Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Our Read Alouds from 2009

Again, for posterity, I am listing some of the more notable stories we read aloud as a family in 2009. Since January is nearly over, it's probably time to re-start our "We've Just Finished Reading" list in the right hand side bar. Asterisks mark the stories we liked best.

For the 2008 list, click here.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne (slightly abridged)

**Heidi (1880) by Johanna Spyri.
Anna wrote in her journal, "I like you being kind and I like your daughter. I know that your daughter is sick. I know that I had to go back to the mountain with grampr."
Two questions for Heidi afficionados: Who was Anna pretending to be when she wrote this letter? Who was she writing the letter to?

**Tom's Clockwork Dragon by Jonathan Emmett.

Blinky Bill the Mischievous Koala (the book of the Yoram Gross film of Dorothy Wall's Australian classic)

*Anne of Green Gables (1908) by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Babar's Little Girl by Laurent de Brunhoff

*Matilda by Roald Dahl.
Anna says, "This book is about a trouble-maker." Matilda is Dahl's heroine in this story, but despite being a "reader of books" who enjoys the humour of Dickens's Pickwick Papers and a "mathematical prodigy" who can multiply 19 by 14 instantly in her head, by chapter 8, she has not yet realised there are alternatives to responding to meanness with spite. With the help of her teacher Miss Honey, Matilda finds a better way of dealing with her enemies, thankfully.

*Horton Hears a Who! by Dr Seuss
*Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr Seuss

*Doctor Dolittle's Zoo (1925) by Hugh Lofting
**The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle (1922) by Hugh Lofting

**The Trumpet of the Swan (1970) by EB White
*Stuart Little (1945) by EB White

**Frog and Toad Together (1972) by Arnold Lobel

The Musical Life of Gustav Mole by Michael Twinn, illus Kathryn Meyrick, tape narrated by Patrick Macnee

Dumbo from Disney

*Ten Boys who Made a Difference and Ten Girls Who Made a Difference by Irene Howat, from the Light Keepers series

*Nothing by Mick Inkpen

**The 500 Hats of Bartholemew Cubbins (1938) by Dr Seuss

We have also listened to The Lost World (1912) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle on audiobook CD.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Home Grown Pumpkin

I know I said I wasn't posting, but I have been taking a few photos and couldn't resist sharing. This is the giant pumpkin Jeff has been growing in our back yard. The kids cut a face in it - not that it is halloween or anything - and will be appreciating it's candle-lit magnificence tomorrow night.Notice all the boys' buzz cuts? That's another home-grown (or rather home-shorn) deal. Jeff found nits and lice in Sam and Joshua's hair yesterday, so the whole family has been either shaved or drenched in anti-lice oil (disgusting!) depending on gender and willingness to look a bit like an egg, or like someone who could more easily get work as a nightclub bouncer than a pastor!

Doorstep Frog #2

We came home from church on Sunday evening to find our second frog on the doorstep. No-one stepped on him coming through the door, so we were able to watch him for a few moments before herding the kids off to bed:I think he was a Western Banjo Frog:Certainly a very different frog to the first one we found on our doorstep.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Calvin Club

Cathy at The Best Book Co-Op is going to be hosting a collective reading of John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion, through the Calvin Club.

I found a copy of Calvin's Institutes sitting on the family bookshelf: it is Volume 20 of Britannica's Great Books of the Western World series. Unfortunately, even at the Cathy's promised gentle pace (getting through Book I in 2010), I am not sure I will be able to partake. I have just applied to work part time, 2 1/2 days a week, as the Children's Ministry Worker at my church(!!). Not to mention the other project I am working on, writing a book. However, I would heartily recommend this challenge to anyone who would like to get a better grip on what they believe and why.

Meredith at The Key to the Door has decided to give the Calvin Club a go already. Why not join Cathy and Meredith at the Calvin Club?

Swimming Lessons and Levels

For the last three weeks, Anna and Joshua have been attending swimming lessons at a nearby pool complex. We moved Joshua from one school to another after term 1 last year, and he missed swimming lessons at both schools. So Joshua and Anna have been in the same classes, which has been great for developing their camaraderie.

Meanwhile, I have been doing laps. I began with 1km and have swum 1.5km a few times, but in this second fortnight the lessons are shorter so I am working hard to get my 1km done in the limited time. The big improvement has been in my ability to do butterfly. I didn't even dare attempt it the first week, but after struggling through 25m in the short lap pool the second week, I am now confidently swimming 50m of butterfly at a time in the Olympic (50m) pool and 100m total, with hopes to increase that next week.

In the first fortnight of swimming classes, Joshua and Anna did Level 1, which covers very basic water awareness skills. Handily, they both passed (although, to be honest, it would have been hard for them to fail) and they moved on to Level 2 for the second fortnight together. I am not sure they will both pass this level, but they at least are getting their first introduction to swimming strokes. One of the skills they need to demonstrate to pass this level is to "Swim 5m freestyle" and it has been fascinating and hilarious to watch Anna demonstrate what she is learning to me afterward. Her thrashing arms and legs remind me of two windmills on steroids, but then, I imagine I look pretty hilarious as I practice my butterfly.

One of the things I have found interesting is how, even in Summer holidays, conversations between parents seem to find the easiest common ground in a comparison of the achievements of their children. I am not going to pretend that I don't do this as well, but it struck me on Friday just how much we parents seem to fall into this, almost as a habit.

"What level is your child in?"
"Level 1."
"Oh, they'll pass that one easily. Level 3 is the killer. My son is on his third go at it. I hope he passes this summer!"

"My daughter is up to Level 3 this summer already. What level are your lot in?"
"They haven't done swimming lessons before, so they're in Level 1."
"Gasp! Oh, well, my son is only in Level 2 this summer."

"I remember my son was in Level 3 six times. In the end, they let him go on to the next level even though he couldn't float."
"I find floating easy. I could float for half an hour if I wanted."
"But boys' bodies are different and that can make it harder for them to float."

Of course, many of these conversations are not about competing, just comparing. When parents discuss what our children have done or are able to do, it can help us to identify those things we have in common, so we can find other things to converse about, and eventually develop a friendship. But at times this sort of conversation can devolve into one-upmanship, which is pretty sad. Just sayin'.

So what is the alternative? Meredith has some questions to start conversations, or fill those awkward pauses, in this post on hospitality.

Friday, 8 January 2010

TwiFun 101

The funniest Twilight-related quote I've read in ages:

EDWARD: You know what vampires love? Baseball!
BELLA: Really?
EDWARD: Sure! Haven't you ever heard of vampire bats?

For more, check out Eric Snider's Snide Remarks.

Friday, 1 January 2010

Happy New Year, New Decade!

Jeff and I have a tradition to go on a date on NYE and talk about our past year and the things we're thankful to God for. As we've added more children to our family and moved away from handy grandparent babysitters, we've found this harder to keep up. This NYE is the first we've spent apart in our marriage, though. Jeff spent it in Albany with the two little ones visiting Granny and Gramps and I spent it here in Perth with the two big kiddies, taking them to swimming lessons and celebrating with bubbly apple cider (non-alcoholic!) with dinner. Jeff gets back today, so I spent most of yesterday evening (with the kids' help, and then on my own after they went to bed) cleaning & tidying the house. But New Year's always brings the itch for change in me, and I decided to move the furniture around in the lounge room late into the night. I wonder if Jeff'll notice the difference when he gets home?
This morning I finished the job, sorting all our CDs out in the CD drawer of our coffee table. I found a CD by eli, called "Things I prayed For", that I haven't listened to for ages, and slipped it in the player while the kids and I had lunch. The first two songs bought tears to my eyes (they always do, that's why I bought the CD in the first place). The second song in particular shall provide food for thought as you enter your New Year and New Decade, I hope:

The Lumber Song

Said a friend to a friend one day:
Was a man who passed away
St. Peter met him at the gate
Pete said: Walk with me if you will
I'll take you to the house you built
Man said: I can't wait
passed a mansion made of stone
But with each new house he's shown
They get smaller by degrees
Stopped in front of a two room shack
Peter said: Hope you're happy with that
Man said: How can this be? Pete say:

That's all the lumber - that's all the lumber
That's all the lumber you sent
Looks like the builder - man, He's got your number
That's all the lumber you sent

Man didn't know what to say
Poor guy was blown away
Said: you mean this is what I deserve?
Pete said: I'm afraid it's so
It's too late but now you know
Shoulda done better work
Said: you mean not lie and cheat
And helpin' old ladies across the street?
Pete says: Well, that's a start
Remember that man back in that great big house?
He found out early what it's all about
Built that house with his heart - as for you

That's all the lumber - that's all the lumber
That's all the lumber you sent
Looks like the builder - man, He's got your number
That's all the lumber you sent

What if that man was me
And all failed that miserably
You're showin' me things I don't wanna see
St. Peter if you can
Send me back to earth again
Is that somethin' you can do?
Peter said: It ain't up to me
If it was I'd like to see
How you plan to improve
Said: I'd love God and fellow man
Take a wife and make a stand
Be the givin'est guy I can be
And when I get back to this neighbourhood
There'd be a gigantic pile of wood
And I'd say: What's this I see? - and you tell me

That's all the lumber - that's all your lumber
That's all the lumber you sent
Big Boss'll help you - hammer it all together
That's all the lumber you sent

What lumber are you sending on ahead of you?

1 Corinthians 3:5-15 says this:
"What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe - as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labour. For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building.
By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on his foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through flames."

We don't buy our salvation - no one can build a foundation other than the one already laid, the foundational work of Jesus Christ, who died on the cross in our place, so that we might live rightly with God. But we shall all be rewarded for the work we do for Him now, on this earth, before that Day of Judgement.

Matthew 6:19-21 records Jesus' words:
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

Are you storing up treasure in heaven?