Category Archives: parenting

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


Parent-teacher night

Last Thursday I was chatting on Twitter with the Bigster’s French teacher. She was preparing for the first parent-teacher night of the year by watching Die Antwoord videos on YouTube and eating peanut butter with a spoon. I suggested that some parents *coughnotmeofcoursecough* prepare by drinking go-go juice & red cordial and eating jelly snakes, and she challenged me to a Montage of getting-ready-for-parent-teacher-night-shots.

Now, she was preparing on Thursday for the A to L interviews, but as proud representatives of the second half of the alphabet our interviews will be held this coming week. That makes today Getting Ready For Parent Teacher Night Day.

Now as every parent knows, the most important part of Parent Teacher Night is that it is the teachers’ only opportunity (or first opportunity) to suss out what sort of family the children come from. My godmother used to tell a story of a child standing up for show and tell to announce that “Daddy got a new car in the middle of the night last night and he was up all night repainting it in the garage”. Also there was the time that the Bigster accidentally told her Prep teacher that I was a necrophiliac. Don’t want a repeat of that happening. You have to make the Right Impression (whatever that may be – but it usually has nothing to do with sex and dead people).

Also you occasionally have to be just a little bit scary when appropriate. Which is rarely in my experience (the teachers are MUCH more scary than I am).

Melissa ponders what to do about Parent-Teacher night

Pondering what to do about Parent-Teacher night. And how to look scary.

So. What did I need to do to get ready? It was time to Make a List.

Clothes maketh the man (or woman). I turned to my friend, Google Images, for advice.

Can't describe it. Just think inappropriate.

It's polite to make an effort right? But I'm not sure this is the right kind of effort. Image source:

Blue 1980s power suit

Based on this image, I'm guessing that it should be Fraser not me who means business in the 1980s power suit. Image source:

When Google Images let me down I turned to themed clothing. Surely she’d do well in history if the teachers knew her family were All About Their Subject?

Melissa wearing an Egyptian headdress

The King Tut exhibition shop has quite a lot to answer for.

There was also going to be a photo here of me holding a baguette but you will just have to imagine it.

Then I realised I was going to be coming pretty much straight from work as was Fraser. Scratch the clothes idea. I’ll win if I am reasonably clean, not too smelly, and not wearing the day’s lunch.

OMG! My whole approach had to change!

Where to from here?

Here's what I had to do

Here's what I had to do

It was time to get practical. I needed a rethink.


Posted by on April 22, 2012 in children, parenting, school


Memo to self: Homework is for children, not for parents!

I helped Otto with her homework today.

By that, I mean that I sat there and encouraged her to write, and read questions out to her, and generally cheered her on.

And watched while she got the answers WRONG. Two of them, anyway.

And then I obsessed, because that is what I do, about what the correct etiquette is. I know that her answers are wrong, and I know why they are wrong, and I could explain that to her. But I am not sure that I would use the same language as her teachers … so in the end, I left it. Given that she’s new at the school, I think they are still assessing where she’s at, so that made this an easier decision.

I have heard several friends complain that they were up to 1 or 2am, finishing their child’s science assignment. I have helped the Bigster with layout and presentation on some of her assignments, and have suggested sometimes that she needed to write more, or do more research. But I do draw the line at actually doing the work for them.

I understand the impulse to just fix it up, though!

Fraser does chess homework with Otto, and they play the problems out on a chess board. He prompts her to look for her mistakes, and she generally does – but he wouldn’t give the answers to her. I guess that’s where we draw the line.

Meanwhile, we have some more assessment results in. Like I said earlier, she’s a full year behind in maths, but she’s already catching that up somewhat now that she has a workbook to work through. The bigger concern, to me, is her reading. Which is weird, because her reading level is apparently OK for Year 3. It’s just that it has barely progressed at all since we got back from Germany at the end of 2009. We’re working on that, too, though.


Posted by on August 7, 2011 in children, education, parenting, school


Lucky Thirteen!

The Bigster turns 13 on Saturday.

Which of course leads to lots of conversations of the “We are SO not old enough to have a thirteen year old daughter” variety.

Not this year, though. I read an article last week (yes, back at the Daily Mail … I can’t keep away) about “one of the UK’s youngest grandparents” – grandad is 29 and mum is 30.

Even allowing for a couple of years for a (relatively) late bloomer, that means that one of us (NOT ME!) could technically be a GREAT grandparent.

The horror.

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Posted by on August 5, 2011 in children, parenting


New beginnings

Here we are, half way through the year, and things are looking up. It’s been a long time since I posted anything here, because things have been hideously stressful and I really didn’t feel the need to inflict that on the whole entire internet. Or even my personal part of it.

Anyway, the worst of the stress is now officially Over. Readers of my Twitter account will know that we made the Fateful Decision in May to move Otto to a new school in the middle of the school year, rather than waiting for the end. There were lots of reasons for this but the main one was that we were starting to worry that her (old) school was failing the children so badly that she wouldn’t actually be accepted into Year 4 next year if she stayed there. There’s a whole rant about culture of mediocrity there that I am valiantly suppressing. You can take it as read, if you like. This was 90% of the reason for the move but the other two parts are more fun to talk about.

Which brings me to my next reason: I was turning into an angry, bitter person with nothing better to do than find fault. And make buzzword bingo cards to share with Fraser during school events. Like this one, of which I am secretly rather proud:

create, creative learning


















reflect, reflection

ICT / new technologies

21st century




And finally, there is a side benefit: I am no longer Involved With The School. No longer a member of School Council, no longer convening one subcommittee (Community Relations, now there’s irony!) and participating in another. I am free to help out at the new school without paying lip-service to something that I disagree with. Which of course is not exactly something I am good at.

The best thing, though, is that we can look forward to the rest of the school year. Bigster has blossomed this year as she started high school – she comes home every day with stories of the wonderful things she has done that day. That’s what we want for Otto too – and that’s what she did after her two “trial” days at the new school.

Of course, leaving her school wasn’t easy. I think it’s telling that her complaint was “Why do I have to leave in the middle of the year?” and not “Why do I have to leave at all?”. I put in a lot of work to make the transition as easy as possible. We bought gifts for her teachers (have no real issues with them, the new directions are coming from higher than them) and had a fabulous party for her friends and ours.

OK, so perhaps a Pokies venue is not the most obvious location for a child’s party. But it had an indoor playroom and great food – and we sat and chatted while the kids monstered the play equipment. A good night for all.

Since then, we’ve re-equipped her for school: New schoolbag (trolley case thing), new lunchbox and pencil case. New pencils for the pencil case. It’s all part of our transition to a new school year, so it makes sense for it to be part of our transition to a new school as well.

And we’ve taken the time to visit the old school’s website and check just one page against our Bingo card.

create, creative learning


exploration exploring

space(s) physical environment






child-centred children as participants









reflect, reflection

ICT / new technologies

21st century


conceptual reconceptualising




Posted by on July 10, 2011 in children, parenting, rant, school