She Swoops to Conquer

Somewhere in the late nineties, incessant talk of the benefits of yoga and meditation were thrust upon the western world. Ellen DeGeneres did a bit about what sort of things pop up in all the silence meditation creates.  For her it was:  Mama keeps whites bright like the sunshine.  Mama’s got the magic of Clorox 2.

This has always resonated with me as a long time yoga practitioner because while meditation has tremendous benefits, sometimes just before I’m about to drift into a blissful silence something will pop up into my brain that makes me want to giggle.

buzzfeed.com

buzzfeed.com

Matt Damon, for example, on the Colbert Report dancing in a confetti booth to Daft Punk’s Get Lucky. BuzzFeed’s John Travolta-ized version of Benedict Cumberbatch’s name: Bento Timberbox.  The scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds when Tippy Hedren so breezily operates an outboard motor until a bird puppet sort of awkwardly bumps her in the head.

cheddarbay.com

cheddarbay.com

Now I know the latter seems to belie a darker part of my subconscious, after all getting attacked by a bird isn’t funny, but I can’t help it.  The thought of that scene has always made me giggle.  In fact, I always felt the whole concept of The Birds was cartoonish at best.  Who’s afraid of a bunch of birds?

Well.  Leave it to Hitchcock to wait until we moved to Australia to avenge his film and forever change this image of Tippy in my mind from giggly to terrifying.  He began slowly and unassumingly, a hallmark of his work.  When we arrived in Sydney last year, he revealed to us only this sign in Darling Harbor.

Screen Shot 2014-10-20 at 5.26.37 PMIt made us giggle for days.  Look how big this bird is!  And look how nice this man’s hair is.  I’m sure he doesn’t want this pterodactyl to mess it up.

canberratimes.com.au

canberratimes.com.au

Roughly nine months later we arrive in Brisbane and spot several people riding by with helmets that look like this <—-

“Hm,” I said to Michael, “what’s the story with all the festive hats?”

Then the stories from work began to roll in:

~The Company Manager said someone told him today not to take a certain route to work because there was a swooping magpie.

~The Assistant Stage Manager burst into the office today on the verge of tears because he was swooped by a magpie on his bike three times.  It followed him.

~The Dance Supervisor was supposed to come over for a glass of wine tonight, but she was swooped by a magpie today.  She’s ok, but it was so terrifying she decided to just call it a night.

Then one day Michael came home with a pile of zip ties and two huge laminated drawings of eyeballs.

“What’s happening here?”  I asked.

“The ASM sent us home with these today.  He said if we stick them onto the back of our bike helmets they will scare the magpies away when we’re riding.  AND!  That’s what these zip ties are for!  People tie them onto their helmets so the birds can’t land on them.”

“What??  Why are birds trying to land on them?  Is this Hitchcock’s way of getting me to think his silly Birds movie is scary?  Because, it’s not going to work.”

“From August to October,” Michael said very seriously, “the magpies lay eggs.  They think anyone or anything passing by is a threat to their young.  So they attack them.”

“Oh,”  I paused with the realization I know what that feels like, “that is terrifying.”

“Look at this,” Michael says.

dailymail.co.uk

dailymail.co.uk

“And this,” he adds, “is the Australian version of Anderson Cooper covering a Hurricane.”

So now when I finish my yoga class a thought bubble of Tippy Hedren no longer makes me giggle, but the thought of G with eyeballs on his helmet does a little bit.  Just a little.

IMG_1460

Stay Classy

PREFERRED MEMBERS?  ARE THERE ANY PREFERRED MEMBERS ON THIS BUS?  IF YOU ARE A PREFERRED MEMBER YOU MUST GET OFF AT THE NEXT STOP.  AT THE NEXT STOP, IF YOU ARE A PREFERRED MEMBER, YOU WILL GET OFF THE BUS AND YOUR CAR WILL BE WAITING FOR YOU.  IF YOU DO NOT LIKE YOUR CAR, BECAUSE YOU ARE A PREFERRED MEMBER, YOU CAN GET A FREE UPGRADE.  I REPEAT, AS A PREFERRED MEMBER YOU ARE ELIGIBLE FOR A FREE UPGRADE, SO DO NOT SETTLE FOR JUST ANY CAR.  AGAIN PREFERRED MEMBERS WILL GET OFF THE BUS AT THE NEXT STOP AND PREFERRED MEMBERS ONLY.

“Michael,” I loud whispered, “can you see the driver?  Is he using a bullhorn?”

one-vibration.com

one-vibration.com

G and I were seated in the front right corner of the bus.  I couldn’t see an iota of our driver.  For all I knew he was the disembodied voice of God.  Michael stood over us.  He held onto the luggage rack above us with one hand and did an upward facing dog arch of his spine to see if he could catch a glimpse of this man and the instrument he used to amplify his voice beyond what a human ear could bear.  Just as Michael’s back bend was about to allow him a clear view, the Wizard of Oz boomed out again.

ANY CHAIRMEN?  ARE THERE ANY CHAIRMEN ON THIS BUS?  IF YOU ARE A CHAIRMAN PLEASE IDENTIFY YOURSELF.

The intensity of the blast almost knocked Michael onto the ground.  He stumbled to grab onto the luggage rack across the aisle from us for support.  Had he missed it he would have toppled onto a set of  important golf clubs.  Their importance had recently been verified by their owner who had an altercation with a woman who had dared to try to board the bus before them.  Michael steadied himself.

CHAIRMEN?  ARE THERE ANY CHAIRMEN ON THIS BUS?  I NEED TO CALL YOU IN BEFORE WE ARRIVE IF YOU ARE A CHAIRMAN.

“Chairman?”  I mouthed to Michael across the aisle. Chairman of ABC Rental Car?

NO CHAIRMEN?  NO CHAIRMEN ON THE BUS?  I REPEAT, PLEASE ALERT ME IF YOU ARE A CHAIRMAN BEFORE WE REACH THE RENTAL AREA.

'i'm a chairman'---wikipedia.org

‘i’m a chairman’—wikipedia.org

As I was about to count a third second of blissful silence, a milquetoast, middle aged man whose rounded shoulders created a concave haven for his Izod alligator shot up as if a cattle prod had just jolted him from a deep sleep.

“I’m a Chairman,” he said with a breathless stoicism generally reserved for the likes of Indiana Jones.

WHAT?  HOLY SH*#!  LET ME STOP THE BUS!

The driver stopped the bus short in the actual middle of the road.  In the sea of honking horns and whiplash victims Michael was jostled back to our side of the aisle.

Then there was silence, perhaps only because we were in the midst of a chairman, but it was silence just the same.  There were hushed tones and what we think was the breaking open of a previously untouched, What To Do When You Have a Chairman on Your Bus manual. Then a series of numbers were dialed and our chairman returned to his seat.  The driver started up the bus and we were back en route to the preferred members area when we heard the crack of the bullhorn again.

SIR.  I NEED TO INFORM YOU, YOU ARE NOT A CHAIRMAN.  I REPEAT YOU ARE NOT A CHAIRMAN.  YOU HAVE MADE A MISTAKE ON YOUR RESERVATION AND YOU ARE NOT A CHAIRMAN.  YOU CAN GET OFF AT THE NEXT STOP WITH THE PREFERRED MEMBERS BUT NO ONE WILL BE THERE TO GREET YOU PERSONALLY AS YOU ARE NOT A CHAIRMAN.

Oh my God oh my God oh my God.  I looked down at the floor and held my breath.  Michael put one hand over his mouth and looked into the corner to conceal his laughter.

“Are we on an SNL skit?” I whispered to him.  “Is Fred Armison driving this bus?”

After all the preferred members disembarked, we were the only people left on the bus.  It drove us about an additional twelve feet to our non-preferred stop.  There was no one in line in front of us.  We immediately received a perfectly lovely 4 wheel drive SUV and drove off.

“Look what I found at the check out desk,” Michael said.

He handed me a Chairman application form.

Toca Boca and More

loudcrow.com

loudcrow.com

I have a special love of children’s literature as you can see from the Fab Kid Lit lists above.  I literally write those just for fun. (Excuse me while I slide my giant horn rimmed glasses back up onto my nose.)  The iPad was released the same month my son was born so I was pulled in early by the shiny bells and whistles iPad apps of children’s books dangled in front of me. When our son was one he was allowed to look at certain apps, but that was way back in the dark ages of 2011. There weren’t many apps out there yet, we just marveled over the Nighty Night app and Pop Out Peter Rabbit.  All the pro and con forums on digital exposure for young, developing brains hadn’t yet become too heated.

goodnight dear pig

goodnight dear pig

When my husband’s career took a turn we began to travel with him all over the world and an iPad for a child on an airplane can be a glorious thing (for everyone), but we realized his time on screen needed to be limited.  My time on screen needs to be limited. Everyone’s time on screen needs to be limited.  So I turned to one of the great truths of life…the power of what is counterintuitive.  It sounds like if you create limits, you will be and feel limited, but the truth is boundaries and limits provide an immense amount of freedom to spend your time wisely on what you really enjoy.  We apply this principal to sugar consumption so we decided, why not apply it to the iPad too?  We don’t forbid it, but we do limit it.  We’re talking only 30 minutes a day after lunch…if that.

Since we’ve applied these limits two years ago, we’ve learned quite a few things as parents in the digital age.  If this topic is of interest to you, I’ve shared the top 5—>

1.  Adhering to a limit and schedule creates an excitement around our son’s iPad time, a feeling of anticipation.  When it arrives he then spends it wisely on the apps he loves the most.  Breaking the schedule for special occasions is also loads of fun.  The iPad on an airplane first thing in the morning?  What a treat!

2. We don’t read children’s book apps on the iPad anymore before bed.  The screen is too bright, even on bedtime mode, which makes for an activity too simulating just before a little brain needs to sleep.

3. Not all apps are created equal. There is a LOT of yucky material out there, sometimes from big names you may feel you trust.  It’s always a good idea to look at reviews and test drive apps on your own. There are a lot of great resources out there.  I write app reviews for iGameMom.com and link to my reviews above.  That site does a great job of cataloguing apps by age and activity, but it’s also helpful to look at ratings right there in the Apple Store.

itunes.com

itunes.com

4. Beware the in-app purchase!   Sometimes they are worth it for apps like Endless Reader, but often times they can just be a hook.

5.  Beware the grind!  Grind is a word a friend of mine uses to describe when an app controls you (or your child) versus you controlling it.  Look for grind when you find yourself mindlessly surfing the web, you know when it happens.  How many cute animal gifs, or Eiffel Tower instagrams or Dream Home pins do you really need to look at?  The addictive, mindless quality of grind is sometimes used in apps as well to keep the user hooked.  A good rule of thumb is to remember it’s always better to know your child is taking something away from an app rather than losing something to it.

Here are my favorite examples below, true stories about three of our favorite app developers.

Freecloud Design—> At two and a half our son began to play Stack the States and Stack the Countries.  He still plays these apps now and not only knows where most states and countries are on the globe, he also knows their shapes and flags.  He can show you where Djibouti is.

play.google.com

play.google.com

Tiny Bop—> The Human Body app is great for kids, but also a marvel for anyone interested in anatomy.  When we went to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, the Annette Messager exhibit below seemed a bit on the intense side for a four year old.  The installation is of various parts of the human anatomy on strings.  I was about to circle out of the exhibit so as not to have to explain what it all was when he said, “Mama look how beautiful…these are all things inside the human body.”  Thanks for the save Tiny Bop. IMG_0376 Toca Boca—> Last, but far from least, when our son was three he showed us all the elements on the periodic table because of his love for the Toca Lab app.  Naturally I was ready to fly to their headquarters and squeeze them all.  I sent the team a video tweet of our son…who can’t yet read…as he recited all the noble gases from memory.  The team replied:  Aw tell him the team at Toca Boca said Hi.  When I gave our son the message he replied, “Even Coppernicium?” Screen Shot 2014-09-20 at 9.33.18 PM The Toca Boca team made that little gem into a tweet-able photo and shared it with all their followers.

The whole thing makes me so warm and fuzzy and supports my newly formed, not really extensively researched theory:

Technology-if used wisely-can be a powerful tool for young minds.

Farewell Sydney

As we bid farewell to our ten months as Sydneysiders, let’s give a big high five to our favorite Sydney day.

It’s a B trifecta.  Blue Ducks…

IMG_8715

to Bronte…

photo: coune

bronte beach-photo: c.oune

to Bondi…

IMG_8570

bondi graffiti

We made this trip several times while we were here, we took our visitors here, we had our first litre to cups debacle here and the best food and views we will ever see.

Cheers to you Blue Ducks, you are the icon of our stay.

This will be the last post from Sydney (!), but it will not be the last post about Sydney.

Our next stop is NYC, baby.

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