Saturday, December 29, 2012

Jesus Storybook Bible Curriculum

Got home from holidays to find the JSB Curriculum for next year's Sunday School lessons has arrived.  Opened it tonight.  First impressions: really good.  Here's the highlights so far.

In introducing the material they point out that, amongst other things, they have assumed the following:
  • you have no permanent classroom (so none of the activities require permanent fixtures);
  • there is no place to leave or store materials (so we have kept materials and technologyto a minimum); 
  • your teachers are volunteers (so we have given as much guidance as possible on how to teach the lessons, kept preparation time to a minimum, but included a section of notes on the Bible text specifically for teachers); 
  • your teachers are scheduled on a rotation basis so that the children may not have the same teacher every lesson (so the lessons are self-contained);  
  • you have access to songs that tie into various Bible stories or themes and can teach them (we have suggested one or two points where a song will be useful, but the more songs you can include the better)
This is all good news for me. The curriculum itself comes in PDF form on a DVD so you print off the lessons and can make multiple copies for all your teaching staff.  We'll print and ring-bind.  You can print the hand-outs yourself or buy them as a set - one for Old Testament and one for New Testament.  Each set has about 22 handouts and cost about $5.75 per student, which for full colour printing is a much better option for me than going to the hassle of arranging printing and copying myself.  Cost then is about $87 for the curriculum plus about $12 per student for the full year.  Which is pretty good value.

And, a final highlight for today, is that they have included a master list of all the additional resources needed according to each lesson.  So I can go out at the start of each term and buy/find/borrow the craft materials and objects lessons that I need without having to go through each lesson individually to make my own list.  I really appreciate that and I've not seen it in any other material I've used.

A small gripe so far is that the included advertising (poster, postcard, bulletin insert) is useless.  Just looks like an ad for Zondervan.  But that's a small thing.

So looking good so far.  I'll check back in with details when I've actually taught some of the lessons and seen it in action.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Drum roll please.....

Here is our latest musical contribution from The Concert Pianist.  Hope you've enjoyed her selections over the last 12 13 days.  Thanks, C.P., for all your great work.

Day 12: Sandi Patty: O Holy Night

Merry Christmas everyone – may you know the awe of falling on your knees before the One who made you.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Thank God it's Christmas Eve

Hey, good news.  My mother-in-law has been released from hospital. She's not home yet because she needs to stay in an apartment close by the hospital for regular monitoring and treatment every second day.  BUT she's allowed home for Christmas day.  With the family.  All 18 of us together!  Yay.  Merry Christmas to you and your family.  Hope it's a good one.

Guest blogger: The Concert Pianist

Day 11: Anonymous: Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah

Almost got number one spot.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Jingle bells.... nope, it's The Concert Pianist instead

Day 10: Trans-Siberian Orchestra: Carol of the Bells

With thanks to Dwight from Scranton.  Yes I know it’s Carol of the Bells AGAIN but you must admit this could not be left off the list.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Christmas music guest post

Day 9: Kings College Cambridge: Once in Royal David’s City

When I was a child, this was my favourite carol, both due to the boy soprano who always sang first, but also because the lyrics are about Jesus as a child.

Friday, December 21, 2012


You might think you are looking at a photo of a cake.  You are wrong.

Usually, I deal with stress in less-than-helpful ways.  I sigh a lot.  And moan.  And am difficult to live with.  Yesterday, instead, I baked something.  It's a picaken.

In short, I bought a pie and baked it into the middle of a cake.  Yes.  Yes, I did.

And the music just keeps coming

With love to you all from The Concert Pianist....

Day 8: The Piano Guys: Carol of the Bells

Highly recommended that you watch all the Youtube clips by The Piano Guys – worth every minute.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Concert Pianist again

Day 7: North Point iBand: Carol of the Bells medley


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Look what the postman just brought to my door

Dad's new book!

This makes me cross

The federal government has decided to shift up to $375 million dollars out of its foreign aid budget and put it towards the cost of supporting asylum seekers being processed in Australia.
The opposition pointed out that Australia had made itself the third largest recipient of its own aid - after Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.
 How clever.  We'll give the aid back to ourselves.  Read the whole report here.

Do you know what the government is aiming to work towards as a foreign aid giving target?  0.5% of gross national income by 2016-17.  Less than one percent.  As a target.  In the future.  Maybe.

I can feel a letter to my local member coming on.

Hark - it's the Concert Pianist again

Day 6: Kings College Cambridge: Hark the Herald Angels

I will always think of my Dad when I hear this.  He loves to play varied harmonies for the last verse.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christmas stress

Despite my plans to work on being generous in spirit this Christmas, I'm still finding Christmas stress jumping down on me from time to time.  Rachel Jankovic has written a great article on 6 ways to handle stress this Christmas.

And the music goes on

More from the Concert Pianist...

Day 5: Michael W Smith: Sing Noel, Sing Hallelujah

Only just restrained myself from creating my own video to go with this song.  This is the sound of the Christmas of my childhood, but with a new, beautiful, majestic Christmas song.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Concert Pianist's 12 days of Christmas music

Day 4: Sandi Patty: Carol of the Bells

If ever there was a song that needed a handbell choir, this is it. Thanks to Jess for introducing me to Sandi Patty’s Christmas album.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

More music from the Concert Pianist

Day 3: Michael Bolton: Joy to the World

Please trust me, yes it is Michael Bolton, but there is also Placido Domingo and a children’s choir.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Christmas crackers

Opened this joke from a cracker at last night's church ladies' dinner.

I couldn't decide if the error in the gender assignment of the animal was intentional and therefore supposed to be add an element of ironic satire, or whether it was simply an error on the part of the creator and therefore funny for a different reason.   Troubling.

The Concert Pianist again

Day 2: Il Divo: Adeste Fideles

In the “Sing Choirs of Angels” part, there were always a few ladies in our church who would sing what is affectionately known as “the high bit” (obbligato) and just send chills down my spine.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Thank God it's Friday

I know that “Thank God it’s Friday’ is usually said in absence of any kind of thankfulness towards the Almighty, but I’d like to do my bit to remedy that.

Today I’m thankful for the beginning of the summer holidays.  Rest is a gift.

You got anything you’re thankful for today? Join in! Let’s count our blessings for a bit.

The Concert Pianist guest blogs

Day 1: Some girl on the internet: Mary's child

Starts at 0:27, and you can stop watching at 4:26.  My sisters had an acapella five-girl singing group and they sang this.  Not with a loop station as it was 1976, I might add.  Then about 13 years ago I overheard my little nieces singing it in three parts, including the 3 year old, as I stood outside their bedroom at Grandma’s house.  I summoned the household and we loitered in the corridor all teary-eyed hearing the beautiful words coming out of their mouths.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Twelve or so days of Christmas music

Hey, it's the Concert Pianist here.  Deb found this one so I thought it was an appropriate way to kick off the 12 Days of Christmas. Sorry, 13 days of Christmas. One of the songs I found at the last minute then I couldn’t drop any of them. Enjoy.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

House hunting

And I think we've got a winner! Glad to give up my passion.

Deck the halls

I've got great news for you all!  The Concert Pianist has come to my aid with some musical Christmas offerings.  She knows that I am a bit lacking when it comes to the Christmas spirit.  So she's used her expert musical palate to select for us her top 12 Christmas songs from youtube.  She'll be posting one each day from now until the big day on the 25th.  All her clips are classy and beautiful.  But I thought I'd add in this extra one myself.  With love from me to you.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Christmas is like knitting

You know you are about to get drowned in Christmas-related videos all over the blogosphere don't you?  Sorry.  But this one's good.  You have to click here and watch Milton Jones explain why Christmas is like knitting.

HT Timothy Titus

Saturday, December 8, 2012

No joy

Lots of nice houses but too small, too poorly laid-out or too far away. Tired.  But we have three more properties to see in the coming week and who knows what else might pop up on before Christmas.  It's not easy to rent a manse.  Build a manse and you can get it set up right.  Give the man a manse allowance and he can make his own decisions.  But renting is tricky.  You still have to adhere to all the manse guidelines and hope someone out there has built the perfect manse.  All in favour of a manse allowance, say aye!

Rental safari

Today is my rental safari day as we search for a house for our new minister and his family.  During the week we got to two homes.  This morning, I've managed six and I've got five more to go this afternoon.  Refuelling on reheated Korean BBQ leftovers from last night and then out again into the 37 degree heat to valiantly follow my sat nav wherever it will take me.  So far some really beautiful homes but the layouts were wrong for a minister's family.

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Christmas Scale

HT Timothy Titus

Thank God it's Friday

I know that “Thank God it’s Friday’ is usually said in absence of any kind of thankfulness towards the Almighty, but I’d like to do my bit to remedy that.

Today I’m thankful for a workplace I love to be at, family I love dearly and friends to play games with tonight.

You got anything you’re thankful for today? Join in! Let’s count our blessings for a bit.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Falling by the wayside

Me busy.  You too?  New minister coming in January and I'm on the subcommittee ("We like subcommittees. We're Presbyterian." could be our new tagline) to find a suitable house to rent.  I'm spending some serious time online looking at dodgy photos and trying to work out why no one builds houses with internal doors anymore.  We went to inspect one property this morning which the person with me summed up by saying, "That would be the house you would rent if you really hated the new minister and wanted him to be miserable."  I think that said it all really.

Add to the real estate hunting all the usual end-of-year craziness and some things have fallen by the wayside.  I found my Listasaurus on Saturday.  It was covered with a layer of dust.  Sigh.   And I'm not even pretending to try to keep my walk-in-wardrobe in order now.  I just have a huge pile on one side that I'm randomly adding to as I fly by.  Who knows what will be discovered therein when I finally attack it in January.  And dusting?  I think not.  Cleaning the oven?  Not going to happen.  I'm going to bed at night and lying there in a state of mild panic trying to get my mind around the next few weeks.

So I'm down to doing essentials.  Everyone has their own essentials list I imagine but this is mine ranked in order (obviously updating my blog to express how terribly busy I am comes first but I thought that went without saying - snort):

1.  Washing.  Clean clothes come first.  You can buy dinner or lunch.  You can wash dishes in a hurry or eat with your fingers.  You invite people out to a park if your house is a mess but you still have to wear something.  And in the case of kids, it's usually a specific uniform item.  If nothing else is getting done, I'm still loading and unloading the washing machine.  We may not be ironed, but we will smell fresh and have the right coloured school socks.

2. Supermarket shopping.  Forget the mess, if you can't scrounge up enough bits and pieces to make a school lunch, you're in trouble.  If you have milk, fruit or bread left in the house, you can usually throw something like a meal in front of your offspring.

3. Kitchen bench and dining table.  My stress level is linked in some strange way to how much stuff there is on the flat surfaces of my kitchen.  If I can see the bench, I believe life will go on.

4. Toilet.  Cannot be left for too long before the environmental disaster becomes too much to bear.  Say no more.

5. Cooking food.  Always good if you can manage it.

6. Floors.  Not as often as I like, but if the broom and/or the vacuum gets swirled around now and then, things seem more pleasant all round.

Those are my top 6 for survival living - Bear Grylls eat your heart out (or a lizard if prefer).  What about you?  What's your top priority when normal household routines are flying out the window?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Tis the season to be generous

Some people love present-giving.  On the other hand, I find the pressure of Christmas really disconcerting.  I want to be generous towards my kids.  But I flick between the joy of buying something that will give them a lot of pleasure and guilt because my kids already have more than enough while others lack even the basics.  Like a lot of parents, I worry about sending messages of materialism and greed and wonder if they will be surrounded by so much stuff that they won't value any of it.  But I also want them to experience the joy of being given good gifts that intimate some of our love for them.

So all of this has led to me thinking about generosity.  The thing about generosity is that it's not about gifts per se, but also about the spirit in which they're given.  We can give expensive, beautifully wrapped gifts with a miserly spirit.  What kind of a gift is it really if we resent the feelings of "obligation" that drove us to purchase it in the first place? 

I'm not great at generosity so I'm trying to do better with it this year.  Less grouch and more giving.  And it occurred to me that I ought to be applying generosity to much more than just the buying of gifts.  I struggle with Christmas because it's not really something I would bother with if I had the choice.  I find all of the social expectations a bit overwhelming.  But I acknowledge that for others it is a really special time of the year.  So, with that in mind, here's a list of some of the ways I came up with that I could be more giving and generous this Christmas (and hopefully going forward to the new year too):

1. Giving the gifts that I am giving this year with a happy heart, even the extra ones that come up like work or school 'obligations'.

2. Being generous in listening to my kids and playing with them when I'd rather be enjoying my own space.

3. Doing some of the things my husband and family enjoy during the summer even if I find them boring (cricket) or I'd rather set the agenda for the day.  And not grumbling about it (even to myself).

4. Taking time to speak with people at school, church, family functions, etc. that I don't necessarily gravitate towards.

5. Dismissing mistakes, forgiving small errors, waiting a bit longer, not demanding my way, hearing someone out or going out of my way to help someone else.

6. Not wanting my own way in all aspects of the family festivities and changing plans graciously when the situation requires it.

7. Not holding past mistakes against people but being generous and lavish with forgiveness.

8. Using up "valuable" time to shop and think of ways to make other people's Christmas special even if it's not my cup of tea.

9. Turning up to things, making arrangements and helping out with end-of-year stuff with a cheerful and generous spirit.

10. Letting the kids help decorate the tree this year.  I might even be able to restrain myself from fixing it after they go to bed!

Feel free to add to the list if you've got a generous idea of your own.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Washing machine rant

Yesterday, I was grateful we could replace the dead washing machine.  I still am.  But I'm also suffering from appliance adjustment disorder.  I totally made that disorder up.  But that doesn't make it any less real.  The buttons are different.  It has stuff I don't understand and it makes weird noises.  My mother doesn't like new appliances and neither do I.  I want my old machine back.  It had a nice metal lid and it was familiar and comfortable.

The new machine looked fine in the store but they don't tell you much in-store.  For a reasonably expensive purchase, I think you should be able to actually see the machine running.  It seems unreasonable to have to lay down hundreds of dollars for a machine you can't take for a test drive.  Here are the things you need to know that you can't find out:

1. How long a cycle takes.  Seriously the washing now takes twice as long.  This is because of it's wonderful water efficiency I believe.  Grrrrrrr.  I have at least three loads to get through today and I just want it done.  This is something they should mention along with the amount of water it uses.

2. The noises it makes.  This one is loud.  So was my last one at various points in the cycle.  But this is a weird kind of loud.  Not the familiar "tub, tub, tub" of my old agitator but strange random squishy sounds I don't know or like.  I'm not good with new noises.

3. Whether it will fit in your laundry.  Sigh.  This machine is slightly taller by about 5 cm.  That 5 cm would be the clearance space on the cupboards above.  Now my washing machine lid hits the cupboards above and has to be held open.  Grrrrrr.  In January, we will have to move our cupboards higher on the wall to accommodate the machine.

Washing machines now are also stupidly over-optioned.  The more stuff it has going on, the more stuff there is to malfunction and go wrong.  No one is going to use 7 different wash options.  They are going to use the same type of wash option 95% of the time and possibly one or two others the rest of the time.  Nobody wants to wake up at 7 am to put on a load of washing before the kids head to school and be met with five different decisions to make: cycle type, water level, water temp, rinse type, soak time.  The last machine I had, I turned a dial and pulled it out and it all just happened.  One of the machines we looked at had a glass lid so you could see the washing going around.  Why?  Why?  Why?  Give me a good sturdy metal lid that I can slam a big basket of dry washing on as I return from the backyard.  And what is with all the digital displays and flashing lights?  Some of the machines we surveyed looked like protypes for a Dr Who episode. Not needed and likely to break within five years.  Dials and punch buttons, people.  That's what I want.  And stuff made of metal.

My last machine went for 12+ years.  Sob.  It's hard to move on.  And worse, I think this grumpiness might all be a sign of my approaching middle-age.