31 March 2007

Memories of Ike

Ike, our Clayton's Dog - is dead.
Our whole family is saddened by his death. Ike attached himself to us the day we arrived on our empty block and began preparations for our house. This photo is from seven years ago, with James (then 4 years old) dressed up as Zorro playing with a youthful Ike. Ike accompanied Lana, Ariel and Lana's parents on each of their daily walks and was a frequent visitor. Even though he wasn't technically our dog, Ike himself considered us as his extended family.
Yesterday Ike accompanied Lana and Ariel as they walked to the local general store. While Lana was chatting to the store owners, Ike noticed his owner returning home and raced across the park to be at home to greet him as he always did. This time however he was intercepted by two vicious dogs who attacked him.
Lana and Ariel left the store and wondered where Ike was. At the edge of the park they saw the big black dog shaking something. "I wonder what it is?" asked Ariel. They both secretly worried that it might be Ike. They went forward to shoo them away and stop worrying whatever they were annoying. When they got closer they realised in shock that it was Ike. Ariel rushed home to get Lana's Mum, whilst Lana was left to scare off the dog who was eating into Ike.
Lana was left to carry the dead Ike in her arms. Lana's Dad met her and together they went to Ike's owners who buried him last night.
There were many tears as we remembered how this brave little dog made himself part of our lives. Sometimes we can be skeptical of an animal's intelligence, yet Ike knew the time. When it was time for Lana's parents to go on their walk he was there. If they were a little late finishing he would rush ahead to be there when Lana was ready to start her walk. If they were on time or early he stayed with Lana's parents.
So, we have all learned a lesson in the grace of God who allows love to develop between us and one of his creations. Although Ike is dead, his memory is around us and in us. We still expect to see him sitting comfortably on our deck or to rush towards us as we approach the back gate, eager to join us on our walks.
Thank you God for this blessing of the companionship of a friendly dog for seven years.

29 March 2007

I'm much bigger now

Last weekend we celebrated Clare's birthday. The nearest Sunday was the best time because:
1. It is Lent and Sundays are only "sort of" part of Lent. One of our friends with a number of children whose birthdays fall in Lent has had a birthday party almost every Sunday.
2. I'm home. There's no point in being given the privilege of sitting is Dad's chair if Dad isn't around to sit in the birthday girl's chair!

You can see in the picture that we have to be quick blowing out the "cake". It was ice cream and it was melting very quickly.

When it was the actual day of Clare's birthday I asked her if she felt any bigger, now that she's six.
"Oh yes, Daddy." she replied.

27 March 2007

A Branch Insect

The family went for an afternoon's walk in the bush for exercise and fresh air. The boys had an additional mission - to find some new blackboys. Their existing ones had all suffered one way or another and needed to be replaced.
On one of the tall sticks was this "Stick Insect". As you can see by the ruler, conveniently modelled by Lana, it is a foot long from one end to the other. Would this make it more appropriately called a "Branch Insect"?
It was quite a passive thing, too. They discovered it last Thursday and it was still attached to the black boy found on Saturday, giving me time to provide this convenient photo.
It finally departed during some heavy rains we had on Saturday evening.

18 March 2007

A Rose by any other name

Today is the fourth Sunday of Lent, known as "Laetare Sunday". The colour of Lent is purple to remind us of the penitential nature of Lent, preparing for the most important event of Easter.
Knowing that we are human, the Church sets aside the fourth Sunday as an encouragement to the faithful. Basically it is a day off. "Laetare" is Latin for "Rejoice" and is taken from the first word of the Mass said according to the Traditional Rite.
So we celebrate! The best way for us was to invite a good priest friend of ours to join in with a fine feast (but muted - it is Lent after all!). He blessed us with the gift of this beautiful "Golden Rose". Father was praying for assistance in finding a rose somewhere on the trip from his place to ours. Sure enough, there was the shop selling just the right flower!
The Golden Rose is a symbol of Our Lord as it is traditionally considered one of the most beautiful of flowers, linking to the beauty of Our Lord, the fragrance of his goodness and glory, and symbolic of the nature of his sonship and the way God the Father views him. ("This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased") The thorns also remind us of the crown of thorns and his sufferings which we will remember much more vividly in a few week's time in the Passion week.
Traditionally a Golden Rose was blessed by the Pope and taken from the church of St John Lateran, the primary Church of Rome, in procession to the Basillica especially built to house relics of the True Cross, Gesu de Jerusalemme. This symbolised the link between the Rose and Jesus' suffering and death. (You can get more information from the online Catholic Encyclopedia here and here)
See, Catholics always mix the full nature of humanity by focussing on suffering and redemption at the same time. It is never just one or the other - it is always both. Think of Good Friday - the day Jesus was Crucified. It would take a Catholic mindset to call the day God was killed "Good"!

Ariel - the Colours of Summer

The main Christmas present we gave Ariel was the offer to buy some material and make her some dresses. It is very difficult to get suitable clothing for girls at the stores so we purchased a couple of patterns and then Lana and her Mum went shopping.
The nearest shop with a half reasonable selection of dress material is about an hour's drive away and Lana and her Mum did pretty well. Over the last few weeks they made dresses for Ariel and also Clare and Rose.
This dress is one of their creations. Ariel is also wearing one of her award winning shawls which although I am told it doesn't match still provides the warmth on this cooler day. Ariel is pointing to our rain guage showing the 17mm (3/4 inch) rain which fell over the last 24 hours and you can see how green everything is. It reminds me of the explosion of Spring green when we were in the US.
Ariel wore this dress last time she and I went shopping. After an hour or so in the shopping centre I mentioned to her, "Have you noticed that everyone is looking at you?"
And it was true. Ariel looked very different to all the other young girls in the centre. She looked neat, clean and modestly dressed with her belly button cleverly hidden away from public scrutiny. Other shoppers quietly glanced at Ariel, looking her up and down and then glanced away. The looks were not disapproving. They all seemed surprised - pleasantly - that a girl could still look pretty without being half undressed.
Luckily Ariel wasn't too embarrassed and is still willing to go out with me.

13 March 2007

Robertson Races

We left the Robertson Show around 7:30pm, before the final smash-up derby and fireworks. We had all experienced a very full day.
I asked the children what they enjoyed the most and the boys all listed the events in which they had participated, Clare enjoyed watching the races and Ariel was still pretty excited at her victories in the pavilion.
The Robertson Show is a small show, and that is a good thing. We are well known in the pavilion (they had to write our names so often!) and also in the arena as our boys all wear their bright orange caps and are eager to join in whatever events they can.
This year they decided to NOT join in the bike race, realising that their bikes weren't good enough for racing and they probably weren't fit enough either. But that didn't stop them from entering:
Gig Race - Using an old trotting rig, Peter sat in the rider's seat while Eric and James pulled. You need to enter in teams of three. Next year we should be able to put in two teams - Ariel and Eric pulling James, and Peter and Clare pulling Rose.
Boot Race - Each runner's shoes were placed in a pile and the runners had to race from the start line, find and put on their shoes and race back. In the races for the older children and adults the commentators rummaged the shoes and if they saw larger pairs tossed them some distance.
Wheelbarrow Race - Peter sat in the wheelbarrow while Eric pushed him up and around a marker and back to the start. Notice Eric's look of concentration in the photo while Peter is having a good sight-see.
There were many other races and the boys didn't win or place in any of them. But it didn't matter. They reckoned that just running in a race in the middle of the arena or around the track was fun.
Other events included egg throwing, gum boot (rubber boot) throwing, Beer keg tossing, hay stacking, Ute (pick-up truck) pulling, lawn mower races, dog jumping, and more.
The key to making all these events work for such a wide selection of entrants were the commentators interventions. Bruce, Bruce, Bruce and Paddy (these were the commentators real names) imposed handicaps whenever they felt they were needed. They also kept up a never ending supply of banter which is like an impromptu comedy routine over the course of the whole day!
As you can see here, Rose was pretty tuckered out at one point. Another visitor thought she looked cute and took a photo too.

12 March 2007

Clare's Lenten Observances

Friday is our regular cleaning day. Everyone has a different job to perform, with the whole family contributing to the house's cleanliness. Clare's job is to clean her room enough so that it can be vacuumed. Naturally, she always complains about how it is "too hard" and "too messy".
Last Friday she thought of a new objection. Lana heard Clare talking loudly in her room: "I don't clean during Lent!"
Clare said it loud enough trying to make someone realise that she didn't have to clean her room.
Lana "discussed" the matter with her and she cleaned her room in about half an hour instead of the usual three hours.
Remember, this is the same girl who figured she had special Lenten conditions last year too.

11 March 2007

Ten Commandments Lessons in Lego

James spent many hours creating this Lego City (click for more details). It has ramps, contraptions, doors and nooks and crannies everywhere. Lego men are running here, hiding there or working somewhere else.
James told me it started as "Skyback City" but it only consisted of a few buildings. He said to himself, "This needs more". A couple of days later he added ramps and buildings and created this. It was obvious how much work and imagination went into its construction and was awarded first prize.
There was a sad side of victory in the Pavilion. One of his Lego men was stolen. It was on the top level and easiest to place in a palm and move on.
The discovery of the theft led to a good discussion about obeying the commandments. James realised that not only was the seventh commandment ("Thou Shalt not Steal") broken, but also the tenth ("Thou shall not covet thy neighbour's goods") and probably the eighth ("Thou shall not bear false witness") when whoever did the stealing had to explain where the Lego man came from.
When we discuss the Ten Commandments we use the in-built structure.
Commandments One, Two and Three are our relationship with God, Four is how we deal with our Parents and also authority, Five, Six and Seven are to do with killing the person, family and personal security and Eight, Nine and Ten are the spiritual or non physical aspects of Five to Seven. For example, the 5th commandment (Thou Shall not Kill) is related to the 8th (Thou shall not bear false witness). The first kills the body and the second kills that body's reputation and standing in the eyes of others.
Six is linked to Nine (Adultery and coveting the neighbour's wife) and Seven with Ten (Theft and coveting goods).

Comonos House

"Comonos House" is a design by Ross Originals. Lana and her mum first saw it at a cross stitch fair about ten years ago. Then it was completed on 14 count in a grey green colour.
Amazingly, this whole design only uses one colour, utilising half and full crosses, and one, two or three threads for contrast. If you click to see more details, you can see how well Graham Ross has done. This is a great example of using not only the different stitches and thickness but also NO stitches for the white.

Ariel - Queen of the Pavilion

We all had a very good day in the Pavilion competitions. The Pavilion is a fascinating area filled with arts, crafts, plants and vegetables made and grown in the local area. The display is an amazing example of the skill and dedication by many people whose abilities are normally only appreciated by a few families and friends.
Each of the children's competitions cost 20 cents to enter with first being awarded $4.00 and second $2.00. When the judges have difficult in determining the place-getters, they often award "Highly Commended" certificates to let participants and visitors know that the judges felt the entry was very good too. Some competitions have special prizes, and the best in certain sections can be awarded "Champion" ribbons.
Out of our 34 entries, we won ten first prizes, seven second prizes and four "Highly Commended" certificates. Peter won a little trophy for his Scones sponsored by a local Pizza Parlour.
James' Lego city won first prize (see next story) and Peter's photo of the man thinking won first prize in his competition.
Although Peter's Stargate Glider didn't win (pictured here) it was a pretty good example of the type of things the boys are building based on pictures they have seen, using avaiable pieces but no printed plans. Lego is really good like that!
Lana's Ruana (as modeled here by the lovely lady herself) and her Comonos House also won first prizes. When Lana Lana handed in the Ruana the steward looked at it and remarked in amazement, "Novice?". "Yes," Lana replied, "This is only the second one I've done."
"Well," the steward said, "it looks pretty good."

But the star of the Bruggies was Ariel.
Out of the eleven events she entered, she was awarded five first prizes and three seconds and one Highly Commended award. All her cooking entries won prizes and she was awarded a very large and fancy ribbon: "Most Successful Junior Exhibitor - Cooking Section"
Her new Cross-stitched Baby Book for Martin (pictured) not only won first prize, but was also awarded the ribbon "Champion - Junior Fancywork Exhibit" It was very similar to the Baby Book she did last time but her cross-stitch skill is improving with practice.
The stewards managing the exhibits were very excited to have a young girl entering such a variety of events and doing each one very well. In three of her events she won extra prizes.
We went back into the Pavilion several times during the day just to look again at all the various entries and exhibits. While we were looking closely at some of the items, we noticed others peering all over ones we put in.
We'll be back again next year.

Little Lost Clare

We had one drama yesterday. Clare lost us. Technically we didn't lose her as we stayed where we were and she wandered off, but either way Clare found herself outside the pavilion and couldn't see any of us and began to cry.
A man came up from behind her and asked, "Where's your Mum and Dad?"
"I don't know," sniffed Clare.
The man took Clare's hand and said, "Let's ask, shall we?" and went up to the announcer's booth.
The announcer was talking about the world famous Robertson potato race. He stopped and he asked Clare her name and where she lived.
Clare said her name and the name of our car ("Wombus") and Mum's name (Lana). As to where we lived Clare didn't know what to answer so he listed a number of local areas. Clare answered "Melbourne." [I think we need more training regarding the place she lives!]
Meanwhile we had just realised Clare wasn't with us and began to search the pavilion. The boys had left the pavilion earlier looking for one of their friends. Eric came in and said, "Have you got Clare with you? I think they have Clare in the announcer's booth."
Eric had heard the announcer say, "We have a little girl here called Clare, her Mum's name is Lawna, she has a blue dress with cows all over it and a pink hat." That was enough for Eric to realise that Clare was being described pretty well and found us.
I went up and gave her a hug. She had been crying and was very glad to see us again.
When Peter was Clare's age he did something similar and so now we had the same discussion with Clare.
"We wouldn't leave where we are without you. If you can't see us just stay where you are and don't move. We'll find you."
Then we went and took this photo, being a re-enactment of when she found herself alone. Click for a more detailed photo.

10 March 2007

Maths Worksheets

One of my friends, a homeschooling father and Mathematics teacher, has put up a website (David Obeid Maths) with quite a few maths worksheets.

9 March 2007

Short Rose Tales

A Thinking Rose
Rose walked into Ariel's room holding some old keys and started mucking around. In past times, Ariel had threatened Rose that she would take the keys from her unless she left. Ariel tried this tactic again.
Rose thought about it and left. A short while later she returned without the keys and started mucking around and wouldn't leave.
A few days later Ariel found the keys in Rose's drawer. Rose had obviously figured out that if she put the keys away, they couldn't be repossessed. What a clever little two year old.

Boys and Girls
Ariel and Rose were sitting in the car having an argument.
"Dirl!" [girl in Rose language]
"Am I a girl?" asked Ariel.
"No. Boy!" replied Rose forcefully.
Ariel continued, bored with the traveling and worked out that Rose was a girl and everyone else was a boy.
Lana explained this to her mum who had fun asking Rose the same question.
After a few times re-establishing the fact that Rose is definitely a "Dirl", Rose changed the subject. She decided that she had made her point and there was no further need to discuss the issue.

More Corn
Mum and Dad had found some small corn cobs when they were cleaning up the completed corn plants. There wasn't much but they made sure they gave one to Rose. Rose was very tired and half asleep, but once the corn cob was in front of her, and she took her first bite she awoke quickly and ate the corn.
"More?" she asked.
"There isn't any more," answered Grandma, "We gave you the bigger bit."

(This photo is of Rose's "Wanted" poster.)

7 March 2007

A Bruggie Show

The house was filled with the delicious smell of cooking up until the mid afternoon. The children were creating their cooking masterpieces for the Robertson Show.
Each of the four older children made scones (like Southern US biscuits, but sweeter). We used half the recipe measurements, which meant after four children, we had the normal double mixture anyway. Six of the best were set aside and the remainder were used for lunch with the compulsory jam and cream. (yum).
Peter came up to Lana and asked carefully, "Which ones are we allowed to eat? Those ones over there?"
"No. They're Ariel's." Lana looked again and noticed there were only five not six. Peter had mistakenly picked one of Ariel's special scones. He was very upset. Ariel reassured him, "It's all right. This one should work," as she placed one of the extras in the middle of her remaining five show specials.
Clare made ANZAC biscuits (cookies).
"How come you're making such a small amount?" asked Ariel.
"This is the actual recipe. Normally we make double, triple or quadruple the recipe so it lasts longer than one afternoon." Lana answered.
"Oh." said Ariel
Ariel also made muffins and Caramel Slice. Eric made muffins, chocolate cake and banana loaf.
Lana had prepared a list from her email entry which contained 34 entries! This was the master list to be consulted when they left the house, left the car and passed each entry to the judge.
This was just as well as Clare kept asking "Do you have my stitching card?"
When Lana arrived at the office to collect the competition tickets, the lady recognised her from last year before Lana could actually say anything.
"Yes, Yes, we have got them all. Your tickets are all there: Bruggie."
Then Lana went throgh the pavilion with all the children, leaving each entry with the relevant steward, noting the details on The List.
The Tapestry lady recognised us and said "Hi." The lady next to her seeing us all standing there each holding boxes of exhibits said, "Are they your kids?"
"Yeah." Lana replied in a matter of fact way.
"What have you got? Five?"
"In about six weeks we'll have seven!" Lana answered with her disarming smile.
She shook her head and said, "You're amazing."
James and Peter sat down out of the way and fixed up their Lego entries. They explained their entries to the School Age Section steward as she walked over to see what they were doing.
Peter explained that his entry was a Glider. The lady looked at it and asked, "A Gao'uld Glider?"
"Yes!" said Peter, amazed that she knew about Stargate.
The steward also recognised the Stargate in James' Lego city. Both boys were very impressed with her knowledge.
We also entered a collection of photos including the two on this post - my photo of one of the priests from our local monastery and Peter's photo of a wargamer concentrating very hard, as well as Ariel's photo of a Cute Rose and Eric's photo of the girl's hair styles.
As Lana was checking off each entry, the photo steward was amazed.
"You're organized!" he said.
Phew. Entries are in. Now all we have to do is go to Robertson on Saturday and enjoy the show.

6 March 2007

Not touching - looking.

The Robertson Show is being held this weekend. Last year we entered in a number of pavilion competitions as well as the outside events. We are hoping that we have less challenges in getting to this year's events, but plans are only guidelines.
For the biscuit (cookie) competition Ariel is making Molasses cookies. She is pretty sure that will do well as they both look and taste wonderful.
Ariel carefully read the instructions gathering ingredients as needed. Rose sat on the bench looking on, her legs dangling over the side, carefully supervising proceedings. Every time Ariel walked to the fridge or cupboard for ingredients she warned Rose with a pointing finger, "Don't touch!"
"Not touching," Rose would dutifully reply.
Just as Ariel added a teaspoon of baking powder to the flour in the sifter she realised she was supposed to add baking (bi-carbonate) soda. Oops.
She went straight to Lana who suggested Ariel should go back and quickly remove the soda from the top. But meanwhile, Rose had already turned the sifter handle carefully mixing the soda and flour just like her big sister.
"Don't touch!" Ariel repeated.
"Not touching," Rose replied with a serious expression as if she would never do such a thing. Again.
Lana then tried to consult the expert (her mum). Mum wasn't available so they consulted Google. The end result was that as it was only one of the four required teaspoons that was the wrong type, the biscuits should be OK.
However, when they returned to the kitchen Rose had emptied the remaining Baking Powder directly into the wet mixture!
"No!" cried Ariel to Rose.
"Not touching," replied Rose with her hands behind her back.
"How much was left?" asked Lana.
"Only two teaspoons or so," answered Ariel.

"Why did you leave the ingredients near her?" Lana asked.
"It was on the other side of the bench!" Ariel explained.
"Within sight is too close," suggested Lana.
Lana and Ariel removed what baking powder they could and added in the bicarb soda.
Then Ariel rolled the cookies and placed them on the tray. The first lot came out smelling great, but didn't look quite right. They had the right shape and tasted delicious but something seemed to be missing. Ariel showed them to Lana while the second lot was baking.
"Did you roll them in sugar before baking them?"
"Ohhh," groaned Ariel
The remaining lots were fine and look just like the photo in our recipe.
Competition cooking is always a strain. Having Rose help just adds to the challenge.

4 March 2007

Rapunzel, a car by any other name.

We may be fortunate enough to upgrade our car later this month. A local council is upgrading their Ford Transit van for a new one and we should then be able to upgrade ours to their old one for a very reasonable price.
Today we discussed car names with the children. Our current van (which seats 12) is called "The Wombus" - a cross between Wombat and Bus, which gives some idea of the shape and speed of our van. (A wombat is an Australian marsupial which is slow, fat and not known to be particularly clever)
We asked the children what they would like to call the new van.
"Wombus II," was one.
"Rapunzel!" called out Clare.
"Rapunzel?" we asked, "What hair do we let down?"
"Oil?" suggested Ariel.
"Not in our new car, Ariel." I replied.
"Rapunzel is a nice name." Clare explained.
"Black Beauty would be good!" added Clare.
"But most vans are white," we explained to Clare who looked back at us as if to ask what that had to do with it.
We'll see what happens when we get the new car.

3 March 2007

I want to mow, Dad!

We've had sun and rain and sun and rain. Perfect for the garden and lawn. Our lawns which were "crunchy brown" are revitalised and that means mowing.
Normally it is Eric's laborious job to push our lawn mower around our one acre block. This has to take place over several days and if it is too wet or too hot, by the time he finishes, the grass that was first cut is long again!
Today we were lucky to be able to borrow a friend's ride-on lawnmower. Woohoo! Eric doesn't mind doing the mowing now, and it is taking just the afternoon. James had a go for a small part of the mowing, but he is just a little short to push down on the brake/clutch fully.
It just reminds me a little of Tom Sawyer's fence painting. If it looks like fun it's not a chore but a privilege!