Saturday, 10 December 2011

Advice for children's presents

Fr Ian, father of nine, endorses the following: the five best children's toys of all time:

1. Stick
This versatile toy is a real classic - chances are your great-great-grandparents played with one, and your kids have probably discovered it for themselves as well. It's a required ingredient for Stickball, of course, but it's so much more. Stick works really well as a poker, digger and reach-extender. It can also be combined with many other  toys (both from this list and otherwise) to perform even more functions.  Stick comes in an almost bewildering variety of sizes and shapes, but you can amass a whole collection without too much of an investment. You may want to avoid the smallest sizes - I've found that they break easily and are impossible to repair. Talk about planned obsolescence. But at least the  classic wooden version is biodegradable so you don't have to feel so bad about pitching them into your yard waste or just using them for kindling. Larger, multi-tipped Sticks are particularly useful as snowman arms. (Note: requires Snow, which is not included and may not be available in Florida.) As with most things these days, there are higher-end models of Sticks if you're a big spender, from the smoothly-sanded wooden models (which are more uniformly straight than the classic model) to more durable materials such as plastic or even metal. But for most kids the classic model should do fine.My own kids have several Sticks (but are always eager to pick up a couple more when we find them).  One warning: the Stick can also be used as a sword or club, so parents who avoid toy weapons might want to steer clear of the larger models. (On the other hand, many experts agree that creative children will just find something else to substitute for Stick, so this may be somewhat unavoidable.) 

2. Box
Another toy that is quite versatile, Box also comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. Need proof? Depending on the number and size you have, Boxes can be turned into furniture or a kitchen playset. You can turn your kids into cardboard robots or create elaborate Star Wars costumes. A large Box can be used as a fort or house and the smaller Box can be used to hide away a special treasure. Got a Stick? Use it as an oar and Box becomes a boat. One particularly famous kid has used the Box as a key component of a time machine, a duplicator and a transmogrifier, among other things.
The Box may be the most expensive item on my list, available from many retailers and shipping companies, but they can often be had cheaper if you know where to look. Amazon is one of my main sources of the small- to medium-sized Box; I include one with virtually every order I place there. If  you don't mind second-hand toys, the grocery store, bookstores and recycling centres are also great sources for Boxes. Oh, and the best place for the extra-large version is an appliance store (though sometimes they'll try to
sell you an appliance along with it, which could get pricey.)
Note: If you're in a pinch, Laundry Basket is a similar item and can often be substituted for Box in some instances, though it's generally not as great for costumes (other than a turtle).

3. String
My kids absolutely love String - and when they can't find it, sometimes they substitute other things for it such as scarves or blankets, but what they're really after is String. Now, I should start off by saying that String is not intended for toddlers and babies: it is a strangulation hazard and your kids must be old enough to know not to put it around their necks. However, when used properly your kids can really have a ball with String.
The most obvious use of String is tying things together, which my kids love to do. You can use it to hang things from doorknobs or tie little siblings to chairs or make leashes for your stuffed animals. Use String with two Cans for a telephone (and teach your kids about sound waves), or with Stick to make a fishing pole. You'll need String for certain games like Cat's Cradle - there's even an International String Figure Association for lots more information. String is a huge part of what makes some toys so fun - try using a yo-yo or a kite without String and you'll see what I mean. Try the heavy-duty version of String (commonly branded Rope) for skipping, climbing, swinging from trees or just for dragging things around. Although you can buy String at a store, it's generally sold in much larger quantities than your children will probably need - usually my kids are happy with roughly two or three feet of it. I actually have no idea where it comes
from, because I don't remember buying them any, so it must be pretty easy to come by.

4. Cardboard Tube
Ah, the Cardboard Tube. These are kind of like the toy at the bottom of a box of Cracker Jacks - they come free with a roll of paper towels and other products but you have to wait until you get to the end of the roll before you can finally claim the toy. (Perhaps this explains why my kids - who love the small size - go through toilet paper so quickly.) The small- and medium-sized are most common, but the large versions that come with wrapping paper can be more difficult to obtain - I had a roll of Christmas wrapping paper that lasted about three years before my kids finally got the Tube. There's also an extra-large size that is sometimes sold with posters, and a super-sized industrial version which you'll generally only find from carpet
suppliers. (Of course, carpet stores aren't toy stores, and while their product also goes by the name Cardboard Tube it's hardly the same thing and probably shouldn't be considered a toy.) My kids have nicknamed the Cardboard Tube the "Spyer" for its most common use in our house, as a telescope. (Or tape two of them together for use as binoculars.) But if you happen to be lucky enough to get a large size, the
best use is probably whacking things. Granted, Stick is also great for  whacking, but the nice thing about Cardboard Tube is that it generally won't do any permanent damage. It's sort of a Nerf Stick, if you will. If that sounds up your alley, look up the Cardboard Tube Fighting League - currently there are only official events in Seattle, San Francisco and Sydney, but you could probably get something started up in your own neighborhood if you wanted. Or if you're more of a loner, perhaps the way of the Cardboard Tube Samurai is a better path.  Obviously if your own kids are younger you'll want to exercise discretion about these more organized activities, but it probably wouldn't hurt to provide them with a Cardboard Tube or two just so they'll get used to the feel of it. You never know if your kid will be the Wayne Gretzky or Tiger Woods of Cardboard Tube Fighting, right? Best to give them the opportunity so that if they show some particular aptitudes they'll have that early advantage. And if not, well, there are still plenty of people who enjoy
playing with Cardboard Tubes casually without all that pressure.

5. Dirt
When I was a kid one of my favorite things to play with was Dirt. At some point I picked up an interest in cleanliness and I have to admit that I'm personally not such a fan of Dirt anymore - many parents (particularly indoor people like me) aren't so fond if it either. But you can't argue with success. Dirt has been around longer than any of the other toys on this list, and shows no signs of going away. There's just no getting rid of it, so you might as well learn to live with it. First off, playing with Dirt is actually good for you. It's even sort of edible (in the way that Play-doh and crayons are edible). But some studies  have shown that kids who play with Dirt have stronger immune systems than those who don't. So even if it means doing some more laundry (Dirt is notorious for the stains it causes) it might be worth getting your kids some Dirt.
So what can you do with Dirt? Well, it's great for digging and piling and making piles. We've got a number of outdoor toys in our backyard, but my kids spend most of their time outside just playing with Dirt. Use it with
Stick as a large-format ephemeral art form. (Didn't I tell you how versatile Stick was?) Dirt makes a great play surface for toy trucks and cars. Need something a little gloopier? Just add water and - presto! - you've got Mud! Dirt is definitely an outdoor toy, despite your kids' frequent attempts to bring it indoors. If they insist, you'll probably want to get the optionalaccessories Broom and Dustpan. But as long as it's kept in its proper place, Dirt can be loads of fun.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Reception at St Austell

On Advent Sunday (27th November), Fr. John Greatbatch received Sheila Doyle into the Catholic Church. Sheila is the first new addition to the group and the first person Fr. John has received into the Catholic Church. As with all our members, Sheila was catechised using the Evangelium Course and has been a regular member at the Ordinariate Mass at St Austell for some time.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Advent in the Ordinariate

This article was published in the Portal magazine by Mgr Andrew Burnham. I think it is helpful for our reflections and prayers this Advent and I commend it to you.

As we celebrate Advent and Christmas in the Ordinariate, we shall experience some excitement and a few concerns too. Our excitement will be the joyfulness of these celebrations, and what we bring to them. Our concerns will be round some of the unresolved questions.
For Catholics, especially those formed in the Anglican tradition, Advent is a favourite season. The Advent hymns. The Advent antiphons, popularized in ‘O come, O come Emmanuel’ in the last few days before Christmas; the readings from Isaiah; the start of a new liturgical year; the anticipation as Christmas approaches.
An ideal Christmas
The magazines are full of what makes for an ideal Christmas but for Christians the festive fun is a small part of what we are celebrating. We are mindful also of those who are alone, or are in crisis.
The bright light of Christmas reveals the dark places in people’s lives and the promise of the Saviour is not mince pies and booze, but salvation – rescue.
I suspect Christmas for some of the Ordinariate Groups will bring mixed emotions. Mainly, of course, we shall rejoice in the birth of our Redeemer and experience Emmanuel, God-with-us, in a more intense way. But there will be memories of how things once were, maybe a longing for some of the securities of the old life of captivity, and a fear that things will never quite be as we should like them to be.
Housekeeping questions
There are unresolved questions for the whole Ordinariate. There are housekeeping questions. It may take only ten families with a good income between them to tithe and support their own priest, but there are groups where ten annual pledges of £2,000, gift-aided, are just not possible.
There are groups which are not big enough even to generate twenty annual pledges of £1,000, gift-aided. Thus, in practice, most groups are served by a part-time priest, or even a priest fully-employed to attend to the needs of others in hospitals, prisons or schools.
Time and place
Another concern is about time and place. An Ordinariate Group which is obliged to meet at an unusual hour is unlikely to prosper and grow. Cultural minorities – Poles, Ukrainians, Portuguese – are used to meeting at unusual times and in unusual places. We can do it too – and some of us are doing it – but we would never attract more than the most committed Ordinariate types if we continue to meet at unsocial times or in unsuitable locations, miles from where people live.
How to grow
A third is about how to grow the Ordinariate. When will our Anglo-catholic friends finally realise that they are in captivity; that the most that they can expect from the Church of England and Church in Wales is a bit of space to practise a version of Christianity which, for most Anglicans, is fanciful and far-fetched, strange and discriminatory? Some are loyally waiting for a vote in July 2012, but what happens if that vote is inconclusive?
The only disappointment I had when I left the Church of England and came into the full communion of the Catholic Church was that so many who had said that they were heading in the same direction did not follow, despite what they had said they would do.
I suspect that the next eighteen months to two years will see these concerns largely resolved. Personally, I remain very optimistic indeed. This is God’s plan, articulated for us by Pope Benedict, and it is not a plan therefore which will fail.
Mgr Andrew Burnham

DAY NINE (Eve of Pentecost)