Monday, November 26, 2007

Lead up to Christmas

I'd love to experience a beautiful, cosy winter Christmas one year. It's totally different for us but just as lovely in its own way I suppose. A bit weird at times. For example, I was getting into the Christmas spirit with my Amy Grant Christmas album. Singing about chestnuts roasting on an open fire and building snow men in the meadow while there's a blistering heat wave outside. All the shops buy into this madness. Fake snow spray is sprayed over windows everywhere. Sometimes I wish it'd make us feel cooler while we're shopping. We have our share of Christmas cards with the traditional winter snow scenes, although there are more Aussie ones available too.

Here are some of the annual highlights of our Christmas.
1) Pageants. The Adelaide Christmas Pageant is said to be the largest in the Southern Hemisphere. I'm not sure if that's still the case, but it's magnificent, with hundreds of floats that all have their own themes. There is always a pageant queen, with a retinue of fairies. Two little girls get to ride the horses, Nipper and Nimble. Whenever we don't go into the city to see it, as it's often hard to find a park and then easy to get lost in the crowd, we watch it on TV with the bonus of the commentary. At the end of the procession, Santa Claus always arrives, dressed in his full regalia. Once, a couple of years ago during a very hot pageant, the poor guy had a fainting spell.

When I was little, there was only the Adelaide Pageant, but over the last decade there have been increasingly more and more local pageants happening in the suburbs. Emma is going to be involved in our church float, dressed as an angel, along with other children. That'll be this Friday night. Then there'll be another one, in our own town, on Saturday morning. It's a great chance for local businesses to let their hair down, get dressed up and give themselves a bit of free advertising.

2) Attending beaches and swimming pools after finishing a year of study are always popular pastimes.

3) It's always great to go at least once to the movies, where it's cool and dark to get out of the heat.

4) We enjoy driving around to see people's electric light displays at night. One local town, Lobethal, has such huge displays on most of their homes that tour buses drive up from the city just to see it. Blake still remembers and chats about last years light displays, when he was still only 2, so it must've made a lovely impression. One street around the corner from us is always very well decorated and lit, so I'm grateful to them for the display. I might even post thank-you letters in a few of their letter boxes this year.

5) "Carols By Candlelight" are popular in all the suburbs. Ours is held in the local part one night in December, with guest artists and vending stalls. Once again, the Adelaide one in Elder Park by the River Torrens is the biggest. These nights are always very pretty when the sun sets and then thousands of little flames of light appear all over the park.

6) This year, there's going to be a German festival in our nearby town of Hahndorf, which was settled by the Germans. Saint Nicholas will be arriving, and there'll be displays of dollshouses and trees and gingerbread houses. Emma & I are looking forward to that one.

7) Traditional Christmas roast turkey and plum pudding is still a favourite on Christmas Day. But cold Christmas ham and salads are just as popular, especially in the evening.

8) Every year, the Adelaide Brewery sets up such a wonderful display of Christmas attractions on their back lawn that people set up food and drink stalls and sideshows just to get in with the crowds. Shows how much money the Brewery makes each year. Last year, some years trespassed over the fence very late at night and stole baby Jesus from the Nativity feature! Although they were caught on film doing it, he was never recovered and they had to produce a new one.

9) Christmas Day itself is always very tiring for us. After church we whiz off to either my family or Andrew's family party, then go to the other side's party in the evening, and we try to alternate lunch and dinner each year. This gets exhausting, kids get tired and grouchy, and I'd like to think of a different system, but it's hard to change a tradition that's been set like concrete since before we were even married.

I'd love to post some Christmas card O/S this year, so if you'd like to receive one from me and I haven't got your postal address, please give me an email! I guess late November is late enough to think of details like this.

God Bless,

Saturday, November 24, 2007

A new page in the History book

Today we all went to vote in the big Federal Election. After 11 years as our Prime Minister, John Howard and his Liberal Government have been beaten. The leader of the Opposition, Kevin Rudd, is now our new PM. In fact it was quite a landslide victory. As I'm typing this, there are parties happening all over the country, being broadcasted on every TV channel. It's exciting because it's so obvious that Mr Rudd will be completely different to Mr Howard. I hope it'll be to our benefit.

My 12yo son, Logan, has been quite interested in following the political debate this year, and it's been good to try to keep up with it for his sake. We know that the new Labor Government claim to have wonderful ideas for families. They plan to give each young family $200 for dental care are talking about every student from Year 9 to Year 12 having their own personal computer and making the education system more attractive. Apparently Mr Rudd has a great heart for youth and education.

Well, as the economy is on an upturn and the unemployment rate is as low as it's been for very many years, I'd have to give my condolences to Mr Howard and say he's done a great job.
And Mr Rudd, if only I had a chance to say a word to you, I'd ask that in your zeal for education, please don't forget homeschoolers!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Birthday Week

Emma is now 9 years old. Instead of cramming everything she wanted to do into one day, which wouldn't have been possible anyway, we ended up having a birthday week. Here are some of her highlights.
* We gave her a Nintendo DS, which she really wanted, and a couple of games to start her off.
* Other relatives gave her money, which she has only just finished spending. She bought a few more DS games, a new beanie kid bear, a book and a paint your own mug kit, so it stretched a long way.
* We dropped the boys off with my parents and took Emma and her friend Hannah to a waterslide complex in the city.
* We took Emma, Logan and Blake to Fasta Pasta for dinner to celebrate her birthday.
Those 9 years have passed very fast.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

I thought this was a bit ironic!

The book I'm reading is "The Artist's Way" by Julia Cameron. In each chapter there are quotes from notable historical heroes and people of note on the margins of each page. In the section I was reading today was a quote from Buddha. It said, "To keep the body in good health is a duty. Otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear." Now, my immediate thought was, "This may be true, but why is it coming from a man who is always portrayed by artists and stonemasons as morbidly obese?" Now perhaps the real Buddha was trim, taut and terrific. I've heard this theory, but if this is the case, why do his statues make him appear as if he's a candidate for the cardiac ward and ought to go on a diet and get to the gym?

I'd like to add that I've known a few practising Buddhists and they've been lovely, caring people. I had to study Buddhism, along with the other major world religions, at High School in a subject called, "History of Ideas." I've even read some texts by authors who have tried to integrate both Buddhism and Christianity into their own personal lives. However, I know that any understanding I have is fairly shallow. Coming from a Christian background, I don't know a great deal about Buddhism, but here are a few observations.

Julia Cameron herself, in "The Artist's Way" says, "Creativity requires action and part of that action must be physical. It is one of the pitfalls of westerners adopting eastern meditation techniques to bliss out and render ourselves high but dysfunctional. We lose our grounding and with it, our capacity to act in the world." Interesting thought!

My pastor and a team of others, including one of my sisters-in-law, have just returned from a missions trip to Sri Lanka. They showed us all some beautiful slides and told us interesting stories. The pastor mentioned the prevalence of Buddhism among the people of Sri Lanka and told us that it's amazing to visit the country with an Australian perspective. Over here, most people we come across who practise Buddhism (and there are relatively few) emphasize the peaceful, introspective aspect, and karma, nirvana, respecting all living creatures, and searching for happiness within. That was what they expected to find from the Buddhists in Sri Lanka but instead, they are far, far more militant, throwing their weight around and persecuting minority groups. Also interesting.

It's fairly late at night and I wasn't really sure where I was going with this when I started it. I guess I'm just glad to be born into a Christian culture with a chance to practise my Christian beliefs without persecution. Because when you think about it, in spite of the reputation we sometimes have of being "pushy" and "intolerant" of others, Christianity is by far the least "pushy" and aggressive of all major world religions. We don't arrest, molest or torture anybody who differs from us, unlike the others, especially in their home countries. And that's just part of what Jesus meant when he spoke of his followers being the light and salt of the world. Praise God for that!

Monday, November 12, 2007

I knew I'd find one eventually!

A sleepy koala up a gum tree!
This cuddly fellow was in a tree right above the church carpark on Sunday morning. It was very patriotic of him because we'd just finished our Remembrance Day service. World War I ended on 11.11. 1918 and every year on that date we observe a minute of silence at 11 o'clock as a tribute to the "diggers", those Anzac soldiers who had died in action on either the Turkish coast at Gallipoli Cove or later, in France. This year, as Remembrance Day happened to fall on a Sunday, we had a very touching service. The children all stayed in the main auditorium instead of going out to Sunday School and as it approached 11.00, we were all given sprigs of rosemary to place on the altar out the front in honour of those WWI soldiers. Rosemary is traditionally used for remembrance and apparently it grows in profusion around Gallipoli.
It was especially meaningful to me this year because one of my ongoing projects has been typing out my father's hand-written genealogy for him. My grandfather was part of the 10th Battalion of Australian soldiers. He'd enlisted shortly after the horrendous Gallipoli campaign had been aborted. Then he was stationed in Egypt and later France. As I typed the details of that terrible War, the conditions these soldiers had to bear for month after month were brought home to me. The gruelling marches, living in trenches, being ordered out to that piece of ground between the trenches known as "No Man's Land," where so many young men were machine gunned down. I think that 1914-18 War must be one of the most barbarous of World History. And I look at my two boys and think, "If they'd been born just about a century earlier, this might have been them." The sight of all the unmarked graves in the poppy fields is always sobering.
My grandfather had been fast and fit and he'd been a "runner"; one of those soldiers whose job was to sprint and deliver messages from one officer to another. He'd had to wear a gas mask, and found it difficult to sprint full pelt without being able to draw a decent breath. The rubber of the masks had given him chronic sinusitis and rhinitus. Of course, I can't help thinking that if my grandfather had been killed in action, neither me nor my children would be alive today! How interesting to acknowledge God's hand of protection on our own lives before we were even born.
We finished up with singing "Advance Australia Fair." To me, national anthems are always tear-jerkers whenever I hear them, no matter whose they are. So seeing this gorgeous koala was fantastic! Immediately I cried, "I've got to have him for my blog!" and we happened to have the camera with us, because it was also Emma's birthday. (More about that later)

Thursday, November 8, 2007

A grey elephant in Denmark

My nephews visited last night and told us this really cool little mental puzzle that's well worth trying out on your family and friends. So choose your victim and tell them you're going to prove that you can read their mind. Here's how it goes.

1) Think of a number between 1 and 10.

2) Multiply it by 9.

3) Add those two digits together so that you end up with a 1-digit number. (And whichever number they chose, the sum will add up to 9. That's because the sum total of anything that's multiplied by 9 will add up to 9. Think about it, 9, 18, 27, 36, 45 etc. all the way to 90.)

4) Now subtract 5 from this number. (Of course they will end up with the number 4)

5) Work out the corresponding letter that matches this digit. For example, 1 would be A, 2 would be B and so on. (So naturally your victim will end up with D)

6) Now think of a country that begins with this letter. (Denmark is usually the first country that springs to mind because countries beginning with D are pretty sparse.)

7) Now think of an animal whose name begins with the second letter of this country. (The second letter in Denmark is E, so normally, "elephant" will automatically be chosen.)

8) Think of the colour of this animal. (Normally, people will decide that elephants are grey.)


This worked like a charm in our household. But I've got to warn you, it's not totally foolproof. My nephews told us how they'd tried it on my Dad (their grandfather). It seems that instead of choosing Denmark for his country beginning with D, he chose Dalmatia. Then, when Travis and Jarrad made their big announcement, "You're thinking of a grey elephant in Denmark," he said, "No, I'm not. I'm thinking of a brown ass in Dalmatia!" We all thought that was pretty funny. They said, "Only Papa would have to think of some tiny, obscure little country that probably only has a population of a couple of hundred people." But they say it's worked over 90% of the time with everyone else.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

From Andrew's Workshop

Here's a sample of some of the projects my hubby has done. I'll start with something cute and easy. This fire engine was made for Blake, and as you can see, Blake loves it.
Andrew was asked to build a system of library boxes for the Primary School that my sis-in-law works at.

This has to be one of my very favourites. The chaise lounge! It was one of his first year TAFE projects and now sits in our bedroom. I use it for my reading, writing, Bible study etc.

Here's a cubby with a deck, slippery dip and sandpit and rope that he just finished recently. The owners have a 3yo boy and a baby girl. Lucky kids.

This is a fort he built as an experiment and we haven't sold it yet, so it sits in our backyard and our kids use it. There's Emma on it now. The idea is that Andrew builds something to sell on Ebay from time to time, so the equipment in our backyard is in constant change. So I guess our kids are lucky kids too.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

I'm a bit of a pushover (sometimes)

I took the kids for a browse in a new Harvey Norman store that's just been built in our town. It has furniture, white-goods, electrical goods, and they wanted to look at computer and Play Station games. Blake, my 3 year old, caught sight of "Buzz Junior, Robots." We already have "Buzz Junior, Monkeys," which he loves, and he clutched "Robots" to his chest asking, "Mummy, can we have this one?"

"I don't think so," I told him.

"But I really, really, really want to borrow it."

When he used the word 'borrow', I realised that he thought it was just another place like the library or video rental shop. I think he's used to seeing us borrow things more often than buying them. So I explained to him, "You can't borrow things from here. If we took that one home, we'd have to buy it and keep it."

Then he eyes lit up. "To keep it? Oh Mummy, thank you!" And he threw his arms around my leg and gave me a big hug. We all thought his mistake was pretty funny, but he kept holding that Play Station game against his chest as we continued browsing and I could see that he seriously thought I'd been telling him the game was ours.

Logan said, "You'll have to get it now, Mum, or he'll be really sad."

So I bought it! It was one of the times I had enough money on hand, and I looked at his face and really didn't want to let him down. Does this sort of thing happen always? No! But would it happen for people who are older and not so cute? Probably less likely. I'd like to put it to the test with my husband. He'd say, "That dress would cost you $?" And I'd say, "A new dress! Oh thank you!"

Anyway, the game is pretty good and the whole family enjoys it.