Sunday, September 18, 2011

Busy, Busy, Dreadfully Busy

I've got a lot going on these days.  For starters, you can expect a birth announcement post in the next week or so - our sixth child is due Sep 24 and my wife is quite predictable when it comes to adhering to her due dates.

The school year has started again, which adds its own layer of complexity to our busy lives.

My insatiable lust for Star Wars and Star Trek novels has flared up again and I've consumed at least a dozen books in the last few months.

But the real project I'm devoting my time to is building some models to be used in our school's Atrium program, also known as the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.  This is a Montessori method of educating children about the truths and mysteries of our Christian faith.  I've been buzzing about in my garage all summer, putting in anywhere from five to fifteen hours a week.

This work of mine corresponds nicely with what my wife has also done in the last year, as she was attending classes with the ultimate goal of becoming an Atrium instructor at some amorphous point in the future.  So as she was learning about the Atrium lessons on a spiritual & academic level, I was learning about them on a functional level.  We both surrounded our labours with prayer and took great delight in sharing perspectives with each other!

Here are a few photos of the projects I've done so far.  You can click the photos to enlarge them.

Sheepfold - this is one of the first models the children are shown.  The grass is a soft indoor/outdoor carpet.  Figures of a shepherd and a flock of sheep are used to display how the shepherd guides the sheep into the sheepfold on the right, calling them each by name.  The same lesson is applied, using the altar on the left circle, to show how Jesus calls us all to encounter him in the Mass.

Miniature Altar with Base - note the miniature lectern in the background as well.  Using this model, the children are shown the vessels used during the Mass.

Cenacle (The Upper Room). This is the first project I did.  It has an empty space below for storing the figures of Jesus and the Apostles.  Someone else is making those.  Children are shown a re-enactment of The Last Supper using this model.

Puzzle Map of Israel at the time of Jesus - this was my first foray into the amazing flexibility of coping saws.  The pieces are cut from a pine blank, and it is backed with 1/4" plywood.  After painting each piece I protected them with clear Varathane.

Topographical Map of Israel - this is the most challenging one I've yet completed.  The heights are achieved through use of cardboard egg-carton paper mache and a few strategically placed blocks of wood.  Most of the paint was sprayed on.  The three flags represent the locations of Nazareth, Jerusalem, and Bethlehem.  Children are taught the significant locations in salvation history using this model.

Jerusalem - this model, as you can see, is still a work in progress.  It promises to be the most challenging one yet.  I enlarged a topographical map of Jerusalem and traced the various heights onto nine pieces of hardboard, then cut them out and glued them together.  Next, I'll be using Plaster of Paris to give the ground a smoother appearance (I built a small mock-up of some slopes so I could test this method, and was pleased with the result).  After the ground is complete, I'll build the city walls and major buildings.  They will be removable, so the most complicated part of this project will be building them to fit easily on the contours of the ground.  This model is used to teach children about the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus.  They are shown the key locations where Jesus was throughout Holy Week.

I'm also working on a model of Mary's home where the Annunciation occurred, but haven't taken any photos of that yet.  Still on my to-do list is the Nativity model showing where Jesus was born, and a generic house used to demonstrate the parable of the Pearl of Great Price.

This is a very rewarding experience and I'm truly relishing the opportunity to use and develop the woodworking talent the Lord has given me.  Plus, being a carpenter makes me just a little bit more like Jesus. :)

Friday, September 02, 2011


I frequently admire the wit of the famous xkcd web comics.  This one in particular really illustrates the polarization of modern society.  It reflects the difference between people whose priorities are the accumulation of pointless wealth and people whose priorities are more focused around family.  Very poignant.