reading above their grade level, and it gave me encouragement to do a detailed parents' guide to the Twilight series. Hopefully I will post it in stages from next week, when we return from our trip to Albany to celebrate my MIL's 60th birthday this weekend.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Monday, 8 June 2009

Twilight Saga: Links for discerning parents

Cyberpunk + Blue Twin go back to uni
Twilight: p*rn for girls by Tamie
Twilight:post-script by Tamie
Just one more thing about Twilight by Tamie

webSalt (A "little zine that helps you think through the big issues of life as a Christian at uni" from AFES)
Review: Twilight (the book) by Loren Bercroft
Review: Twilight (the movie) by Loren Bercroft

Sydney Anglicans
The Twilight series by Kara Martin
The Big Picture: The Twilight series podcast with Kara Martin
Twilight (the book) by Mark Hadley
New moon by Mark Hadley
Breaking Dawn
The Twilight film saga by Mark Hadley
Bite me by Mark Hadley (a history of vampires in myth, movies and literature)

The Gospel and Culture Project
Vampires and Young Female Desire by Beth Felker Jones

the Atlantic
What Girls Want by Caitlan Flanagan

Twilight word vomit by Karen Beilharz
More Twilight word vomit by Karen Beilharz
Twilight word vomit: Twilight by Karen Beilharz
Twilight word vomit: New Moon by Karen Beilharz
Twilight word vomit: Eclipse by Karen Beilharz
Twilight Word vomit: Breaking Dawn by Karen Beilharz
Twilight word vomit: A postscript by Karen Beilharz

the procrastinatrix
boring writing

Time magazine
Stephenie Meyer by Orson Scott Card (he's another Mormon author, mostly of Sci-Fi novels including my all-time favourite, Ender's Game)
Stephenie Meyer: A New J.K. Rowling? by Lev Grossman
Twilight: The Fangirls Cometh, with Cash by Rebecca Winters Keegan
Twilight Review: Swooningly True to the Book by Richard Corliss
Stephenie Meyer by Lev Grossman, from the Time Person of the Year 2008 list of runners up
10 Questions for Stephenie Meyer

the Internet Movie Database (IMDb)
Bella Swan played by Kristen Stewart
Edward Cullen played by Robert Pattinson
New Moon

Sunday, 7 June 2009

the Twilight Saga

On Tuesday, I went out and bought the Twilight series, a quartet of novels written by Stephenie Meyer. The first book in the set has 434 pages and they get longer: the last has 754. So possibly only my mother will be unsurprised to hear that I finished reading the entire series on Saturday, four and a half days later. You might have wondered why there was a complete dearth of posting on this blog between Monday and Saturday. Well, now you know! But why on earth would a 33 year old mother of four children, none of whom can yet read fluently alone, who has always professed to be a complete scaredy cat when it comes to the thriller genre, be interested in reading 2300+ pages of "young adult" vampire novels? The answer to that is a little complicated...

The Twilight saga was voted to the number one position of the Dymocks Readers’ Choice Top 101 Books this year. Each year when I peruse the list I consider which books I have already read, which I might be interested in reading, and which I know or assume I won’t like. I have to admit, there are usually a fair few that make the Top 101 that don’t interest me in the slightest, and when the list came out, despite its top ranking, Twilight was put into that category.

The saga has now been published in its entirety, with four books in the set. In order, they are Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse and Breaking Dawn.

Then a few days ago, I ran across a post by onlinesoph on the series, which led me to another series of posts by Tamie. I became curious. Onlinesoph was weighing up the pros and cons of reading the saga. Tamie argued against reading it because its core story of a romance between human Bella and vampire Edward seemed to her to be “p*rn for girls”. And yet she admitted that there wasn’t much more than a single kiss on the lips in the whole book. (It is hard to get steamy with a vampire without being bitten.) So what was it about the romance that was especially attractive to teen girls?

It seems the Twilight saga draws its most devoted fans from the teenage market who have grown up reading Harry Potter. They now feel comfortable with long books full of plot twists and turns, written in the fantasy/modern fairy tale genre. They also appreciate (or require) less demanding vocabulary than was used in, for example, Tolkein's Lord of the Rings. It seems to me that Twilight is an easy and perhaps natural step up from the Harry Potter series. Harry Potter deals with an inventive but simple adventure story with an escalating battle of good versus evil, and consequently appeals to tweens and early teens, particularly boys. In contrast, Twilight focuses on a relationship that is more closely aligned with the experiences of older teenage girls: that of a flowering romance beset by troubles at every turn. It also portrays the struggles of determining one’s own identity that have such immense importance to teenagers and young adults.

A while back Jeff talked about having a church movie night where we watch a movie and then critique it together from a Christian perspective. I thought, given the popularity of these books with the high-school teenage market, the DVD of Twilight might be a good choice for a Bring Your Parents youth group night, in a few months time when the release of the New Moon movie is imminent. (It is due out in November 2009 in the US, I'm not sure of the release date here.) That way parents will get a chance to see what is taking so much of their teenager's attention, and teenagers will have an opportunity to examine the characters, themes, and plot through "biblical glasses", so to speak.

I knew the books were long, and I didn't want to spend a lot of money if I couldn't abide the storyline, so I satisfied my curiosity the easy way: I hired the DVD of the Twilight movie, and Jeff and I sat down to watch it Saturday night.I have to admit it was a disappointment. The actors, Kristen Stewart (who plays Bella) and Robert Pattinson, who plays Edward, seemed overly tentative as they delivered their lines, yet their facial expressions were at times totally over the top. The make-up was apalling - I was startled every time I saw Edward's "father" - the man who turned him into a vampire - Carlisle (played by Peter Facinelli) on screen; his face was such a pale white it reminded me of a goth in full make-up. Jeff and I both struggled to work out why Bella had fallen in love with Edward and vice versa. Even watching it a second time the next afternoon I couldn't work this out to my complete satisfaction. In particular, Jeff found it odd that Bella should ignore her human schoolmates so completely despite their many overtures of friendship. From my perspective, this was understandable for a person who was shy and also attracted romantically to someone not accepted by the group. Yes, Bella's burgeoning obsession with Edward might seem unwarranted, but there can be no denying that many real-life girls and women have drifted away from their previously intimate friendships with peers for the illusive promise of the love of a lifetime. And a level of social awkwardness, where one’s perspective of oneself does not match well with how others see us, is a key characteristic of the teenage experience. It was nice to sit on the couch and watch a movie with my husband that lacked those embarrassing "that's way more than I ever want to see of anyone else's personal life" scenes. (Remember the third Matrix movie? I skipped a whole chapter of that on the DVD, and I still have no idea why the bedroom scene was in the movie. Uggh.) And the vampires weren't all that scary. Not in the same way the Joker was scary in the last Batman flick: that was really disturbing. The Twilight movie had some good action sequences, despite it's low budget. I was still unconvinced, but also still interested.

So I did the typical sticky wwweb thing, and googled the author’s name. Stephenie Meyer has her own website,, dedicated to promoting the Twilight saga books and her other published work, The Host, “science fiction for people who don’t like science fiction” written for an adult audience. Meyer’s website also provides basic Q&A for fans of her work along with some outtakes from the original drafts that didn’t make it into the published works. There is also a partial unedited rough draft of Midnight Sun, the events of Twilight told from Edward’s point of view, in a 264-page pdf file. Apparently, this draft was “illegally posted on the Internet and has since been virally distributed without [Meyer’s] knowledge or permission or the knowledge or permission of [Meyer’s] publisher.” Having read Meyer’s description of Midnight Sun, “an exercise in character development that got wildly out of hand”, I read her description for its genesis:
“While I was procrastinating some real editing work (I'm always at my most creative when procrastinating), I started to wonder how the first chapter of Twilight would read if it were written from Edward's perspective. There is so much more to his side of the story than there is to Bella's in that first chapter. After all, Bella only knows that an incredibly gorgeous boy is looking at her funny. Meanwhile, Edward is suffering through one of the most momentous days of his very long life! First there's the shock and frustration of not being able to hear Bella's thoughts, then the wild, monstrous reaction to her scent, followed by the incredible expenditure of self-control that it takes to not kill her... His side of Bella's first day at Forks High School is a hundred times more exciting than her own.”
I was intrigued.

I downloaded the Midnight Sun partial draft and spent Sunday evening reading through it. Despite the ferocity of the first chapter, I found myself drawn into the story. Reading the 12 chapters of the draft provided explanations to those instances of the movie that we had found confusing. For example, Midnight Sun makes it clear that the school boys were overwhelming in their attention and the school girls were largely driven by their jealousy – not an easy peer group for Bella to associate with comfortably.

So, having read Midnight Sun, and satisfied myself that I wouldn't be driven insane by paltry writing, I decided to buy the books. I was inordinately pleased when I found out that Myers was having a 40% off books sale for one day only, so I spent my Christmas gift voucher on the first two books there. Then I spent a birthday gift voucher buying the third book full price from Dymocks, and was able to find the fourth book for 20% off from Target, although unfortunately I had run out of gift vouchers by then. These books are seriously pricey: the paperback of Breaking Dawn is retailing for $32.99 at the moment RRP, so you can understand why I was pleased to find sales.

And then I went home and spent much of the next four days reading... but my response to the books will have to wait for another post, because this is already way too long!

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Recently... Jeff and I

Jeff has enjoyed a few days off from work; completely, 100% off. They were great for him, me and our family. Often on a Saturday Jeff is still doing the finishing touches to his sermon for the next day, and on a Monday he can have church meetings, but last Saturday and Monday he did not have any of these things to do, and really appreciated the opportunity to not think about his job for a whole 24 hours at a time.

Jeff has also been back into some woodworking lately, which has been a wonderful way for him to relax. He has a few different projects going on at the moment, and is loving the workshop he has here.

We have been very excitedly making plans for a special trip next year... details as soon as we get the tickets!

I haven't been online in almost a week so that I could spend some time reading. It was very pleasant to immerse myself between the pages of a novel (actually, four novels) for a very long time. I cannot believe that I have only read two other novels this year, if I don't count the books I read to the kids. Shudder! My reading tastes have changed a lot since I became a Christian, since I have been at home with the kids, since we moved to Perth, since I began blogging... I read a lot more non-fiction than I ever did before and I have become much more impatient and unwilling to put up with inelegant prose or lame plots. Not that my writing is all that fantastic, but once one has come to appreciate quality, it is hard to view trashy fiction as anything other than a waste of my precious time.

Anna and I have been working very solidly with the homeschooling and so I gave her this week off from most of it (it was the middle of our second term). I got caught up on some of the housework backlog, which has helped my sanity. And I have thoroughly enjoyed watching the new DVD by Colin Buchanan, The Good News Parcel Company, several times with the kids. The vid for "Glory to God" is absolutely hilarious.

Monday, 1 June 2009


We've been having some up and down times here lately, so I thought I would write a snippet on each of us, to tell you how we are. I will start with our youngest and work my way up.


Has finally stopped sucking his thumb, totally, even at night while he is asleep. I know for sure because, while there is still a small patch of callused skin on his left thumb just below the knuckle, all the skin splits from wet saliva have healed completely. I know, I know, he is two and a quarter years old! How could it possibly have taken this long?

I posted about the rigmarole we went through to break him of the worst of his habit back here, but I have to let you know how we finally stopped it completely. Chilli. Yes, you read right. We started with a green one, but then moved things up a notch to a red one. Jeff had always said he would never do that to his baby but you know what? It worked brilliantly!

We cut the end off the chilli, stuck Sam's thumb inside it, turned the chilli around a few times to swish some chilli juice onto his thumb and then viola! We warned him, "Don't suck your thumb, it's spicy now." And boy did we laugh when we saw his face the first time he stuck it in his mouth! But after the first day, he just started telling people, "No suck thumb. Thumb yucky." The first time I did it with a red chilli and he tentatively put his thumb in his mouth to check if it was, indeed, yucky, he was in for a big surprise. He promptly turned around with his tongue sticking out and ran to the nearest door frame and tried to lick the taste off his tongue! But for all that, he didn't seem to mind, but to actually appreciate all the attention he was getting. Once when we were in a grocers, he saw the chillis for sale and asked me to buy one to make his thumb yucky. Bizarre. But it definitely worked.

Our dear little four year old has given up compulsory naps now that she has had her birthday. Most afternoons she ends up on the couch in the play room, looking at books before falling asleep despite herself. She seems a fair bit quieter at the moment.

One thing that has given Jeff and I great joy is that she has suddenly become more responsive to the things of God. Last Thursday night I went to cuddle her because she was crying in bed. She was quite upset over the sad death of Ginger, having watched Black Beauty that afternoon. And somehow that conversation led us to talk about whether she wanted to love God and trust Jesus. Looking back, it really seemed as if she just kept on coming up with more things to cry about until the crux of the issue - trusting God to love her and look after her - was resolved by an acknowledgement that she was ready to trust in Jesus' death to pay the price of her peace with God. It was almost a surreal conversation, with me praying with half my mind throughout and the other half just trying to work out what to say to reach her heart without forcing her to do something which the Holy Spirit was not also prompting her to do. It seemed like as soon as she said to me, "Yes, I do want to trust Jesus and be a Christian" she just calmed down completely. We said a short prayer together, she rolled over, closed her eyes, and went to sleep. From ongoing almost hysterical crying to complete peace in 60 seconds. Wow. Thank You God!!!

The next morning she asked me to put on an EMU music kids' CD (The King, the Snake and the Promise), and instead of dancing, she wanted to sit down on the floor and look through her Message picture bible while she listened to the gospel presentation on that CD. Wow again.

We are in the process of deciding on whether to enrol Anna in Pre-Primary at Joshua's school for three day weeks in term four of this year. If she keeps going the way she is with homeschool lessons, she will be reading at a fourth grade level going into grade one, having completed the Singapore Primary Maths grade one curriculum (admittedly with one-to-one assistance) and spelling above a grade one level, I would think.

However, she is not confident at all in situations where she is faced with a large group of people she does not know, even if she is in a very familiar environment. So I am worried that she will really struggle with going to school in grade one full time, with no "practice" runs. There is a very small possibility that we might decide to have her academically tested in order to enrol her in grade two rather than grade one, and if that was to be the case we would want to be very, very sure that she could cope socially.

It has taken a while, but she is now playing confidently in the school playground after school when we go to pick Joshua up. The first time we went she wouldn't even leave my side, and just watched Joshua play on the equipment without even making a move towards it. I don't want her to be too frightened to do anything when she actually needs to go five days a week.

And keeping her at home for another year is not an option, either, because I don't think that would help her in the long run. She would just come to see her shyness as more of a social handicap than she already does and become more nervous. But on the other hand, I don't want her to be unable to cope socially to such an extent that she becomes an easy target for bullying. This is one of the reasons I am glad that we have Joshua in a smaller school, now. I think a smaller school will be much gentler on Anna's emotional sensitivities.

Joshua has been struggling heaps with the change of school. Socially, he is fine. But this teacher expects a lot more academically than his previous one. He is finding the requirements of following instructions precisely and not doing his version of the required task very difficult. Staying on task and concentrating are also causing huge difficulties. He even has detention for 20 minutes tomorrow at lunch time!! (This is the even worse penalty he got for continuing to muck up when he came back to class having been sent to his "buddy class" for bad behaviour earlier in the day, last time he went to school, which was actually Thursday - we are at the end of a long weekend and Fri was a student free day.) I am glad he has a strict teacher but it is also hard to see my loveable but boisterous boy having to learn that he must stay with the task he has been given for longer than he wants to.

Part of the problem, I think, is his difficulty with the work compared to his previous school (although not compared to what he was doing with me last year). Another big part of it is his natural boyish desire to be up and doing active stuff rather than writing on paper with his pencil. Another part of it is that he has suddenly found himself at an apparent social banquet, with potential friends on every side, but completely unable to partake because his teacher wants him to (shock horror) actually do school work. The revelation that academic work might take more than one hour, during which your younger siblings nap and you wouldn't have anyone to play with anyway, is coming as a complete surprise to Joshua. And he is not handling it well.

We are praying that he will be able to remember that he can play with the other children at break times, not when he is at his desk, and that he will come to understand that if he does not do what the teacher asks him to do then he has done the wrong thing, even if his option seems an infinitely preferable task. Having taught high school to students who still struggled with these concepts, I don't have very high expectations. But I am very thankful for his teacher, who always seems to have time to chat to me about Joshua's progress, despite the absence of a pre-arranged interview time.