Monthly Archives: April 2013

Thanks but No Spanks, just for a day that is

What? Couldn't get a celebrity endorsement?

What? Couldn’t get a celebrity endorsement?

Did you know that tomorrow – 30 April – is International Spank Out Day? I did not know that until Louise, my hockey friend and a new mum, posted the above flyer on FB. Somehow I doubt that Hong Kong’s Health and Social Welfare department had comedy gold on their minds when they joined this campaign. But the mind boggles. I couldn’t stop thinking about the civil service committee meetings and the conversations they had about the SpankOut. Do you think anyone suggested calling it World ‘Spank Off’ Day? Probably that troublemaker from accounting, the one who always stays late waiting on his files to ‘download’.

I did a quick online search and found that plenty of other countries are holding events to mark SpankOut Day aka No Hitting Day, No Smacking Day and the Gandhi-esque sounding: Day of Non-Violence. In the US, the Center for Effective Discipline has put together a helpful guide for a Successful Spank Out Day. (I can hear you laughing so stop it now!) At the risk of sounding cynical and insensitive, I suppose top of that list should read: People! Don’t Fricking Hit Your Kids!

As you know, the goal of any kind of social program like this is to encourage healthy alternatives. So when your three-year-old willfully pours milk on the dog’s head or spoon-catapults macaroni across the room, you don’t reach for the switch. You use your words: call for a time out, explain how dogs are lactose-intolerant and discuss why pasta on the flatscreen isn’t such a great idea. Of course, another alternative (depending on how you define ‘healthy’) would be a quick scan of Craigslist and a willing individual to assist you in your anger management.

Because, after all:

Going to get my licks in while I can 😉 Happy SpankOut Day!

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Guest Blogger: YO’s Perfect House

YO's dream

For those who’ve been reading therockmom for a while, you know that I try to write something different than the usual proud mom, naval-gazing kind of blog. Music is my main interest, but as it turns out, my parenting posts are always my most popular reads. However, I don’t know about you, but I really don’t need or want to read about toilet training or first words or fussy eaters. We’re years beyond that anyway.

I also don’t want to put my kids on show all the time, and I figure it makes more sense to make fun of myself and my foibles as a parent instead of oversharing about my girls. After all, it’s not their choice that I write about being a mom.

But today I’m going to make an exception and share YO’s drawing of her perfect house, which is just so wonderful and funny and precious. We should all live in a place like this! Plenty of food and play areas, and two escape routes, just in case. I especially like the generous space she’s allotted for the massage room – right next to the ‘woreout’ area, which is I guess where you go after you’ve had a tough day. I’m hoping that’s where the wine fridge and magazines will be. And of course being a Hong Kong kid, she’s got room for servant quarters, natch.

We all need to dream. What’s yours?

Monday Morning Music – Shovels & Rope

O’ Be Joyful! isn’t just the name of Shovels & Rope’s latest album, it’s also how I feel when I listen to their earthy, raucous rock-n-roll. They’re a two-piece combo consisting of Michael Trent from Texas and Cary Ann Hearst from Tennessee. They don’t like labeling their music, but if you had to describe it you could call it Americana, alt-country or just plain rock. Harder than your typical folk singer – more barroom than coffee shop.

Recently they recorded a couple of cover tunes for Third Man Records, and it turns out that Jack White’s Nashville label and S&R’s honky stomp make a great couple. Check out their versions of Springsteen’s ‘Johnny 99′ as well as an amazing cover of Tom Waits’ ‘Bad As Me’ on the Third Man website.

These kind of tunes make me homesick for a taco dinner and a Shiner Bock after a long day driving through the Texas hill country. I hope I get a chance to check them out this summer, but if not I’ll make do with a clip from their appearance on David Letterman earlier this year:

Find out more at shovelsandrope.com.

Have a good week y’all!

Play Nice – That Means You, Parents!

Nuts! Forgot the mouthguard! (photo by therockmom)

Nuts! Forgot the mouthguard! (photo by therockmom)

Oh, the sideline! The cheers, the smiles, the photo ops, the abuse hurled at the referee. The feeling that you’re part of the action when you’re, in fact, not part of the action at all. And the inevitable impulse to will your kids on to sporting glory, as if your shouting and clapping can make them go faster, move quicker, throw farther.

I’ve got two sporty girls and have been a spectator at a variety of games, races and meets over the years: swimming, rugby, hockey, netball, cross country, duathlons, biathlons, you name it. I try – I really try – to be low-key Mum. I try to remember to bring oranges or gummy snakes. I try to sit or stand quietly, offering encouragement and taking a few snaps. But, you know, when things aren’t going my child’s way, I start to feel her frustration as if it’s my own and before I know it, my face is red and there’s this vein popping out of my forehead and I’m raining curses down on the umpire and his first born son. Just because I want that ref to take the game as seriously as I do. Now if I were auditioning for the role of the Incredible Hulk, this wouldn’t be so bad, but generally speaking it’s not a moment to be proud of. (In my defense can I say that there was a deliberate infringement before the free hit was taken, and they should have never been allowed that goal.)

School Sports Days, however, always seem to be a much more relaxed occasion than a rugby or hockey game. I’ve been to thirteen Sports Days so far, and have had a chance over the years to view the evolution of both children and parents. In Years 1 and 2, the kids are basically clueless, in the best way possible. They’re not competitive, they look for any excuse to tumble on to the grass with their mates, and they experience pure rapture when that parachute is lifted above their heads and they can giggle in its coloured glory. At this level, parents and grandparents and helpers outnumber children approximately 3 to 1. I reckon these Sports Day newbies would gladly dress in their child’s House colors if it were required. ‘Super keen’ is an understatement when your child is experiencing his first sack race.

But then a funny thing happens. The years go by and the balance shifts. The kids grow more competitive, more demanding of their classmates. They talk strategy and keep track of their scores at every station. You see more focus and less random cartwheels, a bittersweet progression if there ever was one. And you see less of the parents too. Where once you had four, maybe five heats in the Mom’s race, by Year 6 it’s just a trickle down to the track and the teachers have to help make up the numbers.

Ready, ready, ready... ready to run (photo by therockmom)

Ready, ready, ready… ready to run (photo by therockmom)

I still have a few more Sports Days to go, but I guess you could say, it’s my turn now to pass the baton. Drawing on my Ferguson-esque years of experience, and our similar temperaments ;), I’ve put together a list of Do’s and Don’ts for parents whose future on the sideline awaits.

Let’s call it Sports Day 101:

1. No wagering

2. No trash talking

3. No doping – has Lance Armstrong taught us nothing? – and no cheating when you’re helping tally points. That was half a lap, not a whole lap. The hooter’s gone, stop counting. Be honest, people!

4. Dads – please don’t wear spandex (ever, really) as if you’ve just come from the gym. You are not your kid. No running tights, no shell suits, no compression socks, just… No.

5. Mums – you know those fire engine red stilettos that work really well at Friday cocktails? You cannot wear them to Sports Day. Unless, that is, you fancy clumping around in the grass or tearing up the running track, thus winning the title of ‘WTF Mum’! Get in to the spirit of the day and wear some sensible flats.

6. Remember – some kids can’t throw or catch and that’s okay. Don’t give them a hard time. They will probably be your bosses in 15 years.

7. Also, if you must – if you really must – you can coach your own kid. You cannot, however, coach the other six-year-olds by standing at the obstacle course start line and yelling, “Focus! We have to focus!”

(I’ve actually seen that happen. No joke.)

8. Beware the overzealous camera. If the teacher asks you to take some snaps for the school website or yearbook, great. If you end up taking 100 pics of your child and 100 more of their classmates then posting everything on Facebook and expecting everyone to be pleased, think again.

9. This being Hong Kong, we’re bound to see some helpers down at Sports Day. It’s the way of our jungle. We should not, however, see the helper doing your job – keeping track of little Ethan’s water bottle, helping Jasmine take off her sweatshirt when she gets hot, advising Nicholas on tying his shoes. You do realize, don’t you that asking a helper to do all of these things makes you look completely useless? And Sports Day is all about participating, even if you’re not good at sports (or parenting), even if you’re bored, even if you’d rather be back at the office in front of spreadsheets or surfing Net-a-Porter or The Daily Beast. The only reason a helper should accompany you is to race after little brother or sister while you enjoy your older child’s day. It only happens once a year!

10. Further to that thought, let’s not worry, for just half a day, if Ethan or Jasmine or Nicholas actually sweats. Leave the washcloths and Tempo packets in your bag. Please don’t follow them around moping their brows or necks every time you see a little perspiration. Anecdotally speaking, I’d say there is a direct correlation between kids who are repeatedly wiped down like racehorses and a severe lack of social skills. I gotta be honest here – it means you hover, you interfere and, more tellingly, if your child doesn’t swat you away, if your child accepts your actions as normal, unembarrassing behavior then, well, I hesitate to go there. But can I just mention a future of Sci-Fi conventions, chronic online dating disasters, living in your basement, cosplay subcultures and, oh well, you get the idea.

11. When you line up for the parents’ race, don’t ever – ever! – run in the first heat. The first heat is for the Type A, Division 1 parents. Not only will you get ridiculed for taking it so seriously, but you will get smoked down the track. I made the mistake one year of rocking up for the first heat of the Mom’s dash. Feeling weirdly nervous and excited at this little burst of competition, I looked down the track and felt the kids’ cheers washing over me. I visualized crossing the finish line, arms aloft in glory, and the P.E. teacher putting that sticker on my shirt: ‘I finished first!’ My daughter would be so proud. Little did I know that I was going up against a Russian mum, who in her previous life had been a competitive sprinter (she’s a lovely, unassuming person by the way). Not only did I pull a hamstring, but I had to take grief from YO about getting my butt kicked.

12. And finally – the parachute is the best part, I swear (though absolutely never, ever at the referee).

Have fun. Play nice. Goooo team!

I would've fallen from the sky / Til you / Parachutes have opened now (photo by therockmom)

I would’ve fallen from the sky / Til you / Parachutes have opened now                              (photo by therockmom, lyrics by Pearl Jam)

Sunday in the Plaza with… Das Fluff

This is the kind of thing you dream about – discovering you have hidden talents. Like finding buried treasure in your backyard, or perhaps a cache of secret weapons or super powers hitherto unknown. What would that feel like? What would you do with your gifts?

If you’re Dawn Lintern of the band Das Fluff, you start singing. Or I should say, you keep singing, only louder, stronger, tougher than you’ve ever sung before. And then what happens is you record, you travel, you perform and you sound just fricking awesome. Even if you don’t get a chance to blow out the windows.

See that was the scenario at Das Fluff’s last Hong Kong gig, which was an afternoon tea session at Saffron Bakery in Stanley. It was such a surreal experience, I’m not sure what I should write about first: the fact that YO could rip-stick in the plaza while I enjoyed some live music (a first for therockmom – I like!); my double shot drink order – a chocolate shake followed by a craft beer – or watching the reaction of the crowd as they wandered in for skim milk lattes and realized there was a dark, edgy pop duo performing in front of the DJ booth. Over by the One Direction posters and just across from the Captain Fantastic pinball machine. On a pop culture scale of weird meeting quaint, Das Fluff amongst the Southside crowd placed them on the same color pallet as David Bowie popping over to Bing Crosby’s place to sing ‘Little Drummer Boy’. (It’s on YouTube and worth a look.)

Lintern singing for the pinball wizard, in which the word 'tilt' takes on a whole new meaning (photo by therockmom).

Lintern singing for the pinball wizard, in which the word ’tilt’ takes on a whole new meaning (photo by therockmom).

Lintern’s last FB post from HK called her visit ‘the most challenging gigs of my life’, so all credit to her and Christian Ruland (keyboards & visuals) for taking us on. There might be pockets of coolness down around Sai Ying Pun or out in To Kwa Wan, but collectively, as a city, we are seriously uncool – Josh Groban kind of uncool – and to be honest, we’re pretty uptight. You know, Das Fluff got harassed about the noise, during the soundcheck. And this is after they turned the amps right down, in case the sound waves blew out the bakery’s picture windows. Apparently, that can happen if you’re not careful.

But still, I was damn glad to be there. With my shake and my beer, with the family in tow, and with EO asking: why do you need to go out and see music when you’ve got the internet? Blasphemous child! As God is my witness, I vowed, I will change her mind – one gig at a time.

Even better, I got to chat with Lintern after the last set about her music (it comes from a dark, angry place), her influences (Bowie, The Cure) and her path to Hong Kong (enter Sean Hocking from Saffron). Our conversation brought me round to my opening thought and the really cool part of the afternoon: finding out how she discovered her voice.

Lintern had been in a number of bands in her late teens and twenties, but she said she’d always been quite shy, had never really explored the boundaries of her voice. It took a visit to a voice coach to convince her that she had serious pipes. Add in her training in yoga, which helped with her breathing, as well as finding the right musical partners (Ruland + Steve May on guitar), and Lintern arrived at a place where she felt confident enough to push the envelope.

For someone like myself, who can’t sing a note, I find that fascinating – this idea of finding your voice, literally and figuratively. Lintern said it was a complete surprise to discover. And, even now, she’s still working on her sound, still figuring out what she’s capable of, while also trying to strip things down and find the essence of the song. She’s overcoming her shyness by challenging the audience and getting in their faces. She said she likens it to inhabiting a role – of a character I’d describe as an electro-damaged chanteuse. Marlene Dietrich meets Lene Lovich meets Siouxsie Sioux. “Brace yourself,” she told the audience, with a very British comic edge. Yes, not exactly a Sunday afternoon acoustic vibe. So unfortunately for us in the bakery audience, Lintern had to tone down her set to accommodate the place and the crowd. Got to watch out for those picture windows after all.

But we’ll take what we can get. And we’ll look forward to louder, stronger, tougher things to come.

———————–

Find Das Fluff at: 

http://www.dasfluff.com/

Then watch and learn:

If you want to find out what Saffron has in store for the live music scene in Hong Kong, get on their mailing list via: http://saffronbakery.com/