Mar 30, 2008

Family Service vs Earth Hour...who will win??

Well, after talking about it, and sounding like we were gonna be really green and hippy about Earth Hour, we piked.

Merl had a sermon to write for this morning's family service at church. And, as he says, "I was such a good planner that I left it to the last minute...". So the options open to us were
1) sit in the dark for an hour and then spend 2 1/2 hours on the computer
2) forget Earth Hour and get to bed at a reasonable time
I figure we didn't use any more power than if we'd observed Earth Hour, and we got some sleep, so that's all good :)

Family Service was great. Attendance was down a bit, but that is common for family services. Some people just can't stand them and stay away. And I can kinda see their point. I have been to my fair share of abysmal, uninspiring, chaotic, no-fun-for-anyone family services.

But, this one was fun, and although I might be a teensy bit biased, I think it had good accessible content for all ages. I also think that God made His presence felt and that the full spectrum of ages were able to worship as well as learn. Not an easy feat! Merl introduced the song King of Love, by Duggie Dug Dug to the congregation, which has some beautiful sign-language actions that go with it. I think this is partly what enabled people to participate in worship together.

The service was based on the 'Harvest' service suggestions in Scripture Union's The All-Age Service Annual. Which I highly recommend. We got heaps of good feedback after the service, which is always good :)

Using the Grocery Store Wars (5min Star Wars spoof) as a bouncing board, Merl introduced the centrality of food to our daily lives. He talked about the parable of the Good Samaritan and how everyone is our neighbour. He talked about how our food was one of the ways we are connected to people on the other side of the world;
"When you buy that 99c chocolate bar, or eat your easter eggs, your neighbour is the child slave in Ivory Coast who harvested the cocoa...
Do our food choices make us complicit in the sufferings of others?...
Is there something else I can buy that instead eases people's suffering and is a blessing to someone else's life?
Can I give someone an honest day's wage for their honest day's work?"
All good stuff.

P.S. Earth Hour seems to have gone well in Christchurch, anyway... Read more...

Mar 29, 2008

Nappy Composting Service

Well, it turns out that any disposable nappy can be composted!

School Project Leads to Nappy Compost Business

A Christchurch girl's school science project is being developed into a business thanks to a Rangiora couple, a Canterbury firm and a multi-national company.

In 2003, Natalie Crimp, then 14, scooped an Environment Canterbury prize for her science project on composting dirty disposable nappies.

She shredded the nappies and threw them into a rotating drum with plenty of leaves, turning it regularly and ensuring it was kept warm.

Six weeks later she had compost which could be easily separated from the non-biodegradable plastic...

How cool is that?!

Mar 28, 2008

Welcome to the outside world, Baby Maia

My friend Anna had her third baby at 3pm today, by C-Section.

This was a risky pregnancy (and risky caesarian) which has thankfully ended well. Hallelujah!

Welcome to the big wide world, little one.

I don't know any more details than that, sorry. I got a text from Anna at 1.30 saying that she was bleeding again and that she was on her way into theatre. I then heard nothing, but prayed lots, until 4pm when the Proud Dad sent out a group text message, saying that Maia was born at 3pm, and that "both well, more details later".

So that's all good. The pregnancy was 36 weeks I think, so she's not even very prem, which is awesome :-)

Yay.

Mar 25, 2008

Earth Hour 2008, Are you ready?

Saturday March 29, 8pm local time.

Although our lovely City is not officially participating in this year's Earth Hour, Christchurch City, (5 hours drive from here) is.

More about Earth Hour here.

The idea is to turn off your lights and extraneous electrical appliances for an hour. Here's a recap of what happened in 2007, from the Earth Hour Wiki (linked above)
The 2007 Earth Hour was part of a wider awareness campaign that aimed to reduce Sydney's carbon emissions by 5%. 68,506 individuals and 2,270 businesses registered their intention to participate on the Earth Hour website. EnergyAustralia, a utility, attributed a 10.2% decrease in consumption during the hour to the campaign. A poll of about 1000 people conducted afterwards suggested that 57% of Sydneysiders participated – some 2.2 million people.
Find out if your city is participating here

I think we'll join in anyway, regardless of City participation. Sounds like a great excuse for a candle-lit evening and real conversation :) Read more...

Mar 24, 2008

Quotes from Charlotte Mason's Home Education

5th Edition, published 1906
By Education is Atmosphere it is not meant that a child should be isolated in what may be called a 'child environment' especially adapted and prepared; but that we should take into account the educational value of his natural home atmosphere, both as regards persons and things, and should let him live freely among his proper conditions. It stultifies a child to bring down to his world to the 'child's' level...

The mind feeds on ideas, and therefore children should have a generous curriculum.
In my previous Charlotte Mason post, I said that she'd been out of print for about a hundred years, but I have since learned that this is not the case. They were republished in the States in 1989 as "The Original Homeschooling Series" by Charlotte Mason, and are still in print. I'm enjoying it very much. I've just started reading the first volume, and she's very readable.

Also came across another quote today which I'll share;
To be Queen Elizabeth within a definite area, deciding sales, banquets, labors and holidays; to be Whiteley within a certain area, providing toys, boots, sheets cakes. and books, to be Aristotle within a certain area, teaching morals, manners, theology, and hygiene; I can understand how this might exhaust the mind, but I cannot imagine how it could narrow it. How can it be a large career to tell other people's children about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one's own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone? No; a woman's function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute.

G.K Chesterton, The Emancipation of Domesticity


Mar 23, 2008

Get thee gone, Oh big desk!

We just rearranged our Living Room!

Ever since we moved into this house I've been lobbying to replace our great big desk which took up a whole corner of our living room, and squished the couch up against the piano so we couldn't use it easily, and created a huge 'junk magnet' surface area, but no pay-off of drawers or shelves underneath it.

So, instead of just whingeing about it, I prayed about it with a friend last week (it only took me a year of being annoyed about this desk to think about asking God if there was a solution), and the next day I dragged Merl to a second hand office furniture shop and he saw a style that met some but not all of his requirements. And then the next day Merl was talking to someone from church who said "Oh, we're about to move house and need to get rid of some desks - just come over and help yourself!" So he had a look, and there was one that was just perfect! for free! yay.

So now we have a living room with couch and chairs in a cosy arrangement around a corner bookshelf, a very usable piano (hooray!), a computer out of reach of Miss1's fingers, and we rearranged the kids' books as well. So that's all good. Read more...

Mar 22, 2008

Zero Waste Update

One of my two readers asked me the other day how my zero waste thing was going. So, herewith, an update.

I haven't posted any piccies in a while because our rubbish bags are back to one 45L bag each week. This is due to my decision to put Miss1 back into disposable nappies at night-time, following her horrible week-long open-sore nappy rash that cleared up overnight when we reverted to disposables. This, in addition to 3 additional disposable nappies a week from my friend's little boy, and voila - you have a recipe for full rubbish bags.

I am going to stop worrying about it. But perhaps we could keep our eye out for compostable disposables - I know they exist - but, in reality, how much composting goes on in a landfill anyway? Practically none. (Because most of the pile of refuse is anaerobic, so composting doesn't happen). So it would be a complete waste of money. So perhaps not :)

There, I've just talked myself out of a move that, while on the surface looks cool and green, is actually just a big waste of money. Go me... Read more...

Mar 18, 2008

Preparing for Passover

This year our homegroup (bible study group/cell group/life group/whatever term you like) is having a passover 'meal' again. Merl and I organised one in our last homegroup a couple of years ago, and it was really terrific. An amazing thing to experience a 'last supper' of our own, and to see even more ways in which Jesus fulfills prophecy - even prophecy that is not written, but is symbolic in the gestures and the foods (e.g. the hidden matzah that is striped, pierced and unleavened, then broken and hidden for a time then found to great reward).

We use a Messianic Seder found at these links: Preparation; Haggadah (words and instructions for the meal); Explanation. This Haggadah is a great one for us Gentiles, because it explains everything, as opposed to some that we looked at, written for use by Messianic Jews, which, naturally, assumed that you knew stuff about Judaism.

We will not actually have a meal as such - just the ceremonial foods, and maybe some cake or nibbles at the 'meal' portion of the service. Last time we did it, we cut out many of the optional bits and were still going 2 hours later. Which is great, and perhaps if we were all mentally ready for it being one of our big Feast Days, we'd have a big meal together as well. But since it is an interesting, albeit powerfully moving, thing to do in our homegroup gathering, keeping as close to our normal running time will be good.

So now I just need to hope that all the right stuff is available at the good supermarket in town. Once again, I have left my passover purchasing until the last minute :) Thankfully the actual Passover on the Jewish calendar is not for another month, so hopefully they won't be completely out of horseradish paste, and will have bought in the Matzah ahead of time...

Image from here

Mar 15, 2008

Fav quotes from "Real-Life Homeschooling"

From "Real-Life Homeschooling - The stories of 21 families who teach their children at home", by Rhonda Barfield.

This is a quote from Kristin (age 23), the eldest of 3 kids whose family home educates because it fits best with their lifestyle and their ideas of what being human all about. They have no formal religious or faith structures, and practice 'unschooling'. Kristin no longer lives at home, but works as a Zookeeper, and is responsible not only for animals but for other staff, as well as the supervision and training of volunteers.
"I went to public school up until fourth grade," she says. "Fifth through eighth, I was homeschooled, then decided I wanted to go back to high school to be a 'big girl.' I quickly realised that was the wrong decision, but in the long run it has given me a good perspective on homeschool versus traditional school." Kristin thinks that school forces children to choose between conforming to the norm, acting like a bully, or being shy. "By the time they are ready to make friends outside the family unit, in the neighborhood, or through other activities, homeschool children are already comfortable with being themselves," she says. "At home, a close family like ours knows who you are and loves you anyway. That builds a strong base of confidence, which makes it easier to say no to the things you don't want to do and yes to the things you do."
And another piece which really struck me was the 'best advice' and 'worst advice' opinion of Lynda, a woman who has Wiyot Indian ancestry (who herself insisted that she preferred 'Indian' to 'Native American') and homeschools one of her sons, some of her grandchildren and a foster son who spends time with them as the need arises.
Best advice: "Believe because you do know," from Lynda's grandfather. "Follow what you think you know because you really do know it. Go with your gut feeling."

Worst advice: 'They' - the doctors, the schools, the politicians - know best

Mar 14, 2008

Still thinking about homeschooling

Went to the Library yesterday and got out a whole bunch of books on home education.

One specifically written for people wanting to home educate in New Zealand, one "Charlotte Mason Companion", some of Charlotte Mason's original books (which I was stoked to find here, as they are apparently very hard to find, having been out of print for about 100 years), and one book of case-studies on 21 different families and their experiences of home education.

I started with the book of case studies ("Real Life Homeschooling", by Rhonda Barfield), and have found it to be very helpful. One of my secret concerns was that if we decided to home-educate that we would "turn into them" (for 'them', insert whatever your current stereotype is). This book profiles families from a huge range of backgrounds, faiths, family structures, and environments. No two families homeschool for exactly the same reasons or in exactly the same way.

Which shouldn't be surprising, really, since the opportunity for individual teaching is one of the big attractions of home education.

And most of the children have ample opportunity to socialise with a huge range of people of different ages etc - not just their age-group as happens in a formal school setting.

The Charlotte Mason books I got out so that I could learn more abut her and her methods/ideas. Everything I know about her philosophy of education comes from this site, and I felt the need to explore further. From what I have read, this style of teaching and learning fits well with my own ideas, and in fact we will certainly be using some of her concepts (like the use of 'living' books to teach history etc) around here, regardless of whether we decide to send the kids to school or not.

I've also got in touch with the coordinators of the two local groups of home educators and found out when they meet and all that kind of stuff. I hope to get along to one of the meetings in the next month or so and meet some of the people who actually do it in this place at this time.

So, the journey continues...

Mar 11, 2008

Sermon on the Mount

In the midst of a discussion about Christian politics in response to an earlier post, I have been sharing some thinking brought out of some recent reading of the Sermon on the Mount (In the Bible, Matthew chapters 5-7), where Jesus basically just sits down and starts teaching a whole pile of wisdom.

I re-post it here, because I like it, and the theme of humility in obedience is an important one...

"Lately I've been reading the Sermon on the Mount (as I think I've said already) and I've been grappling with what Jesus meant when he said we need to be MORE upright than the pharisees. I'm coming to think that we need to strive for that personal discipline and attention to their own morality that they had. These guys yearned for God, and were strict with their own righteousness. But we need to find a way to discard the judgmentalism and closed-mindedness of the pharisees.

We need to see a way through the 'rules' for an 'upright life' to find the heart of God, and seek after that. It requires huge huge doses of humility - because without humility we will never hear the whole voice of God. Our pride will prevent us from hearing things we don't think He 'should' be saying.

That has really been the whole thrust of the Sermon on the Mount, in my latest reading - HUMILITY has poured from the pages - the direction to turn the other cheek, to give all we have and more, that the meek will inherit the earth, to love your enemies as you love your friends, to not swear oaths, but let your yes be yes and your no, no (like a servant to their master), to pray in quiet, to give in secret, to fast with no-one knowing.

All this, in tension with the striving for higher 'motivation' standards than the law demands - despising someone is the same as murder, lust is the same as adultery, Christ coming to fulfil the law - not abolish it."

I'm curious to see where God is leading me with this study - perhaps because humility is a prerequisite for submission? Perhaps I'm about to be proven completely wrong in some area and need to do a potentially embarrassing about-turn? Perhaps neither of these, but something else. We shall see... Read more...

Mar 10, 2008

Siblings at Play

This afternoon. Yes, that is dirt around Miss1's mouth - she had recently been exploring a pot-plant. (The sorry remains of our sunflower race, as it happens. We have one plant valiantly struggling on, but whether it flowers before the Southern Hemisphere winter is upon us is doubtful...) Read more...

Mar 9, 2008

Prayer Request, if you pray

For my friend Anna who is in hospital with placenta previa. Her pregnancy is not quite 34 weeks, and she is scheduled for a caesarian on April 3rd, but on Friday night began contractions and had a major bleed. They prepped her for an emergency caesar at 2am Saturday, but things settled down and the bleeding stopped. For now she is on total bed-rest and being very closely observed.

Please pray for her safety and the safety of baby Maia. For some reason I have complete confidence that baby Maia will be just fine, but I am secretly (well, not so secretly now that I've just blogged it!) fearful about Anna not making it through. Probably more to do with Mum's death than anything else, but I can't really shake it.

Basically, the concern is that the placenta will fail and she will massively haemorrhage. The likelihood of this is quite high - that is why she's been in hospital for 2 months already.

So, prayers much appreciated :-)

Mar 8, 2008

how to not stress out yourself and your preschooler

Thought this was a very kind and gentle article on preschool parenting. Yay for the recognition that failing to send your 2 year old to swim classes does not make you a bad parent!

Preschool Homeschooling
by Bev Krueger, Creator of Eclectic Homeschool Online

"Eager to begin assisting their children down the path of life many young parents schedule play dates, attend Mom and baby swim classes, and busily start planning all the necessary activities to give their baby a head start in life. At this early date they haven't yet realized they are trying to speed their way to the moment when that beloved child leaves their door for a life on their own. Yes, that's a moment all parents want their children to achieve fully prepared for the vagaries of life, but the closer you get to that moment the more time you wish you had. By the time your child is sixteen, you find them running willy nilly towards that goal themselves just when you're ready to relax and take it a little slower..."

Mar 5, 2008

Storyline Online

Merl's Aunt (one of the many librarians in the family), passed this fabulous site on to us.

Actors in the Screen Actor's Guild read out kid's stories, and there are little animations of the book's illustrations too. Very cool, and Miss4 quite likes it. Useful for rainy afternoons for about 15 minutes... Read more...

Mar 3, 2008

politics clarification

My last post may have had some of you thinking that I was a screaming Liberal, especially where I implied strong skepticism about "Conservatives" and their motives.

To clarify, especially for you American readers who are used to thinking of EVERYTHING in terms of Republican vs Democrat, I personally am morally 'conservative', but am extremely wary of the politics and economics of traditionally Right-wing parties. When the Conservatives get into government, it appears to me that the blind are denied health care, the lame are likewise, the poor are blamed for their situation and the widows and fatherless are laid-off without social security and lose their state-funded housing. Not what Christ would be happy with, methinks.

On the other hand, I am also deeply suspicious of the social engineering and '(im)morality' brainwashing of the Left. When they get into power, we end up with ridiculously bloated bureaucracies, Nanny-state thought police everywhere, and crazy experimental legislation where they try to legislate a new completely permissive morality, with little idea as to what the social impact is going to be. Not conducive to raising morally-upright children...

So there you have it. Economically I am a socialist - I think the State should care for the people who can't care for themselves (I am aware of the complications that arise from this like generational dependency etc, but still think this is preferable to the alternative) - and personally I am a moral conservative. With the caveat that the state can't legislate morality. (But it also has to to a point - otherwise pedophilia and murder could be merely construed as 'lifestyle choices').

It all comes from being able to see where everyone is coming from and what they're trying to achieve. Useful for mediation, but it does come across as being kinda wishy-washy... Read more...

Mar 2, 2008

Doco heads-up "Demographic Winter"

This movie trailer looks intriguing.

Having been indoctrinated my whole life into thinking that the world is groaning under the burden of over-population, I am curious to see that there are some dissenting voices - and that those voices seem to belong to reputable sociologists and demographers.

Granted, the doco seems to be highly promoted by the Conservative Right in the States, but that does not in itself invalidate the argument - merely points out that the Conservatives will promote anything that argues for 'traditional family values'. And boy, does this do that.

The indicators are that the wealthier the population, the more highly educated the women, the more liberal the sexual morality, then the lower the birth rate. (i.e. people would rather have a bigger house and a trip to Hawaii than a third child). Europe, Russia, South Africa (amongst others) are currently all sitting at less than replacement rates - and even those that still have birth rates of over 2.1 (replacement rate), have declining rates - for example countries that 20 years ago had a birth rate of 5, now have one of 3. Go here for data on birth rates etc. The theory is that these will continue to fall.

On the other hand, who are the people who are having all the babies?

As this article at Dallas News says, on the same topic

...that means traditionalist Catholics, "full-quiver" Protestants, ultra-Orthodox Jews, pious Muslims and other believers who reject modernity's premises.

Like it or not, the future belongs to the fecund faithful.

Does that scare you? It does Philip Longman. In his 2004 book, The Empty Cradle, he warns fellow secular liberals that demography is destiny and that those who want to preserve modernity must start having more children than "fundamentalists."

Good luck with that.


Mar 1, 2008

Miss4's birthday party!

Despite pouring rain all night and the forced cancellation of outside play, Miss4's Jungle Party was a rollicking success!

I broke all my healthy eating rules with the kids munching on cheese Twisties, red-food-dyed cheerios, white, margarine-ed 'fairy bread', and a store-bought (but home decorated) cake. As a concession to healthy food choices there was a bowl of blueberries and a bowl of strawberries. Some strawberries did get eaten, but I suspect that not a single blueberry was tasted by any of the party-going kids (Miss1 thought they were great, though).

The cake was a masterpiece, if I do say so myself :-) It is my first attempt at decorating a cake and it was a lot of fun. I drew the same lion on the cake as I used on the invitations and the favour bags. A little OTT perhaps, but what the heck.

The kids had a blast decorating their head-bands into various jungle creatures. Some exotic species were chosen, including a couple of kangaroos and a blue-and-black tiger, and the kids could choose to get their faces painted too. The face-painting stretched the ingenuity of my cousin and I. How do you face-paint a kangaroo? Fortunately the kids didn't know either :-)

There was pin-the-tail-on-the-Zebra, and Merl organised a Safari (treasure) Hunt where the kids hunted for little tattoos (I found some cute cartoon jungle ones at the $2 shop). And we played "Sleepy Lions" (which is roaring around the place while the music plays, then dropping to the floor 'asleep' when the music stops), we read jungle stories, and we had a Jungle Parade where we marched around and around the house singing "In Africa there is a Jungle, EIEIO, and in that Jungle there is a ... kangaroo... " etc, and the kids joyfully joined in with appropriate noises and actions.

No epic meltdowns, and only a few minor ones - one from Miss4 who suddenly decided she "needed space" (which she does every so often when overwhelmed by stuff - or possibly to have a sulk, I'm not sure which actually - this behaviour may need some looking into. Sulking to get your way is not desirable). And a couple from the wee lass down the road who is ... um... not used to sharing or cooperating, as she doesn't get any practice at this at home. But the situation was resolved without pandering to her, so that is all good (we redirected play into Story Time at that point).

Merl had the brilliant thought of appointing a friend who was here with his son to be 'photographer', so we actually have quite a good photographic record of this birthday. Hooray! Read more...
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