31 December 2007

Explaining Christmas to our children

The stomach bug which swept through our family on the day before Christmas meant we missed the Vigil Mass. So we spent some time together and went through why Christmas is such an important celebration and why it is the most important event in human history.
In a mix of narration and question & answer format we went through salvation history.
First God made a deal (covenant - a binding agreement between family members) with Adam on behalf of Adam and his wife - the first Couple. Then he tried with Noah - a family. Then Abraham - a tribe, and Moses - a people, and David - a kingdom. Each deal was with a larger group of people but each time the human side of the bargain fell through. It was very obvious that unaided Man could not keep his side of the bargain. But the covenant had to be between Man and God and Man had broken the original deal.
So Jesus - fully God and fully Man - stepped in and took on the human side of the deal on behalf of all men and paid the price that was necessary to be paid for us to share in the salvation promised by God.
(That is the summarised version without all of the interruptions and side-trackings questions and answers lead to.)
At the mention of Adam and Eve, Clare asked a question.
"Yes, Clare?"
"You know about Adam and Eve?"
"Yes ..."
"They were nudie pudie." [That is, they wore no clothes.]
Ah well, the discussion is always aimed at many levels depending on where the child is at.
(The photo is just a cute one of Martin's first Christmas)

30 December 2007

A White Christmas?

Who would have thought? There we were, listening to Christmas Carols filled with imagery of white Christmases and snow while driving in very hot mid 30C temperatures, when we saw white stuff on the ground! About an hour or so before we reached this spot there had been a huge hail storm. We quickly parked on the side of the road (joining a number of other cars) and hopped out to take a photo.
This pile of hail is between pea and marble size and had not yet melted about 3 hours after it all fell. We can just imagine what a mess it was during the storm. On one of the side roads the shredded leaves on the road looked like grass clippings. A number of locals all commented on how green the sky was during the storm.

25 December 2007

An unplanned restful day

We had planned lots of things with our cousins. But one thing we didn't plan on - a stomach bug. Eric and Ariel were struck down with a sore stomach which meant we stayed home yesterday - and even missed Christmas vigil Mass.
This meant also cancelling a planned fancy dinner with my parents and a very quiet day yesterday. This photo (click for more details) shows how Lana enjoyed the day.
Luckily it seems to be a 24 hour thing so we were able to get to Mass today and visit my parents. But fancy meals were a problem. We hadn't planned on needing anything and today all the shops are closed. So instead of a fancy three course Christmas meal, we had sausages on bread with my parents.
My sister's husband came down with the same thing so while he is resting we are getting together with my sister and her remaining unsick members and having a scratch meal. It's all good Christmas fun either way.

You Have to Share!

This morning we had the added fun of sharing Christmas morning with my brother and his family. The presents for his children and ours looked quite a sight and each child's excitement increased the excitement of each of the other children. But being meanie parents we still made them have some breakfast first!
Once all breakfasts were completed (quicker than normal) we sat down and started passing out the presents one at a time so all could share in the fun of opening gifts.
Our nephew, C - 4, received a lolly (candy) filled stocking and announced, "Lollies!". A split second later his sister, L - 3, cried out, "You have to share!" She has learned quickly how one gets lollies!
This photo shows L guarding the big present which she had been told by one of her brothers had her name on it. When my brother announced that some smaller present had her name on it she declared, "No. I want the big one." This is her guarding the big one, waiting for her moment.
The older nephew, X - 6, received exactly the present he wanted and with a very excited, high voice ran around saying, "A microphone! This is just what I wanted! Santa is soooo clever."

All in a spin over Christmas dresses

Lana's mum was very busy before Christmas putting together dresses for Clare and Rose. Ariel supplied the material as her contribution and Lana provided assistance.
When the girls opened their presents this morning they took a sharp intake of breath and cried aloud, "It's a new dress!" and immediately arranged to put them on.
Once everyone else had sorted out their presents I asked both girls to come outside and have a few photos taken.
I figured this would be a great time to share their joy.

24 December 2007

Christmas in Melbourne

Our first stop was at the Myer main store in Melbourne for their traditional Christmas window display. The windows have been put on since 1956 and are always an impressive display of puppetry. Occasionally they even have a loose Christmas theme! This year was a tribute to the Environmentalist faith about a pristine wilderness, discovered by a fellow who decides to live there with his family. Then tourists come and then a town and the wilderness goes away. Then the people leave the city because there aren't any wild things there and then the town crumbles until "balance" is once more restored. Merry Christmas!
We then joined in Mass at St Francis, the oldest church in Victoria.
On our way to the tram stop for our next visit, we passed very long queues waiting to visit the same display we had already seen. Lucky we came early!
The children reckon the tram ride was the most fun. The driver must have only had stop and go buttons - each time the tram started everyone was jolted backwards, and then forwards when we stopped. Our children were laughing and enjoying themselves thoroughly. Who wants an amusement ride when you can catch a tram instead!
This last photo is of James looking out the train window on our return train ride. All the children were pretty tired after a full day.

You Will be Validated!

We are currently visiting my family in Melbourne for Christmas. Yesterday we went with my brother and his family into the city by train to see various Christmas displays and attend Mass at St Francis Church.
We parked at the station and I asked the ticket seller "What is the best way for my family to catch the train to Melbourne?"
He quickly got out his hand calculator and worked out 7 tickets at $2.50 each.
"Thanks," I said and we boarded the train.
Once we arrived at Melbourne we put our tickets in the machine and were informed "Ticket Not Validated"
Perplexed, we approached a ticket inspector and asked, "The machine says our tickets aren't validated."
"Your tickets must be validated." he cleverly (yet cheerfully) replied.
"We purchased them from the ticket booth at the station and boarded the train," we responded.
"Didn't you validate them?"
"Did you read the back of the ticket?"
"Do you mean this fine print?" I answered (See the attached picture)
"See?" he pointed, "the ticket must be validated."
"Wouldn't they be valid when I purchased them?"
"He didn't tell us the tickets he sold us weren't valid."
"He doesn't have to."
"Well, we are from out of town and our telepathy has failed us. Now what do we do?"
"You're lucky the ticket inspectors didn't catch you. You would have faced fines of $160 per ticket."
"Is this how you treat all tourists who fail this initial test?"
He then let us through and validated the tickets, saving us from the dire threat of apprehension by the ticket authorities!

19 December 2007

Homeschool Family Video

This is a very well produced video of a homeschool family. It's well worth a look.

Where's Legoman?

We are getting close to Christmas! The Pink candle has been lit in the Advent wreath, remembering "Rejoice Sunday", so the visual signs have begun. Both nativity sets are erected and Mary and Joseph are placed somewhere in the house to begin their journey to the stable. Each day I am to move them closer until they arrive on Christmas Eve. After we return from Christmas Mass one of the children place Baby Jesus in the crib.
The Christmas tree is also erected. Each day the children put on one decoration each which quickly builds up until you can hardly see any green. James and Eric have decided that they would play a "Where's Legoman" game by putting a Lego man somewhere in the tree which the other children have to find amongst the bright and colourful trimmings. This is the first one put up by James. He is attached by a string to one of the topmost branches, hiding behind an angel, surveying the lounge-room with his binoculars. (Click the picture for more detail.)

13 December 2007

How will you die?

Apparently my anwers didn't fit the standard mould. Who would have thought?

You'll die Mysteriously...

You are a different sort of person and your death will be unexplainable.

'How will you die?' at QuizGalaxy.com

Hat Tip: Dr Helen

8 December 2007

The Make-do Spirit

Rose always wants to wear her little boots when she runs around outside. But sometimes she can't find them. So she makes do.
Here she is modelling her special boot replacements - an ice-cream container and a sand pail. The sand pail is not even wide enough for her foot so she has to tip toe in that one!
Where were her boots? In the boot basket of course! Why would she look where they are supposed to be. They are never there normally.

6 December 2007

Today is St Nicholas Day

[by Lana]

Today is St Nicholas' feast day. We try to do something special for the man so much linked to Christmas, but somehow we often forget until it is too late. This time David and I kept reminding each other.
But early this morning I remembered that I had forgotten to make up the little bag of goodies for the children. Quickly scrambling out of bed I made the goodie bags, filling them with Dutch Licorice and small biscuits (pepernotens) - we didn't have any chocolate coins left.
As I placed them on the ends of the beds I was caught by Eric who was soon due to be up.
"Shh, don't worry about it," I whispered conspiratorially.
James kicked his bag off the end of the bed even before I had walked out the door. Clare opened one eye as I took this picture of her. She then promptly returned to sleep. Rose had commandeered Ariel's bed sometime during the night, and we wanted to make sure she didn't take Ariel's treat as well so we kept Ariel's separate. (By the way, it is amazing that someone so small can take up so much room).
Upon waking up the children were surprised and wondered what the treat was for and especially wanted to know, "Are they all for me?" I reminded them that today was St Nicholas Feast Day. Now they remembered and immediately began to trade for their favourites.
We also printed out some colouring pictures and they sat around the table eating their treats and colouring pictures. This was such a nice way to start the day.

4 December 2007

Our Garden is bearing fruit!

Since we first built our house and arranged for the septic soakage area to be in irrigation pipes, we have waited for some fruit from our well irrigated garden.
This year we look like having a huge load of berries. We have begun to enjoy home grown Raspberries, Marian Berries, Young Berries and some other types which are just as yummy.
Rose and Clare help Lana and her Mum collect the berries and we STILL have enough for baking!
(This is a detailed picture - so click for a bigger photo)

1 December 2007

Survivors of a Sunk Cruise Ship.

Why Homeschool has posted an email of one of the passengers who was on the cruise ship Explorer which sank off the coast of Chile.
It is a well written piece by someone who was right in the thick of the event. It is well worth a read.

28 November 2007


Martin is moving around all over the place and getting into everything within his reach.
Last night he was caught testing the effectiveness of the tissue box.

26 November 2007

A Blooming Good Sunday

On Sunday we emerged from our home, blinking in the sunlight, rejoicing that a new week has begun.
The stomach bug thingy went through everyone except for me, but I was home by the end of the week helping maintain order while Lana took much needed time to recover.
The weather outside of
rain, fog and general dullness matched the mood inside rather well. But once we saw the sun had come out to rejoice with us, on Sunday after Mass we went for a drive and play in the park just to enjoy the Spring day.
I captured this bee enjoying the sun in the very colourful garden of one of my clients. We felt the same as we enjoyed the sun. (Click on the photo for more detail)

19 November 2007

A child's view of being ill

This is Rose, asleep on the toilet lid.
She has been watching Clare and thought it would be a good idea if she was sick. That would mean some lemonade and watch movies. So she told us she was sick. But she did not look at all ill the way she was jumping about.
Then she went to the toilet and was sick everywhere but the bowl.
OK. So NOW she was officially ill.
This morning she said, "I'm not sick now." and she stood next to Lana and I as we were in my office doing some work on the computers. Then she burped and looked at us and exploded. Luckily just on the floor and not the desk.
So we cleaned up again and set her on the lounge.
"Don't wanna bucket." she said to us, "I'm not sick."
So she went to the toilet and lay over it. Not long afterwards she fell asleep as you see here.
Meanwhile last night Clare fainted when she stood up for our nightly prayers.
"I fell asleep standing up," was how she described it later to Grandma.
Well, it's gradually going through everyone.

18 November 2007

Happy Anniversary

Lana and I are celebrating our 18th wedding anniversary. We had planned a special dinner for all of us and a few other special activities. But this will all have to wait a week or so as the vagaries of family life have intervened in our plans.
Eric has some stomach bug which has kept him close to the toilet for the last few days but he was the only one and no one else looked off colour. Then it stormed beautifully yesterday and all the children went playing in the rain. Unfortunately Ariel slipped and twisted her ankle so we had to rush out into the rain and bring her in and tend to her injuries. She is not as small as she used to be!
Then last night Clare came into our bedroom at 2am and said she wasn't feeling well.
"Go to the toilet!" we instantly instructed her and I leapt out of bed and carried her in the right direction. Almost! She exploded about 1 foot in front of the toilet. When she had finished we washed her up and settled her back into her bed. I cleaned up the toilet and parts of the bathroom. Lana is still tired as Martin is getting more teeth and not sleeping well.
At 3am Clare woke up again and didn't even make it out of her bed. So this time Lana and I both got up, replacing bedding and settling Clare down. At 4:30 am she once more awoke, but this time used the bowl we had given her and Lana tended to her. I slept through this one!
Eric helped in the last two episodes, and Ariel woke up and felt bad because she couldn't get up and help out.
"Can I do anything?" she asked in a pitiful voice,
"You can cheer us on" suggested Eric.
So today is the day we had planned to celebrate our Anniversary, the closest Sunday. And we can't even go to Mass without risking the spread of our stomach bug.
This may sound like a disaster story looking for sympathy but it isn't. After 18 years we do not have firm plans and have learned how to "go with the flow". The selfishness we both had when we married has slowly been weaned out by family shared experiences:
For better or worse,
Richer or poorer,
In sickness and health,
Until death do I part.
I will love you and honour you all the days of my life.
That was the deal. And once we really understood that love is really a matter of intellect and will more than just a feeling, life is good. Reading the pages of our adventures on this blog gives you a flavour of family life, but there are so many good things that still get left out of our memoirs. The big smile Rose and Clare give us in the morning, the assistance and companionship of all the children, the joys we all share when any of the children achieve a milestone - crawling, walking, talking, test scores, whatever.
So for us, this IS a happy anniversary.

5 November 2007

Baby Defences - We're at Defcon 2.5

There are several stages of home defence as a baby gains greater mobility.
Defcon 0 - You can leave the baby in one spot and you know he will be there when you return.
Defcon 1 - He is rolling so no more leaving him on a bed or spot where he can roll into danger.
Defcon 2 - Crawling! Everything up higher and watch where you are walking and running, especially if your arms are full.
Defcon 3 - Walking. Godzilla time. The baby will wander anywhere at any time, pick up whatever is in reach and place it straight in his mouth. Favourites include delicate Lego creations and train sets. And dirt. Lots of it.
Defcon 4 - Climbing. Batten down the hatches.
This photo is from this evening. Martin at just over 6 months and is crawling and now pulling himself up. Any fingers in reach - ready or not - are grabbed by Martin and held tightly expecting a walk with his arms raised high. Grandma and Opa are favourite victims.

Here are the rest of the series of posts detailing the ever increasing Defcon ratings of Martin: The Defcon Tales

A woman's touch

Yesterday Clare and Rose decided to clean up their cubby house. This involved using broom, dustpan and brush and rearranging all the furniture. Satisfied with their work, Clare went up to Lana and said, "Can you look at our cubby house? I cleaned it up. It needed a woman's touch."
Over dinner that night I asked Clare where she had heard that phrase. I knew it was a phrase we didn't use around home.
"Calamity Jane. She said it when she cleaned up that house."
We haven't watched Calamity Jane for some time. It is amazing what the children remember and apply at appropriate moments.

1 November 2007

The Colours of a Rose

One morning this week Rose stumbled in to us half awake looking like this. Her face was covered in texta (marker pen). Rose offered no explanation other than a blank half smile. Luckily it washed off reasonably easy.
In other child news, Clare was listening when I explained that we would go out as a family for our wedding anniversary, as the children were the fruit of that decision.
That evening when we were discussing where we would go Clare announced, "I'll carry the fruit."
"What?" asked Lana.
"The fruit of your anniversary. I'll carry it." Clare explained.
"Ah no, Clare," I said, "YOU are the fruit."
Sometimes the children are a bit too literal in their misunderstanding.

13 October 2007

War Tales from Henri

I attended the funeral for my Grandfather on Thursday and met all of my relatives and their children. Henri had 5 children, 13 grandchildren and 22 great grandchildren and other than Lana and our children they were all there with their spouses, as well as many familiar faces from my past. It's a pity it takes this type of occasion to see one another again. My cousin had collected a great collection of photos of Henri and I thought this would be a good chance to post a couple more tales of Henri during the war. You can click either photo from more details.
The first photo is of Henri and others in front of a Threshing machine he used when he was hiding from the Germans in France. Henri is the one on the top right. Notice how his dress is different from all the real farmers? He was a city boy and the only place to hide was on a farm in France. When he met his first French farmer and asked for work the farmer asked Henri if he had any experience.
"Yes, lots," replied Henri confidently.
"Show me your hands," said the plain spoken farmer.
"Ah," stammered Henri as he showed his city bred hands.
"I am hiding from the German work gangs. My wife and three small children are at home in Belgium and I need to help them."
"Hmmm," murmured the farmer with his hands on his chin, "We'll see how you go."
Finally Henri overcame the innumerable blisters and he wasn't too much of a hindrance to the farmer after all.
Once the Allied troops had entered Belgium Henri quickly went home. His home had been liberated, but the front was only a few miles from home and his parents were still in enemy territory. Henri wanted to see how they were and went towards their house. An Allied soldier stopped him and told him, "The Germans are that way. What are you doing?"
"I want to see if my parents are OK."
"You'll have to wait until it's safe." the soldier told him.
Henri wasn't patient so snuck around and approached his parents house. Allied soldiers were cautiously approaching the little village and some armoured cars were leading the way. Henri followed a short distance behind when the lead armoured car suddenly exploded with the turret flying into the sky amidst flame and smoke. Henri quickly dived into the nearby ditch and decided he might wait after all!
This second photo is of Henri working on the British Spitfires. Once Belgium was liberated he was quick to help the Allies in maintaining their planes. He is the one in the middle leaning jauntily against the fuselage.

Family Meal Economics

We are often asked, "How much does it cost to feed all those kids?"
I have kept accurate records of our family finances for over the last ten years and know that our costs have actually matched inflation, even though our family has grown faster than inflation. (Inflation is around 3% per year) We spend around $1,100 (US $880) per month on all grocery shopping, food, cleaning products and whatever we get from the supermarket.
The reason I am revisting this topic is Lana was concerned how much we were spending as she made today's lunch of Vegetarian Meat Lasagne. (This is one of our classic Vegetarians For a Free Choice recipes).
"I was just concerned when I demolished my 4th pack of Lasagne sheets and saw all the empty packs surrounding me," Lana explained.
As you can see by the photo, Lana bakes in quantity! The dish is 37cm x 28cm (15" x 11.5") and the pot is correspondingly large. The resulting dish actually makes dinner for two meals. It incorporates over 3 packs of Lasagne sheets, 1 kg (2 lbs) mince, 1kg cheese, about 2 kg of vegetables and other bits and pieces. Total ingredient costs are about $30.00 ($24.00 USD) which equates to about $15 a meal for 8 people, or around $2.00 ($1.60 US) a person.
For comparison of bought food for the same price, this would equate to about 1.5 pieces of pizza, half a fried fish or half a meat pie.
Once I had calculated the numbers Lana felt that maybe it was all worthwhile after all.

7 October 2007

Pater has passed away

This morning my Grandfather, Henri, passed away. He was known to us as "Pater", our way of saying grandfather. The nursing home staff had brought him his breakfast and when they returned he had died. He was 93.
Henri was born in Belgium. During WWII he was helped by the French and Belgian resistance to avoid the German work gangs which would have sent him off to work camps in Germany. One time he slipped back into town to see his wife and three small children. He was talked into staying at the pub a little longer than he should have ("You'll be right!") when a truckload of German soldiers parked out the front and guarded all exits. The sergeant and his troops lined up all the men along the bar and checked their papers. Henri had forged paperwork saying he was on vacation from his work camp. Once the soldiers arrived someone went and summoned my grandmother and my dad and his two older brothers who were all under 5 years old at the time.
The Sergeant read Henri's papers and said, "These are expired. Your holiday is over. It is time for you to return to work."
Then my grandmother came in with the three boys gathered around her legs, crying pitifully.
The Sergeant, standing firmly with his men pointing their submachineguns at the men in the bar, looked at my grandmother and then Henri.
"Right. Return to work tomorrow."
He knew full well that Henri would never be seen again but like many German soldiers was a decent man.
That night Henri was whisked away by the resistance back to France to hide out and work on a farm.

In the early 1950's he had the opportunity to go to Australia - on the other side of the world - and be factory foreman for a tapestry company. It was a five year deal. At the end of the time he could come home (back to civilisation). He stayed.
His five children all married in Australia and he left behind 13 grandchildren and lots of great grandchildren.
This photo was taken a couple of years ago. He had a walking stick but in any photos the stick was whisked away behind his back. "It makes me look old," he liked to remark.
Please pray for the repose of his soul.

2 October 2007

Dear Toooth Fairy

Dear Tooth Fairy,

My tooth fell out but I lost it.
Can I still get the money?


This was written by Lana when she was about 10 on the back flap of an old envelope. Lana's mum kept it in her keepsakes area and we learned about it today.
Just another great benefit of living with grandparents.

(This is an old photo we scanned in to do this post justice. She hasn't changed at all.)

24 September 2007

Questing for Knowledge

Yesterday we had a family day out by going to Questacon in Canberra. Questacon is a hands-on Science museum, very similar to the McWane center we visited in Alabama (Here, here, here and here).
The first section we came to was "Sideshows" exposing all the tricks of the trade as well as demonstrating some of the rides such as a huge slide "Freefall", a centrifuge and a simulated roller coaster ride. The slide had each participant put on overalls (called "Body Bags" by the attendant) climb some stairs, then hang on a bar two stories above ground and let go. One girl hung onto the bar and decided that letting go sounded like a pretty silly idea and had to be retrieved by the attendant. This photo shows James just as he let go. Peter is already on the stairs ready for another go. Peter somehow managed to get 5 slides to only 3 for James and Eric. Ariel decided that this type of thing was not for her.
The roller coaster simulation was enjoyable. As the pod in which we were enclosed moved and bumped us around, Ariel said, "This is like your driving Dad!"
One of the exhibits centred around Spies and Codes. Eric and Ariel picked up the activity sheet which had the visitor go through the exhibits ferreting out the clues to answer the final mystery. This photo shows Lana helping Ariel unravel one of the secret messages with Martin snugly asleep encased in the Moby Wrap sling. Eric joined forces with another lad about his age and they worked out the answers pretty quickly.
We asked the children their favourite parts:
Lana, Ariel and Eric enjoyed the spy part as it was more involved than just playing.
Eric, James and Peter liked the Freefall slide. James also liked playing with some tubes which attached to a metal wall by magnets, which you manipulated in such a way that a ball travelled from the top to the bottom.
Clare enjoyed the show about balloons and hot air.
Rose just liked playing with lots of things.
And we all enjoyed the mirrors which distorted our appearance to long thin people and a short wide family.

22 September 2007

Always have a spare memory card

My photo plans during our trip was to upload them to my computer each night. This worked fine until the first night of the camp when the card reader failed during the transfer. I uploaded 42 out of 64 photos, but the card was now corrupt!
I had stupidly relied on one memory card with no spare. The little town in which the camp was situated didn't have anything so esoteric as a SD memory card so I had two options. Either take no photos and see if I could retrieve the 22 photos when I got home, or reformat and lose the photos.
I took the first option, so I took no photos beyond the first day. I wasn't able to retrieve the photos after all but I now do have a backup memory card in my camera case.
Use my lesson for your own benefit. :-)

Martin is 5 months old already

Martin is already 5 months old. Time certainly does fly. Many of our friends have asked how he is going so here he is!
He dribbles constantly, lubricating a passage for teeth that must be on the way. He is pushing himself up and can rollover which means we are at defensive stage 2 - no more leaving him alone on the beds and remove inappropriate things from his near vicinity.

19 September 2007

Homeschooling Camp III - Sports and Games

A highlight of the camp is the Sports Carnival. One of the dads handles most of the organisation (here is our report last year) and every child has a go. Even our less than athletically gifted children each get a participation point just for entering each race so help their team. James was so intent on doing his best he strained his recently repaired arm during shotput. He didn't tell anyone and went in the 1000m (5/8 mile) marathon. I saw him crying as he neared the finish line and helped him finish the race.
"What's wrong?" I asked, "A stitch, did you fall over?"
"No," James replied and told me how he strained his arm. So we bandaged it up and by the evening he was much better. At the beginning of the sports award ceremony James was called to the front.
"Who me?" he asked with a shocked expression.
"Yes, you. Come on up."
The organiser and one of the priests had their hands on his shoulders and told the audience how he had gone that extra distance just to get the participation point. James was quite embarrassed - but happy too.
Ariel was also embarrassed. She won the "Best and Fairest" award. This is a perpetual trophy and is awarded to the child who is the most helpful and generally all round good child for the camp. Ariel's face at the moment her name was announced as the winner was worth a photo. But I missed it so she is shown here after the event.
We also learned new games from other families. In this photo I joined Ariel and her friends playing "Hands". Players sit around a table and place their right hand over their neighbour's left hand. Then it begins. One tap means go forwards, two taps means reverse and three means skip the next hand. If you don't tap when you should that hand is removed (from the table, not surgically). It gets quite tricky especially after hands are removed. For example, I tap my hand once on the table and the person on my right taps their hand once and the next hand taps twice. So it reverses and the next hand taps once and I have to tap again. If I tap 3 times, the hand on my left is missed and the next left hand has to tap.

18 September 2007

Homeschooling Camp II - Dads at camp

Last year I was asked what Dads do at homeschool camps and I will answer the question again this year. Dads get involved in the organisation, talks, sports and everything else as homeschooling is a family affair, not just Mum's job.
At the beach the Dads typically act as beach patrol, calling the children back to safer areas. One of the dads has a really penetrating whistle which the children could hear above the waves. Every time they drifted too far away he would whistle, they would look and we would wave our hands getting them back near us. Also, after a long time at the beach, the littler ones found walking on the sand path a bit too tiring so they wanted to be carried. Here is one dad carrying Rose and his daughter back to the camp. (Click the photo for a closer view)
There were a number of talks and catechetical activities organised and the priests asked that the Dads to listen in to the talks for older children. (That's me by the door while Father gives his talk).
One of the best activities for the fathers was the night we had a men's talk and the ladies had their own. We all gathered in one of the halls with a cup of coffee or some dry biscuits and followed an agenda. The discussion was great with each of the dads giving their perspectives on raising children in today's world. By 10pm we stopped and went to round up the younger children and see them to bed.
I noticed Lana wasn't back from her talk so went to the cabin in which the ladies had gathered. There I saw the remains of cake, fancy biscuits, cheese and crackers, some wine and all the elements of a fine party! Typical! We hadn't though of that. Next time we'll arrange something little bit more physically rewarding to go with the mental feast.

(Other camp posts here and here)

17 September 2007

Homeschooling Camp I - Sandcastles

We finally made it to the camp and quickly unloaded the van contents into our cabin. The children promptly vanished and found new and old friends. A Sand Castle competition was arranged for the first afternoon's activities and somehow myself and one of the other mums were made judges. We had three boxes of chocolate to award as prizes. We decided to award a prize for the best Traditional, Artistic and Tenacious sand castles. The first two weren't too hard to select, but the third had a number of groups of children in the running. This first photo shows one of the boys in James' group trying to resurrect their castle after a rather devastating wave.
All that remained was the Cathedral they had built on the lonely mound of sand. So the boys started building even bigger walls around the Cathedral to try again. I don't know if James' efforts at turning back the waves made a difference but it didn't stop him trying. (Click on the photo for more details)
Meanwhile Eric's group of boys started their castle for the 4th (!) time. The first three were washed away to steady groans.
But their castle did survive in time for the judging and won the most tenacious category. Here they are showing off their creation.
The older children/young adults started off spectacularly with several spades and lots of assistants. They achieved a mound of sand about 5 feet high. Then they were distracted by other things and so ended up with just a pile of sand.
"Why didn't we get anything?" one of the young adults asked on the awards night.
"A pile of sand didn't qualify for the traditional or artistic categories and you all eventually gave up and went swimming so it didn't qualify for tenacious either."
"Well, there is that..." he replied.
So next time we will do better. There is always next time.

16 September 2007

Kyogle or thereabouts

Our next stop was near Kyogle so we could visit friends that had recently moved nearby and attend Mass just over the border at Marian Valley, Canungra.
Once again it was more winding roads and hills, but with 7 back seat drivers (luckily Martin hasn't started criticising my driving yet) I drove a lot slower and was more conscious of the effects of the roads on my rearmost passengers.
The key to driving on windy roads is to look out, so when we saw a sign saying "Lookout ahead" we stopped and looked out. This photo shows Lana enjoying the view at Moonbi Lookout (B Where's). (Click Lana's photo for a larger view)
We stayed at a fairly basic caravan park that was adjacent to the rain-forest, so it didn't surprise us to see this not so little spider in the ladies toilet/shower block. The children were all reminded to observe the important lesson to shake out their shoes before putting them on in the morning.
Our friends have taken over a Free Range Eggs farm so the children had the treat of riding quad bikes and collecting eggs while Lana and I had fun chatting and learning all about how the eggs are gathered, cleaned, sorted and distributed.
On Sunday we drove 90 minutes to Marian Valley for Mass. It wasn't as exciting as last time we visited, but we had a great Mass and met many good families afterwards. Then it was back to our rooms and getting ready for the homeschooling Camp tomorrow!

11 September 2007

A Little Bit of History

Tamworth bills itself as the Country Music Capital of Australia. They have plenty of Country music festivals and events, the Golden Guitar museum and tourist trap, and lots of musician based statues and localities.
One place which we did not expect was the Tamworth Powerstation Museum. It is a museum devoted to electricity, especially as it was used in Tamworth. In 1888, Tamworth was the first town in Australia to have electricity powered street lights. Sydney only had their street lights powered by electricity 6 years later! 19 years later Tamworth homes were also connected to electricity.
As today was off peak, the volunteers had plenty of time to lead us through the museum and explain many of the items to us. The entry fee was only $6.50 for a family and we received a personal tour! They have collected a great many electric powered devices, including old fridges, stoves, irons, washing machines and so on. Our guide allowed each of us to feel how heavy an old electric iron was and asked Lana how she would like to iron with that. "I don't iron," promptly answered Lana, "All of our clothes don't need ironing. Even easier!"
In 1988, volunteers reconstructed two steam powered engines which powered the dynamos that provided the first electricity in Tamworth. They found examples of the old engines rusting away in sheds somewhere but all they had for the dynamos were a sketch drawing. With that and some extensive research and lots of ingenuity they rebuilt the dynamos! On special occasions they start up the engines and it all works as it used to. Lana is standing in front of one of the rebuilt engines.
In the park where we had lunch was a statue dedicated to the Lighthorsemen, especially those that served in WWI. Over 500,000 horses from the Australian outback were sent to the Middle East. Most didn't return. Not due to casualties, but because Australia didn't want them back, due to a combination of Quarantine issues and the sheer cost of returning them home. The B-Where's version is here.

7 September 2007

The Chef is a Rat!

Part of our holiday treat was to see Ratatouille. Actually, the treat was to take the family to a nicer restaurant - all you can eat - which the children thought was a pretty good idea. But then one of the children mentioned the cinema and we realised that today was the day Ratatouille would first show. Normally we avoid the cinema as it costs a lot more than buying the DVD and watching it at home. However, we negotiated and traded a nice restaurant for a family movie.

The film was very enjoyable. It is amazing how Pixar is able to weave a story about a rat that can cook into a plot involving family loyalty, love, honesty, integrity and sticking with principles and make it funny as well. (Although in one scene Lana and I both shivered when we saw all the rats amongst the food. We have fought gainst rats in the past!)
Pixar has done it again.

6 September 2007

Interesting Places

When we lived in the US we laughed at local place names. But just to show you it wasn't just America that has interesting place names, here is one of the road signs showing the towns we went through on our trip. The biggest challenge is working out how to pronounce the names. It is not always as you would expect.
For example, one town that is near where Lana grew up is called Wauchope. This is pronounced War-Hope. Lake Cathie is pronounce Lake Cat-Eye. I am pretty sure this is just a quick way to work out who the locals really are!
The best named place was one we passed through a few days later - Wonglepong. Now that is a name to impress outsiders!
Singleton NSW boasts the "Largest Sundial In the World." Ariel is our model demonstrating the size of the thing. We couldn't really fit the top into the picture and be able to see Ariel too!
It is very big, I grant you, but what is the point of a sundial if there is no sun to actually help with telling the time. Is this a case of an early technological power failure?
Our last photo is on our photo blog B Where's, showing Rose Pointing in front of the sign announcing Rose Point. And she looks so cute in her sunglasses. We really couldn't help ourselves.

5 September 2007

Our Holidays Begin

We have been planning our annual holidays for some time, coinciding with the homeschooling camp which is on next week. This time we are taking the inland route to visit some friends and explore new places.
We left Lana's parents to mind the fort on a wet and cloudy day. We really appreciate the extra luggage space in the Ford Transit van. As you can see we have some room spare after packing sleeping bags and linen for all the children, pillows for everyone and blankets and linen for Lana and I, as well as enough clothes and essentials for the trip.
One game we played was "A to Z". This involves everyone looking for a sign or word starting with each letter in order - car licence plates are excluded. As we were on the freeway much of the way, most of our results were truck or road sign related. When the letter "J" was announced, Clare quickly answered "James!" Then it was a new rule clarification - all results had to come from outside the car.
The weather was very variable. Light rain, clear, heavy rain, then drizzle and clear again. We decided to rely on the GPS and take a shorter route off the main freeway. This saved many kilometres, but unfortunately was a very winding road. As the van is rather long each winding part meant the rear seemed to move even more. By the time we had come through that section everyone behind the driver's seat was feeling queezy. "I feel sick." Clare announced and I VERY quickly pulled over and everyone scrambled out. This photo is of James helping Clare who was feeling very unwell.

(I am posting our trip stories now that we are back with a stronger internet connection.)

1 September 2007

General Peter

Today the boys, Ariel and I visited a Napoleonic Wargaming demonstration. While I was with James looking at some historical swords and equipment, Peter and Eric were sitting watching a large Waterloo style wargame. Ariel was sitting by the window reading a book. She reckons wargames are boring for girls.
A regiment of Cavalry had forced some infantry into squares. This meant the men in the unit face bayonets out and the men behind them fire, making them safe from Cavalry who won't charge home through the sharp points.
Peter watched carefully and mentioned to the fellow in charge of the Cavalry, "With the Cavalry don't charge. Use the cannons to fire into the infantry. That makes holes in the defence so the cavalry can go through."
The men playing the game stopped and looked at Peter.
"That's actually pretty good tactics," one said.
"Where did you learn that?" another asked.
Peter answered clearly, "We watched the movie called Waterloo."
A fellow on the other side of the table said, "How old are you?"
"He's 21" someone answered with a smile.
"Look, there's a horse over here," one player said pointing to the figure of the General, "Hop on it and be a General!"
"The French are doing poorly. They need your help."
Peter just stood there looking at all these men talking about this young lad of 8 discussing quite intelligent Napoleonic tactics.
It was pretty funny. Ariel couldn't concentrate on her book.
Peter understands what is involved not just from the film, but the discussions we had during the film. As the battle in the film unfolded I explained what the impact was and why certain tactics were poor and what worked better. Peter obviously absorbed it all and applied it at the right time.

27 August 2007

Preparing for Tomorrow

I don't often embed YouTube videos on Bruggietales, but these two relate to our thoughts behind homeschooling. They aren't short but are worth watching.
Preparing for a changing workforce:

Preparing for a changing world:

The two above videos basically provide statistics about the changing world around us, both demographically (age and composition of the people) and educationally (exposure to technology and changing requirements).
We are trying to teach our children that learning is an ongoing thing and concentrating very strongly on the basics of reading, writing, comprehension, mathematics and history, but also on a structure within all this belongs. Raw knowledge is either irrelevant or dangerous if it is not provided within a context that matches reality. Some of the statistics assume continual growth at the same rates while their basis is that everything changes quickly. So we are asked to accept two contradictory premises: The world is changing quickly AND these changes will keep happening the same way.
I recognise that my job (and this blog!) could not have existed even 10 years ago. So predicting 10 years ahead is a risky business. The only way we can see to prepare ourselves and our children is to give them a broad education with a strong moral compass so they can make informed decisions.
When I see predictions of the future I remember the opening chapter in G.K. Chjesterton's book "The Napoleon of Notting Hill" entitled: "Introductory Remarks on the Art of Prophecy". It is worth reading in full, but in summary Chesterton's premise is that the human race in general plays the game of "Cheat the Prophet" whereby the "Clever people" all predict a myriad of possible futures - all contradictory - and insist that non believers had better change or else. Then the people eventually bury the "clever people" in due course and the world develops into something no one actually predicted.
So in the end, we are called to use our talents wisely, know, love and serve God in this world and love our neighbours as ourselves.

Hat tip for videos: Evil HR lady

25 August 2007

Three Swords Please

Last Saturday I took the boys, one of their friends and Ariel shopping. The main reason was to top up the pantry, but bonus side trips to the Library and Hardware store were why the children wanted to come.
James was very happy when I found him a book on siege weapons. The book not only showed examples of sieges through the ages, but also the tactics used and methods of construction. His Lego creations have taken on a whole new flavour!
At the hardware store we went to the wood/lumber section and I asked the assistant, "I need some wood for swords."
He smiled and looked at the boys.
I added, "Yeah. Good wood. Pine just doesn't last past a few good whacks so I need some sort of hardwood."
He understood and showed us the hardwood timber flooring and we found a number of 1.2-1.5m (4 to 5 ft) lengths. The boys then noticed a range of poles. The assistant said to me confidentially, "Broom handles will be cheaper than these rods, especially considering how they'll be used."
"Agreed!" I replied and went inside and purchased several broom handles.
At the checkout I placed the wood and broom handles on the counter saying, "Just these swords and spears thanks."
She looked at the products and me and smiled.
By Monday, Lana's Dad had made Peter's sword and had already rounded the ends of the broom handles on the Saturday we bought them. Dad had been to the doctors on Tuesday and was having a relaxing time on Wednesday morning. He had told the boys he would finish the swords after lunch. The boys lurked nearby and waited. And waited. When Dad emerged from his place, Peter said, "Finally!" You may be thinking, "Hang on. Why would Peter say 'Finally!' if his sword was already made?" Well, what is the point of having a sword if your brothers don't have theirs? Who would you fight with?
Time really is subjective. Especially waiting for your new sword to be made!
When I returned home from work on Thursday, the boys rushed to show me their new swords. James happily told me, "We whack these really hard and they don't even dint!"

22 August 2007

Because Dad says so

It has been two weeks since Ariel started working full time at the local village store. She had been working there for two hours each morning sorting the mail and assisting with the morning duties when a marvellous opportunity arose. The local TAFE (similar to Community College) offers a Retail training course - which is like an apprenticeship - for young people working in the retail industry. So Ariel is effectively working as an apprentice at a great place only a five minute walk from home.
Naturally, she has been pretty tired, as all adults can remember when they first started working. Ariel is doing very well and the owner, Mr J, is getting her involved in all aspects of the business.
Mr J is very clever in getting Ariel involved even when she tries a number of stratagems to hopefully avoid some of the responsibility.
One day Ariel informed Mr J that some more pies were needed. He suggested Ariel call the supplier, but she "didn't get around to it". Later, she once more told him more pies were needed. So he rang the pie supplier and said to the lady, "Ariel is an apprentice here and she is going to order some pies but she is a little bit shy."
While he was talking, Ariel was saying "NO NO NO" in the background.
He then said to the lady, "Here she is," and passed the phone to Ariel.
Ariel took the phone and she could hear the lady laughing. Ariel finally said softly, "Hello" and the lady replied, "I hear you are going to order some pies?"
Ariel then ordered the pies. Ariel is pretty sure the lady had heard her in the background saying No.
So why is Ariel working? I'm sure Ariel will tell her children that it is because "Dad said so". I tell my children I went into accounting because Mum said so. Good thing she did tell me as I didn't know what I wanted to do and accounting worked out to be just right!
Ariel didn't know what she wanted to do and she was ready to get more experience by working and studying at the same time. The opportunity was too good to turn away and we are all pretty happy with how it is going. When I consider that midshipmen commanded captured ships at 13 and 14 years of age, I'm sure our children should be able to shoulder more responsibility than seems to be the current norm of 18 to 24.

15 August 2007

I Spy Pink

by Lana

The two youngest girls like to go for a walk to the Village Store when we supply them with the biscuits we sell and there is always a chance that Mr J will give them a lolly or two. On the way home Clare wanted to play "I Spy" with colours.
First was Clare "I spy with my little eye, something that is pink." (her favourite colour - it also happened to be the colour of ALL the clothes and the rubber boots that Rose was wearing)
I answered, "Roses' clothes." This was not a surprising answer as it is Winter and most things are brown or green.
"Yes. Roses' turn."
"I spy little eye purple." "Clares' clothes." "Yes"
"Ok. I spy orange." There was only one other coloured thing anywhere around a large tractor/digging machine.
We continued playing with Clare walking beside me and Rose skipping /dancing a little way in front.
Clare and I were trying to be creative taking turns with Rose. We used blue - sky, green - leaves, white - a chicken we just passed, red - car, yellow - the lollypop she just hid behind her back moments before.
For every turn that Rose chose a colour it was "I spy little eye Pink" "I know, your clothes." "Yes" followed by a little giggle and a bit of a dance. She seemed to be off in her own little world swerving and dancing along the dirt lane, but she knew when it was her turn and she announced each time "I spy little eye Pink" happy to feel apart of the game and have her turn.
It was a very pleasant stroll home with the girls enjoying the afternoon and their company.

5 August 2007

Funny Family Comics

Homespun Juggling is a family blog which has contains a funny family based comic series. The above comic is the latest example.

A trip to the past

I have been working quite a lot lately, including Saturdays. On a flight home from Melbourne I noticed in the in-flight magazine and mention of the Australian War Museum in Canberra (www.awm.gov.au). "Good Idea!" I thought, "We're going." and I picked up a copy of the magazine to remind me.
The Australian War Museum is free to enter, there are lots of exhibits, plenty of museum staff in red coats providing tours or available to answer questions and we had plenty of room to park our bus.
The children really enjoyed to "Discovery Zone". This is a section with five areas covering different facets of wars in which Australia participated. There was a mocked up helicopter from Vietnam,, where the children could get in the various seats, put on headphones, move lots of levers and buttons and even dress up.
Next was "Cold War" with a mock up a submarine where the children could look out the periscope, lay in the small bunks. There was a picture of two ships through the periscope, moving through a storm. Next, and most favourite, was the WWI trenches. The children were able to dress up and crawl around the trenches and bunkers. James felt he looked the part with his broken elbow.
The other two sections was bridge building in Vietnam and an airplane observation post in WWII. Another visual feast was based around the Lancaster Bomber "G for George". A light show, voice over and video footage grahically illustrated one of the bombing runs in which the bomber went on a raid on 31 May, 1945. Another show centred around the invasion of Sydney harbour by 3 Japanese mini submarines. The mini-subs were launched by a main submarine outside the harbour and these little 2 man jobs sneaked in to destroy shipping. I knew the subs had invaded and were all destroyed, but I didn't know that one of the subs had hit one of the US ships, killing 112 servicemen.
All in all, 3 hours went by very quickly. It was a fun day spent as a family.

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.