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.