Category Archives: parenting


Something awesome that has happened in the past month is that Otto has discovered cooking.

Well, more that I have had time to discover cooking with her. It’s a little bittersweet, as Bigster had just decided she wanted to learn to cook when she got sick, so now her sister is learning things that she never got the chance to learn. And that sucks for Bigster, but if we are totally honest it is really rather glorious for her little sister.

A year or two ago, I bought a slow cooker with a “sear” setting. It’s perfect for us, because you can sear things and then add all the slow-cookery things and leave it bubbling away in the background. And because I am completely paranoid about Otto using the  gas stove to cook on.

She’s a whizz at bolognese sauce. The good kind, too – she even directs Fraser when they are home together (Now I need the WHITE wine, daddy). And she’s pretty good at salads, and even spent Christmas day regaling the family with the recipe for the (very yummy) vinaigrette dressing she’d made for the potato salad.

Lately, though, she’s expanded her repertoire.

She bought a box of macaron mix and made macarons, virtually all by herself. We’re going to try them from a recipe soon. I do get frustrated that everything takes longer when she’s doing the cooking, but of course it takes less time than ever when I don’t have to stand there cooking. And you don’t nag the child with the sharp knives.

When we went to the beach after Christmas, she cooked dinner. Not once, not twice, but EVERY SINGLE NIGHT. With daddy’s help, which meant that we swapped jobs and I got to do the dishes. Without a dishwasher, boo hoo. It helps that the burger patties were really, REALLY good, so we ate them a lot – but she got right into it (and a bit bossy too).

It’s getting so I can’t use my kitchen any more. Tonight, we defrosted some chicken I’d marinated and she insisted on cooking it for me. And the rice, AND fluffing the rice with a fork, and then she told me which platter I should serve it up on.

Because my kids aren’t a bit bossy.


Posted by on January 18, 2014 in food, parenting



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


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


When I rule the world: Medical tests.

1. When tests are done, the person tested will be given an accurate estimate of what day the results will be available.

2. When results are ready, the medical institution providing said results will call the preferred contact number to pass them on.

3. If that doesn’t work, it would be nice if they called the other contact number too.

4. If it is a Friday and they are going to be closed for the weekend, it would not be inappropriate to consider trying again later. Especially when they have failed at point 2.

5. When a patient then calls on Monday morning at 8:40, they will not have to call back at 10:20 and have a hissy fit before getting results.

In other news, my hissy fit has paid off. I had a phone call less than 15 minutes later. And the results are CLEAR (although still indeterminate).

Which is still beyond awesome.

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Posted by on June 25, 2012 in health, parenting, rant


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


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


Decisions – a retrospective

2011 was a big year for us – more specifically, it was a big year for our daughters.

For the Bigster 2011 was the start of high school – a move to a very academic environment with some very formal structure. She had homework and she had assessment – she had work that was due and she was expected to do it. We were confident that she could do it but we expected that there might be a bit of a shock getting started. And we were right both times although the shock was much less than we thought.

For Otto, 2011 brought more upheaval – with a change of schools halfway through the year. The new school is smaller and infinitely more challenging and stimulating – and much more in keeping with our philosophy of education and with our values. There were some hairy moments – and lots of new experiences (like having a desk to sit at; having spelling words and textbooks; being expected to DO work; being assessed on how well you did the work) but she has really risen to the challenge. She’s made some wonderful new friends and has come out of her shell in a way that we didn’t expect so soon.

She reached a big milestone last week. While her last report from the old school put her six months ahead in maths, her new school assessed that she was 12-18 months behind the other kids. While they were working on book 3B, she was given 2A and a challenge: Catch up.

And she has. She’s now on book 4A with the other grade 4 children, and 2 weeks ago she was only 20 pages behind them. Her teacher has now decided to move her up to where the other kids are – getting her to keep working on those ‘missing’ 20 pages as homework, as required.

(Because I am far too honest, I will admit that getting that homework done has not been an unmitigated delight. There have been days when we have sat for six to eight hours, coaxing her to keep going and just do the next question, while tears were shed – and not just by her. But lately we’re also seeing her initiating her homework and taking more of the initiative about getting it done. Sometimes, at least.)

In her after-school drama class, she took on the role of the narrator for the play last term – successfully learning 40+ lines in her second language and performing them fluently for the rest of the school. Through her involvement in the choir, she has sung solos to groups of 200+ people. This week, she’s off on her first sleepover camp.

Self esteem? Sky high.

For us the move was good too. It’s not just Otto who has made new friends. We’ve settled in to a wonderful parent and school community: as this post goes live, I’m at a meeting talking about some fantastic events that are coming up at school. There’s a framework for parent involvement and a culture that supports and welcomes parent-teacher partnerships. I’ve lost the stress and parent-guilt that I felt every day – and Fraser and I have moved on from the daily bitterness and anger that we felt at the wasted opportunities and culture of mediocrity. Those experiences have become an artefact of our family’s history rather than an everyday obstacle.

Don’t get me wrong. We’re bitter and angry that we HAD those experiences, but they are in our past now.

Funnily enough though, this post was inspired by a hangover from that past. I recently noticed that someone from the old school has been stalking me online. But this time I rolled my eyes and ignored it, because it’s not my problem anymore.

OK, I had this little rant too. But that’s what I do.

There is much that I don’t love about my life. And much that I struggle with every day. Especially making Fraser and the kids do what I want negotiating family compromises.

But both schools are a joy.


Posted by on May 9, 2012 in parenting, rant, school


One of these things is not like the other one.

For those who do not follow my every word on Twitter: I have news. Not great news either.

After she’d been sick (lethargic and achy and generally blah) for a week, I took the Bigster to our family doctor yesterday.

I have two words for you: Glandular Fever. Or, for those in the US, I have one. Mono. Suspected, at least. She had blood tests done yesterday.

And this is where Fraser’s and my reactions diverge.

Because this was my reaction:

  • OMG
  • Glandular Fever!
  • Kissing jokes!
  • OMG!
  • Crap.
  • Who do I need to notify?
  • When will we get blood test results? Will they even tell us anything?
  • Is she contagious? (NO)
  • Need to think about work schedules if she does have it. Can’t just leave her home all the time.
  • Ring school to notify that she won’t be back until AT LEAST the end of next week.
  • Tweet to notify THE WORLD.
  • Ring Fraser to tell him.
  • Think of some more kissing jokes. Explain why she is going to have to get used to them EVEN THOUGH THEY ARE VILE AND DISGUSTING AND OMG MUM SO INAPPROPRIATE.
  • Look up Glandular Fever on Better Health Channel. It’s fairly benign. Give it to her to read.
  • Go to school so she can pick up the textbooks from her locker.
  • Go to Kmart so she can buy some books even though she can’t concentrate to read them.
  • Go to Safeway and tell her to pick ANYTHING ANYTHING SHE LIKES to eat. She chooses, among other things, chocolate-coated popping candy. I buy it.
  • Text work to warn them that I might be around less in the next weeks and certainly next week.
  • Get her to ring my mum. Listen to her trying to reassure her grandmother.

And here is Fraser’s:

  • Agree to work from home one day next week.
  • We shouldn’t talk about anything beyond that because we don’t have final results.

There is a balance there somewhere.

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Posted by on May 5, 2012 in children, health, parenting


Parent-Teacher night wrapup

In no particular order:

  • The later you are there, the messier it gets. Everyone was running early at 5:30.
  • Teachers really do say different things to different people.
  • I was owned by a Geography teacher. She took us through Bigster’s progress and the syllabus in under two minutes then thanked us for coming and sat back. We trotted off meekly.
  • Lots of teachers already angling for Year 10 and VCE students. We only had one last year but this year there were several.
  • Fraser can do awesome Cousin It impersonations. I need to get a photo before he cuts his hair.
  • Lots of people don’t take their kid. This might be an interesting thing to try although I think we might have missed our chance. Next PT night will have some serious subject choice overtones.
  • Otto took Shapes rather than crackers and probably ate the whole bag.
  • We took jelly snakes for that special buzz. Otto ate half a bag or so while we spoke with the Health & Sport teacher. Timing is everything.
  • Teachers think Bigster is well-organised. Either my fears are wrong or she fakes it better than most. Probably a bit of both.
  • When you let the 9 year old have the timetable and room plan, you should make sure that she understands she should wait for the rest of the family before running down a flight of stairs and disappearing.

And I forgot to use the “surprising” question. I feel such a fool.


Posted by on April 24, 2012 in children, parenting, school


Parent-teacher night: The re-think

Having accepted in advance that I wasn’t going to have much luck Impressing Teachers, I did some serious practical planning. Which is usually my forte. We would have around an hour and a half to see twelve teachers – one of whom does not even TEACH the Bigster (long story).

No need for calculations – we get five minutes with each teacher. The hour and a half might be an understatement.

Five fingers five minutes

FIVE. This is how many minutes we have to talk about our kid. Twelve times.

There are lots of guidelines for parent-teacher interviews on the Internet. Like this one which suggests that we ask “Are there things he does that surprise you?”. I think I’ll add that to my repertoire. It may be surprising for the teachers, given that my child is not a he at all.

Other sites suggest that you pre-prepare notes on what you want to ask and take a notebook to record answers. Is it just me or is that a little confrontational? Perhaps I should borrow a digital voice recorder from work and fiddle with it all through the interviews? “This parent-teacher meeting may be recorded for quality assurance purposes. Anything you say can and will be used against you.” At least it would let me distract the teachers so Fraser can do something useful and perve at their mark books.


Anyway. Here’s what we are taking in the Bag Of Tricks:

School work. We made the Bigster bring ALL HER WORKBOOKS to last year’s parent teacher night. And we carried her interim reports too, so we could refer to them if we needed. Actually this was not a stupid idea. Doing it again. She hates it. A win for us.

Timetable. We have the most amazing interview timetable. It’s created using this automatic online tool where you say which teachers you want to meet (um all of them?) and then what time you want to arrive and then get this incredibly complicated timetable that has you trotting from level 1 to level 3 with 5 minutes between interviews. With a fractured rib (have I mentioned that lately?). So you arrive panting and red-faced and terrified that OMG I HAVE MISSED MY SPOT and then you try to suss out whether the other people in the room are waiting for YOUR teacher and who got there first and whose turn is it really and you really don’t want to look like you’re listening in on other interviews but OMG that poor teacher and those poor parents and that poor kid and yeeeesh. And then you work on the relaxed-but-responsible face and worry that you’ve ended up at smug and then just look stressed and frazzled which is OK because most of the other parents are wearing that face too (the others stopped at smug).

Anyway. Timetable. I have it on my iPhone. That way I can pretend that it is something we will follow. I also have a printout. Or I will if the work printer is working tomorrow.

Map. This is useful. If you are completely defective in the navigation department that is. There are three levels in the school building. Rooms that start with “1” are on the ground floor. Rooms that start with “2” are on the middle floor. And rooms that start with “3” – you got it – are on the top floor. And there are little flags that stick out with room numbers on them. The timetable allegedly gives room numbers but it is not always exactly perfect. So there are lists stuck to the walls which show teacher names and their rooms. WHY IS THIS SYSTEM SO HARD FOR PEOPLE TO UNDERSTAND?

Of course, having written that, I will surely get hopelessly lost or confused. Except that I have my kid with me and she goes to that school so probably knows where the rooms are.

Little sister. It’s all about the student. So you should only have them with them. Not have a little sister trotting along behind. Except when you are already paying a babysitter one night that week and your family have other commitments and she’s really too young and sporadically evil to be left at home alone. Amazing how one child who hates to speak to adults suddenly LOVES it when they are her sister’s teachers. Because heaven forbid that they not NOTICE HER!!! Oops. Better pack a bag with activities for her. Also earbuds.

Dr Who encyclopedia iPad app

Dr Who encyclopedia. Should be good for the first hour at least. Image source

Food. Given the aforementioned Little Sister especially. We’ll be out through a meal time and my kids never seem to eat their lunches anyway. We might stop for dinner on the way home (I frame it as a reward for the Bigster but actually it’s about me being TOTALLY AND COMPLETELY KNACKERED) but in the meantime it’s good to have something nutritious and healthy that they can snack on between interviews. If you have time to prepare it – which I don’t. A bag of rice crackers and half a dozen cans of diet coke it is. And a fairy bread chaser if Otto behaves.

Meanwhile it’s back to the Internet for some last-minute tips. has an excellent guide to interpreting what the teacher is saying. My personal favourite: “I would like to see Omaha do more reading at home : It’s about time you did a bit of parenting.” (ouch).

And I wonder whether I should pass on this site with recommendations for schools. They suggest that the school should “Consider offering soft music and sweets as well as tea and coffee.”. Personally I am quite keen on the idea of sugar and caffeine-fuelled meditation sessions. Also beer.

As long as we remember the jelly snakes, we’re good.


Posted by on April 23, 2012 in children, parenting, school