Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Belly dancer

Source: via Christal Moore on Pinterest

Long before the English-speaking world had even heard of Shakira, I writhed my way through a six-week belly dance class.

I loved every moment of it.

I was in my final year at university, and had seen an advertisement for the classes - taught by one of the Women's Studies teachers - pinned to a noticeboard. As I was already in love with the rhythmic sounds of Middle Eastern and Indian music, I signed up the first chance I had.

The classes were held in the early evening, mid-week. The venue was a large room in a ninety-year-old building on campus. The ceilings were high with exposed wooden beams, and the leadlight windows were set in warm sandstone. A large Oriental rug on the floor completed the historical ambience. Each week, I felt in awe as soon as I walked in - but not intimidated.

The students were a mixed bag of body types. Some possessed generously soft rolls, and others were androgynous and angular. Back in those days, with my short hair, pierced nose and widening hips, I was somewhere in the middle.

However, it didn't matter what we looked like. All that mattered was we moved to the rhythm. We swayed and we undulated. We shimmied and shook. We felt free.

Six weeks flew, and the final class took place at the end of a hot, airless Sydney day. When the thunder began to roll over the building, promising relief from the heat, the music's volume needed increasing. As the fat rain drops blew in through the open window, relief was found. As a lover of storms, that night is firmly etched in my mind.

Those classes were probably one of the first true experiences of being with 'the sisterhood' that I've had. It was also great to gain insight into the history and customs of women in Egypt (the style of belly dance we were taught).

Once the classes were finished, I told myself I'd perform for fun. Turns out, that 'fun' only ever seemed to happen when large amounts of alcohol had been imbibed at parties. Although I don't remember, I've been assured that I have put on a show here and there.

I do know that to this day, the moves I learnt in that class have quietly infiltrated my own way of dancing. A little jiggle here, a little hip sway there. A twirl of the wrist, held high in the air - I'm told that became a trademark move of mine during my days of clubbing in London... also a long time ago.

*  *  *

Last week, I thought I'd try out a Bollywood Fusion class at my local gym. The memories of my belly dancing days resurfaced, and I grew excited at the thought of learning some new dance moves. When I arrived, I was more than disappointed to discover the class had been cancelled, and replaced by a Zumba class. Oh well, I thought, might as well give that a try.

Yeah, well... turns out Zumba is a lot harder to fall into a natural flow with the music. I was the least coordinated woman in that room, pretty sure about that. The stout Armenian grandmothers next to me seemed to keep up more easily than I did. However, I managed to have a laugh and reminded myself that I was burning a shite load of calories... so all was good. I may even take that class again one day - who knows?

*  *  *

This post was inspired by MamaKat's writing prompt:
Tell the story of learning a new talent or hobby that you only pursued briefly.

*  *  *

Seeing as we're on the topic of bellies, my friend Angie - The Little Mumma - has recently had the most amazing pregnancy photos taken. They're not your average belly shots, people. They are slickly surreal, and she rocked the artiness of it, 150%. Little Mumma? Hot Mumma. If you want a peek, you can see the photos here

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Somewhere over the rainbow

The serious lack of rain in Los Angeles means that seeing a rainbow is a pretty big deal. A real, bona-fide rainbow - not one that's been conjured up on a movie set somewhere.

On my way to pick up J from work yesterday, I emerged from our underground parking to be greeted by this happy sight.

It took both girls and I completely by surprise, because when we'd walked out our apartment door, there had been no rain, nor any hint of sunshine about to burst through. I guess a lot can happen in the time it takes to wrangle two small kids out the door, into a lift, down two levels, across to the car, and into their car seats.

As we began the ascent up the driveway from the carpark, large fat raindrops pelted the car. I put on the windscreen wipers, stopped to turn into the street, looked a little to my left... and WOW.

My phone was conveniently within reach, so I became that annoying driver (I normally detest) idling in the shared driveway, as I took a quick snap.

The Faery just about wet her pants with excitement - because, you know, when you're a five-year-old girl, rainbows, fairies and unicorns are what makes the world go round. (Let's face it, if I had a dollar for every rainbow she's ever drawn, we'd be filthy rich.)

Breathlessly, she exclaimed this was "the first real live rainbow" she'd ever seen.

Not exactly true - she'd seen her share when she was younger, in Sydney, but it seems so long ago in her short life that she doesn't remember. When you're five, now is what counts, right?

Although, in a way, she was right. I'm pretty sure that in our almost-two years living here, this is the first proper rainbow we've seen. I've never taken rainbows for granted (who does?) but like anything that's rare, their currency holds even more value to me these days.

Don't we all secretly hope to find that pot of gold one day?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Pseudo Indoctrination

The part of me that likes to control things has had to relax the grip a little, especially where the Faery's education is concerned. We're actually very lucky in that she's attending an excellent public school; and in a fantastic programme that has families uprooting to our neighbourhood from other parts of LA, in order to have a shot at getting in.

So far, all good.

Obviously, we're living in another country, so she isn't going to be learning the exact same things she would in Australia. It's just the way it is. Doesn't mean I have to love it, though.

I don't love that she's saying math, instead of maths. Or that she's not learning the metric system, but an outdated system of measurement that has no practical application to the rest of the world. Or that she's learning to write short dates beginning with the month.

I don't love that she's learning to spell color rather than colour (irrational I know, but the former looks incomplete to my British English eye). I will, however, fight tooth and nail for her right to be able to refer to me in her written work as Mum, not Mom. I view this as no more incorrect than the various names we use for grandparents. It's not an issue that's come up yet, but I have a feeling it will.

When the Faery first began school - as expected - I had a mountain of paperwork to fill out. One of the forms was directly for her teachers, and had a section for me to complete, regarding any important information that her teachers should know about her. I wrote that she is Australian, therefore that's the nationality she identifies with (hint: please don't tell her in class that she is American, because she isn't).

Anyhow, it's been fun to see the things she's been learning about the good old US of A. I've truly been happy for her to take part in the class celebrations for Halloween and Thanksgiving. We've had important discussions at home about equality, because of what she's learned at school about Martin Luther King Jr. These are all valuable experiences which I'm grateful she has the opportunity to engage in.

All good, then.

Last week, she came home with a little booklet of facts about America that she'd made in class.

Cute, right?

I flipped though, smiling at all the little nuggets of information, and mentally preparing a list of similar facts about Australia that she needs to know.

Then I got to the final page.

Um... no. That will not do.

I understand that in a class of twenty-five kids, sometimes details slip by. This was an innocent mistake by her teacher, but all the same, I felt the need to have a (friendly) chat with her teacher about it the next day.

I explained that the Faery was born in Australia, has lived there more than half her life, holds only an Australian passport, and is in the US on an immigrant visa. In other words, she's Australian. I also mentioned that it's really important to us that she retains her identity, and I'd really appreciate it if in future exercises like the one above, time could be taken to assist the Faery with writing correct sentences about her nationality.

I felt sorry for the teacher, and could see she was embarrassed about it (she was very apologetic), and I tried to keep the tone as light as possible. I don't like getting confrontational, and didn't want this to be awkward at all, so I also mentioned how happy I was for her to be learning all the things that she is.

Mostly, I am. But I wonder if it would be cheeky of me to suggest - seeing as the Faery's in a Korean language immersion programme - that perhaps they introduce the concept of the metric system into the curriculum for the Korean classes?

Just kidding. Sort of.

It's okay, though. I plan to teach her these things myself, in good time, so she's not overwhelmed or confused when we go back to Australia. Some things are too important to leave in the hands of others.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

I'm watching

I can't remember the last time I wrote about things that I love, so prepare yourself and take note of the recommendations about to come your way.

W've been watching such great TV since we moved to the US, but not on broadcast or cable TV. It's all legal, though - via streaming and mailed DVDs from Netflix. The amount of commercials we have to suffer through? Zero. What's not to love about that?

Shows that deserve an honourable mention are:

Mad Men - I've already raved about this, and can't wait to see the next season. I am dying for it, in fact.

Breaking Bad - I love how much Bryan Cranston has you cheering for him, despite the awful choices his character makes. The blur between right and wrong gets incredibly twisted. Sadly, we've been waiting an awful long time for Season 4 to become available (Netflix doesn't always acquire the DVDs immediately).

Dexter - For much the same reasons that I adore Breaking Bad. I became hooked on this back in Australia and have watched some here too, but am (impatiently) waiting for Season 6 to be available.

Weeds - Great for giggles and cringes. Like Dexter, this is actually an oldie that I got started on in Australia. Season 7 is lined up in our DVD queue.

Entourage - Snappy and a little outrageous, it's a bit of a guilty pleasure. I know I shouldn't like it for the way that woman are only on the periphery, but the one-liners are too good not to like. Although it can be quite superficial, it has much more heart than I expected. I still have a couple of series to work through.

30 Rock - Two words: Tina Fey. I am in awe of how her mind works. Now, we're up to date and (shock horror!) can actually watch the current episodes as they air on TV. With ads. Not quite the same when I've seen 90% of it ad-free, but I still love it.

Recent discoveries that I love:

Downton Abbey - It's been far too long since I've seen a British show (obviously), let alone one that has me swooning at the costumes and one-liners. Incredible writing. Season 2 is lined up in the DVD queue, and I cannot wait.

Source: via tamuna on Pinterest

Boardwalk Empire - Another period drama (the prohibition era in the 1920s) with amazing details. The writing is fantastic, too. We've nearly finished the first season, and I know I'll be back for more.

Sherlock - Another British show, portraying Sherlock Holmes as a modern-day character in London. Just watched the first episode last night, and was pulled in instantly. Great cast, great story, amazing cinematography and editing. A bonus is that it's always lovely to recognise places I've been. Alas, there are only three episodes in the first season, so it's going to take all my restraint not to watch the next two in a hurry.

There are simply not enough hours in the evenings. The sad truth is I probably spend more time online than actually watching TV, so I think I'll have gone grey by the time we get through the shows on our queue...

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Tales of swearing

Precociousness is a trait I am becoming well acquainted with lately. The Faery just can't seem to help herself.

Take the following brief conversation from yesterday as an example:

The Faery (responding to the wrong TV show starting) said, "Oh fuck."

I couldn't quite believe my ears. "What did you just say?"

The Faery blinked, "Oh fuck."

I sucked in some air, "Ahhh... you know, that's a bad word you shouldn't say. I know you might hear grown-ups using it sometimes but it's really not a nice word and they shouldn't say it either. You can get into a lot of trouble at school if you say it. A lot of trouble."

(Yeah, I am one massive hypocrite, I know - sometimes there's no other word as satisfying to let rip as the old f-bomb, but I'm actually very careful not to say it when she's around.)

The Faery looked up at me, indignant that I'd clearly misunderstood her. "No, Mum... I didn't say 'fart', I said 'fuck'."

Yes. Fart is so much worse than fuck, right? (For the record, we're no prudes in this house about using the word fart.) 

Do you know how hard it was not to explode into giggles at this point? She obviously has no idea what fuck means, but at five years old, I'm in no hurry to clarify.

J had a chat with her about it later. He was great, and didn't patronise her. He let her know that when she grows up, yes, she can say it, but it's still a bad word and not for children to say. In the mean time, if she hears him say it when driving - or any other time - then he has to give her a dollar. Same deal if she hears me say it.

A human swear-jar. Her little face was aglow at the very thought. She's a stickler for rules and boundaries, so the idea of policing her own father? Awesome.

This wasn't the first time she'd tested out the word, but it's been almost three years since the last. When she was a little under three years old, I put her into one of those coin-operated ride-on cars at out local shopping centre. She pretended to drive, tooted the horn, and then muttered, "Youfuckenidiot."

Just like her daddy.

It was all in one word and - like yesterday - I thought I'd misheard so I asked her what she'd said. She repeated herself in barely a whisper, and on the spot, wondering if the people nearby had also heard, I nervously told her that we don't say that. Mentally, I was already berating J.

Twice more, that week, she uttered the same phrase. Both times, we were waiting to cross a street - the Faery perched on my hip - as a car slowly drove past.

Context-wise, it was a stirling effort on her behalf. I didn't want to turn it into a big deal, so apart from a quick "No, we don't say that", that was it. For some reason, she obliged and I never heard her say it again... until yesterday.

She's always been rather advanced with her language skills - something I've considered a blessing. However, J and I can no longer spell out words in front of her. Her literacy skills have come along in leaps and bounds, and she's pretty damn good at putting letters together to work out unfamiliar words. She's also blitzing the weekly lists of sight words she's expected to recognise. Additionally, the way she can read and put together Korean letters to form the syllables in words, and tell me the words... it blows my mind.

It's such an exciting time for her, learning to read and write. I remember so well how it felt like the world had opened up infinitely when I was able to read books by myself.

At the same time that this is happening for the Faery, Miss Pie is at a lovely stage where her speech is really improving. It's taken off at a slower pace than it did with her sister, but she's so pleased when she can make herself understood.

Watching their communicative skills blossom - first with speaking, and now with reading and writing - is beyond wonderful. The ESL teacher in me, especially, gets a real kick out of it.

Fun times.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Getting active

So... I've joined a gym.

It's been a very long time. The last time I belonged to a gym was ten years ago, when we lived in London. I was pretty good, and went regularly for the whole year. Not much about my body changed in that time, but my fitness went through the roof. I guess that's something, but I had been hoping to slim down a little too.

Cut to now. I'm okay with my body, but at the same time, there are bits I don't like, and I would be more than happy if I went down a dress size or two. My current weight is what it was pre-kids but it's all about the jiggle. A little less would be nice. My arms are heading dangerously into 'tuck shop lady arms' territory, and I need to sort that out.

There are a few other reasons why I've finally jumped into this fitness kick.

I've never been great at motivating myself to get active, so I've been fairly sedentary over recent years - especially since moving to Los Angeles. In Sydney, I did a hell of a lot of walking, as part of my daily routine. Even the walk to the bus stop (on my way to work) involved a trek up a hill each morning. We lived in a hilly area, with cafes and shops within a decent walking distance, so I only drove to the shops if it was raining. Here, even though it's much flatter, nothing is conveniently located without having to get in the car. Annoying.

I also want to start setting a better example now that the Faery is getting older, and more aware about healthy choices. I can't exactly preach to her about playing outside if she only sees me sitting on my toosh in my down time.

Lastly, I want some of those exercise endorphins, dammit. A more positive attitude and headspace is something I'm in need of, and I hear exercise is great for that... so bring it on.

Luckily, some friends have been raving about a nearby women's gym with child-minding. Just what I need! Having a few friendly faces to run into also helps.

It's early days - I only signed on last week - but so far it's been interesting. I can't help but chuckle already at some of the differences between my London gym experiences and my current situation. The gym in London was tucked away down a narrow lane way, behind a large railway station. It had a lot of squash courts (which I don't think is as popular here?), was mixed gender membership, and a number of the women played rugby. For fun.

In contrast, this gym is part of a large office building near a freeway. Plenty of parking available, naturally. Being a women's gym, there is definitely a wide range of clientele, but in terms of conforming to LA stereotypes, I've already seen quite a few women who have succumbed to Botox, dermal fillers, and silicone. The area we live in has a high Armenian population, so there are also plenty of girls who look, dress and sound like they could be long lost Kardashian sisters.

Anyhow, I have a feeling that by making the effort to hit the gym several times a week, it's going to cut into my internet time... but then, that's the point. Get off my arse, get active. Stop reading, start doing.

I just need to keep reminding myself of a quote I saw on Pinterest:


I like it.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Portrait time

I've posted very few photos of myself on this blog. Initially, it was because I planned on remaining somewhat anonymous, but over time I've included enough tidbits about myself that I'm sure anyone who knows me in real life would figure it out if they stumbled across this blog. Well, that and the fact that my daughters' photos are all over this blog are a bit of a giveaway.

Anyhow, I saw a writing prompt the other day that appealed to me - not so much a writing prompt as a photo prompt, perhaps: Share a photo that was taken of you, that you think really captures who you are. 

Game on.

The funny thing was that I had to dig fairly far back in the old archives to find a picture that said enough about me. That I don't feel as though recent photos capture 'me' enough? A little strange, I know. Maybe they do, and it's just my perception. Maybe it's just that I really love the photo I chose, and it's a favourite.

So without further ado, I present this.

It's an oldie, taken back in the northern summer of 1999, when we'd first started living in London. I was the ripe old age of twenty-three. A baby, really.

I love this photo because it looks so timeless. Apart from my shoes, it could have been taken as far back as the 1960s - an era I have a soft spot for. I used to have quite a thing for head scarves, and the reasoning for that hasn't changed - they're a great way to hide bad hair days (of which I am blessed with many), and even though I can't remember the last time I wore one, I do tend to tie my hair back when I don't want to deal with it. That would be most days.

This photo captures that I'm a fairy casual dresser. I live in jeans and tops. Sneakers/ballet flats in the cooler months, thongs (flip-flops for you non-Aussie readers) and Birkenstocks in the summer. I don't own much in the way of dressier clothing, and can count on one hand the number of dresses I have.

I'm not big on make-up either. At the most, a bit of eye make-up, concealer and lip gloss... when I want to make the effort. That's not often, though. Some might see this as ballsy confidence ("Wow, no make-up? You must be pretty happy with how you look!") but me? I call it simple case of could-not-be-arsed.

Photos of me with various cats, not necessarily my own? There are plenty of those around. I'm a cat person, yes, but I've been smitten with particular dogs too.

The old VW Beetle here is a rather convenient final touch. It was our neighbours' car and we envied them (although not the part about driving one of these during English winters). We'd had one in Sydney, which we sold - sadly - prior to living in the UK.

Enough with the superficial stuff, anyway.

When I look at this photo, I'm not nostalgic for an adventurous spirit that once existed, because I know it's still there. Small kids are in the big picture now... but here I am, thirteen years later, and living in another foreign country.

In some ways I've changed (who doesn't after having kids?) but for the most part, I like the think that the essence of 'me' is still here.

Linking up with Mama Kat's Losin' It