6 July 2011

Let there be light!

You shall not pass!
We finally have power!
Today was a busy day of organising generators, power cords, working out what the shop could and couldn't provide and all of us wearing lots of clothes.  Brrr!
I went for a short drive and examined the tree which had caused our power issues.  It was quite a large pine trtee and when it came down it pulled down about 500 metres of power line.  You can see at the foreground of my photo the blackened grass.
You may also notice something else about the picture.  No warning signs.
The council - which would take me to court for the most minor infringement of work and safety rules - finished their day without any warning signs that a tree was blocking the road.  The local fire brigade received a call late last night from a truck driver stopped at the tree that the way was blocked and the fire brigade volunteers put up some warning tape and road hazard signs.  Many times today we saw cars drive along the road only to return a short while later and try another way.
We were reasonably busy at the shop providing tea (no coffee machine) and hot food.  The generators powered all our freezers and the milk fridge so my stock was all safe.  Cheers were heard around the village at about 5:00pm when the power returned. 28 hours is a long time without power.

5 July 2011

Ariel Update #3

On Tuesday to Thursday we attended talks held by Mons O'Rielly and a different guest speaker every day. On Friday we went to a prayer vigil outside the abortion clinic for 2 hours then wandered home the long way. The time after dinner turned into an impromptu hymn singing session with R, T and some of the girls. G played the violin then M taught some of us the Pride of Erin dance. All of a sudden someone said "We are going in to the city. Want to come?"
Immediately, everyone rushed around, changing clothes, checking hair and so on and so forth. One of the housekeepers had ordered 2 cabs and then an additional 2 cars worth of us suddenly decided to come as well. We had a bit of an issue with cars, but this was good for some of them because they kept running inside to change a shirt or pickup something that was forgotten.
When we got to Times Square we had to walk for ages to get to the first group. By then they had finished and were on their way home - so all that walking for nothing!
Our group of about 8 girls went in to Manhattan to do some shopping and then go to a baseball game. I went along because I was the only one in the group who hadn't planned on going to the baseball game, but I ended up going anyway. I was standing up all day because the baseball was 4 hours long! After the game, most of us went to dinner in Soho but Me, M, H and P sort of got separated from the rest and went to a diner. We wandered around for a while and almost got lost on the way home.
On Sunday after Mass we went to St Patrick's Cathedral. It is so beautiful. Everything is carved with a pattern or an angel or something. There are heaps of side altars to different saints and a gift shop right in the church.
I was sort of in charge of getting J and G to the ferry tour we were doing as a group by 1.30 pm. We got there at 1.45 pm because we got on the Downtown train instead of the Uptown train - twice!
After the tour, which was three hours around the islands, we went to dinner in a stretch limo. There were about thirteen of us. It was really loud and a bit squishy. The dinner was in a fancy restaurant and I sat with the Marionites, L and G. We finished first and then went shopping. It was pretty funny because P actually knew where we were going but TH was impatient and went on ahead. It's a good thing we only had to cross a few streets. And Boy! Can they shop! It was amazing how much TH bought and he is always trying to get a discount. We actually got home at a reasonable time tonight.

Ariel Update #2

A passing Statue of Liberty

On Monday we went on a UN tour. Because we are such a big group the first tour had about 10-15 and the second tour had 20, so we had a guide all to ourselves. There were lots of debates, jokes and questions by the Marionites and K and D mostly, but most of us had a say. Some were a bit embarrassed by the vigorous discussion but I thought it was funny.
The first question the tour guide asked us was, "Where are you from?" One of us said, "We're Catholic, Pro Life and, oh yeah, from Australia."
After the UN we went to Grand Central Station for lunch, then went on the Staten Island Ferry which went past the Statue of Liberty. We left about 5 to 7 of our group on the other side. We recovered them before we left but lost 2 to 3 of the Marionites in the city. We weren't very worried for them. They would be left alone because they are big and tough boys.
How do you think the real Statue of Liberty compares with Rose?

For whom the wind blows ...

Flying Trampolines, Batman!
The morning started with a "lazy" wind - that is, one which goes straight through all your clothes rather than bothering to blow around you.  By 9:00am the wind picked up and blew a gale.
At Midday we had some power flickers, then at 1:45pm the power went out.  (It is still out now (8:00pm) as I write this using laptop power and mobile internet).
Trees have fallen down all over the area.  The main one of concern which knocked out our power was about 5 km along the main road from here.  The huge pine tree fell taking down the high tension power lines all over the road, knocking down about 200 metres of wire.  Luckily the old wooden power poles had recently been replaced with newer concrete ones which held up marvellously.
Current estimates are that power won't be back up until around 6:00am tomorrow.  Power blackouts have affected around 25,000 homes.
This lovely photo is of our trampoline against the side fence.  The trampoline was secured by a number of sandbags but today that wasn't enough.  It travelled over 10 metres (30 feet) before being stopped against the wire fence and small tree.
The temperature today was around 6C (43F) but a windchill of -10C left an effective outside temperature of -4C (25F)!
So here we are enjoying candle light, listening to the howling wind and the gentle rumble of our generator.  The generator is plugged into our refrigerator and freezers.

2 July 2011

House Upgrades

Peter Monkeying Around
 After many years, we have finally saved enough money to upgrade the old army barracks in which we started our home owning experience.  It needed upgrading - we will show some before and after shots in a later post.
Part of the plan for the upgraded barracks is for the three older boys to move into one of the rooms, leaving their room for the two younger boys.  Just outside their new bedroom door is a VERY firmly secured metal bar for doing chin ups and other simple bar based exercises.
It did not take long for the bar to be tested.
For strength, the builder lifted himself a few times, then Eric did his share of testing.
Then we had four of the children hang on the bar.
All of this worked without a wiggle from the bar.
We have declared the bar "Secure".
So Peter, our acrobat, set up a chair a short distance away, ran from the end of the hall, leaped onto the chair and onto the bar swinging with one hand.
That is why we lined all the walls with wood.  No more plaster holes in this part of the house!
Just hanging around, doing nothing
When Ariel left the New York, we had only begun the big changes to the Barracks. By the time she returns, it should all be finished. I was away all week, working in Sydney and I certainly was surprised at the change.

A tribute to New York

Statue of Miss Liberty
As part of Ariel's preparations for her New York trip, one of our customers gave her this priceless memory of their trip to New York - a foam Statue of Liberty tiara.
Today Rose thought it would be fun to wear it as we pondered the strangeness of not having Ariel around.
I asked Rose, "What did the Statue of Liberty look like?" and she showed me.  So we went outside to catch her shadow, but she had to squint because of the afternoon sun.
I figured she posed pretty well.  It must be because she is our American child.

28 June 2011

Ariel's Update #1

Ariel's a bit taller now.

[Ariel sent her first email update.  She provided no photo I have added one here from when I went to the US with her in 2002. My comments are in italics]
I got here safely and just borrowed some internet.
We got here safely, late and went to bed at about 2 am local time.  We then had to get up at 6 am. It was harsh and here I was thinking it would be a holiday!
The flight was very long and I was next to the same people on both flights. T [a boy in of our group] asked if we were being deliberately put together. K [a girl in our group] and I explored a bit and found the chapel which is beautiful.  We then discovered that we aren't supposed to go upstairs or explore to much. Oops.
The people here are really nice, both the group and the volunteers at the monastery. Mr H [Group Leader] woke everyone up pretty much as soon as they went to sleep on the first flight - the jerk - it took me ages to go back to sleep, but apparently someone woke him up later. Ah, sweet revenge.
We did a vigil this morning in front of a big abortion clinic and there were some protesters and most were gay,  cross dressers or old ladies. They had a brass band and they kept singing and dancing and waving their posters and one guy had cheerleader pompoms. It was an interesting experience. Mr H said to me, "Hey, that was your first vigil wasn't it? Well now you can say that New York was your first vigil." [The protestors were captured on video here.]
On Saturday night we went to see the Brooklyn Bridge but got distracted and didn't leave till 10 pm. We had to take about 3 trains to get to Manhattan and when we finally reached Manhattan we went the wrong way. Once we finally got to the Bridge we took photos and wandered around a bit. When we tried to make our way back to the station we got lost and wandered for ages, and finally found the station. Then we had to go to a different one! We arrived on the right station but got on the wrong train and had to walk all the way up the entire street for what felt like hundreds of blocks. We made it home by about 2 in the morning. I got some really big blisters on both feet and heat rash so it was really painful to walk all that way. I think I prayed at least 3 rosaries worth of prayers! [Wandering around New York after Midnight would encourage prayers]
On Sunday we had Mass at 7 am and then free time till midday. We went to one of the volunteer's family home for BBQ and a quiet afternoon in the suburbs. It was really nice and the people didn't mind that all of a sudden what seemed like hundreds of Aussies pretty much took over their house and yard. Within minutes about 6 of us were shooting hoops, 3 were throwing a footy or two around and 2 or 3 were playing catch with a baseball and mitt.
On our way home we saw a huge cockroach on the zebra stripes and one of the ladies said, "Well, at least it's using the pedestrian crossing."
There is no Internet at the monastery that's why I haven't written till now. I will write later.

27 June 2011

It's so fluffy!

It's so fluffy!
Lana and I were doing some shopping last night and Lana spotted this very cute pillow.  It folds up and is shaped life a stuffed Pink and white unicorn.
When she saw it, Lana looked at me and said in an excited little girl voice, "It's soooo fluffy!"
How could I resist?
Naturally I had to take a photo.  Eric was seated nearby when I took the photo and he just grinned.
"It's not bad being in a weird family sometimes." he said.

From Eric - I was laughing my head off thank you.
And it is always a good thing to be in a weird family.  ;)

Ariel Has Left the Premises.

Ariel (with Peter along for the drive)
Ariel is in New York.
A few weeks ago Lana and I suggested that Ariel take a holiday.  Ariel lamented how she would never be able to leave the shop and she had no where to go anyway.
The next day I was visiting a business associate and it dawned on me that the event he was organising was perfect for Ariel.  A trip to New York to take part in a Pro life retreat with about 30 other young people (between 17 and 27) as well as plenty of time to visit the important tourist destinations of the town.
As it all fell into place so quickly, Ariel realised it was probably meant to be, so she and Lana quickly arranged for a new passport and some clothes and bags and so on.  To help her avoid too much pre trip nerves I organised for the shop's year end stock take to be done before she left.  That is because I am extremely considerate!
I found it very odd watching her at the ticket counter liaising with the airline officer regarding her ticket and bags.  I know she is fully capable - after all, she has been running the shop since she was 16.  But still ... there she was, going overseas without any of us.  I know she is with a good group and should have a great time.
We made a deal that Ariel is to send me one email with a photo per day.  She has her new iPod touch which can take the photos and send an email so it shouldn't be too difficult.  But so far no message.
So, we will have to up the ante.
If we don't get an email, embarrassing old photos of her as a little girl will get posted.
Ariel - you have been warned. :-)

28 March 2011

Mud, glorious mud!

Mud - the only way out
We had a great time at this year's Robertson Show.
Once again we put many entries into the pavilion winning first prizes for our muffins, scones and biscuits (cookies), prizes and champion ribbons for cross stitch and other craft projects and generally doing rather well.
We support the show at the shop by handing out plenty of brochures and they all know how to spell our name with all the entries we put into the pavilion. When the announcer noticed Lana and the children he happily made a number of impromptu announcements about how great our shop was and suggested all should visit.
I was working at the shop with Eric and we were to meet with Lana and the rest of the family at around 4pm.  On the way there the heavens opened up and the rain poured down in a torrent.  By the time we arrived the show was very wet but plenty of people stayed around in what cover there was.
Naturally Peter and James figured this was a great time to play outside and they ended up very wet.  In this photo you can see them squeezing out the water from their shirts.
Conserving Water
They didn't really think through the final results of their drenching.  We had a 45 minute drive home and they had to strip down to their underpants as they didn't bring any spare clothes.  I suggested we go out for dinner and for once the declined quite strongly.
The other effect of the dousing with water was the only exit from the car park (parking lot)  that had been set up in the field was a superb mud patch.  As you can see from the top photo it was very thick and gooey.  I was able to get through with my little car, but Lana wasn't even able to get close to the start of the worst mud.
But the locals were ready.  With simple efficiency they backed down the 4 wheel drive, attached the rope and pulled the bus through the mud and victory.

A Wheel Dog

A Wheel Dog explained
I was sitting in my chair at the dinner table when Martin came up to me with a creation he had made with Lego.  It was two wheel sets stuck together so they formed a sort of cross.
'What's that, Martin?" I asked.
"A Wheel Dog." he answered proudly.
"A real dog?" I asked, as he sometimes doesn't get his letters correct.
"No," he answered firmly, "A wheel dog."
Then he pointed to one end and then the other.
"See, his wheel head and his wheel tail."
"Ah, of course.  It is a wheel dog."
"Yep!" and off he went very pleased with himself.

24 February 2011

What do you want to be?

After communion last Sunday I was kneeling next to Martin "negotiating" some prayers. I noticed him looking at the priest so I asked, "Would you want to be a priest?"
"No." Martin promptly replied.
"What do you want to be?" I asked, surprised by the firmness of his answer.
"4." (He will be 4 years old soon.)
Once I had recovered and whispered this delightful response to Lana, I tried again.
"What about after you're 4?  Would you want to be priest then?"
"Yep!" he answered cheerfully.
It's very important to do things in the right order, you know.
(I have used this photo previously but it captures Martin's thoughtful mode very well.)

6 February 2011

Youth and Technology

Children are starting earlier and earlier these days!
Here is Zach using Eric's iPod Touch before Mass last week.  Well, if you can define "using" as playing with the thing in his hands.  But the photo does make it look like he is quite competent with those chubby fingers.
Not too surprisingly we are quite a high tech household. As I upgrade computers for my work I keep the older machine for the family to use.  We currently have a wide mix of Macs, Windows clones and iPods, iPod touches, iPad and iPhone.  They are all integrated over the web as well as using our home wired and wireless network.
It is great fun having me and the 3 boys all in the same game.  In one game based on Lord of the Rings, we were all on one side.  As James' Gondorian soldiers were outside his fort being heavily outnumbered by more and more orcs he called out, "Can anyone help?"
Next moment my Rohan riders came charging in and clearing the screen of nasty orcs, saving the day.  Dad to the rescue!

3 February 2011

Situational Sickness

We have a stomach virus going through the family. :-(
For a change Zach and I had it first and it is slowly making its way through each member of the household.
Martin noticed that his sick siblings, Peter and Rose, received special treatment such as flat lemonade (soda/pop) and being allowed to lie around in the loungeroom watching movies.
This sounded pretty good so when he noticed the lemonade he said in as pathetic a voice as possible, "I'm sick."  After drinking his drink slowly, he looked around carefully.  He miraculously felt better and moved around a lot for a "sick" person, happily posing doing handstands on the couch, then running outside helping Opa with the garden.
Upon returning inside he noticed the lemonade again and quickly stopped, saying "I'm sick."
Somehow, I am not too concerned about his imminent recovery from this dreadful "illness".  His siblings are coming along fine too.

Update:  Now Martin has caught the virus.  He isn't quite so quick to do handstands.  At least with everyone getting the same thing we know how it will run as each member has it in their turn.
Update 2:  Lana is down. Bah.

22 January 2011

Sibling Togetherness

One of the ladies in our online homeschooling list was gathering input regarding the homeschooling effects on sibling rivalry.  I referred the group to our previous posts (here here and here) but this led to discussions at home as well.

Eric likes sitting next to Zach in the van.  He reckons there are some great advantages, along with a few disadvantages, but overall he prefers that seat.  Eric says, "It is entertaining and at times highly profitable".

 - You can play with the baby (see here and here for some examples)
 - You can eat the left overs which means you often get one and a half ice creams.

 - When they are tired and scream.  Not pleasant but worth the effort in calming them down.

(The second photo is when Rose was three months old.  Eric added a Red Nose to Rose)

The other children wanted to add in their bit too:
The Boys (17,14,12): multi player games with opponents on hand is fun.
Peter (12): without them you get bored so easily
Ariel (19): [Evil laugh] - you can get them to do tasks you don't want to: but they're noisy and they take up your time and you have to feed them ... (after a delay)... but sometimes they're fun.
James (14): They're fun.  The younger ones find all my old tricks really new and funny.
Clare (9): You have someone to play with.
Martin (3): Because you love 'em.

18 January 2011

To Bed Perchance To Talk

One would think the children would sleep soundly once night falls.  After all they have had full days, the nights here are dark with a sky full of stars and the world is filled with the silence of the country.
Last night at around 2am James awoke and realised there was a lot of talking going on. The night was dark and everyone was asleep but they were all talking.

Ariel as muttering something about the shop.

Eric asked, "Is there anything we need to do?"
"No?  Are you listening to me?"
James replied "Eric, are you talking to me?"
Eric answered irritably, "No, I'm talking to the glow worm thing!"

Peter was talking almost coherently about the book he is reading.

Clare said in a joyful voice, "Um, Um, I'm in a PINK castle!  And it's pink!"

Rose asked, "Martin, are you awake?"
Martin answered, "Yes"
Rose replied, "Well, let's go to the trampoline."
Martin then asked, "Yes.  Where is it?"  (They play on the trampoline every day)

After checking that everyone was actually fast asleep, James went back to bed.

14 January 2011

One small step for Zach

It has begun.
Crawling was fun and despite knees rubbed raw it was a very effective means of transport.
But this new "walking" thing!
Zach is enjoying his first steps as we all quickly raise the breakable things another level higher.
This means we are approaching Defcon 3 in the baby danger scale.