31 July 2007

Telemarketers: We have a deal for you!

Lana was having one of her brief periods of quiet feeding Martin when the telephone rang.
An Indian accented voice answered "Hello, This is blahblah blah. We have a special deal offering a family package of 25 nights free accommodation for $299."
[How can something be "Free" for $299"?]
Lana paused and thought she would give them a challenge.
"We have seven children. Not many hotels handle that many children. How would your deal handle this?"
"I'll just get my supervisor."
A short while later, another Indian accented lady answered, "this is Sandra Parker. You have seven children?"
"What are their ages?"
Lana gave the ages, enjoying the challenge.
"I'll just speak to our manager"
She asked to call back and finished the call. A short while later she called back and got really pushy.
"2 kids stay free, plus a no-name mp3 player all for $299."
After some further wheedling out of her, she finally admitted that we would have to pay extra at the hotel for the additional children. After trying to get Lana to sign up, Lana replied:
"I'll call my husband."
"Does he like to save money?"
"He's an accountant. Of course."
"Give him a surprise"
Lana replied, "He doesn't like those kind of surprises! Undiscussed spending is not a pleasant surprise."
[When Lana told me she had been told to give me a surprise, I was surprised by the question! I did like Lana's answer.]
More pressure and sales talk, until Lana firmly replied:
"No I'll talk to him and get back to you or it's NO right now."
Sandra backed down and arranged to call back at 4:00pm.
Looking up the web site, Lana read all the conditions. The "Free" accommodation relied on buying breakfast and dinner at the hotel for two adults, or pay for one night and get the second night free. Investigating further, Lana realised that there aren't that many hotels in the areas we would visit so for us there was little value.
Sandra called back at 4:00pm on the dot and decided to try strong arm tactics, little realising that Lana is NOT going to spend money if she doesn't want to, and the resistance grows stronger the more she is pushed.
After lots of wheedling and coaxing and suggestions of "You should take a holiday" and "This is a great deal" and "You'll save lots of money" and so on, Lana eventually told her in no uncertain terms that "We are NOT interested."
I must say Lana enjoyed the challenge she posed to the Telemarketer.

22 July 2007

James didn't want a break

On Friday I returned home from a busy week in the city to a sad James with his arm in a sling.
"I fell of the trampoline and hurt my arm, Dad."
Lana and her mum had done the important things. There didn't appear to be an obvious break as James could wiggle his fingers and clench his fist. So we wrapped his elbow, gave him some Panadol (Paracetemol) for the pain and he had a fitful sleep.
The swelling had reduced overnight but he was still in pain. Hmmm. One more night.
After Mass we unwrapped his arm again and noticed a little bruise on the inside of his elbow. Now the only pain was at his elbow but it was strong pain.
"Okay James. We're going to the hospital." The first photo is his reaction.
So, off Lana (and her attachment, little Martin) with James and I to Hospital, about 40 minutes away. The triage nurse gave us "the look" when we said James had injured himself on Friday at about 4:00pm. Anyway, 1.5 hours later we saw a doctor who gave us a slip for us to get an X Ray. Then James was X Rayed with much pain as he was made to straighten out his arm as the technician and I hid behind a glass pane.
He felt it wasn't a break because of the movement of James' hand and fingers but we were sent back to the waiting room for the doctor.
Eventually the doctor called us in and told us there was a small break just above the elbow. It was more like a tear or crack but James was to have a plaster cast. It should take 8 weeks before it gets removed. All in all we returned home 5.5 hours after we left.
But James is much happier (as you can see in the "after" shot).
So, that was today's adventure.

15 July 2007

The Mouse Butcher

On the nights I return home at a reasonable hour the children enjoy me reading a book to them. Naturally this involves assuming all the appropriate accents and mannerisms of the characters, and reading faster or slower, louder or quieter depending on the mood. The latest book we have just read is "The Mouse Butcher" by Dick King-Smith.
This story is based on an island where the humans have mysteriously left, leaving the cats in charge of their own destiny. The butcher's cat, Tom Plug, is a very good hunter and is such a good catcher of mice that he is known to the other cats as "The Mouse Butcher".
The story has love, adventure, epic battles, humour, family life and bad puns - all the important elements of a a memorable book. I knew they enjoyed the book when I finished reading for the night and they begged for "just one more chapter".

Ariel is 16!

This weekend we celebrated Ariel's 16th birthday. 16! Time certainly does fly.
We have posted this first photo of when Ariel was about 4 and Eric was 18 months. Upon reflection I don't think Ariel has changed much.
To celebrate we went out to dinner. This is not easy as we first have to weigh up the competing factors of where, how much and whether the restaurant caters to families. We found a nice place and had a great meal of pasta and pizza.
We warned the children beforehand that we were about to go into a restaurant and not a playground. After a suitable close look into each child's eyes we entered the restaurant.
The most interesting part of the evening was watching the surreptitious glances of other restaurant patrons. We occupied two tables, so the glances had three parts. An initial look noticed us, then there was the double take as they realised we were together and finally the triple take when they realised we were all related and had a baby too!
Martin was great ice-breaker grinning at neighbouring diners and getting appropriate smiles and funny faces from the ladies. We only embarrassed Ariel a little bit when I sang Happy Birthday (not too loudly). The children behaved very well.
After the meal we popped into a supermarket and bought a pack of ice-creams. That was a lot cheaper than buying individual ice-creams and there was lots of choice.
The jacket Ariel is wearing in the current photo was a present from Grandma. Just right for the current cold weather.

10 July 2007

The Changing Face of a Woman

This is a fascinating compilation of women in art across the centuries.
I found it interesting how lifelike many of the images were, especially the older portraits. Ignoring the more modern unrealistic pictures, it doesn't seem that women have not really changed in looks after all this time. In general the standard of clothing in general may have droped, but the faces have changed little.

Hat tip: There and Back Again

8 July 2007

Children's Gaming Code

Today we had a great day visiting friends. Typically this means the adults chatted together and the children did their own things together. On the journey home I asked the children what they did. Eric replied:
"We beat Therese in Spit, then we played Dead, started a pillow fight, I won Carpet Skating - getting to Level 3, and we fed the pigs and I won."
Now, I understood the pillow fight but the rest needed further explanation.

The Game of Spit
This is a card game where each player has half a pack of cards each (26 cards) and speed is the name of the game. (The rules are here) Based on the noise we heard from the other end of the house, yelling and enthusiasm and the speed at which the players whack the cards on the table are all important elements to success.

Playing Dead

This was just an impromptu game where the first person is supposed to be dead, but she decided to holler instead, so the others tried to show here how to flop all over the furniture and be dead, but they were equally making lots of noise. Apparently it was great fun and like the caucus race in Alice in Wonderland everyone was a winner.

Carpet Skating

This was another impromptu game, but with increasingly complex rules as the game progressed. Basically it involved holding a cushion (apparently to make balancing more difficult), rushing forward leaping onto a small piece of carpet, sliding (skating) along the long hall. The key was to stay upright. The levels were increased as they added cushions or made other obstacles. Level 3 was balancing the cushion of your head, which Eric achieved.

Feeding Pigs

Normally feeding pigs is not a game, but where there's a will there's a way. Our friends had a number of pigs of lots of stale bread with which to feed them. The children started by tossing bread at the pigs to see if a piece stayed on the pig's back. They then timed to see how long it stayed there with the other children doing their best to knock it off with their bread. The pigs didn't mind as they could eat everything thrown at them, the adults didn't mind as someone was feeding the pigs and the children enjoyed the competition. Winners all round!

So there you go. Sometimes a simple question require a much longer explanation!

3 July 2007

Homeschooling in the world

Sally Thomas has written a great article for First Things, Homeschooling and Christian Duty.
Mrs Thomas examines the proposition the often declared duty of all Christian parents to sacrifice their children to a school system - to be a light unto the world. We have always considered "the world" to be the place outside of a school environment so homeschooling actually means we are more of a light to the world.
It is amazing how often the homeschooling life style allows us to meet people and help neighbours we would never be able to encounter if we were trapped in the school treadmill of Morning rush hour, multiple commutes, evening depression and chaos followed by homework and then "extra-curricular" activities.

Hat Tip: Philosopher Mom (This links to an interesting discussion asking readers why they chose homeschooling over a religious school.)

Yoda seen in Australia

Cindee is one of our regular readers and she was inspired by our family fun. Despite being a busy mum (mom) of four she couldn't help herself and made some minor "corrections" to Martin's photo.
Also Matthew wrote in the comments:
I think he is trying to say something in the second picture. uhhhh, let me see if I can make it out...."We come in peace to live long and prosper, oh and I think my pants need changing, daddy"
I wonder what Martin will think when he is old enough to realise the fun we made of him at 10 weeks old? he will probably say what the others say when they see what we did with them: "Daaaaad!"

1 July 2007

In Sickness and in Health

Rose is sick with a stomach virus which means a sore stomach and sore bottom. I had the same thing two weeks ago and I was off work for the week. But Rose is only 3 years old and doesn't understand this whole sickness thing. So while Lana has been tired as Martin is getting his sleep patterns worked out, I have been getting Rose to bed and helping her in the middle of the night. The older children also assist to help us out.
The middle of the night is a good time for pondering life's little mysteries, holding your daughter's little hand until she falls into a calm sleep.
When I made my wedding vows with Lana - For Better or Worse, Richer or Poorer in Sickness and in Health - it didn't actually occur to me the full impact of the words. Each of these conditions has nothing to do with one's feelings, and it is also not limited to just my spouse. By extension it also applies to our children while they are in our care. So when anyone in the family is sick - Lana, myself or the children - the rest of the family partakes of the vows to persevere. In effect, living out the marital vows makes everyone in the family grow up.
Thank you God for the grace of marriage to help us through tired nights, soiled bed clothes, crabby temperaments and bleary eyes.