Pillars of Pine

Pillars of Pine

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

An Experience I'd Rather Not Repeat.

The good news is, we are home safely from band practice.

The bad news?  Our car is totalled.

About 1/2 way home, a huge kangaroo decided to jump out on the road, and we collided head-on.  I am absolutely astounded just how much damage can happen in a split second, and how much a car can crumple with one thump.

Fortunately, we were able to continue our drive home, all be it with a very buckled bonnet, and a front door that will probably never open again.

Of course, the best news is that all four of us are fine.  However, it's an experience I'd rather not repeat any time soon.  :)


My Dad...

My Dad is 91 years old.  You could say he was 'old' even before I was born. Not that I've ever thought of him as 'old' - to this day, he remains the 'youngest' 91-year-old I've ever met, and is still ready for a laugh and some fun!

I was the youngest in our family - quite a shock, actually - my next oldest sibling, my brother, is 11 years older than I, so my parents had thought their family was complete.  And yet, Surprise!  Along came Linda. 

Dad has led a long, full, and fun life.  However, it seems age is finally catching up with him.  He now lives in the 'Old Folks Home', is almost blind and suffers with severe hearing loss.  Because of this, he doesn't get around much, and spends most of his days in his comfy chair listening to his radio.   However, as soon as he has the opportunity, he is always ready to entertain his listeners with stories of the 'old days', and to tell what he and his brother got up to, back in the days of 'life on the farm'.

I once wrote down one of his stories, and I thought you might enjoy it.  I entitled it, 'Holy Boulder' - you'll soon see why.

Holy Boulder!

The year was 1933. Things were different then – no television, no computers, and certainly no PlayStations – a kid had to make his own fun.

Ernie was twelve years old. He was a skinny kid, with thick black glasses and straggly brown hair. He also had an uncanny knack for getting into trouble. But not today. He was staying at his Uncle Frank’s house, and he was determined to be good.

Uncle Frank was undoubtedly Ernie’s favourite relative. He was tall, slender, and hardworking, and always had time for the youngsters. He also knew how to cook up the most delicious damper and the best beef stew. Without a doubt, the farm was Ernie’s favourite place on earth.

“Well, c’mon, Ernie”, Uncle Frank called, “How ‘bout helping me build my wall down at the creek?”

“Yes, sir!” Ernie responded – he was always ready for some good, hard work, even at his young age.

            The horses and wagon were organised, and soon they were rambling along the rough dirt track. “So, no hassling my horses this time, eh?” Uncle Frank asked. 

“Er, no....” Ernie began.

Uncle Frank smiled. “Last time, you know – they took weeks to recover - I trust you’ll be keeping your nose clean this time?”

“Yes sir, I’ll be on my best behaviour – thinking before I act, just like you taught me!” Ernie replied, full of determination not to let his uncle down.

            In no time at all, they had reached the creek and Uncle began working on the wall. “Right then, I’ll gather some stones, shall I?” Ernie offered.

“Here, take this”, said Uncle Frank, handing Ernie the crowbar. “There’s some good ones up on that hill – see if you can fetch some”.

“Yes, sir!” replied Ernie, eagerly taking the crowbar and scooting up the slope. Quickly, he began digging at whatever stones he could find, and with a quick tap, sent them tumbling down towards the creek. And then, he spotted it. Up on that hill stood a large boulder. Many a time Ernie had tried to shift it, but it just wouldn’t budge – but today, he had been handed a new, shiny crowbar – and had actually been told to gather some stones!

            Glancing back to ensure Uncle Frank wasn’t watching, he quickly made his way along the top of the grassy rise, and reached the boulder in no time. “Hello, old friend”, Ernie said, grinning to himself. “Let’s see if we can move you today, eh?”

Ernie began working quickly but carefully, digging the dirt out from around the boulder. Then, placing the crowbar underneath, he gave it a hefty heave. It moved! Only a little at first, but then suddenly, it began to roll. Faster and faster it moved down the hill, heading directly for the creek - talk about perfect positioning!

            Unfortunately, a slight bump in the hillside sent the boulder slightly to the left. “Damn”, Ernie muttered, “Now it’s going to head......” Ernie stopped short – for he realised it was going to head for not only the creek, but the horses as well – which also meant Uncle Frank!

The boulder was gathering speed at a tremendous rate – Ernie tried to cry out, but his throat just seemed to close – there was no time, nothing he could do, but stand there and look on in horror.

Glancing up from his work, Uncle Frank had just had enough time to cry out “Holy Cow!” before the boulder hit the clump of rocks on the edge of the creek. The rocks sent it hurtling skyward - over the heads of the horses, and as Uncle Frank ducked, it flew straight over his head, too!

In spectacular fashion, the boulder then plummeted to the ground and crashed straight through the netting fence on the opposite side of the creek, tearing it to shreds. Eventually, it came to rest, surrounded by a cloud of dust, a little way beyond the fence.

Cautiously, Ernie made his way down the hill. Uncle Frank turned slowly to face his terrified nephew. “Ernie....”, he began.

“I’m .... I’m sorry Uncle Frank – I... I... I though it would go over there..”, Ernie stammered – his arms wildly pointing off to the right, along the creek-bed.

            “Ernie”, Uncle Frank slowly continued, “I know I told you to gather some stones – but do you think you could leave the hillside there?

            Dropping his arms, Ernie simply stared at his Uncle, tears and frustration welling up inside him like burning fire. “I… I….” was all he could manage to stammer.

“Well”, Uncle went on, “It seems, young man, that you will not be coming to Church with us tomorrow, as you have yourself some work to do!”, and he gestured towards his netting fence, now laying in ruins. And with one final, fierce look, Uncle Frank turned on his heels, and staggered towards the wagon to calm his startled horses.

            “Oh”, Ernie gasped, his disappointment now complete. For Sunday was the only chance he had to meet with boys of his own age, and now that opportunity had vanished. And as Ernie turned to survey the damage of the netting fence, he wondered to himself if it wouldn’t be several Sundays before he would be allowed to go to Church, or anywhere else for that matter, again.



Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Free E-Book Giveaway!



Adnil Press, along with our friends at Common Sense Press, would like to offer you the chance to win FREE E-BOOKS to the value of US  $30.00!

Your prize can be chosen from any of the Common Sense Press e-books, and include some fabulous titles, including 'Learning Language Arts Through Literature', the 'Great Science Adventure' series, and 'Grocery Cart Math'.

A full list of the CS Press E-books can be found at the link below:

To enter our competition, all you need to do is follow three simple steps:

1. Be a follower of this blog.

2. On your own blog, web-site, or homeschool group, put up a link that links directly back to this post.

3. Leave a comment below.

The winner will be randomly selected after the entries close at midnight AEST, on August 11, and the announcement will be made via a new post on August 12.

Make sure you check back on or after August 12, and if your name is selected, be ready to email us with your contact details!*    Once we receive your email address, we will forward you the details of how to claim your free E-Books. 

Good luck!


*If no contact is made within 48 hours, another winner will be randomly chosen.

 This prize is not redeemable for cash.

Family Photos

Having all the children home recently offered a rare opportunity for a family photo.  Although we were extremely busy in that time, we managed to grab an afternoon for a trip down to our local 'Appila Springs', were we had the following photos taken:

The Maher Family

The Children (Or More Accurately, The 'Young Adults')  - Plus One!

It was a lovely day, and I feel very blessed to have had them all together again.


Monday, July 23, 2012

So Much for That Thought......

Not two minutes after I posted my thoughts last night of our family not being 'in touch' with one another, I heard giggling coming from the two computers next to me.

I turned to ask what was going on, only to discover my 17yo son and my 16yo daughter laughing and chatting with each other - not in person, but - via Google Chat.

It's a conspiracy - I give up!


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Quote of the Day

There are times when I've felt very discouraged by reading other people's blogs - some people seem so with it, so organised, and their families seem so together.   And, everyone seems so 'in touch' and in agreement with each other.  I often feel like, although this is my ideal, it's a far cry from the reality of our family.

As I mulled over this 'supposed' problem recently, lamenting on how our children seem so different from one another and how we often see things so differently, my darling 15 year old daughter piped up with, 'But Mum, because we're all different, we can each focus on our own talents, and don't have to worry about competing with each other - it's a great way to be!'

Case closed - we're all different - and we're happy that way!


For the Writer in Your Home...

This is for all the young writers out there:

Does this remind you of anyone in your house?



Last week, we packed our bags and headed to Melbourne - 1000kms - for a birthday celebration.

My mother-in-law is about to turn 80, and our family decided that we'd throw her a surprise party.   It was quite an ordeal, which included months of planning and many emails to and from the various family members.  Mum's family is spread out over the country  - including Victoria, South Australia and the Northern Territory, so it was going to be quite an effort to gather us all together, and keeping it all 'hush-hush' would be even more of a challenge.

In the end, all her children attended, and most of their families.  As well, there were many friends and other relatives - around 70 in all - that were able to make it and celebrate the day with her.

The secret was well guarded - but the big question was - how were we to all arrive in Melbourne, and yet still keep everything under wraps?  Considering that we always stay at her house when we are in town, this was a tricky one, but fortunately, my sister-in-law, Carmel, came up with the perfect solution.

We decided to hold the party a couple of weeks early, which put the celebration in the school holidays, as well as the weekend being Carmel's birthday and my Emily's birthday as well.   Carmel also needed an reason to do a whole stack of cooking, so us stating that we were simply coming 'for a visit' gave her just the excuse she needed.

So, we rang and made our announcement.  The rest of the family arrived at various locations around Melbourne, with several staying at the youngest sister's house, and some making the most of it by turning the whole affair into a family holiday and renting cabins, etc. nearby.

After we had arrived, we 'decided' that it would be nice to take Emily and Carmel out for lunch for their birthdays - and so, the stage was set.  We all dressed up for a nice, 'quiet' lunch at a local hotel, but then received a phone call, asking us to drop off a box of supplies at the local church.  Once there, a friend popped out and asked my mother-in-law to come inside for a minute.

The look on her face was priceless!   And then to discover that all of her children were there, including the adopted son, brought her very close to tears.

It was a wonderful day, and we all had a ball.  The children loved being with their cousins again, and the adults had a fantastic time catching up.  And as always, there were a heap of games happening with the adults and the children as well - including some very interesting voices after sucking in the helium from the party balloons. And I'm sad to say, many of those who 'claim' to be adults got in on the act as well.   My dear husband, who naturally has a very deep voice, took in far too much at one point, and had us all rolling on the floor with laughter as he began singing in his now very-high voice!

And 'Granny', as she is now known to us all, had a wonderful day, which left a smile on her face the rest of the week.

Later in the day, it was time to line everyone up for the photo:

Grandchildren first (and we did it in age order, too):

But wait, there's more:

And more (including that gorgeous baby):

And here is the lady herself (in the middle) with her children, most of their wives / husbands, and most of her grandchildren:

Don't we make a grand bunch?

Well done to Carmel and Mary, who spent many hours planning and preparing the event.  The day was certainly a success!



Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A Party!

Every now and then, I decide it's time to have a party - not for a birthday, or anniversary, or anything else - but 'just because'.

With all of my children home for the holidays, I decided it was time to make the effort.  There were several people we hadn't seen in a while, and it was definitely time for a 'catch up'.

Sunday was the day - and we had a marvellous time! We started around 2pm, and chatted well into the evening.  Given that it is winter, a bonfire was on the 'activity list', so during the afternoon, we all headed outside to gather wood.  The wood pile steadily grew:

and grew:

 until we had a whopper of a pile, with more to spare.


The men, of course, were put to work on the BBQ, while the women headed back inside to slave away at making salads (pre-bought), and preparing the table  (OK, so in truth, the children set the table, while we er..  discussed very important, life-changing issues over a bottle of wine).


After dinner, it was time to light that bonfire:

The fire kind-of 'took off' at one point, and headed directly towards the pile of marshmallows, which unfortunately, were heated a little earlier than planned!  That's them on the seat in the photo below - right in the path of the fire.  Oops.  Most of the packets were still OK, though.



There was a ton of 'family love' and excellent conversations happening around the fire:



But as the night wore on, more and more people started to head back inside.

Band Hero, Air Hockey, and Pool were a hit with the teens, and the younger ones had a ball with our home-made pinata.




All in an, an excellent night, and one I feel needs to be repeat on a regular basis!


Monday, July 9, 2012

Aussie Home Educator series

Some time back, I was asked to join in on the Aussie Home Educator Series, hosted by April over at 'Learning Alongside'.


To read the interview and my responses, pop on over to April's blog, where you'll also find several other interviews and excellent blog posts.

Thankyou, April - answering the questions was most thought-provoking, and has reminded me of our goals, plans, and the very reason why we chose a homeschooling lifestyle - it was fun!


Sunday, July 8, 2012

A Rare Moment

‘Mothers hold their children’s hands for a while, but their hearts forever’.

We homeschool for a season, but boy, do those seasons move by quickly.  Two of my girls have now left the nest, but this week, we have them home again once more.  Plus one, of course – we do always seem to have a ‘plus one’ floating around somewhere, don’t we?  

This evening, we all attended Mass, and it was very special – it’s amazing how one can miss the simple things in life – like all hopping in the bus and heading off to church as a family, and then returning home to share the evening meal.

It’s wonderful to have our Rebekah here again, and even more wonderful to finally meet ‘her man’ – who, I think, is coping with our rather strange household very well!  And the timing is perfect, as Jess has also now completed her studies, and is able to be with us as well.  


This coming week, we shall be heading off to show Tim the sights of SA, spending time with friends at a BBQ, and no doubt catching up on a few movies we’ve all been waiting to see. And then, of course, there's Ultrastar, our new singing game (I may be in need of earplugs before too long, and my voice is already threatening to give out! ). 

Our holidays have begun – time to put the feet up and relax! 


Saturday, July 7, 2012

SA Music Camp 2012

This past week, Helena and Daniel attended the 50th annual 'South Australian Music Camp', held at St Peter's in Adelaide.

After five days of intense preparation, a concert was held on the Friday evening - and what a concert it was!  It was absolutely spectacular, and made even more special as we watched Helena perform in the Shephard Concert Band, and Daniel in the Alexander Orchestra.

This was Daniel's first Music Camp, and he attended as a percussionist.  I commented to his father that the best thing about having a percussionist in the family was that we could see, and hear, everything he did on the night.  Daniel was busting for the opportunity to play the crash cymbals, so once he had them, that was it, and I don't know that anyone else got the chance at all!   Of course, there were other instruments in use as well - such as the tambourine and various other items to hit, whack, or whatever else one does with them...

Helena moved up in the ranks this year, playing 2nd clarinet in the concert band, and did a fantastic job.  While Daniel was positioned at the very back of the orchestra, Helena sat right in front, and it was a delight to watch how this beautiful young lady has matured and to truly witness her talents as she confidently played each piece to perfection.

Needless to say, they both very much enjoyed the camp, as well as the opportunity to spend time with some friends, who also attended the camp, and took great care of my young musicians during their time in Adelaide.

But, as always, it is wonderful to have them home again.  The coming week will no doubt also be one of excitement and activity - as both my older girls are home as well - meaning I currently have ALL of my children home for a few days!

One thing is for certain - the noise level has certainly doubled - and it's not making it easy to write blog posts!  'Ultrastar' is in full swing - and I think it's MY turn!  :)

Time for family!


Friday, July 6, 2012

Quote of the Day

On the local early morning radio show today, there was a discussion regarding the removal of any mention of 'God' and also the 'Queen' in the oath taken by the Girl Guides.

Quote of the Day (and the cited reason why the reference to God was removed):

'Duty to God is irrelevant to young people in today's society'.

I really don't know how to finish off this post - pretty much says it all, really....


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Apologia High School Science

For several years now, we've used the Apologia High School texts for science.  At times, it's all been a little too much, but after some research (as in hours & hours), nothing else I found came close, so we have continued with it.

And, I'm glad - while it does take 45-60 minutes per day, Apologia has certainly proven itself to be an excellent curriculum - thorough, user-friendly, and with experiments that actually do work.

The only small issue I've had is the rather messy notebooks.  As all the work is completed in an exercise book, and as some of my children don't really enjoy creating beautiful notebooks, we don't usually end up with much for 'show and tell' at the end of the year.

But today, I've made a marvellous discovery!  Over at:

Knowledge Box Central have on offer 'Lapbook Journals' for each of the Apologia Texts (Just plug in 'Apologia' in the search box).  These are downloadable notebooks - with over 500 printable pages, that are to be place into a 3-ring binder.  All the 'on your own' questions are included, along with the 'lab reports', 'review questions' and 'practice problems'!  The publishers have deliberately avoided lots of colourful pages - a bonus for those who need to rely on ink-based printers.

There are also Lapbook pages, to be used IF your child likes the whole 'crafty' thing - but, if not, you can simply choose to use the Review Questions Journal Pages.  So while the option is there, the student does not have to be creative (This also means you do not have to print out all 500 pages).  However, just having all the questions already written out, with a space for the answers, means that we're going to have some much nicer Apologia Notebooks at the end of the year.

I'm now feeling very glad that we have on order a new drum and a new box of toner for our printer!

Happy Printing,


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Lessons Learned Thus Far.....

As previously mentioned my 'lifestyle change programme' is based around the Protein Power Plan.

Despite what many may say, this is not a high protein diet, such as the Atkins Plan, but rather, it is an adequate protein diet.

Each participant calculates their 'minimum' protein requirement;  for me, this is 65g of protein per day.  This is the minimum amount of protein I need, based on my lean body weight. 

Then, the 'maximum' carbohydrate allowance in calculated.  In Phase I of the programme, this is 40g per day.  You can eat what you like in the way of carbohydrate, but it's most beneficial if you choose your carbs from such things as broccoli, lettuce, spinach, etc. - the green leafy veggies are best.  You can have bread, potatoes, and so forth if you so desire, but as each slice of bread is worth 13 - 20g of carbs, it doesn't take much to reach the 40g mark. 

So, if you reach your minimum protein amount and your maximum carbohydrate amount, and you're feeling hungry (which, by the way, is a rare thing), you are allowed to then snack on such things as a boiled egg, small amount of cheese, or even possibly some almonds or other nuts (but see my note below).

Very rarely do I feel hungry or in need of a sugar hit - but, it does happen on occasion.  I've found this time, I have a good attitude for when I slip up - just pretty much say, 'oops', then pick myself up and continue on.

Things I've learned thus far:

DUMP the Atkins bars! For about a week and a half, my weight didn't move. When I re-evaluated my eating habits, I discovered that the only thing I'd changed was to add in an Atkins Bar each day. After some good-old Google research, I discovered that, while they say 'net carbs' are 2, the ACTUAL carbs are more like 22 - too many for phase 1 of the Protein Power Plan. I ditched the bars, and the weight loss started again after a couple of days.

DRINK heaps of water - see water as your best friend, and drink at least a couple of litres a day.

POTASSIUM TABLETS are a must in the initial phase. Because you're losing so much water, potassium levels are depleted, which can lead to side-effects, such as if you'd just had an overdose of coffee - a thumping heart, feeling hyper, etc. Potassium tablets help with this, and also stopped me getting those horrible migraines that I always seemed to get when starting on the low-carb diet.

WALKING - I started off with a heel spur, so my only exercise was on the exercise bike. However, after only 5kgs of weight loss, my foot had improved so much that I was able to use the treadmill. Nothing beats walking as a form of exercise. 

DO NOT OVERDO THE EXERCISE - There is such a thing as 'too much' exercise.  Too much, without increasing the protein in your diet, can make the body switch into 'starvation mode' - and then, instead of increasing your metabolism,  you'll actually slow it down, which can therefore cause the weight loss to stop.  I've found 20-30 minutes in the morning, and 30 minutes at night to be ideal.

NUTS -  Technically, nuts are OK - in moderation, of course.  It 'should' be fine to include a small amount of nuts (especially almonds or walnuts) in the diet.  However, whenever I do, the weight loss stops.   And, I did read somewhere that this is a common thing - so, for now at least, nuts are off the menu.

OK.  So, what does my daily diet look like?

Breakfast:  eggs - boiled, scrambled, or fried. Sometimes I have bacon or add a few other things to make an omelette.

Lunch:  Tuna with some sort of green salad, or boiled with broccoli and carrot.

Dinner:  Meat (Beef, chicken or fish) with salad or vegies.  

And, that would be pretty much it.  I have, on occasion, snacked on celery and peanut butter - but one does need to be careful with making that only a small amount.  And, I sometimes add a slice of cheese to my tuna and salad.

So, let's talk.....  CHOCOLATE.  You know, it's really not as evil as some would have us believe.  As with most things, the secret is moderation.  In the case of the Protein Power Plan, it's about counting carbs.  I've found the easiest way to do this is to have the small, packaged, wrapped chocolates on hand, for when 'that' urge just won't subside.  Right now, I have a small packet of Dove Dark Chocolate at the ready - with each piece individually wrapped.  I know that each piece is worth 4.3 grams of carbs, so, each and every piece is included in that daily carbohydrate allowance.

I've also learned that it's very easy to slip, and not so easy to get back up again.  The ideal would be to get on the diet, and STAY on it, without messing up  - but hey, we're only human.

I've calculated my 'start date' as the 23rd of April.  In truth, I actually started properly on the 30th, however, thanks to a rather hectic couple of weeks, in which I had reduced my intake of bread and increased my water consumption, I lost 3kgs (which, due to excess water, is quite usual for week one).  So, I'm just 'saying' it was probably around the 23rd- and who's counting, anyway? (Oh, that's right - I am!  :) ) 

So, let's see.....   that's 10 weeks now.  Every time I work that out, I need to check it several times, because it feels like a LOT longer, but yep, that really is only 10 weeks, and as of today, I'm 14 kgs down.  I'm trying really hard to delight in that number, but I do have the habit of only focussing on how much I have to go - however, that pile of clothes in the hallway (the ones that are now too big for me) is growing, and yeh, it's a pretty good feeling.  :)

Oh, one final little secret - did I mention that my dear hubby bought me an Ipod Touch for Mother's Day?  It's amazing what can happen when you put on some great eighties music and 'zone out'.......

Yep, Mum has an Ipod!


All Tucked in for the Night.....

So, it's late, and it's bed-time, and we decide we'd better put the cats out.

My 15 year old daughter walks up to my pet Louis, who's curled up on the lounge chair, and busts out laughing......

Sure looks comfortable, doesn't he?

I'm 'guessing' one of the younger girls tucked him in before they headed off to bed. 

But yes, despite this 'cute' moment,  he was put out into the dark, cold night, anyway.....