Sunday, December 30, 2007

Discussions with a friend

"This is Jesus' great promise: to give life in abundance. Everyone wants life in abundance. But what is it? What does life consist in? Where do we find it? When and how do we have life in abundance? When we live like the prodigal son, squandering the whole portion God has given us? When we live like the thief and the robber, taking everything for ourselves alone? Jesus promises that he will show the sheep where to find 'pasture' - something they can live on - and that he will truly lead them to the springs of life." "Jesus of Nazareth", page 278, Pope Benedict XVI

A friend and I have been discussing Life, via email.

Life in boxes. Living an authentic life. Trying to be like others. Finding life in abundance, finding the 'face of the Lord'.

We have discussed marriage - what is the ideal marriage and does it matter if our own marriages do not reflect the ideal often promulgated by some Catholic writers.

Do we have to reach an ideal? Maybe each partner doing their own thing, being different, then sharing these differences and coming together sometimes, being separate and yet joined, is what works.

We have talked about being consumers.

There is a push in some Chistian circles for a simple life. Recently, for a handmade Christmas - giving only handmade gifts.

This is admirable.

However, a simple life is not always that simple. I know, I've been there and for me it was yet another stifling box .

For others, this simple life is freedom.

We have been relatively poor. We have been comfortable with regard to finances. In both stations of life, we have enjoyed what we owned, and we have shared these ~ our homes, our food, our possessions, our life ~ with others.

It has been the enjoying and the sharing that counted. Not the possessions or lack thereof, not the simple life or the life of more consumerism .

In our discussions, my friend has expressed her concern over not living a simple enough life. Over enjoying having, enjoying giving and using Christmas presents.

As many of you know, we live in a Franciscan parish. These friars like and enjoy and use technology, things, books, music, ~ and so on ~ but the things don't own them.
I think that is a good example.

We , our family, have a lot of things, gave a lot of things at Christmas, enjoy these things ourselves and also with others and are pretty much consumers without being consumed - we are not ruled by things.

By some standards,we have a lot.

It is relative. And what matters most is where it is that we have our hearts, our treasure. . We do not need to compare ourselves to others, but should, instead, follow Christ and his Church and look at ourselves and at our souls.

"It is ony in God and in light of God that we rightly know man. Any 'self-knowledge' that restricts man to the empirical and the tangible fails to engage with man's true depth. Man knows himself only when he learns to understand himself in light of God and he knows others only when he sees the mystery of God in them" Ibid. page 283

( By the way, the above are some of our Christmas pics . My dh gave me an icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour.... I think our pictures show part of our "life in abundance". :-) )

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Three Feast Days - well, almost Four..

December 27 was the Feast of St John the Apostle. I placed wine glasses decorated with lolly snakes, on the dinner table. The story goes that St John was given poisoned wine to drink. He blessed the wine and the poison came out of the wine in the form of snakes. Hence the lolly snakes; our family tradition!

December 28 - we remembered the Holy Innocents. These children were murdered by Herod's soldiers, in Herod's search for the Baby Jesus. Our parish held its annual Mass for the Holy Innocents, Bishop Fisher presiding. Very solemn. Very nice. Followed by a procession, prayers, Benediction.

Then we and two guests went to lunch at our favourite Italian restaurant.

Today, we remember St Thomas Beckett - immortalised in T. S. Eliot's " Murder in the Cathedral." We read about this saint and discussed Henry II. We also sang Good St Wencelas ( for the feast of St Stephen - Dec 26 - well, it talks about th feast of Stephen and better late than never!). And sang some traditional carols for this Christmas period. You can see our carol basket above.

I hope you are enjoying the Twelve Days of Christmas.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

How To Bake A Phone Book and Other Christmas Things

We baked one of our phone books on Christmas Day. With friends.

A new family tradition.

Why, you ask?

It started with one of our Christmas presents to son Nick. A book called "Man Skills - Things to Make a Bloke Less Crap". It's a scream!

One section tells how to rip a phone book in half with your bare hands - and no, not via the binding. That is the easy way. The book must be rpiped horizontally.

Well, the men here at Christmas lunch failed this test - even with we women reading the instructions out loud and giving helpful hints ("its all in the wrist").

"Man Skills" came to the rescue with a cheat's version. Simply bake your phone book first - in a very hot oven. Until dry and brittle.

Wow, my friends made me pre -heat my oven. This is a first. I never pre-heat. I always ignore that part of the recipe.

Sadly, even with a preheated oven and a well presented and attractively baked phone book, our men failed the phone book test.

Plus ~ don't get me started on the underpants activity that followed ( won't post those pics, in order to protect identities...).
But at least I can bake a mean phone book - I'll pass on the recipe, if you'd like.

And now, today is Boxing day, the day after Christmas, the feast of St Stephen. We had a fabulous Christmas Day, two Masses, lots of visitors, food, family, fun...Probably too much food. :-)

So today was clean up time. And then, while dh went for his jog and the kids were busy with playing or reading or using Christmas presents, I decided to give myself a workout treat.

I did the whole 90 minute Ultimate Taebo workout.

I usually don't find time for a 90 minute workout. 60 minutes is my workout time, a bit less if I'm really strapped for time. But I have wanted to do this whole workout - bought it a few months ago and usually do only 60 minutes of it. Did 70 minutes once.

Except for today. I did the whole 90 minutes - it was COOL!

My post Christmas treat to myself ( and a good way to work off some of that extra food! lol!).

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

In A Good Place

"A dead end street is a good place to turn around” Naomi Judd (singer)

Ever feel like you are in a good place? Or in a dead end?

I feel that we are in a good place, homeschool speaking.

And in a good place, spiritually.

I am reflecting on our two and one half years of living in Sydney.

We previously lived for four years in Adelaide.

Spiritually, Adelaide was difficult for me. Hard to describe, and I can't really go into too much detail here, but there were a number of challenging things that happened, faith wise, and we found no real parish community.

Our fault? Probably. I am a great believer in the axiom that you get what you put in.

And it just didn't work for us and I let some of my practices slide...As a mother, I have noticed that as a mother's spiritual practices increase or decrease so follows the practices of the family. My influence is quite scary. So, as you can imagine, if my faith life was not what it was, so followed the faith life of the family.....

Moving to Sydney was something we did because of dh's work - dragging and screaming and complaining. Trying to make the best of things. We didn't want to be here. We didn't want to leave the oldest three sons.

But we have found that our faith, our spiritual practices, has been restored.

Attending our local parish, a community of Conventual Franciscans, has been the cause of our faith restoration. The weekly Mass and novena in honour of St Anthony of Padua. Lenten and Advent programmes. The prayers and work of the friars. Their example. All this has helped us out of our less-than-stellar spiritual spiral...

We are in a good place. And out of the dead end...

Similarly with homeschooling. I moved from radical unschooling, questioning myself on all my parenting mannerisms, comparing myself to some monolithic unschooling standard, to a bit here and a bit there - some days we do more formal learning, other days we do nothing formal.
The kids learn regardless. But I feel freedom, freedom to ask and require, being a mostly collaborative but sometimes directive mum, as well as still experiencing the freedom to discuss and to reach decisions consensually.

In a good place spiritually. In a good place in homeschooling. Are the two connected? For me, I think so. I am no longer trying to fit into a box ~ be it a Catholic box or a parenting/homeschooling philosophy box

As I conclude my reflections on Life in Sydney, I see that Being In A Good Place (for now) is great at Christmas. Happy Christmas to all! May you all find your good place..

P.S. The above is a pic of our new Christmas house decoration – a porcelain carousel. Got it almost at half price. :-)

Monday, December 17, 2007

Christmas meme

Tagged by Basia. And I tag Cindy.

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Both, depends on time and present. I also like cute boxes in which to put presents...

2. Real tree or artificial? I prefer real, dh prefers artificial - less mess he says. Dh normally wins - Xmas is not the time for an argument, is it?? - I sneak a real tree in occasionally and a priest friend, in one of the areas in which we have lived, and who sympathized with my real tree affection, used to give me a real Christmas tree every year, as a present. :-)

3. When do you put up the tree? Some time during Advent - no set time, depends on our life, on where we live, on if we are going away....

4. When do you take the tree down? Some time after the Epiphany - again depending on life and its little curves.

5. Do you like eggnog? Oh, gosh, just the thought of it makes me feel sick!

6. Favourite gift received as a child? A desk, the top opened up, with a world map on the desk surface. I was about nine years old and felt very grown up.

7. Do you have a Nativity scene? We have several. So sweet ~ would like to buy another "good" one.

8. Hardest person to buy for? My husband. He has very specific tastes. And we buy stuff for him all year round!

9. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? A recycled gift. I'll say no more, to protect a possible reader...

10. Mail or email Christmas cards? Both. You know why - it depends!

11. Favourite Christmas Movie? Oh, so many to choose from! Maybe "Home Alone". Or "Trapped in Paradise" . Or "Its a Wonderful Life". Or "The Nativity" - last year's favourite. "Christmas With the Kranks" ?

12. When do you start shopping for Christmas? I buy little things throughout the year and then leave most things, including food, for a just-before-Xmas shop with the crowds.

13. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? No, I think that's a bit tasteless. Sorry!

14. Favourite thing to eat at Christmas? Not sure I have a favourite - maybe fruit mince tarts? Or Xmas cake with a a vintage cheese....

15. Clear lights or coloured on the tree? Coloured. If we do lights that year.

16. Favorite Christmas song? Gaudate. Absolute fave. Hands down.

17. Travel at Christmas or stay home? It varies. It depends. ( Can you see that my Xmases, like my life, are flexible? lol!).

18. Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer? Only if I sing the song, too! "Come Dancer, Come Prancer," etc.

18.Tree or star on top of the tree? It varies. You knew I was gonna say that, didn't you?This year,we have an angel on the little tree and a star on the bigger tree.

20. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? Christmas Eve when I was a kid. Christmas morn now...

21. Most annoying thing about this time of year? Don't know if there is anything annoying - I love Advent and Xmas, both the spiritual and the commercial!

22. Best thing about this time of year? Oh, all the fun, all the prayers, all the Masses, all the shopping, the photos, the plans, the cooking, the eating, the giving, the joy, the sharing, the spirit....

Sunday, December 16, 2007

What do you do when older...

... sons come home for Advent?

Play games of Scorpa, trying to beat Dad ( and Greg succeeded!).

Work together- mark off areas for parking for the parish Christmas Carols tonight. And put together 300 lolly bags for the same carols.
Attend the funeral for a Friar's father - and get lost on the way! Make up for this with many margaritas afterwards...

Keep up with Advent activities. Well, almost. We are faithfully reading the slips of paper, eating the lollies and chocolates from the Advent calendar and trying to follow the directions on the slips. We made the activity slips last year and they are re-usable. Hopefully.

Listen to Carols.

Smile more today.

Read the nativity story from one of the Gospels. (Still on the To Do List) . (Blushes and sighs).
Watch a Christmas movie.

Check weather on the feast of St Barbara (legend had it that the weather on this day will mirror the weather on Christmas Day).

Bake St Lucy's Bread ( Crown) on the feast of St Lucy ( December 13 butI still intend to find time to do that this week and to make a gingerbread house or train...).

Continue with Advent reading. I am up to the section on the parables of Jesus , in "Jesus of Nazareth".

Start Christmas Novena ( today).

How is your Advent?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

How cool~!

Today's table centrepiece .

Our Advent wreath, a copy of a Fr. Lovasik book, for today's "saint of the day" ( Our Lady of Gaudalupe), and my special book find ~ a 1964 copy of Madeleine L'engle's "The Twenty Four Days of Christmas".

A special addition to our Christmas booklist.

I loved this book as a child and as a young mother; it gave me many, many ideas on creating family Advent traditions and on nurturing family life.

Today was also cool because I received an award for being the number 2 Kumon Supervisor of the Year for New South Wales. Number 2 out of the 112 Supervisors.

The award is based on centre statistics - retention rate of students, progress in students, centre growth.

I love working with the kids at Kumon, helping them learn and grow. This love is akin to my love of homeschooling - I feel privileged to learn with my own kids at home, and to learn with the Kumon students at my Kumon Centre.

Monday, December 10, 2007

On home education.

Home education is the more common word used here in Australia, to describe homeschooling

And this short film is by home educators in Wales - yiou have probably seen it around the internet, but, if not - enjoy!

Learning All The Time

Sunday, December 09, 2007

The 9th of December.

And the day after the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady.

Greg's birthday - second eldest son.

A fun lunch out! Happy birthday, Greg - we are both in denial at the passing of the years! lol!

On a sadder note - the father of one of the Friars in our parish passed away today. Please keep Fr. B. , his father's soul, and Fr.'s family in your prayers.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

St Nicholas. Medical Tests. And Other Miscellaneous Things.

We celebrated the feast of St Nicholas with an awful Christmas movie - don't watch it, save yourself the time and money! "Deck the Halls" with Matthew Broderick and Danny de Vito. Poor script, bad supporting actors...All in the name of Christmas.

However, Anthony's Christmas craft ( Fr Xmas Aussie style, on a surfboard) and our book on the dining table, near the wreath ( The Miracle of S Nicholas by Gloria Whelan) and our Stollen ( bread) made the celebration.

Happy Name Day, Nick! ( son number 3).

Luke and Greg ( two eldest sons) are here in Sydney - so we are back to our push up competitions and arm wrestling. The family that wrestles together stays together??

Had my medical tests - the cysts appear to be benign! Deo Gratias! See my doctor this week to see what further treatment may be needed.

What else?

Rifle shooting, a group outing I organized for Homeschool Teen Group.

Advent reading - we are all reading something - Anthony is reading 'The Screwtape Letters' by C. S. Lewis and Jonathon feels melancholy at the thought that his youngest brother is now old enough to read Screwtape!

Me? I am finishing off 'Jesus of Nazareth' and want to share some of last night's reading ~

" One last question remains: is God also mother? The Bible does compare God's love with the love of a mother: 'as one whom his mother comforts, so will I comfort you.' (Is 66:13) is nonetheless also true that God is never named or addressed as mother, whether in the Old or in the New Testament. 'Mother' in the Bible is an image but not a title for God. Why not? We can only tentatively seek to understand. Of course, God is neither a man not a woman, but simply God, the creator of man and woman.....the image of the father was and is apt for expressing the otherness of creator and creature and the sovereignty of his creative act...the prayer language of the entire Bible remains normative for us, in which, as we have seen, while there are some fine images of maternal love, 'mother' is not used as a title or a form of address for God. We make our petitions in the way that Jesus, with Holy Scripture in the background, taught us to pray, and not as we happen to think or want." ( page 140)
And, from my light reading, a delicious quote from 'The Immaculate Deception' by Iain Pears ( in the Jonathon Argyll art mystery series, thank you Pam for the suggestion!) ~
a companionable quote on housework ~
'I have a vague image of tidiness I keep in my mind, rather like some people have a notion of eternity in paradise. You never approach it, but it's good to believe that you might get there one day.'

Monday, December 03, 2007

I got to hug Thomas~!

At his birthday barbecue. Thomas hates hugs and kisses but I snuck one in!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

St Andrew of Scotland and Thomas' birthday

November 30.

We made flags of Scotland, with the cross of St Andrew, and put the "flags" around the house.

Thomas had a cake at ice skating ( see his embarrassed face? ) and a cake at Youth Group. And we are having a BBQ lunch tomorrow ( with two older sons arriving from Adelaide this weekend - another arriving closer to Christmas...).

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

On St John Berchmans and Why We Need Priests

Feast Day November 27. And Nicholas' Confirmation Saint ( Nick = son number 3).

Patron Saint of Altar Servers.

We talked about St John Berchmans and read about St Catherine of Laboure. Of the
Miraculous Medal.

I then found a sheet on Holy Orders, in the book
100 Activities based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

We looked up references in the Compendium to the CCC. And the kids wrote a few paragraphs on why we need priests.

Why do we need priests on the church? Because of Holy Orders the priest "possesses the authority to act in the power and place of the person of Christ himself" (Catechism, #1548).

My kids wrote more interesting answers. Very interesting. You can imagine!

Why do we need priests?

This might be a good question to ask your kids, if you are a Catholic reading this blog. Their answers may surprise you.

And all of this was very timely for us, having recently attended an ordination..

Parish BBQ Pics

Monday, November 26, 2007

An avatar

At the fitness forum I visit, someone has the comment below, as part of their avatar.

Growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional

I love it! Can I steal it??

Now, I am sure that someone will shake their head at me, and think of all the advantages of maturity.

Well, yeah.

But I never want to lose a child' s having fun, enjoying play, life is a blast attitude.

I want to always love playgrounds and games and active things.

So there. ( Sticks out tongue at the naysayers. )

Very mature.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Solemnity of Christ the King...

....honours Christ as Lord and King of all.

Christus Rex. Christus Regnat.

Pope Pius XI instituted the Solemnity of Christ the King on 11 December 1925 in his encyclical Quas Primas. At that time he saw the rise of atheistic communism and secularism as a direct result of man's turning away from Christ's sovereignty, and man's denying of the authority of Christ's Church.

Our parish held its annual parish BBQ today. Last year's BBQ was also on this day - a great day, in the liturgical year, for a church community get together, don't you think?

A lot of fun. Especially the games. I suck at sack races. :-)

I'll try to post pics later.

And, you know, the BBQ and the Solemnity allowed various things to come up . About depression. And living with depression. Living with a family member who is depressed.

This article addresses some of these issues. Some tips ~

Learn About Depression
Put Yourself First Occasionally
Take Time Out
Talk About What they Find Helpful
Support Activities
Talk to Someone

Things to think about and talk about as we approach Advent and Christmas.
All of life is connected isn't it? Even a connection between Christ the King-parish BBQ-depression.
Or is that just the way my mind works? A mental scrapbook of connections. An unschooling experience!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Luna Park

I organized a homeschool group outing to the amusement park at Milson's Point ~ Luna Park.

Good group discount.

And while the kids enjoyed the rides, a few mums and I enjoyed the view of the Sydney Harbour from the restaurant. And enjoyed our margaritas.

My sort of homeschool excursion. :-)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Oh SH#@!

Not very good language, I am afraid.

But I had a doctor's appt yesterday, a check up . And found that I need to go for more tests.


I had those health hassles earlier this year, and surgery and follow ups.

Surely not again?! Damn!

Prayers appreciated.

A post on teens.... Susan.


And food for thought.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Clay . Auguste Rodin. The Presentation of Our Lady.

Homeschool Group Learning today.

Talked about Rodin, monk and sculptor.

Worked with clay.

At home, we wrote in notebooks, and on blogs about today's feast.



On girls...

Interesting post on Hopewell Mom School, on girls and education and on being ' keepers at home.'

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

St Edmund

Feast day - today!

St Edmund is Greg's Confirmation Saint - son number two, for those who get our kids mixed up.

From the Medieval Sourcebook ~

Edmund the Blessed, King of East Anglia, was wise and worthy, and exalted among the noble servants of the almighty God. He was humble and virtuous and remained so resolute that he would not turn to shameful vices, nor would he bend his morality in any way, but was ever-mindful of the true teaching: "If you are installed as a ruler, don't puff yourself up, but be among men just like one of them." He was charitable to poor folks and widows, just like a father, and with benevolence he guided his people always towards righteousness, and restrained the cruel, and lived happily in the true faith.

Eventually it happened that the Danes came with a ship-army, harrying and slaying widely throughout the land, as is their custom....King Edmund stood inside his hall, and mindful of the Saviour, threw out his weapons. He wanted to match the example of Christ, who forbade Peter to win the cruel Jews with weapons. Lo! the impious one then bound Edmund and insulted him ignominiously, and beat him with rods, and afterwards led the devout king to a firm living tree, and tied him there with strong bonds, and beat him with whips. In between the whip lashes, Edmund called out with true belief in the Saviour Christ. Because of his belief, because he called to Christ to aid him, the heathens became furiously angry. They then shot spears at him, as if it was a game, until he was entirely covered with their missles, like the bristles of a hedgehog (just like St. Sebastian was). When Ivar the impious pirate saw that the noble king would not forsake Christ, but with resolute faith called after Him, he ordered Edmund beheaded, and the heathens did so. While Edmund still called out to Christ, the heathen dragged the holy man to his death, and with one stroke struck off his head, and his soul journeyed happily to Christ. There was a man near at hand, kept hidden by God, who heard all this, and told of it afterward, just as we have told it here.

Then the pirates returned to their ships and hid the head of the holy Edmund in the thick brambles so that it could not be buried with the rest of his body. After a time, after the pirates had departed, the local people, those who were left, came there where the remains of their lord's body without a head was. They were very sad in heart because of his killing, and especially because they didn't have the head for his body. Then the witness who saw the earlier events said that the pirates had the head with them, and that it seemed to him, as it was in truth, that they hid the head in the woods somewhere.

They all went together then to the woods, looking everywhere through the bushes and brambles to see if they could find that head anywhere. It was also a great miracle that a wolf was sent, through the guidance of God, to protect that head both day and night from the other animals. The people went searching and also calling out, just as the custom is among those who often go into the wood: "Where are you now, friend?" And the head answered them: "Here, here, here," and called out the answer to them as often as any of them called out, until they came to it as a result of the calling. There lay the grey wolf who watched over that head, and had the head clasped between his two paws. The wolf was greedy and hungry, but because of God he dared not eat the head, but protected it against animals. The people were astonished at the wolf's guardianship and carried home with them the holy head, thanking almighty God for all His miracles. The wolf followed along with the head as if he was tame, until they came to the settlement, and then the wolf turned back to the woods.

Advent List

With the Feast of Christ the King this Sunday, it seems that Advent is almost upon us.

I have made a list, in random order, of Advent-y, Christmas-y things to do.

I'll have to assign days and dates to the activities. Grab my diary!

*Finish book making
*Read from the book - Daily Advent readings from Pope John Paul 2
* Choose individual spiritual readings for the time of Advent
* Ditto for Advent penance
*Make Advent wreath
*Get out Xmas stuff - books, movies, etc
* Activity for St Nicholas
*Activity for St Barbara ( check weather)
* Activity for the Immaulate Conception and for Our Lady of Guadalupe
* Put together Advent calendars - sayings, lollies...
*Decorate for Xmas
*Shopping - presents, Xmas table trimmings, etc
* Order Xmas food
* Do cards and presents
* Start Xmas Novena
* Do Gingerbread activities - house/train/men...
*Sing carols and play Xmas music.
*Plan menu and holiday activites with older kids around.
*Parish BBQ and Xmas carols and parish newsletter
*Think about Xmas Masses, Feast of St John, Mass for the Holy Innocents...
*Homeschool and Kumon end-of-year stuff..

Busy and fun!