Saturday, December 26, 2009

Box me up day.

So this guy really has Christmas' number. Yesterday was a good day, as far as days go.
But today I woke up and couldn't get up. Again. This isn't a new phenomenon; it's been a recurrent theme of my holidays thus far. I seem to have contracted a virulent form of inertia.

During term-time I fill my head with reasons the next day has to happen; lessons, errands, people, stuff. On holidays nothing seems to have the same urgency.

I've been told I need to 'upgrade' my violin. This, being a task which could consume finite amounts of time, money and emotional energy (hey, I'm attached to that thing. I've played it most days for the last... fourteen years) is simply too much for me to contemplate.

Can't do it. It's going to require communication with my accountant (who is LOVELY, but whom I prefer to avoid like the plague), some kind of refinancing or redraw on our mortgage, which then makes our mortgage BIGGER... and really, truly and not-quite-ready-to-deal-with-this-yet, I can't justify keeping my violin as well.

Which is a little devastating.

Oh, and then I have to FIND a violin I'm happy with. Which makes me recoil violently, imagining all kinds of uncertainty about is this one better? Significantly better? However many thousands of dollars better? Really? AM I SURE???

Luckily I have my darling husband to divert me from my existential angst with riveting enquiries such as this one: "At what age do you think I should stop carrying Lappy on my hip?"
Dude. It'a a laptop. I know you love it like your firstborn child, but if Apple haven't come up with a way to make it follow you from room to room on delicate silver legs YET, it's probably never going to happen.  Think of it as your wonderfully intelligent child with tragically withered and useless legs.

And never mention baking trays again. Thank you.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Armies of elves fuelled by sugar

Did I REALLY make all those tiny desserts? It's possible elves have been in my house. Or one of those terribly helpful and lovely humanoid aliens from Avatar. We've determined, by the way, that hubs is descended from those guys. He has just enough human to turn his skin pink and bring his eyes a bit closer together, but all the other stuff is right on track to be one of The People.

Hilariously, when we went to see Avatar on Tuesday night, we were handed 3D glasses. Now, hubs suffers from a lazy eye and I am so long-sighted in one eye and short-sighted in the other that my reading glasses give ordinary people migraines. So we weren't so sure that the 3D lark would work for us... I think we both had headaches by the end, but it was probably worth it. That or the kilo of sugar I'm managing to eat per day. Hard to be sure.

I'm currently reading book 2 for Neal Stephensons' trilogy The System of the World and will be tempted to continue doing so tomorrow. We have a breakfast with friends scheduled, which is desirable, lovely and wonderful, then a detour which will add about forty minutes to the trip to my parents' place (DAMN THEM FOR MOVING!) then dinner with half the hubs' family. Not so much my kind of day. Can I veto? I have a feeling today will require copious quantities of toast. Tripod is helping. Particularly their rendition of "I hate your family". A little editing would work wonders.

 Oh look, a mosquito. Because being plagued with red, itchy, revolting lumps will CERTAINLY make my day better. Or maybe I could pass it off as smallpox?

Oh, one more thing.

 Family: Christmas cards in the post: yes yes, very lovely, well done, horrifically organised, supporting charity of your choice who produce the damn bits of cardboard,  but you live ONE suburb away from me and I see you weekly: WHY did you MAIL it??? I'm just saying.

My smallpox is itching.

Today I am melting.

Really. It's one in the morning and I am so hot it's absurd.

This may or may not be my own fault for fashioning sugary christmas goodies (SURPRISE!) until very recently; eleven pm is a GREAT time to start making miniature christmas puddings, complete with baptism in dark chocolate then icing with white and the careful placement of a glace cherry on top (hubs).

And when you finish said puddings, let's make hedgehog! Because surely it will all be fine if I go to bed an hour later every night and get up an hour later every morning; at this rate I will barely be cognisant for Christmas lunch. If you know my family, that's probably a good thing.

Tomorrow: apricot delight (oh yes, condensed milk and dried apricots do a thing of beauty make) and coconut ice. Because that is how I roll. No cooking unless it's assemble and refrigerate. Actually, that's so not true, but I've consumed a LOT of cooking chocolate (accidentally, I suddenly regained consciousness with a wooden spoon in my mouth) and am feeling a little manic. Little? Hmmm. Gargantuan tiny bit.

Would coconut ice be offputting if I dyed it.... blue and green instead of boring pink and white?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Why is my life such a strange and difficult place?

Damn those tea-infusical whatsits with their clampy-shutting properties.
Make tea. Leave infuser on sink. Decide I want more tea. Knock out leaves (still wet, of course) and dip infuser back into brown paper bag of tea (I KNOW, it loses it's flavor uness hermetically sealed in tupperware blessed by the Pope and consumed within five hours of purchase, so shoot me now)... where damp edges of infuser contract sticky tea leaves. Which I fail to notice until I drop the damn thing into a cup pof hot water and it begins to haemorrhage Black Vanilla tea leaves everywhere.

This is why I should only drink mint tea made from mint leaves growing through my front decking. Or, choc-mint tea, as my beloved bro-in-law gifted us with CHOCOLATE mint (oh baby) a few years back and it's run feral with the established mint so I now have some very strange variations on a theme of mint colliding with cocoa running wild under the rosebush.

Ahem. You may have realised that around here silly season really is silly season. It starts with ballet concerts and violin recitals, but then it turns into holidays, and suddenly all my very focused and directed manic energy is turned utterly, rampantly outwards. We've been dancing Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday of the week just gone. Nearly went again tonight, but venue of choice has a puny dance floor and an open mike, meaning that if you CAN dance to the music, you'll probably fall over someone while trying.

Amusingly, on Saturday I was approached by a photographer who offered to do a photo shoot of me to promote.... myself. Uhhuh. Because I spend SO much time promoting myself. Dude, I'm fighting violin students off with a STICK (not a bow. Bows are not weapons, they are part of a delicate instrument and if you don't treat it with respect you'll have to play with an air bow. Ahem.)... yeah. A STICK. And I'm married, so it's not like I need to advertise for a husband. Although that could provide excellent leverage for... most things.

Why else would I want to promote myself?! HEY! LOOK! I can dance (if there's a band, and a guy who can lead, and I don't fall over because the dance floor is so crowded with people holding up their drinks, the bar and each other) sometimes. Wow. That totally deserves some promotion. I feel so lame. (Actually, that's pretty funny. Dancing, and then the lame. Lame like limping. Forget it. No-one's got a vocabulary any more.)

Why should I do a random photo shoot? I mean, really. Would you?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Definitely the low point

And so the term ends, not with a bang, or even a whimper, but a ... chunder.

You read that right. My last lesson, A. responds to my maniacally chirpy "So how are YOU today?!" (remember, plentiful sugary stockpile in my fridge) with a "Not good."

Further questioning reveals that A. vomited earlier today but now feels pretty fine (hence his presence at class). "It's okay!" he reassures me as only a six-year-old can. "If I feel like I need to vomit I'll just go outside." Faced with this unassailable logic, we have a great lesson...

Until A. gently puts down his violin and states, "I'm going outside. I feel like I'm going to vomit." He lets himself out and has a brief discussion with Dad, who runs to their car to fetch the emergency bucket while I stay with A. .

Who vomits. Who's all done by the time Dad returns (well, his back's only big enough for one person to rub, so really best Dad timed his return to coincide with the mopping-up and glass of water operation we slide into like old pros.

I'm ready to put violin away and usher gently to the car, but when you're six, emptying your stomach on your violin teacher's back lawn is really no barrier to having a good lesson. A. marched back in, picked up his violin, and launched into "Song of the Wind" with gusto. And a joke about the previously forgotten melody having been buried beneath the half-digested noodles now gracing my garden.

I'm sure there's a joke in here somewhere about teaching and teachers and chucking, but I'm on the comedown from macaroons-with-dark-chocolate heaven, so make it yourself. And to all the parents out there, I do so too get to experience the highs and lows of parenting.

Complete with vomit.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Nearly there.

Just one more day.
Given the amount of refined sugar happily sitting in my refrigerator (honey delight, Maltesers, Lindt, Cadbury, homemade macaroons, butter shortbread, etc, etc, so forth and so on) that really shouldn't be too hard. It's been a long term.

I don't actually remember my last whole day off. You know, the kind where you can sleep in, eat toast, eat more toast, realise it's lunchtime and expend HUGE effort upon taking a shower, eat more toast and think about a short nap before dinner.... Huh. No wonder I feel like a beached whale.

And before the interminable chorus begins, let me say it for you: Oh, enjoy it now, because when you have kids...!

You know what? You're a bunch of mongers. Jealous mongers. Because I am actively non-engaged in procreation. I'm practising, thank you very much. Only when I feel that I could pass some kind of theoretical examination (not just the practical) will I attempt to bring another living thing into this world. Then and only then will I actively relinquish my sleeping-in privileges and consign them to the days PB (pre-baby). Until then, all you jealous people shut up.

Moreover, if I was really making the most of it (or, indeed, if you REALLY wanted me to make the most of it), I'd be doing this EVERY DAY. Yep. EVERY day. But I'm not. Once a week, usually more like once a fortnight.
Or, in this particular instance, once a term. So stuff your jealousy back into your skull and relax in the knowledge that I am run ragged, on empty, sleep-deprived and a little crazy right now. Just like all you parents.

It's possible that my iphone will replace the need for offspring entirely. After all, I now have something to do with every waking minute of every day (clearly I don't already have enough to keep me busy).

In other news, played Pachelbel's Canon with three of my students for the staffroom today (yes, it was full of staff at the time). Two Gr 6, one Gr 5, me. Response: Gushing. Me: You ain't seen NOTHING yet. The best part: they really haven't. There's something immensely kick-ass about being a Suzuki teacher.

There is something much less kick-ass about your husband calling out a correction to your blog post.

Yeah, well, it's my blog and I'll type "than" instead of "thank" if I want to, than you so very damn much.

See? Running on EMPTY. No sparkles left in the magic wand, try me in January.
Or February.
Maybe the sugar's making me cranky....
I should totally refuel.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Phones can't scuba.

On Friday night I drowned my phone. Again. At least the last time I was aided by a sixteen? month-old who perceptively spotted that I carried a litre of water in my handbag and surely life would be a little more fun with added damp. I wasn't thrilled, and neither was his mom; two phones with one water bottle is a little precocious, I feel! Still, I fell back on my husband's phone (forcing him to downgrade to a chunky GREEN flip phone aka the Kermit bling phone) and we all continued along.

So, hadn't I learnt my lesson? Well, yes, I'm much better at restricting access to my handbag. But that wasn't the problem this time.

Scenario: Friday night.

Driving into the city to meet friend and her work colleague (aka B & C). B calls. I give her an ETA plus parking time. That's fine, they're doing some Christmas shopping, no drama.

Find a park approximately halfway across city. Visit 7-11 to facilitate gold coins for meter. Finally, car is legally parked and can begin to hike.

Text B to update her on status. Tuck phone into back pocket awaiting reply. Realise am desperate for toilet (drained L bottle of water so would not have to lug it about but could attempt semblance of hydration) and decide to stop at QV on way to city centre.

Yep, I've forgotten that my phone is still in the back pocket of my jeans. So much so that as I gratefully yank them down in the privacy of a toilet cubicle, I freeze upon hearing a certain clatter. This is the bowel-freezing terror that can only be experienced when you hear the clatter of an electronic device containing your LIFE against porcelain. Followed by a splash.



I leap up and am confronted with the dilemma of any adult who's become conditioned to the yuck of putting my hand into the toilet bowl. Knowing I have no other way of contacting anyone, I pull it out. And am immediately grateful for ballet. You all know what I mean. At least the water was still clear.

After scrubbing EVERYTHING I dry it off and flip the sodding thing open- and rejoice! It lives! There's a message from B stating their approximate location and a call me when you get close! And then it dies. Eff. I don't know her number...

Ten minutes later I've found a payphone, I've got $2 in 20-cent pieces, I DO know my home number, and the guy who lives there will solve this. Probably.

I call. And although I can hear the bemusement and a certain baffled patience, he does. I call back and he's not only found B's number, he's called her, explained the situation, and can tell me where to meet her.

Two city blocks and a slight error later... We meet. Happy days indeed.

A concert.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Christmas crap.

Supermarket queue, O and I, eleven a.m. Thursday morning. In front of us, a grandparently-aged couple packing their groceries onto the conveyor belt.

She turns and coos at us "Look at that gorgeous face! And you must be so excited about Santa coming to visit and bringing you LOTS of LOVELY presents!" O looks slightly confused, possibly wondering who this deranged woman is. I smile awkwardly and just mumble a rough "Uh, kind of..."
My confusion gets translated into "Oh, I suppose he's a bit too little to understand about Christmas and Santa."

(You blogreaders who know me will now be shaking your head sorrowfully at the foolhardiness of this woman, as declaring any child "too young" or "too little" to understand a concept indicates an alarming deficit on the part of the adult, and often directly precedes an explosion on my part.)

"No, I think he gets the whole christmas thing, and he knows who Santa is (gleefully recognizing him sticking out of people's lawns, atop their houses and half-stuffed down their chimneys)... We just don't make a big deal out of it." I smiled, she looked awkward, they paid for their shopping.

In the cold light of the following day, I feel more indignant about this. Yes yes, wonderful meaning of christmas and all that tripe, but the way we celebrate it is ridiculous.

What if we were a jehovah's witness family? Ah, we don't DO Santa. What if santa has a one-present rule? What if I'm on welfare and this child's father is fighting me for christmas-day custody and the day itself is a riot of drunken, abusive relatives? Just saying. The distribution of wealth in our immediate vicinity is such that any of these options are perfectly plausible. Yes, it probably helps that I was not wearing any visible (a) religious paraphanalia (b)body piercings (c) needle marks and neither was the child; no, I am not perfectly fine with you foisting your middle-class preconceptions upon me.

Now I kind of feel like saying "You know, we celebrate Christmas as a pagan ritual and will sacrifice a black cockerel to the dark lord." (No, not Sauron). Just call me grinch.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

You have to laugh... or stomp on toes

It's been a week of high drama and we're up to... Wednesday. Awesome.

There's really nothing to make you question your life choices like dancing about in front of eight hundred people. Wearing a pink tutu. With a crying five-year-old on your hip. Who only stops crying when you keep dancing. I mentioned the pointe shoes, right?

Pointe shoes are bad enough when my own sixtyish kilos are sloshing about on top of them; add another twenty of lumpen child (also wearing spiky pink tulle) and they're instruments of torture.

But really, no concert would be complete without the class who can't seem to see the audience (and therefore perform half their dance facing the back, the wings, and (only by chance) the front.

Such are the joys of kinder-aged children cavorting about in front of their adoring parents. The more recent concerts, with school-age children, have been more successful.

Sure, there was the boy who announced (in the middle of a quick costume change between ballet and tap) "Oh, my tap shoes don't fit me any more." Mmhm. In the five days since dress rehearsal your feet have grown THAT much.

Thank goodness for the senior student who retrieved his shoes from the bottom of his bag and undertook to stuff his feet into them. Miraculously, they somehow fitted again.

Oh, there were also feather dramas. Idiot me undertook the manufacture of swan lake headpieces. This means feathers hot-glued onto a paper base in a wing shape, two per girl.

So, making eighty-odd of these took a fair amount of time and used up my 2010 quota of swear words, but that's fine, they'll look great. They did look great. Even better when pinned in with WHITE bobby pins (I know, I'm OCD). And I made six spares. SPARES!

They looked less great when, five minutes before the performance, four girls are telling me there aren't any left. Of COURSE there aren't any left. Some featherbrains have take them HOME after the dress rehearsal and failed to bring them back for the real concert. And so the spares have been used by stupid people and we're STILL short.

Seriously. Would you not check that you have, oh, your LEOTARD? Do me a MASSIVE favor and check on the status of your headgear as well. Thanks so much.

I have the distinct feeling that my lovely flowers post-concert were guilted out of the girls who faffed about in the following way: "We can't find the white castle headpiece!"

Addressing this crisis requires problem-solving abilities far beyond the reach of any normal human. Clearly.

"Have you checked in the chess headpieces box? Have you checked in the pawn hoods box? Have you checked in the box of black and white skirts? And what about looking on the list to see who wore it last and asking them?Hmmmm?"

Invariably, five minutes later: "Oh, it's ok. It was..."
UhHUH. Because it would have killed you to have looked in more than one place before you made it someone else's problem. Skilled. Is it just me, or are we failing to invest our teenagers with common sense?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

It's not really very super then, is it?

Today I got my superglue privileges revoked.

It went like this: broken violin (teeny, tiny violin, not mine. Well, belonging to me, but not MINE per se). Hmmm. Scroll detached from body of violin. But superglue cures all (doesn't it?).

Find superglue. Open tube of superglue. Forget consistency of superglue (like water). I'm sure you all know what happened next. SPLASH!

Hmm. Ok. There's glue on my fingers, on my jeans, on my kitchen table... everywhere except the detached bit of scroll, in fact. Oops. I was expecting consistency more like cement? Spakfilla? You know, MOULDABLE, not "Hi, I'm REALLY sticky adhesive and I'm now going to coat every surface in sight!!!"

 I mentioned my fingers, right? MMmhm, now they're sticking together. I run to the sink, but water only makes the glue go off faster. This is good, since it's not so sticky anymore, but I can now feel that four of my finger are effectively COATED in the stuff and THAT feels like rubber bands tied around each finger (no circulation).

A panic-stricken few minutes later, I have nail varnish remover. Unfortunately, it's the gentle, non drying stuff, making it relatively ineffective against my good friend super glue. I wound up basically moving bits of my skin back and forth until the glue crackled and then flaking it off. And feeling very weird and light-headed all afternoon - possibly from the fumes, possibly the rampant chemicals being sucked through my fingertips and into my bloodstream.

AND, to add insult to injury (really STICK it to me, as it were), my lovely husband (after piecing the white smears on the table *thankfully gone now, my obsessive peering at my fingers, and the violin in two pieces together....) declared "Oh, you should have used PVA."
Dammit. I wish he'd asked me why I wanted the super glue in the first place.  Because, you know, enriching as the experience of sicking my fingers together and hallucinating all afternoon WAS, I'm sure I could have done better things with those brain cells. Thanks.

I should also mention that I am now in concert-aftermath mode. This mostly involves feeling like I have glandular again. And I will reconnect my fingers to laptop and actually compose paragraphs of edification amusement random.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Live where?

The weekend is thankfully over, and with it Frankston Council’s Festival of Lights (or, as the traders call it, Festival of Fights). I love my hometown and all, but it’s a little distressing to respond to heavy rain with “Well, that’ll keep all the drinkers at home.” Sad? True.

This is a weird place. People at one end say they actually live in a subsidiary of Mt Eliza, or North Frankston. Multi-million dollar residences litter the cliff face and there are lots of nice cars. Lots of yummy mummies sporting ghd-ironed hair and the kind of fake tan that involves a paper g-string and a home visit, not just a home application. Ten minutes down the road is everyone’s favorite game: Spot the unmarked cop car. If there’s only one, it’s a slow day.

Frankston’s main street: Friday: 3 pm. A car is pulled over and the driver fined for driving an unroadworthy vehicle. The four inhabitants bicker about the ownership of the slab (no, I’m not talking about a piece of rock) in the back, while the cop pries the license plates off with a standard police-issue screwdriver. Presumably this is so the moustachioed driver (I have a feeling that’s not a Movember mo) can’t continue to drive the bomb. Lucky his passengers all have recourse to the famous beer taxi.

Depressed? Already? Don’t go near the station, then. Frankston station is possibly the most written-about station in Australian history. Once it was the train you hopped to bum on the beach for a day.  Now… I’m sure you can all hear the next bit coming. Work it out for yourself.  Across the road it’s like walking through one of those miserable glass boxes they keep airport smokers in, except the smokers at the airport are better dressed and don’t usually have small children with them.

Let's not even mention the number of pharmacies that operate primarily as methadone clinics. Lots of small children there, too.

One block over, the bus stop is an unofficial meeting point for freshly tattooed and pierced adolescents, a kind of “Who wants to be an Unemployable Lout?!” without the relief of ad-breaks and absolutely no suspense whatsoever, because the whole lot are going to win if they have to knock all their own teef – sorry, teeth – out to do so.

I’m sure part of Australia’s charm was our claim on classlessness. Lovable larrikinism, rough camaraderie, having a few beers on the back deck as the sun went down.

Mind the gap.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Everyone is ratty.... me included.

You know those weeks where something catastrophic happens? But then the next day is ok, and you think Well, clearly I've dealt with the worst of it, now my week will be.... as it turns out, complete and utter shite. I shouldn't say that, there have been some bright spots, I'm just having trouble redirecting my focus.

Two of my families are moving in January; I've worked with them for 6 & 7 years respectively and they're well-established kids in Book 4. Both girls will start Year 7 and we've done quite a bit of the adolescent drama already... wish they could have moved at the end of LAST year! No, that's not it at all. It will be sad to see them go and I hope desperately that their music thrives in their new environments.

Today's gotten my goat a little; while it's IMPOSSIBLE that children should miss a minute of morning class time, and are under no circumstances to be absent from their clasroom for more than half an hour, Grade 5 & 6 have just swanned off (at the end of lunch) to Community Sport. (Oh, and they spent AN HOUR of morning class time IN THE POOL today) This is a weekly excursion in which they try out lawn bowls, tennis, etc and so forth. You are right! They should have no say in whether or not they want to try these things out, because playing lawn bowls six times is entirely more valuable than continuing to develop their ability to play a musical instrument. And the pool time this morning? Oh, it was free time. Because God forbid we should make constructive use of that alert morning period.

Can you tell I'm funimg? There may have been an exhange in the staff room today that went thusly:
"I felt really bad becasue this child had a hearing problem and I didn't find out till he was in Grade 2 when I brought up his naughtiness with his classroom teacher."
Let's just put the indignation I felt at THAT aside for a second.... as I hit a home run for homeschooling and pointed out how important inter-school communication is:
"Yeah, when I went to high school I had a sport teacher who didn't realise I was two or three years younger than everyone else in my class. It took her about two years to catch on."
The surprise that greeted this statement was only upstaged when I answered this:
"Oh, so that would have been boring, all those hours at home doing schoolwork by yourself."
"Mm? Oh, we only did two or three hours of academic work each day."
"But why were you so young when you went to high school? Why would they put you in Year 7?"
"I won a scholarship."
(Mum, I left out the part about yr 9 math, they were having enough trouble with the bare-bones basics.)
Yes. Watch those faces trying to add two or three hours PER DAY up to nine-year-old-getting-high-school-scholarship.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Once I get started...

On the weekend I was told "To set the record straight, this is not a 'teaching method'. You cannot buy ten volumes of Suzuki books and become a 'Suzuki Teacher'."
While I couldn't agree more with this statement and have had to explain this to many parents in the past (usually parents criticising Suzuki because they'd not had a 'true' Suzuki teacher), the reason for making this statement bothers me a little.

In the last few years, the violin repertoire has undergone major revisions. There are many more photographic illustrations, exercises, technical preparations and instructions contained in the new books. So many more that it is difficult to understand the necessity of the apprenticeship model and hours of observation required in teacher training. I feel that the new books (which come packaged with a cd) make it easier for teachers to access the repertoire and teach suzuki method.

Shouldn't I be jumping up and down and yelping for joy? Hooray, give me the book, I'll work through it diligently with each student, they'll be ever-so-well prepared and my life will be easy. I won't need to innovate, to identify potential technical hurdles, or even demonstrate good posture - it's all RIGHT HERE IN THIS BOOK!

Wrong. I feel that these new books make it easier for teachers to access the repertoire and teach suzuki method while having little or no understanding of the philosophy.

I feel that including so many photographs will make teachers lazy about demonstration and perhaps make parents a little lazy too - I don't need to watch other children, learn how to hold the bow, integrate this information into my own nervous system -Here! It's right here in the book! Look at that! Do it like that! (I know, I'm so cynical. You try teaching for ten years and let me know how your idealism fares.)

And the exercises. Hm. The problem here is that not every child needs every point prepared. Some children need one skill presented fifty different ways. Some don't. Overteaching is the quickest and easiest way to kill a child's interest. They will have different standards of perfection and it's not our job to impose OUR standards upon them. Rather, we need to keep modelling what we feel to be desirable and accept that their opinion may be different - they may not yet be capable of reproducing information at that level.

What's my real beef? I guess I feel that many teachers are not passionate about what they do. Or that they have become limited to a box of ideas and won't venture beyond it. I find reading the work of other educationalists fascinating. The way that Steiner and Montessori link to kinesiology and BrainGym; Glenn Doman and John Holt; Reggio Emilia  (and here ) and Suzuki's preschool and elementary school and the obvious resemblance to Kumon....

Ask why teachers teach what they do, why they do, how they do. And if they don't know, finding out may re-inspire them.


So I'm a Suzuki teacher. Not a "Oh, I teach Suzuki method violin" teacher, but a Suzuki philosophy teacher. Well, I try to be. It doesn't always go to plan, especially when I'm brought (or pushed) into proximity with other Suzuki teachers. The code goes like this: "Methhhhhoddddd" (with eye-rolling or tweaking fingers) or "Philosophy" (hushed, slightly reverent tones).

An incident is relayed in Suzuki Changed My Life by Masaaki which one of Suzuki's nieces returned to the modest family home and said "Oh, on my way home I saw this poor man... and thought how nice it would be to invite him home where we have hot tea and good food." (I am paraphrasing because I can't currently find my copy of this book, but you get the point.) Instead of praising her for her kind thoughts, Suzuki pushed her back out the door and told her to find the man and bring him home. She did, and they fed him and kept him overnight before he resumed his journey the next day.  

While the action points to the value of karma and reciprocity, Suzuki said he was trying to teach the value of action. (Hello, Satyananda philosophy!) When we think Hey, wouldn't it be nice if... yep, ok, you're a great person for THINKING that, but it's meaningless and futile unless you get off your backside and DO it. So, the message? Thoughts are essentially without value unless they are acted upon and made real.  (The perfect illustration: Well, I was going to do x (where x = wash the dishes), and I was thinking about it, but then y (a phone call inviting me out to lunch) happened. Yes, so you lost your intent and x never actually happened.)

What's brought this to my mind was a funny incident on Sunday involving several Suzuki teachers. Meeting was meant to take place at location A but changed to location B (another teacher's studio) because of our warm weather and the availability of air-conditioning. 

At my house my studio is downstairs and semi-detached from the 'main' house; students need to come upstairs to use the bathroom, for a drink, etc. Same deal @ location B. The homeowner and her husband were at home and spent their Sunday in the garden and other activities around the house. 

I think that in a similar situation (i.e. location B being my home) I would leave the necessary items for lunch (we were in situ from 10am-4pm) such as plates, glasses, cups and cutlery on the kitchen bench or dining table so that the (four) working teachers could assemble their meals (from the food they had brought) and have a cup of tea before getting back to it. Well, I thought that would be a sensible approach. 

Clearly I'm afflicted by a very strange and perverted type of common-sense. It does, after all, make far more sense for the visiting teacher to bring cutlery, cups, glasses, plates, TEABAGS, sugar and coffee. And then pack them all away to wash up at home. 
MUCH more sense. What was I thinking? 

You will all be pleased to know that I have offered my studio space on multiple occasions. I even have five different types of herbal tea. However, living forty/fifty minutes from the city, it's clearly too far for other teachers to travel. Clearly. There are some days I just don't get it. Any of it. 

Friday, November 13, 2009

Trust no-one... except the man you marry.

I have arrived at the ballet hall today to find it populated by mad religious people putting teenagers through a tedious bout of trust exercises.

Things like pairing them up (one seeing, one with eyes-closed and hands groping) so that one can yell impatiently at the other “Just go FORWARD already! Alright! So there’s a step there! So what! Just go FORWARD” while the blind victim giggles and spins themself in disbelieving circles saying profound things like “You’re totally going to walk me into a FENCE! Oh my gahhhd, this is so SCARY! I like, can’t see ANYTHING and you’re totally going to KILL me!”

Unfortunately, they’re probably not. I witnessed all the seeing-eye-teens (not to be confused with the thinking-brain-teens) being told “Do not take them ANYWHERE near the road. Just don’t go near the road. Take them (broadly gesticulating arm) THAT way.”
So much of the real mystery (and therefore, trust to be gained) has been excised.
With a sledgehammer. 

Real trust games for teenagers in this day and age should include real things. Like holding out a funny-smelling cigarette and asking “Would I REALLY give you drugs to smoke?” Of course, the desired (trusting) response would depend entirely on the calibre of your friend. Or holding the car door open while saying “Of COURSE I’m alright to drive. I only had one beer, and it was light, and it was HOURS ago.”

The real point of all this is that the people who play these trust games are usually the ones who WON’T drink and drive, or spike their friend’s drink, or set them up with a spliff instead of a clove cigarette. The kids who will – maybe they were never kids long enough to enjoy these games in the first place.

Hmm. I’m a bit worried about myself now. Still, given that I agonise over the nature of my influence on the kids I work with on an almost daily basis, I’m probably safe. Safe-ish. More likely that trust games just give me unpleasant flashbacks to being the new (immensely unpopular) kid in year 7.
I’m so not a team player.

P.S. I love my husband. It's a testimony to his easygoing nature that at ten pm on Friday night I present him with a plastic skeleton (well, skull and two hands) which moves up and down beneath a ghostly veil while suspended from a black tube... and say "Hey! Can you get the sound on this to STOP working?"* The unnerving groans that accompany this are not desired for our purposes** (ballet concert) so I have been presented with this monstrosity and asked "Can Michael disable the sound? So it still goes up and down, just doesn't make any sound?"

*I just realised his instant compliance could be linked to my scariness, which increases exponentially and proportionately to days remaining until concert. Shut up, the lot of you who are nodding out there. I can see you and I know where you all live. Yeah. 

**Because our senior students do plenty of moaning and groaning and DON'T require a motion sensor to get started. If you're reading this, good luck refuting that. Really. You'll need it.

So anyway, I dump this in his lap (right on top of the beloved lappy) and remove myself from the room.

Remember, ten pm on Friday night.

He fiddles, goes and gets a screwdriver, and after about fifteen repetitive moaning descants (by which time I'm ready to set the thing on fire) there is no more. Just a gentle whirring, as the skull bobs up and down and spins gently. And my lovely, clever husband picks up his laptop and parks his skinny butt back on the couch. I wish I had that kind of insane equilibrium.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Completely Random:

I may or may not have blogged about some random inebriated women who were malingering (that means "dancing" in such a way as to dislodge breasts from front of dress) at our dancing venue the other week.

I may or may not have (read DEFINITELY) danced in a particularly up-close-in-their-face way (facilitated ENTIRELY by my dancing partner of the time) but that was only because they were (a) standing in the middle of the freaking dance floor and (b) it was kind of fun nearly standing on them.

Cut to last night, leaving work and about to get into my car. Across the road, four women spill out of a four-wheel-drive. Three of them are sporting the same shade of peroxide blonde in an assembly-line crop. Literally.

For a split second I wondered if they were all wearing the same wig (well, clearly there were three wigs and they were EACH wearing one, but said three wigs were identical), because the women themselves were quite individual. Actually, that's a lie. The brunette was original. And maybe even sported a variation on her own hair color.

All four were adhering stringently to jeans-so-tight-they're-holding-me-up coupled with floaty tops and very high heels. The type that women totter in BEFORE their first alcoholic beverage.

Possibly the only reason the tottering decreases with the amount of alcohol consumed is that after the first falling over (ETA first two drinks) the shoes are removed and stuffed into tiny handbags. Which then form the nucleus of the "dancing" circle. Can you tell I've had a lot of bad experiences? (Correction: not "had" so much as "witnessed".)

Anyway, in tones best described as "galah" (as opposed to "dulcet") or even "cockatoolian"
they shriek at each other:
"That girl!"
"What girl?!"
"That girl over there with the hair!"
"What girl?!"
"That girl with the hair and the dancing!"
"That girl?!"
"We saw that girl at B____ last week? With the hair? And the dancing?"
"Oh, THAT girl! Is that THAT girl?"
"The dancing girl?"

All of this is accomplished with much flapping of tiny handbags and pointing; I am a little worried that one of them will fall victim to a passing car, but decide to finalise the torrid debate by waving helpfully and shouting "Hi!"

"HIIIII! You! You're THAT girl! That was dancing! At B____! We saw you! You're really hot!"

This comes in some kind of mishmash and nearly-taking-turns-speaking as they helpfully mash all the relevant information together and arrive at some kind of conclusion. "Thanks!" I yell back, and we go our separate ways, me doubled over in agony and muttering curses all the way home, them raucously cockatoolianing their way down the main street.

Note: It is physically possible to consume 2 litres of cranberry juice in four hours. I don't recommend it, but everyone should try it at some stage.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Nope, it's just as incoherent. Sorry about that.

I think last night's post suffered from a lack of time in which to think coherently, but since integrating a couple of other events that occurred yesterday... here goes.

At ballet, a mother brought in some car keys which she'd found in the parking lot sitting behind a particular make and model of car... which happens to be the same that my recently licensed cousin drives. Her assumption was that said cousin (who we shall call C for brevity's sake) had left/dropped the keys - oops, what a silly mistake! And that would be fine, but it's assumed that gee, knowing C, of course it's her car (of which there are billions) and her keys, and silly girl, never mind, we should be used to it.

I took the keys and pulled out my phone to call her before looking at the keys again. Uh, they're Ford keys. C's car is not a Ford. So, this silly mother had (well-intentionedly, and all) seen the keys, put 2+2+2 together to make 49, and called my attention to something crazy important.

How often have you formed assumptions about someone based on someone's version of their behavior? How often have you classed them after observing them a (very) few times?
How often have you been sucked into someone else's opinion without questioning their arrival at said opinion?

I'm guilty on all fronts. I know that a lack of grammatical mastery does not a stupid person make.
I know that being in the top 1% of academic results does not equate to emotional intelligence.
Hell, being in the top 5% doesn't even equate to common sense. I mean the type of common sense that goes: Remove keys from ignition, get out of car, depress door lock, check keys are in hand, close door, holding handle up to facilitate locking mechanism. 

Yep, I famously failed step four and locked my car keys in my car three times in three months. A few times I may ever have failed step five, causing the door lock to unlock, whereupon I helpfully opened the door, relocked it, and carefully closed it (holding handle up) before swearing VERY loudly. Mom, if you're reading this, I didn't really swear. Yep. Truly.  I shall be forever grateful for the coathanger-wielding expertise of burly men (well, it was insured, so if they HAD stolen it instead of returning my keys I wouldn't have been unduly devastated).

*** Mind you, this is not quite on a par with a good friend who locked his keys in his car... on a camping trip. Four hours from anywhere. When we'd exhausted all the available car key and coathanger gymnastics, he wound up taking the door off the car to recover the keys.

I digress. Last night my beloved and I went to the beach. For reasons known only to him, he wore regular shorts but took boardies. We did a little financial discussion in the car - "OK, I've got $20 for souvlakis," "Sweet! Here's $10."
"What's that for?"
"Der! Ice-cream." As if you have to ask.
Then he decided to change shorts. Good plan. Except... ten minutes later in the fish and chip place:
"Can I have a lamb souvlaki?"
"Um, yeah. About that... So I put the money in my shorts pocket, but then I changed my shorts..."
So I handed him the keys, laughing at the stunned mullet look on his doctorly face. Hmmm.

So, just because someone can do amazing things with lines of code they will not remember to put the money in the pants they're wearing. Just because you think someone is a ditz doesn't mean they will leave their car keys lying on the ground beside their car, and just because I can write amazing blog posts of stunning insight and clarity does not mean I ever actually will.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

TORLET from the people who brought you Yeah-Nah in all it's 'Strine glory.

It goes like this: "Yew SAID yewer goin to the TORLET an yew just run off! Just run off! That's NORDY, real NORDY. Say yew just goin to to TORLET and then run off. Yew NEVA do that, that's real NORDY."

And then the boy says very quietly, "I wonder where this Torlet place is. Sounds exciting!"
"Yep. You know, I was just thinking about how to spell that in the interests of accurate pronunciation."
Or something along those lines, because it is a fine summer evening and we are basking in a glorious sunset, albeit on Frankston's finest particles of silicon.

I am constantly amazed by the multifarious ways people torture the English language. With us Aussies, it's not so much the devising of a new lexicon that bothers me as our enunciation. I understand that English grammar, in all its irregular glory (ah, not for nothing is it a pearl of a language) is a complex beast. However, that does not give us the right to genetically modify the poor creature at will, let alone call it all kinds of nasty names.

Yes, this is what I do instead of sleeping. I also teach in my sleep. I'm wondering whether there is a discernible difference between my awake-teaching and my asleep-teaching, and if I can maybe spin that into discount rates if you come for a lesson during my afternoon nap. This would give me the advantage of (a) an afternoon nap and (b) more teaching hours in the morning. (Surely I could get up earlier if there would be a nap. Oh, bliss indeed.)

Anyway, lucky hubs tells me I'm remarkably coherent. I don't know I could display the same level of physical co-ordination ... but I'm not all that graceful when awake, so maybe it's worth a shot. Seeing as my husband is now behaving like a two-year-old (waving hands between me and the screen, shoving one down my top... now THERE'S something you didn't need to know) I'm going to give up on blogging and go to bed. Ballet concert tomorrow and the curse of the leotards begins. How did summer arrive without me noticing?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Slow communication

We went out to dinner tonight with our besties and upon arriving home I've realised we had a night of slow communication. Not that the conversation was by any means slow, but that it was based on a shared history that's been nurtured over a period of time.

These are people who know our quirks and can tease us for a propensity to talk tech or music. I can start with some marvellously moronic statement and work in concentric circles around it until I finally stumble across an articulate summation of what I mean - which is not necessarily what I said in the first place.

One word can spark a reminisce or a foray into the future; a discussion can be just that without treading on toes or becoming unpleasantly spiky. In short, it's communication of a quality which is becoming increasingly rare - not just a reflection on our 'growing up' and the other calls on our time, but also upon the depth of sharing and connectedness with other people.

I'm very good at knowing other people 'a little bit'; what they do, who they like, what they read and sometimes even what might make them laugh. I do love to be struck by the novelty of some new fascinating person, and some of them I even pursue, wanting to stab them and stick them up on my wall to be endlessly amusing. Ok, I'm kidding about the stabbing part. And the sticking up on my wall. I don't have enough wall space, what with all the pictures my parents are busy moving from their (old) house to ours.

But my point is, we are connected endlessly (and very traceably, with the advent of the interwebs) but shallowly. The threads are tenuous, and often little mothy holes appear. (I could totally link this to the rise of fast fashion vs. couture and clothing designed to be worn a whole season, not just a week, but it's late and I think you all get my point.)

Is this just a point I'm arriving at? You know, the one where everyone pauses, and takes stock, and realises we spend our lives in fractional milliseconds at a constant and very, very fast rate, and perhaps it would be better to spend it in minutes, hours, even days... just better quality ones?

I'm not sure I've made it to the central circle yet (that's where you meet the pebble that's occasioned all these ripples), but I feel on the edge of something profound. Meditation and learning to live in the moment... I think I'm close. Share the pearls of wisdom, people.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

WTF with WWF?

O and I visit the playground today. This is nice. There's metal bars wrapped in soft padded rubbery stuff, a big slide and a little slide, some obstacle-course-y rubber foam blocks, and a small plastic car embedded in the ground. Logically. We should all be teaching our small children to climb into the driver's seat of random cars, dislodging extant occupant (or leaning on them until they fall out) and spin the whel joyfully and with abandon. Hm.

So we do the whole playground thing for a while. This is mostly children attempting to socialise by pushing each other off various piece of equipment before being intercepted by a helicopter parent who referees the debacle and then guiltily removes themselves and their shoes from the rubber-matted shoe-free area.

I am tempted to wonder how many of these kids see the World Wrestling Federation on their tv screens; they certainly seem to have the smothering lean, stiff arm-lock and full-body tackle well within their repertoire. Still, that's better than being the chubby, pasty-faced child sitting sandwiched between her (yep, insert the three-letter f-word here) mother and (remember that lovely five-letter word starting with o and ending in e?) grandmother staring myopically at the spawn of Satan Nintendo DS. 

I giggle inappropriately, because while I respect that it's not great for small people to (inadvertently) harm or alarm others, I wonder if this is actually where kids 'catch' their behaviour. You know, rushing over to two other littlies and getting in between their faces before pushing one of them away, or attempting to shove some other kid down the slide because five seconds ago their predecessor was dilly-dallying and that's what their mom did to clear the backlog.

Same with the demanding of behaviour; you've heard it all before: "Give him a turn! Don't push! Come here!" Of course, it's not always practical to preface every request with a "Would you please..." or even "Please..." but we can't fault children who expect to achieve results with demands: we do it every day.

I'm not sure what level of 'helicoptering' takes place in a creche and suspect it's much less... so maybe more kids engage in solo play and learn to use their imaginations instead of relying on the nearest grownup to solve their problems. Anywho, it's a fascinating microcosm to observe.

Days like this I wonder if I really want the parenting gig; if I'll try too hard (damn all that theoretical knowledge!) and maybe if it'd all go pear-shaped just to prove me wrong. 

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Me? Vindictive? Never!

So I'm driving down the road to work, gently stuck behind an old coot travelling ye olde five kilometers beneath ye speed limit, when a very angry man in a silver car begins to tailgate me. I'd like to tell you the model of the car, but he was far too intent on shoving the bonnet into my dinky little bumper, so I can't.

He wasn't a very happy man. He had a bald head and a big moustache, and some rather large sunglasses. Possibly he was still unhappy about the loss of his Harley (doubtless totalled into the back of some other law-abiding driver), because he felt the need to express his frustration in a myriad of ways.
At first I thought he was trying a game of rearview charades, but extending your middle finger heavenward and jerking it violently doesn't seem very PG. Or sportsmanlike.

Then he seemed to succumb to a violent gravitational force emanating from the centre of his steering wheel. Loudly. I'd like to tell you exactly what kind of car makes a noise like that, but the whole bonnet-bumper situation? Completely tailgated. So I decided it might be time for me to play a game. Like "Chelsea Stops!" It's a great way to test (a) just how lightning quick your reflexes are and (b) the health of your tyres.
Mine are fine, thank you for asking.

At the next set of lights, moron man overtook me on the left and drove in an imaginary lane for about a hundred metres, valiantly straining to overtake the old codger who was the source of all his fury. He failed. Massively. Because I now had the pleasure of staring directly at moron's license plate. Oops.
I'm not a naturally vindictive person, but if you REALLY want to tailgate me, scream abuse, wave your finger about and then very nearly run me off the road, expect retribution.

We have a very nice service called "The Hoon Hotline" - 1800-NO HOON. They liked receiving my telephone call very much. They especially liked the part where moron man cut through an intersection using a service road at twice the legal limit. I liked getting even.

Monday, November 2, 2009

What I did on my Sunday.

Sunday started very early in the morning with a showing of "The Nightmare Before Christmas" in honor of Halloween. Then there was some sleeping. And a cooked breakfast, because bacon, egg and hash brown sandwiches are vital to schlepping about at the races before ballet rehearsal. Great idea. The caramel popcorn the night before? Very important part of my never-ending carb/sugar/edible loading. There are just too many pale and shiny leotards in this world for me to cope. Therefore more eating is in order. Where was I? Oh, about ten a.m. on Sunday morning. OK.

We offed to the races in style; me in a 1920s black lace and silk chiffon dress (shoestring straps, fitted, dropped waist, floaty skirt), black headpiece, red sinner lipstick (Poppy King gets some things very, very right), the boy in charcoal pants, black french-cuffed shirt with tie, & snap-brimmed charcoal hat.
If anyone sends me photos I'll add one to this post.

Right now I'd like to send out a fervent thankyou to jp for the tickets. I'm sure a highlight of the whole 'going to the races' experience is queuing for two hours in the dusty carpark, listening to a segment of the population whining "Loz, crack meopen another can, wuldja, me feet are killen me!"
 -  "Loz" is their peroxided cohort with tatts snaking beneath her visible bra strap (NO country race meet is complete without strapless dresses worn with possibly-maternity-bras and DIY oompa-loompa tan)
 - "can" is premixed Bundaberg rum & coke or UDL, served from the esky in the dust and tossed aside when drained
 - "me feet" are encased in unsuitably strappy shoes, which are cast aside shortly after aerating the turf and causing their owner to fall over. Oh, hang on, that's the cans and shoes in cahoots. My mistake.

The other half of the population, being male, are
(a) ogling the girls trying to simultaneously pull their dresses down over their backside and up over their strapless bras (while I wonder just how many seconds will elapse before someone gets that very delicate balancing act VERY wrong)
(b) oscillating between a vantage point and one of the alcohol outlets while making copious use of the word "f%^k" as a noun, verb, and adjective
(c) being tools while dressed as tossers.

I've never seen so much badly applied fake tan in my life, and I've been to a lot of ballet/calesthenics/aerobics events. Really, it was just indomitable proof that there isn't enough love in the world. Because if you really loved your bestie (you know, last-piece-of-chocolate type of love), you wouldn't have driven the Barina out of the driveway. No.

Instead, you would have said "Sweetheart, your legs have funny orange streaks up them and that REALLY clashes with your red undies, which, by the way, you can see straight through that pillowcase masquerading as a dress. And the kilo of clanging brass bracelets is just going to give you a headache by the time you finish that slab of Cruisers in the esky, so why don't you pop back in and trade the indian-feather-headband for a REAL hat, find a dress that covers your nipples and your girly bits AT THE SAME TIME and... those shoes? If you REALLY want to walk on the balls of your feet all day, those shoes are PERFECT. Here's a nail brush so you can get started on all that nice fluorescent dead skin."

Next time I go to the races I'm going to take a belt sander. You have been warned.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Thunder and lightning, very very frightening...pug!

It's stormy weather above our place; really and truly right above us. Hearing strong winds, I panicked and ran out onto our porch to prune the gorgeous yellow rose standard beside our steps. The other one blew over while we were away one weekend and I didn't want to lose this one too. Got absolutely soaked and decided to abandon my frenzied pruning efforts when I realised I was directly below some massive (daylight quality) flashes of lightning holding metal pruning shears. Hm. Yes, they have handles, but is that something I really feel like testing tonight? No. 

Hilariously, the same pug which was skittering across the floorboards barking in a panicky fashion not ten minutes ago has now passed out in her bed, sweetly oblivious to the world and subsequent rumblings of thunder in the heavens above. The rain is pattering on our roof but there are warnings of hail up to 2cm in diameter; no doubt there'll be human interest stories of families with their roofs blown off and clutching golf-sized hail preserved in the freezer for our intrepid reporters over at the HeraldSun.

Dammit. Spoke too soon. She's squeaking again.
Hubs is lecturing me just a little on the pool of cards we saw in tonight's Magic draft. Then apologising for speaking so much while I'm attempting to type coherent sentences. Then pointing out that he had in fact done said apologising. Ok, it's a mobius loop, enough already.

I now have three sore toes.
I carved a chunk out of my right foot's second toe when I put a large plastic tub on - well, I thought it was the floor. It wasn't. So my left biggie is sore, by right biggie is throbbing, and I may die from the blood loss incurred from my second toe. That I probably won't is an irrelevance and shall not be mentioned in the interests of garnering sympathy. And it's ridiculously humid.

Hm. Is there anything else I can currently think of to complain about? Oh yeah, it's Halloween tomorrow. Which, in Australia, doesn't mean a great deal. When all your friends are arty people it means a little more. I suspect dressing up may be in the air. This is totally my own fault for bemoaning the lack of frocking up in my life. Universe, if you are listening, this is not what I meant.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Shoot on sight:

Peroxide blonde gyrating furiously to sound of over-amplified band.

A little elaboration: the venue is TINY. About four square metres of dancing space tiny. The band, apparently attempting to rebel against or deny this unarguable fact, are growing larger every week. I kid you not, every fourteen days when they deafen us with their presence there is a new band member. And a new speaker. Possibly two new speakers. Now, given the size of the venue, they could feasibly play an ACOUSTIC gig and still be horribly, nastily, agonisingly loud. Tonight not only my toes (that's another story, see below) but my eardrums are bloodied.

Yes. So. The blonde. I have nothing against forty-something women having a good time. I would like to be one of them in twenty years. However, I hope my friends will tell me that (a) my dress does not stop my sagging cleavage from pogo-ing when I "dance" and (b) stepping from side to side swinging my hair, arms, spiky-ended fingers and the aforementioned cleavage does not qualify as "dancing".

It's particularly annoying when the rest of the floor not occupied by crazy inebriated woman is peopled by beer-swilling statues unwilling to concede their centre-of-the-floor space for, oh, gee, a comfortable chair?
Or that space over by the wall?
You know, where you'll still be able to see up my skirt when I turn but no-one will bump into you and the general quality of the dancing (your entertainment) will be better because the people dancing WON'T HAVE TO DANCE AROUND YOU ALL THE TIME, YOU MORONS!

Sorry. There are really only so many hours in the day I can be gracious and goodwill personified (hhhmmmm.... about 0.0001 realistically). Dammit.

Even my lovely hubs attempting to point out "But really it's a pub. I mean, people stand around drinking because it's a PUB" will not mollify me. Yes, it's a pub. But to stand in the way of the speedy trajectory of 150 kilos?
Well, how stupid are you currently feeling? And if you're not used to this whole people whirling around dancing business? ALL THE MORE REASON TO SIT DOWN, PEOPLE!!!
I'm sorry. Only avocado on toast can make this better. I have to go now.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I'm a little bit excited...

I am trying to recruit another violin teacher to work at the primary school with me. She's Suzuki-trained, but no teaching experience yet... the possibilities look good but I'm a little nervous.

I'm trying to extend the olive branch of "Of course, you're welcome to teach from my studio space" but I really only want her to do that if she's going to teach Suzuki philosophy, and her students would be welcome to join onto my concerts and group lessons...but that really only works if they're learning Suzuki repertoire.. and I only want them doing that if there's Suzuki philosophy behind it!
Oh, fraught, dangerous and dipping toes in the lion's lair, I know.
But it could be so good!

I guess I'll just hold my breath and wait for an email reply.

In other news: I am not a swan, I'm an ugly duckling. Or an ugly swanling, since I guess I'm technically too old to be a cygnet anymore. Last night if asked I would have made a sworn testimony that BOTH my feet were not only left, but attached to my hips by planks of wood upholstered with jelly. Isn't that a delightful image? I know, I'm so brilliant with words.
My brain was clearly a lump of aforementioned jelly sloshing about in jug of my skull, because I left home without
:Jazz sneakers (aka keep the skin on the sole of my foot where it belongs)
:Pointe shoes (aka flay the skin from the tops of my toes; who needs skin there anyhow?)
:Pointe shoes no.2 (aka who needs to break pointes shoes in? That's SO for wusses)

I hope you've all enjoyed that belly laugh at my expense and that your computer monitors are still coffee/tea/hot beverage of your choice free. Now go back to work. After you tell me the best thing you've ever forgotten.

(Mind you, wasn't as bad as the time I caught a bus, a train, a tram and WALKED to Melbourne Uni to discover that after two hours of travelling I'd left my #*!&^@#)(*!&^@)*!@&#^ assignment at home. This time I just rang my husband and explained how having shoes at class would make my world an infinitely happier place.  Nearly as happier as if someone put the swan I'm meant to be out of it's misery with a garotte. Oh, wait, garotte's just another name for the WHITE lycra leotard I have to shimmy myself into come Sunday. Universe, this is not funny any more.)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I miss frocking up.

In a discussion about class times for next year, I pointed out that finishing class at 8.45 on a Friday night really wasn't all that grand for me. I work 9-5 on Saturday, so do the math on that and let me know how my social life is going to fare. My mother pointed out (not unreasonably) that she'd done it for plenty of years.



Hang on. Me too, because when YOU started teaching Friday nights my class was the last class on Friday night... so I would sit at the desk and deal with the griping and the moaning and the rude parents and the snotty teenagers and do my classes... and go home and go to work for a 9.00-5.00 day at ballet dealing with the griping and the moaning and the rude parents and the snotty teenagers and do my classes...
I actually think I have it easier being the teacher than the desk slave.

BUT, my point is that I have been doing this for years too. Yeah. Take that. And I don't think it's going to suck any less this time around.  Today is one of those days where I think I could quite enjoy living in a cave. With wireless, and meals delivered on a tray. I've devolved to my ground-base state of jeans and top, although I'm incongruously typing this wearing black pointe shoes. Well, they needed some kind of breaking in, and I figured that we have floorboards for a reason. Plus, it's funny watching the pug go into high alert every time the box knocks against the floor.
OOH! Post!
If there's one thing I like more than toast (although maybe not as much as caramel popcorn) it's getting stuff in the mail. This is why online retailers are simultaneously my greatest joy and very, very dangerous.

[one letterbox expedition later...]

Wow. Now my new across-the-road neighbors think I'm certifiable too. Let me set the scene:

It's a beautiful sunny day. A council truck idles on the side of the road. The yellow rose bush beside the house is in full, glorious bloom. A girl comes out of the house with a pug under her arm. She is wearing a grey top, jeans, and carelessly-painted-black pointe shoes. She tiptoes across the driveway and then walks on pointe up the sidewalk to the letterbox. 

At this point she realises that the discussion between a couple of burly council workers and her neighbor has ceased. She looks around curiously. They're looking at her in a very puzzled way. She waves and nearly drops the pug, recovers, stomps up to the letterbox and finds it empty. She's tempted for a moment to put the pug inside the letterbox, just to really give them something to look at, but that's probably not a nice thing to do. Besides, the pug's a little too rotund.  Frick. 

Oh, and that's before I get started on the next-door neighbor, who has a WEIRD obsession with his nature strip. What are your neighbors like?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Musing upon the human condition...

That makes it sound so much more deep and philosophical than it actually is... I was actually applying eyeshadow and thinking sadly of the (now empty) bowl of caramel popcorn on the bench, and deciding that this is clearly why I cannot live in any other country, or indeed any other SUBURB to the amazing Suzukisinger, who not only popped the popcorn and coated it delicately in AMAZING caramel, but then amicably broke into my house (well, she has keys) and left a large bowl of it on the bench for my delectation. The note may have been addressed to Hubs AND I, but I choose to believe that the popcorn was clearly all for me. Oh, ok, I gave him some.

Yes. So I will clearly have to stalk her when she one day does decide to trade suburbs, because that caramel popcorn... well. Remember when I said a sister will give you her last piece of chocolate? I may have to amend that statement to include popcorn.

What was I blathering about?

OH! YES! Ok, so having decided that the optimal amount of caramel popcorn for me = quite a lot = happiness but ALSO = morbid obesity, I have stumbled across a new way to combat American obesity. I realise it won't catch on here, as we are an apathetically unpatriotic lot (although, if I could link it to football may do well, as football is basically our religion and people who hate it tend to be somewhat anarchic, paranoid and prone to eating disorders fast metabolisms).

Obesity is unpatriotic. Think of the incredible financial damage you are doing to your country by requiring all that extra healthcare. About the billions of dollars malls will be forced to spend importing JAPANESE technology like wider sliding doors and travelators that travel through the entire complex because the fatties can't walk through anymore.

Employ the boy next door as your personal trainer! Take out a megamart gym membership and drive your oil-guzzling hummer around more... because you'll be able to get through the door again! And when you're fit, you'll be able to participate in the most patriotic behaviour of all; dressing up for Halloween and going trick-or-treating. Oh, sorry. I meant, hooray! You'll be able to enlist in the army and fight for your country. Uncle Sam needs you... to lose weight.

Australians: you have it much simpler:

Girls: Fat chicks don't marry footy players. They're just booty calls for cricketeers.

Boys: You're never going to be a footy/cricket player weighing that much. There's a damn good reason they don't make microshorts in that size.

Friday, October 23, 2009

In which I rant.

Garbage truck.
Move back, please.
Fill it up, please.

I give you a fragment of O’s vocabulary. He will be two in November. He climbs on phone books to paint or crayon at an easel, drags his high chair over to the kitchen bench to splash in the kitchen sink, and converses quite happily.
Suzukisinger and I have many discussions about the possibilities and pitfalls for parenting. She’s worried when she meets three-year-olds who identify garbage trucks, transporter trucks, big trucks, little trucks, cranes, bobcats and cement trucks as “truck”. Me too.
Clearly that’s all their parents think they’re capable of.
I worry that we live in a world that dumbs down because we think children are incapable of understanding complex concepts. They’re not. They might be currently unable to articulate them (and I am the first to admit that O’s exclamations occasionally confound me just as much as delight), but why limit their understanding by catering to their physical ability to articulate?
A good friend of mine was horrified when a father told his two-and-a-half year-old son “That’s a propeller. Oh no, that’s too hard for you. That’s a prop. A prop!”
Hmmm. Well done, dad. Baby talk is cute. It’s not so cute when you inflict it upon your child. I’ve decided this is effectively retarding your child’s development.
Who knows what a Galileo thermometer is?
How would you find out? Type it into Google? I’m currently offline, so can’t do this myself, but I hypothesise that among the top five sites will be a Wikipedia entry which will show me the thermometer, explain how it works, perhaps give me a hint to it’s origins and evolution… maybe even link to suggestions for it’s use.
It’s Wednesday. I’m at school. Lunchtime in the well-populated staffroom:
Grade 5/6 teacher to assembled cohorts: “So, does anyone know how a Galileo thermometer works?”
Principal: “What’s a Galileo thermometer?”
 5/6: “You know, one of those glass tubes with all the little balls of colored water inside, and they change places when it gets hotter or cooler?”
Me (because I have a habit of sticking my supersize oar into discussions WHENEVER possible and stirring vigorously): “Um, they’re not full of water. They’re actually different liquids; like, chemically different, with different viscosity.”
Someone else: “Ooh, you know that and you’re the violin teacher!”
(Now, that’s another rant all by itself - which I chose not to become distracted by at that point. I know. MIRACULOUS. I could probably get a week’s worth of blogs out of that, but then you’d all get very sick of me and no-one would ever read my ranting again. Very sad. )
Me (attempting to fill gaping pit of silence which has just opened with twelve teachers staring at me): “You could probably stick it into Wikipedia and get a fairly common-sense explanation that the kids could relate to, but I think the movement of the globes relates to molecular excitation and the way they vibrate at different amplitudes according to temperature… which makes the liquid more or less dense than water so they sink or rise.”
Principal (possibly a little peeved, hard to be sure): “And how do you know all that?”
(Note: she was smiling at this point, but I’m not sure if it was the canine-baring of an animal protecting it’s gaping intestines until it’s last breath or something more friendly.)
Me (remember that reference to vigorous stirring? Remember, I’m in a primary school.): “Oh, sorry, I was homeschooled. I guess I know all kind of weird, random stuff. But – you know, the internet - it’s so easy to find stuff out now.”
5/6: “No, it’s far to hard to explain all that molecule-y stuff to kinds. They’ve got no clue!”
And whose fault is that?
I didn’t say it. I nearly did.
Hilariously, last night when recounting this to my in-laws, between the three of us we immediately came up with accessible ideas:
Matching kids up with the liquids. Talk about how the liquid will change with temperature and then say “It’s getting hotter!” Who rises? Who falls? Who can jiggle about the fastest demonstrating molecular excitation? What happens when movement slows?  This liquid is made up of smaller molecules and this is larger… what does that mean when THEY start to jiggle about? The possibilities are endless, and we haven’t even begun to think.
Oh my goodness… Some days I am so pleased and so proud of the kids that I teach for all that they achieve and all they understand, and other days I am devastated by the many ways we fail them every day.
How do we make our parents, teachers, schools sit up and realise that by continuing to expect mediocrity, we will barely achieve even that poor goal?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Hooray for summer!

Yes, today was sunny, glorious, balmy - even warm - until about four o'clock. Enter the overcast. I find it hard to get stuff done in winter. I get up, it's cold. I shuffle about, it's cold. I shiver into multiple layers.... you get the picture. I know it's Australia and our winters are comparatively mild, but guess what? That just means we're really crap at heating space properly.

But today? I wore a skirt. As in, not jeans. I even accessorised. With a belt. I know, daring for a weekday and all. And I got stuff done. Washing, vacuuming, dishwashing, bench-wiping. People, I even scrubbed my shower. That's serious. I mean, that's where I just shrug and go "Whatever. Two people take showers in that space EVERY DAY. Of COURSE it's clean. I mean, I realise that mould enjoys warm damp environments just as much as the next parasitic life form, but it's a SHOWER. It's GOT to be clean."

Not today. Uh-uh. I cleaned that base and scrubbed that glass and even - EVEN - paid some attention to the grout. I know. And once again, since my status update of "Chelsea will never apologise for wanting bacon with mud cake." incited accusations of pregnancy, NO, I am not pregnant. I am merely stuffing my face with weird (and wonderful) combinations of food:

(a) out of boredom; the pug may be entertaining but isn't a great conversationalist, and paws are shite for card-playing, 

(b) out of anxiety and the panic attacks induced by a certain silvery-pale pink gumblossom leotard that in three weeks will accentuate every lump and bump on my torso until I resemble a small spray-painted whale, and

(c) I REALLY like mud cake. And bacon. And when you can have TWO things you really like instead of one, why stop at one. (Hence the DOUBLE-shot latte. Oh no, I was just feeling dopey and in need of a wake-up call.)

So anyway, today I wore a skirt. It's photo-worthy, but I put my camera in a drawer and then shoved a large and heavy dining table in front of it this afternoon which clearing space for group lesson, so no photo. Think royal-blue and silk. And long. So much more glamorous than harem pants (WHO thought that was clever? Hands up so we can cut them off for stupidity) but just as floaty-bohemian-lala and comfortable. I think this skirt may be threadbare by the end of summer. 

When you give in to the allure of harem pants, just remember the shape of your fleecy tracksuit pants WITH A CUFF that you thought were so fantastic when you were twelve or seven or thirty-two. Then put them back and walk away. Quickly. No-one looks good in harem pants unless simultaneously prepubescent and six feet tall... and then we nod and smile knowingly... "So exotic. So daring. Look at that stunning silhouette." Yes. LOOK. Don't WEAR. I have to stop now before I start listing all the clothes I really hate. What do you wish you'd never worn?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Food and Wine festivals...

are fun when they involve bands and dancing. I realise this is totally extraneous to them being FOOD and WINE festivals, but I'm a single-minded kind of person.

Actually, I'm not at all a single-minded kind of person. I'm the kind of person who gets very hyped by mud cake and double-shot lattes and says things like "I'll have the mud cake. Or whatever you have that's closest to mud cake. Can I have that with a side order of bacon? And a latte. A latte with an extra shot of coffee. With bacon?"

I didn't get bacon. Clearly the waiter thought I was some kind of crazy girl joking about bacon with mud cake. If you've ever eaten bacon with french toast/pancakes and maple syrup you will know I wasn't joking. Possibly he just thought I was some kind of crazy girl full stop.

I was a little crushed by the resultant absence of bacon, but admittedly, I ingested bacon some three hours previously with breakfast, so chocolate+sugar+caffeine+bacon-bacon (still) = happiness. And ice-cream! Cold sugary vanilla goodness with my chocolatey warm moist .... oh, it was a happy time.

Today was a lovely kind of meandering wandering day, eating and holding court from our sunny table. The advantages of living in a 'small town' are that you're never short of someone to talk to. Of course, you're also never short of someone to talk to. This makes escaping a little tricky sometimes. Nevertheless, my lingering malaise (I've had this cold for two weeks now!) and need to blow my nose provided convenient excuses for the guy I really can't stand dancing with; the others were all quite lovely. Quite.

And now to bed; real life resumes in nine hours and some attempt on my part to be rested and ready for another week is wise. Yes.

Friday, October 16, 2009

just thinking...

I overheard a woman in a health-feed store saying "But we're trying a gluten-free diet and it really seems to be working!" in relation to her autistic son. It got me thinking: there seem to be massive numbers of children with some condition or label. I'm sure this is a result of our increased ability to analyse, categorise, and define combinations of behaviour - and communicate globally so that trends or types of behaviour can be grouped and named - but is it related to what's going into our mouths?

Everyone is a little concerned about genetically modified food. We like to buy organic where possible, and are encouraged to think about food miles and processing. Should we instead (ok, ALSO) be considering the types of food that go into our mouth? Gluten (wheat) and casein (dairy) are not just obvious parts of our diets (think bread, pasta, cereal, milk, yoghurt, cheese, etc) but in more insidious and sneaky ways.

According to Carol Ann Brannon, a nutritionist who specializes in diets for children with autism, gluten is not only ubiquitous, but may also find its way into your child's system through the skin:

    "Gluten is found in wheat, rye, barley, oats, spelt, and any derivatives of these grains, including, but not limited to malt grain-starches, malt wash, hydrolyzed vegetable/plant proteins, grain vinegar, soy sauce, and natural flavorings. Casein is found in milk and milk products from mammals....Gluten is in even in Play-Doh, adhesive on stamps and stickers, and many hygiene products. Soy, another common food allergen, is in many foods and hand lotions, make-up, etc."
    The theory is basically that gluten and casein act as opiates upon the autistic brain. But I feel worse after eating bread for breakfast (toast), lunch (sandwiches) and dinner (ok, more likely to be pasta, but I LOVE eating toasties for dinner), and I'm not autistic. Are our nutritional choices possibly creating or exacerbating these "autistic" behaviours to the point that they're labelled as autistic?
I know, I'm rambling. I just can't help wondering how many issues we like to point fingers at are actually created. (Much like life, really.) I feel that socially we say "This happened." or "This child has..." without questioning what sequence of choices and events got us to this moment or diagnosis. 

Not terribly entertaining, but I don't think I signed any papers saying I would only be funny, and I'm aware how much my own behaviour is influenced by food. 

(Nice case in point: getting reasonably drunk on sugar last night. About eight lollies {fruit tingles, milk bottles, raspberries} and I was high as a kite. Ridiculously silly, giggly, and slightly appalled at how quickly I got to a sugar high. Hmmm. This is going to take more mulling over. 

OOH! (gee, that was quick!) Interesting: blood sugar standards are remarkably different in European countries... so here in Australia we expect a higher blood sugar level than in Germany. I don't have enough time to research this properly, but it keeps striking me that we are not sensitive enough to what we ingest and the way it plays out. Someone out there must be able to sum this up for me intelligently... COME ON!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Fricking huntsman spiders.

So I get home from work and go to check my email.
No internets.
Irrational panic.
Hubs left home this morning and will be gone eight days. EIGHT DAYS? I can't live without internet access for EIGHT DAYS!!!
I mean, what will I do if someone emails me and I have to give them my bank account details in the next thirty seconds or SOMEONE ELSE gets the thirty million loonies (canadian dollars)???
How will I check the weather and know what density jeans to wear? And if I should be wearing a singlet top underneath stuff (for brrrrr layering) or OVER stuff (because it'll warm up later and I am SO sick of myself wearing the boring of boringness)?

In desperation I turned my computer off and on again. Nothing. I mean it connected to the network and all, but the joys of wireless are such that when it works, it's great. Invisible internetty goodness within my house = happy days. Mysterious network-showing-up-but-no-action-in-my-browser = unhappiness. Sadness. Shouting at thin air no longer occupied by hubs (aka chief geek who can fix all computer problems known to man. And to me, who just has trouble plugging stuff in sometimes).

But then! Aha! Bright idea! I will go DOWNSTAIRS to the portal of internet (that would be the cupboard under the house that houses all our webby stuff) and stare at it, willing it back into invisible health, wellbeing, and the ability to scrape information off the internet and feed it to my screen.
There's a very large huntsman on the staircase.

The last time there was a huntsman in the house, suzukisinger and I inhaled more flyspray than it did. then,laughing hysterically, belted it randomly with a newspaper, mostly missing. I think it died from drowning in puddle o'spray rather than contact with any hard surface. I don't really like spiders.

Ok. Newspaper. Armed with cylinder, snuck up on spider. Realised that squashing spider was going to make one helluva mess. (I was planning on hitting it rather hard, yes. No-one ever wanders around chanting "Concuss....Concuss... It's exterminate or nothing.) THIS is the bizarre part. Put DOWN cylinder, trotted back upstairs, fetched large plastic container and lid, trapped spider and set it free.

Hubs, if you're reading this, I deserve a very special present (yes, another one) just for that humane act. Not sure what came over me... but there's ANOTHER miracle to report. No mom, I am not pregnant. Put that clucky-grandchildy-thing away already. I THEN proceeded to the Cupboard Where All Things Internet Happen, wrenched it open and stared wretchedly for a little while. Lights went blip and blink and were completely incomprehensible. Yargh.

Of course, things can't get any worse. I am already internetless, so whatevs. Detached a cord that was plugged into a socket that said POWER which may or may not have belonged to the modem, counted to five, plugged it back in and shut the cupboard. Stupid cupboard. Sulkily stomped back upstairs, flung self on bed, demonstratively because it's all-so-useless-and-futile poked refresh a few times and -



Of course, now I discover that no-one loves me. Sigh. Oh, the cruelty.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


For today I recovered my sparkly. Literally, not so much metaphorically. I am still sick, snuffling about in my slippers (I have VERY cute peter alexander slippers; black and red, pale pink with little silver Eiffel towers, lavender... I think that's it) and jeans and tops (oh,the boring! THE BORING!!!!) blowing the most INCREDIBLE amounts of crap out of my sinuses. See, you all wanted to know that, right?

Right now I can't decide whether I'm being assaulted by or enjoying the sounds of Ben Folds acapella (glee-club style). It's a fine, fine line between pleasure and pain. I think it's good. My current inability to cheerfully belt out random lyrics is probably hindering my enjoyment JUST a little. Everything sounds like I'm underwater (and I REALLY don't like swimming). My idea of swimming: lying in the water in such a way that I can still read. I have a small paddling pool in my backyard (well, currently out of commission) for just this purpose. In summer I get one half and the pug gets the other. It's comic.

Currently rereading Chuck Palahniuk's Invisible Monsters; a very thoughtful anniversary gift from Hubs. I don't read so much as devour, so my impressions of the book were more a continual "OHHH!" and so forth than clever thoughts about the relevance of themes/characters to our modern obsessions. Haven't read it? Get thee to Amazon or Fishpond or the bookdepository and buy a copy. Or come round to my house and ask very nicely. I may lend you mine. 

I now realise (of course!) I've been grappling with my own invisible monsters a little lately.

Worrying about running out of motivation tricks and ideas, worrying about running out of energy. The fatigue this term is stupid! I have a little malicious voice at the back of my skull who says See, this is the glandular coming back to bite you. The doctor said... and most of my mania comes from proving that little voice wrong. Damn wrong. For three years I panicked and clutched my glands every time I got a sore throat.

Worrying about a certain pale pink (AND shiny leotard) I'll be pouring myself into in just a couple of weeks. The last time I wore that leotard it scored me a "Now, you just need to be a bit more careful about what you're eating..." and pathetically, five years on I haven't forgotten. I think I presently weigh two kilos more than I did then, but my body seems to HATE me, no matter what I feed it.

What a whinge! I totally deserve stubbing-toes karma tomorrow. Then I'll be reminded to be grateful for all the things that ARE going my way. I haven't, for example, contracted leprosy, causing my fingers to fall off, which would be TOTALLY disastrous. Then my toes would doubtless bid me farewell and I'd be really, properly immobilised, which means I'd get INCREDIBLY fat from sitting about and blogging all day. Ah, nope. No fingers to type with. Damn. Ah! Voice-recognition software. Sweet. So as long as I was laryngitis-free and had minions to turn pages, cook meals, feed them to me, etc, it would all be fine.

If I just focus on my own monsters and quit fighting everyone else's I may stand a chance.  Yes.
Osteopath, naturopath, and a serious deep tissue massage. I have a week of husband-geekin'-out-in-good-ole-Texas to sort myself out and move forward. Sleeping now would be a good place to start. Sleep's the best defence against spontaneous flesh-eating leprosy, right?