Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Goodbye, goodbye

We're moving house and Fixit's mother died on Mother's Day. There is so much I want to say about both these events, but no time to say it properly.

Also, just to add to the list of things we're dealing with at present : Fixit had knee surgery, to repair ancient damage caused by the great motorcycle accident of 1993. Surgery was much needed and will improve everything for him, so it's great news, just it wasn't the best month for him to be incapacitated, however briefly, and he really hasn't had a cushy recuperation. He's had to power through, but he is coming along nicely.


Our house is in chaos, and bit-by-bit we dismantle our life here.  We are very, very happy to leave this horrible house, and can't wait to start life again in the new house and closer-to-everything suburb. But moving is a SLOG.


Last night Fixit pulled down the bunk bed he'd built all those years ago, and the cat was adorably confused. Cherub was Fixit's helper for the bunk dismantling job, and was waiting excitedly for Climber to return home from soccer training so he could show him the new sleeping arrangements. He's so very, very cute.


As for Fixit's mum: she had had an awful run of health for the last two years, spending large chunks of it in hospital or in a wheelchair, and the root of it was the heart damage she'd sustained from the heart attack a year or so ago, but with so much else going on with her health (diabetes, broken leg, broken hip, chronic arthritis) no-one had quite picked this up. So it wasn't until she was admitted to hospital last week to try and sort it all out that they realised how bad things were for her, heart wise, and at that point they said there's nothing we can do, let's move her to palliative care so she's comfortable. That was Wednesday, she died Sunday. It was very quick. In between, she slept. We went in as a family to see her on Sunday afternoon, and we told her we loved her and said good-bye and she did respond, but she was beyond talking or eye contact then. We came home for dinner, and as we ate, Fixit's brother rang and said come back now. She was gone 5 minutes before he made it. We're all so sad. The boys, shocked by how terrible she'd looked in the hospice and struck by the grief in the faces of the adults, were distraught and we cried and cried. Fixit stayed at the hospice and mourned with his family.

At home, we lit a candle. Rest in peace Elaine. You were a loving and hard-working mother to Fixit, a kind and generous mother-in-law to me, and a loving and indulgent grandparent to Climber and Cherub.  We will miss you.


Friday, May 01, 2015

Shaking It Off at the Fete

The Tap-Kids were rockstars again at the local fete this year.  We've performed there so often now that we have it down to a fine art - both in terms of the performances and in terms of the technical stuff like setting up and striking the tap boards.  One of the guys running the stage this year remarked on our speed - he'd been all prepared to help, then he'd left the area to check on something and came back to find it all set up.  Another fete-volunteer-guy was helping Fixit lug boards into the grounds, and as they shook each others' hands said Oh so you're Mister Caroline? The kids found that terribly funny.

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As usual, for the performance run order, we worked from youngest to oldest.  Here's a picture of the Tiny Tappers, who are aged 3-4, being delightful tapping bumblebees. One of my newer students, who'd been with me less than a term and had never seen us perform, was suddenly stricken by massive stage-fright and sat on her mum's lap looking at me with big tears rolling down her little face.  But I offered to hold her hand for the performance, and also said she could dance holding her special lion soft toy, and she bravely agreed to come on.

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Of course once we started she was fine and had a splendid time.  The kids indulged me by dressing up for the show, and I think they look so adorable with their wings and face-paint and antennas. Such cuteness.

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Trombone playing bumblebees. Edible.

The next to perform were the Flappers Class, who are beginner-level tappers of school age. They did a terrific job walking 500 miles.

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 (It's a song, they didn't really walk that far.  But there was walking of sorts. And jumping.)

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I especially like the bit where they fell down at your door.

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We had the Gliders1 Class (more than beginners) up next, so many of them that it was hard to get them in one photo. 

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They had a pretty tricky routine this year.  With shoulder choreography and everything.

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This is them just before they bite the dust. Look at their faces, they can't wait to pretend to die.

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Then came the Gliders2 class. They were performing Lollipop and at the final class before the fete  I suddenly decided to make them do the routine with lollipop props.

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One of the young tappers was a bit concerned that this was too much to expect of them at the last moment, and to be fair, he had a point. It was a big ask.

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But of course, these kids are so good that they absolutely coped and remembered the new lollipop holding (and licking) choreography. Such troopers. (Should that be troupers?)

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After that it was time for the Grand Finale, the ambitious routine where I put all my senior classes together in one dance, doing different things to each other.  We had one fun rehearsal on the Friday night before the fete so they could get used to tapping with all the three classes together. It went incredibly smoothly! They all loved doing this song, and were just fantastic about knowing where they had to be and what they had to do.  I was so impressed with them.

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I think they were all bursting with excitement to get up there and perform. First to take the spotlight were the youngest of the three senior classes, The Shufflers.

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Falling Off The Log step. We worked VERY hard on this. (I was a little bit sick of this step by the end of term, I taught it to some grown-ups as well so I had to fall off the log a LOT.)

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 What a team.

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Next up were The Tapsters.  This used to be Climber's class but he no longer wants to tap. So sad. Lucky I still have all these gorgeous girls to work with, because this class is the most advanced and are up for all the challenges I can throw at them. So clever.  I still put Climber to work; you can see him in the background being the stop/go person on the ipod, so that I could have Nell on photographic duty (didn't she do an excellent job?) and Fixit on videoing-using-the-ipad duty.  He also did a good job, except there was an ipad malfunction right when this routine (the one I really wanted recorded) started, and he didn't get any of it.  However I was able to get footage from Julie, and Jen (who had a child in each of the three classes), thank you laydeez, and put together a video, see below.

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I wasn't planning to dance in this routine at all, but one of the Tapsters was away this weekend, so I took her place.  It was fun!

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Wings!

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Then the groovy Groovers came forward and performed their stuff with their usual aplomb.

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They love this move.  We call it The Geronimo. All the other classes are jealous and want it in their dances as well.

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The crowd was very impressed with it too.

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For the final chorus, we had pat-a-cake, balancing and bridges.  When we finished we received an enormous round of applause, and lots of cheering. 

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Great work, kidtappers! Once more you did a fantastic job entertaining the crowd.  So proud of you all.  Big thanks also to Fixit, Nell and Climber, and of course, to all the wonderful tap families.


video

Monday, April 20, 2015

Walkerville

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Fixit's work refused to give him any time off over the January school holidays, so I asked him to apply for something in the April holidays so that we could go away somewhere.  I wanted the beach, but I also wanted a social holiday, like our lovely Mothers Group stay in Rosebud. Circumstances weren't right for Astrid, but Jenny was keen so we started trying to find a big house. Originally I wanted to go towards the west and the iconic scenery on The Great Ocean Road, but the prices down that way were exorbitant - we think because they double-loaded them with a school holiday plus an Easter tariff - so we looked to the east, and at a friend's suggestion decided on Walkerville, a small coastal town, once the site of a limestone quarry and kiln, located about 3 hours drive from Melbourne

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The ruins of the historic limestone kiln, with Fixit and Nell for scale.

We arrived on Good Friday and brought with us the home-made hot cross buns that Jenny and I had spent a day slaving over earlier in the holidays. Nell came with us too, because she hadn't had a beach holiday for over ten years and we had a spare bed, owing to Climber being off on a 10-day outdoor education program in the mountains. We were also joined by Betty the Dog.

On the first day the kids went off on their own to explore.  It didn't take them long to find the beach, although they didn't go down without us. A bit later we all walked round to the campground kiosk at Walkerville North.  We found icecreams, lollybags, a stunt kite for Nell and a stinky shark's head.

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Stinky

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Group selfie (or groupie) at Walkerville North Kiosk, closest source of milk, bread, papers and more importantly, coffee and ice-creams.  Taken on our second day.

This is us walking from Walkerville South to Walkerville North. 

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Sometimes the tide came right up to the rocks so for those of us not wearing swimmers and water-friendly shoes, there was a lot of clambering over rocks to do.  Actually, even the children quite often took the clambering option. Rock climbing is fun.

If we weren't visiting nearby local towns or beach-combing, we would laze around in the holiday house.

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The kids and Nell played Monopoly, or Monotony as Jen referred to it, the other adults most definitely didn't. Fixit had his puzzles, the rest of us read books or added pieces to the jigsaw, or fixed meals or chatted. However one night we all had a go at a game called Riotous Applause which involved timed guessing challenges, like charades, twenty questions or continuous talking on a theme (Nell and Bella were stars at that category). And many patiences/solitaires were laid out. But there was a lot of Monopoly. In this picture below Cherub has all the $500 notes. He's pretty happy with himself. Bella had to start a Royal Mint to produce some $1000 notes to deal with this situation.

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On Easter Sunday the kids were up very early to find if there'd been a magical chocolate-strewing visitor, and luckily there had, and luckily the kids in the adjoining house had not trespassed because their hunt started even earlier than ours.

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Easter Egg Hunt (upstairs)

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Easter Egg hunt (downstairs). Cherub had extremely cold feet.

Afterwards the kids divvied up the eggs, making sure that it was all fair and equal, and that there was a stash for the absent Climber.  Are you aware when kids do fair and equal distribution that colour is one of the prime considerations? One small green egg for everyone, two medium pink eggs for everyone, etcetera. Once they're all sorted, you then open the trading floor for swaps, which goes more easily with boys in the mix as they will cheerfully relinquish pink eggs and take the green or blue. Cherub acted on Climber's behalf in colour trading. It took a while, but everyone was happy at the end. It was very civilised.

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We put out birdseed out on the deck every day and were rewarded by regular visits
from beautiful birds. At night a big possum came and cleaned up the
leftovers.

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We had some expeditions to nearby places of interest, such as Cape Liptrap Lighthouse, one the first two automated lighthouses in Australia.

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The kids had a lovely run around there, playing tiggy and just generally jumping for joy.

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We went to the market at Tarwin Lower, and bought up big on jam and soap, then celebrated with a coffee afterwards.

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The Tarwin Lower groupie. Nell stayed home, she was sleeping downstairs with the children and what with Cherub's snoring and all the early rising, she felt the need for some quiet time.

We stayed up to watch the Lunar Eclipse and Blood Moon. Well some of us did.  It was very cool.

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This shot is staged, because we needed to put on the lights so we could be seen in the photo, but this is actually what we were doing while the eclipse was happening.

Fixit found a cave and took us there. It was very cool. Fixit and Nell and the children were keen shell collectors, despite Jenny and I nagging that some shells ought to be left on the beach for other people to look at.

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Find all the preciouses.

On the Tuesday Nell went home and Climber joined us. 



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Nell and kids and Betty on her last morning.

In between those two things happening was a very tense and unpleasant drive from Walkerville to Warragul (where Nell's train to Melbourne was departing), because of weird accelerator problems in Fixit's car, and bumpy perilous mountain roads taken at speed when it became apparent that we were in danger of missing the train. We actually made it to the station - Nell and I legging it with the luggage over the footbridge - with one minute to spare, but then the train was 8 minutes late.  Then there was a moochy wet and cold day for Fixit, Cherub and me in Warragul and nearby Yarragon, both of which were nice enough places to visit but neither of which had a lot to offer over an extended period, and we were pretty desperate to get out of there by day's end.  As Cherub put it: I feel like a homeless person, and it wasn't a nice feeling. Climber's train arrived at 7:30 (should have been 6:30 but his train from Albury to Melbourne was late, meaning he missed the 5pm train to Waragul).  So we had to drive back over the mountains in the dark and wet, although we took a less mountainous route in consideration of Cherub's carsick-prone tummy.  We heard all about Climber's excellent time away at the Mittagundi Outdoor Education Program, and then just as both boys had nodded off in the back seat, an enormous wombat decided to amble out in front of us, making Fixit brake and swerve, and me shriek and then laugh when we missed him.  A wallaby also bounded out a minute later so we walked into the holiday house full of adrenaline and pleasure at being home.

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clockwise from top left:
La Porchetta's for dinner in Warragul, waiting-room at Warragul train station,
historic train at Yarragon and Climber in Walkerville at last..


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All the chilluns together, having dinner.

On Climber's first day we took him to have an awesome climbing adventure over and round all the rocks, and of course to show him the cave.

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He loved it.

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Cave at Walkerville South

The kids had a fantastic time exploring, and they were all brave enough to have a little dip in the rockpools.  Madness. Neither of my kids even had wetsuits on.  Brrrr.

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This time when we reached the cave we kept going, and there was much excitement when Betty-dog found a way to follow us, despite mean steep rocks and nasty sea water.  Millie guided her.

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Come on Betty!


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My boys.

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Walkerville is so very pretty.

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Millie and Cherub look through the rock window.


Starfish. Still alive when this was taken, not so healthy the next day when we saw it again. 

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Together at last.

We also revisited Fish Creek, to pick up a signed book for Bella by local author and artist Alison Lester. Both Jen and I could have spent up big at her gorgeous shop, but sadly, we had to abide by our disposable income budgets. We had hopes of revisiting the very cool Flying Cow cafe, but it was closed, so after making the acquaintance of a hilarious goat, who either snorted loudly at us, or made this weird half yodelling, half gobbling noise, much to amusement of the children, ...

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... and trying out the op-shop (where Climber bought a Harry Potter board-game for $3)...

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This is the Diagon Alley game being played back at the ranch.

... we tried another eatery and took another groupie.



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And did some more jumping.

On our last full day we took the kids to Sandy Point beach so they could have some swimming and sandy fun.  Sandy Point is well named.  Barely a shell to be seen. It's just very sandy. Good kid-friendly beach, even if it was on the cold side.  

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They didn't stay in long. Fixit -as usual- was the only adult to brave the water.

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Then they all got very busy with an enormous fort.  It was a gorgeous day and we finished it up with a lovely roast dinner.

Then on Friday it was time to pack up and head home, although of course we needed to drop by the kiosk for a last ice-cream and groupie.

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Goodbye Walkerville. Thanks for having us.

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