Category Archives: parenting

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


Daughter the Evil?

There is a reason why my beloved regularly refers to Otto as Daughter the Evil.

Take this past weekend, for example.

Friday was Bigster’s birthday, and we had “all the family” over – at least, the Melbourne contingent. The four of us; my brother, his wife and their 2 kids; my parents; and my godmother. We got takeaway from my favourite local Lebanese place, and I cooked sausage rolls for Otto and my niece. Nephew is still restricted to rice cereal and boob juice. For someone who didn’t want to eat Lebanese, Otto sure can pack it away.

The night before Bigster’s birthday, I indulged in the usual cupcake frenzy. Double the usual cupcake frenzy, actually, as she is now in a double class of fifty six kids (with two teachers) and she wanted to take cupcakes for everyone. To tie in with her run for Prime Minister in the class mock elections, each cupcake was decorated with a little home-made flag saying “VOTE 1 BIGSTER”. Courtesy of Fraser, who stuck while I baked. I was keen to make t-shirts for her and her friends, but one the friends nearly exploded as she tried to think of a polite way to tell me that my idea was OMG SO STUPID. I almost felt sorry for her.

Given my propensity for, well, rather stupid ideas, I should not really be surprised that Otto has a few unusual inclinations.

Like the cupcakes.

See, on Friday, I got a little carried away making Caramel Cupcakes. These should in fact be called OMGCARAMEL! cupcakes, as they are … ummm … well, the word excessive springs to mind. First, you make caramel sauce. You use that instead of milk in the cupcake batter. Then, you make more caramel sauce. You whip it up with icing sugar to make yummy fluffy caramelly diabetic-coma-inducing icing. Then, you put a caramel-filled chocolate on top. Then, you make a third batch of caramel sauce, which you drizzle on top (you can save the rest to heat and pour on icecream later – yummo!).

While I was doing this, Otto decided that she wanted to bake as well. She mixed butter, golden syrup, honey, flour, caster sugar, brown sugar, smarties, eggs, hundreds & thousands and LOTS of blue food colouring together. At that stage, damage done, I suggested she needed baking powder as well. If you’re going to do something disgusting, you might as well do it properly.

Later that evening, when I went to get the birthday cupcakes and put them out to sing Happy Birthday, I overheard a “thankyou Otto, that looks very interesting” – and made it into the living room just in time to prevent her from feeding these special experiments to the family. They were unlikely to be poisonous, but I think they could have chipped a few teeth!

My mother had the grace not to tell my daughters about the khaki cake with strawberry essence that featured in my past, although she did remind me.

It was a good night.

Where Otto really excelled, though, was on Monday. Monday was a school-free day, and the girls and I were at home. I was frantically busy with work, but set myself up in the living room so that I could keep an eye on things. Not a very good one, as it transpired. I still confuse “quiet” with “nothing to see here”.

Over the course of the day, Otto managed to:

  • move the windex from where our cleaner had left it;
  • move the money we had left out for our cleaner;
  • spread her 20 poster-sized colouring sheets all over the house;
  • pack two cupcakes into a container, label it “Ready Made Cup-Cakes” and put it on her bedroom shelf
  • tie a feather boa to the clothes line
  • paint the rug on the living room floor
  • invent a new way to make paper dolls from cupcake papers – and use about 30 cupcake wrappers
  • make some more cake batter
  • artistically arrange my car keys on the Wii Fit board
  • create a playlist on her iPod Nano which plays ABBA’s “Thankyou for the music” a hundred and fifty times over.
  • use up an entire bag of hundreds and thousands.

I blame myself.

In fairness, she moved the Windex because she wanted to take it outside to clean the windows (which she did); she told us where the money was straight away; she coloured or painted several of the sheets; the cupcakes were for teachers at school; I have NFI about the boa; the rug was an accident (and just a small spot); the paper dolls look fabulous; the cake batter was creative; she fessed up to where the car keys were once she realised why I was panicking this morning; she fed the fairy bread to the family; and she really, REALLY likes ABBA.

Creativity is a good sign, right?


Posted by on August 10, 2010 in children, parenting



Otto's drawing: I love you mum

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Posted by on March 29, 2010 in be happy, children, parenting



There are days when I wonder whether this trip was a good idea … and days when I think it was probably a bad idea.

They’re usually the days when the kids didn’t get enough sleep.

Today  is the latter kind.

On top of the news that someone broke into our house over the weekend (probably nothing stolen, but we need to do some repairs and I’m not quite sure how, given that we’re on the wrong side of the world), Otto is having another of her monumental tantrums that involve screaming and shrieking at the top of her voice.

This one is because I pointed out that she had paint on her jeans and told her she had to wear her smock if she was going to do painting. She refused, so I confiscated her paints. Cue shrieks.

I would not be surprised if we were kicked out of this flat. That’s how much noise she tries to make.



Posted by on September 1, 2009 in parenting, travel



Nasty crawling things

Interrupting Bordercon because my notebook is still hiding somewhere.

We got home to discover Otto scratching her head. Yes, even though the Nits Note came home from the Bigster’s class, Otto was the one with the side effects.

Monday night was all about hair. I got the hippie stuff for Otto’s hair, which meant I had to completely cover her scalp with it, then comb her hair with the nit comb. Lots of eggs and a few nasty crawling things. Ugh. I re-did it a couple of times, then let it dry while I checked the Bigster. Didn’t find anything, but still had her wash her hair with the how-many-chemicals-can-we-fit-into-one-bottle shampoo. (She hadn’t been combing her hair over the weekend, so there was no way I was going to be able to comb it out before she washed it). I got Fraser to use the shampoo too, as I think it always makes sense to treat the entire family.

Tuesday was better.  Used the combing solution on Otto and found almost nothing. Attacked the Bigster with the (cleaned and disinfected) nit comb and found nada. Jumped in the shower with Otto and treated myself, just in case.

When I say “Better”? It still took three hours.

I am washing everything they wear on their upper bodies, as well as pillowcases and towels.

Because the prospect of scratching on the plane? Euuuuuuuuwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww.


Weirdly, I think this is the third time over 4 or 5 years that my kids have got nits around the Queens Birthday weekend. This must be the peak time or something.


Posted by on June 10, 2009 in children, health, parenting


Breaking the news …

It’s flu season in Australia.

I have Otto home from school today with a nasty sore throat and cough.

Rang the GP to find out what the “rules” are for someone with a virus/flu-like symptoms, and had a bit of a chat.

We do not even for a moment think that Otto has H1N1. She doesn’t have the right symptoms, and she hasn’t had contact with anyone that has the disease.

Regardless, I have been told to keep her home for “a few days” (they want to limit the spread of other seasonal viruses as much as possible). The Bigster is free to go about as she likes.


In 2 weeks, the Bigster is due to go on school camp. For four days. 

To quote my GP: “Just as we expect it to REALLY get going in the community”

Her advice?

“If it were my child, and I had a flight booked the next week? I would not send her on that camp.”

Biggie will be devastated.


Posted by on June 3, 2009 in children, health, parenting


You know this isn’t going anywhere

I had one of Those conversations with the Bigster.

Fraser tells me that it’s the sort of thing you can’t write about on The Internet (at least, not in any detail).

Suffice it to say … when your 10-year-old child asks what something is for, and the answer is, “birth control”?

My advice is: Lie.

Shame I didn’t think to follow it, isn’t it.

“They’re special greased trick balloons for sticking to the walls withOUT static electricity.”

“It’s a very small yarmulke. Made of plastic.”

“They’re vitamin tablets”

“It’s a Fun Cyborg Attachment, so I set off metal detectors at airports”

“It’s  a special transmitter to open the new door at work.”