Friday, April 04, 2014

Twist of Fete

We were, once again, an absolute smash hit at the Merri Creek Fete last weekend.  So many great comments about how good the kids were, and a smiling and appreciative (and huge) crowd to cheer them on.  We had a great time, and I was super proud of them all.  My sister came along and took some gorgeous shots for me.

We tend to perform from youngest to oldest so you can see the development.  This is the Flappers class, for beginners and preppies.  They are a very capable crew this lot.


I thought they did a great job. They had to master some tricky stuff but they made it look easy.


The next two classes are younger More Than Beginners, and I now have so many of them we've had to split across 2 classes.  These are the Gliders1 Crew.

They always bring me sunshine.

And here are the Gliders2

They make me happy.

The Shufflers are intermediates.  I love the application and dedication in this group. They really want to learn tap, and quite often I see kids from this class watching other classes to learn extra routines.

They had a fun and fast routine and they just seized it with gusto.  A couple of these girls will be my junior teachers in a few years time, for sure!

The irrepressible Groovers.  Junior advanced. Always fun, with that touch of Broadway in their souls. I could teach these guys all day. They're delightful.

Their performance was rather ritzy, and had quite a few performance elements that they worked very hard to achieve, like formation changes and different parts for different groups.

Tapsters.  The Big End of school, the advanced class, the seniors.  They got a huge cheer at the end of their routine, because the tapping was so full on in it.

And they had a surprise prop! Here they are throwing money around, although apparently Climber just couldn't get his out of his pockets in time. His face isn't giving it away though.

Take a bow, you gorgeous kids!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Fast and Furious

Our doctor has put Mister Fixit on the Fast 5:2 Diet, in an effort to break the weightloss deadlock with him.  He is not great with self-control, that Fixit. If you haven't heard of this program, basically you eat a tiny amount of food (500 [girls] or 600 [boys] calories) for 2 out of every 7 days, and eat normally for the remainder of the week. It claims to work because you don't live in constant denial, and you also train yourself to forgo instant gratification of the hunger reflex, so your stomach can shrink. It is supposed to have amazing benefits for your cholesterol, immunity and anti-aging. Anyway, I think it sounds perfect for him and I have started on it too, to encourage him, and to deal with 4 pesky kilos of my own.  Gotta say, my first fast day felt like the slowest, longest day of my life! Also, the day after my first fast was a disaster, owing to a bad reaction (too much acid on an empty tum?) to starting the break-of-my-fast with freshly-squeezed orange juice, the upshot of which was me vomiting my breakfast just before I was due to start teaching 4 hours of tap. You can't really say to the watching parents I'm sorry I won't be teaching your children very well today because I've put myself on a crazy fad diet, so I just plugged away, and nibbled at some muffins and recovered after a while. So we'll see if I stay on it for long. I kind of hate the way way fasting makes me think about food ALL THE TIME, whereas normally I really don't.  Meanwhile, I am encouraging and helping Fixit to enter his food intake into a calorie-monitoring app, and I really hope this will encourage a degree of mindfulness with his eating habits, something he sorely lacks.

7 Mar 2014 10:38 am

Climber had his swimming carnival a couple of weeks ago, and came second in the breaststroke!  Just like his brother!  He competed well in several events, but not against just people his age, I'm not sure why.  In excellent timing on our part, Fixit and I were there to see him win his ribbon.

19 Mar 2014 8:21 am

Cherub has gone of on school camp today. As always, I think the house will be much quieter without our singing, dancing chatterbox.  He was so excited, and pretty much sat ready, with his packed suitcase by his side, for an hour this morning, waiting for me to be ready to leave.

19 Mar 2014 8:43 am

Climber has bought, with his own money, a Soda Stream machine. It is making me feel cranky, because I never buy softdrink for household drinking, it is purely a party or going-out treat. I have banned use of it to once-a-week. I feel mean about it, because I know half the attraction is the actual making of their own fizzy drink, but the other half is Climber's unhealthy need to feed his sweet tooth.  Anyway. It's a weird situation now. I feel guilty for denying him the fun of purchasing his exciting new fizzydrink maker and like the biggest spoilsport on the planet, he feels guilty for letting me down but also just really, really wants to make it. And drink it.  He is such a lovely boy.  I suspect many kids his age would just abuse their mean mothers for ruining all the fun all the time.

4 Feb 2014 4:56 pm

The house across the road has been slowly knocked down this week. It was the rental house of the street, the one with young people throwing parties, and it was in a terrible state: only good for party-throwing young people, basically.  Despite that, it sold last year for  three quarters of a million, as a knockdown.  We don't even live in a highly desirable suburb. I find that incredible. And rather depressing. I wish the real estate market would settle down. It never does though.

7 Mar 2014 11:20 am

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Octopuses are the new Pineapple.

Craft Camp Time, where the packing is hefty...

7 Mar 2014 8:41 pm

Threads are flying, and the laughs ring all day

10 Mar 2014 9:03 am

Views are pretty, and the meals are delicious

10 Mar 2014 8:20 am

So stitch, tribe of crafters, and let's all enjoy our stay.
(with apologies to George Gershwin)

9 Mar 2014 11:11 am

Yes. Another gorgeous weekend at Sewjourn with fabulous friends. It was the Susan-and-J-Name Crarf Camp, starring (from front left going clockwise) Jenny, Susan M, Susan K, Jan, Kate, Jac, Janet and Suse. Kate and I toyed with temporarily changing our names to Suzie-Joan and Janey-Sue for the duration, to fit in with the theme.

I had been feeling stressed and cranky in the week leading up, but as soon as I walked in the studio door and saw all those lovely women smiling in welcome, the anxiety and crankiness melted away. Sometimes you just need to get away, don't you?  And getting away with a great group of women to a great location, is ... well, great.

All the girls seemed to whip up an astonishing array of lovely things.  They're so productive. I am much slower, mostly I think because I need a long time to process sewing instructions: read, think, read again, make sure I've understood it, ask Jenny if I'm not sure, lay it out, pin it, check again, then sew.  And if I get distracted in the middle of that process by all the interesting conversations flying round the table, I have to start the read/think process all over again.  But better safe than sorry is my sewing motto. Yes. I have a Sewing Motto. So I managed just two garments, one of which was made fiddly because it was a kids top pattern that I adapted to fit me.  The pattern was from a Japanese book: all diagrams, no written instructions.  (Then I made a skirt from Ottobre magazine which was all instructions and no diagrams. So confusing for my poor brain!)  This is the top.  The lovely fabric was given to me by a friend. (Justine. Another J-name.) If I make it again I will cut it wider round the neck, but everything else was pretty right.
9 Mar 2014 3:25 pm

This is the skirt, my crazy cat-lady fabric. I'm pretty happy with both garments.

10 Mar 2014 12:04 pm

When I walked in the studio, a very groovy foot-stool, wrapped up in plastic, caught my eye and I distinctly thought whoa isn't that gorgeous! But I was lugging stuff and greeting people so it didn't really register.  Once I was settled Sue M. said your stool is over there and it was only then that I remembered that I'd bought it from her via facebook months ago.  Sue finds the old stools and does them up with fantastic fabrics and Suse and I both ordered them.

It is even lovelier in real life, and PERFECT for resting my feet while watching telly.

10 Mar 2014 9:35 pm

In other random news, my plan to make the mosquitos attack my room-mate and footstool maker Sue M by spraying myself with repellent before bedtime was a complete failure.  She said she heard them whine past but didn't receive a single bite. Meanwhile I got bitten 9 times. So unfair. We also discussed the awesomeness of octopuses, celebrated Suse's birthday on Saturday with cupcakes and champagne, and took home some lovely tea courtesy of first-timer Jac.

8 Mar 2014 5:48 pm

I love Craft Camp so much.  Can't wait till June!

Monday, March 03, 2014

When Will There Be Good News?

16 Feb 2014 10:01 am

Because people care about us and they know it's been more than 6 months since Fixit's retrenchment, I've recently been fielding questions about Fixit's job-hunting a LOT.  And whilst I absolutely appreciate that these questions come from love and concern for us, I can't give a good answer to the question, so I am starting to find dealing with it (a) depressing, and (b) slightly annoying, because it keeps bringing up how anxious and frustrated I'm feeling about it all: primarily because nothing has changed and nothing appears to be about to change and the longer this goes on the more likely it feels that nothing will ever change.

Current employment climate aside, some of the no-change-in-the-situation status is because Fixit is dragging his heels on applying for jobs, initially because he wasn't sure what he should pursue, then because he decided to do the re-training at TAFE (part 2 of which is in hiatus while the TAFE get their act together) and recently, I think, because he is intimidated by the nature of job applications; the fact that he has to sit on the computer and find sites, and register, and then tweak and submit cover letters and resumes, and worst of all promote himself, is deeply off-putting for him, and he keeps finding all these very important tasks he needs to do in the shed instead.  Well, the man is a mechanic, not a desk-jockey.  Computers are not his thing.  I have put it to him that he really needs to start casting his net wide in the current job market, and that maybe he could delay shed-gratification until after he's spent a portion of his day at the computer looking at job sites and sending emails. And in theory he agrees.  But then there'll be a snippet of paid handyman work to pursue, or an important thing needed on his or a friend's motorbike and, well....  The other reason I'm finding it too-depressing-to-think-about is my lack of faith in the hiring process, probably due to the experience we had when he applied for work at Qantas all those years ago.  There are just so many hoops to jump through these days - a veritable rigmarole of submissions and tests and phone interviews and day workshops and only then a face-to-face interview - and at the end of it I'm not sure I have any confidence in the HR people to know a good worker when they see one, specifically in something like mechanical engineering which doesn't necessarily need a sparkly go-getter person who can talk the talk in an interview. My feeling is that his best chance to find a new job will be through someone he knows, but he can't sit round indefinitely waiting for that to happen.

So yes. That's where we stand, and as I say, the longer it goes on, the more depressing and uncomfortable I find it. We're still okay money-wise, provided nothing goes pear-shaped in our lives, and the rest of our life is chugging along really well, so meantime I may have to redirect all queries to the man himself. Otherwise kind and concerned friends and family might find themselves on the receiving end of me-in-a-state saying he hasn't got a job, he doesn't seem to be looking particularly hard and I'm starting to worry he'll never get one now, which will inevitably end with people trying to offer me helpful solutions and actually, although we've all done it, that's never really as helpful as people think.

(Having said that, if you have asked me recently how it was going please don't feel like you've done wrong.  This is about how I'm feeling, and I do appreciate the concern.  But I am starting to feel like the best approach is for everyone to trust that if we get good news I will broadcast it far and wide immediately.)

To counterbalance all this stress, there have been lots of nice things happening around here.

Astrid, Jenny and I celebrated 13 years of motherhood and friendship together by taking our teenage firstborns out for a lovely meal.

16 Feb 2014 7:14 pm

16 Feb 2014 7:13 pm

Cherub's school has introduced a new music program and Cherub, having watched his big brother learn flute, was keen as mustard to join. He has now had 3 lessons on the clarinet, knows how to play 6 notes and is less squeaky every time he shows us.

11 Feb 2014 4:30 pm

He was very proud to show his notes to Grandma when she came to visit, and even set up a music stand with his music book on it, despite not yet being able to read music.

21 Feb 2014 9:05 pm

When Mum was here, we took her to see my sister's new house, which was fun.

23 Feb 2014 2:17 pm

Cherub came second in the breaststroke at his school swimming carnival, which meant he got to compete in the District Carnival where he came a very creditable 4th in his heat.

 18 Feb 2014 11:35 am

And we had a fun night out celebrating Jen's birthday,

22 Feb 2014 11:08 pm

22 Feb 2014 11:08 pm

Plenty of good times, then, just no news as yet.  I'll tell you when there is.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Climber and The Octopus Pool.

Unlike his spendthrift younger brother, Climber has always preferred to put aside his birthday and Christmas money.   I think he quite likes having money, as opposed to spending money.  He only wants to spend it on stuff that he really wants, specifically stuff that he doesn't think will come to him any other way.  And (again, unlike his little brother) he doesn't really want a lot of stuff. He is currently sitting on a nest egg of a couple of hundred dollars, and I'd been thinking I really ought to get around to opening a bank account for him, just in case he started frittering it away on illicit sugary treats.  But then he suddenly announced last week that what he really wanted was to buy a kid's pool for our backyard, and could we take him shopping please.

Although I did think this would be a fun way for him to spend his money, his request made me remember that somewhere in the deeps of the junk cupboard in the sewing room was an inflatable pool that someone had given us a long time ago.  It seemed worthwhile to check if that one was any good before making a trip to a shopping mall. 

The pool from the back cupboard turned out to be quite fancy, with a central octopus fountain that also doubled as a quoits game.

Fixit set it up for the boys, and they did have a happy frolic in it, but I think on Climber's part it was less than wholeheartedly. Not because of anything wrong with the pool, just that it had dashed his dreams of owning his own pool, although of course he never said as much. With words anyway. He walked away from it after a surprisingly short play, not sulky, but not happy either.

However, on day two, Climber went out on his own to play in the octopus pool, and after half an hour of wild splashing he came in and said I'm sorry I said that pool wasn't very good. It's really cool. I really like it.

And then the games were on.



Other backyard equipment - of course - was dragged in to improve the set-up.


I made sure Fixit came out to supervise the safety of the procedures. Some of the slide-balanced-on-a-milk crate stuff was making me nervous. I'm such a sissy.


Of course, if Climber still wants to buy his own we could do that. It would be pretty cool to be thirteen years old and to own your own pool.


But meanwhile, it brought home to me the way in which Climber is often the catalyst for fun stuff around here. He's always been a dreamer, but he's very good at making his dreams come to life. I love that about him. He could have a happy life with those skills.

Friday, February 07, 2014

A desk of one's own and other bits and bobs

The end of January, and indeed the start of February, went by in a bit of a blur. In between getting my ducks in line for the start of the kids' school year and my new term of tap, I zipped up to Sydney to see my Mum who has had a pacemaker inserted. It was good to spend time with my Mum.  We didn't get up to much because she was recuperating, but I really like her little area of Sydney and we managed a stroll or two every day and some nice together-time.  I am feeling grateful to live in this age of medical miracles. A tiny machine inserted in her shoulder and a life-threatening condition is fixed.  She was fit to go home the same day and will tick away safely for many years to come. Amazing.

26 Jan 2014 7:14 pm

While I was away Fixit and the boys were gainfully employed helping my aunt and uncle move out of their city flat and fully into their beach home.  Poor fellows were working in a nasty heatwave, which made me feel guilty for not being there to look after them and happy because I was enjoying some beautiful balmy Sydney weather and the air-conditioned comfort of my Mum's house.  No-one likes a Melbourne heatwave. The hard work and high temperatures took their toll on the boys, who fell asleep on the floor in the middle of the day, something they haven't done for years.

27 Jan 2014 3:56 pm

I made it back to Melbourne in time to see my baby off to his first day in Grade Five.  The big end of school.  He looks too small for all that.

29 Jan 2014 8:40 am

Climber started Year 8 a couple of days later.

31 Jan 2014 8:22 am

It is like a switch has been flicked in Climber's head.  Last year he seemed rather foggy about what-things-needed-to-happen-when, a fairly common reaction to the rigours of Year 7, I'm told.  But at the start of this year, he started really thinking about getting himself organised, and not just thinking: doing.  The new-found focus was first evident when he asked if Fixit could make him a desk. Fixit knocked him up a temporary one, thus.
4 Jan 2014 2:14 pm
Then we inherited a proper desk which Fixit modified for a small space.  I suggested we put the hulking great [white-elephant] landlord's wardrobe to use, by removing the door and putting in some shelves, and Fixit obliged. Prior to that it had only been good to store toys in-and-on-top-of; the doors didn't fit properly and were a nightmare to open and we don't need much hanging space for the sort of clothes my kids tend to wear. So now Climber's schoolbag and books and uniform have an organised place to be, instead of (despite my nagging) all over the kitchen floor. What's more he has been sitting down enthusiastically to complete homework. It is a beautiful thing.


The Climber was very busy fitting out his new workspace, whipping up a homemade pen holder and a calendar, and asking Fixit to make him a bookend for the textbooks.  His grandmother will be pleased to hear he has been using the reference books she sent him last year to help with English grammar work.  I am observing all this focus and drive with great admiration and some relief.

Our desk donor also bequeathed us a bookshelf which has provided somewhere to store lego creations, textbooks and trophies.  And the ukulele. Perfect.

All in all, it has been a very good start to the school year.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

My firstborn is a teenager now.

Unbelievable. Days long, years short.  It wasn't so long ago that he was these versions of himself...


.. and now, in a flash we have the teenage version. Nearly as tall as me. Very likely stronger than me, with all that swimming and gymnastics he's done. A delight.

23 Jan 2014 8:56 pm

He was five when I started this blog. He was making fairy traps in the backyard and falling asleep during car trips.  Now he waters the garden and organises his room and stationery for going back to high school, and worries about how his hair looks.

To celebrate his big birthday we rose early for a pancake breakfast ...

24 Jan 2014 7:42 am
(no photos of that so here he is opening his presents.)

... took a train trip into the city ...
24 Jan 2014 8:49 am

... saw a movie (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2) ...
24 Jan 2014 9:59 am

... came home and watched some Modern Family episodes (the dvds were his birthday present)
 24 Jan 2014 1:21 pm

 ... had dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant...
24 Jan 2014 6:51 pm

... and then had birthday cake at home.
24 Jan 2014 7:41 pm

I have it on Tracey's authority that teenagers are wonderful human beings and that we shouldn't assume that the adolescent years will be awful. My gut feeling is that Climber won't be awful, given his sweet nature and kind heart. I do expect him to give me cheek and question my authority, and that has started already, but he's pretty funny with it so it's not unbearable.  (Yet.) I think that what I really fear about the teenage years is the inevitable pulling away from us, his parents, and while I see on a rational level that this is something that needs to happen, I will miss the close and almost exclusive relationship that we've had. My intention is to follow Suse's example; she said once that no matter how old her children get, the rule is they must still kiss and cuddle their mother. This is a most excellent rule, and I hereby put it in writing.

24 Jan 2014 7:42 pm

Happy birthday gorgeous boy. Every day you make us happy.