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 themIbid. 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”. ๐Ÿ™‚ )

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.


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. ๐Ÿ™‚
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!).

In A Good Place

“A dead end street is a good place to turn aroundโ€ 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 โ€“ a porcelain carousel. Got it almost at half price. ๐Ÿ™‚

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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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 Santaโ€™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….


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?

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.

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.

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)…it 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.’