17 December 2010

But my hair is fine!

Rose enjoys running around and being a very busy little girl.  She doesn't have time for niceties like sitting still for grooming or sorting out her hair.
But sometimes she has to stop and get in order.  Here she is thoroughly happy to have Lana sort out her hair before going in to Mass.

Just add water

We have had a lot of rain recently which is really really good.  Our water supply is wholly dependent on rain - it hits the roof, runs into the water tank and we get to use it for all our water needs.  It's a great system but it does take some getting used to, especially when we first lived here after being used to water on demand in the city.
Anyway, our new attitude of "rain is always a good thing" means the children also get to celebrate every time it rains and are often told to "go outside and play in the rain."
To get the right response you must start your training early.  Here is Zach enjoying himself immensely at the edge of a lovely muddy puddle.  He looks very pleased with himself.

15 November 2010

A Tale of Two Moors

I have just finished listening/reading to "Wuthering Heights" by Emily Bronte. This is considered a classic book and I felt it was part of my continuing cultural education to read it.
The story is set in an old house built beside the moors where winds "wuther" or blow a lot.  Just like in the excellent book "The Secret Garden" by Frances Hodgson Burnett.
Unlike The Secret Garden, Wuthering Heights is a continuing sad tale about a complete cast of dysfunctional selfish characters.  Even the character you would most want to treat favourably, the house maid Ellen/Nellie, is a complete loser who continues to make the wrong choices dooming those in her charge to worse fates.  A little bit of honesty and courage would have completely changed the lives she cared so much about.
All I knew about Wuthering Heights before reading it was that there were two lovers Heathcliff and Cathy, calling each other's name across a grassy field.  Now I know Heathcliff was a selfish, vindictive psychopath intent on destruction for all those who he felt would hinder his "love" for Cathy - a self important selfish stupid girl.
Cathy marries the stupid rich guy next door, although she really "loved" the poor selfish guy Heathcliff.  Then the girl next door is married to Heathcliff despite all warnings and immediately regrets her choice. The servants, family, lawyers and doctors are all hopeless cases in a tangled "love" story.  The love in this story ends with the survivors getting married for no convincing reason.  Every other central character (other than Ellen/Nellie) dies a sickly or miserable death.  There is no redemption or true love in the whole thing.
Compare this with The Secret Garden.  Now here is a story where we start with lots of self love and selfishness, bitterness and despair.  But it all turns around - without any tragic or miserable deaths - with every major character realising the futility of despair and selfishness to be truly happy.
And the wisest character is the mother on the moor with a bucketload of children, respected by all for her knowledge and wisdom.
I suppose those of a "romantic" disposition favour the "love" story in Wuthering Heights but I reckon this is a real problem.  If Wuthering Heights is taken as a guide for how love works it will certainly lead to a life of misery.  Look around society today for exactly that result.
The Secret Garden is much closer to the truth.  And a much better read.

10 November 2010

Why is it dark in my kitchen?

We are in the midst of Cicada season.  Every 7 years or so the cicadas make their way above ground, climb whatever they can, shed their skins and settle somewhere else.  They sing to each other during the day attracting their mates and after about two or three weeks they go back underground for another 7 years.
Some cicada facts from the Australian Museum:

  • Only male cicadas sing. They do this in an attempt to find a mate.
  • Different species have different songs to attract only their own kind.
  • Adult cicadas have short lives, usually only a few weeks.
  • Most of their lives are spent as nymphs underground. For some species this can be up to several years.
  • Cicadas feed only on plant sap using their piercing, sucking mouthparts.
  • Cicadas feed on a huge range of plants, including eucalypts and grasses.
  • Birds, bats, spiders, wasps, ants, mantids and tree crickets all prey on cicadas.
The last point neglected to mention human children as collectors of cicada shells.
The majority of the village children collect lots and lots of shells.
Peter discovered a novel way of displaying his collection - on the wire screen of the kitchen window.
While impressive to behold, it does cut down on the natural light!

3 November 2010

A Zach in the Box

James has been saving his money from working at the shop for some time and finally bought a huge Lego kit.  This was bought online and we had email notification it would arrive today.  So James awoke early, did his schoolwork and counted down the minutes until he knew the mail would arrive at the shop.
He returned with this lovely large box and quickly took out his kit and with the willing assistance of Peter, Clare, Rose and Martin went to work.
Tonight, Lana and I looked at the box, looked at Zach and gave Zach his part of the prize.  A box filled with scrunched up newspaper.  Hours of fun!
On a similar note a customer came in today and asked Ariel what she should buy for her 1 year old grandson.
Without any hesitation, Ariel answered, "A tissue box."
The customer thought this may not be what she was thinking of and wanted some alternative options.
Ariel persisted, 'He would have a lot of fun.  He would really like it."

25 July 2010

Chilly mornings make for a fresh start to the day

Winter mornings here are reasonably chilly.  Typically the evenings get to around 0 (32F) and low negatives (26F to 30F) but the days are mostly sunny.
On weekdays Ariel and Eric need to get up around 6:30am to be ready to be at the shop at 7:00am to open at 7:30am.
On the weekends we open half an hour later and I am at the shop with them.
It is only a short walk down the lane and across the park but I was able to catch the lovely footsteps created as Ariel trudged resolutely to a slightly warmer shop.

Some things are not meant to be sent

Owning the local Post Office has its advantages.  The postage scale is a very precise instrument and all manner of items are weighed to determine correct postage.
We have a handy little ready reckoner on a laminated pink sheet.  You just check the destination postcode with the weight and "Voila!" you get the correct postage.
But wait!
First you need to check the list of approved items for postage.  Even though babies aren't specifically mentioned we decided to err on the side of caution and defer sending Zach off for a trip.
So I'll guess we'll keep him.  After all he is paying his rent of at least one smile per day.  With a few bonus giggles and laughs he has a long time future with the rest of us.

29 March 2010

Soon I can play with my brother

Martin has been paying very close attention to Lana and Zach.
He has a great time playing with his older sisters, but he has decided that he needs a younger brother with whom he can get into more boy-like mischief.
So, he has figured it is never too late to start the training regime.
Here he is showing Zach the approved method for holding a toy gun.
Considering that Zach is still at the stage of accidently discovering that the things at the end of his arms are actually under his control, this training may be a bit premature.

Zach update

It's been about 4 weeks since Zach arrived and all is well.
At this stage of the game his job is to:
1. eat,
2. sleep and
3. get fatter.

So far, he has earned 3 out of 3.
Here he is doing his practical exam of task 2.

The area he needs to work on is burping.  When he gets older we will tell him "Excuse me" when he passes wind or burps, but at the moment it is cheers all round!

All I want for my birthday

Clare has just celebrated her 9th birthday recently.  All she really wanted to celebrate her birthday was to work in the shop, "... so I can wash the dishes and collect the plates from the customers.  That will be fun!"
So we let her have her birthday wish.  Clare did a very good job and enjoyed being a useful part of the operations on a busy Saturday morning.
At the recent country show, Eric once more won first prize for his scones.
So, naturally, we have added scones to the store's menu. Award winning scones with Raspberry jam and cream.
On the first weekend we offered this treat a group of about 30 bike riders visited us and finished off the batch we had just made.  Their response?  "Mmmmmm, any more?"

24 March 2010

The Latest Carnival of Homeschooling

The latest Carnival of Homeschooling is up with lots of interesting links to posts.
Our post regarding the DIY Business College is included.


18 March 2010

DIY Business College

When we purchased the Shop we wanted to make it more than just a quiet little job. One of our aims was to provide the young people working there with valuable training and experience.
Part of this is ensuring all the staff are familiar with the many aspects of the shop from Coffee, Cooking, Post Office, Newsagency, DVD rentals, Groceries and more. I wanted them to have something on their resume when they moved on.
Ariel, Eric and a local girl are all working on an official apprenticeship with an Employment Training organisation. They are doing a course in Business Management - Ariel doing a Level 4 certificate, and Eric and the girl doing Level 3 this year, and the level 4 certificate next year.
This course is college equivalent training and will help if they ever want to continue on to a University level degree later.
We have seen their service levels and knowledge grow quickly as they apply the training to their work at the Shop.
For Eric this is a great homeschooling alternative to the typical year 11 and 12 studies.  Not only is he getting invaluable experience with business and getting paid, but he obtains credits that can be applied to a university (college) degree in a few years' time.  As he is only 16, this works out very well.
This is also a great test of how we have done in preparing the children.  We have homeschooled them from the beginning, so this is the first real external means we have had to confirm our methods.  The reaction from the external trainer is very positive.  Woo hoo!
We were told at every stage by friends and strangers, "Just you wait until X is Y years old!  Then you will be in trouble."  Well, so far we have enjoyed every stage of each child and continue to enjoy living and working with the older ones too.

Depaganisation done!

Zach is now part of a much broader family than just ours.  On Sunday he was baptised during the Mass we regularly attend in our parish.  If you have a closer look at the photo Lana's Dad helpfully captured, you will see many smiling faces.  My Dad is grinning, as is Lana's Mum and then all the congregation in view are also grinning. That was a pretty amazing capture of the joy we all felt on this most opportune Sunday in Lent.
The 4th Sunday in Lent is known as Laetare Sunday. This day is set aside as a "break" from the penitential Lenten season, allow us all to pause, reflect on how we have done so far and prepare to finish off Lent in fighting form.  The normal Lenten Purple vestments are replaced with Rose coloured vestments.  As our priest explained, this is half way between Lenten purple and Easter white so we can all get the appropriate visual cues.
Meanwhile, here is our Rose looking the wrong direction. Again.
The priest asked us why we didn't wait until the Easter Vigil Mass to have Zach's baptism.  That would be awesome, as it was when Clare was baptised what seems so long ago, but we wanted Zach baptised reasonably promptly and we had to arrange a time when my parents were able to visit from Melbourne.  So we picked the next best day in Lent, Laetare Sunday.

8 March 2010

We want Mum back

Lana has had to stay in hospital for another night.  *Sigh*
This makes it an 8 night stay.
The doctors are just making sure Lana is spot on so neither Lana or Zach will have to return.  The stitches are out and Zach is in fine form.
So tonight we visited and brought our protest signs.

I told Lana we were performing some corporal works of mercy - visiting the sick and prisoners.

We are told that tomorrow is looking good for a release date.

5 March 2010

Do you want to meet your siblings?

I visited Lana in hospital today with the 5 youngest children.  Naturally they all wanted to have a hold of Zach in their own hands.
Here you can see Zach giving a big yawn before he is handed across.  You may also note Martin's hands already in position.

Other than our visit, today was the day we prepared the bedroom for Zach's cot, and the car for the child seat.
The cot is placed next to Lana's side of the bed with the side next to the bed removed.  This allows for us to have the whole bed and when Zach needs a feed, Lana just has to reach across.  When he is finished, Lana moves him over.  It's all very civilised.

4 March 2010

Cuteness is a state of being

Zach has decided to have a good start on a try for a Cute Baby award.  Here is his first attempt on Day 1 and he is not even trying.
Naturally, I am an unbiased, impartial judge.
I have been visiting Lana with various sub sets of the children over the last few days.  During the day I take the younger ones and in the evening the older ones after the shop closes.
Yesterday I was visiting Lana with Clare, Rose and Martin when the doctor came in to check Lana's progress.
As this is a training hospital he is always accompanied by a collection of trainee doctors or nurses.
"Look at this lady, " he says with a smile, "No wonder she has so many children, they are all so wonderful!"
Lana should be coming home soon.  The whole family is out of sorts without Mum not being around.  Soon we will be back as one unit - of 10 people!

2 March 2010

I have a list

I visited Lana and Zach this morning with the four younger children.  (Tonight I will go with the older ones)
The doctor visited the room while we were there and excitedly showed the children how the baby came out. The children were very interested. They had already seen the photos I had taken of the delivery room which helped to give them some background.  These photos showed what happened but did not include any of the graphic bits.
Afterwards the doctor was standing next to Peter and asked him what he wanted to do when he grew up.  Would he want to be a doctor?
"Well," said Peter seriously, "I have a list and it is growing shorter."
"Is medicine on the list?" asked our doctor with interest.
"Yes." replied Peter.
The doctor smiled and waving his finger in the air to emphasise his point, said, "20 years from now."

Also visiting was a trainee Doctor who had an interesting path to medicine.  He had initially completed his HSC and started a commerce degree at University.  But he realised this wasn't for him and left after 6 months, starting work at a company packing boxes.  2 years later he had a calling to join the Ambulance service and did a 4 year ambulance course.  Still enjoying medicine, he began a full time medicine course and 4 years on is doing his final year, assisting at hospitals and the birth of Zach.  I really appreciated hearing this story because it shows that you can d what you want if you really have the calling.

I also wanted to post to show you a fresh photo of Lana and Zach.  He is a bit cute.  I suppose we'll keep him. :-)

Introducing Zach Henri

Here is Zach Henri.
The latest in a series.
While Lana was recovering, I was minding Zach, watching over him getting weighed (3.955kg or 8pd 11.5 oz).  When Martin was born he had been pretty stressed by the whole thing so was crying most of the 2 hours we waited.
Zach, on the other hand, hadn't been stressed much at all so was quite calm for the time which made it all a lot easier.  It is not as if I could feed him, even if I wanted to!  Although he did suck the blanket very well.

When Lana was wheeled out to our room she had only just woken up from the general anaesthetic.  So I continued to hold Zach while I chatted to Lana and told how well Zach was doing.
Being such a little baby (for us) we think him exceptionally cute.  Lana knew that he would have a good head of hair considering the indigestion she experienced throughout the pregnancy.
Naturally the children are all pretty excited.  In fact the whole village is interested in the news as not only have we had a baby, but our neighbour also had their baby at the same time in the same hospital.
It's baby time in our little village.

I'm getting out one way or another ...

It is amazing how many people are involved in a Caesarian operation, all gathered together on very short notice.  Let's count the people that were assembled within 15 minutes to ensure Lana and the baby's safe delivery.
Primary Surgeon (our doctor), assisting doctor, trainee doctor, theatre nurse, theatre nurse assistant, Anaesthetist, Anaesthetist assistant nurse, Paediatrician, ward nurse, and dopey dad watching everything (me).
Our doctor had seen some of the photos I had take of the children and told to me bring my camera and take lots of photographs.  So I did, which was very helpful in explaining to the children what happened to Lana.
In a very short time, the latest Bruggie Baby arrived.
He is the star of the next post.

'Twas a dark and stormy night

The night was stormy.  Power was down.  Lana was resigned to being due a week late.
So, naturally Lana's waters broke at 4am.
That was something new.  So by the light of an iPhone torch we gathered some towels and plastic bags and went to the hospital after telling Ariel what was happening.  The car had been packed for a week or two already so departure was relatively simple.
 Lana prayed quite a few Hail Mary's not to have the baby in the car, and without speeding we arrived at Hospital just before 5am.
Contractions began shortly later but were sporadic.
With a drip attached, contractions increased but were still sporadic.
The contractions grew stronger, but by about 15 hours after the waters broke, Lana had only gotten to 3 cm dilation. (The baby needs 10 cm to escape)
It wasn't going to happen naturally.  It was time for a Caesarian section.  At least this time it wasn't the same mega rush of Martin's birth, but it was still very quick.
Continued in next post ...

26 February 2010

Hear No Evil

Lana's dad came in with a present for the girls.  Some disposable ear plugs!
"Woohoo!" the girls explained.
Then the next moment they asked, "What are they?"
He explained what they were for and so they immediately tried them out.  While they were out of earshot, I asked Dad, "Shouldn't they be for us?"
We are still waiting.  * sigh*.
On Sunday evening Lana had a pretty busy day quilting and doing other crafty type things and went to bed around 9:30pm.  Then she called me over, "I can't feel the baby move.  I don't remember feeling him move all day."
So we poked and prodded to no effect.
I went online and read that a sweet drink should encourage the baby to start moving.  Lana looked at me with that "You're kidding" look, so I called the hospital and went in for a "trace".
A trace is when a monitor is placed on the belly to listen for the baby's heart beat.
So, after a 40 minute drive we arrived in the Maternity ward and were promptly taken to the room with the machine that goes ping.  One can worry and think a lot in 40 minutes.
Within a few seconds we heard the reassuring "Tapokita Tapokita Tapokita" of a heart beat, a sound we have heard many times before.
So now we have been requested to pop in to the hospital every 2nd day to hear that same reassuring sound.
Until the baby decides he wants to stop playing around and see his family!
On Tuesday we had our visit with the Doctor and he told us a sweet drink or some sugar works very well to wake up the baby.  The sugar is a stimulant and it takes about 25 minutes to affect the baby.  I looked across to Lana and just nodded.

17 February 2010

More Help on the way

Lana is very close to giving birth to the latest Bruggie Baby.  The due date is next week some time and based on past experience Lana is always late.  We figured it would be safe for me to do some client support away this week.  One client is about 3 hours away and the other is in Victoria about 8 hours away.
Last night I stayed half way between Client 1 and Client 2 about 5 hours away from home.  I went to Mass this morning for Ash Wednesday and just as I started driving South, Lana rang.
She had some minor contractions.  They weren't Braxton Hicks (sort of practice contractions), they were real - just fairly small.
So I turned around and came home.
And the contractions stopped.  Of course.
But this means we are pretty close and things can get moving at any time, so I am staying close to home at the moment.  Stay tuned.
And then when the time comes, Lana will get another helper, just like the ones in this photo, "helping" Lana make mini pizzas.  Lana is very quick with the spoon on helping fingers that get too close!

16 February 2010

Rain is great - sometimes

On Friday, Saturday and Sunday we had just over 100mm (4 inches) of rain.  This is good steady rain, the type that fills dams, water tanks and soaks into the ground.  Grass and trees are rejoicing, farmers are smiling again and gum boot sellers are liking the look of muddy ground.
But there are always those who find the grey lining to every silver cloud.  Martin wanted to play in the rain but we said he couldn't.  We had to go to Mass in a short time so we would have to wait for another time. However, he did agree to pose for this photo.
The other issue is that we have found lots of new places where the rain comes into our shop.  A leak here, a leak there, and an old and rusty box gutter combine to give us a pretty collection of drips under which we have placed a variety of buckets.  I was hoping to delay with the roof repairs I knew were needed, but they will have to be done sooner rather than later.

Lana and I went out clutching an umbrella to meet a roofing fellow who was able to see all the leaks in action and then climb up on the roof and check out the source.  I am sure the quote for the fix will be in soon.
On the other hand Eric did volunteer to check the rain gauge just to see how much rain we had so far. I think it was more to test his beloved Drizabone coat.

13 February 2010

Have I got a deal for you!

We have worked hard over the years to emphasise with the children that "There is no such thing as a free lunch" and working well can bring rewards.
As we mentioned earlier, Eric and I were up in Northern NSW helping set up business systems for friends of ours.  This was pretty full on, flying up on New Year's Day and then working 5 full days including a stock take (counting all the stock in the business and matching it to the records) and then while I worked on setting up the software, Eric went around the store matching bar codes to products.  He just set up a laptop on a wheeled office chair, plugged in the handheld barcode scanner and then had a nice long power cord connecting him from power point to power point.  Each time I looked up I noticed he had moved along to another section and more of the products had become matched up to their barcodes.
Once we had finished, Eric was able to make a deal with our friends and purchase a Drizabone coat.  He is very happy that we are currently having a lot of rain as this allows him to wear the coat almost everywhere.
Here he is showing how he could be a door to door salesman.  Somehow I think he may have mis-understood the concept.

7 February 2010

Barefoot Pregnant and in the Kitchen - but...

We have been informed by radical feminists that marriage is just a male plot to keep women barefoot, pregnant and in the dreaded kitchen.  Apparently the only way to be truly free is to go work outside the home where you are told by strangers when, where and how to work doing stuff that almost anyone else can do.
Only those poor enslaved women are stuck at home doing what they want for ones they know and love where no one else can take their place.

I mean, what type of choice is that?

In this photo Lana is posing in our shop's wonder kitchen - and she is pregnant.  But she is wearing shoes (for Occupational Health and Safety reasons) and working outside the home.  So does this make her choice valid, or does it just confuse the issue?

Soon we will have the enjoyment of filling in paperwork for the new baby's birth certificate (in 2 to 3 week's time).  The forms always ask the job of mother and father.  Our answers for Lana have changed over the years.  The first one we used was "Home Duties" which was duly recorded as "None".
The next few I entered"Project Manager" which was recorded correctly.  At parties they used to ask us what job Lana had.  If we answered "Mother" the questioner's eyes would glaze over and that would end the enquiry.  So I answered "Project Manager" and described her very important job.  Lana manages a number of long term projects, handling all logistics, on site training, entertainment, catering, transport, cleaning and accommodation.  An additional project is added about every 2 to 3 years and the work is very fulfilling, being on demand 24/7.  And Lana gets to work at home in a very flexible environment.

The last few times we answered "Home Maker" which is really what the above description truly describes.  That has been accepted, probably because the data entry clerk thought it might have something to do with the building industry.

Update:  We are getting some great comments on how our readers have recorded the homemaker's job on official documents.  How have you described this most important - and under-rated - position?

3 February 2010

Is this the last child?

We have lost count of the number of times friends, acquaintances and complete strangers have asked us, "So, is this the last one?" in relation to the impending arrival of the next Bruggie Baby.
Lana has perfected the best response.
"Yes," she replies, waiting while the questioner gives a sigh of approval or "understanding", and then completes her sentence, "But then, this is my fourth last one."
In fact, each child has been the "last" one until the next gift has come along.  This is a photo of the last three last children enjoying a photo session with a local farmer at Christmas time.

Further valuable information is imparted to us when we share the size of our family with people. Apparently television has a completely undocumented, but very well known, function.  In olden times TV was said to rot the brain.  Nowadays it is commonly held to prevent children from arriving.  "Don't you have a TV?" is the common cry.
My response has been, "I missed the big sign at the Electrical Retailer. I saw the ones telling me the screen size, pixels, brightness and price, but TV's contraceptive powers were not in the brochure."

So sometime in the next 3 to 4 weeks, we will be celebrating our victory over the child defeating power of television with the arrival of our last child.  This time.

31 January 2010

Children's Quotes

Clare came up to Lana and asked, "What does 'Ka Zoom Tite' mean?"
"Ka Zoom Tite? Asked Lana.
"Yeah, you know when people sneeze and some people say 'Ka zoom tite'!"
While we were at church waiting for Mass to start, Martin was doing a little climbing around and I asked him, "We are going to have another boy soon.  Who are the boys?"
I then asked, "Is Eric a Boy or Girl?"
And then I asked about each of the children, and Lana was a "Dirl".
"Am I a boy?"
"Mm, No!  You Dad!"
"I'm not a boy?" I confirmed.
Martin shook his head and pointed at me, "Dad!"
Rose had been watching some "I Dream of Jeannie" episodes on DVD.  She thought the concept of a Genie able to "bing" her head and make things change was pretty funny, so she started going around the house pointing at people, "Bing! You beard!" or "Bing! You long hair!" then giggling at how she imagined her target would look.
Rose had been listening to some children's songs including "Bananas in Pajamas".  She thought it was pretty funny but decided to make up her own version, "Piranas in Pajamas".

(The photo is a recent one of Rose doing a photographic pose.)

Sibling Rivalry Revisited

We had a guest the other night joining us for dinner.  After the meal when the children were cleaning up and washing dishes, our guest asked, "Don't your children fight?"
Lana and I looked at each other and pondered.
"Not really," we replied, "They have occasional disagreements but these get sorted out pretty quickly."
"Don't they yell or scream at each other?" our guest asked in amazement.
"Rarely, but we stomped on that behaviour very early on and now they have learned appropriate conflict resolution skills.  Also, when the children fight over something - a toy, a game or anything - we will get the object in dispute and tell them 'If this is causing you to fight, we don't want this thing in our home' and then throw it in the bin.  Pretty quickly the children learned that it wasn't worth fighting over 'stuff'"
"Hmm," he said, sitting back and watching the children singing off key - but loudly - and obviously enjoying themselves while they were cleaning up.
That is one advantage of homeschooling.  Rather than being thrown into the school jungle with no direct adult supervision, they are able to learn from adults when the problems occur, as memories are fresh and actions are obvious and not distorted by time and emotion.  Of course, the pressure was on Lana and I to grow up too, which was probably the hardest part.  We can't expect them to follow appropriate problem resolution techniques if we are squabbling over stupid little things.
"Ahh, but what about when they get in the 'real' world?  How about then huh?"
We actually believe the family is the "Real" world.  School life certainly isn't real life as what works in school doesn't work anywhere else.  So assuming "Real World" means the workplace, shops, sports and everything outside of home and school, we can answer that our methods work very well.
One on one taught conflict resolution techniques work great in the "outside" world.  The children have been performing admirably in the shop and in sports teams in which they have participated.
So, the experiment continues...
Previous articles about sibling rivalry are here and here.

(The photo is of Eric teaching Martin to fire a bow and arrow.  Martin concentrated very well and once he fired his arrow he went back to his primary role of arrow fetching.)

26 January 2010

Large Family - Small Footprint

There has been much talk recently about the environmental impact of large families and it is pretty much all a load of rubbish.
Large families are much more efficient than a 4 person family and even more efficient than many of the broken family and family like structures around us.  Let us look at the numbers.
Housing:  Our house looks big when compared to a typical 3 bedroom house as we have 4 bedrooms plus a study and large dining room and lounge room.  Attached is a 2 room "granny" flat where Lana's parents live.  So our property houses 11 people (soon to be 12).  We use the same rubbish bins as everyone around us with 1 or 2 people per house.  The living space per person actually works out about 1/3rd of the 1 or 2 person households.  Yet we feel as if we have ample space.
Power Consumption: We spend around $950 per quarter on Electricity.  That is around $86 per person.  The typical power bill for the 2 person families around here is around $250 to $350 a quarter.  The average per person rate is $150.
Water: We are on tank water.  This means all our water is derived from rainfall running off the roof into our water tanks.
Food and Groceries: Our monthly supermarket bill is around $1,300 per month. (USD $1,100) That is for 9 people, or $122 per person.  This is very efficient as we don't cut back on quality, we just get better value with buying in bulk and re-using leftovers and being more efficient in meal preparation.
Fuel and Cars: We have a family van that seats 12 people.  The fuel economy is about 10km per litre (around 23.5 mpg) similar to a mid range sedan.  We travel as a family in one car rather than two full sedans.  Typically 9 people would be from 3 to 4 families so would need 3 to 4 cars.  The cost of a new car vs a new van is about 1 to 1.5 sedans = 1 van.  So we save around 2 more cars on the road.
Appliances and Equipment:  Once more, the one appliance (TV, DVD player, Cooking utensil) is used by 9 people, not just one or two.

Overall, our ecological footprint is lower than the same number of people in smaller families.  Next time you see a large family piling out of a van in a seemingly never ending stream, think about how they are helping the planet by their efficiency.  Then thank them for saving the planet - one baby at a time.

25 January 2010

Martin Ringtone

I have just created a ringtone for my iPhone of Martin's laugh.  How did we do it?
Lana held the iPhone running Voice Recorder whilst I had fun tickling Martin.
Then I uploaded the recorded file to iTunes, saved it as a MP3, edited it in Audacity and exported it out as a MP3 file.  Then we converted the file to AAC format in iTunes.
We dragged the file to the desktop and renamed the extension from .m4a to .m4r which made it into a ringtone.  Then we had to delete the AAC file in iTunes or the ringtone wouldn't upload.

Anyway, for your ringing pleasure, here is the MP3 version and the Ringtone version.

Can You Get Martin Out?

Clare came into the study and asked us, "Can you get Martin out?"
We turned around, perplexed, and saw Martin inside Clare's skirt.
"So, how did he get there?  Were you just standing idly there and then he just appeared?"
"Ummm," Clare replied, with a trace of a grin.
"Get onto the back deck so I can take a picture, then go and play!"
There you go.  "Problem" solved!

Remember the Alamo!

Every year we try to attend Cancon, a games convention held in Canberra.  This is the same convention at which I met Lana 23 years ago!
The tradition has developed in the family whereby I take the boys out to the convention and Lana and the girls have a tea party at home. (Past posts about this day are herehere and here.)
This year there was a magnificent game of "The Alamo". Peter was able to take on the figure of Daniel Boone, so was privileged enough to wear the 'coon hat.

The fellows that ran this demo game built and painted all the scenery and models.  As you can see from the photos, the fort has been recreated marvellously.
The rules were very simple.  The Texans can shoot up to 24 inches and need a 4,5,or 6 to kill a Mexican.  The Mexicans can shoot up to 12 inches and need a 6 to kill a Texan.  A cannon can shoot using 6 dice.  Hand to hand combat is the highest die roll wins.  For the first 90 minutes all Mexican casualties come back as reinforcements.  The game lasts for 2 hours and the Texans have to have at least one man surviving.
The bottom photo shows the hordes of Mexicans that have broken into the fort preparing to assault the last Texans holding out in the ruined Church.  The Mexicans won this game on the last turn.
Meanwhile, Eric was able to join in a Renaissance wargame between the Italians and French, and James enjoyed watching the competition of Lord of the Rings wargaming.
Lana and the girls had a lovely tea party at home, with everyone getting dressed up specially, all the fine cutlery and plates laid out and fancy food for all to share.  According to Rose, one of the highlights was that Martin "even had a glass cup and plate and he didn't even break them!"

18 January 2010

Feeling a Little Horse

Yesterday we were able to give Martin a great treat.  One of the ladies with whom Lana and her mum attend Quilting classes has a farm with miniature horses.  Horses that are Martin's size!
We don't know where Martin's fascination with horses come from - perhaps it is genetic.  But we can't work out what triggered off his love considering we have nothing to do with horses in our little village.
When he awoke yesterday morning Martin came into our room with a fresh nappy, wet ones, clothes and whatever else he needed ready to go.  This was at around 8:30 and we weren't going to leave until around Midday.
The miniature horses are pretty amazing.  Just like real horses only little.  The horses are very inquisitive and quickly came in from the edges of the fields to check us out.  There were lots of foals and horse families, all coming up close and personal.  You can see from these photos how we were right amongst them all, close enough to pat and examine.  There were about 20 horses in our paddock, enough for all to share.
The horses which were for shows were in other paddocks and our hosts were very happy to show us all their awards.
Notice how only Eric (and me out of the photo) were wearing a hat.  When we left home at midday, the traditional local mid-summer cooling mists were rolling in to the village.  By the time we were 5 minutes from home, there was no more mist, just a glorious clear Summer's day.
The generous winds fooled us into thinking it wasn't as warm as it was, so Lana and Ariel both came home a little redder than they would have liked.

14 January 2010

Sorting good and bad

I thought it was time to give you some idea of what we have been doing over the last 11 months.
We are in charge of the local Post Office.  It is a very small office, with full post office services, but all procedures are manual.  Some of the daily paperwork is in triplicate with multiple duplicate subsidiary forms with plenty of totals and subtotals all over the forms.  These are a result of lots of historical use and so we just inherit what we have been given.
The majority of Post Offices in Australia are fully computerised but we are just too small.  There are plenty of other manual post offices around Australia but they are typically in various little country towns and villages.
We also do not have mail delivery to people's homes. All mail comes to the post office and we sort and place it in each person's folder.  You can see the folder system behind Ariel.
Locals then pop in during the day and collect their mail.  Ariel has been doing the mail for some years now and knows many of the relationships of the locals well.
"Oh, you're Jane Doe.  Your mail is with your friend John Citizen and his son Fred Bloggs."
We also get challenging delivery targets such as one address to "Daddy, So and So Street, [Our Village]".
There were lots of potential "Daddy"s in So and So Street, so we had to have the letter on display and the whole village was able to help pin point the correct Daddy.
One of the first things we did upon taking over the ship was create a new Post Office bench which gave us more room to handle all the letters and parcels, and add more shelving and drawers to organise all the stamps, forms, stickers, packing, boxes, tape and so on.
The key to improving the system was organisation and a willingness to delve into the manual to work out what the procedures should be.  Now that is very dry reading!

11 January 2010

Visiting Dead People

We have been attending a great little station church that is in one corner of our large country parish on Sunday afternoons. It is in a lovely area and right behind the typical white board church is the cemetery.
On one of our first visits, Rose asked us, "Can we visit the dead people?"
So we regularly visit - and pray for - the "dead people". The tomb stones the children are peeking around in this photo are from around 1880 or so.

10 January 2010

Another little brother

Whilst we have be on a blogging hiatus, we have neglected to mention some important news. We should see another Bruggie baby arrive in about 7 to 9 week's time.
Martin points at Lana's stomach and mentions the baby is in there. Soon he will have a little brother to play with. And so will all the rest of the family.
(In this photo Ariel is enjoying herself chasing after Martin - round and round the treasure table)

Everything is on track and progressing well. Lana is getting tired and not enjoying the heat at all. Summer pregnancies are not at all fun, considering the growing in-built water heater and general heat, water and weight joys.

Hopefully, this baby won't require the same excitement that Martin raised!

9 January 2010

Where is Stress Testing

Lana and I were in the hospital recently getting some tests done (more details in the next post) when we noticed this directions board.

Those looking for "Stress Testing" would not be helped.

(Stress Testing was actually in the other direction.)

I have Come To Trim Your Lawn

Even though the shop has taken quite a bit of our time, the boys still take care of a number of the villager's lawns.
Typically Eric uses the ride-on mower doing the bulk of the lawn while James uses the weed trimmer to clear around the edges.
Here is James showing his fine work outfit.
  • Hat for sun protection.
  • Boots for feet protection.
  • Sunglasses for eye protection (and general cool factor)
  • Strap to make managing the trimmer easier.
All in all, not a bad image. Oh, the serious expression is just for effect.

Beware the Caped Avenger!

Martin has a great black cape, fine camouflage gumboots and an old ski pole to use as a horse. What else would one need to go on an adventure?

Carpet Snakes and Good Neighbours

Last week Eric and I were up in country Northern New South Wales helping friends of ours set up the systems for a new business.
On the way home one afternoon our friend was driving along the country road and suddenly slammed on the brakes.
"Ooh! A snake!" she said.
I quickly grabbed the camera as she backed the car to a more safe distance. The snake was a large carpet snake lazily resting right across the road - all 10 feet or so. I took some lovely photos and we looked out for other cars so no-one would mistakenly run the snake over.
A local fellow was coming out of a nearby driveway and asked what we had found.
"A snake. Any idea how to get it out of the way? We tried throwing a few sticks at it, but the snake didn't care much."
He didn't say much but came out of his vehicle and strolled over, examining the snake. He then went to one end and grabbed his tail, with appropriate small leaps worthy of the late Steve Irwin, pulling the snake across the road.
But the snake had other ideas. He wanted to be back on the OTHER side of the road. So we wisely left the snake to go back across the road to where he wanted to be.
Ah. Steve Irwin would be so proud!

Grammar Lesson Miss understood

Rose visited Grandma and explained her recent doings, "Clare, Martin and me went outside ..."
Grandma tried to do her bit for better grammar in the world and interrupted, "Clare Martin and I"
Rose paused and continued, "Clare, Martin and me ..."
"Clare, Martin and I," tried Grandma once more.
Rose looked at Grandma seriously, "You weren't there, Grandma. It was Clare, Martin and Me!"

Ah well. Perhaps she is too young yet for that lesson.

(Here are Rose, Clare and Martin enjoying some costumes. Martin's overalls are from camouflage material we brought back from the US. We knew we wouldn't be able to get that kind of material here.)