Thursday, February 28, 2008
So 1/2 way up the next island's gianoumous hill I wasn't impressed to find I'd left Ditz's flute payment sitting on my kitchen counter. It's not like me to get quite that distracted.
Ditz's flute books have arrived & Jan has given her till October before she sits exams, which will definitely be a new experience for Ditz & not one she's looking forward to because Jan has finally got through to her that, no, this isn't a pleasure cruise & yes, it hurts when you stretch! Now Ditz attacks life with aplomb & being clever & personable manages fairly successfully to skim the surface breezily ~ unless mother nails her flat. Well, yesterday it was Jan nailing her flat & I am still giggling . Poor Ditz!
Firstly, asked to read her music, Ditz began with airy insousiance because she has been reading music for years & unlike most of the other school band members does not need to scibble the names of the notes in so she can play her music. She managed about 4 bars before Jan pulled her up & began the excruitiating process of analyzing the music note by note, beat by beat, passage by passage. Ditz's face was a picture! From that point on I don't think she got through a full bar ~ & Ditz does so like to be thought clever & to be right. I just have to watch she doesn't lose heart or we might as well quit then & there but so long as she believes her teacher likes her she will do whatever she is asked to without complaint ~ & smile about it. I'm not much of a nagger so my kids are always shocked to find themselves picked on, not realising that the teacher or coach is delighted to find they not only have someone worth training but someone with a teachable spirit who will do their best to do as they're asked. Liddy is having a similar problem with her coach at present but I digress.
We ran overtime (hugely embarrasing when I have left Jan's money behind) but finally start trudging home. Ditz is very quiet so I know she's exhausted & her diaphram is hurting because she's been made to breathe from it hard for the last 1/2 hour. I'm exhausted & all I'm doing is listening. Ditz is quiet all the way home, quiet & grumpy. We have a couple of hours free before going across to the mainland for band & after a short break I send Ditz upstairs to at least run through her scales. She baulks. Basically she's had enough but secondly the cat's upstairs & Issi has decided he hates the flute. Whenever Ditz starts playing he flies at her with his ears back & his eyes wide & swipes at her biting & clawing in a very ferocious manner. Flute practise is punctuated by cries of, 'Muuum! Come & get Issi!'
Which brings me to the really embarrassing bit. I drive Liddy's car on the mainland. Everthing on Liddy's car is the opposite of what it is on my little red island car so it is not unusual to find the windshield wipers flicking instead of the blinker, or me fumbling round for lights etc. Now in the months Liddy's owned the car we've not had to put petrol in it because it only gets driven twice a week & it wasn't being used at all for several months but I had said to Liddy the gauge was at 1/2 way & we might want to think about topping it up & could she find out what sort of fuel it used. Anyway, I took Ditz in to choir Wed., night & remarked as we pulled into town had anyone besides me been driving the car because the fule gauge had come up a long way, which was really odd of it. A bit later it had come up some more & was looking almost full. I stared at it as I parked wondering who else had been in the car & could possibly have topped up the fuel when it registered the fuel gauge too was back to front!!!!!!!! It was sitting on empty, not full. Mad panic as we looked for the nearest service station & put all the spare change we had in it. Yikes! Is it just me? Mind you, no~one else had noticed it was back to front either & disaster was averted in the nick of time..
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Ditz had woken to her radio & the first news flash of the day but the news was not the usual dreary rehash of interest rises & profit margins. There had been a mid~air collision of 2 crop dusters in outback N.S.W, pretty close to where Mark went down. My brother's company. My SIL was at headquarters working when the news first came through. Small (very small) community, so yes, she knew the pilots, the property, & the owners of the property. My newphew is at school with the boys from the property. One pilot dead. One will make a full recovery but had no idea of what had hit him. Seems One pilot was leaving for another job while the other was finishing off a dusting job. Turned & banked right into the plane passing overhead!
Understandably Ditz lost it. Mark is a wound that has not healed cleanly. He was too good a pilot to have died in the pointless fashion he did & there are still too many unanswered questions as to the how & why. Ditz likes her world packaged & tied up with ribbon. She does not do well with open~ended questions, the what ifs & maybes & just don't knows of life.
Ditz's emotions are like a raw, quivering nerve. Dealing with her in that state is exhausting ~ & painful. Unfortunately I empathise, so the two of us were a puddling mess & only Christ can give Ditz the security she so desparatey craves. I guess he did because she recovered faster than I expected but the wound is still there, scabbed over but festering still. My boys might look like the spitting image of Mark but it is Ditz people compare him with. She has the same *Joi de vrie*, charm, & extroverted personality. They are both youngest children, noisy & indulged & both are musical. Like Ditz Mark had a good voice though his passion was for flying rather than music ~ & he adored my children, especially my girls. Not having a daughter himself he was very fond of his nieces & they knew it. It is not surprising they still miss him & in the normal course of events they still have many miles to travel before they too reach Heaven's gate.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Sunday, February 24, 2008
I refused to have anything to do with the hair, confining my remarks to something along the lines of being a little young to join the blue rinse set. Ditz, naturally, was charmed & wanted to know if she could dye her hair too but what Ditz wants is red & black racing stripes ~ naturally! I'm sure Alison would be absolutely delighted to have a member of her choir arrive with hair in red & black racing stripes.
Liddy has come a long, long way. After all my shy, diffident, reticent girl has to go to work looking like that for at least 8 weeks & you better believe she is going to hear all about it from every customer & all her workmates!
Friday, February 22, 2008
There are books we all have on our shelves ~ the Little H0use books, the Anne books, perhaps some Meindert deJong, or Patricia St John, Madeline L'Engle, Johanna Spyri's Heidi, perhaps even some Elfrida Vipont ~ yes, well I used to work in the children's section of the library. I own a lot of classics. However most of us are always on the lookout for books we've missed that fit our critea. The Billabong Books are just such books.
Now unless you're Australian you have probably never heard of these books but they are Australian classics. More about them can be found here & they are available on~line 2nd hand. You can learn quite a bit about life on a large cattle station from the books but they are engaging stories in & of themselves. The time period extends from pre WW1 to the Depression era.
2004 was the Year of Funerals. First my poppy died. He was 96, Highland Scots though in the 80 odd years he lived in Australia he went back just once . He had exactly 2 words for Scotland ~ cold & wet. He much prefered sunny Queensland.
Then on my birthday my aunt Shirley died. We were tarred with the same brush, cut from the same piece of cloth, kindred spirits. The night before she died she was propped up in bed having a tea party with all the long dead relations & having a ball. Exactly a month later her youngest brother, my father, also died.
The only grief that has been easy to bear is the grief of losing my aunt. I couldn't go to her funeral or say goodbye but in the days following her death I dreamt vividly of her last old house, the one I remember with the Jacaranda tree flowering over the back verandah steps, the rose bushes potted about the lawn, the wisteria poking through the bedroom walls & the garlands of yellow alamanda festooning the verandah rails. I remember the smell of turps & thinners, of sweet talc, & old roses, of dust & polish & the rich pungent aroma of her lush garden. More particularly I remember the bathtub ~ removed while the girls were at school & buried in the yard for a goldfish pond by the time they got home; the fridge she painted in mauve & black stripes; the outdoor shower with it's resident carpet snake draped over the rafters & scores of green tree frogs, which was why the snake was there.
I first learnt about art from my aunt. She painted quickly in oils using a palatte knife & she liked the rich warm shades ~ the oranges, & bronzes, the yellows, golds & ruby reds ~ & she painted landscapes: eculypt trees weeping strings of bark, dark pools hidden in shady nooks of bushland, the mountains behind Canungra. I use a brush , or a bit of old rag, & I do not like the warmer colours. I like blues & greens & shades of grey. Yet in the days following Shirley's death I mixed warm shades on my palette & painted the old fashioned Peace Rose she so loved, & found in the curled centre a face I can't possibly remember of when my aunt was young. I've looked at pictures since & can't believe how close I came. I could almost feel her painting with me & it was a running joke because neither of us can paint people. Shirley would put occassional figures on her paths & a week later they'd be gone & if you were so foolish as to ask you would be told they were taking a toilet break in the bush! She, who was a great gardener, would find it highly fitting that she reside in a rose bud.
I remember visiting with my cousins, all much older. We would get up early & drink mik coffee on the verandah from blue & white willow pattern mugs then go in & eat oatmeal with brown sugar & cream from blue & white willow pattern bowls. My aunt's blue & white china. It's what I chose for our everyday plates. Not expensive. Not even particularly attractive though I like blue & white, but every time I use our plates I think of Shirley.
In a very particular way Shirley lives in our house. Ditz strokes the piano keys instead of thumping them, but there is still the music, the jungly garden where she would feel right at home & the smell of turps & thinners like a mist, taking me back a long long way & I do not grieve for Shirley. Too much of her is here in me & with me. I have the painting to prove it.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Wednesdays are shaping up to be good days this year. Maybe it's knowing choir is on but Ditz has been working really well for me Wednesday mornings even though she likes her work no better. She squeezed her flute practice in somehow too; no intention of getting in Jan's bad books, especially with flute the following day.
The choir are learning This Little Babe from Benjamin Britten's A Ceremony of Carols. Having heard this I was absolutely stunned to find I could actually read the score without difficulty. It sounds terribly complicated, & is in fact far harder to sing than it looks on paper ~ at least for someone like me who ignores everything they don't understand, which is a lot! It is an absolutely glorious piece of music to listen to, even raw with the harmonies not working so well & the sopranos wobbling on their top notes.
And shhh, I really like Wednesdays too. I am learning such a lot ~ about music sure, but I'm not obssessive about the music. What is really fascinating me is watching a kinesthetic teacher in action! It is especially hilarious because my Ditz really lacks good co~ordination. Weird, I know.
Now what they did last night was rythmic dictation. Alison wrote down her 6 steps. Most have an action attached but the first one is just tapping the beat with a pencil. Sounds easy? Sure, unless you're Ditz. Peculiar looks going her way because whatever she's tapping it can't possibly be what she's hearing. No comment though, just a mental note that this child needs lots of work. lol. Finally they've written everything down & Alison is moving from child to child pointing out their errors. I really am trying to ignore what's going on but when I hear a surprised, 'GOOD GIRL.' I glance up wondering what Ditz has managed this time. The only child to pick the counting & write it down absolutely correctly!!! Credos to Jan who likes Jazz & swing & has given his bands plenty of odd counting practice. Now I'm no muso so I mightn't have this right but if you have a series of semi~quavers but only so many beats in a bar then the semis are joined together with a bar. I think I have that right. Will have to ask Ditz. Everyone else let their semis stand alone but Ditz counted & knew that way there were too many beats to the bar so fixed it up. Good girl, indeed, Ditz!
Then there was the actual singing. Again the counting is quite complicated with everyone coming in after 3 & 3/4 bars. Ditz is spot on but most aren't. 5 minutes spent with everyone wagging their bums left right, right left & counting out loud. I'm up the back so I have a choice view of waggling bums & am quietly having hysterics. Talk about hilarious ~ especially as this again, is something simple that Ditz can't manage. Her bum waggling is all over the place & I can tell she just hates it.
Something about the way Alison teaches really works though. Before we reached the car Ditz was complaining she couldn't get the music out of her head & my drive was punctuated with bursts of Der Kleine Knabe ~ NOT what I needed while negotiating peak hour traffic; I found myself concentrating on the music, not my driving because it is music that requires concentration. She woke up with the music still there & I guess only flute will push it out & then only temporarily. I'm just glad I like the piece. I hate being constantly serenaded by music I don't even like.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
This is just watercolour pencils ~ minus the water. She did it for Theo for Christmas as he's into the animae sort of thing. At present she is into doing figures & finding out just how difficult it is to get them anatomically correct when you aren't interested in biology! Someone suggested 'life' classes but I don't think Ditz is up for those just yet!
Now bubbles are my thing but Ditz was so entranced with what I was trying to do she decided to have a go herself. The finesse sort of escaped her but the colours & overall effect works even if they do look more like escaped meoterites than floating air & water.
Even better, half heartedly looking the books over, Ditz's eyes lit up over Rascal & she has declared she is reading that first. A couple of others got the nod too & I finally have a bible curriculum ~ which is not what I thought it would be but is, perhaps, even better. That too is pretty hands on ~ in the sense of being arty & for a visual/spatial learner that's important. Now we have everything here we really must settle down & that should be easier with both boys out of the house.
After a shakey start with the math (always doubtful when neither of us can make head or tail of it) Ditz has got it & is moving ahead steadily, if not happily. She usually manages to sort it out trying to explain it to me but I remain as confused & mathamatically inept as I began. If I can't see it I can't do it & far too much math is too abstract for me. Ditz is luckier. She can usually see it given enough time & a prod in the right direction. I can happily prod.
Meanwhile the rain gushes down in thunderous bursts. All the northern rivers have overflowed their banks & the flood damage is running into the billions. My washing has been on the line for days getting a jolly good rinsing & the weeds are rampaging. I need mulch; lots & lots of mulch.
Sunday, February 17, 2008
My Big Three (Dino, Theo & Liddy) went off to the cricket while Ditz & I headed for church. We'd just got home when Liddy came streaming in through the door flapping as only Liddy can, bleating something about Dino & demanding his wallet. Calmed her down enough to discover Dino had slipped returning a ball & dislocated his shoulder. Ouch! I followed her down to the jetty to talk to the ambos & see for myself just how wounded my little trooper was. Not good. Not pretty but Liddy, who has done the whole shoulder thing, said she was going over with him. Figured she'd be more empathetic that I (I am so not a good nurse) & left them to it.
Six hours later I picked up a pale & worn Liddy ~ no Dino. He's decided the wait for the boat was too long & had simply crashed at Theo's ~ probably in Theo's bed. Goodness knows where Theo ended up.
Oh, man. The lad's just started his course. It's his right arm (naturally...what else would he damage?); he's meant to be on a bus again Tuesday to return to school (can't see that happening) & he's an alwful patient ~ one of my hyper kinesthetic ones! Lovely. Fun & games at my house this week. Who else wants to play?
Saturday, February 16, 2008
Breakfast is the most horrible meal of the day. Who wants to look at peculiar things in a dish when still only half awake? Unfortunately Ditz does better with a solid meal under her belt first thing. No cereal (too full of sugar!) & toast for Ditz. We have done things like noodles ~ very succesful; fruit salad & yoghurt ~ not sustaining enough for Ditz; porridge ~ hates it; sweet omeletes with fruit~ loves them but too time consuming for everyday; pancakes ~ loves them but again too much sugar; macaroni & cheese ~ yes I know most of you would eat that for dinner, Ditz is just odd; toasted sandwhiches; cheese on toast... No eggs. My girls do not like eggs! I'm out of ideas. What do the rest of you do for a child that really needs a carb & protein breakkie & as little sugar as possible? And that isn't going to take all morning to cook? We need quick. Too many mornings we're out the door before Ditz is even properly awake. Lay your best ideas at my feet, ladies. I'm all ears...or eyes, as the case may be.
Well I guess we are settling into this year's routine now. I am still waiting on Bible & some English readers but the math has arrived so we have all our curriculum. As Ditz so helpfully pointed out, she only has two days when we focus on academics. I have been trying, not very sucessfully, to ignore the fact we will have so little time for school work ~ & one of those days I know Ditz will be extra tired. However I have Dearest's blessing on the madness & so far we seem to be managing.
This is the year for Extending Ditz. I am doing it. I'm leaving more & more of her work for Ditz to do unaided ~ something she's never been real keen on because, goodness gracious me! She might actually have to think! The choir director is doing it. (Ditz ain't complaining about that one). Her flute teacher is doing it. lol. Now that was interesting. He's lovely but ex~army & he works Ditz hard ~ mostly because she doesn't melt into floods of tears like some of the girls do. Now he has her as a private student he's gone for it. No easy grade 2 for Ditz. He's pushing her just that bit more at a grade 3 level & Ditz is coping just fine. Her first new piece needs vibrato (new for Ditz) & was in 2/5 time. ??? Now why is it that the child who is fussing about fractions can actually manage to count this? No, I don't know either. Oh, & Sian was ready to brain her at piano, Ditz was mucking round with her pieces so much ~ hamming it up, which is not the object! The ADD means she's hard put to use all her brains in a constructive manner but we are working on it & when I look back & think how far we've come...well, let's just sayDitz is bouncing round less like a yoyo & we have moments of actual maturity. And besides I do actually love her, warts & all. Ditz wouldn't be Ditz without her warts.
Friday, February 15, 2008
Before Ditz decided she was a musician before she was an artist we took some art classes together ~ oils as being a little more forgiving than acrylics or water colours. I tend to be a little surrealistic & I am terrified of the unknown depths of the deep ocean. That being the case we won't get into why I live on an island surrounded by deep water on all sides. This was my attempt to convey something of the mysterious, frightening, surrealistic nature of water. My youngest son really likes this & has bagsed it for his own.
The red roses we grow thanks to my oldest boy who was a keen gardener & went through a rose fetish stage. The wooden bowl was crafted by my dad before he passed away & holds most of my shell collection (that's for another day) but the little wooden carving is a memento of Dearest & my European trip & is something of a joke. It is a model of a stave church & all through Norway I had Dearest, who couldn't in the least understand my obssession, stopping at every single one of these that I could find. They are fascinating. The walls are constructed of ''staves'' ~ whole tree trunks (I'm no architect so technically it's a little more complicated than that). They grew big trees in the 12th centuary! Small dragons are often perched atop the steep roof & little wooden crosses adorn the porches. The insides are often beautifully & inticately carved in the twining Celto/Scandanavian knotwork I so love. And of course they are very old. I like old things.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
The tracks are narrow & winding but you get a good idea of each canopy. Ditz gets the credit for spotting a Wompoo pigeon. These have the most glorious colouring but are, unfortunately, quite rare.
The creeks & falls are really something ~ not that I was allowed the camera much. Trying to adjust my glasses so I could get this shot I dropped them in the rushing water & they were promptly swept into a deep crevice. Without them I couldn't see to fish them out again & Ditz had to come to my rescue! Yes, well, What can I say?
We had pretty good weather but Monday afternoon the clouds were gathering over the mountains again & by Tuesday morning the rain was bucketing down. We had to pack & dismantle the tent in a torrential downpour.
We packed everything under the tarp & got it stowed in the car before I dropped the tent & then we dropped the tarp over the tent & just rolled the whole lot up together. Sian & I got absolutely drenched but Ditz got to sit in the car & stay warm & dry.
I'm a fan of warm, comfortable beds & hot showers but coming back to reality is always hard & our part of the island is still a haven for the wildlife & bush. Still, we went from being surrounded by the wonderful things God made for us to enjoy to math curriculum (still unopened 3 days later :( ), peak hour traffic, & the busyness that constitutes Ditz's music program. Hard not to wish I was still deep in the Springbrook heartland.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
We are breaking the camping transmission for a music update because Wednesday night was our first really truely ensemble workout.
I am sooo out of my depth & God has kept me nicely blinded as I would never have got into this if I'd known. Anyways, the first hour is the theory. Not Ditz's thing & threw her for a loop as apparently she needs a workbook. We checked & it's not on the list of things we had to buy. Everyone else of course had come straight from school so had paper so I told Ditz just to use the back of her information sheet.
I parked myself out of the way with a book, only one ear sort of on the proceedings because this is Ditz's special thing & mummy involvement not wanted. Then I hear 'Mozart' mentioned. My attention is all on Alison now but I keep my eyes glued to my book. Then I hear THE QUESTION. 'Can anyone sing any Mozart?' By now my eyes are glued on Ditz. I know she can sing Mozart. Ditz singing Mozart has been the bane of my life for years but putting herself forward is actually not at all Ditz so I'm watching her like a hawk & oh my gosh! Yes, her hand is actually sort of waggling round about ear level. Yikes! Hers is the only hand, however tentative. I know what Alison's going to say next & she says it. I thought Ditz might back out at this point but she wiggles a little straighter in her chair (she knows as well as I do she's going to need air for this & Alison's big on posture.) & she lets rip. Alison's jaw just about hits the floor. What Ditz was singing was part of the Night Queen's aria from the Magic Flute, which has always charmed her. She is nervous so she's a little off pitch on her high notes but she does a pretty good job. I am trying very hard not to laugh because I know Ditz really doesn't have much of a clue. She knows the name of the opera but no more of the aria than the short segment in Amadeus. Just the same Mozart is Alison's favourite composer & Ditz has totally wowed her as her Monday night's group of adults hadn't produced a single person who could sing a Mozart anything!
Here endedth the mummy brag. I can see Ditz is going to actually struggle with the theory. She's not all that interested & her ADD starts kicking in, plus she's never had to sit in a classroom so the whole notetaking thing is new to her. Practise at home coming up. It was on the agenda for this year anyway; I just have to move it forward a bit. At least being there I know to fill in the gaps.
When the class breaks I go to pick Liddy up for soccer & get back to Ditz as they are running through one of the classical pieces they may do with TTT. Ditz is singing seconds next to one of the boys & she is singing in German! Her choice. Three years of German tutoring seems to be paying dividends.
Ditz has worked really hard but we go down to the soccer pitch to wait for Liddy so we can all go home together. Soccer is not the rich side of town & there are all sorts rattling round in the clubhouse as I get us some drinks & we settle in to watch other people training. I know lots of the girls from previous years & Liddy is surprisingly happy to introduce us to everyone. Ditz has been stealing her thunder a little recently but Liddy is at the point where she is working steadily towards her goal while Ditz is just beginning & we are still trying to sort everything out while not becoming overwhelmed in the process. My system is in shock & later this morning we island hop for Ditz's first flute lesson. Now that should be interesting...
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
The skinks just kept getting bigger & bigger.
Quail. These are small brown ground birds; very shy & we were lucky to get this shot.
The rail was not & happily posed for shot after shot but the light isn't the best. There is an echidna in there somewhere...This was the highlight for Sian. She had never seen one before.
But for me the yellow tailed Black Cockatoos were the best. These are getting quite rare though not on the endangered species list just yet. They are a huge bird ~ between 55 & 65 cms with a harsh, piercing cry that Ditz & Sian, musos that they are, promptly tried to emulate! Ugh! They had trouble hitting the right pitch but the cockatoos were intrigued enough to follow us along the path & then pose for some lovely shots. we could have reached out & touched them! There was a flock of about a dozen birds coming & going, screeching out to each other, & spreading wings that would have done a small hawk proud. They are a spectacular bitd.
Yes, it is summer here but as you enter the rainforest the temperature plummets & by the time you descend to the valley floor it can get bitterly cold. I always go well rugged up.
The Purling Brooks falls 12 miles, 31/2 hours walking to a series of tranquil pools. It only takes us that long. Most people manage to get in & out in a couple of hours but we get distracted by all sorts of things & for us it is never about the destination but about what we see along the way.
Sian wanted to play with her new camera. She says she is going to post the pictures on her blog.
We are hoping at least some of them turn out really well. Then there was the water colour painting. Sian is very good. She has some lovely examples up on her blog. As the Butcher birds had arrived & were prepared to pose for the paint brush that's what everyone was drawing. I didn't. Water colours are too unforgiving for me & I didn't bring my oils as too much extra stuff & anything I'd done wouldn't have dried & would just have been a a pain to lug round. As it turned out it was a really good thing I didn't.
Then there was bird spotting....
& nature watching. Sian bought me the beanie thinking I wouldn't be game to wear it ~ but I thought it was pretty cool & wore it whenever the weather turned a tad nippy as it does up in the hills. It is a gum nut beannie based on the Snugglepot & Cuddlepie books. Across from us in the river bank were a series of occupied holes but though we were very quiet & threatened Ditz with extinction if she made a noise we never saw the occupants.
The we spotted yards of orange tape...
& what the raging waters had done to the rail over the top of the falls. The metal posts had been absolutely flattened! The walk was closed! And yet people were climbing through the fencing to walk over the unguarded path. It is a big drop to the bottom, all of it volcanic rock.
We walked what we could (out to the look out & back) & still saw an amazing variety of wildlife; daintly blue wrens, water dragons, crayfish & joy of joys, a pair of yellow robins!
Lots & lots of cream. Ditz was in heaven.
I don't know about other families but in ours I am the camping expert. Everything my sons know of bushcraft they learnt from me. We had the camp up & ship~shape in no time at all ~ to the stunned bewilderment of several foreign gentlemen over the course of our stay who looked round for the man who didn't exist! Sian is learning; I know more short cuts than you can shake a tail at & as I had left all our guys ready to go from the last trip it was a simple matter of hooking them over poles & whacking in a few pegs to put a tarp over the top of our little tent before boiling the billy for a good cuppa.