I’m too old to start Tap


With a new year rapidly upon us I thought it time to share a cheesy motivational message (apologies).

Not long before Christmas I had a conversation with my 11 year old who was at the time tapping her feet like crazy around the house in some lovely old tap shoes she had been given by the lovely Jane from a certain south Newtown op shop.

The conversation went along the lines:

ME: :Why don’t you start tap lessons next year?”

Miss 11: “What? Oh I’m too old, all the other kids will have been doing it for years”.

ME: “You’re too old!?!?! You’re 11! Of course you’re not too old!!!”.

This conversation totally dismayed me because, apart from a few certain, mostly sporting, ambitions, most avenues are open to us at any age.  But many of us fall into the trap of thinking we’ve missed the boat, and then cement in this inaction with a sprinkling of I’m too busy, I’m too tired, or it’s all too hard.

So for all who have a dream to follow, whether you’re to be a famous vigneron, writer or photographer, start now!  It’s not too late! Book a course, write something, do anything… and set a goal! Oh, and if you’re afraid you’ll fail, the inconvenient truth is that if you don’t try it’s an automatic fail, so you might as well have a crack.

Have a great new year and I hope Santa was a greater success for you than he was for my 6 year old daughter whose sole wish was for a real magic wand :/  Ciao!

Take black undies to the hospital and 17 other tips for new mums

This was published on iVillage a week or so ago and I’ve finally got round to publishing it here too!  If you prefer you can read it on iVillage.

1. Don’t buy the most expensive pram in the world, chances are you’ll be downsizing it to a lightweight stroller the first chance you’ll get (you will ignore this tip, you will buy the fanciest pram, and you will get sick of carting it around and get a stroller the first minute you can, but don’t say I didn’t tell you!).

2. Run, don’t walk and buy Up The Duff by Kaz Cooke if you’re still pregnant and Baby Love by Robin Barker if you’re not.  Baby Love is the bible of babies and will help you with every rash, late night breastfeeding freak out, and even first meals.

3. Take black undies with you to hospital.  They match delightfully with the surfboard sized pads you’ll be sporting.

4. You get afterbirth cramps.  No-one told me this.  And I think I forgot each time anyway.  They hurt.

5. Giving your baby their first bath is scary, but swoosh them around gently in the water and they love it after their “help, I’m naked!” panic attack.  This grew to be my favourite time each day with my babies.

6. They grow really fast, in what will seem like a month you’ll have a roly poly six month old, and seemingly a year later they’ll be 12.  Savour every second while they’re tiny!

7. Sometimes babies don’t poo for several days.  When it finally comes, it can arrive with the force of Vesuvius, spilling forth from every opening of the nappy, often travelling all the way up their back to their neck.  It is statistically proven that these events are most likely to happen when they’re in the car, in their best outfit, and on the way to a glamorous event.

8. Due to number 7, wherever you go it is best to take at least one change of clothes and a plastic bag.

9.  The sense of responsibility can be overwhelming in the beginning.  Thinking this may have just been me I have asked around and have had resounding feedback that having full responsibility for keeping a little being alive is a little freaky!

10. You will meet some people whose babies seem to sleep through within 5 minutes of birth.  I always found it best to pretend that they were lying.  Or that it meant my baby was more alert and therefore smarter.  Or anything that made me feel better about this.

11. New babies sleep a lot.  More than you’ll think.  There’s not much coochy coo time in the early days.

12. You will get advice from everyone.  They will all give you different advice.  It is very confusing.  4 nurses in 24 hours giving you completely different tips about how to breastfeed can do your head in.  Take the advice that makes the most sense to you and disregard the rest.

13. After the first couple of weeks where you will be lavishly spoiled with flowers and fancily wrapped pink or blue gifts, you’ll be at home with a baby.  For lots of hours.  It can get a little lonely.

14. Habits are easily made, not so easily broken (though this applies to all ages really!)

Oh and to remember, for down the track….

15. They will make you laugh, lots.

16. They grow up and become you.

17. You will have unbroken nights of sleep again.

18. You can’t take them back 🙂

Well that’s fucked

When my darling youngest daughter, Petunia (ahem), was 4 years old, we visited my parents one day.

My lovely mother was putting make up (oh yes inappropriate I am sure) on Petunia at the little make up desk in her bedroom.  Above Lala’s head (yes my mother, despite not being a teletubbie, does gets called Lala “in real life” as Petunia would say) there was a large hole in the ceiling where my parents were fixing up some wiring or some such thing.  As Lala did Petunia’s make up, little Petunia looked up, saw the hole and said calmly to my mother “well that’s fucked”.  Which it was.  Clearly.  There was a big hole in the ceiling.

This took the wind out of Lala’s sails somewhat and she came out of her bedroom calling me and choking back laughter.

After I overcame my pride at Petunia’s superior vocabulary and understanding of context for a four year old, I did get to thinking about swearing.  Because I can be a bit of a potty mouth.  And my husband is probably even more of one (he works in the music industry you see, they’re all terribly naughty).  We have tried to curtail our swearing over the years, particularly around the childers,  but not to much avail.

We don’t however swear at them. Years ago I visited an outer western Sydney suburb to attempt to sell some software to a law firm, and saw a woman dragging her child along ranting  “If you don’t f-ing come with me, I’ll f-ing hit you, you little f-ing brat”.  That made me feel terribly ill and want to leave this nameless suburb immediately.   Don’t swear at your children, it’s not nice.  At all.  Swear at the fridge instead.  Or the cat.  Just not the children.

Oh and before I toodle off I should mention that at around the same time Petunia came to visit me at work, drew a sausage shape on the whiteboard in my office, and then proceeded to call out “Penis PENIS PENIS ” louder and louder for about 5 minutes.

She was put on this earth to test me I am sure.

It’s not I love my third child more…


Happy Sunday! Here’s a post I wrote a little while ago which was published on iVillage yesterday! So you can read it here or here: http://www.ivillage.com.au/its-not-i-love-my-third-child-more/150142

“Have you seen the preschool concert video Jane?” I was asked nonchalantly by a mother at school one morning, shortly after my youngest had started Kindergarten.

“Aaaah no” I replied, adding quickly with a flash of fear “Why do you ask?”.

“Because, um, you were having a bit of a cry” she replied.

This was exactly what I had hoped would not happen.  I knew they had taped the concert that day.

Because I did cry.  Boy did I cry.  I sobbed into my tissue as if I were at my life’s end watching a tape of my life in fast forward.

It was the bloody song they all sang at the end of the concert that did it.

40 of these gorgeous little 4 and 5 year olds got assembled in their confounded cuteness and sang this infernal song which went something like:

“I’m a big kid now,

I’ve got my hat and my bag and my shoes

and I’m ready for school

I’m a big kid now”.

Tear jerking stuff if you’ve ever heard it.

This was however the third time I’d sat through such a concert.  And the first two times, I was FINE.  Totally fine.  In fact, just quietly, quite happy that one little body would be out of my hands five days a week in the near future.

It isn’t that I love my third daughter any more than the others.  I don’t.  I in fact ascribe to the theory that you love them all equally, if differently.

She simply was my BABY and this was clear and irrefutable evidence that my baby was really a baby no longer.

It’s funny how when you’re in the thick of babies and toddlerdom and preschoolers you feel that this is a phase almost to be endured in some ways.  Yet once it’s gone you yearn for those dimpled bottoms, first steps, and tantrums on the supermarket floor.

Looking now at my 11, 8 and 6 year olds, I can see that in ten years time my gaze will fall upon a 21 year old woman and I’ll wonder how on earth we got there so fast.

But, I will still be her mum. And I’m sure I’ll be honoured to be associated with such a wonderfully smart and grounded young woman.

Happy Present-Mongering, Dear Friend

There are many seasons to a life, don’t you think.

One season which is highly enjoyable, yet at the same time irksome, is the present-giving season.

In quick succession, your once single off-the-wall friend, can be engaged, married, knocked up and then the proud caretaker of a wee babbie.

If the indignity of watching your friend turn into a sleep-deprived milk bar (or partner of one) wasn’t enough to bear, there’s the requirement to celebrate each step along this path by giving them a gift.

There’s the Engagement Present.  The Kitchen Tea present.  The Wedding Present.  The Pregnancy present.  The Baby Shower Present.  And then of course, the present for the wee squealing thing itself.

Now I’m not against present-giving.  Not at all. I adore both giving and receiving presents.  However, during this particular season of a friend’s life, it can be a bit much, no?

I heartily support the wedding present, and despite my preference for purchasing a tangible gift, do understand the wishing well affair that is now so popular since we shack up well before we marry these days.  You only need so many toasters and towels.

Also, the baby present.  There’s nothing cuter than buying OOO clothes again, or even a lovely pampering gift for the new parents themselves. Not that’s it about me of course.

However, the Kitchen Tea and the Baby Shower ? Meh.

I should be clear here though.  I LOVE parties.  Any excuse for a party.  I love dress up parties, dress down parties, cocktail parties, Christmas parties.  Any party really.  So if you’re going to turn your Kitchen Tea into an uproarious celebration, I’ll be there, literally with bells on if you’d like.  But a present?  You’re getting one in five minutes at the wedding darling, keep your shirt on.

And the Baby Shower?  Well, in my opinion, it’s a little hard to kick up your heels at the Baby Shower.  As much as I enjoy decorating a teeny little singlet…. actually scrap that, I have zero interest in decorating teeny little singlets.

The prompt for this post was a friend’s bewilderment at what to put on the card for a baby shower.  I suggested “Happy Present-Mongering” which she thought hilarious but probably less than PC.

Having said that, I’m off shopping now.  My children are attending parties for 4 little darlings tomorrow, so it’s time to brandish the Visa.

That’s the next season.

To The Tooth Fairy: A Warning from HR

Dear Tooth Fairy,

It has come to our attention that you have been remarkably lax in the performance of your duties.

We refer in particular to the following instances  :

1.   Over 5 households have reported that you have repeatedly failed to attend on the night the tooth has been left for your retrieval.  Sweeping into a child’s room at 9.00am after they have advised their parent you have not attended is simply not acceptable and puts you in significant danger of being seen by a child (and you know full well the permanent, in fact fatal to you, consequences of such an occurrence).

2.  In Household B, we have been advised that up to THREE TEETH have waited in a matchbox beside the child’s bed before you decided to attend.  This child apparently made repeated complaints to their mother about this before it was brought to our attention.  (If this occurs again your contract will be terminated without further notice).

3 In Household C, you took the tooth out of the box in which it was kept for safe-keeping and replaced it with a number of LEAVES.  This has caused untold trauma to the child in question.  We have heard this caused you significant amusement.  It is not funny.  If this child takes action against us in future for mental pain and suffering due to your actions we cannot guarantee that we will not seek to recover from you any damages won.

Please take this as a final warning.

Thank you.

Why we should be teaching our kids Comparative Religion

My kids go to a public primary school in Sydney.  Scripture is offered at our school and conducted by external providers.  Our very Anglo-Saxon school has representatives of the local Catholic, and I think, Presbyterian Churches, who visit once a week.   All the other kids (save a few lucky ones that have recently been offered Ethics classes in the upper years, which is fabulous) spend scripture time colouring in, watching TV, getting zero educational or cultural nutrition.

I think we’re missing an opportunity here.  Why don’t we teach all our kids the basics of each religion?  The tenets of the Islamic faith, the Jewish, the Christian and the rest.   I think kids will be fascinated by this.   Give them an understanding of what each religion represents; how different cultures weave their religions into their daily life; what is represented by the external signs of religion we see around us – the Yarmulke, the turban, the burqa.  Teach them that the fundamentalist arm of each religion differs greatly from main group of followers.

Surely teaching children the differences (and indeed similarities) between religions would help them grow into more tolerant individuals.  As the saying goes, ignorance breeds contempt.

My religious education consisted of some Presbyterian “I love Jesus” pictures when I was in primary school, and my private Anglican high school’s “It’s our way or the highway” teachings.  This, by the way, led to some interesting conversations between the lovely Reverend and I along the lines “So, does that mean if you’re born in the middle of nowhere in, say, New Guinea, and you don’t know about our God, then you’re going to hell”.  He answered “Hmmm yes”.  (My 14 year old self had a rather large problem with this).

I can see many advantages of teaching Comparative Religion in our increasingly multi-cultural society.  Intolerance is something that grows in people as they age, and I think we could at least try to nip this in the bud with some gentle and engaging education.  I think the messages from such teachings would also educate many parents.

I know it is drawing a really long bow to say that teaching kids about other religions is going to stop people dying in fruitless religious wars, however, I don’t think many would argue that an understanding of other faiths would encourage a degree more tolerance of each other.

Lego – Ikea training for kids?

I was out on a boat ride with some colleagues on Friday night when, I can’t remember how, we started talking about Lego and all the different sets you can get now for your kids – the Harry Potter and the Star Wars, the police stations and the airports.

We discussed how most parents carefully keep these sets in their boxes, so that the next time the kids want to make the Harry Potter castle they can do it with the right pieces and instructions to hand.

There was general consensus that when we were kids, you pretty much had a bucket of Lego that was used for making up stuff! Kids used their imagination (yes that old chestnut) to work out intriguing ways to make the spiffy rocket or gargantuan all-terrain vehicle that their heart desired on a quiet Sunday morning.

One among us made the observation that Lego and Ikea instructions are remarkably similar.  Pictures, diagrams, no words.  I’m guessing some smarty pants at Ikea made the observation some time ago that millions of kids around the world have managed to follow Lego instructions, so it would probably be a good way to go with their global domination plans (which appear to be going swimmingly to date).

I like to think that they have a Lego-Ikea Deed of Instructional Similarity  drawn up, ensuring that their instruction manuals maintain at least a similar look and feel, or perhaps as time goes on even introducing features into Lego to make it even closer to Ikea.  Look forward to the introduction of the Lego Allen key folks, it can’t be far away.

But enough of conspiracy theories.  How about a small suggestion instead.  If you, like me, have to date kept those individual boxes together, it’s time.  Chuck out those Lego boxes, throw all the pieces into one ginormous bucket, bring it down to the lounge today and see what they make!

That is of course unless you want your kid to grow up to be  a Gold-Certified Ikea Putter-Togetherer, which is admittedly a handy certification to have.

For me? I’m off to collect those boxes together, find a bucket, and let some Lego police mingle with Lego doctors.  Ciao ciao….

Rude fingers

A dear friend visited our home a few years ago.  This friend was inordinately fond of our then three year old daughter Petunia (not her real name), whom he had always found charming and engaging.

Upon entering our lounge our friend encountered Petunia who looked at him, smiled, raised the middle finger of her left hand in what is undoubtedly an internationally recognised gesture, and waved it at him. She kept the finger raised  and danced her hand around a little in the air.

Our friend was shocked, really shocked.

Luckily the situation was saved seconds later when our five year old advised him that Petunia was showing him her “invisible finger puppet”.  And she was.  Earlier in the day she had been in possession of a lovely horse finger puppet and though she had now lost the actual prop, she wanted to share with our friend her now invisible finger puppet.

Much hilarity ensued, but my eight year old was confused.  When everyone had left the room she came and demanded to know what all the fuss was about.

“Well Petunia showed him the rude finger” I said.

“The rude finger?!” she repeated.

“Yes the rude finger” I replied.

“Hoooooooow can there be a RUDEEEE finger?” she bellowed.  “HOW ridiculous, how can a finger be rude?!” “It’s just a finger!”

Which made me think.  Because she was right.  It really is quite ridiculous. But the fact of the matter is that raising your middle finger at someone is now one of the most offensive things you can do now that a host of swear words have become part of many people’s daily vocabulary.

There is no moral to this story, the only take away being that if someone under the age of five flips you the bird, don’t panic, for it is possible that they too are sharing with you their invisible finger puppet.

“I judge you because you can’t spell”

My first post!  I think you’re supposed to have the blog before you start sending your articles off to others these days, but as with most things in my life, I’ve muddled things around a little.  I sent this article to Mamamia and they published it this week, very exciting.  It’s sitting on 310 shares on Facebook and 198 comments so it has definitely resonated with a lot of people.  Here it is…

When I joined Facebook back in 2007 one of the first groups I “liked” was called something along the lines of ‘I judge you by your spelling and grammar’.

And this was true.  I completely and utterly judged people’s intellect by their use of written language. I did this from a young age: I was the spelling superstar at primary school.  To this day, typos jump out of a page at me.

This makes me cringe now. Why? My third daughter appears to have dyslexia, or a phonological disorder as her speech pathologist calls it. The simplest definition of a phonological disorder being a problem connecting the sounds in words to the symbols they represent, i.e. letters and words.

Do you remember learning to read? This magical thing where you start looking at the alphabet and by 3 or 4 some of these letters mean something to you, and when you start school you are given home readers to take home every night.  Somehow you go from reading along with your mum or dad “Here is the sun. Here is the bee.” and one day it all starts to click and you can do it by yourself.

For my first two daughters it was exactly like this, a magic process where suddenly they could read! Woo hoooo!

For my third daughter, no such luck.  My third daughter aged 6 is bright and bubbly.  A natural leader with a formidable spoken vocabulary.  However by the middle of the year in Kindy I knew something was wrong.  She recognised the letter P (which her name starts with), the letter T, and the letter S.  And that was it.  There was no way she was going to start to read when she couldn’t even recognise the alphabet.

I would sit at home with her for half an hour and say, here is the letter E.  Let’s draw it.  What starts with it? Let’s draw it again!  The next day, she’d look at an E like she’d never seen it before in her life.

I spoke with her teacher who said she was in the normal spectrum for her age. I didn’t buy that and forked out for an assessment with a speech pathologist which revealed her phonological disorder. Her school teacher subsequently sat one on one with her and realised she wasn’t in the normal spectrum, but that’s another story for another day.

For the last 9 months we’ve been seeing a speech pathologist every week and, every single night, practising connecting the letters of the alphabet with the sounds they represent (A makes three sounds, the a of apple, the a of age, and the ahhhh of afternoon), amongst a host of other exercises.  She’s made huge progress,  and can now sound out words but it’s hard work and she’s got a long way to go before she comes a fluent reader.  Her confidence in the classroom has however grown immeasurably and she no longer states as a fact to me “I’m dumb, mum.”

Is she stupid? Hell no.  I’m not by any stretch suggesting my daughter will be included in such a list (though it would be wonderful), but famous dyslexics include Einstein, Da Vinci, John Irving, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Agatha Christie and Richard Branson.  The different brain wiring which results in dyslexia certainly appears to have benefits.  Although I do wonder if simply having to concentrate so completely and apply yourself so rigorously at such a young age gives you a tenacity and ability to focus which the rest of us don’t learn until much later, if ever.

So why do I write this? It’s simply a message of judge not.  Judge not your peers who have trouble spelling or pronouncing words that are unfamiliar to them.  Judge not the kids at your children’s school who take an age to complete a comprehension test or can’t write or read a simple sentence when others kids are flying ahead.  It doesn’t mean they’re dumb.  On the contrary, they may have some of the sharpest minds around.

And if you’ve got a child who is having trouble learning to read, early intervention is best. I think the best first step is to talk to your GP although I went directly to a speech pathologist who was recommended to me and that path has worked well for me.