Sep 14, 2014

The strange world of competitive calisthenics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sep 13, 2014

12 Resolutions: September (and August recap)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I really wish I had this book:

Jeremy Chan/Flickr

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

Sep 9, 2014


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

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

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

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

Then last Monday happened.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So hooray for my strange sleepless night last Sunday!

Sep 8, 2014

Sunday Selections: iPad Art

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not sure what this is, but pretty:

Friends or maybe a girl band:

Wanted, dead or alive!

Photobooth weirdness:

Painter's palette:

Spooky house:


Until next time: happy Sunday, or rather Monday!

Aug 17, 2014

Sunday Selections #185

It's time for Sunday Selections!
Sunday Selections is a weekly meme hosted by River at Drifting Through Life. 

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

I've been absent from Sunday Selections a bit of late, not through design but because Sundays have been fairly busy and by the time the evening rolls round I have thought 'ah well, next week' and trundled off to bed.  Tonight I am just making it, at twenty minutes to midnight.

This week it's another collection of 'slice of life' photos:

For my August resolution I resolved to be a bit more productive by curtailing time spent on my phone. One of the things I wanted to do with that time was clean out the linen cupboard.

Well mark that as done, y'all.

It went from this:

To this:

I can't work miracles. With only two shelves and that huge wasted space at the bottom for our old non-working ducted vacuum, it is never going to be amazing. But at least now I can open the door without a towel or two falling on my head, and I got rid of three garbage bags worth of donate-able and make-into-rags-able old sheets and towels.

I also cooked a bang-up meal yesterday: coq au vin!
Well, kind of coq au vin. I didn't have bacon so chopped up some ham instead; I didn't have mushrooms; I didn't have cognac; and I didn't have red wine so used white instead.

But still: bloody delicious!

Here is it simmering away:

And here's the finished pot:

A rather more prosaic mid-week meal:

Paving. Somewhere. Just because.

The dog has outgrown his tiny dog bed, so I splashed out on a new one for him. He loved it immediately.

Unfortunately so does the cat:

This from the cat who refuses to sleep in a cat bed provided for her.  Poor Harry gets a bit flustered when she parks herself here and only gets brave enough to bark at her when I come over to move her out. I might have to buy another one of these I think. 

Cartoon in today's paper (The Age), about the government's humanitarian aid to the displaced people on the Syrian-Iraqi border. Sadly spot on.

More from the paper. I enjoy this word challenge, but today I can only see one word here, can you?

How was your week?

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