Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Is Gender Equality Actually Happening?

My 10 year old son recently expressed disbelief and outrage at classic sexism. I was over the moon with pride and a sense of relief that maybe, like winter, gender equality is coming.

Here’s how it went down.

Having just picked the kids up from school, I was listening to them chat about which playground they prefer to play on.

I must stop there to point out that easy, happy chit-chat like this is not normal between my children, so I was soaking it up. It was pure joy to drive without one arm poised to reach behind and break up a fight. But I digress.

I told the children about the school I went to, back in the seventies.

I didn’t tell them how our third-grade teacher struck any child on the palm of the hand with the wooden end of a bright fluffy feather duster if they were unable to tell her specifically what the priest talked about at mass on Sunday.

I didn’t tell them how the same teacher would use that feather duster on any child who appeared to have stayed up too late the night before. She could tell, you see, by looking at the bags under our eyes.

I didn’t tell them about a child who was locked in a cupboard as punishment, or about the child who was forced to wear a sign around his neck mocking his inability to add and subtract.

Instead, I told them the less sinister story about the two playgrounds at my nurturing primary school. One area was grass, the other was asphalt. Black, hot, rough asphalt.

Boys were permitted to play on either.

Girls were permitted on the asphalt only.

I never, ever thought this was fair and clearly I wasn’t the only one. By the time I was in year 6, someone of power had begun to see the gross inequality being served at our school and decided that the girls should indeed be granted access to the grass area (complete with monkey bars). Of course, we were only given one day a week, but hey, baby steps, right?

The boys weren't happy. Why would they be? They were being asked to give up what was rightfully theirs, something they'd been given without question since they joined the school.

In the scheme of things, it’s a small example of blatant sexism and minuscule compared to inequalities of earlier times.But it was real. However small it may seem, it had an impact and it was wrong. Even as a young girl, I couldn’t understand why I was denied a privilege offered so openly to my male counterparts.

Apparently it was for our own protection, because you know, the boys like to play rough. What bullshit.

Anyway, the good news is that when I told my children this story, my son’s first response was beautiful.

“But WHY?” he said, shaking his head. “That’s just stupid.”

Yes, it is. It was unfair and sexist and disrespectful and….stupid.

The ten year old boy nailed it.

It gave me hope.

Do you see gender equality in the attitudes and beliefs of children and schools today? Are we there yet?

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

5 Questions About Game of Thrones Season 6

Game of Thrones Season 6 is here!

(Spoiler Alert. If you haven't watched yet, read something else on my blog.)

Let’s all take a moment to thank God (and George RR Martin) before discussing further.

After settling in on Monday night with a cup of tea, a block of chocolate (a big block, I might add) AND a glass of wine (because decisions) I was left wanting more. Not in the “it didn’t deliver” kind of way, no, not that way at all. It was more a case of “Oh Good Lord I can’t get enough of this gear”.

My TV watching outfit is NOT this good.

And now, having had time to ponder, I have some questions. They may not be answerable, but I’ll ask them anyway.

How did Sansa and Wreak survive that jump?

Did the linen-service wagon fortuitously pass by just as they fell? Did a dragon catch them? Can they fly? We may never know, and that’s OK because GoT can get away with anything, really, but still….

Jon Snow. Whaaaat?

He looked pretty dead, didn’t he? We’re certainly supposed to believe he is dead. But….

Am I the only one who still can’t accept it? Surely not. Surely some of you still believe (hope?) he will somehow rise again? Maybe the Red Witch will bring him back? Maybe the Dire Wolf is now Jon Snow? I don’t know, work with me! He can’t be gone. He just can’t.

Where the hell is Brandon Stark?

Did we even see him in Season 5? I’m thinking we didn’t. Please remind me if I’m wrong.

What happened to Robert Baratheon’s bastard son?

Remember him? The blacksmith? I recall the Red Witch putting leeches on him (as you do) and him leaving / escaping, but then what?

The Hound
We saw Arya leave him for dead on the side of a mountain a long time ago. But, let’s be real here. We didn’t actually see him die. He was intriguing with his no-nonsense attitude and I want him back. So I’m clinging to the unlikely scenario that we will indeed meet again.

Season 6, Episode 1 was enthralling, offering a solid catch up without boring us with tedious old territory. We waited months for the drug that is Game of Thrones and it was worth it.

How can we possibly wait another week for our next hit?

Answer these questions please!   

Saturday, 16 April 2016

2 Girls Amazed by Car Windows - Forty Years Apart

Before I started primary school, I used to spend Mondays with my Mum at the tennis courts where she and bunch of other ladies played a series of doubles matches in short white skirts.

Although at times it was boring (I was often the only child there) I generally loved hanging out with these women, watching them play and listening to their grown-up chit-chat in the shed at lunch time.

There was usually something sweet to eat during the last session. I can't quite remember what, but I do think of cream when I try to recall.

The highlight of the day, however, every week, was saying goodbye to a lady named Pearl. Some forty years later, I have absolutely no idea who Pearl was or how she fit into my Mum's life besides tennis, but I certainly remember her. More to the point, I remember her car.

Pearl was always the first to leave. As she said her good-byes, I would look up at my Mum, fingers crossed behind my back. Mum would nod and with a skip, I would follow Pearl up to her shiny blue car with the sleek '70s bonnet.

Pearl would start the engine, leaving the driver's door open, her hair and makeup perfect despite several hours at the tennis courts. I would stand on the dirt next to her car, shuffling from one foot to the other and push the silver button on the inside of the door.

I'd watch in awe as the glass slid smoothly down into the door. Pearl wasn't winding a handle and neither was I. This window was magic.

Of course, over the coming years, I came to understand that her car wasn't magic. It was the future. And now, in that future, it's just plain normal. So normal in fact, that until last week, my seven-year old daughter had never been in a car without automatic windows, well not that she remembered, anyway.

Husband's car broke down (while it was at the mechanics, ironically, but that's another story) and he was given a replacement vehicle while his was being fixed so he could pick the kids up from school. I'm not sure what it was (I'm really not into cars) but it was old.

Miss 7 came bounding up to the door. "Mum, mum, come and see!"

I came flying out the door, no idea what I was about to see. I guess I secretly hoped it was that truck from the Lotto ads, you know the one, full of money? Unfortunately, I saw this incredibly ordinary four-door sedan, something pre-2000 I imagine. No cash in sight.

Miss 7 went straight to the car, yelling something I couldn't quite catch, something about buttons and handles. She opened the door of the car and, with impressive audience eye-contact, gave a full demonstration of this amazing vehicle.

She showed me how the windows were operated by a manual handle and how the car was not locked by a button with a beep, but rather by a knob.

It was awesome. It took me straight back to 1976, back to the carpark of the tennis courts, back to Pearl's puffy silver hair and her magic machine that was the highlight of my week for many months.

Now, I wonder, what on earth will kids be impressed by in 2050?

Thursday, 7 April 2016

7 Tips for Painting with Children and Coping with the Dreaded Mess of Art Time

Some people are all over the whole painting / crafting thing with kids, but for many, it's a living hell.

It's hard to find somewhere to set up. You cringe as the paint makes it's way onto clothing, floors, furniture and skin. You regret EVER letting glitter into your house and clean up is on par with cleaning the oven.

Although I like to paint and I love the fact that my children like to paint, making it happen can be a hard pill to swallow for me (for all the reasons above). Here are a few things that I've found make the whole process a little more enjoyable. Sometimes I even suggest painting to the kids instead of waiting for them to ask. Sometimes.

1) Buy a plastic table cloth from the $2 shop and cover your dining table, coffee table or kid's table, taping it to the underside. This will protect your table and stop you stressing about each paint drop that WILL hit the surface. You can wipe it down easily with a damp cloth when you're finished but it's also OK to just let it dry. Just note that dry paint (especially kids paints) will crack and fall off in time, so you can end up with flakes on the table or floor, but at least it's dry!

2) Get your kids a variety of brushes - some thick / fat brushes and a few smaller ones as well. Encourage them to start with the bigger brushes, especially when they're whipping up the traditional sky/ground landscape. This way they can cover more space more quickly, helping to keep them interested and within your time budget.

Suggest they only swap to the smaller brushes when they need to do the detail. Of course, this may not be necessary for an abstract piece, in which case you could be all over and done with in a few minutes.

3) Kids will instinctively use a lot of paint so be ready with water and some paper towel or an old cloth to help wash and dry them between sessions.

As kids get older and become more independent, it's easier to let them have their own palettes, rather than sharing their paints. Nothing's worse for an 8 year old artist in the depths of creation to see their 4 year old sibling pick up white paint with a dirty black paintbrush. I shudder just thinking about it.

4) Buy a large roll of paper (like the butcher-paper style roll you can get from IKEA). This way kids can create paintings as large or as small as they like without expense or fuss from you.

You can even (if you're feeling really game) tape a length of it to the tablecloth (that you've already taped to the table) and allow them to create something BIG. This is a good way to get kids to work together. For example, you could suggest they do a large jungle scene, or an underwater scene together. Or if they're like my kids, they can refuse to work together and fuel your wine habit. Either way.

5) Buy a couple of canvases for the kids to use. They will feel like a professional and, if you feel so inclined, you could easily display the painting when it's finished. Or you could gift it to a grandparent - they love that stuff!

6) Put on a smock or old clothes. Be sure to do this before you start, especially if you're squeezing paint out of tubes or bottles. Some paints wash out but many acrylic paints stain and if they're left to dry on clothing, you have close to zero chance of getting it out.

7) Keep all your painting stuff together in a box or basket. It's so much easier to set-up and pack-up when everything's in the one place. Hang paper paintings on line to dry (indoors if it's too blowy or wet outside) to reclaim your table. You might want to sit at it when you've poured your wine.

Do you have any tips for art and craft sanity?

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Ten Paintings and a Novel


HELLO? Are you there?

It's been a while, right? I know, sorry, I didn't mean to leave you for 6 months, truly, I didn't. Are you in a forgiving mood? I'd like to explain why it's been so quiet on my blog.

If you haven't completely forgotten me, you may recall two key things: I like to paint and I've been working on my first novel.

The problem with those two things is they are time consuming. They're incredibly fulfilling ways to spend my time but man do they eat it up.

I can disappear into my studio (that's fancy pants for "upstairs") with a hot cup of tea and before I know it, not only is the tea cold, it's formed that murky milk mark on top and stained the cup. The family are downstairs watching movies (note plural) and I'm still fluffing around "beginning" a painting.

And I love it. To prove I'm not just making up excuses for my recent invisibility, here's a snapshot of what I've created since my last post.

To be totally honest, until I created this image, this collection of paintings, I didn't realise just how busy I'd been. I think I need a holiday, or at least a wine.

Along with the paintings, I also recently had the huge pleasure of typing the words "The End" on my first novel. It's a rather bittersweet experience though as the real work, the editing, has only just begun.

If this confuses you, imagine tearing half the chapters out of your favourite book and putting them back in the wrong place. Then imagine tearing out several of the best scenes and throwing them away. Now take a few scenes from your least favourite novel and slot them into this one.

That's what I'm working with. I believe there's a readable novel in there, I just have to find it myself before I can share it with anyone else. And that, my friends, is the Electrolux of time sucks.

So there you have it. The reason I haven't been here, on the blog, is because I made a conscious decision to focus on creating elsewhere. I'd love to do it all, all of the time, but my Lotto numbers still haven't come up. I'm sure you understand.

All of my excuses aside, I do want to see you around here more often, so I'll be trying a lot harder to show up myself. Promise. And thank you for sticking by.

I do have a question:

What would you like to read about?