Category Archives: family

I like driving in my car

Otto is doing a holiday program this week. A holiday program that I carefully forgot (at least four times) to book her into. Unfortunately for me, she remembered (at least once more than I forgot) that she really REALLY wanted to do it.

She’s learning how to build Apps.

Sometimes I want to do school holiday programs too.

Anyway, this program is on the Other Side of Town. And driving North-South across Melbourne is kind of hellish. As in, Took-me-ninety-minutes-to-get-home hellish. And most of the week, I am driving over to collect her and then back again. Conservatively, that’s a five-hour daily commute.

I’ve looked into public transport, but it’s tram + train + bus, with all the accompanying potential for disaster, and even my buddy the metlink journey planner says 90 minutes minimum, each way. That’s too much commitment for me.

As this is posted, I have three more of the long commutes to go. And I kind of want to buy a Go-Pro so that I can do an exciting time-lapse photostream, just to share the horror with the world.

Or maybe there’s an App for that. If not, there should be – maybe Otto can deliver?


Posted by on January 22, 2014 in family


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



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.


Leave a comment

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


School holidays aka The Curse of the Working Parent

Hard to believe it’s nearly school holiday time again.

It’s unfair, really, to call them a curse – I enjoy school holidays, and I remember enjoying them a whole lot more when I was the one who got a break from school. But it does mean a lot of juggling at times.

Once we’ve allowed for drama classes and Otto’s bonus holidays, we end up with a single week of nothing, which isn’t all that much when you factor in a couple of outings with or without friends. I’m hoping that will help the Bigster get her health back in order. Was a little unsure about the classes, but she is so keen to do them that I think they’ll do her good. We might go away for the week of nothing, or we might just unplug the phone and stay home. Either is good (although one is more Financially Responsible, sigh).

But the best part – the very BEST part of all – is that somewhere in the middle of all that, Fraser is going to take the girls away somewhere for a couple of days. And leave me at home.

And it is ridiculous, completely and utterly, but I am so excited.

Because I am going to DO SERIOUS HOUSEWORK. And Rearrange the Kitchen Cupboards. And buy – and implement – new Storage Stuff. I even have a guy coming on Friday to wash the rubbish bins.

And if I get really excited, I might even Get A Skip.


Posted by on June 18, 2012 in decluttering, family, school


Of Lanterns, Soup and Duck fat. In no particular order.

Three years ago, during our 5 months in Germany, we happened to be in Düsseldorf in the late afternoon of November 11th. What we saw that night scarred Fraser for life, and has since come up in ever so many dinnertime conversations.

Gangs of children – all warmly dressed in their beanies, winter coats and boots – roamed the streets of the town, carrying little paper lanterns on sticks. Every shop was entered, and staff were on hand to pass out cigarettes whisky sweets and little treats.

They didn’t even have to say anything – as soon as they entered the shops, someone came running and handed them stuff until they left. (Mental note: If in Germany in November, send Otto into a Jeweller’s shop with a paper lantern).

We got back to Wuppertal and it was the same story.

In Fraser’s world, November 11th went down as The Night Children Shake Down Shopkeepers. The lanterns were a concealed threat to come back and burn down the premises if the candy quality and quantity was not deemed adequate.

Fast forward to almost now, and we started to get notices from the school about the Lantern Walk at one of the local German churches. And about school art sessions (parents and siblings invited) to make lanterns – clearly this was a big thing.

Green lanterns, with arms and legs and eyes and ears and cute crooked smiles.

Kommt wir woll’n Laterne laufen, das ist unsere schönste Zeit;
kommt wir woll’n Laterne laufen, alle sind bereit..

The canny among you will be thinking, but it’s June not November – and you are right. But apparently a Lantern Walk would not be a Lantern Walk without bitterly cold weather (not to mention the rain) and early sunset so no-one keeps the Gangs of Children up late. Because you don’t want to keep children up past their bedtime when fire is involved.

So, on Friday night, I got together with two of the other mums to make the World’s Biggest Ever Pot of Pea & Ham soup. Our school recently bought a massive preserving pot that is also good for making soup, and we had captaincy of her maiden voyage.

What we did not have was a recipe for pea & ham soup.

But we were happy to make it up as we went along, and we think we did OK. Three hours of soup stirring and a couple of pizzas later, Otto and I headed home, leaving the pot’s hosts with at least a couple more hours to stir.

On Saturday, after a quick trip to IKEA for tea lights (that turned into … well … you know … Otto was having a great time in Smålund and I was just wandering peacefully), we picked up the Pot. After some debate, we sat it on the front seat and buckled it in for the drive to the church. With the lid firmly duct-taped on – because pea & ham soup is not a great smell at the best of times, and a car that smells of pea & ham soup might have had me praying for some budding lantern-wielding arsonists to come and torch it.

And then we heated, and stirred, and heated, and stirred.

And Otto went into the church where I think they sang some songs and talked about St Martin. And then the walk began.

And it was absolutely amazing. Because there were – I have no idea but I’d guess between 200 and 300 people. And each person – or each family – had a beautiful lantern that their child had made or that they had bought. It would have been beautiful in the daytime; at night it really was something magical. And we wended our way through the Fitzroy Gardens in the dark, following a guy dressed as Rory from Dr Who.

Lanterns in the park.

Kommt wir woll’n Laterne laufen, denn wir fürchten nicht die Nacht;
kommt wir woll’n Laterne laufen, das wär doch gelacht.

Apparently, the guy was actually dressed as St Martin. But all these Roman Centurions kind of look alike. One year they had a policewoman on a horse, with a long red cloak. Which would have been awesome. There were no police there this year so the priest and some of the adults stopped traffic instead. Because Gangs of Children with Lanterns (and priests) should always have right of way.

And eventually we got back to the church, which was amazingly busy. We sold soup, and there were Brezeln, and hot dogs, and Glühwein, and Kinderpunsch which is like Glühwein but for kids, and a bonfire (sadly lacking in marshmallows). And bread that was – I am not kidding – spread with LARD! Or Duck Fat, which is not quite lard but really there is not much difference. I bought a slice and shared it with 2 friends. Which means “I bought a slice and split it into three, and we all kind of took a little bite at once and then said OMG IT IS CRUNCHY WHY IS THIS SO? and discreetly discarded it.” Because cultural traditions are all very well, but not so much when they are spread with duck fat. In fact, I am going to go on record here and state that I would steer clear of any cultural tradition that involved duck fat in any way, shape or form.

And we stirred and we served. And the Bigster took money because she said she would collapse otherwise. And because her Mean Mother had insisted she come along for a bit of Cultural Involvement. And a dollar fell in the soup pot but we figured it would add extra flavour, and we kept stirring.

And it was a fabulous evening. And we put our heads together and wondered how we can get even half of those people to come to our German Christmas Market in November.

Maybe we should send the children round with their lanterns?


Posted by on June 4, 2012 in education, family, languages, school, travel


Of Peg boards and Nannas. Both mine.

I bought a sheet of pegboard today. That white, unfinished stuff with holes punched in it, that lots of people use for hanging tools in garages.

I’ve been looking for something to hang my jewellery on. I thought about those cheval mirrors that you open and they have storage inside, but they are big and bulky and I don’t really have anywhere for them. Then I was going to use a spare shelf from one of our BILLYs, but I am a bit useless with a cordless drill and I don’t think that “make me a jewellery hanging board thing” was going to cut it with Fraser. I contemplated stick-on hooks but ideas like that don’t last long, even for me.

And then today I was driving past Bunnings and my meeting was cancelled and circumstances conspired so that I was in the left lane at the time so I could just pull in to the carpark and I thought oh well why not see if they have something you could use? And I saw a sheet of pegboard and had a moment of OMGTHATISAWESOME and then a moment of WHOA THAT IS BIG. But there was a guy there with a big saw and before you could say PLEASECANYOUCUTTHISPEGBOARDFORME (or at least not long after), I had not one but THREE pieces of pegboard, all smaller than the first. And some hooks.

And as I drove home, I found myself thinking of my nanna, who died when I was seven and of whom I have not very many memories really. She was my mother’s mother and was not in the best of health, but I used to go and stay with her sometimes and I thought her house was wonderful because she had an old 1950s-style caravan out the back (we never got to play in it) and a piano and this amazing dark green hairy scratchy lounge suite. And a teeny-tiny wood fire, and plates with PINK FLOWERS which I loved desperately and which my aunt and uncle used for years (I think they disappeared years ago, although maybe I should ask whether there is a plate left that I could have in remembrance – they looked a lot like this plate, at least in my memory, although they were definitely not Limoges).  And a toilet with blue water, and a laundry and drying room that was out the back of the house and you had to go outside to reach it. And a milk bar up the road which she would take me to and we would buy twenty cents of mixed lollies. These days, that wouldn’t buy you a jelly snake. And a blue tongue lizard that lived outside the kitchen and terrified me one day because I thought it was a snake.

And when I got home, I realised that it was the PEG BOARD that made me think of Nanna, because she had some in her kitchen (I think a wall, or maybe just above a bench) which she used to hang her soup ladles on. And if I close my eyes I can still see her kitchen, and her chairs with stripy red and white floral fabric – and I could tell you which cupboards she kept the plates in.

And I’m going to experiment with spray painting my spare peg boards with high gloss paint and think about maybe incorporating peg board into my plans for my kitchen. If it was good enough for Nanna, it should be good enough for me.


Posted by on April 19, 2012 in family, grand plans, house


BGGcon wrap-up

Well my week and a bit as a lone parent is nearly up. As Fraser and his assorted hats and very full suitcases wing their way home, let’s take a quick look back.

The most challenging part was dealing with Otto, who is not the most self-motivated of children and who needs to be nagged to do anything. Case in point: I don’t think she has showered more than once in the last 10 days. Now I am not a “you must shower every day” person (well, I am, but not where my 8 year old is concerned), but that it stretching it a bit far even for me. I did hit unexpected success with a bribe on Sunday, though.

The best bits were the fun stuff like sneaking off to Cold Rock ice cream (Baileys and Honeycomb ice cream with cookie dough and a strawberry Freddo crushed through it = amazing) and taking the girls out to dinner tonight.

The naughtiest bits were letting the cats cruise around the house overnight. Which was not always a success, as Snowflake gets VERY chatty at around 4:30am. One more night, kitten, then Fraser will put you in your place. Which is shut up the back of the house (living room, dining room, kitchen, bathroom – it’s not like they are really deprived).

The most unexpected-but-nice thing was having a friend drop in on Friday afternoon. Even though I was clearing stuff up while we chatted, it was good to have someone to talk to (and keep me working!).

The ickiest bits were having to clean out the kitty litter Every Day. Ugh. And having to detangle Otto’s hair after the aforementioned 10 shower-free days. She is not a calm child when her hair is being deknotted. Oh – and changing my nephew’s nappy when I babysat him and my niece on Saturday night.

The most difficult bit was carrying Otto to the car, after that babysitting session. I had to get my brother to help – fortunately she was awake when we got home so I didn’t have to break my back.

The most exhausting part was juggling my work. I am available to work 23 hours per week. Last week, I worked nearly 40. This week, by 9am Tuesday, I had already worked 15 hours. And was feeling like I was already behind.

The funniest part was the Bigster having friends over to film a brief movie for her English project. Otto had a friend round too, and the two little girls sat at the back door and watched the big kids. “It’s like we’re watching a movie be filmed!”

And the scariest part was finding that the handle is almost off the back door.


The doorknob is almost off

Now for most people, this would probably not be a problem. I really don’t think that someone has tried to break in, however suddenly this seems to have happened. But I am an absolute coward when it comes to being home alone (in fairness, this came after being a victim of a rather persistent peeping tom in my teens and a burglary while I was home alone not long after), and the combination of that and waaaaayyyyyyy too much diet coke while working late meant that very little sleep was got on Sunday. Even though I locked the doors, I kept hearing Noises. Not-Cat noises. Ugh.

And the most procrastinatey part was writing a blog post when OMG I HAVE WORK TO FINISH TONIGHT.

Leave a comment

Posted by on November 22, 2011 in family, food, not your earth logic, work


BGGcon Day 5 – In Which Melissa is Very Domestic.

Well we have reached Day 5 now without serious calamity. The closest we came was my nearly forgetting to put the bins out. And oops – just realised I have thoroughly forgotten to bring them in again.

Otto made her own school lunch today which was potentially interesting but actually turned out to be very simple – a “turkey, ham and cheese” sandwich (which turned out to be a “turkey ham” ie sliced turkey breast “and cheese” ie and cheese) sandwich, some leftover pasta and an apple.

I finally gave up on our router (turns out that where I have been blaming an unspecified neighbour’s completely hypothetical porn habit I should perhaps have been blaming our rather old router which I think predates the aforementioned turkey ham eater) and bought a new one. I did lots of research, pinned down a model (and price) that I thought would do the trick, and rang the nearest shop. “Is that the white one?” they asked.

Yes. It has lots of fancy stuff, but what is important is its colour. Who knew that my router was really an iPhone?

I hung out with a friend this afternoon, did some housework while we chatted, then picked Otto up from school and headed for the local ice cream shop. This was a good plan today, totally justified by 35 degree heat, but I lose a bit of face when I confess that we go nearly every week regardless of the weather. Wore a new top which I thought was not very me but which both my kids liked. Girl stuff. Also went to a local cafe where my juice was Just Not Cold Enough. Seriously considering moving some of our glasses into the fridge to help on days like this.

More girl stuff: Realised that I was seriously considering buying a curling iron. To use after I use my hair straightener. When I put it that way, I decided to hold off for a while.

Bigster had friends over after school to make a film about Alice in Wonderland, for their English assignment. We got back to find one of the boys in a red satin frock with facepaint. Why do I have scruples about posting pictures of other people’s children on the internet? Grrrr! Then I made pizza and thought about making ice cream. It didn’t happen.

Otto’s friend and her mum (my friend) came over after ice cream bar. Otto and friend watched German cartoons and then a movie (well, the start of it). But first, they watched the big kids – “it’s like we are watching a MOVIE be made!”. We mums chatted. Facebook tells us we know someone in common. World, small, etc.

And then YouTube made me happy.

All in all, a good day.


Posted by on November 18, 2011 in children, family


BGGcon Day 3

Despite what the title suggests, I am not actually AT the Boardgamegeek Boardgaming Convention in Dallas. My husband, however, is – so this is now Day 3 of my temporary Gaming Widowhood.

And we are having fun, my girls, the kittens, and me. We had at-home Parma night last night (tonight I’m thinking about doing half-price Margaritas). Bigster’s inviting the boys around after school while mum and Otto go for ice cream. This morning, I gave her $10 instead of a packed lunch (fortunately, her school does have a canteen so it’s not quite as bad a deal as it sounds). Otto’s taught me to cut mangoes the way daddy does, and it’s just vaguely possible that the cats haven’t always been shut down the back of the house overnight. Eclipse likes to sleep in the bathroom anyway, but Snowflake spent the night on my bed and was still asleep when I woke this morning. I’ve finished the dishwasher tablets that Fraser hates (despite temptation to save them for when he gets back) and even have the kids doing some housework. If “housework” means “unloading the dishwasher and setting the table”. Bigster wants to OMGTIDYTHEHOUSE before the boys come over. Feel free, kiddo.

Stalking Fraser is significantly easier now that he has free Internet access at the BGGcon hotel and my iPad to keep him company. If we’d known the WiFi would be free, he could have taken his own instead of reading all my secrets. Meanwhile, Otto has somehow (and I really, REALLY haven’t paid her at all to say this) decided that it is NOT FAIR that daddy gets to go away and I should go next time. I don’t think it’s because I am OMGSOMEAN always, either. (Note: In fact, the only reason that Fraser is there this year and I am not is that I was stupid. I saw the very cheap flights and spent several days persuading him to go again – without it occurring to me, until after I had booked, that I could have gone instead. D’oh!)

Poor Fraser has in fact been sent off with a brief games wishlist (we’ll see whether anything appears) as well as a copy of my BGG wishlist (which is somewhat longer). He’s nervous that he won’t have space for anything in his luggage, but I figure he has two suitcases with him (one empty) so really one of them should just be filled with STUFF FOR ME. We’ll see how that works out. I have, however, succumbed to one tempation: I ordered a Kindle, to be shipped to his hotel. And some LEGO for Christmas. I wanted to get some clothes for Otto, too, but I think that would be that one step too far.

Which is dumb, right – it’s not like they would be dirty, so he could use them to stuff all my game boxes to stop them getting squashed.


Posted by on November 16, 2011 in family, games



Decision-making in my family

it's all about the kittens. And how Otto and I have no impulse control

I think this is accurate.

1 Comment

Posted by on November 16, 2010 in children, family, flowcharts, pets