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.
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.
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.
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...
...and eyeing off his father. I like how in these two photos he looks a bit like both of us.
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.
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.
Oh Cherub. You're such a focussed and organised little individual, but your powers of observation are rubbish.
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
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 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.)
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.
See the birdies?
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.
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.
Recommended for cat lovers. They have a very good gift shop too.
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.
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.
The Advanced Class posing ala Mambo #5 (Five fingers held up, get it?)
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)
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.
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, 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.
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.
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.
We drove over the bridge to the awesome beach at Ocean Grove, where the waves are perfect for boogie-boarding. Bliss.
The cool change arrived as were leaving so we travelled with it back to Melbourne.
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.
We saw in the New Year with our Mothers Group friends, as we have done for the last couple of years. Left to myself I would have no desire to go out and party on New Years Eve (too crowded, too many drunk people) but I am more than happy to attend this gathering: it is easy and close-by, it is in the company of people I really like to spend time with, and it is always enjoyable.
As this is the third year running that we've celebrated this way, some traditions have now been established, and the nicest part is how much the kids like and demand the order of ceremony. They love a ritual, do kids.
The first of the evening's ritual is fairly predictable - the kids jump straight in the pool and play raucously while the adults head for the table and the delicious food and drink. If it's warm enough the adults might swim too, when the noisy, splashing kids get out to refuel. It wasn't warm enough this year, so only Fixit braved it. As always, he chucked kids around and they hung off him and demanded me next.
Later, we walk up the road to watch the 9:30pm fireworks from a local vantage point with city views. I found out this year that Sydney gets dark before we do in Melbourne. Sydney's early fireworks were at 9pm, so we were able to watch them on telly before walking up to see ours from the hill. I really did not know that, thinking darkness would fall at the same time for all places in the same time zone. It's something scientific, to do with the earth's curve probably. So I learned something in the last hours of 2014, go me.
We usually see someone we know up on the hill. This year we saw some of my little tap students and some staff from our local cafe. And we met up with Cherub's best friend and he and his Mum ended up coming back to Astrid's house with us. He couldn't believe his luck.
There was fun with glowsticks this year. I assume this will be a new bit to add to the ceremony next year. Glowcuffs.
On our walk back to Astrid's, we stop at a specific corner and light our sparklers. This is Sparkler Corner now, by appointment. Someone generally yells out Expelliarmus at this point in the proceedings.
Then it's back to Astrid's for dessert and some night-time swimming larks.
And then another walk back up the hill at midnight for the good fireworks, where coloured sparks fly up from across the top of the CBD. It's beautiful. Trams ding as they trundle past us standing in the centre of the road. Then it's kisses and wishes for a happy new year, and time to walk back down the road, stopping only for another round of sparklers at Sparkler Corner.
After all this our family gathered up some stuff and said goodbye. We headed for
home, walking through the dark to catch our tram. Cherub was tired by
then and not impressed by all the walking, but we told him it was an
adventure, staying up till half-past-one. This morning we all slept late and then I made pancakes. I'm still in my pyjamas as I wish everyone a very happy 2015. Hope it brings peace, love, health and happiness to us all.
NB. All photos featuring the children are now classified as "private" on Flickr and can only be seen by my Contacts (that is, if you click through to Flickr for a better look at them). If I know you or your blog I am happy to be friends with you on Flickr . Joining is free and easy, and you can store up to 200 photos there.