Sep 29, 2014

Young, Female, Talented, Hated

People don't like show-offs, or arrogance. I get that. I agree with them. Justin Bieber is understandably lambasted for his antics. Kanye West attracts (gentle) mockery for his attitude and lifestyle.

But other than Justin Bieber, I don't really see young famous guys attracting the level of hatred and mockery landed on young women. Young female stars are not lauded much for their talent, even when they are very talented.

Miley Cyrus is almost universally reviled now. For some bad taste dancing and probably a touch of arrogance. But listen to her songs: she has some great arrangements, and her voice is incredible. She may be young, and she may be annoying - but better get used to her, she's going to be around for a long, long time. I fact, I think she will be a HUGE star, and will last. She reminds me a bit of Madonna in her early years, but with the difference that unlike Madonna back then, Miley Cyrus can really sing.

Taylor Swift is someone everyone loves to make fun of, for her supposedly too-many boyfriends, her bad dancing, and her heart-on-her-sleeve lyrics. But how brave, to write and put your teenage poetry out there, and to develop and mature along the way. Apart from the early 'Love Story' which is pretty 'young' in its outlook, I have liked almost all Taylor Swift's songs. Shake It Off, her latest, tells how she intends to deal with "haters". It's probably all bravado but kudos to her. She's young and she's dealing with a lot for someone so young. It's not nothing to create stuff and put it out there and have every aspect of your persona so publicly mocked.

Lana Del Rey has been mocked for her "fake" image, and her past as a wannabe vanilla pop star. But she's a performer, and performers mostly want to be famous. Why wouldn't they try different ways to get there? Most of them have changed their image and their style at some point along the way. (Granted, perhaps not as much as Lana Del Rey). And whatever - it seems she has managed to find the style that really, really suits her. Rock on, Lana.

Katy Perry is mocked for, as far as I can make out, being a sex symbol but not a good enough one. I like some of her songs and don't like others, but I'm pretty fond of Katy Perry for embracing her pre-teen girl audience and treating them with respect and responsibility.

Lady Gaga, with her avante garde persona, gets a bit more respect, or at least is gently mocked rather than vilified. Maybe people are scared of looking as if they don't "get it", or maybe people think they can't figure her out enough to truly dislike her, whereas they think they have the others figured out.

In contrast to all the above, Lorde is universally admired. She is also very talented. But I guess it's much easier to love an "indie" star than the pop stars whose efforts to reach fame are probably much more visible and easier to mock.

I don't have any Miley Cyrus songs, but my iPod contains a few Taylor Swifts, Katy Perrys and Lana Del Reys, and a whole Lorde album. I have Lady Gaga's The Fame Monster on CD as the kids used to love it. Oh, and I've got one Justin Bieber song too (it was requested by my daughter but I don't hate it).

Sep 28, 2014

Sunday Selections: Phillip Island

I think it's about time I did another Sunday Selections post. 

Sunday Selections is a weekly meme hosted by River at Drifting Through Life. 

The rules are very simple:-
1. post photos of your choice, old or new, under the Sunday Selections title
2. link back to River somewhere in your post
3. leave a comment on River's post and visit some of the others who have posted and commented

You may recall my car was written off in an accident about a month ago. Well, two weeks ago, we bought our replacement: a 2010 Honda CR-V. We were on the hunt for a RAV4, but fell in love with this one instead and bought it the day we saw it. We got it at a fair price, which is to say market value.  We're not good at price negotiation, but we bought it from a dealer and I do believe they always sell you at the price they intended anyway. At least these days with online markets and so much information about used car values and shopping out there, the prices are fair.

It comes with a hefty loan of course, but I do love my new car.

So last weekend, Y had a rare full day and night off work and we decided to take the car for a spin to Phillip Island.

We hadn't been there in years, though once upon a time Y and I used to drive down there quite often.

We had lunch at a pizza cafe in Cowes, then drove round to the Nobbies to see the seal centre, and to the penguin area to watch the parade.

You can't take photos of the penguin parade, so I don't have any pictures of that, unfortunately. But there is an app you can download with lots of pictures and information in it, which is very good. There are also some great pictures at the Phillip Island site here

So these photos are all of The Nobbies, looking out over the sea or to Seal Rocks. 

All a bit samey, but lovely anyway.

The kids loved the whole place but especially, of course, the penguins. It is truly fantastic, and quite moving too, to see the little penguins tumble out of the waves, huddle hesitantly at the beach under the soft lights, and then make their (surprisingly fast) waddling trek up the dunes to their burrows.

The best part is walking back up the boardwalks and passing the little penguins on the way. Some of them zoom straight to their burrows, some take their time and seem to enjoy the commune with other penguins on the way. Some sit and stare up at the people staring down at them. A pair we saw obviously had gone the wrong way, or too far, and were waddling back towards the beach, looking around them and making little sounds and conferring with each other as they went, looking just like a couple who has forgotten where they parked their car. 

They were still wandering around, not seemingly distressed and still stopping occasionally to trade low squawks with others heading up from the beach, when we finally left. It's such a treat of a thing to see - you just want to stay there all night.

But evenutally we made our way back to the carpark, and made the trip home, the kids happily snoozing in the back, Y relaxing in the passenger seat, and me enjoying the quiet drive home in the dark, in my awesome new car! (Last time I go on about it, I promise - but I had owned my last car for 9 years).

This Sunday, a less relaxing fate awaits. When Y gets home from work this afternoon, we are stupidly, regretfully, unbelievably... taking the kids to the Royal Melbourne Show. Ugh!

Sep 25, 2014

Farewell Tia

This week we lost our Tia.

She was 11 years old and had been in good health, though she had slowed down a bit in recent weeks. Last week she started having difficulty eating, and she deteriorated from there.  At first I thought it was tooth problems, especially as she developed an awful smell around her head, with no outside infections or problems in sight. We kept her quiet and she seemed OK, and I planned a vet appointment for this week.

Then on Sunday, as she walked outside to enjoy the sun, she suddenly keeled over and was unable to stand or walk. As I rushed to her she stretched out her paws and meowed in obvious confusion and distress. Her back legs were twisted under her and were almost useless.

She managed to get up and walk, and was able to walk normally later as well, but only for a short time. Within minutes she would lose her balance and her back legs would collapse.

I had to help her to the litter box or outside, and hand-feed her tiny, pitiful amounts of soft food or egg and milk. She could barely eat.

She remained very affectionate to the end. On her last morning with us the kids sat on the lounge room floor and she walked slowly between them, pushing her head under first one hand and then the other. The night before she had slept on my lap, purring almost as if she was still well.

But she wasn't, and I knew it was cruel to keep her going, as she was in distress and pain and was wasting away by the day.

On Monday, the kids and I took her to the vet for what we knew would be the last time.

The vet was kindly and wonderful. She agreed there was no hope. Tia had likely suffered either a blood clot or some kind of neurological damage, for which the prognosis is bad even for young cats. In three days Tia had lost half her body weight and critical muscle mass.

The kids kissed her good bye then waited in the waiting room while I held Tia for her last moments. The vet and her assistant were gentle and respectful, patting Tia and soothing her while she was prepared for the catheter. Then they put her on my lap and straight away she snuggled down and rested her head on my hand, purring sleepily.

Within seconds, she was gone.

I cried like a kid, there alone in the room with my dead cat. I couldn't believe she was gone. I still can't.  I know she was "just" a cat, and yes, it's been a few days now, but as I write this I feel the tears coming back, and I quickly blink them away because the kids are here in the lounge with me and they have already cried buckets. M in particular was very attached to Tia and has been distraught. She's coping well and is much better now, but we've had a few days of long talks and various "cheering up" activities to take their minds off it in between the upset times.

It's been a sad few days for us all. Even Y cried, and he supposedly wasn't fond of her (but he was).

So farewell, sweet Tia. Thank you for being a lovely, lovely cat. We miss you x

Sep 14, 2014

The strange world of competitive calisthenics

If you are a female who grew up in Australia, chances are at some stage you tried your hand at Calisthenics.

I have dim memories of doing calisthenics for a very short time, and very clear memories of my mother's annoyance at being told off by a team official for having sewn sequins in the wrong way on a pink headpiece.  In those days when "all" mothers were home (and the rest were assumed to be), mothers were given patterns and had to sew all the costumes themselves.

These days, thankfully, this is not expected at most clubs, though the costumes are still made by someone. In our case, it's the mother of the calisthenics coach, who has made all the approximately one million costumes used by the team.

Calisthenics, for non-Australian readers, is a competitive team sport that combines elements of floor exercises, ballet, rhythmic gymnastics and marching. It requires concentration, balance, control, flexibility, strength and rhythm. It's practiced in the competitive sense only in Australia, and is currently 100% female (so I learned from Wikipedia).

My daughter M has been doing calisthenics for about six months. She does it because her friends do it, and I'm happy with it because it is very cheap for a kids' sport, it fits in perfectly with A's weekly karate lessons (which are NOT cheap), and because M is a little accident prone and the balance and co-ordination can only help her.

M is in a 7-10 year-old Sub Juniors team (known as "Subbies").  This weekend marked the end of the 2014 competitions with the Victorian State Titles. 8 Sub Junior teams competed in 10 events, and I will not shy from admitting it was a LOOOONG day.

It was also my day for helping out in the dressing rooms as a rostered mum, along with two others. Though I initially thought I had drawn the short straw being rostered to the biggest competition that went from 9am to 3.30pm, in fact it was the best, because (a) better than sitting in the audience watching every team perform every event for all those hours and (b) with so many teams there was plenty of time between each event so it was easy to get the girls get ready in time. Plus, being the last comp, the girls all knew the drill and mostly dressed themselves anyway. My chief duty was hanging up costumes in the girls' dress bags after each change.

I will insert a short plea here, if you are the parent of a calisthenics competitor, please do use an easy-access dress bag, and you know what? Don't bind all the coat hangers together with a rubber band. That is seriously annoying, and no one is going to steal your coat hangers.

Anyway, it was kind of fun, or at least a different way to spend 6 hours. As with every comp, we got up at 6 in the morning to do M's leg tan and then her hair. The hair takes the longest, needing to be gelled and scraped into a high bun, attach a "wiglet" and secure it all with a thousand hair pins. Makeup is minimal in our club, just foundation, then at the comp the coaches add eye liner and pink lipstick.

As we don't have a car right now, my friend MN (mother of M's friend V in the same team) drove us all there and back. She had done two girls' hair because N the mother of the other friend G, can't do it, so N made us all large cafe-quality coffees to drink in the car. Quite a good way to start the day when it has to be started that early.

The comp venue was a lovely theatre attached to a college, and it was a beautiful sunny day, so the constant walking back and forth between dressing room and theatre (via the outside), was no strain.

I spent my free time either watching some of the events, sitting outside in the sun or chatting with others in the foyer.

The events were Marching, Clubs, Rods, Free Exercises, Aesthetics and Song and Dance.
My favourite event is Marching, followed by Free Exercises. My least favourite is Song and Dance, which is like cabaret for kids.

I like the Marching because M's team does an AWESOME routine with quite complicated choreography to a rousing Irish tune, and it's great to watch.

Free Exercises is where you see the backbends, leg lifts, splits, headstands and cartwheels. Some of the girls who have been doing calisthenics for years are amazing in this event. It's quite incredible what they can do. It's like a mixture of pilates and cheerleading.

Club swinging is difficult but frankly a little boring to watch. I shouldn't say that, because our team placed first in the Clubs event yesterday. But, it's not my favourite thing.

Rods: think, baton twirling. It's also difficult, and looks good when done well.

The Aesthetics is very pretty. All the girls wear long floaty dresses and do graceful slow dances to beautiful music.  Unfortunately our team's song was 'When She Loved Me' from Toy Story 2, which has always, and I mean ALWAYS made me cry. It's so freaking sad!!!

Fortunately, watching this song performed over 4 rehearsals and 4 competitions, finally got me to the point (about a week ago I guess) where I could safely sit through it without my nose turning red and my eyes blinking furiously, so by the day of the last competition I was fine.

My daughter was SO beautiful up on stage, standing apart from the team in her very own spotlight, in her long blue dress, her hair piled up on her head over her beautiful long neck, and making the kind of graceful, controlled movements of which I could hardly believe she was capable.

Taking photos at competitions is strictly verboten, but here is a snippet of M at her first rehearsal:

I still find Calisthenics a somewhat weird activity. I'm not really sure how much M actually likes it, or whether she will continue. She doesn't hate it, and she has improved her flexibility and balance since she started, and she gets to spend more time with her friends. Plus it's a cheap activity and other than having to help out backstage for one competition every year, it's no hassle for the parents. So for all that I'm happy with it.

What is/was your favourite/least favourite kids' activity?

Sep 13, 2014

12 Resolutions: September (and August recap)

This year I'm playing along with #12Resolutions on Twitter and Facebook. The idea is to set yourself short-term, achievable goals, one each month. 

For August my goal was to waste less time on my smartphone.

I achieved this, though probably to be honest I've slipped back a little in the last week (then again, it is September now, so I'm in the clear...) 

I did indeed sort out my linen cupboard, which took a good two hours plus. There's time right there not spent on 9Gag, Twitter or Slate.  I cleaned out the kitchen, and sorted and put away the sundry clothes sitting in piles next to my bed.

I also got a bit more sleep each night, and consequently found it a little easier to wake up.

And now that I'm taking the train more than I am driving to work, I get to play/read on my phone during the daily commute, so I didn't even miss much phone time.

And now here we are almost halfway into September and I'm only now setting this month's goal.  However, like most of these resolutions, this one aims to be ongoing, so it doesn't really matter how late I've started.

This month I resolve to do floor exercises for 15 minutes a day.

Floor exercises are fantastic for increasing flexibility and tone, and they can easily be done at home, for free! When I was in my late teens I lost quite a bit of weight and toned right up using floor exercises. 

Since I broke my arm two years ago and then sprained my ankle last year, I spent a lot of the last 2 years less mobile than I used to be, and consequently I've stiffened up a lot. Part of it is age I suppose, but I'm not that old either! Time for action.

I really wish I had this book:

Jeremy Chan/Flickr

What's on your to-do list this month?

Sep 9, 2014


Before the kids were born (about four weeks before, in fact - when I realised that no twin pram on the market was going to fit in the boot of my beloved Holden Astra), we traded in my still-new car for a 2002 Holden Commodore sedan.

Though I was gutted to lose my less-than-eight-months-old Holden Astra, I did grow very fond of the Commodore. It's comfy like a big old taxi, a dream to drive, and nicely powerful. I can even parallel park it.

In the last couple of years we have been toying with the idea of getting a newer car. While the Commodore was only 3 years old when I got it, it is now 12 years old and showing its age. Half the electrics no longer work, it increasingly needs repairs and attention, and it's looking and feeling a little worn.

But, as we only just paid off the loan on Y's car this year, we decided not to jump into another car loan, and to stick with what we had for another couple of years.

Then last Monday happened.

I've started taking the train to work regularly (though I confess I have slipped a little since I resolved in July to take the train 3 days a week).

On Sunday night I woke in the early hours of the morning and then had an uncharacteristic bout of insomnia. Unable to get back to sleep, I ended up sitting in the lounge with a cup of tea and the Sunday paper magazines, and then a book, for a couple of hours. Finally willing myself back to bed and then to sleep, I knew I was going to have trouble getting up the next morning.

I did eventually get up, but was too late to catch the train, so I drove.

I left work that evening in the middle of a massive downpour. Driving isn't fun in heavy rain, so I was careful, but right on the on-ramp to the freeway we passed an accident, and just as we did, I got a funny feeling and checked my mirror - just in time to see a car coming way too fast, then slamming into the back of my car.

The impact was incredible, and so was the noise. It felt and sounded as if the back half of my car had been caved in.  But - good old Commodore! - that was not quite the case. I was later surprised to see there was just what looked like a big dent, and the lid of the boot had buckled up a bit. Not even the rear lights were smashed.

The driver of the other car was very apologetic and admitted he had been distracted by the accident next to us and wasn't looking. We swapped details, and I drove home and phoned in the insurance claim the next day.

A week later, because multiple panels were buckled and due to its age, the insurer has declared the car a write-off.

Though we won't get much cash for it, we now get to go shopping for a new-to-us car (and loan!)

I admit I'm a bit excited. I already have an idea of the kind of car I want, and I don't plan to spend too much time shopping. I've already become comfortable with carrying another 4-year utterly extortionate fixed rate loan. Because: I get a car!

I suddenly remembered today the Commodore had a full tank of petrol.

But then I remembered it was also overdue for a service we hadn't paid for, and that we were on the verge of shelling out for a new radiator, plus re-tinting to repair the torn window tinting on the driver's side window. All these things I had put off for weeks, and now won't need to do at all.  And although we will need to take on a loan, we will get a car that is more economical to run and shouldn't need repairs (I hope) for some time. So all in all, we've come out of it OK.

So hooray for my strange sleepless night last Sunday!

Sep 8, 2014

Sunday Selections: iPad Art

Hey ho, it's me again - back after another little absence. 

And now, it's time for Sunday Selections! (Although it is now actually Monday morning).

Sunday Selections is a weekly meme hosted by River at Drifting Through Life. 

The rules are very simple:-
1. post photos of your choice, old or new, under the Sunday Selections title
2. link back to River somewhere in your post
3. leave a comment on River's post and visit some of the others who have posted and commented

I was sorting through some photos on my hard drive this week and came across these. All of them were created by the kids.

This one's a family portrait: Y with hat and bouzouki, A with music player, M with doll and me with a book.

Not sure what this is, but pretty:

Friends or maybe a girl band:

Wanted, dead or alive!

Photobooth weirdness:

Painter's palette:

Spooky house:


Until next time: happy Sunday, or rather Monday!


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