Go mbeannai Dia duit.

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Quaker by conviction, mother by default, Celticst through love, Christ follower because I once was lost but now am found...

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Monday Memories.

"It doesn't matter who my father was; it matters who I remember he was. " ~Anne Sexton
My father built a number of things: a boat that sank; the boat he built in the living room & then couldn't get out the door; a canoe [lots of boats]; the rabbit rocker come high chair.

I remember the rocker. It was relegated to the dim dark regions under the house where all the things he had no further use for lived ~ boats & canoe, his old air force hat, parts to cars we no longer owned, things that nobody could name & nobody owned to bringing into the house.

The rocker is a reminder of a man I never knew. I remember my father, the man who spent ages trying to get his 2 year old daughter to say, "Cheese please." &...failed. I would say "cheese" or I would say "please" but "Cheese please" I would not say.

There was another man. One I did not know. Oh, I got glimpses of him sometimes. Sometimes I got a glimpse of him through other people's eyes & could hardly recognise him. Did the cautious man I knew who insisted we wear life jackets before setting foot in a boat ever sit up a mango tree swinging a billy can of rocks for his brothers to shoot at with their .22s? Was this the man who rode a motor bike [an Indian for the curious] & totaled at least one car? I know those genes got passed down. My youngest brother was something of a menace on the road for a while there, but then it wasn't a car that killed him.

I can't see far enough back to recognise the small boy who threw up when he learnt his father had just died, or the one who was babied by his big sister, or even the young Lothario my mother met & fell in love with.

I know he grew up on a farm. Gardening is a family failing but none of us have ever made any money from it. Gardening is just what we do. My grandfather was a market gardener. Twice in his life dad farmed cattle, once with his brother, once on the 50 acres he retired to, but farming is not how he earnt his living. Nope. Dad was a pilot. He went into the air force during the war & when he came out he continued flying. Mum was the young & very pretty air hostess he flirted with her very first day on the job. The men in my family are not backward about going after what they want.

Dad held the trophy of the Wooden Spoon for being the biggest stirrer but he was a softie at heart. The last family cat was the sole survivor of an airfield litter whose mum had chosen a poor spot to have her kittens. My mother nearly had a fit but dad just wanted to know what she expected him to do; he could hardly leave the poor thing there!

Year by year my father buried some things so deeply they blurred who he was. He never spoke of the war that scarred him deeply ~ or of his father's death ~ yet the telling of stories is the thread that binds from my Nana, grandchildren gathered at her knees, telling us the story of Who Killed Cock Robin? & the Babes in the Wood till we were all howling like dervishes, to my aunt cheerfully rewriting the family history in romantic hues to my father singing on the long, long car trek between Sydney & Brisbane, 3 squirming children crammed amongst the luggage, the 2 with the windows hurling up, " Tell me a story/ Tell me a story/ Tell me a story before I go the bed...."

The stories are all the truth that remains because it doesn't matter who my father was, only how we remember him. I remind myself of that on the days when I am tempted to be the ranting, raving, shrewish, harridan I could so enjoy being if I let myself get carried away. That is not how I wish to be remembered so I refrain. Mostly.

Who came visiting us.

"A Thaum is the basic unit of magical strength. It has been universally established as the amount of magic needed to create one small white pigeon or three normal-sized billiard balls." ~ Terry Pratchett

Ditz & I were immersed in her history ~ well I was immersed; Ditz...who knows? We were occupied when I noticed this rather large pigeon happily ensconced on the verandah railing. Ditz immediately declared it a dove but it is in fact a white headed pigeon & rather shy, shy enough that sightings are rare.

It is also a dope. For whatever reason this mad bird decided that Camphor Laurels were good tucker. Camphor Laurels are an introduced species & councils all over the country are busily trying to eradicate them after the birds had merrily spread their seed all through the native bush creating a massive weed infestation of ~ you guessed it: Camphor Laurels! Unfortunately bird numbers decreased with the removal of the Camphor Lauurels & as these birs only lay one egg replacement numbers are on the slow side.

I know the one we saw was a male because the white was very white & the dark back had a green sheen to it. Females are greyer & lack the sheen.

These guys like tropical & subtropical rainforest so I'm not sure what they were doing round here. We're not really either. They are really secretive & wary too, usually hiding in the dense canopy rather than perching out in the open as this one was. Issi was very interested but eventually turned his back & went back to sleep in the sunshine. The pigeon is a fruit eater so that might be why he was round & I'm pretty sure he's whatever is making all the racket at night that's keeping me awake. I'm used to Mopokes, bitterns, screeching curlews ~ & several other species ~ all carousing under my window all night, every night. What disturbs me is the unfamiliar & something is making an odd & unholy racket in the wee sma's. Now that I think I've figured out what is making the noise I'll sleep better. I think. Hope. Hopefully.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Home is the sailor...

Home is where you can say anything you please, because nobody pays any attention to you anyway. Joe Moore
We are home. As in on the island. Two whole blissful weeks where the furtherest we've travelled is to another island. The weather has been lovely & warm during the day, coolish at night. It just feels so good to be doing the boring regular chores around the place: hanging out the washing, wiping down the kitchen, reading Ditz her history, grooming my poor moulting cat, eating breakfast on the verandah ~ well I was until I started painting. I have done the top deck only because everything else just got moved to the lower deck. When I have done the top deck we will move everything back around.

I enjoy a bit of hustle & bustle but the last month has just been insane & enough is enough. I now have lots of chores that have back piled & it has taken me some time to recover from a month of insanity.

Saturday the girls & I played island soccer. This is always interesting because how many are on the pitch at any given time depends on who turns up & lots of the other rules get waived as well. The size of the blokes is one reason I stand waaay, waaay out on the wing & only move if the ball actually comes to me ~ which it very rarely does. Those who've played with me a while know I can boot the ball to some purpose & if I'm close enough I am nippy enough to steal a ball from the unwary but I have no stamina & no speed any more & I refuse point blank to run round a patch of grass after a little round ball in the sort of heat we had on Saturday.

I, at least, pay attention. Ditz was so busy spinning like a helicopter stray balls zipped right past her & she never noticed. [& she wonders why she got that nick~name!] When she pays attention she is a semi~useful back with enough weight & size to simply let strikers run into her ~& bounce off!

Why, I'm sure you're wondering, do we do this at all? P.E. I write it off as P.E ~ which Ditz is still suppossed to be doing but is rarely around for. I do it because thanks to Ditz I already do more sitting around waiting than is good for me. I, however, have learnt to take things gently, especially when I haven't played for a while.
This is all that survived the unexpected winter rains in the garden: celery, which is beautiful & flavoursome, & cabbage ~ oh, & the basil. I have more basil than we know what to do with. We planted huge amounts of things but it pretty well drowned & rotted in the ground thanks to the tropical deluges that just shouldn't have happened at that time of the year ~ & the rain never let up until it was too late to replant. Oh, well, about time to plant for summer & that will probably burn to a crisp this year. However the grape, passionfruit, strawberries & nectarines should do really, really well before summer is finished.The nectarine is flowering profusely but just look at all the gum blossom along the sides of the road!!! The whole road was creamy with it at one point ~ & my driveway... & my clothesline area...& my verandah. I've never seen such a profusion of gum blossom spread like a thick berber carpet over everything! Can't say I'm real thrilled but is is pretty.

Friday, August 28, 2009

See what Liddy bought...

"There is onlyyou & your camera. The limitations in your photography are in yourself, for what we see is what we are." Ernst Haas.

Liddy's weekend arrived & she took herself off for another driving lesson wherein she had a little trouble with her reverse parallel parking. No surprise. The parking spots over here are huge so you get a fair bit of leeway not possible on the mainland.

To revive her spirits she went & saw Young Victoria & bought herself a new camera ~ & very nice it is too ~

Which she promptly used to bug the rest of the household. I don't think my kitchen is terribly photogenic in the after dinner aftermath & I really, really hate being on the wrong side of the camera, which means not being the one pushing the shutter.

Ditz, on the other hand, was more than happy to pose

That's the Creative Gen T~shirt.

And see, I told you she did a great Death Stare! ☺

Thursday, August 27, 2009

You know it is spring when...

Time spent with cats is never wasted. ~ Collette.
....The cat starts moulting. And he is. Lots. Spring has gone completely to his head. He is bouncing round the house like a mad thing. He is racing round the yard & rolling in the dust. He parks himself on the verandah like Lord Muck & surveys his kingdom. Another few weeks & he will be a molten puddle of fur but for now he just wants to know why we all aren't outside racing round madly with him. Why indeed?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

You know it is spring when...

I wrote for her, I fought for her,/ And when at last I lie,/ Then who, to wear the wattle,/ has A better right than I? Henry Lawson

The wattle blooms! I don't care that the calendar says we are still in the depths of winter. The thermometer is hitting 30C during the day & the wattle is blooming. Spring has arrived.
I love wattle. It flowers generously, splashed in reams of gold through the drab~coloured scrub, glowing with golden light from the sun. Mind you I grew up with Sydney wattle, with delicate, pale lemon flowers like cotton ball tufts on twiggy string. The Black Wattle up here is considered something of a weed with its deep, rich golden hues but wattle is wattle. It promises summer.

The wattle is the largest genus of any native flower species ~ more than 900. When it comes to Oz God seems to like nothing better than variations on a theme. We won't go into the number of eculypt species; even larger!

It is the National flower & is represented on our coat of arms. It was first depicted on the amorial bearings in 1908 but these are stylised representations as no wattle actually looks quite like the ones depicted ~ but I doubt too many people either know or care. All sorts of strange things live & grow in the bush. In the early 1900s there was even a national "wattle day" & it is still celebrated, unbeknown to most of us, on the 1st of September each year.The wattle's green & gold colouring have become our national colours & these are usually the ones seen on our international sporting teams & our Olympic teams ~ though occassionaly the fashion industry meddles with that thinking somehow they can improve on a winning combination.

The flowers are dusted with huge amounts of pollen so hayfever sufferers do not enjoy this time of year but the birds certainly do. We kept as much of the native flora as possible when we built & have replanted as well so our house is deep in native vegetation & we get a huge variety of birdlife all year round, but more so in spring when everything bursts into flower. We provide water too & even a cat is no deterrant.

The only drawback to wattle is it has no real scent but sniff deeply anyway. You might get a stray wiff of the sea breeze laden with salt tang, eculypt soaking up the sun, of red dust & cattle cane sweet as burnt sugar. Mmmm.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Term 3 approaches its end.

I believe that school makes complete fools of our young men, because they see and hear nothing of ordinary life there. - Petronius (Satyricon)

I don't know where this term has gone but it is nearly over ~ & what have we to show for it? Not a great deal on the surface. Term 3 is always our most difficult term. End of winter with woggy things plaguing our days; 2/3 of the way through the year with enough rehearsals to create more performance opportunities; general had enough feelings after being stuck inside too much thanks to the erratic weather. Next term will be better. Ditz is like a horse who's scented the home stretch & bolts, head up, tail high.

I am not popular. We have sent in so much history & English we really don't need to send in any more. Maths is the thing. The math Ditz has been dragging her feet over all term. Now it is down to the wire & she is getting it every day. Not a happy Ditz! I'm not convinced she has learnt the moral of this little exercise though. Ah well, there's always next term.

If you would like a peek at her research paper [which was on Gypsies, remember?] click here. A little tidying up would help though I am pleased she has the general idea that she must list her resources. Still working on helping her set that all out & structure her work. Not her strong points but we are getting there.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Tuesday's Trivia.

"Men have forgotten this truth," said the fox. "But you must not forget it. You become responsible forever for what you have tamed." Antoine de Saint~Exupery.

Many years ago I watched a show on a study Russia was doing on the domestication of wild animals. I have never forgotten it. It blew my mind.

The animals used were arctic foxes, in all respects wild animals. Dmitri Belyaev, the Russian scientist who's brain wave this little experiment was, was interested in how dog coats had evolved to be significantly different to the coat of a wolf. Not being a scientist I can only explain this in the simplest form that I understand it: Belyaev believed behaviour was the key to certain mutations. His breeding program focused on one trait exclusively: Those foxes that showed the least fear of men & the friendliest reactions to them were retained & bred from.

If you are culling aggressive animals & breeding non~aggressive animals to non~aggressive animals you would expect, over time, to have a pool of friendly foxes that were not afraid of men. Well, I would. My mind works that way. That's not quite what happened though.

What Belyaev ended up with were in essence no longer foxes. Very quickly he found that the new generations had shorter snouts, broader heads & displayed prolonged juvenile attributes. They also displayed whining, barking, submissiveness, tail wagging & licking their handlers in affection. That's weird enough but sort of expected in a way. Lots of wild animals will display signs of affection towards humans they trust. Or at least, that's been my experience.

What was really weird is what else happened. Remember Balyaev was only breeding for friendliness! What he got was mutations! Spotted coats. Floppy ears. Curled tails. A whole swag of genetic mutations. The foxes lost their distinctive musk scent & were behaving more & more like domesticated dogs, with all the various attributes of mutts. The theory goes that the breeding program destabilised the genetic make~up triggering changes in hormone levels that triggered all sorts of mutations that would never be seen in the wild.

And that, folks, is absolutely fascinating. Gives me an inside look as to how, maybe, God is going to get the lion to lie down with the lamb without the lion considering the lamb as that night's dinner!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Monday Memories.

I believe in everything until it's disproved. So I believe in fairies, the myths, dragons. It all exists, even if it's in your mind. Who's to say that dreams and nightmares aren't as real as the here and now? ~John Lennon
I own something I believe is considered a classic, something so old & battered & loved I can't believe anyone but me would want it: a tattered [very] copy of Peg Maltby's Peg's Fairy Book.
I do not know where my copy came from. My mother more than likely & given it's age it may even be a survivor of her own childhood. It certainly looks like it has done the rounds of several generations. The pages are loose & torn. One of the loveliest illustrations is 1/2 missing & all the pages show signs of being chewed on by horrible little silverfish. Just the same I hang on to this book & hang on to this book, not for the stories which are twee & rather too sickly sweet for my taste but for the illustrations. The illustrations are wonderful!

While other little Australians were cutting their teeth on Snugglepot & Cuddlepie, which I have never actually read, ever, I was lugging round this monstrosity. It is about A4 size with a thick, heavy cardboard cover [probably the reason it has survived so well] & nice thick pages. Each colour illustration is full page size with a wealth of detail & some telling peculiarities that intrigue me. Many of her fairies have a dark Gypsish look about them with their hair caught up in a headscarf, gold hooped ear~rings & full peasant blouses with long fancy skirts. They are domestic with washing strung up to dry & meals to be prepared. There is also a mish~mash of cultures to be found. Amongst the grape arbour pixi home are children with gum~nut blossom hair & other illustrations have Australian native animals or birds but Peg herself was not Australian born. Peg was born Agnes Newbury Orchard on January 17th 1899 at Ashby-de-la-Zouche, in England. Her family, as families do, never used her given name. Peg she was called & Peg she remained all her life. She migrated to Australia in 1924 with her husband George Maltby & they became natives of Victoria, which is understandable. The English struggle in our northern climes with the heat, the humidity, the wet, the flies & the leeches. Some of those things at least don't usually bother the southern states.

She had 4 children & supplemented the family income through the depression years with her artwork. Her fairy book was her first book, published in 1944, though I don't think my copy is a first printing. Peg died in 1984 but her illustrations are still used for decoupage work & if you ever get a chance to own a copy of her work, grab it! You won't be disappointed. There is such a wealth of detail in each picture you can look forever & always find something new.

Award Time.

To refuse awards is another way of accepting them with more noise than is normal. Peter Ustinov.
While I've been running round the real world like a headless chook bloggy awards have been accumulating; & the thing with awards is that they are meant to be shared so today I am sharing. Somewhat late I admit, having finally crashed & slept 14 hours straight. The girls cooked last night & my kitchen is a disaster. I'm sorry I missed dinner. The remains look interesting & exotic but staying awake any longer was beyond my powers.

Jillian over here is responsible. Go check out some of her links to other Aussie homeschoolers ~ where I wasted far too much time this morning. ☺This award is to be passed on to those who faithfully follow my blog, giving encouragement and forming friendships that help us to build one another up in the Lord.

Now I could just give a list ~ which would be very dull for all of us. However, although there are lots of people I could pass this award on to because I love every single one of you who reads here I've decided to restrict myself to just one fellow blogger. Yes, you read correctly: one. That one is Connie @ Slim Pickin's From My Brain. Connie doesn't always have it easy but when I began blogging, some years & several crashed blogs ago, Connie was the very first person to read & comment on my blog. That was sooo encouraging for me. Without her interest & input my blogging exploits would probably have died an early death & while that might have been a good thing I would have missed out on all the wonderful friendships I have since formed in the bloggy realm. Connie has stayed with me through all the crashed blogs & despite the fact I read & fail to comment over at her place. That is almost unforgivable, isn't it ladies?! None of us like feeling like we are talking to ourselves. So here's to you, Connie! Thank you!And then there is this award. I just glow all over thinking I'm any one's favourite anything & anyone who wants to know where I read regularly has only to check out the blog roll on the front page of this thing because I read blogs for all sorts of different reasons. I know some people don't do awards & I can understand that. It takes time & you don't want to hurt any one's feelings by leaving them out. That said the 3 blogs I've chosen I have chosen for writing style. I know, weird of me, but I find them extremely readable. Let's face it I can barely sew, hate to cook & never wear dresses so what on earth am I doing over at Tomato Soup Cake? Good question but Soupy has an easy & very readable writing style that I find irresistible. Then there is Sandra over here@ Worlds End Farm. Horses. The last time I was on a horse, which is more years ago now than I care to own to, it ran away with me & scared the living daylights out of me. I don't do food either but Sandra has a very readable writing style as well & a wickedly satirical way of viewing her world that tickles my funny bone. And last but not least, because she makes me laugh & we share some really weird coincidences Britwife at Losing my Sanity a Little Brit at a Time. I think it is hard to write in such a way that you can make people laugh out loud so I appreciate those who can manage it.

That's all folks! Bunny Ears.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

In which Ditz Stares down her audience....

"I like to feel the burn of the audience's eyes when I'm whispering all my darkest secrets into the microphone." Conor Oberst.

We were carpooling yesterday & then I went to help pack up an apartment while Ditz & her ensemble rehearsed. We trotted back into town about 6ish for hamburgers before wandering over to QPAC to pick up our various children.

They were not on time. We attracted a lot of attention wandering round the empty foyer ~ every one else being inside in the theatre ~ but eventually were able to ask someone if the choir had sung yet. Oh no, we were assured, there was no choir singing tonight.

People poured into the foyer for interval while we hunted up staff to ask if we could watch the monitors for the kids performance. Shock! Horror! Gasp! There was no choir tonight! Are we sure we didn't want Joseph & his techni~coloured coat? Quite sure. They weren't real happy but we were allowed to watch the monitors & lo & behold the kids filed out on stage promptly after interval, a long nervous row of them looking like black & white blobs on the screen but they sang beautifully. One little section sounded a bit shonky to me & Ditz just said disgustedly that they were all singing at a different tempo because people weren't watching the monitors but as they got it together pretty quickly its probably only people like me, who register nothing except it doesn't sound quite like it usually does, who even noticed.

The kids were practically sitting in the audience's laps & Ditz, who does quite a good Death Stare as a regular thing, was busily out staring her audience one by one. Anyone who looked at her for longer than 2 seconds was eyeballed until they shifted their gaze. I don't think that's quite what is meant by connecting with your audience! However everyone was as surprised as they were meant to be by the ensemble performing; special birthday performance for the composer Ian McKinley , whose version of the 23rd Psalm the kids were singing. I think only the backstage crew knew about it. lol.

The kids wandered out closer to 9 than 8.30 which meant no way were we getting the 10pm boat ~ which meant we didn't wander in our own door until almost mid~night. Ditz, who was very wired when she came off stage, was silent by then, so very, very, tired & I'd cat~napped on the boat home. No rehearsal this week but after the month we've had I think we can all do with the break. We might actually get some of the other school work done!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Saturday, Saturday.

I love spring anywhere, but if I could choose I would always greet it in a garden. ~Ruth Stout

Spring is here ~ a little early but definitely on its way! The air has changed & the days are definitely warmer! And where am I spending the day? In Brisbane of course. *sigh*.

Ditz is performing with the QLD Youth Orchestra at QPAC tonight but today they are rehearsing with the orchestra. They are only doing the one piece so it's not worth purchasing a ticket & sadly rehearsals are closed. This would be worth being a fly on the wall for. The theatre is very intimate & because they are sharing the stage with the orchestra the kids get to line up single file along the very edge of the stage where you can see the whites of the audiences' eyes!!! That's nerve wracking enough but the acoustics are such that you can't hear the performer beside you so it's as if you are soloing. If they keep the same format they had Wednesday Ditz will be plonk in the middle of the stage. *snigger, snigger.*

The movies aren't inviting so I guess its walking through Southbank for me. I have a book & coffee is available so I will lack for very little.

I really need a weekend at home though. I have never seen a spring like this before. We have so much gum blossom in great creamy drifts my yard & verandah have turned white with the stuff & the lorrikeets, rosellas & cockatoos have been stripping the sails till there are great twiggy branches lying all over everything as well. The bats, which feed on the blossom, have arrived in droves too, screeching & crashing through the treetops all night long. With the hotter weather the birdbaths are more popular & I am having to check them more often to make sure they are topped up with fresh water. We always get the little birds ~ honeyeaters, flycatchers & fantails ~ but as the temperatures skyrocket the bigger birds get desperate & there's nothing quite like the sight of a friar bird, magpie or kookaburra trying to squeeze into a contraption meant for something much, much smaller. They are not in the least self conscious about looking like prize idiots!

Ditz & I are getting very, very tired. All the travelling takes its toll & more often than I like I have been scheduling easy school days but then yesterday Ditz took a whole 20 minutes to do her science instead of the all morning drama I was expecting & our history reading is finally aligning with her extension project on Gypsies though, naturally, we are behind on her math. If we must do math I wish we had the math brain to cope with it but we do not & it continues to be the fly in our ointment, which is a shame as everything else rolls along quite nicely. Thank goodness Ditz has brains & to spare or it would all be a much bigger drama than it is.

Meanwhile Liddy is down to her last few needed hours for her driver's licence. I can't believe she's been driving for over 12 months ~ or how scary she was those first few weeks. Now she is very, very competent; if anything a little overconfident but she lined up the first of about 3 lessons with a driving school ~ one of the better ones with a good first time pass rate & sound preparation for the test~ & came home over the moon. Her instructor was very pleased with her driving habits. I rather let the air out of her balloon by remarking I must have done a pretty good job! She looked confused for a moment then got it. Yes, dear heart, mummy did a good job teaching you! *swipes at brow in relief!* Another licenced driver round her would be very handy!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

A longstanding love affair

Australia is about as far away as you can get. I like that. Andre Benjamin

My mother was the sort of parent who gave books as birthday presents. I was the sort of child who anticipated the luxury of much new reading material come birthdays or Christmas. I was perfectly happy to forgo new clothes, fancy toys or make~up kits for a wealth of good books. Consequentially I have a very large children's library to this day.

When I was about 10 I recieved the first Billabong book I ever read, Bill of Billabong, & began my love affair with the inhabitants of Billabong Station.. Unless you are Australian you will never have heard of these ~ & even then maybe not. They are older books dating back to the early 1900s but what I love about them, & what made them so popular, is the humour. Billabong Adventurers has the funniest pre~nuptial scene I have ever read & when I am in need of a good laugh I will drag the book out just to read that one scene & laugh till I howl.

For the time they were written in they are remarkably modern in outlook. The central character is Norah Linton, the beloved daughter of David Linton & sister to Jim. Her home is the cattle station in Victoria, Billabong, which gives the series its name. Finding himself widowed & knowing nothing of raising girls David Linton raises Norah as he would a son. Don't let this put you off. Norah is definitely a feminine character with many womanly accomplishments. In the early books she is tutored at home & learns her household skills from the family housekeeper while still participating in the daily running of a large cattle station.

Mary Grant Bruce writes well but her most enviable skill is her ability to infuse the ordinary with the extraordinary. She writes about the daily round of everyday chores & activities in such a way that they seem fresh & exciting. As a parent I admire the attitude with with everything is approached. Work is seen as good & to be enjoyed as much as possible. Friendship is valued. Duty is to be done lovingly. Everyone is to be helped as best you can.

As an Australian much that is unique about these books is taken for granted. I've travelled through the countryside so lovingly described. I understand the heat & the flies & the attraction of cool water & gum shade on a scorching hot day. There is a subtlety to these books that was often missing in children's books of the era & there is surprisingly little moralising. However nothing does justic to an author like quoting their own words so here's a little snippett from my favourite passage:

He paddled hard for a few moments, standing up in the boat. Then he uttered an exclamation.

"Seems to me my feet are getting damp. Golly, the boat is making water hand over fist. That bump must have started a plank. Bale, Norah, as hard as you can, or we'll be drowned on our wedding day!"

Norah sought hurridly for a bailing tin, & finding none, did the best she could with her hat, which being of a porous nature, made little headway against the inrush of water. The boat filled rapidly, & presently sank gracefully beneath them. The water closed over their astonished heads. Billabong Adventurers ~ Mary Grant Bruce.

Some titles are now a little hard to get but many are still available though I would not recommend the very first as it is episodic & a little stilted & originally written for magazine installments but they are funny & wholesome & extremely readable.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Setting foot on foreign land...

“The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” ~ G.K. Chesterton
I am starting the research. Even if I can't go there's no reason to remain ignorant. Ditz may actually go but is far more likely to learn nothing. lol.
While Ditz & I were at choir last night Dearest watched a doco on Singapore & is now far happier about the whole venture. It is safer than he assumed. He didn't tell me anything I didn't know but as I couldn't tell him, having never actually been to Singapore, I'm glad he found out for himself. God has a very well developed sense of humour!

I will hit the travel agents too though it is unlikely Ditz will have much opportunity to see anything but the insides of concert halls: the Esplanade Concert Hall & the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory to be exact! They will perform Holst's the Planets with Orchestra of the
Music Makers.
Soprano & alto voices only. It does my head in. I hate to say it but Ditz is quite, quite mad. Fancy going all that way just to sing like a canary! They will work hard too. I don't need any crystal ball to foresee that!

And this is why God gave my Ditz such an excess of energy. If I had to do what she does I'd be dead & buried faster than you could say Jack Robinson. Interesting is the word to use, I think.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A week in retrospect...& don't come back!

May you live in interesting times ~ Chinese proverb.

I have found the last week so difficult I haven't been able to pull order out of chaos enough to write about it. It has been emotionally draining. Let's face it, every job I've ever held they sent me along for assertivness training because I find confrontation so difficult I avoid it at all costs. This is neither wise nor beneficial so a week starting with major confrontation has done absolutely nothing for my headspace ~ especially as that was just the beginning.

Finally we had found an electrician who had time to do our water heater. Yes, we have been without hot water all that time. The downside was I had to do the running round to pick up the new element & some light fittings as we were doing lights at the same time. Ditz & I left early & managed everything nicely ~ which is almost unheard of. I had just pulled out of our parking space & was completely stopped ~ as you do to: change gears; put on your seat belt; respond to the child going, "Waaaait!" beside you. I don't know but we were stopped for one or all of these reasons when a young woman slammed into us as she backed out of her parking space.

Now I wasn't happy; it's not my car, after all, but I am a civilized human being & accidents happen so I pulled back into a parking space [can't clutter up the road, now, can we?] & got out of my car to check our damage & that the other driver was ok. Damage negligable. Liddy wasn't going to be happy but it could have been so much worse.

Then the other driver accuses me of backing in to her. Pardon? We were stationary! I point this out & ask her to check with Ditz. She then says Ditz will lie & just say whatever I tell her to. What planet does this girl live on?! I began narking up. It takes a bit but when it happens it's not pretty. This girl is in full tirade & abusive. Fine, only don't accuse my kid, ok. I gave her my details but as I pointed out, not my car & I have no idea who it is insured with.

I ring Dearest & check with the police that I have done as I should & was not in the wrong & head on to choir ~ which was an extended rehearsal for Saturday's concert. We missed lunch, afternoon tea & dinner. Ditz & I were upset & starving by the time we got home but whatever.

We think the other driver rang Monday & got Ditz but asked for someone who doesn't even live here; total confusion on Ditz's part. There is a reason for that nickname. Meanwhile the Sparky arrived & unpluged all our electricals: no phone, no inter~net, no nothing & ever since we've had no phone at all. Dearest says it's the phone. Liddy & I say it's the line. The phone company people have been up & down the street for weeks trying to fix a problem. Whatever it is this rude individual has not been able to reach us & as I don't deal with rude individuals I have made no attempt to contact her. If her insurance company contacts me, fine, but I'm betting she doesn't want to pay her excess, which will be a good bit higher than mine, & I see no reason for us to pay for her mistake ~ or rudeness. Steam still coming out my ears on this one.

Ditz spent several days playing electrician's apprentice. She was a good little goffer but there is a reason that child does music. Our electricity is old & a simple job became a major hassel that involved us finding & checking every power point in the house. On being checked half had dead ants clogging the wiring. Those had to be replaced. We're lucky we never had an electrical fire. Yikes!

And just to round my week off the costing came through for the Singapore tour. Aaaargh! A good bit more than anticipated. Dearest is adamant Ditz needs to go but we can't afford me as well. None of us real happy about that given Ditz's personality & that the child is barely 14 & that she has been relatively sheltered & rarely away from home. Even then it's been with family or friends who are like family.

I am feeling worn & frazzled & frankly, God, what do you think you are doing~ish?! I don't think we are improving my personality here. Should be, maybe, but somehow it doesn't feel like it. I have anger management issues. I have control issues. I want the script re~written, the one with the happily ever after ending. Oh, you've done that already? Oops. My mistake.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Tuesday's Trivia.

"Something old, Something new, Something borrowed, Something blue, And a silver sixpence in your shoe". Traditional
Most of us do it at least once in a life time. In the west we do it in the name of love but most cultures are far more practical about it ~ marriage that is. I fall into that small percentage of women who didn't wear white, covert a diamond engagement ring [I abhor diamonds so that is no hardship! lol], or walk down an aisle. All that fuss for an hour or so!

We say things like, " They're tying the knot," with no idea of what we're saying. At Celtic marriages [& Hindu & Egyptian weddings] the bride & groom's hands are literally tied together, hence tying the knot! Mind you, the Celts at least had so many marriage variants, including the fairytale *for a year & a day*, it's something of a worry.

If you wear a wedding band on the usual 4th finger of the left hand then you are imitating the ancient Egyptians who believed the vein of love ran from this finger directly to the heart. Gold is the usual precious metal for a wedding band ~ 17 tonnes a year are needed in the U.S.A alone to make them! Mind you, while I rather like snakes, I'm adverse to wearing them & the earliest wedding rings were snaky with little ruby eyes because the joined coils signified eternity. We've kept the symbolism but ditched the snaky bit ~ & a good thing too!

Most of us know the veil was originally for warding off the evil spirits [Roman ladies wore virulent fiery yellow ones!], that the white wedding dress is for virginity/purity, & throwing rice or confetti is to confer fecundity on the happy couple but what about the kiss at the end of the service? In the good old days, & aren't I pleased they're long gone!, the bride & groom consummated their marriage there & then under the eyes of the whole village!!!! The chaste kiss is all that remains of this particular practise! Whew!

For centuries June was the most popular month for weddings. I understand that's summer in the northern hemisphere & there is a good chance of fine weather but June was also the month dedicated to the Roman goddess Juno, patron of home & hearth & all that goes with it.

And when all the shouting & the tumult dies & the newly wed couple departs with a trail of rattling tin cans tied to their bumper [to ward of more evil spirits] they are usually headed for an exclusive secluded retreat for a wonderful *honeymoon*. Umhummm. What I bet they didn't know is where that term comes from. Yes, more of the good old days, really old, good days. When men were men &...oops, probably the wrong story. Well, when men were encouraged to indulge their Neanderthal instincts & capture a bride by force he would carry her away [good grief this sounds like a bad fairy tale!] & hide her away where he though family & friends wouldn't track her down. There, in this secluded & hidden retreat, he would ply her with wine made from honey [to encourage her to accept his amorous advances] & keep her for the length of one moon phase ~ hence honeymoon!

I'm so sorry I got onto this topic. I'm going to stop now. Yikes! The medieval idea of women being a *little exchange of property* is starting to look attractive!

Monday Memories.

The difficulty with marriage is that we fall in love with a personality, but must live with a character. ~Peter Devries

I used to own a skirt. I even wore it once ~ to a cousin's wedding. It was some wedding but what I chiefly remember it for is Liddy.

Liddy was about 18 months or so, give or take. My memory of numbers is never particularly reliable. Liddy's Ma [my mother] is something of a seamstress & she had made the most adorable dress for her first grand~daughter. It was unbleached cotton with a little ruffle at the hem & sweet peach coloured ribbon threads. Liddy looked absolutely adorable in it; just like a little porclein doll.

My family is baby obsessive. Everyone adores babies. Hugs & kisses are par for the course & people are liable to say things like, "Oooh, I could just gobble you right up," but even as a very small child Liddy had a mind of her own & being gobbled up by these unknown relatives was not on Liddy's agenda. Liddy was very much her own person & very definitely her mummy's girl.

All day stray relatives would swoop Liddy up exclaiming, "Aren't you adorable!" Followed by an ear~piercing shriek as Liddy demanded to be put down & bolted for mummy. She was prepared to be adored from afar but worshippers were required to keep their distance because being petted & patted was undignified. Liddy wouldn't let anyone near her but her beloved mummy.

This is the same child who would have nothing to do with her own father until after she turned 3 & distressed him no end by weeping copiously when he attempted to nibble her toes. Poor man exclaimed in bewilderment, " Boy, girls really are different to boys, aren't they!" So pleased he noticed!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The MBC Concert.

If I live to be 90, and I'm planning to, I'll always love performing for a live audience. Lawrence Welk
Saturday. Showcase performance at MBC. The kids have been rehearsing this stuff all year.

The girls & I left the island early Saturday morning with Liddy driving; scenic route. We were nearly late because Liddy went the way she knew ~ which was nothing like a direct route! And then the whole MBC thing rather did her head in; that & the whole arty thing. She just shook her head at how kid after kid arrived & just came & stood quietly in the foyer without a word to anyone. They're like that but it's performing at all these high~brow venues~ they can't yahoo about the place like the sports yobs do. She & the caretaker commiserated together on the strangeness of the music officiandos! So not going there.

Lid & I helped set up & then 1/2 way through the morning we discovered there was no water in the loos. A little investigation showed there was no running water to the kitchen either. No running water in the whole district. Dis~as~ter! Liddy & I drove into Manly to pick up 15L of water so we could at least fill the urns & we redirected the loo traffic to the older loos that run of tanks but we had musos looking to fill water bottles & no water.

We did eventually get our water back just as people started arriving for the concert. My mum arrived down from the Sunshine Coast about 1/2 an hour before show time looking stunning in a bone top & skirt & yellow jacket. She always looks beautifully put together & we can always pick her out of a crowd because of it whereas I always look frumpy no matter what I do. I can wear strange & feel perfectly comfortable but if I doll up not only do I feel incredibly uncomfortable, there is no appreciable improvement. A little while later Dearest's mum arrived & I hunted up a program:
Australian Vocal Arts Ensemble [Ditz is part of this]
Sound the Trumpet Purcell
Ave Maria Faure
Serve the Lord With Gladness Handel
: Sea Wrack Harty
solo: Sweet Chance Head
Vox Totz: I’m Late Fain
Come to My Farm Folk Song
solo: Castle on a Cloud Schonberg
solo: My Dearest Dear Novello
Vocal Manoeuvres Ensemble
Just the Way You Are Joel
Can’t Buy Me Love McCartney
Vocal Manoeuvres Chorus [& Ditz is part of this]
The Lord is My Shepherd McKinley
Ain’t No Mountain High Enough Ashford/Simpson
solo: Being Alive Sondheim
solo: Over the Rainbow Arlen
solo:Don’t Cry Out Loud Allen
solo: At Last Gordon/Warren
solo: Anthem Andreson/Ulvaeus
Australian Vocal Arts Ensemble [Ditz again]
Little Fishy Holland
Esti Dal Kodaly
solo:Summertime Gershwin
Vocal Manoeuvres
Abide With Me Monk
Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel Spiritual
Entire Company Now We Are Free Zimmer/Gerard [& again]

As you can see it's a pretty interesting & varied program & particularly interesting for me because I'm parked up the back in a corner most rehearsals & don't pay all that much attention. The kids are just background noise but I think something must be going in because I listen to this stuff differently now. I hear mistakes. lol. I know which passages are sounding overworked because they've given trouble. I know when something has come together really, really well & over time I've become very fond of certain pieces. The Purcell & Handel is just stunning but neither the girls nor I are very fond of Little Fishy. It is one of those pieces it is far too easy to make mock of & though the kids sing it well the visual image of some brawny hairy sailor with an image of his true love tatooed all over his hairy chest is too much for me! Esti Dal is a Hungarian piece & sung in Hungarian! It is really lovely but the time those kids spent wrapping their lips round the Hungarian! Now they've nailed it it will be a regular part of their repertoire I should think, as it should be. It is unusual as well as lovely.

Sea Wrack I'd never heard but really liked. And the young man who sings Anthem has the biggest voice. Last time I heard him do this it was in one of the small town studios & he just about blew the walls out! He is amazing! Great voice; great personality. The spiritual was another I really enjoyed but although I understand Aint no Mountain is a difficult arrangement I just don't like it. I particularly dislike our boy soprano going for the high A or G or whatever it is at the end & go to protect my ears. I'm a Neanderthal. I really, really dislike all that operatic screeching. I don't hear music in that. It just hurts my head. Besides he never sounds as though he's nailed that note properly to me ~ but what would I know?! Ditz is disparaging of my musical discernment. Actually it's only the high notes I can't cope with. I'm fine with all the lower registers but someone should strangle those high sopranos! Especially when it's Ditz doing it. In the car of all places! Just joking.

This was a really high quality performance; so nice for the grands, who suffer Ditz at her ditziest, to see all that noise & exuberance channeled into a constructive outlet. At one point my mother turned to me & said, " I can hear Ditz!" She sounded quite thrilled. She was also impressed with how disciplined the kids were but for where Alison wants to take this ensemble they need to be disciplined.

The bonus for the kids like Ditz having the whole company showcase like this is they can see what time & hard work can achieve. Every single one of the soloists, every single one of the older members, started where she is, learning the basics, learning stagecraft, overcoming stage fright. It's really encouraging for them to see how far the older ones have travelled & the older ones are pretty good with the younger ones too.

One more concert this month & I can breath again. Temporilarily. It's always temporarily.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Gyver's story.

" There are many intelligent species in the universe. They are all owned by cats."- AnonymousAs Leo Dworken says, no amount of time can erase the memory of a good cat. Gyver was a very good cat. The very best. I still miss him...but shhh, don't tell Issi!

Like most of our animals Gyver had personality & to spare. He was half grown when we got him, already at the gangly, adolescent stage. Our neighbours found him on their waterfront, half starved, with a fish~hook through his tongue. Obviously he'd been hungry enough to scavenge anything ~ including bait! They removed the hook & fed him & that was about it. The wife didn't like cats & though he did he was looking for another home for the cat to keep the domestic peace. I'm a sucker for cats, particularly blue~eyed cats, especially anything with Siamese in them. Yes, I know they are loud & raucous but they are incredibly smart animals & Gyver was a very smart cat.

Being Siamese he was not adverse to taking the long walk to the point with the boys. He knew jolly well there was bait in their buckets & that before too long there would be fresh fish as well. He would prowl from child to child keeping them company, chatting in the way only a Siamese can & reminding them that he was available for the feeding of tid~bits. When he was sated he would curl up in the warmest available spot & go to sleep for the day. When evening came I often had to hike down to the point & carry Gyver home myself.

He had the sweetest nature. He was not a cat to bite & scratch, no matter what the children did but he had a wicked sense of humour & never was it more evident than with a friend of Liddy's.

Liddy has always had friends who were boys. Something to do with having lots of brothers I guess. Anyway when she was about 5 her very best friend was a boy & I used to have the two of them regularly for the whole day.

Liddy's friend was a very nice little boy but he had a Siamese cat himself so he promptly & incautiously began teasing Gyver. Gyver, being a sweet natured cat, spent the morning with his fur on end from being lept out at from hidden corners & surprised. In the end I decided Gyver needed a break & the children needed to expend some energy in more constructive pursuits so I took the children for a walk.

We walked all the way to the end of the road then we began wandering home through the mangroves along the waterfront. A mangrove walk is always something of an obstacle course, especially if you have a mix of mangroves, as we do: buttress roots, spiky roots, cathedral roots, hoop roots. The children were well occupied just negotiating a path home.

All of a sudden a white shape lept out of the scrub. All 4 feet spread wide Gyver bounced up at his tormentor smiling manically then streaked for home! Seriously. The child nearly died on the spot. He let out an unearthly shriek then tore after the cat but the cat was smarter than he was & was nowhere to be found.

I stumbled after the kids nearly paralysed with laughter.

I acquired Gyver for me ~ & Joss promptly snavelled him ~ though Gyver was pretty impartial in his affection. Everyone was loved equally [unlike Issi who adores me alone!] but in his older age he was very much Liddy's cat because she wanted it that way.

I dream about him sometimes: the silkiness of his fur; his raucous greeting; the volcanic rumbling of his purr & I miss him in the mornings. He was always the first one up & he greeted me with delight, mewling about my ankles while I prepared his breakfast. Issi thought Gyver was a god & adored him lavishly, mimicking some of Gyver's quirkier habits. Losing him was really hard & though Issi eased the pain somewhat he is a very different cat. Gyver understood deprivation & he understood gratitude. He loved impartially without reservation. I learnt a lot about unconditional love from a cat.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tuesday's Trivia.

Wednesday: Your work is puerile and under-dramatized. You lack any sense of structure, character and the Aristotelian unities.
The most bizarre bit of trivia I have turned up in some time is about homeschooling. You've seen the lists; read the e~mails; downloaded the sites that list all the smart, famous, funny people who were homeschooled. Up~right citizens every last one.

What I bet you haven't seen is the trivia about the very first homeschooling t.v family. Have a think about all the t.v familes we've got to know ~ & yes, I know the Little House people were homeschoolers but they weren't the first on t.v.

Give up?

It was the Addams Family. There was an episode that went to air on Sept., 4th 1964 with a traunt officer arriving to investigate why Wednesday & Pugsley had never been to school. Gomez is horrified at the thought of *regimented schooling * but he's a law abiding citizen so Wednesday & Pugsley are dutifully packed off to school .... until Morticia discovers what they are learning in Grimm's Fairy Tales!

Cracks me right up! It doesn't do to take ourselves too seriously!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Monday Memories.

Let your daughter have first of all the book of Psalms for holiness of heart, and be instructed in the Proverbs of Solomon for her godly life. St. Jerome

Liddy was the sort of baby other mothers would kill for. We brought her home from the hospital & she promptly slept through the night; twelve hours straight; from 7pm to 7 am. I'd never had it so good with a new born.

Liddy never cried. When she was hungry she let out one whimper then waited patiently till I could get to her. She was happy to sleep in her own space, fed efficiently, disliked the sling but was happy to be lugged around on a hip. Every which way she was a very easy child.

We were expecting things to change somewhat round about the time she turned two. After all we'd done the *terrible twos* three times but Liddy turned two & continued to be her sweet, serene self. I was starting to worry that the child wasn't quite right.

I had three rough & tumble boys ~ & then I had Liddy. Naturally the boys adored her, spoilt her, treated her like the Queen Bee she so obviously thought she was. She used to march round the place laying down the law to everyone till her father was moved to suggest someone should swat her behind ~ only it wasn't going to be him!

Then one day it happened. Someone actually thwarted her. Liddy was flabbergasted. No was a word she rarely heard. She thought about it for a moment while we waited curiously then she got down on all fours & began feeling the floor. A little crowd of us gathered perplexed as to what Lid thought she was doing. Our floors are uncarpeted hardwood. After patting it tentatively Liddy very gently & carefully lay her head down, got comfortable & began to bellow. Having watched this performance in stunned silence it took us a moment to realise that this was Liddy's version of a tantrum. We began to snigger & within moments Dearest & I were gasping for breath while the tears streamed from our eyes! Oh my! Liddy glanced up from under perfectly dry lashes, saw us howling with laughter & marched off in disgust. As parents we were perfectly useless. There was obviously no point in wasting a perfectly good tantrum on us!

Now Lid doesn't give up easily & she learnt early the maxim you catch more flies with honey than vinegar so she stewed on her failure for some days but she finally found a solution & I caught her telling someone with perfect seriousness, "But I might cry!" Obviously there was no greater threat this child could offer the world. Exasperated I told her that in that case she would just have to cry!

Liddy found pre~school difficult. It was very competitive & she was bored . After all she'd been doing pre~school with her brothers for years. I pulled her out, a quieter, more anxious child whose confidence had been badly shaken by the whole school scene, & we continued as a twosome at home: coffee & cake with the girls, baking & gardening & lots of cuddling up together reading. I know we did all these things ~ a long string of days that have blurred together in memory ~but one day stands out from all the others.

All my life I have kept cats but since moving to the island we hadn't had one. Dearest just kept saying no. I hankered after a cat so when neighbours found a stray kitten on their waterfront that they didn't want my name got bandied around. I went to look but made no promises, Dearest had to agree, but I had Lid with me & that poor cat! Part Siamese, cream with ginger points & the bluest of blue eyes he was ragged, filthy & black with fleas. Liddy promptly fell in love. Liddy who never begged begged to keep him. At that point I was simply delighted to see the sparkle in her eyes, hear the assurance in her voice.

I let Liddy carry the poor thing home, cradling him oh so very carefully. She helped me bath him so he wasn't so flea ridden, & dry him with a soft towel & when her brothers came round the bend in the road she rushed to greet them with this most exciting of news. It was bedlam but that cat coped admirably. He always did. He was just forever grateful that he had found a home where he was loved.

Liddy loved that cat. As she had been with me the day we brought him home she was with me the day he died. We hadn't realised how sick he was. It was Liddy who wrapped him warmly & carried him to the vet but when we got the news of how sick he was she refused to come in with me. " I might cry..." Yes indeed. She wasn't the only one.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

A God Story.

"I don't sing because I'm happy; I'm happy because I sing" William James

Second day down without a fuss. Liddy drove us in without trauma or incident & we hoyed Ditz out to be bored to tears while we took ourselves off to the cinema. Not real good choices but seeing Liddy had been at a 21st the night before & crashed at her brother's she wasn't feeling real bright & sparkly this morning when we picked her up & even the Ugly Truth was preferable to large amounts of exercise & bright sunshine.

Eventually the PR pics should go up on the VM site & I hope to be able to link anyone interested. Individual shots were done as well as group ones ~ CV stuff I guess. Who knows. Anyway I thought now might be a good time to tell the story of how we fell into Vocal Manoeuvres because in my wildest dreams I never expected to be doing this stuff.

I have mentioned, once or twice, that my Ditz has a little trouble counting, that my Ditz is social to the point of lunacy, that my Ditz likes to sing like a canary....It's hard remembering back to a time when music didn't consume a large part of our week but such a time did indeed exist.

Once upon a time we began piano as an adjunct to Ditz's math & we toddled along with Ditz learning her music basics. To piano we added violin because Ditz insisted she wanted to learn & violin was almost her undoing. So when the local primary school decided it wanted a school band & declared the auditions open Ditz was champing at her bit. Because it was local I agreed Ditz could audition, not really expecting her to gain a place. She did. And she was also offered a place in the school choir. I began juggling our school schedule around Ditz's music commitments. The school band folded within 12 months & I was left with a distressed child so we commuted 2 islands over so she could join the other school band.

All this was just falling in Ditz's lap but it was, you know, fairly laid back. Not a big deal. It was nice Ditz liked music. It was nice she could sing in tune. It was nice she could play an instrument. It was nice she was improving & had the chance to play in a band with other musicians.

Then we went over for flute the last day of 3rd term & a flyer, literally, fell in our lap. Musicians were workshopping over the school holidays for what used to be known locally as the Strawberry Festival. Local opportunities are rare. Unfortunately Ditz knew that as well as I did. She begged. I made a phone call. Mistake numero uno. The council were keen to boast the islanders were being included in their cultural reach & offered us free transport. We took it. Second mistake.

For 2 weeks straight Ditz got the sort of training she now takes for granted. She worked her butt off to find her feet in a semi~professional ensemble. She really grew musically & she loved performing. When it was all over I could literally see the distress of being back paddling in a pool of mediocrity. Ditz went into mourning. She didn't nag. She didn't beg. She simply wilted ~ visibly.

Dearest, who is an absolute sucker when it comes to his daughters, begged me to do something. I made enquiries. I thought the audition would be the end of it. Ditz had never in her life sung a capella in cold blood for anyone & I couldn't see her starting now but she chose a song & learnt it off by heart & she sang a capella in cold blood. It was nerve wracking ~ & I was only watching!

There wasn't even any quibbling; Ditz was in! OKaaaay....We toddled off to orientation & the lights started going on for me. This was not some hokey~pokey choir got together by amateurs for a bit of fun. Nor siree. This was serious business. This had musical clout. This had Reputation. So much so that if Ditz wasn't keen I'd have her out like a shot because it is too cruel, too full~on, too rigorous for a child who isn't serious about what they are doing. I would never in a thousand years put a young child into something so full on but Ditz has thrived. Nope, I wouldn't have done it but God knew Ditz needed this & He had put everything in place so Ditz had enough music background that when the opportunity arrived she was able to grab it with both hands ~ & I was totally clueless. I couldn't worry & fret about what I didn't know about. Now I worry & fret but I can also see that Ditz has fallen into something really special, something Dearest & I would never have thought we could provide for her...but her father in heaven owns the cattle on a thousand hills. Guess he sold a few off just for Ditz.

Saturday, August 8, 2009


Anthea: All my friends are leaving Brisbane.
Michael: Get new friends. ~ All My Friends Are Leaving Brisbane

One day down...& better than anticipated. I wasn't driving; always good. Congenial company; excellent. Ditz finished earlier than expected; super~duper.

Photo shoot tomorrow at Southbank. Looking good.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Answering Questions.

I have no particular talent, I am merely extremely inquisitive.~ Albert Einstein
What does your school day look like - care to share? What curriculum, if any, are you using, and what do you like or dislike about it? What are the things that are most important to you in your homeschooling journey, and to God?
Jillian, over here, is asking about homeschooler's days. We have a 2 pronged attack. Ditz has an academic program & a music program. Of the two music is the more important. Ditz has decided she wants to work in the music field so she learns 3 instruments: violin, piano & flute. The theory from these helped get her into AVAE, which is a vocal ensemble & routinely throws our academics into chaos with extra rehearsals & performances but it is performance oriented, small, & believes in showcasing individual voices. We believe it is giving Ditz an unprecedented grounding in music & preparing her beautifully to cope in a fairly hostile environment. The tale of how we joined the ensemble is one of complete ineptness & ignorance on our part, providence & grace on God's!

Anyone who has read here for a while knows all about Ditz & her music driving me slightly loopy but we do have an academic program that is a little more eclectic than most. We use Sonlight as our spine for English & history. This is a literature rich program using *living books.* I tweak it fairly heavily because Sonlight is a quite rigorous academic program ~ which does not suit Ditz. She tends to be academically lazy & the way she learns best is not very conducive to being able to *show & tell* for the powers that be. To the reading & map work I add 1, just one, research paper a term, which operates more as a unit study than anything else. For example this term Ditz has elected to research Gypsies.

Ditz is a very visual learner & can look at plenty of stuff on~line & she pores over the pictures in the books we have though they tend to be fairly unreadable for a 14 yr old, not because they are particularly difficult or have esoteric vocab, but because they are academic in nature & you wade through a lot of guff before you get to the point & that is not something that suits Ditz. I'm enjoying them! ☺ And passing along the information.

What I have learnt from using Sonlight is that a good story will often teach better than anything else so I have got hold of a copy of Rumor Goddon's The Diddakoi as a read~a~loud. We have 2 chapters left to go. While I read Ditz will often sit & draw; it helps her focus & fits in her art nicely.

Ditz & I naturally tend to *immersion* learning. We get obsessed on one thing until we get tired of it so there may be weeks when we focus primarily on history & barely touch her other subjects. I try to combine immersion with a more regular schedule so Monday is for English, music history [from Beautiful Feet] & Home Ec [from Christian Light]. Tuesday is math day. Ditz is never happy. Math is our worst subject. We moved from Math~U~See this year because we just got completely lost & Ditz now has an individualised program through our umbrella school but is still struggling. She just has no interest & resents the time it takes from the things that do interest her.

Thursday is for History because Ditz is usually quite tired after music all day Wednesday & all the travelling & I usually do the reading while Ditz colours & does the map work. Friday is science day & a drama class in the evening. We use Apologia for science. I chose it for being very scientifically presented but I may change back to Abeka as Ditz couldn't give two hoots about scientific accuracy so we may as well go with something less rigorous that she enjoys better. The drama compliments what we are doing with her English work.

We do academics for 3 hours in the morning starting with a bible chapter [Leviticus at the moment & very gruesome it is too!] then Ditz is free to do artwork, computer work & music practise after lunch. I am flexible about start times so long as Ditz works solidly without fuss.
I have 5 kids ~ two of whom could be considered exceptionally bright. Brightness is over~rated. It creates it's own set of problems & one of those is a dislike of set academic work. You can imagine the sort of conflict this can create. Ditz is no. 5 & I have learnt you can't force feed a kid knowledge so I tend to try & work with Ditz's strengths as much as possible, minimise her weaknesses & not worry too much otherwise. I know she knows how to learn, how to find out what she needs to know & that is the most important thing academically.

We chose to homeschool for lots of different reasons & started pulling our kids out of the school system once we found them falling through the gaps. Kinesthetic learners tend to not do well in schools. I also taught in the public school so I know first hand the amount of time wasted & the sort of busy work that constitutes so much of a normal student's day. I consider little real learning ever takes place. I know Ditz often has trouble showing what she has learnt but that is understandable when her primary means of communication & self~expression are non~verbal; music & art. Ditz culls a lot of knowledge visually: T.V., DVDs, movies, artwork, pictures ~ & these are not generally considered acceptable ways of showing what one has learnt. This means I have to have courage to trust the way I feel God is leading us to educate our child ~ not easy for me as I am very academically inclined myself!

I don't fuss about it but God undergirds all our learning & I have a long list of blessings He has showered upon us over the years: moving us into a Christian umbrella school, Christian curriculum, the curriculum I really wanted for Ditz, instruments & teachers just falling into Ditz's lap at the right times.

Homeschooling has got harder as Ditz has got older because Ditz decided very early on what she wanted to do with her life & everything that is not to her purpose she wishes to discard ~ only the powers that be insist she remain on this sort of *liberal* education that gives a little of something in a wide variety of subjects, most of which bore Ditz to tears. When it come to her education Ditz has an obsessive one track mind & if it was left up to her she would do nothing but music & art. You can never have too much of either though my life would be a good bit simpler if other people also considered them viable & genuine career choices.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Slippery~slides & merry~go~rounds.

To live in this world you must be able to do three things: to love what is mortal; to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it; and, when the time comes to let it go, to let it go. Mary Oliver

Life gets too much at times, out of control & spinning wildly. Maybe it's just me. I don't cope so well when things start piling up. I'm a one thing at a time person. When I try juggling I drop things. Now I am grabbing at this month just trying to stay sane.

This month is so out of control poor old Ditz has to wait on her birthday present because we have so much on & it all takes money. Ditz isn't fazed about waiting on her present. Ditz, like me, is far more worried about us having to find our way right across town on Saturday. I asked Liddy to drive. Between Lid & I we do better but Liddy now has to work so it is down to Ditz & I. We are such right brainers we need a left brained Liddy when it comes to maps. Ditz will say right & mean left & I will turn right when I need to go left because it all looks the same to me on a map! Useless!

I thought this weekend was free but it's not. I am already a cot case though Dearest has promised to work out a route for me using the refedex & I will write everything out for Ditz ~ how many street lights before we turn, how many round~a~bouts, the names of the streets etc Yes, I know. It's too sad but at least that way we have some chance of negotiating Brisbane. It is such a maze & all the music places seem to be in impossible to get to places. We won't even go into what I am going to be able to find to do for close on 8 hours!

The following weekend is the MBC concert ~ but we at least know we can find our way there! OK, I still have to be there all day but I've put my hand up to help out so that works ~ only Liddy has opted to come & she hasn't offered, though she probably will now. Oh well.

If it was either or I would be fine but not only do we have both followed by something else but none of our regular stuff stops either. Plus this is the term Ditz does The Dream; she is Demetrius. Normally when I start getting frazzled I cut the drama back but as I actually want Ditz to do the Shakespeare I'm stuck with it. I don't think doing his plays is making Ditz like him any better but she at least is getting an understanding of Elizabethan English, & Shakespeare's world & I don't have to fight with her about it. She chooses to do this & I just let her rip. At one point I entertained the idea of auditioning for a small part but I thought better of it. I seriously don't need the stress. I have enough to do without memorising antiquated English verse. Yes, I do, & frankly Ditz finds memorising him easier than I do. She just memorises ~ which is probably smart. I like him to make sense so I analyze & start sidetracking & sometimes I derail completely. Derailing is not a good option at present. Focus is what I need.

It is true that only one thing at a time will happen but somehow I have to keep the whole in mind & be well planned ahead because I have to allow for all the extra expenses ~ boats & theatre tickets, exam costs [due this week when the exam isn't till November & I'm betting that's not the entire cost because there a little thing known as an accompanist who has to be paid as well], parking spaces in town, petrol & food. Singing makes Ditz ravenous & no matter how much I pack it is never enough. In this process not only do I have to get all Ditz's uniforms through the wash & dry, they must be ironed, & not only ironed but starched!!! I am a woman who irons nothing under ordinary circumstances. Yes, Ditz will do her own ironing & starching & she is very good about keeping her music things all organized ~ make~up kit, deodorant, spare hair ribbons & elastics, the right music easily accessible, hair brush, dress shoes clean & polished, cat hairs removed from her black dress pants ~ Just the same I keep a mental tab because once we are on that boat it's just too bad if she has forgotten anything! Ditto for me. You have no idea of the frustration of being half~way across the bay & discovering the car keys are still sitting on their hook on the wall!

All this is manageable ~ when I am well. When I am well I fuss but I cope. I am not well. Whatever we have in this house involves a raging headache that comes & goes. One or other of us always has it. Me on Monday, Liddy Tuesday, Dearest Sunday, Ditz on Saturday. Now I have it back with our usual very full Wednesday & when that happens I often end up with a full blown migraine. I cannot afford to have migraines this month. I don't have time for them. Did I mention I need to stay focused?

What was it God said about each day having enough troubles of it's own & his grace being sufficient unto the day? I am immensely grateful that somehow, some way, He will work everything out. The money will stretch just enough & no further. The car has been fixed & is running like a dream. Liddy did stock~take this week when I was available to sort out her weird hours & not next week when I'm not here. That when it comes to early starts & late finishes for music Ditz is accommodating & sweet tempered through all difficulties. I am grateful for vitamin B pills. Oh yes! I am very grateful.

Monday, August 3, 2009

NOT, Tuesday's Trivia.

All men who have turned out worth anything have had the chief hand in their own education. - Sir Walter Scott

Don't tell me God doesn't have an exceptional sense of humour.

I read the books, you know. Without. exception. they told a charming tale of self motivated children scoring above national percentiles in standardized tests. They had the pictures to prove it: children sitting at desks or around the kitchen table diligently studying their math or science & reading at college levels in grade 4.

I waited. Ditz was young & flighty. I was doing as all the books said: choosing curriculum for her learning style, providing "enrichment" activities, working at her pace, appreciating her valuable uniqueness & it made not an iota of difference. Ditz was learning resistant.

No that's not quite true. Ditz only resists that which the state dictates she should learn. I have the proof. Ditz had her singing lesson Saturday lunchtime. By Sunday afternoon she was word perfect in 3 new songs & pretty much had the music down pat as well. Every day that child disappears into her room without a word to anyone & the muted sound of practise drifts through the house. If, per chance, I should stick my head round her door, she is bolt upright in her *default position* diligently applying every instruction she has ever received about singing.

It's true that for years I have had to nag her about *practise* for flute & violin but suddenly there has been a shift. Ditz's timing is lousy but when the news comes on each evening, & her father immerses himself in the woes of the world, it's Ditz's cue to grab her flute & head upstairs. These days she watches t.v with her guitar in her lap memorising chords. When the adds come on she practises her strumming.

Everything I have ever had to say on education all down the years, everything I've ever read about self motivated learning Ditz applies ~ to music! And to music alone. We do our best with the other subjects but Ditz is just going through the motions. Everything I've tried so hard to drum into that child I see applied to her music: hard work [don't ever tell me music isn't hard work after having a child nearly in tears because their diaphragm hurts so much!]; diligence; perseverance; self~motivation; immersion. God gave me what I wanted ~ just not in the way I was expecting!

Fourteen years ago today Ditz entered this world, a round roly~poly child with dimples in places I didn't even know you could get dimples! She had a cap of red fuzz & no eyelashes ~ which made her look like an alien. I knew we were in for an interesting ride when the child said her first words [words, plural! A complete sentence!] at just 5 months old. And she was bribable. I like being able to put a child down & know she will still be there 5 minutes later but Liddy thought Ditz should walk & to this end dangled luscious red strawberries before the child's eyes. When there were no more strawberries she used chocolate.

Ditz has been loved & petted & fussed over by everyone, which is the prerogative of the youngest child but for years she was very much my shadow. At 14 she is finally flowering into her own person. Yes, music is very much a part of who Ditz is but she is so much more. She is kindness itself. She can't bear any sort of cruelty to others. She is warm & generous. She has a marvelous sense of humour & a sunny disposition. We waited a long time to get Ditz but she was worth the wait & has blessed our lives enormously. ♥♥♥Happy Birthday, Ditz!♥♥♥