30 April 2004

Brasstown Bald mid April - Spring has been temporarily delayed!

Spring has sprung!

We now realize why poets have written many works in praise of Spring. In Australia, each season is typically only noted by a variation in temperature, especially if surrounded by native Australian bush. Eucalyptus (gum) trees drop leaves, sticks and branches throughout the year, typically creating a nice little tinder box around their base ready for the bush fire season.

However, here Spring is as if God has used a very bright paint-box and changed the whole landscape from almost black and white to colour! In Australia, if asked, most people would consider that Lime Green is a pretty fake colour. Never seen in the real world. But now we know this is not true. All around us, the leaves are a very bright lime green.

In Mid April we had a snowfall that coated all the trees and wires with about an inch of snow. All that landed on the ground melted, but the rest lasted until lunchtime. Lana went back to the suitcases and retrieved the cold weather clothes that had been packed and the children were outside, shaking trees to make it snow!

Dogwood blossoms - confused by this sudden snow.

One of the trees locally is the Dogwood tree. It has very pretty white flowers that are gradually replaced by leaves. There is a legend (unlikely to be true as the dogwood isn’t native to Palestine) surrounding this tree.

Of course, with Spring comes the pollen. The cars (B1 and B2) have been covered with a fine yellow powder each day. When it rains, the air is a lot clearer and all the mountains are much brighter.

We have also lost our view. Leaves have now filled all the gaps made during winter. In two weeks each tree has growth of over an inch per week. You can almost see everything growing whilst you watch. Back home, growth slowed in winter and increased in Spring. Here it stops in Winter and makes up for lost time in the first few weeks of Spring. The war between the lawn mowers and the grass is on. The grass is winning at most places. Weekly mowing is on order to make a fight of it.

Australia is still there.

The end of a wet day after some rain - Yea, Victoria, Aust.

In late March David travelled to Australia to assist a client upgrade to Greentree Accounting software. It was a very busy time trying to fit data conversion, implementation and training into two weeks. However, after initial teething issues all sites have when changing software, it is going to plan.
Prior to the two weeks in Australia, David had a week in Chicago, so David was away from the family for three weeks.

Whilst he was in Australia, he was able to make it to Colette and Tim’s wedding. (More below). Whilst in Melbourne he caught up with the family and some friends. It is still dry in most of Australia, with water restrictions in most state capitals. He took some photos of country Victoria which had some much needed rain on the day he was there. The yellow grass should be green at this time of year.

David had a long list of Australian specialty foods he was to bring back, such as Vegemite, coconut, Violet Crumbles, Allens’ Snakes, Passionfruit pulp, Milo, Custard powder, chocolate (lots of) and other candy (lollies). Even though he took quite a few books for homeschoolers in Australia, his bags were still heavier on the return journey.

David also brought back a bonus surprise for Lana. One of his clients, Dream Angel, distributes a great spring pillow. It is a pillow that has internal springs inside padded pockets inside padding. The pillow stays firm for a very, very long time and is extremely comfortable. They are supplied in a vacuum-sealed plastic bag that makes transport great. Once the plastic is opened, air rushes in and the pillow expands.

Power Points

On a side note, we wanted to mention power points. Australian Power is 240v whilst US is 110v. However, Australian power points all have an on/off switch. Also, power switches are up for OFF, down for ON. In the US it is the reverse – down is OFF, up is ON. Just another habit to consider.

Australian Power Point - Note the on/off switch.
US Power points are always on. Plug in and you're going.

The wedding of Colette and Tim

After about an eight-year courtship, Tim finally asked Colette to be his wife. Despite our promptings, they couldn’t do it before we left, so we had resigned ourselves to the disappointment that we wouldn’t be able to attend. However, the Australian trip all came together very well. David was able to attend. So Colette made sure David wasn’t just a bystander. She got him to do the first reading and responsorial psalm at the wedding, and say the Grace at the reception. He also took quite a few photos.

On the trip to the wedding, David was in the Bridal car with Colette and their parents, looking over the wedding booklet. Curious, he noticed that the wedding vows weren’t detailed in the booklet, so he asked Colette. Colette replied that they had already discussed them with the priest and all concerned knew what was going to be said. David mentioned there were a few options and recalled the ones he remembered from our wedding. He was assured all was fine.

What do you mean we forgot the vows?

At the all important moment when Tim and Colette were ready to convey the Sacrament of Matrimony to each other by pronouncing their vows in front of God, the church and many witnesses, the priest looked in his booklet, then at Tim and Colette and asked, “Where are your vows?” Colette looked at Tim, the priest and then to the church and said aloud, “David! You were right!” The priest quickly searched for his book, couldn’t find it, but mentioned he had done lots of weddings anyway so should know what to say and Tim and Colette were able to get married after all.
At the reception, Tim was able to name all of us who couldn’t be there, in order and correctly, even mentioning Rose. He did suggest that the airline company was upset we couldn’t make it too. He was able to share one memory of David with all those gathered, which happened early into his courtship with Colette.
David had taken Tim aside, with an arm on his shoulder and said, “Tim. What are your intentions with my sister?” He then went on to say, “Tim, you may as well make up your mind and marry the girl.” But Tim wanted to make sure and took a further 8 years. But all's well that ends well.

The new Mr & Mrs Haymes.

Homeschooling in our new home

The homeschooling is going well. We have recently switched our English program to one using the McGuffey readers. Readers familiar with Little House on the Prairie may remember the name. These were published in the late 19th Century and a hardcover boxed set is available for K through year 6 from Amazon for about $46. (US) In a web search, we found that the year 6 level books are equivalent to current year 10 level. They provide a variety of excerpts of many great authors and poets; provide basic phonics and reading for the younger ages and reading and grammar for the older.

James studying his Maths with Lana

James suddenly improved his reading once he was able to read something interesting. In the McGuffey readers, once the basic alphabet is covered, the student is quickly onto interesting stories, with interesting pictures. Anyway, whilst Lana is concentrating on James, the older ones do reading or other work they can do without guidance, Peter plays with Clare, or Eric goes through basic alphabet and phonics with Peter, with Clare opening her book to join in, too.

Eric teaching Peter basic phonics.

Bird Boxes taken over

At Home Depot the children all made “window bird boxes”. These are designed to attach to a window with suction cups, birds are supposed to use them for nests and you can see what is happening in the clear plastic rear panel. Well, these have turned out to be wasp boxes. Wasps have made their homes in a couple of them and have started building a paper nest. A fascinating science study. Another wasp has built a nest on one of the deck railings. Ariel wanted to check it out so David and her went to look. David asked Ariel if a wasp was in there. Ariel looked and said no, so went to see if she could detach it from the railing. Out came the wasp! David and Ariel froze, pretending to be statues. After buzzing around for about a minute, the wasp went back into its nest. Ariel got up from her kneeling position, but used the railing for support and the wasp came out again! Once more they were statues. This time when the wasp went back in, they both – very gently – tiptoed away.

Public School Timetables

The other amazing news was the local public school timetable. Students get picked up between 7:00 and 7:30am. At 8:00 they are taken into the cafeteria for Breakfast. Even if the child has had breakfast, they are required to be there. No talking no running no playing. Then it is into class until lunchtime. 30 minutes - no talking no running no playing. Back to class until school ends at 3:30pm. Then on to the bus back home with up to 2 hours homework. When we explained the timetable to the children, they decided that homeschooling really was the best way to get proper socialization. “When do they get to play?” they asked. We thought that was a good question.

The combined birthday party and bonfire

In April, we had a combined birthday party for the birthdays of Clare, James and David. We had organized for a bonfire, the children wanted to wear costumes, so we invited plenty of families. It was a great day. The children all ran around playing various games of their own inventions. There were spare costumes for those that wanted to try something different or weren’t too sure about wearing any when they arrived. The older and younger children all mingled, whilst the adults all socialized.

The bonfire was more of a mini forest-fire (but controlled). We went through four bags of marshmallows. The children all wanted to try the toasted marshmallows well before the fire had died down, so typically they were burnt on one side, half melted in the middle and cold on the other side.

Tyler was a little bit tied up in the game.

Short Notes - April 2004

Why did the chicken cross the road? To show the possum it is possible.

Breakfast Bars – Typically one thinks of the breakfast bars as the equivalent of a healthy cereal made into a bar for people on the go. Well, in the supermarkets here are breakfast bars based on Froot Loops and Frosties for the busy people that really want to be on the go!

Butter – Butter is typically sold in packs of 4 sticks – individually wrapped portions of ¼ pound (4 oz) each. US recipes typically require butter as 1 stick, or ½ stick of butter.

Jousting – the boys have made a new game. Dressing up as knights and listening to Howard Pyle’s Adventures of King Arthur and Tales of Robin Hood, inspired them to set up targets on chairs, pick up long sticks (lances) and charge!

Rose – Our due date for Rose is June 2. So, she may well be in the next issue!

Jousting in the backyard