Tuesday, December 31, 2013

... and then it was Christmas

24 Dec 2013 9:00 am

In the lead-up to Christmas when I was trying to organise the tap shows, the shopping and just all the other things you need to do at the end of the year (teacher presents, Christmas cards), I was feeling completely stressed, and rather resentful of all the work. Luckily for me, Jodie posted this and woke me up to what an idiot I was being.  Her words made me realise that this so-called work is actually the best kind, because what I was really doing was creating fun and memories and excitement. And that one day in the not-too-distant future, my kids are going to be grown-ups and all that ado and anticipation will be gone. So I decided to cherish the effort instead of resenting it, because I still have my sweet excited children for a few more years, and they are what make Christmas the best time of year.

So here is my list of the things that made me happy this Christmas, and more than made up for having to visit shopping malls or slave away in the kitchen.

The fun of decorating the Christmas tree with my family.

8 Dec 2013 9:48 am

The fun of our Mothers Group annual Christmas party, our thirteenth together. This was taken pre water-fight.

21 Dec 2013 11:47 am

The fun of having children who love to enter in to the spirit of Christmas.

22 Dec 2013 8:11 pm

23 Dec 2013 8:44 pm

24 Dec 2013 8:35 pm

The excitement of Christmas Eve, of making sure you tire out your children with bike rides and swimming so that they'll be able to get to sleep that night, of leaving out Santa snacks and hanging out the stocking and of writing a hasty last-minute note to Santa because for the first time ever we didn't post an official one.


The fun of opening stockings in the early hours of Christmas morning.

25 Dec 2013 6:35 am

And then, after breakfast, of opening the family Christmas presents under the tree.

25 Dec 2013 9:49 am

The excitement of receiving a present you really, really wanted.
I got a fez! I got a fez!

25 Dec 2013 9:56 am

I got a bike basket, I got a bike basket!

26 Dec 2013 11:47 am

And then a lovely day spent with family, including Ma Fixit who is finally out of hospital after nearly 4 months, and who struggled desperately with having to sit quietly while her daughters-in-law (and her husband and children) did the bulk of the work.

25 Dec 2013 1:52 pm

Followed by a long and relaxing evening with my Dad and my extended family.

25 Dec 2013 4:37 pm

So it was a very Happy Christmas for us, and I've had plenty of time since to recover from the 'work' involved. Hope yours was too!

8 Dec 2013 9:40 am

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

And then it was the Grown-ups' Performance

The Grown-Up Students' show is a very different proposition to the kids' one. I have to coax many of them into even considering strutting their tap stuff in front of others. Some are fine to tap in front of people they don't know but won't bring anyone they do know to see. A few are keen. Given all that, I don't see that I could ever really consider charging admission for this, which is why I make it more like a party, so at least we can have yummy nibbles and a glass of champagne afterwards.

When it comes down to actually performing their dances on the night, they do seem to enjoy themselves, and having made it through the first time terror, they are somewhat happier to do it the next year. When you think about it, as adults there are not many times in our lives when we receive a hearty round of applause for something we've done, and it is rather nice.

Here they are then, my gorgeous and brave grown-up students, concentrating like mad, and making me proud. I applaud them all.


Here are some photos too.

I was tired before it started and completely whacked afterwards because I danced every dance that night, more for moral support than because they needed it but try telling them that. So it was followed by a day of collapse (in 40 degree heat, blergh), and then a day of Christmas shopping (finally!), an evening of post-show slump (nothing nice will ever happen again!) and then some pre-Christmas frenzy. I think I will properly relax on Boxing Day.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Doctor is [IN]

15 Dec 2013 8:55 am

As I mentioned in my last post, a parent whose child was about to participate in their first ever Kidtap Concert was asking me what to expect, and I, downplaying it as usual, told her it would all be very low-key.  Striving to understand what I meant by that (who ever heard of a low-key dance concert?) she asked me if there would be a storyline.  I told her she wasn't thinking low-key enough; but part of my brain thought Could there be a story? Why couldn't there be a story? I could make a story. And the idea wouldn't go away. I kept thinking about it, mostly while I was in the shower.  The problem was the unlikely group of songs I was using for the show. They'd been chosen for reasons of dance-ability rather than curated to fit around a theme and at face value had little in common with each other.

At first I thought it's impossible, these songs can never be linked by a common thread. I thought that for a week, but however often I thought that I never let go of doing a story. Eventually, by dint of persistence, more long showers and the knowledge that the linking story could be as flimsy as all get-out if it had a skerrick of sense behind it, an idea that had possibilities presented itself. What if the common theme was advice, what if we set the whole thing in a counsellor's office, and the songs were all answers to problems? Further inspiration came from watching a Doctor Who special of Never Mind The Buzzcocks (on Youtube) where David Tennant suddenly started feeding Catherine Tate "Doctor, Doctor" jokes.

So with a plan in mind, I pitched it to the older kids to see if they'd be interested in being the actors, (umm, YES!!!) and started to fine tune the ideas.  And with a deadline looming, I put myself on lockdown and wrote a script, with the aid of a corny joke book.  The kids and I got together for one crazy, chaotic and creative afternoon a mere 6 days before the concert, where I handed out scripts and roles, gave them some directions and then told them to go home and LEARN THEIR LINES!!  Which they did, bless their cotton showpony socks.  What I loved was how willing they were to run with it, to hit all the jokes and to make a show. Let's put on a show!!! It was truly delicious. No wonder I love my job.

So with dances and lines learnt, lists ticked off and stuff carted over to the local primary school hall, the day of the concert dawned, and it was time to find out if I'd over-reached myself.

This was our opening scene, a waiting room of a doctor's office.


There was some fine ensemble comedic acting, (this scene was a lot of fun to put together) and then they did their seated tap-dance a'capella.  We were up and running!


The second scene was based on a kid (my Climber) seeking help because he was sick of his mother always bossing him around.  We played this for extra laughs by having him direct an accusing look at me over on the sidelines. The doctor's advice? Always do what your mother says, because your Mother is Always Right.  (Cue Climber demanding his money back.) If you need proof of that, just listen to the story of the Three Little Fishies (It's the one where they swam and they swam - against the mother fishie's advice - right out to sea, met a shark and hurriedly came home again).  Look at the adorable Little Fishies, just look at them.


Next we had a patient who wanted to make friends but suffered from shyness. Her doctor suggested she use corny chat-up lines as a solution, (more research required here, it was slightly difficult to find lines with a G-rating but I managed three), and voila, we introduced Jeepers Creepers Where'd You Get Those Peepers? We had a slight glitch with this routine, somehow the kids lined up in a different order than usual and I only noticed this after the song had started. Luckily we hadn't gone too far so I was able to signal Nell to cut the music, rearrange the children and start again.  It was very sweet actually.


The next patient needed help with exhaustion caused by over-scheduling; ie an abundance of extra-curricular activities (basketball, gymnastics, music lessons and *heavy eye roll* dance classes).  So the doctor sent her on holiday, a Swingin' Safari to be precise.  Don't forget your binoculars!


The fifth routine was trickier to thread into the narrative, being as it was a song from a Disney movie about two humans turned into frogs by an evil witchdoctor who were lost in a bayou with a trumpet-playing crocodile, singing about what they'd do when they were human. It only makes sense within its own movie, but it's such a good song to dance to! So the sketch consisted almost entirely of Doctor Doctor jokes until at the end the patient explained the above situation to the doctor, who told her the answer would almost certainly involve kissing (I'm not kissing anyone!), and the dancing started.


Cherub's class were next on, and their song was the hardest to fit in with the theme.  To what childhood problem could My Baby Just Cares For Me be the answer? Don't tell me if you think of something, it's too late now. In the end I gave the patient a non-specific illness. There was something wrong with her but she didn't know what, so the doctor prescribed tap-dancing to Nina Simone as a proven cure-all.  Frankly I'm surprised more doctors don't suggest this. The Groover class once more made excellent use of tap-plates on their hands as well as their feet. (Copyright Miss Caroline 2013)


Here is a picture that shows you the set-up of the stage.  The Consulting Room was off to one side so the dancers could be set on stage in readiness for the music to start.  It was wonderful how well this worked, thanks in large part to Nell wrangling them side of stage (Shufflers on, keep left, Gliders off, keep right etc).  I stood on another little board on the left hand side of stage for tap-dancing / keeping the beat help, and found to my pleasure that I was barely needed for the senior classes' routines. So relaxing! In this scene below, Cherub is playing a laconic dude who is sick of grown-ups asking him what he wants to be when he grows up, so the Doctor's advice was for him to tell the Grown-ups It Ain't What You Do, It's The Way That You Do It. We filled it full of like-speak (LOL, like, totally, like, awesome) for extra gags. 


I was very,very proud of this routine and proud of the kids performing in it. Stars.


We had a little break from dancing while I made a speech, thanking [almost] everyone. Tragically I forgot to thank my dear friend Jenny for her help, particularly for making the gorgeous Doctor Is [IN] booth but she insisted later that she prefers not to be put to the blush in public.  And then it was time for the combined Christmas routines.  The clever Tapsters and Groovers were highly professional with their song (Cool Yule), maintaining their different parts when necessary. They looked very slick.


And then came Here Comes Santa Claus featuring all 4 junior classes on stage, each group doing a class solo plus some all-together-now choreography. I'm surprised my brain didn't explode putting this one together, but it did actually come off quite nicely, considering their first go of doing it with all the other groups had been earlier that morning.  The video footage will show me bolting across the front of stage to physically collect the Tiny Tappers for their cue, as standing on the opposite side of stage beckoning and calling them was completely ineffective. Bless them.


So there you have it. Tapping and a storyline. Not so low-key as all that then. People kept coming up to me afterwards telling me what a good show it was. It felt like a triumph. I was so, so proud of those kids.  My goodness, what a lot of gorgeous right there.


I really, really do love my job.

(Adults Concert tomorrow night! Then I'm starting my Christmas preparations. Eek!)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Round Here Roundup

Annoying Things Going On:

Apple Problems.
Climber needs a new ipad for school after his bag fell off his bike. If we replace just the screen (cheapest option and not sure we could as the breakage is pretty bad) we lose the warranty, but as the ipad is less than a year old we can get a new one for half price. I'm prepared to do that, but we have to back it up first and our ipads can no longer connect with my dinosaur computer since the iO7 upgrade. I am putting off the repair while I try to work out what to do.

22 Nov 2013 7:29 am

When I was growing up there used to be a television ad depicting people at a dinner party dropping bottles and food all over the floor. The tag line was You wouldn't litter your home. Australia's your home. Clearly they have not met my children, who routinely leave wrappers from muesli bars or frozen juice sticks lying around, despite my protestations.

Grots 2.
The people who now run the Tap Hall let someone hire it for a 13 year old boy's birthday party. We used to have a No Party Policy there but the new mob running it are disinterested and incompetent, probably because they are overworked with the rest of their job. Luckily I knew about it so was able to lock everything of mine away but the hall was not cleaned very well afterwards so I had to mop it repeatedly to get it to a standard where I could lay my tap boards down. It's the price I pay for dirt cheap rent so mustn't grumble. (But sometimes I have to.)

Fixit has started coughing again. I am still not over the 2+ weeks of cough-induced hell (and deafness) from September.  My tolerance levels are still hovering where they were at Days 8-15 of his last bout, which is homicidal rage at the sound.  And in case you're thinking Poor Fixit, let me put the cough decibel emission in perspective. Last night I was sat less than 2 metres from the television and he coughed from 2 rooms away and I couldn't hear the actors speaking.

Non-Annoying Things Going On:

End of year Christmas Concert Madness. 
My brain, it is full.  So many routines to create and teach and remember. One of the parents of a newish tap student was asking me about the Kidtap Christmas Concert.  I said it's pretty low key. She said is there a story? and I said you're not thinking low key enough. But then I thought maybe I could do a story?! So I had a think about the songs we're working with and decided it was impossible to come up with a link.  Then I couldn't let it go and forced my brain to find a connecting story (not involving the invention of a time machine or holiday postcards to Nanna) and now I just need to organise a few of my older students to do some acting for me. I explained the story thing to the senior classes and they were quite excited.  Cherub's class interrupted me through the whole telling but endearingly the Tapsters, featuring Climber and his cohorts, sat listening to me with rapt expressions while I went through it, listening like it really was a story. They have since been on the hunt for the funniest Doctor, Doctor jokes they can find.  You know: Doctor Doctor I think I'm a sheep. Hmm, that is Baaaaaaad.

End of year Gymnastics Display.

17 Nov 2013 2:05 pm

Climber is very happy because he has mastered a round-off into a backflip.

Cherub has also really come along this year. He looks very safe on the balance beam, surely the most difficult of all the equipment. His round-off into a cartwheel (not on the beam) was also impressive.

End of Year Junior Music Concert.
Climber has really improved with his flute playing, so much so that he is now playing with the Junior Stage Band as well as the Novice Band. He is also in the front row of the flutes with Novice Band, which I'm told denotes a certain seniority within the orchestra ranks. Both Climber's bands were really good, and you could see why their Novice Band achieved second place at the Royal South Street Competition.  Sadly the Junior Strings Ensemble had an off night, and there were a few audience members scrooching down in their seats in discomfort as The Strings mauled their Mozart. But I had nothing to scrooch about with Climber's performances.

I sewed some quilt blocks for Aunty Cookie's sister and kids, who lost everything in a housefire.

24 Nov 2013 4:47 pm

Shannon is replacing their homemade quilts and put out the call to anyone who wanted to contribute. One quilt is mostly grey, one pink and the other purple. I haven't ever done a quilt block thing, but it wasn't too hard, provided you could work out the maths, cut neatly and sew a straight line.  I just improvised 3 blocks based on squares and patterns with squares. I had to invent ways of joining them neatly but they've come out all right. I did it find it very bitsy when I was doing it, but also strangely satisfying and maybe even a little addictive....

Day of The Doctor
We had Doctor Who mania at our house for the 50th Anniversary Show.

Watching The Day of The Doctor, 24 Nov 2013 6:50 am

We got up early to watch the simulcast and watched it again that night. We loved it. Loved the interplay between John Hurt, Matt Smith and David Tennant, loved the jokes and references to days gone by. Laughed, cried (at the end) and squeaked. Well done Steven Moffat

23 Nov 2013 11:12 pm

Thursday, November 21, 2013

In the (re) trenches

16 Nov 2013 8:11 pm

It's been three months since Mister Fixit was made redundant. During that time Qantas laid off 300 aircraft maintenance staff and closed its Heavy Maintenance operation in Melbourne, so it seems that the chances of finding re-employment in the aircraft maintenance industry are now very slim. Fixit has applications in with 2 other airlines but neither of us are holding out much hope.  Sigh. And here was us thinking aircraft mechanicking was such a good career choice. We didn't predict that planes would be flown overseas for major servicing in the cheaper Asian labour market.

Fixit has reluctantly gone back to TAFE because we really couldn't think what else to do.  He is doing a 12-week course which covers the entire schooling requirement of a Heavy Vehicle Mechanic apprenticeship. Think trains, trams, diesel engines. If he wants to pursue it, he would have to find an employer willing to sign him up for the on-the-job part of the apprenticeship; in the hope that they might prefer an employee who doesn't have to absent themselves at school for 4 weeks a year. Neither of us feel very excited about him having to do another apprenticeship (this would be his third) but there doesn't seem to be many other options. It is a strange thing to have to reinvent yourself at his age. And as for being at TAFE again, huh. TAFE has always made him grumpy: having to share an underfunded and at times barely competent learning environment with a bunch of unmotivated 18-year-olds does that to him. He's over it, he's completely over it, but at least now has the savvy to navigate his way through it, so he is currently 23 days ahead of where he's meant to be. He keeps Doing The Things and Getting them Signed Off. I'm over him going to TAFE too, because it makes him grumpy and we have to put up with that at home. One of his grumpiness triggers is the cheeky Cherub, because let's face it, the kid is noisy in a fairly constant and nonsensical way. He will often just sit or jump around in our company emitting noise for noise's sake, riffing on silly sounds for the joy of it. That's his thing, he is our chirpy little lunatic. I find it cute and endearing but Fixit does not always. (I'm far more likely to find Climber annoying than Cherub, go figure.)  At least Fixit recovers well when I remind him gently that Cherub is actually just cute, not annoying. We've made it a family joke and our robust second-born takes it in his crazy stride.

6 Nov 2013 6:28 pm

Fixit is using the break from employment to work on his health issues with some exercise (riding the pushbike to TAFE), and some pool time (while Climber does his life-saving swim class), which is all good. If only he could deal with his sugar addiction as well.  I don't hold out any hope that he'll manage to give up biting his fingernails to the quick in these trying times, but this will not stop me admonishing him when I catch him in the act. Well he'd miss it if I stopped nagging. Here's a picture of Fixit in the pool with our boys and some friends, they love it when Fixit throws them around.

16 Nov 2013 2:15 pm

In the meantime, it appears that there may be a market for Fixit's general fixiting skillz, and he has been earning some pocket money helping our local cafe owner with his renovations.  So far we are doing well enough living on the redundancy payout and my earnings, but it is a little bit hard to plan ahead in this situation.  I had been putting money aside so we could enjoy another January holiday but now it feels like it would be unwise to blow it on such a luxury.  We'll see. I get a bit stir-crazy in this house over summer so getting out of it might be an investment in emotional well-being and family stability rather than a luxury.

12 Nov 2013 9:25 am

This is Fixit and Climber enjoying themselves at a lovely brunch last weekend. Our chirpy lunatic has been playing in a tennis competition this year, which has been a lot of fun and done wonders for his tennis skills, and it was his end-of-season break-up.

17 Nov 2013 11:25 am

Here he is with his team.

17 Nov 2013 11:25 am

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

The Show Must Go On.

Our annual tap-dance performance at the Collingwood Toy Library Fair* was in October rather than March this year, and as such was subject to Melbourne's famously unpredictable spring weather. Being, as it always is, an outdoor performance, we monitored the forecast all week, and saw with dismay that rain was looming. But Pollyanna-like, I crossed my fingers that it would hold off until after we'd done our performance.  And then, as all my gorgeous kid-tappers and their lovely families assembled, it became quite clear that the rain wasn't going to hold off, and it was coats on, umbrellas out and a whole lot of questioning faces looking at me to see what should happen. By then my tap boards were wet and dangerous, the stall holders had covered their wares with tarpaulins and the general public was vanishing into the stands of the old football stand where the fair was being held. It looked like we'd have to cancel so I did at first say that, and about 4 families who were feeling the cold took themselves off. But most of them hung around and a few of them started saying we could go up to the second tier of the stand, we think there's enough room there.  Which made me think well we could at least get the senior kids to perform in a limited space, so everyone hiked up and around, and there was a big enough area of concrete up there, so the Tapsters grabbed their tap-sticks and started us off.  Then the Groovers looked at me hopefully and it seemed a shame not to show off their awesome routine and before we knew it, ALL the kids were sticking their hands in the air and asking if it was them next.  So everyone got to perform, except the ones who bolted early and I felt bad about that, but seeing as it was our first time in the new surrounds and staffed by volunteers who knew nothing, it was just a hard call to make. Anyway. The Show did, in fact, Go On, and that's how I like it.


As a change and a challenge I had choreographed all the routines without music, teaching the kids to  work with just rhythms so that they made the music.  I have been incredibly impressed with the way the kids all really got on top of what they were asked to do.  Even my adorable 4 year olds were able to master an a'capella routine and some call-and-answer patterns. On the day I only had one tapper from that group, but she did a wonderful job on her own.


This was her when she'd finished; she was so delighted and cute, and her family were bursting with pride when she rejoined them


But I'm getting ahead of myself. We opened the proceedings with the most difficult of all the rhythm routines, the clever Tapsters with their tap-sticks.  This is them getting ready to start us off.


They had to tap fast, and intersperse feet rhythms with bangs of the stick on the ground.  Check out the concentration on their faces.


They're such a lovely group and their lessons are very funny because in-between being clever at learning new and hard stuff, they love to muck around with each other and they do all have loony senses of humour..


Next up was my showbiz class, the always awesome Groovers, featuring my Cherub. Their routine was called Hands and Feet because I put tap plates on their hands (© !!) and built a routine using sounds made from all the tap plates. 

They adored doing the routine, and loved building the music of it by contributing their individual beats. I'm very proud of this one. They did it so well and sounded great and recieved a rapturous round of applause afterwards.


They always steal the show, this lot.




Next up were the Flappers class, most of who only started tapping this year. Their routine began with us singing a little bit of I Got Rhythm, and then we tapped the rhythm of that song without the song if that makes sense. Usually we have more kids in the group but not everyone can do performance days so these two coped really well with just each other and me.  I have been really impressed with this group and thought the girls did a great job; not a single mistake and absolutely knew what they had to do. I think for both of them it was their first performance with me, and they coped with a tricky routine, no music to hide behind, unfamiliar terrain and uncomfortable conditions, and they nailed it. Fantastic.


The Shufflers, my intermediate class, were split into 3 groups and had to hold their group's rhythm against the other two groups. I thought they performed it marvellously well. It really was a challenge, their routine, and there were days when it took us so long just to get one little bit that I'd wonder if I was being crazily over-ambitious. But they are great, they never gave up and they got it. They absolutely got it. Champions. Here's Group Three.


And Group Two, well, what there was of it! This little trouper had no-one with her in her group, and did a wonderful job holding her rhythms down.


And this is Group One, plus our human metronome. In fact, he is my Saturday Morning Assistant (Nell's replacement) and generally his job is marking the roll and taking the money and a little bit of dogsboddery. But bonus skillz, he is also a drummer so I can haul him out from behind the desk when I need a beat kept for me. He did so for this routine using a drumstick and a handrail. He's so good, and a lovely young man to boot.


We finished up with the cheeky Gliders. usually we have heaps of them but we were missing at least two thirds of their class for the performance.  They were looking very worried that I might forget to give them a go, bless their hearts.


Didn't matter that they weren't all there, they absolutely knew what to do and stormed through a very tricky dance.


What a bunch of tapping superstars.



* Previous performances available by clicking this link. it's quite interesting seeing how we've grown.
Excellent photography by my sister.