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What is it about dance concerts?

The annual dance concert in our house is like a change of season. Once it is over, I go into super hyped mode. The girls performed last Sunday, more about that in a moment, but since then, I have rearranged our new studio, cleaned the pool, emptied and rearranged every wardrobe and chest of drawers in our house, donated too-small clothes to friends and charity, donated craft supplies to the school, done most of my christmas shopping online, and have five (I repeat 5) christmas craft activites on the go. I have baked christmas treats which we don’t even eat, cleared out the garage as it is bulk waste collection in our suburb next week, and washed and put away all of the dance costumes ready for next year.

I tell you the weeks leading up to the concert, the piles of costume material, props, and paperwork associated with us volunteering to sell tickets, and make the programme makes for a messy house. Minimal housework is achieved and Monday morning the decluttering and cleaning begins!

Sorry about my absence of late, if anyone is still reading this little blog. It all started with the October school holidays. I usually blog during master x’s daytime sleep. Holidays means I have my big girls home and we use this time to do stuff together that we can’t do when a two year old is demanding their attention. So I thought I would write a summary, post school holiday,s but then Term 4 and The Dance Concert took over my life. Term 4 is nearly done and dusted. Wow, I can’t believe my biggest girs has almost finished her first year of high school. There is a post about that I am sure.

Given that I write this blog as an online journal for my family to reflect upon, I should get on with the actual concert. My girls have been at the same dance school for six years now and love that their end of year concert is an actual ballet performance, and not a recital. We sat through one of those many years ago and it did my head in. Our teacher is very clever with the students in her little school and has taught my girls so many skills. There are no Den Mothers involved. She hires one lady to assist with directing and supervising the very little kiddies, but otherwise the students are expected to change costumes and make their cues on and off the stage with only assistance from the senior dancers, and their peers.

This year they performed Peter Pan. Due to a large number of girls leaving dancing last year once they commenced high school, the average age of the 66 dancers was 8 years old! Miss i (aged 12) was cast as Wendy and looked gorgeous on stage in her pink “night dress”sewn by Granny. Miss e (aged 10) was given her first ‘senior’role as the Chief Indian and was stunning in her indian costume and head piece. Again made by Granny. She also performed as a Lost Boy, and both girls performed a Contemporary piece to open the concer,t as ‘night’.

They both looked gorgeous and after the concert miss i was awarded the prize for best contemporary dancer for the year, and miss e received the Most Improved trophy for her ballet. And she has improved this year. She is starting to get control of her tall, lean and gangly body and her concentration has improved ten fold. She will never win any prizes for best turned out ballerina, with her stockingless legs and flyaway hair at each lesson. Oh well. She is all character that one.

I won’t bore you with the 320 photos I uploaded on Picasa Web of the dress rehearsal, but here are a few of my two favourite girls. Miss i was on school camp the week of dress rehearsals, so there are two staged photos of her only.

Miss e in her night costume having her bun examined. Don’t actually have a photo of her dancing in this costume.

The pirate ship under construction. It looked great on stage, no really. (Guess who is having a pirate party for his third birthday?)

Post concert we headed off to Clancy’s Fish Pub where I proceeded to drink a wine or four with the dance teachers and a couple of parents. Consequently after a hectic couple of weeks, I fell asleep reading a bedtime story to master x at 7pm. I woke next morning with him still in my bed, and homme asleep on the lounge floor. ooops.

Thank you

I can’t say I am a fan of facebook, but when the opportunity came up to help a friend, I turned to social media to get my message out there.

I am overwhelmed by the response to my last post. The money started coming in straight away and we quickly reached our target. Rachel will be getting an ipod thanks to the generosity of many.

So thank you to her local friends, her long-time overseas friends and to those who have not met our friend, but chose to donate anyway.

I feel so grateful to live in such a connected community.

Rachel’s progress is slow, but all going well, she should be in a rehab hospital in about a month. She has our love and support the whole way.

Just, thank you.

Rachel

Our friend had an infection, which due to complications with a congenital heart defect, resulted in a stroke this week. Our friend is a 40 something mother to four beautiful daughters. She is the wife of a hard working man.

Our friend is the type of mother you call on when you need a hand. She can be relied upon to volunteer and assist in any school activity going on. She is a rock in our Community. She is strong and confident. She is private and introverted.

Our friend has strong values and stands for them. Family comes first. She is giving and selfless.

Two school communities have been rocked by the news, as she fights for her life. The ripple effect means that many are shocked and wondering what to do “To Help”?

I have talked to many friends. I have lay awake at night. I have assessed our last conversation, as she dropped her daughter,  miss e’s best friend, over for a sleepover. She wasn’t well. Her migraines are back. She has temperatures on and off. Probably a virus, we concluded. “Go home and rest,”I said. Rachel never rests. She mothers like many of us.

She is a thinker, an intelligent woman. How can I help her from being imprisoned in her weak body? Recovery will be long and therapy intense.

I have decided that an ipad would help. Propped up, there will come a time when she can use her good hand to flick through the computer pages of novels, use it to communicate, look at photos of her family, play solitaire, sudoko or hangman with her girls.

If you would like to donate towards buying Rachel an ipad, please use the Paypal link below:

Polite conversation

I love reading Maxabella’s posts. They are always thought provoking, funny, or just plain great. Today she posted about the art of playground conversation, Mum to Mum. You know where one person talks and talks about whatever is on their mind, their opinion, whatever, and just does not shut up to allow you the time to join in the conversation, to respond. We have all been there, probably all been that person at some time in our lives. I know I have been that person.

What interested me about Maxabella’s post was that she had two messages. You see she described the unp0lite one-way  conversation  of a mum talking about her gifted and talented children. I have been thinking about this all morning and felt the need to talk about it.

I have no problem hearing Mums talk animatedly about their wonderful children. How capapble they are at such and such or how quickly they learn so and so. Let me share a couple of recent conversations I was involved in:

We have friends who struggled to have their first child. When finally pregnant, they learnt that their first child (at 20 week ultrasound) was severely deformed and was tested to genetically be incompatible with life. This child died and my friend had to birth her. They fell pregnant again. This time a boy. He was a difficult baby who grew into an introverted toddler. He rocked in the corner and screamed uncontrollably with fierce and violent tantrums. They placed foam along his bedroom walls to prevent him from harming himself when he rocked and banged his head. They struggled to find answers and early intervention. At aged ten he now attends a ‘special needs school’ where he is considered to be high functioning. His recent Naplan scores did not make the National benchmark but he is now independant with dressing and feeding. He has an 8 year old sister. She has been offered a place in her primary school’s Gifted and Talented program. I listened intently as my friend talked about this achievement, just as I have listened intently over the years about her struggles to achieve adequate schooling for her son.

A Mum who had a son attend my daughter’s school, until this year, and I met up again recently when collecting our children from their philosophy class. This class is offered to GAT kids and she felt the need to open up to me about her recent knowledge that her son was gifted. While he had attended my daughter’s school, he was seen as mischievous and unsettling in the class. His attention was poor and his grades were low. In desperation, she enrolled him into an all boys private school. A teacher suggested psychometric testing and it became apparent that he was of a high IQ, and his learning environment was enriched. No longer does she feel she has the ‘brat’of the school. Again, I understood why she felt the need to share her story, and I listened.

I worked for 11 years as a neonatal intensive care nurse at King Edward, the largest neonatal unit in the Southern Hemisphere. I left for a variety of reasons, but primarily because I was burnt out. My heart ached for the 25% of newborns being admitted already addicted to drugs. For the preterm babies who had no family visit for weeks on end, and for the babies who when ready to be discharged, had to wait until a social worker could find a relative to discharge them to. I wonder if these children grow up to have loving Mums and Dads discussing their achievements at the school playground?

My understanding of the public school system is that they have programs titled Gifted and Talented, for the top 10% of achievers. This is a great opportunity to offer these kids enriched learning but perhaps the name of these programs produces comparisons which can only cause discomfort? Some schools provide streaming in subject areas like maths and spelling while others have Challenge or Extension programs. Do we get our hackles up when a Mum wants to share the problems she faces with her child who is in an Enrichment program to assist them to catch up with reading or maths?

What I have learnt is that sometimes having a gifted (psychometrically tested as having an IQ of 115 or higher) child can bring with it many problems. They have over-excitabilities associated with being gifted and often have their own special needs. Parents with these children are often not found to be sprouting about the joys of their ámazing abilities’. I am already noticing the stares, and the withdrawal of Mums at our weekly library sessions when master x, who although adores books one on one, finds it difficult (like every other boy in the room), to sit quietly and listen to the stories. Come craft time, he is the first at the table to scribble on his photocopied picture and then asks me to help write his name as he loudly spells out the letters. He then chooses his favourite books (Maisy, Charlie and Lola or Spot) and “reads”the words aloud. Mothers seem to find it difficult to be around a not-yet-2 1/2 year old who knows his alphabet, the sound each letter makes as he “sounds out” words, and can recognise all numbers up to 100. Do I ask him to perform these tricks? Eff no! I already feel the isolation. I have been down this path twice before and I know that some people think I am a pushy mother with my oldest daughter who is intrinsically motivated to learn and achieve.

I guess with most things in life, some people like to sprout about things that interest them, and to most (especially first-time) Mums, that is their amazing offspring. So to sum up, I definitley agree that being a talker, and not a listener makes for rude behaviour. I have no problem with the content of the conversation, as long as we remember the rules of conversation, to take turns.

Oh Spring, where are you?

After a mild, yet wet winter we were introduced briefly to Spring. With her came the daffodils planted three years ago and revisiting each year. With her came sunshiny weather and thoughts of picnics and flowery dresses.

But Winter was not finished with his visit. He had more in store, only this time he brought greyness and cold. I have resisited and the heater has only been on once since Spring arrived. Last week I became bored with wet and cold days. With a house bound toddler. We found lots of respite at the library, and even a morning shopping. Our long walks along the beach and trips to the playground were shelved.

I woke this morning with a sense of foreboding. The temperature was forecast for strong winds, hail, rain and a measly maximum of just 16 degrees.

Winter lived up to expectations. I relented and cuddled up on the sofa under a blanket with master x. We watched Winnie the Pooh and read books. My only reprieve were the 15 minutely calls for “I need a wee!”and our location would change to the bathroom. He is proud not to have wet his Thomas the Tank Engine jocks.

Ten minutes ago Winter let out his fury and the hail, thankfully small, was fierce.

Oh how we miss you Spring. Please come back.

*I am going to be really cross if our farmers’crops are affected adversely by this nasty weather. Glorious, above average rainfall for Winter, and already Spring to break their drought. But late hail is not good. 

The slow reveal

The before photo of the studio

We are hooked on the current tv show The Renovators. We record it each night so as not to be distracted from homework and the like. Then homme and I sit down at about 9pm and enjoy it over a cup of peppermint tea. I know, domestic bliss, pinch me.

The thing is I love the white room challenges. And the fully stocked wharehouse. And have I mentioned my crush on wallpaper right now?

It would be so easy to plop down in front of the telly at 7.30pm and watch the building and  styling, and dream of our own renovations being completed in a mere three hours. Then it would be even easier to continue to sit in front of the telly and lose an entire night watching the likes of Escape to the Country and 60 Minute Makeover, and even find ourselves watching How Clean is Your House? Seriously, there is an evening of my life I won’t get back.

So early on in the piece I made myself a deal to stick by the “no television on week nights” rule and to actually achieve some Renovating magic in my own home. And bit by bit, what do you know,  our studio is coming together. Here I am with bed hair and glamourous painting gear on, (keeping it real people) a couple of Saturday mornings ago, painting stripes on the walls homme rendered.

Painting these stripes took a good two weeks. It was a two person job to attach the not-so-sticky masking tape in sections. So I would wait for homme in the evenings to assist, then I would stay and paint the milk paint from Porters in alternating stripes and then dab most of it off with muslin. It had to be done in sections because the masking tape (at $13 a roll!) would fall off the painted walls if left too long. We are really happy with the effect though. Here is a peek at the finished walls. Notice in these photos that homme has yet to finish building the lining for the ceiling and the storage area?

Since painting the walls, homme has ALMOST finished with the ceiling (he ran out of wood on the weekend). I have painted the eighty year old window frames and had two of them reglazed. The window in the bathroom is now opaque, and this one in the studio has a gorgoeus floral glass in it. Both of these windows are about 1m from the boundary fence and looked directly into our neighbours’ kitchen. The windows now continue to let in light but also provide privacy.

None of my photos do the glass justice.

We have attached and painted skirting and architraves. Yesterday I finished painting the third window which overlooks our pool. This window is in pretty poor condition and will ultimately need completely replacing. Interesting how an aged and tatty window in France looks romantic…I am going with that vibe for now. I positioned one of our outdoor settings outside the window with a pot of purple pansies. I love the render homme did on the outside wall of the studio. I painted it two years ago in a Porter’s limewash and am loving the faded blue look.

Slowly but surely our little studio is coming together. I use whatever time I have available to pop out there and paint another skirting or window. Given that it is inside the pool fence, I am left with no option but to paint and renovate when master x is napping, or late in the evenings.

 I look forward to  sharing updated  photos of the bathroom later this week.

Are you hooked on reality tv? Do DIY shows have you glued to the screen? Which house on Renovators is your favourite? And which contestant?

Morning entertainment

We have just had our driveway renovated. Limetsone retaining walls to widen the area which means we no longer have to step out of the car and onto the verge mulch. Old cracked concrete was removed and last week the new concrete was poured. Oh, how these little things improve a property’s street appeal.

But more importantly how a cement truck entertains a two year old, who had the vantage from our front deck to oversee it’s every move. While eating blueberries. With bed hair.

Men in tights

One of my birthday presents last month was tickets to the WA Ballet. Timing was poor, what with my beloved Eagles playing in an Elimination Final (did I mention they took home the wooden spoon last year? No, I haven’t? Well they did. And they stuck by their coach, and their younger players, and woo-hoo it is Finals time!)

This outfit has been a bit of a favourite this past Winter for dressier events. I bought it down in Augusta during our long weekend away earlier this year. Made by a local woman it can best be described as Metallicus-like with a fitted and oh so comfy black dress and a fitted asymmetrical red jacket of the same material. Pop on my fav “going out boots”and I am comfy as.

We arrived at His Majesty’s Theatre with time for a glass of bubbles and then enjoyed The Taming of The Shrew. Costumes, prop, sets and lighting were  amazing. The ballet was great too but we both admit that we prefer the classical performances better. Speaking of costumes, the men wore muscle hugging, almost sheer tights. OOhhh laaa laaa! Just call me the President of the Ballet Bottom Appreciation Committee. They are fit and toned boys. And I love the role reversal in ballet where the boys’bodies are ogled. Certainly makes a difference from everyday life.

During intermission homme kindly checked AFL scores for me (he is a miserable Dockers’suppoerter) and I experienced some tense minutes awaiting each update until the final siren when it was confirmed we won by 3 points!!! I am guessing we have reached the end of the road this year but fingers crossed for next Saturday.

Thanks to Kymmie for hosting Fancy Pants, go on, check out this gorgeous girl.

West Australian Young Writers’ Contest

Miss i was awarded first prize in the Year 7/8 category for prose in the West Australian (name of our newspaper) Young Writers’ Contest on Saturday. It was a very moving piece of writing for us as it has an element of truth in it.

Here is a blurry photo of her receiving her certificate and cheque from teacher and author A.J. Betts. With a first and a second in two writing comps, her income from writing has reached three figures. No need for part time jobs here.

Her story was printed, along with others, in the Ed! section of today’s West Australian. With permission of the author, here is her story.

Fighting the Lost Fight 

Sarah

The world can change in an instant. Earthquakes can wreak mass destruction in less than seven seconds. Cyclones take seconds to rip houses apart. It takes one moment to ruin a family.

Oliver, Adam and Megan sat at the table which they had set themselves. I lean over the boiling water and drop the pasta in with the meat sauce. We’ve had pasta twice this week already, but it’s all I can cook. Matthew is supposed to be the cook. When I bring the bowl to the table, Megan and Adam slump in their seats.

“Pasta again?” Baby Megan is playing with the limp penne in disgust. My hand itches to slap her cheek, to make her feel the pain that I do.

“Yes, pasta again, until Daddy gets better,” I say. “Eat up.”

Later that night, I sit on Oliver’s bed and watch him sleep. He is nine years old, too young to deserve this. I sweep the honey coloured curls off his forehead and kiss it lightly, putting all my words of repentance and comfort into the gesture. He sighs in his sleep and rolls away from me. I shut out the light and close the door quietly before tiptoeing upstairs through the silent house.

“Hi,” I say as I undress and change into my pyjamas. The television is on, its quiet buzz filling the emptiness of the response not given. Matthew is lying in bed with his eyes closed and his legs tucked up under him, the way they always are when he is asleep. Only he’s not asleep. I check his breathing and stroke his hand, and tell him about my day. I can almost hear him sighing and saying ‘Sarah, you work too hard’, telling me off like a child in disgrace.

“I think I’ll go grab a drink,” I say absent-mindedly. I let go of him, pull his sheets tighter and walk downstairs. The kitchen is warm and smells of pasta and cheese and tomato. In the back of the fridge are Matthew’s Get Well Soon chocolates which I finger, tempted, but put back. Matthew can have them when he wakes up. When. If.

Oliver

We still have to go to school. In a way, it makes me appreciate it more. It’s like a haven of safety from all this home stuff. I have to suffer sympathetic glances and the stigma that goes with having a sick father. It is as if the other kids think my bad luck is contagious. The lessons are good though. Miss Paige gives me stickers and ticks on my work, but I know she just feels sorry for me. It’s no good now Mum won’t, and Dad can’t, look at it and be proud of me. Adam and Megan are eating in the kitchen when I come in. I check Megan’s school bag,and repack it almost completely. I swap her dolls for pencils and her biscuit for an apple. Mum walks in as a  bird flies through the open window and starts eating Megan’s unguarded cereal. It twitters nervously and then starts singing sweetly. Mum smiles slightly and my whole world lights up, but Megan doesn’t appreciate this. She yells at the bird and it flies off, frightened. You lucky thing, I think. You lucky wild thing.

Sarah

Oliver was standing perpendicular to the chess board, moving black and white pieces at the speed of light. He stops when I come in.

“Chess?” He offers. I shake my head. Matthew used to sit with the boys and teach them Anastasia’s check and castling. I can’t tell the difference between a pawn and a bishop. Oliver became so good that eventually his ability surpassed even Matthew’s until they played as true competitors. As I have nothing else to do on a Friday afternoon, I sit and watch him play. He declares stalemate and walks away. I watch him go and then, before I know it, I am sitting in his chair. The game looks so human that I am drawn to it. Suddenly I can’t help myself. I am jumping and sliding pieces until I catch the king and hold him above my head.

“Woo!” I yell.

“Very good,” comes a voice from behind me. It’s Oliver. He walks over and sits opposite me, opens my palm and puts the king back on the board.

“You can’t take the king away. You checkmate it,” he explains. It makes my mind boggle. The king is actually safe on the square he is on, but dare he move, he will be taken.

Adam

That day

Oliver, Megan and I are waiting for Mum to pick us up from school. Megan is swinging around a pole, and Oliver is checking his watch. Mum is fifteen minutes late. The last children slowly fade away. Half an hour. Finally Mum shows up, forty five minutes late. Her eyes are full of tears and she is pale and drawn. Oliver climbs into the front seat and holds her hand.

“Mum?” He asks anxiously. Mum takes a shaky breath.

“It’s your Dad. He just had a grand epileptic seizure.” The car falls silent. It is obvious she has just said something terrible.

“He did what?” I ask. Mum bursts into tears and Oliver glares at me. We sit there, just us four, in the middle of the road, for ages.

Oliver

One week after

Have you noticed how people always seem to hate the smell of hospitals? Well, not me. I hate the pretence. The nurses wear bright clothes and matching smiles, the halls in the children’s centre are lined with balloons, the chairs are a cheery orange. We are in the oncology ward, which turns out to be cancer, sitting in those orange chairs and looking at our Dad. Mum is whispering really quickly into Dad’s ear. He’s awake and he looks fine, which doesn’t make sense to me. People with cancer don’t laugh and tell their families not to worry. They don’t ask if their children have had a good day. Dad can’t have cancer. Then the doctor comes in, his face grim.

“Matthew has three CSN Lymphoma brain tumours,” he says. Mum gulps.

“Can you elaborate?” The doctor looks at us nervously and opens his mouth to say something before changing his mind and coughing.

“CSN Lymphomas are rare and extremely dangerous. The seizure activates them and usually kills the patient. We can operate, but Matthew’s third tumour is in a very delicate part of the brain and will probably be too dangerous to operate on.” He stops and clears his throat.

“Can you and I have a moment alone, Mrs Williams?” Mum nods shakily and ushers Megan, Adam and I outside. Adam starts flicking the water bubbler between hot and cold. A puddle forms under his feet.

“Careful,” I say absent-mindedly. Megan is standing at the foot of a vending machine, trying to reach the chocolate bar in the top row. I finger some change in my pocket and amuse her by making the treat fall. It’s amazing how quickly I fall into the routine of looking after my siblings.

Doctor Stralow

12 days after

Matthew Williams is probably one of my worst cases. Even if the surgery does manage to get rid of the two, safer tumours, there will still be one, extremely dangerous, growing. Not to mention, his chemo is costing $20 000 a month. He’s kids are so young; he’s so young. I catch a taxi home and collapse onto the beige leather couch.My girlfriend Isi sits beside me.

“Good day?”

“Terrible. I’ve got a patient with a seven percent chance of living,” I say gloomily. Isi sighs and rubs my shoulders.

“Thanks baby,” I say.

Sarah

8 months after

I creep into our room.

“Hey baby,” I say quietly. Before I climb into bed, I kneel at the window and pray. I’ve started doing that a lot lately. I climb into bed and rest my head on Matthew’s chest, feeling the slow rise and fall of his breath before I sleep. The next morning, the bed is cold and I can no longer feel his chest moving. I place one hand on his papery cheek.

“Thank you,” I say as tears well up inside my eyes and throat. “And goodbye.”

*miss i is in year 7.

A masterchef experience.

The scene was set. Lunch overlooking a world class winery in the Margaret River region, having just spent 90 minutes at the hands of a masseuse. My idea of  heaven.

Homme and I were so excited to be sharing a late lunch, no interrruptions in conversation, no cooking, no washing up. I was so looking forward to a quality experience and that is exactly what we got.

We were seated by the window overlooking the grounds and vineyards of Vasse Felix Winery.

The wait staff were pleasant and attentive and well dressed (no midriffs to greet me at eye level). They filled our water glasses and gave us complimentary sparkling wine on arrival. We oohed and aaahed over the menu and when our meals arrived, well spaced, were were like kids in a candy shop. It was just like Masterchef. The servings were just the right amount to make you want to lick your plate clean but have room for another course. We indulged and each had all three courses over a two hour lazy lunch. Enjoyed with local wine and even dessert wine to finish off a fantastic meal.

I wish I had brought a menu home with me as I can’t remember the exact titles of the meals. I also wish I had remembered to take photos BEFORE this little piggy tasted everything.

Let me whet your appetitites……..

My entree was an artichoke and goat’s cheese tart. It had the best pastry ever. I know understand what they mean when they describe the perfect pastry. Homme devoured a plate of yabbies and lots of other yummies.

My main was slow cooked lamb (18 hours) and homme went for the beef cooked three ways. Oh my.

Although we avoid sugar, we tempted fate and ordered dessert. The sizing was perfect, and I didn’t suffer a sugar headache (unlike the day before from a coleslaw dressing).

I ordered rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb. Yes, a small tart, icecream and mousse. Homme went for the deconstructed cheesecake. See, the filling is shaped in a tube, just like Masterchef!

This meal excelled in so many areas, service, food and atmosphere. Made perfect by the fact it was just the two of us.