Category Archives: children

Counting down

It’s hard to believe that in eight days both of my kids will be back at school. *counts on fingers* OK, maybe nine.

Some apparently very small and single digit number, anyway.

Otto only finished school on December 19 – that means she’ll have had five and a half weeks of break between Year 5 and Year 6.

That doesn’t seem enough to me.

I know it’s impossible for working parents who only get 4 weeks’ annual leave (I’ve been there myself), but I just don’t see that five weeks is really enough to relax and recharge for school. And I don’t think it’s enough for the teachers to really relax, either – because of course they are back before the kids, and finish after them.

My friends are saying the same. Their kids are TIRED. Still. When we were young, we got seven weeks’ break (eight if you went to private school). It seemed to stretch on forever. Sometimes we slept in, sometimes we didn’t, but we were relaxed and rested by the end of the holidays.

This year, we had a week for Christmas then a week at the beach and we’ve been back for two weeks now. Next week, she’s chosen to do a holiday program Monday to Thursday – and then, four days later, she’s back in the classroom.

And of course the real holidays should be in February-March, when we tend to have the hottest weather – she’s heading back with the promise of mid-thirties weather to come.

She does get three weeks in April and July (Bigster gets two) as well as two in September. But I’d like a couple of extra weeks RIGHT NOW – enough for her to get thoroughly sick of being at home and really looking forward to going back to see her friends.

How long are your kids’ holidays? What do you think of the length?


Posted by on January 20, 2014 in children, education, family


A plea to game companies, designers, and gamers in general.

One of the highlights of our gaming year is BorderCon in Albury. It’s a small and intimate con, with around 100-120 people, that runs over the Queen’s Birthday Weekend in June in what must be one of the COLDEST lowland areas of the country, right in the depths of Winter. Seriously, it’s bitterly cold – which makes it the perfect time to play games.

I haven’t written much about this lately, mostly because there isn’t much to say about it except weep weep it’s awful, but our 14 year old Bigster is still extremely unwell with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. At the end of Term 1, she dropped all but her five core subjects (her peers are taking nine subjects) of English, Maths, Science, Latin and German. Her Latin teacher isn’t sure that she can pass with her current attendance – even with the timetable affordances, she is still only getting to about 30% of her classes – so it’s on the critical list at the moment. She even dropped the history of warfare subject that she has been looking forward to since before she started high school. She’s dropped out of Saturday German as well, because she just can’t get there. The German name for this condition is Chronisches Erschöpfungssyndrom which translates literally as “chronic exhaustion syndrome” which seems a much better name to me – when you can’t get out of bed AT ALL some days, when you are a bookworm who is too exhausted to read, when you can’t wash your hair because you can’t actually stand up for the time it would take – that’s more than just fatigue.

The specialist tells us that she still has hope that Biggie may start to recover towards the end of the year. This is critical for us and we cling to that hope. Sadly, she’s not gaming much – the days when she played all (then) 12 Power Grid maps over one epic BorderCon weekend are behind us, at least for now.

The ME/CFS society of Australia offers support for people with this severely life-limiting condition (the 80% recovery rate for young people is much higher than that for adults) and funds research into it. There is no cure and no known cause.

Every year, BorderCon runs a raffle to aid a charity group, often raising over $1000. Donations are received from game companies within Australia as well as from attendees. This year, Neil has kindly agreed that the profits from the raffle will be donated to the ME/CFS Society of Australia.

I have a personal interest in making this the Biggest BorderCon Raffle Yet. So I am going out to game companies and to game designers to ask for your support. Can you donate a game? Can you donate a signed sticker that someone could paste inside their game box (or just put in there if they are a bit fussy about their boxes)? Maybe you have a piece of game artwork that could be included in the raffle? BorderCon is a small con with a big heart and any donation is always appreciated, even more so this year.


Posted by on May 2, 2013 in children, games, health


Four Reasons

Speaking to Otto about the Boston Marathon Bombing today, because she’s 10 and it’s time to tell her all the bad stuff I’d rather tell her myself before her friends do, and get it wrong.

“I can’t even begin to understand what could bring someone to do that,” says I.

“I can,” says Otto, then proceeds to enumerate:

  • They must have had a lot of alcohol
  • Or drunk a lot of drugs
  • Or MAYBE they were hypnotised. By a crazy magician.

She thought for a while, then added one:

  • Or they could just have been BORN EVIL.

I’m not sure where to begin. But I like the crazy magician theory.

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Posted by on April 16, 2013 in children



My baby (my smallest baby) turns ten tomorrow.


Because she’s in the German school system (at least a little bit), she has been proudly telling everyone that she is in HIGH SCHOOL this year. Because, Year 5.

That was hard enough.

But still.


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Posted by on March 10, 2013 in children, family, parenting


Worserer & betterer

New resolution: never blog about my crappy life. Because while it leads to some amazing messages and offers of help from my wonderful friends (that’s YOU), it also means that things get worse.

Since I blogged, my mum developed pneumonia and was admitted to hospital. Expected total stay 3 weeks. Which would be ok, given that she’s recovering, except that my dad needs help with dressing.

Also, my dishwasher and toilet both stopped working. But they are more easily fixed.

Anyway, with mum sick, I made some phone calls and discovered the absolutely amazing Commonwealth Carer Respite Service, which provides FULLY FUNDED OMG assistance & care. So dad has the low-level care he needs and if necessary we can move to a higher care model. Fabulous!

Which got me thinking about dealing with the Bigster’s Mystery Illness. One of the advantages of having last week off (other than that I was there to deal with mum) was the thinking time it gave me. I had got so caught up in coping that I’d forgotten to step back and ponder. So now we have afternoon arrangements that mean I don’t have to collect her every single day, which means I can increase my hours as work again, and I have some before-school for Otto (ditto) and I’m not working nights.

Note to self: schedule time for pondering.

Well. When I say not working nights. Last night, I learned to use some new software, baked muffins from scratch, did a load of laundry, folded mum’s laundry & took it to her, visited for a while, did some more of her laundry, switched all my work stuff to a new bag, sorted and folded, combed and braided Otto’s hair, packed away baking things, made some plans with the Bigster, talked to Fraser, convinced myself not to buy a camcorder and watched Once Upon a Time (omg how good is that show?!).

Oh, and the toilet seems to have Mysteriously Fixed Itself (yay).

Now if only I could find a time to be home for the Dishwasher Guy.


Posted by on July 18, 2012 in children, health, parents


Moving towards chronic: is this our new normal?

Bigster had blood tests done today. We went to the children’s hospital and we parked one level down from where we usually park, and we went and we had this crazy long wait … and I realised that this has become routine for us. She and I are spending so much time at the hospital these days, it’s become a new kind of normal.

And I hate it.

May 4th, so my calendar tells me, was the day we took Bigster to the doctor. She’d been sick for a week with a mysterious run of the mill virus.

And then the doctor said she thought it was glandular fever, and sent the Bigster for blood tests … and then we saw another doctor who noticed that she had lost over 15% of her body weight in 10 months or so … and then the rollercoaster began.

And since then we have worried about (and eliminated) various conditions, mostly things we had not considered until the doctor tested for them, including but not limited to

  • glandular fever
  • leukaemia
  • diabetes
  • brain tumor
  • crohn’s disease
  • coeliac disease
  • some sort of nasty facial tumor thingy.

And she has had tests including

  • at least three rounds of blood tests
  • x-rays
  • a CAT scan
  • a gum biopsy
  • weird facial photography.

And I know that it is a REALLY GOOD THING that she doesn’t have any of those horrible and terrifying diseases.

But also, I wait. Because we have to wait for the doctor to come up with new things to test for, because there is definitely something very wrong with my beautiful girl, and I am so so afraid of what that might mean.

The latest theory is that it might be some form of narcolepsy. Because apparently she doesn’t fit the profile for chronic fatigue, even though she is tired and lethargic all the time. So we had a genetic test done today to check for that. And meanwhile we are meant to be restricting bedrest – so by 7pm she is completely beyond anything approaching manners, and begging to be allowed to go to sleep.

She’s not done a full day of school since the start of May. Even with her shortened days (she comes home at lunch time), she’s not done a full WEEK of school either. We pick her up between 12:30 and 1:30 – and then I try to spend some time with her, see how she’s feeling, and then I collect Otto from school, and then I collapse and sleep for a couple of hours because I was up till 2 or 3 trying to finish the previous day’s work –  and then I start working again at 8:30ish once Otto is in bed, and I work till 2 or 3 again.

I took this week off work, hoping to go away and at least to spend some time with the girls. But it turned out that we couldn’t go away because even 2 hours sitting around at the hospital had her exhausted and cranky. These holidays were meant to improve her health somehow, but they’ve made no difference at all. I need to clean the house, because that doesn’t happen when things get on top of me, but that’s just one more thing to add to the long list of things that won’t get done. And I need to clean her room because Fraser thinks that she has an old lunchbox hidden somewhere in there that might be a biohazard – and I catch myself wondering whether OMG THAT OLD LUNCHBOX is the reason why she’s sick – and what impact the meter changeover might have had (the smart meter is on the outside of the house near her pillow) and other crazy nutter-like stuff. And seriously, I would feed her tofu and quinoa and those other “superfoods” except that there is no way she would eat that stuff.

And while on that – we have good medical advice which I am happy with confident in.. I am venting, not looking for suggestions or for scary stories, because I am quite good enough at making them up myself thank you.

And Fraser will tell me that it’s because it’s 2am that I am fretting like this, and there is a certain truth to that, but when I go to bed at 10 or 11 I just lie there and worry and can’t sleep and pretty soon I’m back down the corridor, sobbing on the sofa with only the cats to keep me company.

Because “chronic illness” is 3 months or more, so we’re just round the corner. And what comes after that? What’s the next trigger point? And how much school – and how much social life – will she have missed by then? She’ll be 14 in a little under a month, and right now she can’t think of anything she wants to do for her birthday, because she doesn’t think she’ll have the energy to do it.

And I try to be upbeat, because honestly, I just CAN’T believe that it is something so serious that it will affect her forever. But then I look at the trouble she has staying awake for even nine or ten hours, and I just wish I could do something to fix it.

And that is why I haven’t been blogging much. It’s hard to be upbeat and chatty right now.


Posted by on July 12, 2012 in children, health, parenting


Extension progress? Not much.

The title really says it all. Fraser is still enjoying his “long precontemplative stage”.

Meanwhile, I am trying to clear barriers, so that we will be ready to go when he emerges. Three big steps forward this week.

I went up to our local council on Friday, having paid $65 for them to retrieve a copy of the plans of our house. “Oh, congratulations!” said the guy at the building counter. “It’s exactly 15 years since these plans were approved!”

I frowned. Thought. Counted on my fingers, to be sure.

We bought the house on 13 June 1996. Renovated.

We had visited the house several times, over several weeks.

It was renovated then, too.

And the plaster panels in the walls were dated March 1996.

I decided it was best not to think about it any more.

Then I had a long chat to the building counter guy, which was mostly about him trying to say things without saying them. Which I am not very good at understanding. Essentially, we have to have a car space at the back of the house, even if we don’t use it. Which is bad news. The good news is that putting a big double gate on the back fence would count as off-street parking even if the only parking was on the back lawn. But that’s not really the greatest idea ever.

His other advice was to get EVERYTHING specified, even before we talk to builders. Which makes our probable upcoming meeting with an architect a good starting point. It also means that I can really work on the “fun” stuff during Winter – choosing tiles, floors, paint colours, sinks, etc – really working up that spec. I explained to Fraser that I am happy to do it, but that after I do that work it would be VERY bad not to go ahead with it. I tried to be stern.

As for timing, we have 19 months. Building Counter Guy says that’s do-able. Much more do-able than the many people who turn up when they find out that (a) they are pregnant and (b) they have nowhere for the baby to go. In his words: “In a race between a baby and a house, the baby always wins.” It is, however, not entirely generous.

Meanwhile, I’ve seen our accountant to get my tax on the way to done. A little homework and by the time you are reading this he will be working his magic. As a Self-Employed Person, I need lots of tax returns to show that I am Responsible and Income-Earning when we go to the bank to ask them for a (really very modest) sum of money to pay for these renovations. I slightly suspect that my LATE tax returns only demonstrate 50% of these properties. But I brought my accounts up to date and in the process (I have already admitted this to Fraser and he was justifiably scathing) discovered a bank account that I’d squirrelled some money away into and then forgotten about. Mortifying. But also, fabulous. I can deal with that.

On Sunday, I decluttered the Cupboard Under The Sink and discovered scary amounts of duplicates and of things I don’t want and a Lifetime Supply of Oven Cleaner. More than that, really, because there were 4 cans of the stuff and when we renovate we will get a pyrolitic oven that doesn’t need it. If anyone in the local area needs a can of rather old oven cleaner, please let me know. You even have a choice of brands! And then I cleaned out the plasticware cupboard and sorted all the lunch containers so Fraser can’t complain that we have no lids.

And I enrolled Otto at the IKEA childcare place. Because I foresee quite a few visits there in the next few months. And she loves going there to play.

Next steps:

  • Meet with architect for preliminary designs (we have an agreed trigger point for this).
  • Work up specs (Isn’t that what Pinterest is for?).
  • Pay taxes (ugh).
  • Swedish meatballs.

Posted by on June 5, 2012 in children, decluttering, extension, tax


Day Off

Otto has a Day Off tomorrow. Curriculum Day, or Teachers’ Planning Day, or OrangenFreitag or something.

I’m trying to decide what to do. She likes shopping, architecture, planets and cats. Also the Antolin reading comprehension website, because she can Get Points. (Have never seen her read a book as fast as when there were questions on Antolin).

Here are my thoughts so far.

  1. Go to IKEA. Which would be as much for me as for her, but I might get frustrated at having to Look At Things She Likes instead of Looking At Things I Like.
  2. Go look at Display Homes. This is something I’ve been saving up for a special treat. She would explode with excitement and quite possibly insist on looking at Every House In The Village. I might need to pack Provisions.
  3. Planetarium. Except she went there with school last week, and stayed the night. So just GOING to the Planetarium would really be pretty rubbish now.
  4. Stay Home. Oooh there is a lot of merit in this idea. Except for a fundamental difference between Mums and Kids: To Kids, Staying Home is a Punishment. Even when there are Cats.
  5. Clean the House. This one is a Punishment to everyone. But it does (always) need to be done.
  6. Rearrange her bedroom. This has merit. I think I have found a way to make more (much-needed) room in there, using existing furniture. “Her” space is about 2.35 x 2.9 metres, so there’s not a lot of space for creativity.
  7. Ride the bus. Not to anywhere in particular, just go out and ride. Maybe with Provisions.
  8. Ride our bikes. This can combine with most of the above, although not as a means of getting there
  9. Antolin. Heh.

Posted by on May 24, 2012 in children, parenting


Conversations with my daughter. With a die.

When we were in Germany we picked up our fair share of odd and conceivably useless items. Among them was a pair of “activity dice”. The idea is that you roll one die to tell you what to do and another to tell you when to do it.

Personally, I would be keen on dice that told me to “Stay in bed” “always” or “Win the lottery” “tonight” but these generally have more productive things like “Ride your bike” “this afternoon” and “Gardening” “tomorrow”.

Last night I found a third activity die that didn’t belong with the others. So I picked it up and took it to the dinner table – and attempted to use it to give my kid some instructions. She doesn’t listen to me but I thought she might be a convert to following the Rule of the Die. Specifically:

The die says "Ins Bett Gehen"

Go to Bed!

She giggled. Then she picked it up and rolled it:

The die says "fernsehen"

Watch TV!

So I had to let her watch Star Wars: The Clone Wars. My glorious scheme was foiled!

This got me thinking about what I would put on activity dice if I made my own.

For the girls there would be:

  • Clean your room
  • Do your homework
  • No really I mean it
  • Stop re-rolling
  • Put away your laundry
  • Snuggle with mum

And for me there might be

  • Clean the house
  • Do some work
  • Stop procrastinating
  • Step away from the computer
  • Go do laundry
  • Ride your bike

But I would prefer it to say

  • Dance in the rain
  • Try on shoes
  • Buy something sparkly
  • Frock up, just because
  • Go to IKEA for a nap
  • Cook something delicious

What would you put on your activity die?


Posted by on May 17, 2012 in be happy, children


Being a Bad Mother

A colleague and I were talking last week about our children and I had a confession to make: I had kept the Bigster at home for 4 days before taking her to the doctor, because I thought she had some sort of generic virus and I’d just be told to keep her home and warm for a few days and she’d be better. (Note: I did the same thing to myself in March/April and nearly burst an eardrum, so you would think I would have learned my lesson). Of course, when we finally did see a doctor, it sparked the whole does-she-or-doesn’t-she-have-glandular-fever crisis which turned out to be “she doesn’t, but we don’t know quite what she has, and it’s behaving a lot like glandular fever”. And I had a big dose of Mother Guilt because I should have KNOWN that it was worse than just a virus and taken her to the doctor sooner. Which, admittedly, would just have sparked the does-she-or-doesn’t-she a little earlier – but I would have felt less guilty. And I would have Done The Right Thing, which is important.

“Don’t worry,” said my colleague. “My daughter hurt her wrist and complained about it. I got her to wriggle her fingers and they were fine, so I told her to stop complaining. When she complained again an hour later, I told her she was over-reacting … but eventually we went to the doctor and it turned out her wrist was BROKEN! Oh the Mother guilt”

To which I was able to tell the story of the Bigster’s broken ankle, which went much the same way.

And so on.

Does every parent have a story like this? I suspect they do.


Posted by on May 14, 2012 in children, health, parenting