Friday, October 30, 2009

School days

I am back in the land of considering child care options because our day care carer is pregnant with her second child and will be finishing up in March. The situation is massively complicated by the fact that Charlie will be four and a half at the beginning of the school year, and not ready to start school. However, he won't be far off, and by the beginning of the following school year I imagine he will be well past ready. So next year I have to make sure that whatever the care arrangements are, there is a lot of structure and a lot of learning.

My childcare whinging aside, I don't understand the system we have for starting kids at school. When my mother was a kid, you started school on your 5th birthday. I understand this is how it works in New Zealand as well. At the end of the year you start, you are assessed to see if you are ready to go on to year 1 or you need another year of kindy. It's a pretty even split and so there's no big deal about staying in kindy. That way readiness for year 1 can be based on the child's progress, not a calendar date.

I understand that turning 5 doesn't magically make you ready for school. There is a wide range of maturity across 5 years olds. However, in NSW, you can start anywhere between 4 and a half and 6 years old. So this means the wide range in maturity is magnified by anything up to a 20 month age spread. And it also means that parents with children whose birthdays fall in the first half of the year have to agonise about whether to send them this year or next year. They have to estimate their child's readiness for school, factor in the impact of an extra year's child care and consider the consequences of living with a child who is now ready for school but can't start for another 4-6 months. And there are no right answers, some kids thrive when they start school early - it gives them the structure and stimulation they need and it's great. Other kids do amazingly well with an extra year of a more informal environment - they build their confidence and learn the basics on their own timetable and hit the ground running when they go to school.
And then there's the kids who start early and really struggle, feeling overwhelmed and intimidated, and the ones who stay home, only to turn into bored, horrific monsters in desperate need of structure.

Starting either at a child's 5th birthday, or with a mid-year intake and a transition year allows much better tailoring for each child's development in an environment where it is normal for some kids to do a year and a half, or maybe even two years of kindergarten. I doubt that it would be a good idea for me to send Charlie to school next year, despite him being technically old enough to start. However, I don't know for sure. Structure has been good for him on the whole, perhaps more of it would be the making of him. But there is no culture whatsoever of repeating kids at the moment, so if he started and really wasn't ready for year 1 by the end of kindy, I couldn't keep him back and might struggle all the way through. On the other hand, another year of minimal structure might reinforce some of the bad habits and make school and even more difficult transition. The fact that Charlie has to start 6 months too early or 6 months too late is ridiculous, and he's hardly alone. Odds are about 50% kindy kids' parents have spent at least some time pondering the 12 month wait.
Today I am grateful that the dress dubbed the "lesbian vampire dress" (for reasons that have never been clear) is sufficiently flexible that I can wear it to the Halloween trivia tomorrow night. And also to Crash who managed to fit in buying me a set of vampire teeth to go with it.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I'm grateful for family who volunteer to step into the breach and cover for my inadequacies.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Today I'm grateful for.... something. There must be something. I know! Twitter friends that answer silly niggling iPhone queries, thereby making my life just that wee bit easier.

Conversations with children:

Crash: What do you want for Christmas?

Ben: I'm not telling you.

Crash: Why not?

Ben: Because I'm going to find out if Santa is real.


Elissa: Mummy, I'm upstairs

Me: What are you doing up there?

Elissa: I don't know.

Monday, October 26, 2009

7 ... er ... 2 Bridges

Yesterday we set out for the 7 Bridges Walk as intended, despite BOM making dire predictions. It all went smoothly to begin with. We met up with our fellow walkers on the train, got our registration books and wristbands at Milson's Point and headed over the Harbour Bridge.

First small hitch - the Harbour Bridge is anything but accessible. It is really appalling that one of this country's most famous landmarks has about 3469 steps to get on and off it. We were OK, we only had to lug 2 prams up the steps, but anyone weighing more than 25kg is excluded. As we were hauling the pram + 2yr old up the stairs, I commented on the lack of accessibility and an elderly woman powering past me agreed whole-heartedly. Methinks the Bridge needs a couple of lifts.

We made it up though, and I have the photo to prove it.

Elissa walked for a while (that photo was out of focus), but this was how she travelled for most of the walk.

That purple container began the day filled to the brim with sultanas. There were no survivors.

I have no idea who the two punters are who appear to be watching me taking the photo, but you can actually see the bridge behind us there. Sadly, that's about the only view you get of the bridge itself these days - they've added another row of curved in fencing with barbed wire on the road side of the path. Somehow I doubt that it's coincidental that this was never done before there was a commercial venture conducting walks on the Bridge.

So this is the only photo of the coat hanger itself I could get.

We were watching the rain come in as we headed around to Darling Harbour, but we remained optimistic.

Indeed, we made it across Pyrmont Bridge

But this is what it looked like outside by then:

And the only thing more miserable than walking in the rain, is walking in the rain with two 2 year olds. So we had coffee, made a mad dash for the light rail and headed home.

So I sincerely apologise if you only sponsored Elissa on the proviso that I pushed her all the way around the course. (Of course, you know, you might have donated just because it's a worthwhile cause. :) ) I do undertake to do the course on another day with more favourable weather, but honestly, I ain't taking Elissa with me. She might have made another 2 or 3 bridges, but she'd never have made the whole course. Even with 1kg of sultanas.
Today I am grateful for a very patient mother who put up with multiple phone calls in order to comply with Ben's homework.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

End of an era

Our cot days are over.

This is Elissa, totally chuffed to be in her "big girl bed". Of course, being the super-organised and well-prepared parents that we are, we don't actually have a big girl bed for her yet. It's just her cot mattress thrown on the floor, as you can see here:

I'm not entirely sure why the camera chose to focus so beautifully on Charlie's ear, but there you go. You can see the dimensions anyway.

Why did we move her to a bed we didn't have? Because she asked, that's why. She's been constantly demanding to sleep in Charlie's bed and telling us she wanted to sleep in a big bed, so we figured we may as well let her do it.

So of course she was utterly over the moon and all went completely smoothly.

Right up until we all left the room. At which point the "I don't like it"s and the "Put it back"s started. But I've played this game before, and I know that if I had put it back in the cot, she would then have demanded it go back on the floor, so we persevered. It took until about 9:30pm for her to finally give in - ultimately achieved by me lying in the bed and claiming it as my own. I was booted out with cross looks and she slept all night in her new bed.

This afternoon's sleep also involved a bit of carry on, but I just checked her and she was under the covers surrounded by toys and out cold, so the cot can officially be dismantled and removed from the room. Woo hoo!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Private Parts

Wildly Parenthetical wrote a pretty cool post a while back about sex education - what it is, what it isn't and what it might be. And lots of other stuff, go read it if you haven't already, but the spin off into my life is that Ben has just had his term of body sovereignty for 6yr olds at school, and at the time of WP's post, I didn't even know what they'd covered.

Since then the workbook has appeared, and it seems they have done a very basic round of labelling body parts (although even a girl would probably struggle to work out the difference between a vulva and a vagina from the incredibly informative flat child outlines with labels and connecting lines). These parts were then defined as "private" and they moved swiftly on to good touching and bad touching, followed by happy secrets and sad secrets. Ben clearly got all the concepts, but couldn't quite see how they were related. "Good touching", according to Ben, was being tapped on the shoulder to leave the classroom, "Bad touching" was being punched in the face.

I asked him what he had thought of this unit, and he told me it was boring, so I went away and thought about it a bit more. What I wondered was, why are these parts private? I mean, they aren't in our house. Especially not amongst the kids (I now insist on my own bathroom privacy from the older two, but they think I'm weird). So this must have come as something of a shock to Ben, and no doubt plenty of other kids. So I figured this was an "in". I could ask him why he thought these parts were "private", and then explain it to him. Except I almost argued myself in a circle - they are private because they feel good when you touch them, and adults often touch each other's so that everyone feels good, and that's sex, and sex is special because it's touching people's private parts. Hmmm.

Try again.

But being the well thought out parent I am, I started the conversation before I had worked out an answer that was coherent. I asked Ben if he knew why those bits were private. He said "Yeah, well..... NO! I was wondering that." I set off confidently with "Yeah, it's funny that they don't tell you that, and I'm not even sure that I know the whole answer." Much to my own surprise, I managed to ask him if he had realised that touching those bits feels pretty good. He said he hadn't, I looked surprised, he looked relieved and said "Well, I guess I have really" and laughed. So I told him that adults sometimes touch each other's bits, and that the point of the stuff they'd learned was that you always get to choose who gets to touch your bits, and that's what makes them private.

He looked much more chuffed with the outcome of the conversation than I expected, and the hesitancy to tell me that he'd noticed the feel good functionality was also a bit of a surprise. In summary, I suspect it was a worthwhile conversation, and at some point, I may even be able to live up to my ideals of open conversations about sex, which I have been utterly incapable of up until now.

Charlie, of course, listened to the whole thing and took it all in. His in depth understanding of the discourse was highlighted by him repeatedly telling me that he likes "touching it too" whilst demonstrating that he can reach the middle of his back.
Today I am grateful for the chance to have a magnificent meal with my other half in a place where people know us well enough to say "No! The baby can't be nearly two!".

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Today I am grateful for the smell of the spring breeze.

Elissa's Big Walk

Elissa is doing the 7 Bridges Walk on Sunday (with me as support crew and pram pusher). I figured we might try to raise a wee bit of money (but my goal is not huge, I'm not asking for a massive commitment). If you can spare a couple of bucks, the link is here. It's also over there on the right hand side of the page.

I will try very hard to take photos on the day.


Monday, October 19, 2009

Crafty day reminder

This month's crafty days are this Friday - 23rd November and Sunday 1st November.

If you'd like to come along, speak up and let me know you're coming, and feel free to nominate a couple of songs you'd like to listen to while crafting.
Today I am grateful for both finding edamame, and working how to cook it.

Anecdote OTD

I had an amusing racial norms moment this afternoon. I saw a person in the distance and did a massive double-take - I could have sworn she was buck-naked. A second look revealed she was wearing skin coloured clothes, and I thought to myself "Odd choice, to wear all skin colour."

Then I got a little closer and realised that she was Asian, she wasn't wearing her skin colour at all, really not such an odd choice. Still it made me smile to think, however briefly, that someone was wandering around Five Dock in the nicky-noo-nar, so I suggest everyone own a monotone outfit in someone's skin colour. You might just bring a smile to someone's day for a moment or two.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Unthoughtout thoughts

There is no "right way" to claim refugee status.

Offering to dob in the people smugglers is a stroke of political brilliance - let them in, they are better at politics than the ones we've got.

We are where we are and who we are because of how we have exploited those who are fleeing their homelands (mostly). We owe them something, despite UN treaties.

I will think thinkier thoughts, but this couldn't wait for contemplation.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Absences explained

This week's excuses for not blogging:
  • 3 clients all demanding my immediate attention (validly, but that is beside the point).
  • 2,500 word essay for which I read enough to write a 3,500 word essay.
  • Commitment to P&C to ring a large number of businesses asking for donations for the trivia night (which I hate).
  • Commitment to co-ordinate a bunch of other bits and pieces for the trivia night.
  • More medical tests for more "probably nothing", plus diagnosis of definitely nothing in the form of a halo nevus, which is essentially my body eating a mole. That last bit is cool.
  • School holidays (Ben will remember this as the Crash Team Racing holidays).
  • 170 emails in my inbox.
  • Preparations for a cocktail party (which I am really looking forward to).
  • Much time wasted failing and then succeeding to buy Big Day Out tickets.
  • 362 dropping off/picking up trips.
  • One pub night.
I have posts ruminating, hopefully I'll be back soon.
Today I am grateful that the worst is over.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Family snapshots

There have been studies done on the impact of birth order on children's personalities. I haven't read them, but people have told me (so it must be true). I've been told that eldest children are pleasers and rule followers, second children are comedians and if a third child is the first of their gender, they'll be a pleaser too.

So I offer a small piece of my morning as utterly useless anecdata:


The two boys are upstairs playing trains. Screeching breaks out, with clear indications that Ben is screaming at Charlie for breaking the train track. Elissa is downstairs. When the yelling starts, she looks up at the ceiling and says, "What's wrong with Ben?". "He's yelling, isn't he?", says I and she furrows her brow and says "I'm going up there."

Up she goes, and 5 minutes later they all come downstairs happy.


Ben: aged nearly 7, rule follower extraordinaire
Charlie: aged 4, source of chaos and comedy
Elissa: aged very nearly 2, peacemaker

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Today I'm grateful for family who look after our kids while we escape for a weekend in the Hunter.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

The Depressing Nestle List

I really, really wish Nestle didn't own Uncle Tobys. We can choose between Nestle, Kelloggs or God Botherers for our breakfast cereal.

Anyway, in case you were wondering just how depressingly long the Nestle brand list is (the modified for Australia list):


Nescafé including:

  • Alta Rica
  • Black Gold
  • Blend 37
  • Cap Colombie
  • Cappuccino
  • Caro
  • Decaff
  • Expresso
  • Fine Blend
  • Gold Blend
  • Kenjara
  • Nescafé Ice
  • Organic
  • Partners Blend

Dairy products:

  • Carnation
  • Coffee-Mate
  • Extreme Viennois
  • Fussells
  • Ideal
  • LC1
  • Munch Bunch yoghurts
  • Rowntree yoghurts and ice creams
  • Simply Double
  • Ski yogurts
  • Sveltesse yogurts
  • Tip-Top

Confectionery & Snacks:

  • Aero
  • After Eights
  • Allens Confectionery
  • Animal Bar
  • Baci Chocolate
  • Bertie Beetle
  • Black Magic
  • Blue Riband
  • Breakaway
  • Caramac
  • Chips Ahoy!
  • Chocolate Cuisine
  • Colgate Dental Gum
  • Dairy Box
  • Dairy Crunch
  • Double Cream
  • Drifter
  • Fab
  • Fruit Pastilles
  • Fruit Tingles
  • Heaven
  • Henri Nestlé Collection
  • Jellytots
  • Kit Kat (except in the USA)
  • Kit Kat Chunky (except in the USA)
  • Lifesavers
  • Lion Bar
  • Lyons Maid Ice Cream
  • Matchmakers
  • Maxibon
  • Milky Bar
  • Minties
  • Munchies
  • Nerds
  • Nestlé Ice Cream
  • Polo
  • Quality Street
  • Rainbow Nerds
  • Rolo (except in the USA)
  • Rowntrees Fruit Gums
  • Smarties
  • Toffee Crisp
  • Toll House products
  • Toffo
  • Tooty Frooties
  • Violet Crumble
  • Walnut Whip
  • Willy Wonka products
  • Yorkie


  • Choc Wedge
  • Dixie Cup
  • Drumstick
  • Eskimo Pie
  • Frosty Fruits
  • Heaven
  • Maxibon
  • Miniz
  • Peters Ice Cream

Contact lens care:

  • Alcon

Mineral/bottled water:

  • Aqua Panna
  • Aquarel
  • Buxton
  • Contrex
  • Perrier
  • Pow-wow
  • San Pellegrino
  • Santa Maria
  • Valvert
  • Vittel

Other drinks:

  • Alpen Blend
  • Build-up
  • Caro
  • Ecco
  • Milo
  • Nesquik
  • Nestea
  • Sunshine Milk Powder

Meals / Sauces/ Ingredients:

  • Buitoni pasta & canned foods
  • Chef-Mate
  • Country Cup-a-Soup
  • Cross & Blackwell Branston Pickle
  • Findus Frozen Foods
  • Herta
  • Lean Cuisine
  • Maggi (all products – including 2 minute noodle range)
  • Osem/Tivall
  • Papa Guiseppi
  • Rowntrees Jellies
  • Thomy Delikatess Mayonnaise


  • Cheerios & Honey Nut Cheerios
  • Cinnamon and Golden Grahams
  • Clusters
  • Cookie Crisp
  • Shreddies
  • Fibre 1
  • Fitnesse
  • Force Flakes
  • Fruitful
  • Golden Nuggets
  • Incredibites
  • Nesquik cereal
  • Shredded Wheat including: Bitesize, Fruitful, Honey Nut
  • Shreddies: Coco and frosted
  • Space Food Sticks
  • Uncle Tobys


  • Biotherm
  • Body Shop
  • Cosmence
  • Garnier
  • Helena Rubenstein
  • Innéov
  • La Roche-Posay
  • Lancome
  • L’Oreal
  • Matrix
  • Maybelline
  • Metamorphosis
  • Plénitude
  • Redken

Pet Foods:

  • Arthur’s
  • Bakers
  • Beneful
  • BETA
  • Bonnie
  • Bonio
  • Fancy Feast
  • Felix
  • Friskies
  • Go-Cat
  • Go-dog
  • Gourmet
  • Mighty Dog
  • One
  • Pro Plan
  • Purina
  • Spiller’s
  • Tidy Cats
  • Vital Balance
  • Winalot

Dietary / Healthcare Products:

  • Jenny Craig
  • Lean Cuisine
  • Novartis
  • Optifast Dietary Products (shakes, soups etc)
  • Weight Watchers

Medicated Remedies:
(All Allens Products) plus:

  • Anticol
  • Butter Menthol
  • Honey and Eucalyptus
  • Quick Eze
  • Soothers
(Ripped off, without permission, from here, but I think they'd be happy for it to be re-published)

At least they don't own Moccona - because if I couldn't buy any instant coffee, my children may be in danger....

And in case you are wondering why I am talking about Nestle anyway, the recent round of publicity has pushed me to pay more attention to not buying their stuff (I've been half arsed avoiding them for a while, but I really can't justify it) - I doubt my need for Fruit Tingles out does the need to not support this company. For a nice round up of what the hell I'm talking about, go have a look at this.

Driving assistance

I drove home from picking up Elissa this afternoon to this:


Cross the road


Go slowdy.

Round the corner.

Cross the road.


Go slowdy. Slowdy slowdy slowdy slowdy.

Oh no! It's raining.

Round the corner.


Slowdy, slowdy, slowdy, slowdy, slowdy [and repeat x 10 or 20]

Monday, October 05, 2009

Today I'm grateful for interesting perspectives and different views.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

I am so, so grateful that daylight saving has started. Yay for AEDT and children sleeping past 6am.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Today I am deeply grateful that we live in the middle of a tectonic plate, a comfortable distance from the coast and far enough south to be untroubled by cyclones - and that I have the luxury of turning the heartache off when it gets too much.

17th Down Under Feminists Carnival

The 17th DUFC is up at Ideologically Impure. Full of good stuff as always.

Friday, October 02, 2009

The Pressure to Succeed

When I was in year 12, the media was starting to carry on about the stress of the HSC. Some of the people I was at school with might have even felt that stress. I wasn't one of them - I was aiming pretty low in terms of entrance requirements for uni, and academic achievement was my strong suit anyway. Still, not a huge proportion of the people I went to school with wanted to go to uni. Most of them didn't want to do things that uni prepared you for.

Since then, more careers have required university degrees (to what purpose I can't possibly imagine, but there it is) and successive governments have decided that the best way to keep youth unemployment down is to keep them in education longer - indefinitely if at all possible. OK, maybe not indefinitely, because then they might have to pay for higher education in a more effective way, but definitely for as long as possible. At the same time, the media has really bought into the HSC stress hype, and all of these things have combined to blow the HSC all out of proportion in terms of its significance in a person's life and to make it the stressful year from hell that so many people experience it as.

Worse still, it doesn't stop there. In order to get into the courses you need to do to in year 12, to get the marks you need to get into uni, to do the course you want, to get into the career you'll probably change out of within 5 years anyway - you need to do well enough in the school certificate in year 10. That means you need to get into that selective school in year 7 (have I ranted about them before? If not - it's coming). That means you need to get into the OC class in year 5. That means you need start to take a long hard look if things aren't going swimmingly in year 3.

WTF? How did we create a world where people can start to be concerned about their child's progress at age 8? How did we allow a system to actually create advantage for those kids who shine earlier? Obviously we need to keep the early bloomers interested, but do we really need a formal OC course which funnels into selective schools and all the way on up? What about those who come into their own at 13, 15 or 24? I'm sorry, you were the wrong kind of kid - you didn't excel in our narrow little world of junior primary school, and while we won't actually stop you using your later arriving talent, or your talent outside our definition of valuable, we certainly won't help you. And we definitely won't make it easy for you to realise that there are other paths to happiness and fulfillment.

We need, en masse, to reject this idea. We need to try very hard to relax and not worry if our kids are on the "right track". We need to yell loudly about TAFE courses and mature age enrollment at uni and apprenticeships and good old fashioned job experience. We need to remember that happiness and fulfillment are not made only of jobs. We are not defined by our employment. Some people will be happiest with a regular job with minimal stress that is left at work, and will do their real good outside the employment sphere.

And if you ever find yourself in a hiring role, or influencing hiring anywhere - remember to consider training staff yourself. Remember that a degree (in most fields) only demonstrates that a person can learn. Look for other indicators that people can learn. Think about other ways to employ people - can you hire a couple of junior casuals and one qualified person rather than two qualified people? Junior casuals are an excellent no-blame, no-shame way of finding out who's suitable for a career. Parents returning to the workforce may have a whole host of skills you may not have considered that can be very valuable - would that be a better option?

Ultimately, don't let the business world dictate every moment of our lives. Our worth is not measured by our employment, and our happiness does not depend on it. Certainly earning money is a necessity, but as a society, we can bring much more pressure to bear on the terms of that earning, and we need to do so now, if not sooner.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Today I'm grateful for belly dancing - for a body that (mostly) co-operates when I ask it to dance, for a teacher who is just lovely and for pretty, jingly clothes to wear.