Friday, March 06, 2015

February from March

Somehow February skipped by, with all of its back-to-school-and-tap madness, without making a mark on the blog.  So before March marches out of control, here's what went on in the last month or so. 



Climber started Year 9 and Cherub started his last year of Primary School.  Talk about grown-up.

Middle of High School and the Last Year of
 Primary School. ��

They seem to have settled into their new year at school really well, despite Cherub being separated for the first time from his lifelong best-friend. They are doing well with it though, and it's quite sweet to hear them discussing with each other what they've been doing in their different classes when his bestie comes over for a regular Thursday afternoon play.  Probably can't call it a play anymore. Sniff.



Tap started back too, and is going really well. Good class numbers, excellent retention of current students and quite a few new faces too.  The tap-kids and I are madly getting ready for another performance at the Merri Creek fete. We're all very excited!

Yay, back at tap this morning with all the gorgeous children. I missed those shiny happy tappers and our super-fun classes. Excellent fun today.

Climber got targeted by an unknown German man via his Instagram account and received some disturbing private messages which made me feel ill when I read them.  Not that there was anything highly explicit, and my feeling now that I've calmed down is that the sender was not an experienced predator and could possibly have just been a young gay guy trying his luck, but it's so hard to know who someone is just by looking at an Instagram account.  However, it is absolutely clear that Climber is only 14 years old when you look at his profile, so there is still a high level of wrongness, and the guy has been blocked, and other preventative strategies put in place. What I took a lot of comfort from, once the shock died down, was that Climber just thought the guy was being stupid and inappropriate and either said repressive things like that's none of your business or just didn't respond.  He is an awesome kid.  I worry so much about the corrupting influence of peers and internet and high school, but time and again Climber's true character shows me I needn't.

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Fixit knocked down our cubbyhouse, seeing as how the only family members who used it were Fixit (for lawnmower storage) and Basil (for mid-afternoon catnaps).  I do feel a little bit sad, but it had to be done.  We've been looking around for a new place to live, but not with any luck so far.  We did find something which I thought was perfect, but they didn't even ring up our referees so I obviously need to work on how we present on a rental application form. Possibly we need to lie?  I don't really know how these things work.

End of an era. Fixit has demolished the cubby house. I'm a little bit sad about it, but it had to be done.

We went to the zoo in the school holidays with Jen and her girls.  We rode our bikes there which made it even more fun. There's a lovely bike path the whole way there.

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I took this photo against the seal window. 



Climber has grown so much since the last seal window shots in 2013.

2013 1:11 PM 2013 1:11 PM

We went Socceroo crazy during the Asian Cup, and were rewarded when Australia was crowned champion.  The final match was an absolute killer, it looked like we were going to win and then the North Korean team equalised with 1 minute to spare, forcing the match into extra time.  Cherub wept until the moment that Australia scored their second goal.  It was his first ever experience of putting his heart totally into a team and then finding that they could let you down.



Cherub has had his last ever primary school camp.  He had an excellent time, but was so tired when he got home Wednesday night that he didn't fully recover until Saturday.


Before camp


After camp

He also had his final primary school swimming carnival. Previously he has elected to specialise in breaststroke, but I wanted him to enter the other events just to see how he performed after all these years of swimming lessons.  He decided to go against this request, and I roused on him when I turned up at the carnival and found he was still dry; so having missed the chance to see how he'd do in freestyle and backstroke, he gave butterfly a go and got 3rd place. He also received 2nd in breaststroke and 2nd in the diving.  I just wanted him to enter to see how he went, not for ribbon glory, but I suspect having seen the rest of the field in the 12-year-olds, his attitude cost him a backstroke ribbon at the very least.  Anyway, the day after camp he represented his school in the breaststroke at the Zone Carnival and finished a creditable third in his heat.



I came home from tap on February 14th to find this lovely surprise on my pillow from Mister Fixit. I had forgotten it was St. Valentine's Day so I was even more gratified. Didn't have to hint or anything.



Fixit and I attended his cousin's wedding down at a winery on the Mornington Peninsula.  It was a very pleasant day, although it did seem a shame to be the designated driver at an event where the wine was likely to be very nice indeed!



Fixit's good shoes fell apart (the soles suddenly started disintegrating everywhere) so he had to leave the wedding between ceremony and reception to find a local shoe store. I think this is indicative of how little Fixit wears good shoes, but he should be set for a while now.



I made a wearable muslin of a 1950s style tea dress with princess seams, in preparation for some dressmaking at Crarf Camp, and I'm very pleased with it. The Tiny Tappers were very impressed, and somewhat distracted, by my Winnie-the-pooh dress when I taught them this week.  I sewed an invisible zip for the first time, not wholly successfully, but good enough for a practice dress.



And although there's more to be blogged, I am off to Crarf Camp tomorrow - yay!- so I will have more to say when I return.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Fourteen

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Some kids look like themselves from the very beginning, and it's easy to spot the baby photo.  I'm not sure that's the case with the Climber, being as he was such a pudding for the first year (or so) of his life. I remember as a bubs that he was a very good sitter because of his solidness, that you could park him like a tripod with legs apart, and he would rarely topple onto the surrounding pillow barricade - in stark contrast to his little Mothers' Group friends Pea who couldn't sit unsupported to save herself (but who could roll from one end of the room to the other in the blink of an eye) or Squeaky who was a premature baby and spent a lot of our early Mothers' Group sessions catching up on her sleep.  Anyway. He hasn't been a pudding for years and years, and now he's more like a beanstalk with his long lanky limbs. His grandmother, Ma Fixit, was a little bit worried by his leanness, and offered to stand guard between me and Climber so he could raid the dessert table at family lunch and fatten up a bit.

Mothers Group turns 14

We had a Mothers' Group celebration at Astrid's house for our January babies, Climber, Pea and Squeaky.  They are such a lovely trio.  It was funny giving them their gifts, they were all very low key and just smiled in a pleased way at their treasures. But you could see they were happy.  They're just not the excitable members of the Mothers' Group.

Mothers Group turns 14

And then for Climber's actual birthday, he once more requested a family day, which this year involved pancakes for breakfast, the opening of the presents, a soccer clinic (only because it fell on his actual birthday, it wasn't a special treat, but it gave him the chance to try out his fancy new soccerboots), some birthday cake and then a meal out with the four of us at a restaurant, followed by artisan gelati at a posh gelateria.

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So here he is, our firstborn, our beautiful golden boy. Lighting up our life and making us happy since we welcomed him to the world.  Funny, dreamy, kind, vague, sensitive, distractable, musical, athletic, clever, strong. Likes gymnastics, baking, soccer and computer stuff. Enjoys his friends' company but oddly insecure about his own popularity. And tall now. Much taller than me...

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...and eyeing off his father. I like how in these two photos he looks a bit like both of us.

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His favourite present this year came from Nell, who splashed out on a proper Socceroo shirt for him. She even brought it over in time for him to wear while watching the Socceroos qualify for the final of the Asian Cup. He was so delighted that he said No way! when he opened it. As Nell said, you know you've got them a winner when they say no way.


Socceroo shirt present from Nell

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Cereal Killer

On Monday morning Cherub showed me the empty 2litre plastic milk bottle and  informed me that there was no milk. I said yes there is, I bought some yesterday. He said no there isn't. So I said there's a blue cardboard carton in the fridge, look! here! And he was able to have his morning bowl of Nutrigrain after all.

On Tuesday morning, the colander was mysteriously in the kitchen sink with a few bits of Nutrigrain inside when I got home from the gym, but I didn't think anything of it until Cherub said Mum that new milk tastes bad and I said bring it here so I can smell it. So he brought over the blue cardboard carton with the 'bad' milk, and I looked at it and said sweetie, this isn't milk, it's cream. No wonder his Nutrigrain tasted bad. Amazingly he had eaten the whole bowl though.  As for the colander, apparently, the cream had made the Nutrigrain very sticky and normal rinsing under a tap hadn't been enough to remove the cereal from the cereal bowl. He still didn't realise he wasn't dealing with milk at that point though.

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Oh Cherub. You're such a focussed and organised little individual, but your powers of observation are rubbish.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Catnip

The thing I am loving this school holiday is that the boys are now of an age where I can comfortably leave them alone together, while I nick out to the gym or the supermarket or even for a coffee.  Obviously Climber has been old enough to be home alone for a while, but until recently I wasn't comfortable about leaving him in charge of Cherub for too long.  But they're both pretty mature now, and their brotherly dynamic is so harmonious that most days I head out while they're still in bed, knowing that they'll fix their own breakfast and then play quietly and co-operatively on the computer til I'm home again.  Having that little bit of time on my own is fantastic: I do love having holiday sleep-ins and fun activities and general lack of routine, but I am pretty attached to my alone time and crave it when it doesn't happen.
 


We had the lovely Nell over dinner last week, and I co-opted the kids into helping make pork dumplings. Production line cooking is much more fun with child slaves. There are no photos, Nell and I were too busy catching up. She enjoyed the story of how I discreetly tried to signal to Climber at the New Year's Eve party that his fly was undone, which became fully hilariously public when he couldn't read my hand signals and thought I was miming flicking out a teatowel.

Watching the Socceroos vs South Korea, Asian Cup
(Watching more of the Asian Cup Football - Socceroos v South Korea)

Both Fixit and I lost an aunt this year, and we were very touched to receive Christmas cards from our uncles in response to the ones we'd (I'd) sent them. Neither of our uncles have probably ever sent a card in their whole married lives, because the aunts took care of all that stuff, but both managed to send one this year despite bereavement, and in my Uncle's case, recent heart surgery and, as you can probably tell from the handwriting, Parkinson's Disease.  I felt the same way when Fixit's Pop took up the card-sending and gift-giving after Fixit's Nan's death. Touched and impressed that they took up the mantle, but also slightly indignant at myself for being so impressed when there is no reason that card-writing is women's work.  It's hard to explain properly. But the effort that my Uncle went to to send us this brings a little tear to my eye.  I wonder if Fixit will send cards if I predecease him?  I would be a very surprised ghost if he did.



I thought I'd found an awesome activity for the boys, a Parkour Course, which is that weird sport of running and jumping over stuff in an urban environment. But when we got there we found the average age of the participants was 8, despite being advertised as 5-15 and being therefore suitable for teens. Worse, there was only one instructor to the 30-odd kids so all activities were conducted at the very young end of the demographic.  My kids couldn't wait to leave. So disappointing, because I thought it was going to be really cool.  In the right environment they would have loved flinging themselves around.

More successful was our visit to the Cat Cafe in the Melbourne CBD. It is basically a lovely house which is home to a bevy of rescue cats, with a (limited) cafe menu.  You book an hour session and then spend that time interacting with the kitties and having a lemonade or cookie if you so wish. It was lots of fun, despite the fact that two-thirds of the feline posse were flat out sleeping for the entire session (2-3pm, it was only to be expected.)

Cat Cafe Melbourne

In the picture below you can see three cats staring intently at the window.  Despite all appearances, they are not plotting their escape.  The humans who run the Cat Cafe have attached a bird feeder to the window, and the cats come into that room to watch. Well unless they've come there to sleep, like Lynx-of-the-impressive-fat-belly.  The cats can't get out so the sparrows are perfectly safe, and the felines have plenty of toys and company and things to climb so they're not unduly tortured by not being able to kill the birdies.  So they just sit there watching.  It's like Cat Televison, the best programme ever.

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See the birdies?

Cat TV (bird feeder stuck to the window) Cat Cafe Melboune

The visit improved when a couple of the cats woke up, although there was a bit of human competition to be the one to play with the awake-cat.

Cat Cafe Melbourne

The boys hit the jackpot right at the end with Lottie, who played catch-the-hand-in-the-pouch for a good 15 minutes with them.

Cat Cafe Melbourne

Recommended for cat lovers.  They have a very good gift shop too.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Grown-Ups' Christmas Concert 2014

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I felt a bit sorry for my Grown-Up students at the end of last year, in the lead-up to their Not Really A Concert. They were all convinced they were terrible and would mess up.  Every single one of them.  You would think that this meant they had a mean teacher who stood out the front frowning and yelling, but I assure you this is not the case!  I encouraged them, promised to do their dances with them on the night where necessary, praised them, and gave them plenty of revision, notes and videos to help get them ready.  Yet still they fretted. This is normal, they're like that every year.  They're not used to being showponies, and they always freak out beforehand and then they always have a good time during and afterwards.


 
The reason I was sorry for them was guilt, a conviction that the stress I was feeling trying to get 8 adult and 15 kid tap routines into 2 shows involving 60 odd performers within 4 days of each other was causing me to be less calm and zen in the face of their pre-show nerves. Immediately the kids' performance was over I was aware that a massive burden had been lifted from my shoulders and I was able to front up to all my adults' classes in their final week in a relaxed state of mind and try to put their fears into context.



What is the worst thing that will happen if you make a mistake? I said to them.  Nobody will die. Most of your audience won't even realise. Nobody will demand their money back, because we're not charging people money to watch this! So just enjoy yourselves. You know these dances. You know it'll be fun on the night.  And afterwards you can have a laugh and a drink.  You will be fine, I know it.



And they were.  They were all great. Yes, mistakes were made (including several from me) but the audience enthusiastically appreciated every single routine.  And that's the pay-off, that's why my students put themselves through it every year.  They're not professional dancers, they are just people who wanted to learn a new skill. They've learned something hard, something out of their personal comfort zones, they stood up in the face of their nerves and gave it a shot, and the reward? Applause, cheers, whistles, whoops and smiles.  Well-earned and very, very gratifying.



At the end of the night all the students, including some of the tap family kids, got up to join in the group Shim-Sham.




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Then we took a bow, cracked the champagne and toasted a great night, and a great year, of tap. 


Flowers after the show


Students and party food.

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The Advanced Class posing ala Mambo #5 (Five fingers held up, get it?)

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Last ones left at the end of the night.



I have such lovely students, and I love my job.

Link to video... (Some music has been changed, owing to YouTube rights restrictions)

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Baking, vouchers, beach and bikerides

We are having a very quiet holiday this January, due paartly to Fixit's mean employer not granting him any time off this month, and partly to financial restrictions.   I don't really like going away without Fixit anyway (except to Craft Camp/ Spa weekends with Jen and Astrid, obvs. that's totally different) but also, my car's steering is definitely dodgy, which means I don't want to drive anywhere too far away.  Specially on my own. We're at that point of working out whether we throw a lot of money at the old Corolla, or investigate a new car, which will mean even more money, a bank loan, research and just general botheration.  I will miss my car if we do this, I am very fond of it.  But on the other hand, I keep thinking how nice cupholders and keyless entry would be.  (Except when you leave your clicker in your shorts' pocket and it accidentally goes through the washing machine.  Then you can't drive, until the rice dries it out.  Ask Fixit if you don't believe me.)  Plus I have so much work I need to get done for my tap business, to do with the website mostly.  So even though my sister very kindly offered us the use of her house (she lives near the beach now) while she is away, we are opting instead to mooch around our house.

Came out the front to find out who was beeping the horn. Cheeky kids telling us they're ready to leave.
 Mooching boys in my faithful car.  Climber can't actually drive but he certainly looks the part.

The boys had a few Christmas vouchers so one day we went into the city to see what we could spend.   The expedition to Dymocks Bookstore to spend my Mum's gift vouchers was a success; both boys bought some Doctor Who paraphernalia, Fixit bought a fixitty How to Make Anything book, Cherub bought the latest David Walliams book (Awful Auntie), I bought More Fool Me by Stephen Fry and The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood and Climber bought a really good baking book (Baking Recipes and Secrets from Our Test Kitchen by The Women's Weekly) and we have so far made coconut macaroons, a spongecake and today we're trying the gingerbread cake.

Sponge Cake
Sponge cake, so good

Even the cat is benefitting from the baking book. 


Whipped cream, mmm.

We then went to to see what they could do with their Myer vouchers. Sadly, Cherub's are still burning a hole in his pocket owing to the traditional January Lego-Drought in All Major Stores (We've also tried Target and Kmart to no avail.  January is a terrible time of year to buy Lego.  It used to make buying for Climber's birthday a real pain). Climber chose to spend some of his vouchers on nice clothes, so I took him to the boys wear section (last year of getting him into boys wear I think, he is now taller than me even if I put on high heels) while Fixit took Cherub to the deeply disappointing Lego sections.  They saw this while we were there, a Lego replica of the MCG. Pretty impressive.

Lego MCG at Myer Melbourne.

Cherub spent a few nights away from us in Queenscliff with his best friend.  He had a lovely time and came back tanned and fit from all the beach cricket.  Climber was very quiet while he was away, not unhappy but fairly introspective.  It was lovely seeing how much he came out of his shell when his brother returned.  They do get on so well.  Lots of laughing, lots of trying to make each other, and us, laugh.  It makes me so happy.

Happy to have the small son home again. We missed him, and his crazy ways.

As always in January, Melbourne throws in a few +40 degree days to punish us. We were able to escape one of them by driving to Barwon Heads to see my Aunt and Uncle.  Cherub was very impressed with the recliner chairs.

Loving the recliner chairs at my aunt's house.

We drove over the bridge to the awesome beach at Ocean Grove, where the waves are perfect for boogie-boarding.  Bliss.

Ocean Grove beach this afternoon before the cool change. Boogie-boarding heaven.

The cool change arrived as were leaving so we travelled with it back to Melbourne.

We are bringing the cool change back to Melbourne with us.

Small expeditions aside, the days are mostly spent round the house, with me periodically encouraging the children away from the computer for some exercise. Or as Climber puts it forcing us to go on bikerides.