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Four things not to say to new parents

Saturday February 17th, 2018 in Parenting | No Comments »

I’ve written before about what not to do when visiting new parents. But sometimes saying things is a kind of doing too. So, here’s what not to say to a new parent.

1. What’s that smell?

I don’t know. Pick an orifice, they’ve all got problems. Surveys show that 90% of new parents, like me, have no idea where the smell is coming from. Stop asking.

2. I’ve read Ulysses by James Joyce.

Have you? Have you really? So have I. Shut-up. I’m only interested in discussing Ulysses with people who haven’t read it so that I win. New parents are exactly the same. (Note this also applies to Infinite Jest.)

3. There’s no point addressing climate change because of China.

New parents might be tired, but they haven’t lost all sense. Stop your nonsense.

4. I was upgraded to business class!

The fat ratses I give about this are zero. I have sat in plenty of seats with legroom. It’s called a couch.  There was free alcohol! You also get that at twenty-firsts. They gave you a hot towel!? I spend all day handing warm flannels to children – they manage their excitement better than you.

Basically, I’m not interested in a  tick-tock of how your business class grade upgrade happened. I’m sure new parents  also hate this.

In summary, there are a myriad of ways to be insensitive and annoy people, and by people, I mean me. Stoppit.

Sorry you’ve been living your life wrong, according to Enid Blyton

Tuesday August 29th, 2017 in Enid Blyton, Parenting | No Comments »

Old fashion blue upholstered wing chair with red wings drawn onto legs.

Enid Blyton lived before the age of the blog, internet article or listicle. She wrote narrative fiction for children with paragraphs and no headings, except for chapters. Who has the attention span for that? Not me really, but I’ve come up with some article ideas to impart Blyton’s wisdom in a more accessible modern form.

1. The 5 best foods for a midnight feast 

They are all sausages.

2. Should you be elfing you children? 

There’s a new parenting trend of allowing mythical forest folk to care for children for up to twelve hours each day. Experts quoted in the article are divided but strident on the subject.

3. Why I won’t elf my children

In a follow up personal piece a mother details how her mothers group nearly shamed her into elfing her children. She’s glad she didn’t, because her friend’s fairy-carer turned out to be a real estate agent with no access to the magical realm.

4. Do you know the signs of a toxic friendship?

Is your friend different to you in any way? If so, don’t put up with it. Hit them with a hockey stick until they fit in.

5. These life hacks will change the way you fly your furniture forever

Who knew you were supposed to land the back two legs first! But it makes so much sense now! Share!

6. The 10 worst things about travel and why I won’t stop

Everyone wants to go on adventures and then complain when they get there. This article will validate that instinct.

My hobbies

Monday August 7th, 2017 in Parenting | No Comments »

Floral colouring in with words Wees, Poos, Bum

I’m very busy and important, but that doesn’t mean I don’t make time for hobbies. Here are some of my faves.

1. Sticky taping the flaps back onto lift the flap books

I often delay delving into this hobby, but once I start it’s very satisfying. There are usually a number of flaps scattered around my house. I have to guard these against people who want to put them in the bin even though they are obviously part of an ongoing book restoration project. Once or twice a year I gather up all the flaps and stick them back in their original books. It’s very satisfying and Where’s Spot? makes a lot more sense.

2. Looking in the couch

I take off all the couch cushions and partially unfold the sofa bed. This allows me to more evenly scatter crumbs across the room and find lost items such as pencils, puzzle pieces and bits of Lego. If I find a flap I will put it on a surface to be dealt with when I dip back into hobby No 1.

3. Visiting The Age website and hating myself

I often wonder what’s going on in the world and visit The Age website. Once I’m there I read about parenting trends and celebrities. This happens several times a day.

4. Allowing the furniture to be repainted

I enthusiastically start craft projects with my children, but unfortunately we rarely share a vision. I often think of this French and Saunders sketch when I find myself trying to micro-manage the creative expression of preschoolers. I generally end up ignoring the children while I concentrate on my own project. This leads to a bit of mess and ingestion of craft materials. But paint either washes off or eventually rubs off with the dead skin. It is also quickly excreted when taken internally, I tell myself.

In conclusion, even if you are absolutely flat-chat there are ways to incorporate your hobbies and me-time into your routine. You just need to be creative, flexible and have very low standards.

Five things to avoid when visiting new parents

Sunday June 25th, 2017 in Parenting | No Comments »

Val and Leo











1. Poo on the carpet

Yes, their carpet will almost certainly be pooed on in the next two years, but that doesn’t mean you should be an early adopter. The last thing new parents want to do in their sleep-deprived state is to dab at your excrement with a sponge until they decide to pretend that it’s clean. If you must do a poo while visiting, use the toilet for once.

2. Set anything on fire

Most modern houses have working smoke detectors because of the law. Even a small bonfire in the lounge room can set these contraptions off and they make an infernal noise. If this wakes the baby the parents will be cross and won’t appreciate the effort you made bringing marshmallows to toast and kindling.

3. Bring the gift of a puppy

It’s political correctness gone mad, but people these days want to choose their own pets and when they get them. I know from personal experience that a puppy presented to the new parents of triplets is not always met with the grateful squeals you would expect. Remember, these people have read many, many articles about how parenting is the hardest job in the world, and they actually believe they’re too busy for a golden retriever.

4. Begin major structural renovations

I know this sounds weird, because they say you should help. However, unless you can stay to see the job through, it’s probably best not to rip up floor-boards or dismantle the portico on your own initiative. Someone will eventually make you a cup of tea, and then you’ll have to stop with the job half done and who knows when they’ll get around to finishing it.

5. Remove any parts of the baby

It can be tempting as well as useful for spells and cooking, but this is not the time for souveniring. Think of it like visiting a national park – what grows on the baby, stays on the baby.

Articles you should never write

Friday December 16th, 2016 in Parenting, School, Writing | No Comments »


(Image is of an older man in 1870 with a bald head and long hair at the back.)

I am not the boss of you. Never-the-less here follows a list of things you shouldn’t be writing about and publicising on the internet. You might wonder why I don’t simply avoid articles I dislike, but these fingers were made for clicking. I can’t stop myself, so I will try to stop other people.

Telling other people what to wear

It is helpful to have someone on the internet defining ‘business casual’ and ‘formal attire below the knee only’ but these articles should be a guide to common practise, and not be written in a prescriptive tone.

If you see someone wearing yoga pants, shorts to a wedding, or a hat that doesn’t suit the shape of their face, keep that thought in your shallow shameful little head. Let people wear what they want, it doesn’t affect you. Definitely DO NOT take to your laptop and write a little think piece about it.

Although I guess there’s some stuff about cultural appropriation and exploitation relating to clothes that might be important to write about. In those cases, you do you.

Telling other people what to do with their hair

When I was in Year 8 I told my friend’s boyfriend that he couldn’t sit with us unless he cut his hair (he had a long ponytail and was getting teased a lot). He didn’t. He kept sitting with us because luckily I have no power.

Now that I’m 37 instead of 14 I have stopped telling other people what to do with their hair. High five for me. Am I going to get some kind of award? No? That’s just called being reasonable. Shame.

At times I have taken my commitment not to interfere with other people’s hair too far. Once, in a bar my friend’s hair literally caught on fire after he leaned back into a tee-light candle. I waited for him to signal that he was unhappy with having a burning halo before I offered to smother it. Some may argue this was bordering on callous but I still think that unless someone has specifically and directly asked you for help with their hair, do not give it to them verbally, in writing or by implementing emergency procedures.

In particular, do not write articles about how men who have a comb-over or a pony tail or a mullet make you be sick in your mouth. I know that women have copped this kind of thing a lot longer and worse than men, but hows about we let men keep the vote as well? Jeez I’m broadminded today.

Telling people 183 things they shouldn’t say to someone who…

Some of these articles are useful. Some people console grieving parents by telling them there’s a reason for everything, and these people need to be told to stoppit as quickly and often as necessary.

I have learned many good communication tips from ‘100 things not to say’ articles. However, some writers go to far in my opinion, and as a result I’m left floundering when I meet someone who has a cold. Should I ask how they’re feeling? (No, they’ll either have to lie or be negative.) Should I mention their copious mucous? (No, you should allow them to bring this up IF they want to.) Should I say ‘Hope you feel better soon!’ (No, it doesn’t matter if they feel better soon, the point is they feel shit now.)

The only thing I’m left with is patting them on the head, which is actually one of the things that you are definitely actually really not supposed to EVER do to someone over the age of five (seriously, don’t do this).

Telling modern parents they’re responsible for the terrible state of children these days

These articles contain some combination of the following insights:

  • Screens rot the brain and you should smash them all as soon as you finish reading this article.
  • Childcare does something. We’re not sure what but you’re being very selfish.
  • The kids aren’t learning phonetics and the bridges will all fall down.
  • We need to bring back bitumen and burn the tanbark because hot feet and an acquired brain injury help kids learn.
  • Buy the author’s book or your child will murder you in your sleep and it will be all your fault.

I’ve read it all before, but I’ll read it all before the week is out.

‘Stop reading them Penny’ you say. Next you’ll be suggesting I don’t click on Where Are They Now articles. As if.

Questions for Barbie

Friday December 2nd, 2016 in Parenting | No Comments »


(Picture shows the first Barbie wearing a black and white striped swimsuit with white sunglasses on her head.)

This week a child showed me her Barbie doll. Quick as a flash I said, ‘That’s nice. What job does she do?’ Child looked confused but eventually agreed Barbie is an engineer. The child then wandered off presumably to play a game of Suspension Bridge.

I felt triumphant to have used this simple interaction as an opportunity to spread my radical feminist agenda. With that in mind I have prepared this list of questions to ask about Barbie.

So, Barbie?

What job does Barbie do?

What kind of super fund does Barbie have?

Does Barbie have any good tips on how to successfully ask for a pay rise?

What sport does Barbie play?

Which AFL team does Barbie play for?

What’s Barbie’s favourite science?

What’s Barbie’s favourite physics sub-field? (If Barbie says string theory, gently suggest there are better options, but don’t be strident about this.)

What is Barbie reading at the moment?

What book does Barbie think should win the Stella Prize this year? (If Barbie thinks there shouldn’t be women only prizes for literature, this is a good time to get strident.)


(This next one’s genius. Hold on to all hats.)

Have you ever met anyone who has legs as long as Barbie’s, a waist that small and boobs that go out that far? No? That’s okay Barbie. It’s good to be DIFFERENT.



Sunday October 2nd, 2016 in Audio books, Comedy, Parenting, Podcasts | No Comments »


The rise in the popularity of podcasts has been an absolute boon for me. I have listened to audio books since a tot, but podcasts have added an embarrassment of riches to my audio options.

Here are the podcasts that I regularly listen to and what they bring to my life.

1. My absolute favourite podcast dares not speak its name on this blog. However it is extremely popular so if you google “My Dad Wrote a” all will be revelled. I have become evangelical about this podcast and regularly and annoyingly proselytise to friends about why they should listen if they want to have happy and fulfilled lives.

2. Chat 10 Looks 3

Annabel Crabb and Leigh Sales put their dazzling friendship on display while chatting about politics, films, books, art and cooking. They jam recording in around midwinter balls, television appearances and apparently cooking more biscuits than seems feasible. Crabb and Sales’ all-round competence in their hectic lives and brilliant careers is almost annoying, but they have enough self-depreciation and awareness to stop my smugdar from raising the alert and making my arms throw things. They also recommend a lot of good stuff and have a list of links to follow up on.

3. Neighbuzz

Bit of disclosure – I am sometimes on this podcast but far more often I am just listening and laughing. Hosted by my good friend, Vaya Pashos, Neighbuzz brought me back into the Neighbours fold after years in the wilderness. Before Neighbuzz was invented I hadn’t watched Neighbours since Karl and Susan were having marriage troubles! (Sorry, that doesn’t really pin the timeframe down.) I enjoy listening to Neighbuzz even when I don’t watch the show because it’s funny.

4. Bodgy Creek Football Club Podcast

Damian Callinan performs all the roles on this very clever and very funny podcast. The only problem for me is that you do actually have to listen to it. I often consume podcasts while pretty actively involved in housework and letting my children develop independence by unsuccessfully trying to ignore them. Bodgy Creek does not work for that. You can’t appreciate it properly while having a conversation about making playdough, which we don’t need to do because we made playdough last week and it is in the fridge and we’re not making any more. So Bodgy Creek is a treat podcast for me when I have time to concentrate.

5. American election

I have been checking out some podcasts about the US election, however, often I become just too terrified by the whole thing and disengage. Then I go back to my number one podcast at the top of this list. You should listen to it. Really, you should. It will make you happy even if the world as we know it is going to end. We have a rogue comma. Just try and forget about it.

PS: Obviously, I don’t listen to the first podcast mentioned in front of the children either.


Sunday July 24th, 2016 in Parenting | No Comments »

DSCF1863 (Large)

I borrowed a book from the library called ‘Naturally Fun Parties for kids’. It is about, ‘Creating handmade, earth-friendly celebrations for all seasons and occasions’.

It’s no surprise that I found this book to be ridiculous. However, I was slightly surprised that it is actually less politically correct than I would like.

So I’ve fixed some of their kids party themes to make them more appropriate.

Natural Spa Party

I don’t really care if the grapefruit sugar scrub is made from natural, organic ingredients; 8-year-olds should have something better to do than lounge around being ‘pampered’. This is the kind of thing adults resort to when we’ve realised that life is not one long adventure, we’re never going to the Olympics, and we’d rather lie down and try to forget.

So my suggestion is to have a Factual Spa Party where the children learn about the geological causes of natural hot springs in a classroom setting with a test at the end. Actually, that is just going to school rather than a party, but I still think it would be more fun for kids.

Gratitude Party

The idea here is to ‘spend the afternoon honouring a friend’s birthday and engaging in a gratitude treasure hunt’. The birthday girl/boy makes a list of things they are grateful to and hide treasures representing each of these things.

It’s all a bit smug.

Instead, I suggest holding a Guilt Hunt. The lucky birthday girl/boy makes a list of things they feel guilty about and you hide detritus representing their angst for the other children to find and be disappointed in. For example, climate change could be represented by a decapitated polar bear toy. Crop Failure could be represented by a chewed banana lolly with no food value. Your divorce could be represented by two dead sticks.

Wild Girls Tepee Party

This is a great idea for a party theme if you want to engage in cultural appropriation while reinforcing gender stereotypes.

Assuming that you don’t want to do that, I suggest holding a Dress Up as Your Parents Party. Games to play include Small Talk, Cracking the Shits and Pretending You Haven’t, and Alternating Between Sweet and Savoury Foods Until You Feel Sick.

Yes. I should write a book about this.

Baby-Sitters Club as Parents SUPER SPECIALS

Monday July 18th, 2016 in Baby-Sitters Club, Parenting | No Comments »

The Baby Parents Club

Super Special

The Baby-Sitters Club were really at their best when they were on holidays, particularly when it was a Super Special. The books were fatter, the covers were white, and everybody got a say.

Their experiences were very different from my summer holidays as a kid. It was like glimpsing a different and slightly anxiety provoking world. They called it a ‘vacation’, kissed boys, and sun baked without getting a lecture on skin cancer.

This is how I imagine their group holidays might be now that they’re parents.

Baby-sitters on Board!

Kristy organises a Caribbean cruise for all the ex-BSC members and their families. No-one except for Kristy and Mary Anne can afford it. Rather than admit this to Kristy they all pretend to have scheduled surgery. Kristy sends lots of postcards telling them about the fun they’re missing. Mary Anne writes a postcard to her husband that she will never send. Little Logan splashes in the pool and she thinks of what might have been. Kristy’s son harpoons a dolphin.

Baby-sitters’ Summer Vacation

Kristy organises a fun camping trip for all the ex-BSC members and their families. Only Dawn wants to come. The others all claim to have whooping cough, which is weird because Dawn’s kids are the only ones who haven’t been fully vaccinated. Dawn takes this as proof that crystal inoculations really do work. On the first night Kristy and Dawn have a massive fight about raccoon behaviour but it’s really about Mary Anne. Dawn’s daughter gets gastro in the night and shits in the sleeping bag they have borrowed from Kristy. Dawn and her family leave at daybreak. Kristy and her family can then fish and trap food like normal people.

Baby-sitters’ Winter Vacation

Kristy invites a all the ex-BSC members and their families to her ski lodge in Vermont. Everyone says yes because it’s free and there’s a spa. Claudia’s daughter is a very light sleeper so no-one is allowed to flush the toilet at night unless it’s a poo. Mallory’s children pretend they have done poo when they really haven’t. The next morning at breakfast, Claudia yells at them for flushing too often. Mallory and Claudia have a big fight. The baby-sitters take sides roughly based on whether their children can sleep well through noise. None of their partners say anything and retreat to the rumpus room (whatever that is). Kristy puts on a visor and tries to mediate but no-one listens.

They hit the ski slopes. Stacey brings five hat changes. Her son refuses to talk to her when she is looking ridiculous, which is always.

In the evening Jessi’s son eats a battery, nearly dies and everyone gets a sense of perspective.

Life Advice for Doing it ALL

Thursday July 7th, 2016 in Office, Parenting | No Comments »

28 June 2015 20150628_123026

(This duck looks calm on the surface but is actually on fire underneath the water.)

I pretty much have it all.

A house, children, sometimes a job and appropriate footwear. I’m very busy and important. So how DO I do it? I’ve squeezed yet another task into my hectic day and written a list of my top life advice on how to do more and be more like me.

As you’ll see from the list below, no socio-economic issues or privileges are involved at all. It’s all just about phones, coffee, water, exercise and stuff.

1. Coffee

When I make myself a coffee (I indulge in Nescafe Gold but you do what you can) I always put the milk in the cup first and dissolve the coffee granules, before pouring in the hot water. I think it tastes better and adds a little element of luxury to my day.

2. Coffee again

Sometimes at work I stir a spoonful of Milo in with my cup of Blend 43. I call it ‘a delicious Nescafe mocha’ and my workmates never get sick of hearing about it.

3. Podcasts

These days I never listen to podcasts in the shower. I used to, but the volume wasn’t loud enough so I couldn’t hear them properly. Now I pause the podcast just before I get into the shower and switch it back on when I get out to dry myself. That way, I don’t miss anything but also minimise the moments of silence where I might contemplate the meaninglessness of existence.

4. Stairs

I always take the stairs at work. It is good exercise and for a short time, no-one can see me in the stairwell so I can let my face relax and express my true desperation or laugh.

5. Phones

When I’m with my children I  never look at my phone while I’m looking at other parents looking at their phones and judging them for looking at their phones. Most of the rest of the time I am looking at my phone for a very good reason.

6. Water

When I’m thirsty I’ll have a drink of water. This is absolutely essential if you want to keep up with a busy schedule and not die.

7. Make-up

I don’t wear make-up and this saves a lot of time. How do I disguise bags under my eyes? I let all my minimalist grooming habits distract from each other in a virtuous circle.