1 February 2015

Bruggie Nativity Play

We had fun doing our Nativity play this Christmas and have been put the video on You Tube. Enjoy.

27 January 2015

Rainy day? No problem.

Are you thinking what I'm thinking?
On a typical Summer's day we have lots of rain which means the children have to stay indoors. Now this could be a challenge for some, but our young lads had a plan. They were quietly industrious for a while which is always a potentially dangerous thing so we popped over to investigate.
They had made a pretty impressive fort with all the cushions and blankets.
It's good having brothers.

3 January 2015

Staying Cool on a Hot Day

"What next, Opa?"
On a hot day it is important to get into the gardening before the sun gets too high. So Martin and then Zach helped Opa tending the garden, gathering ripe vegetables and trimming and digging as required.
As the sun rose, Zach worked out a very natural way to stay cool.  He discovered the perfect leaf with which to provide just the right amount of shade. He then proceeded to wear it outside and inside until it perished through wear and tear.
Do you like my hat?

23 December 2014

Dating, Courting or just Going Out

As the children are growing and developing into fine young adults it is time to have "The Discussion".  Not the one about the mechanics, but the one about the true pursuit of happiness and discernment of one's vocation and life partner.
There has been much written about dating and courtship and a variety of definitions have been given to these terms, so much so that if you haven't been reading the various publications dedicated to this genre you may well be trapped into giving an "incorrect" answer to a question such as "Do you Date or Court?"  As in so many of these life and faith style questions we have gone back to the root and tried to determine how we handle these situations.

Why did God make us?  

As we have learned from our little green catechism, God made us to Know, Love and Serve Him in this world and to be together with Him in the next. Cool. That is a great starting point. Know - Love - Serve.  In that order.
So, in order to truly serve someone, you must love them, and to truly love them you must know them. Otherwise, loving someone you do not know is either loving an illusion or loving only part of them. Either way this is an unsatisfactory love that cannot fully satisfy.
With this in mind, the aim of any dating, courtship or "going out" is to know the person better to determine whether you really love him or her.

So how do you Know someone?

Let's look at successful marriages, those in which the husband and wife have been married for a good time and obviously love each other. Reviewing their discussions about how they have grown in their love, one thing comes out strongly. The secret of knowing someone is Shared Experiences.
Shared Experiences are those things you do together and in doing them you learn more about each other.  Not just the external things such as favourite colours or preferred foods or sports, but the important things like honesty, integrity, ability to serve, how they treat others, dedication to a task and so on.

Why go to all this trouble?

If the ultimate aim of getting to know someone in this context is the possibility of marriage, what makes marriage work? We know part of it is shared experiences, but another important aspect is the serving part.  Remember, the progress is know - love - serve.  Our knowing leads to a true love which leads to true service.  That means our understanding of marriage will be flawed if we look at through the eyes of contemporary media.  Marriage works best when the couple works together serving through love and knowing each other more every day.  That means the husband and the wife serve each other 100%.  Not 50% each.  It's a maths thing.  If each serve each other 100%, that is 100% x 100% = 100%.  A fully lived life in love.  If it is 50% each, then you are only getting 50% x 50% = 25% - a small fraction of what you could be experiencing.
It is important to remember however that the 100% each provides is not identical.  Each member of the marriage have complementary gifts to bring to the union.  That is what makes marriage so productive. If both did the same thing, there would be a lot less interesting development and just more of the same.
So the knowing stage is designed to learn about the gifts each can bring to a marriage and whether both suitors are capable of the serving required in a true loving union.

So what are the best type of shared experiences?

An experience shared depends greatly on the background of each party.  If both have a similar background it is more likely that the experience the couple participate in will be considered the same way.  But the more the backgrounds diverge, it is more likely the experience each person gets from the experience will differ.
For example, if one of the couple is from a large family and the other has been home alone, the experience of a family dinner with lots of people milling around will come as quite a shock to one and be background noise to the other.  But the experience when discussed and reviewed in chats afterwards will form an excellent shared experience.  The empathy of both persons should allow each one to hopefully see a little of life from the other's point of view.  Now we have a point in time where they know more about each other and have shared a little snippet of life from which a true relationship can grow.

But what about chemistry?

The issue with a couple going out is that human chemistry can interfere with the growth in knowledge and tempt the couple to cut short the knowing stage and go directly to the loving stage. On the one hand the chemistry (or hormones or natural attraction) is necessary to get the whole thing rolling. After all, you wouldn't even bother getting to know someone more if you weren't attracted in the first place. But if you succumb to the attraction and go too far, the physical nature will take over and you will have missed much of the important knowing stage.  Suddenly the joyful experience of loving is tainted by the illicit nature of the exchange and the fruitful development of getting to know each other through shared experiences is also twisted. Now instead of looking for experiences through which you can learn more about each other, you aim for times to be out of sight of others - allegedly to "be alone with each other".

So how do you achieve the right balance? 

It isn't easy. On the one hand a "courtship" whereby you never have any time alone to actually discuss or have any unique shared experiences is limiting, but on the other hand "dating" whereby you are always together alone is a recipe for succumbing to temptation and hence failure too.
The steps for a successful knowledge stage of a relationship would be:
1. Being in a state of grace.  
Each person in the deal needs to have a proper relationship with God, and strive to balance the important two sided nature of any enterprise whereby it is worked on as if it is 100% depends on God and 100% depends on your work too.  Faith without works is dead - you need both sides for the task to be a success.
2. Agreeing on the whole point of the exercise.  
At the initial stage, the point is not marriage - it is getting to know the other person.  You can't contemplate or plan marriage to someone you don't love, and you can't love someone without knowing them.  So stage 1 is getting to know each other.
3. Organising lots of shared experiences. 
These would be with friends and with family. Knowing someone means knowing their friends and family.  If you don't like any of the other person's friends are you sure you are really compatible? Also, shared experiences are not just "fun" things like movies and entertainment.  They should include regular things like dinner, attending Mass and visiting family and friends, special things and tasks such as helping someone move house, painting, working together, participating in sports, volunteering time or watching and supporting the other person do something they enjoy.
4. Having quiet time. 
It is important that there is time alone to ponder and review all these shared experiences.  It is not just the experience itself, but the consideration of those times that allow the experiences to fully take root and flower. There also needs to be times when you can just sit and chat about important things without all the noise and confusion.  No TV, no texting, no Internet - just sitting on the beach or the back yard or deck, watching the horizon or birds and insects dart around the trees and plants. In fact, this quiet time is part of the shared experience - both the time spent together reviewing the experience and the time alone doing the same thing.

The final key to success

All this only works when the path is laid out at the beginning. In any endeavour you need to know the objectives before you start in order that you are able to determine whether you are actually on track or have lost your way. There is no point having a process without a destination. The goal needs to be appropriate to this stage of the game. Knowledge of the other person is the aim for this stage, with the greater conditional aim of marriage.  Discerning that marriage is not appropriate for this couple is not a failure, it is a correct outcome.  Not only is this not a failure, it is a valuable lesson for both parties working out what - and who - they are actually seeking. That is the whole point of the exercise.

So go and get to know each other.  Avoid occasions whereby you will be tempted to shortcut the process as doing so will not result in true happiness. And on the way you will have more fun and less regrets.

12 December 2014

Christmas Nativity Play

The children have grown since this photo was taken!
One of the benefits of having a larger family is that you get to do many fun things more than once.  Often as children grow they don't want to do what they did when younger.  At least, that is what they tell you.
Then one of the younger children are eager to do the activity the older ones did when they were younger and soon enough we are all doing it again. Yay!
Back in 2004 I created a Nativity Play which has since been downloaded over 10,000 times. This is a unique Nativity Play as it is created directly from scripture with no made up bits.
There are plenty of parts - speaking and non speaking - and is great fun.
I have just updated the format so it is easier to read and much prettier too.

22 August 2014

But I'll be bored!

Are you bored yet?
On Sunday the younger children decided they would be very disobedient at bed time. We gave the first warning and received the standard reply, "Yes Dad"
But talking continued after lights were out.
So a direct appeal with appropriate stern footsteps down the hall and standing in the room with serious direction to go to sleep.
"Yes Dad"
Shortly after, we had more talking and mucking around.
"As you wish," I said, "It is obvious that the electronic entertainment of iPad, computers and movies are affecting your sleep patterns.  None tomorrow.  Now go to sleep."
"Yes Dad"
This was still insufficient encouragement.
"Right, it's now extended to a week."
There was a great wailing and gnashing of teeth. And they finally settled down and went to sleep.
So this week, the wettest in several months, had no electronic diversions.  "What can we do?" they asked.
"Work it out, or you can go back to bed," we suggested.
The children ended up doing:

  • Crafts
  • Playing outside (in the moments of sunshine)
  • Listening to audio books
  • Reading other books
  • Building blanket tents
  • Making up games
  • Started weaving a shawl
  • Playing with Lego

Well, that worked well.  This is a great form of "punishment".  We get a better response and obedience, and the result is positive too.

13 August 2014

Not the time for Good Morning

Nope. Not yet.
This morning Zach was walking up the hall past the open door of our bedroom on his way to the loo. Lana called out cheerily, "Good Morning Zach!"
He ignored her and continued his journey.  Once he completed his task, he came back to the bedroom door and with a serious look on his face stated, "When someone is going to the toilet it's not the time for 'Good Morning'."
Later he came up to Lana when she was lighting the wood fire and Lana said, "Good Morning Zach."
He grinned and ran into Lana's arms giving her a hug.
Now that must have been the right time for a Good Morning.

9 August 2014

Life in Show Biz

That way!
We have had a production company in our village filming a short movie in the hall and local shop. There was a call out for extras so we volunteered the children from Peter down and I was there to ensure Zach's compliance.
It was a great day where we were able to experience all the behind the scenes work that goes into filming a scene.  So much effort into such a small scene!  In breaks the children were curious and asked questions and the film crew responded marvellously.  They even had Martin and Rose hop onto the camera dolly and push it around to see how it all worked.
The crew were very surprised at how well the children behaved and performed their roles as extras in the movie.
So today we can record as an excursion in film studies!

1 August 2014

Wombat Defence - Success!

"Oh Bother" said our wombat
The wombat returned last night.
But he was foiled by our Wombat defences!
Opa 1 Wombat 1
You can see by the photo the wombat tried clawing away at exactly the same spot he had tried before, but the steel reinforcing meant he couldn't go an further.
We are just imagining his frustration in his single minded mission.

31 July 2014

Wombat Defence

Wombat defences

All we need is some ingenuity
Filling the wombat hole with bricks and stones is on thing, but we needed more to stop a wombat dedicated on his mission of making a new nest.
Opa looked around his "treasure trove" in the garage and came out with some steel used for strengthening concrete in trenches.  These were then cut into lengths and then bent so they would fit between the supports for our under-house storage and go into the ground some distance too.
So far so good.  The Wombat hasn't been back yet.  But it's still early days.  We'll see how well our wombat defences hold up if the wombat gets really determined!

28 July 2014

A Little Bit Of Kindling

Just a little bit of kindling
Once more it is cooling down in the evenings so we need to light the fire. "I think we need a bit of kindling," I said to James.
He gathered up Rose, Martin and Zach and they went for a walk among the nearby trees.
Eucalyptus/gum trees are notorious for dropping leaves, twigs and branches all year round making a superb fire hazard around their bases. This works out fine during Winter when we can perform this community service, reducing the local fire hazard whilst gaining kindling to start our fires.  Dried gum tree branches are great for starting fires.
A short time later they returned and showed me their "little bit of kindling".
"Yep," I said, "That should do the trick."


Water Pump covered by soil

A good start to a wombat hole
Last night a wombat decided he had found the perfect place for a new hole.  Unfortunately it was under our house.
Zach discovered the new hole early in the morning with lots of fresh dirt and called over Martin so they could play in it together.  Then Rose popped over to see what they were doing and realised this large hole under the house needed some adult attention and called Opa.
The wombat had dug around 6 foot into the dirt around the foundations of one end of our house.  The pump for our water was covered - which is not good.  James did mention the pump sounded funny when he had a shower this morning. Being covered in dirt does that kind of thing.
So we have now filled in the hole with a variety of bricks and stones and put up a strong mesh to make the whole process more of a challenge.
We have lots of wombats in our area.  They are nocturnal and like going from point A to point B.  If something is in the way, they just dig under or around it and continue on their nightly trek. Often you can see old houses in wombat areas with collapsed corners as their foundations have been dug away.
This is just one of those benefits of living in the country.

27 July 2014

Eric's First Car

Just like a First Car is supposed to be
Now that he has his driving licence, Eric needed something to drive.  By a great stroke of fortune, a relative of a friend had upgraded her car and was able to sell Eric her old one for only $450!  It is roadworthy and runs well. The paintwork may not be premium but who cares? It is a first car and no finance was needed. Well done Eric.
But cars come with other costs.
Insurance (3rd party which covers damage to other vehicles and property) costs about $300 a year.
Registration and compulsory insurance (which covers damage to other people) will probably come in at around $900 a year.
And then general maintenance and other running costs.  Luckily he is a clever fellow and has a knowledgable Opa and father of a friend who can help him with car maintenance.
Now he can be free (er).

23 July 2014

Another one through!

Eric has passed his driving test and now has his P (Probationary) plates.  He has now gained another independence step, freeing him from the vagaries of public transport.  At least that will be the case when he gets his own car.
In Australia, learner drivers need to pass a knowledge test, then accumulate 120 hours of driving experience (including 20 hours of night time driving) over a minimum of 12 months and then pass a driving test with close to 100% success.
The resulting Red P plate has some limitations, moving to the green P plate after at least a year and then finally a full license at a minimum of a year again.  So from the time of passing the Learner Driver test, it is at least 3 years before you become a fully licensed driver.
We have two children through so far.  The next is about to take his test and then we have another 15 or so years of learner driving as we go through the remaining 5 children.
I am very glad that Lana's father is around to help with the driving load!
Well done Eric!

17 May 2014

Autumn is colourful

It's raining leaves
We only have a limited number of trees that act as seasons signposts, where Red and Orange mean slow down and Green means go outside.
So we get to enjoy the leaves changing colour and yelling to all of us that the great season of Autumn has arrived. I took this photo of Rose playing with the leaves at the local shop. Less than a week later all the leaves are gone. No more playing with the leaves.
When Rose was born almost ten years ago this time was Spring, with all the trees bursting with new green life and the weather warming up. She doesn't remember, other than through our photos, but we still remember the great time we had living in Georgia.

25 April 2014

Grandparents are awesome 2

"Look Pirate Tough - Close enough"
Unfortunately we only see my parents a couple of times a year as we live quite a distance away from them.  This distance has been shrunk since getting Mum an iPad so now we can share videos and photos and even Skype between visits.
Mum is a great seamstress.  Recently the younger boys wanted pirate outfits.  With little more than their rough measurements and some movie pirates on which to base costumes, Mum created some great outfits.
This photo is of the boys playing in the Pirate costumes.  "Look Pirate Tough" I asked the boys so we could show off the costumes.
They struck this pose.  I shrugged and said "Close enough".
When a parcel arrives from Grandma the recipients take as little time as possible to access the goodies inside and test them out.
Considering the new word of approval, cries of "Awesome" follow their revelation of the box's contents.

24 April 2014

The games kids play

A Horse Walking on a Motorbike
Over the years we have collected quite a bit of Lego. In early days we found much of it at Garage or Yard sales, especially in more affluent suburbs where the best stuff was for sale.
8 children and many years later and we have quite a collection.  A young lad popped over the other day and his jaw dropped when he saw the lego in the play room.
Today Clare decided to make a game using Lego, applying many of her experiences with her brothers and wargaming.
An example of one of the rules is:
"If you roll a 1 or a 2 the Lego person goes through a normal life. If you roll a 3 or 4 your Lego person is a detective and you have to solve a mystery.  If you roll a 5 or 6 an Alien comes to Earth and you have to find it."

The Lego Table
Clare came into the study and started explaining the game to Lana.  I was working at my computer and only part listening until I heard the rule, "and a horse walking on a motorbike".
I turned and asked, "How does that work?"
Then I had the rule explained more clearly as, "I worked out how fast you can go on a horse, walking or on a motorbike."
That made much more sense.

The children all had a great game, using imagination with the assistance of Lego and dice.  Great!

Grandparents are awesome

The wheels of the bus go round and round
Grandparents are awesome
It is a great benefit having Lana's parents living with us.  It is not for baby sitting as the children either come with us or the older children can do the job.  It is for the benefit of just being there.
The children all remember wandering across to Grandma and Opa's place for morning tea - basically a biscuit or lolly and a cup of milk. They have all helped in the garden or carrying various tools or otherwise "helping" in various household tasks.  Sometimes we get complaints of a bit too much "help".
Yesterday Opa was going for a walk with Zach, Martin and Rose.  Martin and Rose ran ahead while Zach stayed behind and held onto Opa's hand.  He looked up at Opa and said, "I like you Opa.  You and Grandma. Awesome."
Now that is what I call positive reinforcement.

Rose and Zach were helping Opa pack their bus for their weekend trip. Opa walked around the corner of the bus, out of direct sight.
Zach paused and said, "Dammit.  We lost him."
A few steps later and they caught up with him.

18 April 2014

Passion Plays are great ways to commemorate Good Friday

James and Peter waiting for the play to begin
Good Friday is the day we join in the Passion Play celebrated at The Pauline Fathers Monastery at Penrose Park, NSW, Australia.
It is worth the drive (about 1 hour from the outskirts of Sydney or 90 minutes from Canberra) to take part in the recreation of the Passion of Christ, from the events of Holy Thursday night through to Jesus' death and burial.
Rose, Clare and a friend ready to play the wailing women.
As the weather today was perfect there was somewhere around 7,000 or more people watching and praying as the play proceeded from the front gate through to the grotto on the 100 acre property.
The best part about the Passion Play is it works on all five senses.  You see the actors playing all the roles, you hear not only the words, but also the murmurs of the crowd and props such as weapons and armour.  You smell the dust and people around you and feel the sun above and ground beneath as you follow the scenes and also feel the bumps and crush of the crowd at pivotal points. And lastly you can taste the air and remember the hunger on this day of fasting.
Combined with the prayer and reflection, you get a more immersive exposure to the story of Christ's passion.
That's a lot of people

Another memorable part is the worldwide collection of languages and nationalities making up the crowd. We become pretty used to the worldwide or universal nature of the Church, but a visitor attending his first play mentioned to me how the diversity really hit home the worldwide nature of Catholicism.
The actors are sourced from local homeschooling families and youth groups from the various parishes run by the Pauline Fathers in Sydney.  The costumes and sets improve each year, building on what came before.  The passion play that was part of World Youth Day provided a gift of the costumes they used to the organisers of the Pauline Fathers' play.
Jesus during the Last Supper

At the start of the long road to the crucifixion

Along the road with one of the thieves following

9 April 2014

Calling each other names

A posed shot
Lana was on the phone.
So Rose came up to Ariel and stood there waiting.
Ariel raised her eyebrow in inquiry.
"I'm waiting for Zach and Martin because there has been name calling," Rose said.
Once the boys turned up Ariel asked "What happened?"
Rose said "Zach called Martin Ramsbottom."
Ariel paused, wondering how to respond.
"And then Martin called Zach Zee," Rose continued.
We have a pretty strict policy against name calling and come down pretty hard on breaches of the peace.
Rose said, "And then Martin hid behind one of the flags with clear [safety] glasses and Zach patted him on the nose."
Such tragedy!  Such abuse! How does one respond to such cruelty?
"Don't hit each other.  Don't call names. Go away and play."
"Okay," the boys said and went and played.

There you go.  Sibling rivalry at its worst!
(Previous Sibling Rivalry posts are here)