Watching, Reading, Listening #4

What’s up. homies?

It’s been housework madness this weekend. I went deep into the crazy sort-out zone and overhauled a kids bedroom from arsehole to breakfast-time, as the Queen would say. The house is ordered, and I am buggered. Also, eldest spawn goes to camp for the first time tomorrow. I am super excited for her and I dislike her being out of my clutches for three days very, very much.

Here’s a few things I’ve been loving lately.

Watching – I am in a place of televisual joy at the minute with two fantastic shows on the go: Master Of None, Aziz Ansari’s new Netflix show, which is getting heaps of critical attention lately, deservedly so, and Josh Thomas’ third season of Please Like Me (available on iView now) which is getting no attention at all. Both seem to me to be describing the current cultural moment with such sharp sweetness and intelligence.  Just so -


Where was I?

The other thing I watched and loved lately was the BBC Adaptation of Wolf Hall – you can get that one on iTunes. 6 parts of deliciously painterly, understated period drama. If you loved the book, the series absolutely lives up to it, and if you don’t know the book – go get it! You are in for a banging good time.

Speaking of banging, Rob Delaney from Catastrophe is my new favourite TV-totty. If you follow him on Twitter he says things like this:

Hey #Teens: would it be cool if I put a #saddle on my #toilet?

BBC series Catastrophe was so bloody funny, and so sharp on relationships. I loves him, and I loves Sharon Horgan, with whom he co-writes the show. If Please Like Me and Master of None are like an anthropological field trip into Gen Y territory, Catastrophe is more like hanging out with people I recognise. Here’s the trailer to Season 1 (Season 2 coming soon I think.)


I am always reading several somethings, and many pass through me without leaving much of a trace (insert curry joke of your own choosing here.) But some wonderful writing has made me stop and think lately – not new stuff, but stuff I’ve loved.

Summerland, by Malcolm Knox (Sydney readers from the Northern Beaches might especially love his vivid descriptions of Palm Beach)

The Beautiful Room Is Empty ( I just adore Edmund White, and this part of his memoirs traces his life hanging with the beatniks and bohemians of 1950′s New York).

The Elena Ferrante ‘Neopolitan novels’ series (you may have heard of this sweeping, dense epic trilogy of female friendship that begins with My Brilliant Friend – an amazing read and a lovely present if you’re starting to think about Christmas)

Aloud to the kids, Keith is reading Voyage Of The Dawn Treader and I have just started Playing Beatie Bow – they are both books we adore, and the kids are liking them too. Full Mum and Dad endorsement on both.

Listening – some podcasts I love right now: 

Mortified  - teenage diaries. HILARI HORSE. They are all funny, but if you search for ’22 shades of awkward’ where a clueless pre-teen tries to write a sexy novel in the style of Judy Blume…well, you will thank me, and maybe even send me Cherry Ripes.

Dear Sugar - love advice from the sultry-voiced Cheryl Strayed (author of Wild) and Steve Almond. I could listen to these two read the back of the shampoo bottle, just for their gorgeous tones alone, but they are so wise, so thoughtful, and so candid – it’s a wonderful podcast to listen to. Good for the soul.

On The Media – Getting trustworthy news can be a tricky affair these days. This long-running program explores how ‘the media sausage’ is made, and is sometimes scary, always enlightening.

Rum, Rebels and Ratbags – finally, if you like a bit of Aussie history, ABC Radio’s Dom Knight and David Hunt put together a fabulously funny and quirky 10-parter on Australian colonial history. It’s an engrossing listen. Great with kids.

On Spotify I’m having a Wainwright moment – Martha, Rufus, Loudon, a little Kate McGarriagal: the whole gang. And 4 year old Pudding and I had a thrilling dance-off to Whispering Jack last week.

That’s it for me.  The Cherry Ripe of unexpected delight is over and  I’m off to bed, ready for a big week ahead. But first – to stand at the door and peer in at my firstborn for a while.

What are you reading/watching/listening to? Any recommendations for me?

Watching,Reading, Listening #1

Watching, Reading,Listening #2

Watching, Reading, Listening #3

Beautiful Three-Year-Olds

‘Camera Shy’, 1941, by Shorpy

This post was first published in Practical Parenting Magazine, November 2015

Are you currently sharing your house with a three year old? Don’t you sometimes wish you could freeze time, and just keep your little one at this age forever?

Three year olds are so hilarious.  My smallest child Pudding makes me laugh almost every time she opens her mouth.  She’s my third child, and my last, and I cherish all her wild flights of fancy. I know that one day soon, in the blink of an eye, she’ll be a little schoolgirl. She’ll be full of other kinds of kid-madness, but she’ll grow out of that special, nutty pre-schooler magic.

Pudding says ‘sticky steak’ instead of sticky tape. She like to play with ‘fridge magnicks’ and to eat her ‘vitamin seed tablets. ’ She says that there are people called the Ottomans who live under the ottoman in the lounge room. She talks to them. Actually, she says they can kill people.  (Visitors, be warned.)

The rich inner life of a three-year old is amazing. There are several imaginary friends in Pudding’s roster, but Annabel has the cheekiest vibe, and the most fully realised personality.  Pudding talks to Annabel a lot. I was inspecting chin hairs in the bathroom recently while Pudding was perched on the toilet next door.  ‘That is not true!’ I heard Pudding hiss under her breath.

‘What’s not true?’ I asked.

Pudding came in, pulling up her pants indignantly. ‘Annabel just said to me “you do poos in the bath every day”!’

‘Well, that’s patently untrue,’ I said. ‘You tell Annabel that you are not a baby and you do not do poos in the bath.’

‘I will certainly will tell her that,’ said Pudding. We both shook our heads at the outrageous accusation. It was so Annabel.

Pudding dresses herself in the garb of a tiny lunatic, ignoring all rules of fashion. She’s used to hand-me-downs, and puts them together in wildly inventive ways. ‘New thongs, Pudding?’ her Dad asked at the breakfast table. ‘Haviana’s, are they?’ Pudding looked at her feet. ‘Well, they’re mine now,’ she said.

Three year old’s are just adorable, suspended in that land somewhere between child and baby. They are still so little, still so sweet, but unlike your average frustrated and enraged two-year old, they  have the language skills to express the madness within.  For instance, where a toddler might throw their plate at dinnertime, Pudding can verbalise her displeasure.  ‘Trust me this, Mama’, she told me once, ‘Slokini is disgusting.’

This is not to say that parenting a three year old doesn’t take some bloody hard graft. It can be psychologically exhausting playing Mums and Dads for hours. Also, it gets messy. Yesterday, for instance, Pudding poured a cup of milk into the Tupperware drawer.  It happened as she tried to carry a brimming cup across the kitchen to the fridge because ‘Annabel told me to make a freeze-milk.’

Pudding is extremely busy, and not good at cleaning up her own mess. She wept bitter tears recently when I insisted she put her craft stuff away.  ‘But Mama, you don’t understand’, she wailed. ‘It’s so boring!’ Oh, bless. Believe me, Mummy understands.

More than the funny things they say and do, the best thing about three year olds is the intensity and purity of their affection. ‘You look beautiful Mama,’ three-year olds will tell you.   ‘Your hair is so pretty. Your shoes are so nice. You are so good at that. I love you so much Mama.’ Now, to invent that time-freezing device…

Tribal Instincts

Published this week in Sunday Life Magazine, a look at modern parent subcultures. Missing here: the Mad Religious, the Drug-Addled, the Silly-Voiced, the Odd Smelling and many other tribes I couldn’t fit into a tidy little box.


Originally a French term, Bobo is a conflation of the term “bourgeois bohemians” and it describes a rising demographic found mostly in our inner cities. Often combining the high-tech with the natural, Bobos love gadgetry and artisanal products. For instance, they might use a wireless wristband to bio-hack their metabolic health while riding their vintage bicycle. Fashion is “normcore”, or intentionally understated. Bobos are defined largely by food: veg is organic, grains are bad, nuts are activated, juice is green and coffee is cold-drip. Their diet may be raw vegan, paleo or 5:2. Don’t worry, you will find out which within the first few minutes of conversation.

Superpowers: Fermentation, free-boobing, beardiness, acro-yoga, ironic tattoos and superb gastro-intestinal health.

Armour: Kefir water, chemical-free sunscreen, gluten-free DSLR camera, chia seed mini-muffins in bento box.

Sample statement: ”Bugger, CrossFit ran so late I forgot to feed my kombucha mother. Can anybody give me a dink back to Tamarama?”


Breathtakingly capable, these parents sign readers, attend committees, and return school forms on time and free of mystery stains. Even the car of the No-Nonsense Parent is clean, which goes beyond the capability of 85 per cent of parents with small children. They separate their whites and darks. Both the women and the men are impressively groomed, hairless as Sphinx cats, and often highly sporty.

Handbags and satchels contain items for every occasion (wet wipes, tweezers, night-vision goggles, etc.) Spag bol is cooked in large batches to keep the busy work week humming smoothly. They are actual, proper grown-ups – and the P&C Federation would crumble without them.

Superpowers: Fundraising skill, death stares, ability to raise a single (beautifully arched) eyebrow,excellent information retention, household-management systems.

Armour: Premium-grade iPhone scheduling app, clothes iron, insomnia, low-level anxiety disorder, complete inability to say no, buttocks like two puppies fighting under a blanket, the pale eyeballs of the terrifyingly healthy.

Your best opening line: ”I am not worthy.”


Hot-Mess Parents often sport a fashion look best described as “shagged through a hedge backwards”. They arrive late, dishevelled and confused. School bags contain unsigned forms and rogue “crunch and sip” elements. Children and/or parents may have head lice.

Tears and coffee mingle on yesterday’s trousers as Hot-Mess Parents race to soccer training, only to realise they have packed the Irish dancing bag.

They are, frankly, all over the place like a madwoman’s poo-poo. By week eight of the school term, the percentage of parents who have shifted tribes from All-Business to Hot-Mess is high.

Superpowers: Pulling it together at the last minute, lightness of spirit, excellent blood pressure and incredible scrispering (scream-whispering) talent.

Armour: Three pens (none work).

Sample statement: ”Hat parade? What hat parade?”

Read the whole thing, if you’re interested , at Daily Life. 

In today’s news, Keith and I are off to a wedding up the coast. Sans kids, even (thank you, Mum and Dad.x)

Road trip! Road trip!! Road trip!!!!!!!

Happy weekend to you all.


Raising Girls: The Caitlin Moran Edition

I adore Caitlin Moran and her posthumous advice to her daughter deserves to go in the pool room.

It begins:

“Dear Lizzie. Hello, it’s Mummy. I’m dead. Sorry about that. I hope the funeral was good – did Daddy play Don’t Stop Me Now by Queen when my coffin went into the cremator? I hope everyone sang along and did air guitar, as I stipulated. And wore the stick-on Freddie Mercury moustaches, as I ordered in the ‘My Funeral Plan’ document that’s been pinned on the fridge since 2008, when I had that extremely self-pitying cold.

“The main thing is just to try to be nice. You already are – so lovely I burst, darling – and so I want you to hang on to that and never let it go. Keep slowly turning it up, like a dimmer switch, whenever you can. Just resolve to shine, constantly and steadily, like a warm lamp in the corner, and people will want to move towards you in order to feel happy, and to read things more clearly. You will be bright and constant in a world of dark and flux, and this will save you the anxiety of other, ultimately less satisfying things like ‘being cool’, ‘being more successful than everyone else’ and ‘being very thin’.

“Second, always remember that, nine times out of ten, you probably aren’t having a full-on nervous breakdown – you just need a cup of tea and a biscuit. You’d be amazed how easily and repeatedly you can confuse the two. Get a big biscuit tin.

“Three – always pick up worms off the pavement and put them on the grass. They’re having a bad day, and they’re good for… the earth or something (ask Daddy more about this; am a bit sketchy).

“Four: choose your friends because you feel most like yourself around them, because the jokes are easy and you feel like you’re in your best outfit when you’re with them, even though you’re just in a T-shirt. Never love someone whom you think you need to mend – or who makes you feel like you should be mended. There are boys out there who look for shining girls; they will stand next to you and say quiet things in your ear that only you can hear and that will slowly drain the joy out of your heart. The books about vampires are true, baby. Drive a stake through their hearts and run away.’

There is more, of course, all fabulous. Read it in it’s full glory here. 

Also, from Caitlin Moran, her Drunk New Year Tweets 

Also, on raising kids:

You Don’t Have To Be Pretty (And Other Advice For Daughters)

Introduce Your Daughters To Eccentric, Interesting and Original Women

Raising Girls – The Eight-Year-old Edition

On Following A Child’s Spark

Don’t Worry, Stressed, Enraged and Weeping Parents! Your Children Will Give You A Million Chances To Do Better

(And from the old blog, one especially for the boys, On Being The Mother Of A Son)

Enjoy those kids this morning, comrades. May today be the day they master the coffee machine and tell you how much they love your hair  x

The Ministry Of Unacceptable Underpants

Natalie Wood, good undies.

I am very happy to be home, but after a quiet month in the bosom of my family, the pace of life back in the school term is quite hectic. Car pools! School forms! Calendar management! When I was homeschooling I did not require myself to sign any forms at all, and my starting hour was extremely civilised.

It has been lovely to see my friends again though.

Sarah came over to help me fold the massive pile of washing on my couch. But each time she unearthed a pair of my undies, she was horrified. She had a number of problems with them. Stretchiness, ragged elastic,  actual holes.  ‘I’m staging an intervention,’ she said.

Yesterday I found a paper bag in my letter box containing two pairs of new knickers and a letter from The Ministry of Unacceptable Underpants. ‘It has come to our attention that you have not renewed your underpants at the recommended intervals’, it began. ‘By following our quick checklist you can ensure the reliability and safety of all your underpants.’

The checklist that followed was exhaustive. It included the following questions: Can you see through any part of your underpants that were once opaque? Does the elastic around your underpants hold the garment securely in place? Is the integrity of the gusset still acceptable? Can a breeze enter through any part of your underwear?

The Ministry gave me four weeks to update my collection, after which point they advised that I should expect direct community action. I intend to follow the guidelines, and shall begin by my sending my worst pairs directly to the Ministry for disposal.

My underpants may be the worst, but my girlfriends are the best.

Dobby The House Elf


This post was originally published in Practical Parenting Magazine, September 2015

 You know what explains housework stress? Science. The second law of thermodynamics says that entropy (or disorder) is always increasing. Therefore, toy-clutter will expand to fill the available space. The washing-up will breed. And Mount Washmore on the lounge will always tower.  It’s actually ridiculous how much messier life gets once you add kids.  One tiny, three-kilo baby can add a shockingly disproportionate amount of chaos to a formerly smooth-running household.

Having kids can be messy for your relationship too. Welcome to tonight’s round of ‘It’s Your Turn’:  the fun after-dinner game that the whole family will love!

As parents we become servants to tiny, unreasonable masters, and this takes some getting used to. I remember intense surges of panic in the early days, as I realised ‘there is NO WAY OUT of this’. As I adjusted to motherhood, this feeling passed. That’s because I was absolutely in thrall to my master. Really, motherhood is a little like Stockholm Syndrome.

But the main, overriding and unpredicted shock of new motherhood for me was the housework.  I was really excited to become a Mum. But I had not realised that small print in the Motherhood Contract had also locked me into a lifetime of being Dobby The House-Elf. It’s a common story, and it happens easily: one partner is home with the baby while the other is putting in a full day at their job (with the not-insignificant addition of the emotional weight of being ‘provider’ placed upon their shoulders), and also managing a shift of baby-wrangling when they get home. The stay-at-home partner feels like it’s only fair that they manage the lion’s share of housework. Everybody is working their tail off in Newborn Land.

The housework, though: it’s crazy. Breastfeeding women eat like first-grade footballers, babies soil clothes constantly and nappies leave a pungent odour of sickly-sweet poo through the house. Add more children to this mix, and there is just no way of keeping on top of the chaos. It’s like they say: trying to do housework with small children around is like running a blender with the top off.

There’s a real coming-to-terms that had to happen for me when I became Dobby the House Elf. In lots of ways I embraced it, unexpectedly. I found something deeply satisfying and pleasurable in those mundane tasks that were all part of building a foundation of our family life. I remember calling Mum after we moved from our flat into a house when our first baby was five months old. ‘Mum, I’m hanging out the clothes on a HILLS HOIST!’ I told her joyfully. ‘Who are you,’ she said, ‘and what have you done with my daughter?’

It’s tough though. It took some reconciling, that identity shift from single working woman to stay-at-home mum. Domestic life takes negotiating with your partner too, so you don’t end up nursing terrible resentments about your role.  (Watch out, kids! Mum’s gonna blow!)

Whether you stay at home or your partner does, whether you work part-time, full-time, or not outside the home at all, it’s crucial to be able to acknowledge that housework takes time, holds real value and can be incredibly stressful, like all jobs.  It’s a good conversation to have before the baby arrives. And when I say ‘baby’, I mean the Master of Your New Universe, Maker of Incredible Mess and Evil Smells. Prepare yourselves, my pregnant friends. Housework is coming.


House-Swapping: It’s a Yes From Me!

We have been registered on a house-swapping website for a year or so now, but have never gotten on the horse and done the actual crazy thing yet.  Until this trip to South Australia.

It was a bit nerve-racking. It’s such an intense thing to do, open your home for another family to come in and live. Lots of people have made a horrified face when I told them our plans. (Hi Mum!) It is a bit full on. It forces you to up your lifestyle game. Stuff piles and junk drawers and broken handles won’t fly. We had to accept the fact that we lived like animals and create a new kind of reality.

We cleaned out all the cupboards and scrubbed all the corners. We made signs like ‘don’t climb this crumbling retaining wall!’ , ‘don’t drink from this tap!’ and ‘broken drawer: don’t open!’ We made notes in a guest book about garbage night and coffee shops and local doctors and wifi and electronics. We fixed the greywater system and the water pump and the toilet,  re-soldered bedside lights and repaired outdoor furniture. We sewed curtains and hung pictures.

Everywhere we looked, there were jobs to do.

It was nuts!

And yet, it was fine. I made a little pact with myself that I wouldn’t let it become stressful, wouldn’t let it turn into a kind of ‘my god, why hast thou forsaken meeee’ kind of drama. I decided to think of it like  investing in a fancy future. It was just a lot of work.

On our final weekend, Mum and Dad took the kids for a sleepover so Keith and I could go hard. He was the outside dog, I was the inside dog, and we didn’t stop for hours and hours – into the night, and through the next day. Packing, cleaning. Cleaning, packing.

(An aside – while I worked, I listened to all 13 episodes of the Charles Manson Series on the old-Hollywood podcast ‘You Must Remember This.’ This sounds so grisly, but it is, in fact, an amazing series that dissects the dark heart of the 1960′s. If you like true crime – were you a Serial fan? – this is the genre at its clever, complex best. )

Anyway, we finally made it out the door, and after a week’s outback road trip, we  arrived here in Adelaide, where we are staying in the house of a family who feel like a kind of Christian parallel universe version of Keith and I. They have kids the same age, and there are so many crossovers in the kitchen and around the place, except that they are very devout, judging by their bookshelves and art, and K and I are godless dirty heathens, judging by ours. They seem really, really nice.

And – hooray! – they are happy at our house, and we are happy at theirs. It’s been fantastic. I texted a picture of Keith at their piano when we arrived, and Chisty texted me a picture of Josh at ours. They looked hilariously identical – two happy middle-aged beardy dads. It’s a very communal system – we text back and forth – does this work? Where is the remote? Garden is watered! The house-swappers feel, weirdly, like friends we have never met, which I’m actually kind of comfortable with. I’m a blogger after all – I have a number of friends like that.

Now,  Keith is working again, and I am living out my home-school fantasies (Can I get a ‘Yes, ma’am!?’) (No.) We’re enjoying living life in a different place for a few weeks, and Adelaide is a lovely town. It would be financially impossible for us to rent a place like this for three weeks with actual Mickey Mouse money.  Instead, house-swapping operates in a sort of honesty economy – you look after our stuff, we’ll look after yours.  This place is amazing – near the tram line, ten minutes from town, and with a good coffee machine.  We even have a bike with a toddler-cart!  I’ve got new books, the kids have new toys, and the vege garden is producing dinner.

My friend Emma thought house-swapping sounded amazing. ‘What, so you just wear their clothes and everything?’ she asked. ‘No, Emma, ‘ I said. ‘You don’t just walk out of your own door and into every aspect of the other families life. It’s not Wife Swap. But I love you. Never change.’

House-swapping has been such a success for us that I can’t imagine holidaying another way now. Plus, we get to go home and enjoy the fancy house we slaved to create, and haven’t got to enjoy yet. Bonus!

We are Hitting The Road!

We are off for a month in South Australia!

First week: ROAD TRIP!!!

Happy holidays, comrades. See you on the other side!



Bookshelf: An Insider Glimpse Into the Australian Parliament

This week, as we stand by and wait to see how things unfold with the silver fox (for non-Aussie readers, we have a new Prime Minister)  I happen to be reading a really interesting book about the machinery of government.

James Button, son of the late long-time ALP politician  John Button, spent a year working as a speechwriter for the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet during Kevin Rudd’s (first) stint in the top job. He wrote this memoir exploring that year, and his book is fascinating.

It’s a study of Labour Party history, an homage to his late father, and a peek into the vast, polite, obfuscatory and baffling world of the public service.

If you can’t stop watching coverage this week, or have a political animal with a birthday coming up in your life,  I loved this book. I feel like I understand a little more about the system we live under.

No more from me tonight: I am deep in packing, list-making and deadline-meeting. On Sunday we’re off for a month to South Australia, and I have to pull the house together for the family of house-swappers who are coming to stay. It’s a big gig!

ps – and just because it is wonderful….Jason Wood and his genetically modified orgasms, 2008.

pps – Chinese press have taken to calling Malcolm Turrnbull ‘sugar bomb’ and ‘sweet dumpling’. (!!)


Multiple Personality Mum

“I was a strict disciplinarian, perhaps too strict at times, but my God, without discipline what is life?” – Joan Crawford.  Making normal parents look awesome for the last seventy years.  Cheers Joan!

 This post was originally published in Practical Parenting Magazine, August 2015

Before I had my first child I read a squillion parenting books. They were not that useful for the reason that none of them were teaching me how to parent my specific child. The Book Of Peanut would have covered theatrical, emotional, hilarious daughters. I could really have used that book. But the Book Of Peanut would still not have helped me when number two and number three children came along.

Eight years into this parenting caper, I’ve realised that all my children have a different mother, because they all need different mothering from me.

Little Peanut has always been fiercely independent and sensitive to the social atmosphere around her. Yesterday I had to talk her through the process of cleaning the rotten banana out of the bottom of her schoolbag. I insisted that she do it herself, but from the theatrics, you would have thought that I’d requested she clean out the flue of a Victorian chimney.

It was a drama, yes, but it was also massively comedic, like her flamboyance always has been. Mothering Peanut has always meant helping her process and make sense of life – judging when to step in and when to step out. I’ve got better at it as the years have rolled by.

My 6 year old son T-Bone needs another kind of Mum. He’s always been a thinker, a bit of an eccentric. He’s so bright in fact that sometimes he’s like a big brain on a stick, not tuned into his body at all. He needs a lot of really physical mothering from me. As in, walking him through every step of getting dressed. As in ‘you’ve put your undies on over your pants again, darling’. As in, holding in the Mother Rage on a school morning.

The thing with an affectionate boy-child is that there is no gold in the world as precious as their cuddles. They are just glorious. And chances are I will have them for a long time – in fact, sometimes I imagine T-Bone on a podium in thirty years, accepting the Nobel Prize for physics. And there I am, doing his tie.

Pudding, three years old and my third child, is easy like a Sunday morning. She’s funny, chatty and up for anything. If the house is full of big girls, she’ll loom-band up a storm. If her brother has a friend over, she convinces them to play ‘My Two Dads’. (So modern!)  With me, she’s my car-buddy, my shopping companion, and totally happy to watch re-runs of Friends over lunch. She is so easy to mother.

These days, I try to find time in the day to narrow in on each kid at some point. I p6lay Mums and Dads with Pudding, read the Treehouse books in a cuddle-puddle with T-Bone and play the ‘Walking Game’ with Peanut. This is our latest thing. She stands on the piano stool which makes her slightly taller than me, we put our arms around each other waists and pretend to stroll along, having a ‘grown-up’ chat. ‘Hey, let’s go see a movie! What shall we see? Mad Max? You can buy the coffee, I’ll drive…’  For independent little Peanut, pretending she is eighteen and hanging out with Mum is as good as it gets.

There’s still ten years till we get there though. It’s a long game, this learning to be a Mum. I feel really privileged to get to play it.

PS – Winners of the book giveaway announced on this post: Anxiety and the Post-Baby Conversation.