All In Parenting Archive

I’m totally¬†organised. So when I woke this morning and remembered that it was the day of my son’s field trip to see elephant seals, I wasn’t unprepared. Okay maybe a little.

By 7.30am I was in Safeway raiding the shelves for whatever might constitute the recommended lunch. From the guidelines:

“Everyone should bring a substantial lunch including a couple of snacks and two drinks. No candy or gum (Darn! How can they do this to us? Oh, well, it’s California after all.) And it’s the teachers not parents that have to deal with the onset of hyperactive bloodlust following the over consumption of Sunset Yellow E110 and Allura Red E129. ) Who can blame them for the strict guidelines?”

“There is no food available to purchase at Ano Nuevo.” Facepalm! That was my back-up plan. Hand the kid some money and set him free. How can this be? I can’t remember the last time I prepared a school lunch. Probably the last full day field trip. My children normally buy lunch at the school cafeteria. The school cafeteria supplies a range of “Kid friendly meals, milk and an organic salad bar.” The quality has¬†moved on from the Slop of yesteryear.

Which reminds me. I grab some organic pre-sliced apples so I don’t get the dirty eye from the Moms that are conscious of both their child’s nutritional needs and others.

I also grab¬†Lunchables which is technically not food. More of a food substitute. It’s actually the backbone of the American economic recovery. Just doing my bit for the economy. Then into the cart go¬†turkey rolls and¬†pre-boiled and peeled eggs.

It may come as a surprise to some Americans that other countries prepare would prepare these foods from scratch.

It may come as a surprise to some countries that you can buy prepared foods and not have them leak all their nutritional value into the plastic wrapper. I mean this can’t happen, can it?

Oh well. I think the lunch bag looks the part. And I do have a back up plan. My Swiss friend is accompanying the class and she can always be relied on to produce a range of nourishing delicacies for all and sundry.

The destination:

“Ano Nuevo State Park’s rich variety of social and cultural resources draws visitors from around the world. The park’s Natural Preserve offers an extraordinary wilderness experience, where every year up to 10,000 elephant seals return to breed, give birth and molt their skin amongst the scenic dunes and beaches.”

The ultimate approach to exfoliation. Gotta hand it to dem seals. They know the secret to youth and beauty. Exfoliate, exfoliate, exfoliate.

I drop everyone at school and return home to consider my own nutritional needs. I came off a 30 day detox diet with a thud on Monday so I’m feeling a little like a seal myself. Now I’m searching for some balance in my diet. For my mid morning snack I throw together some ricotta and fruit to satiate the sweet tooth and boost my protein intake:



And forgive me if I post this prematurely with typos. I must now go and meet my son’s bus and hear all about the seals.


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The brats  My darling children are back in school and I can get some time to myself. In an ideal world our living room would always look like this:




I would be sitting at one end of the table enjoying my morning coffee and reading the newspaper. Right before I go out for my mani/pedi. Followed by a stop at my local bookstore.¬†I’d have picked up my 50th anniversary copy of John Le Carre’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Then stopped to read a couple¬†of chapters over my flat white at Starbucks.

Newsflash! Starbucks has only just put a flat white on their menu. Southern hemisphere readers; if you asked for a flat white until recently, you’d get a blank stare. I get a lot of blank stares anyway due to my Kiwi accent.

I have fun with this. I’ve perfected my own blank stare back. With a little help from a Serbian friend. A¬†bit of Slav attitude gets results fast.

The room in the picture above looks lovely and peaceful. Because there are no kids in it. And no evidence of kids. It’s new. A big ole empty new room. Stand at the door to this room; look outwards¬†and you’ll survey the 180 degree view of an inch deep layer of Apple Jacks and Froot Loops.

This is a Before photo of the long slow process of demolition that will ¬†occur over the next twenty years. Where part of us will die a little with each scratch and mark. But we wouldn’t have it any other way. Obviously.

Or I’d have collection of Lladr√≥¬†instead of a collection of kids.

When the kids have left home I plan to start a collection of the ugliest Lladr√≥¬†pieces I can find. I grew up in the 80’s so this is the epitome of glamour for me. I’m just so glad it was different for Lorde growing up in New Zealand a decade or so later:

Imagine trying to work, ” Lladr√≥, Royal Doulton, Diamonds on your car phone”, into the song “Royals”. It just wouldn’t work.

Satus symbols today compared to the 1980’s.¬†

So anyway.¬†I didn’t get to read the newspaper this morning. I’ve rewarmed my coffee from 6 am in the microwave. My toes disappeared off the radar in 2006. They seem to have employed a local cloaking device. Good for them. One more thing less to do. But I have made time for myself to sit down and write.

( I don’t do New Year’s resolutions. If I did they they would all revolve around coffee, food and bad habits.) Way to suck the fun out of life big time. But I am putting a plan in place now the kids are back at school.

The next four months I plan to finish a book. I started this project two years ago. And got busy with life.

When I picked it up again recently the characters were the same but I realised I had the wrong audience. So I’ve started from scratch and hope to have something in three months. I’ve already written two books in different genres. I have a stack of rejection slips to prove it.

So thanks for stopping by my blog. I couldn’t do it without you. To write creatively I have to deliberately open up the creative channels. This I do by putting¬†up a blog post. Then some time later in that day or night I get the urge to sit down at the above table and write a couple of chapters. The¬†characters shoulder tap me: “Oh man, who’s she going to write about now”?

I get to have a bit of fun and a glimpse into another world for five, ten minutes or if I am lucky, an hour. A world that doesn’t have Apple Jacks in it.

Housewife essentials

And I’m wearing this. And my toes are painted to match.



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I’m doing a series of posts on the cheery topic of anxiety to herald in the New Year.

I was twelve when I had my first full on panic attack. I didn’t establish this date stamp until recently. I had pegged myself to be around the age of eight. I guess eight was how ‘old’ I felt in my head.

Turns out I was a hormonally sensitive tween. It was 1986. There was a disaster at the nuclear power plant Chernobyl.

My precocious friend ¬†Alana cornered me at school. “Do you know,” she said. There’s been a nuclear power plant accident in the Ukraine. Deadly nuclear fallout is going to drift all the way down to New Zealand.”

Perhaps my friend¬†Alana¬†was exhibiting a ¬†journalistic nose for news. When you’ve got a breaking story¬†the imperative¬†is to share to an audience. Verifying sources and fact checking can come secondary to the urge to share.

Alter this pronouncement; Alana went home to her parents who had recently converted from Catholicism to Buddhism.

She had this past year also enlightened me to the actual nature of Santa Claus. I went home to an acute state of misery.

The next two days were an internal monologue of, “when am I going to die, ” and”I’m so scared.” I was asked what was wrong by my worried Mom. My stomach and tongue were so twisted in knots that I¬†couldn’t tell her. She finally drew it out of me and I started to feel better. I believe it was then I got the card. “Welcome to Anxietyville, Have a nice day!”

I wonder how many Cold War era basket cases there are out there. I am certainly one of them.

Dealing with anxiety in childhood comes down to three things.

1. Genetic set point. I was never a bullet proof child. I tended to worry about random stuff even before the onset of panic attacks.

2. Exposure to events that might cause an overly anxious reaction. As a parent we can ¬†be aware that they may be having internal reactions that We can’t wrap our children in cotton wool but I’m careful to check in with them.

3. Management of anxiety by parents. Sometimes kids look older than they are. I don’t over share. They’re going through a totally different life experience than I am ¬†and I may not be able to judge their maturity level. I have a conflict of interest as a parent.

The panic attacks continued sporadically throughout my early childhood. Any prediction of the end of the world would set it off. There was some inane prediction by ¬†freaks channeling Mother Shipton that set me off around 1990. ¬†But everything else was mostly normal until I moved schools. Then came the rounds of social anxiety. More than mere shyness. I am an extrovert. I love social situations. I had lots of friends in my early school years and have lots of friends now. ¬†But due to whatever factors were at play (hormones, recent parental break up, I would suffer. I would go into a new school situation and be paralysed. I wouldn’t speak. I’d desperately want to make friends but I wouldn’t speak. ¬†And not being able to speak severely limits your ability to make friends.

Who’da thunk?

So I learned to self medicate by the age of sixteen. The usual suspects for us¬†Gen X teenagers.¬†Wine (casked); beer; ¬†rum. I developed ¬†a good posse of friends which was awesome. ¬†I took the misbehavior all a bit far in my late teens and early years of college. But it didn’t matter if¬†I burned off the odd flatmate because I was able to talk again and write. My anxiety would reoccur periodically. I’d go and talk with a doctor. They’d ask me how much I drank. I’d lie and life would move on.

I met a couple of people who had a huge influence on my internal state. I was a housekeeper at a motel and made friends with the head housekeeper who was just a few years older than me. She would curse¬†and¬†speak her mind. And she was so funny. We would be in fits as we folded sheets together. We’d finish work and hang out and she’d tease me and I’d relax. She was like the older sister I never had.

I met the deadlocked hippy who was my future husband.

Call it Oxytocin or “Love at first sight” ; the rare combination of Brains (we were College dropouts) and Aspiration (we had none; we were hippies) drew us together. It turns out we’d experience the future ups and downs of life together.

I’ll split this post out into two¬†shortly


I realized this year, mainly through others honest discussions, that we all have something. Call it anxiety; depression; the human condition. We’ll go to any lengths to hide it but we’re all suffering from it!

Crazy crazy us! If you’re an anxious teen or prone to anxiety; hang in there. It always gets better. And never underestimate the power of a laugh or a cuddle.







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Today started predictably enough. Hearing my daughter’s voice, I arose from my slumber and opened my eyes to see a ball of spittle, precariously suspended by a single thread of saliva, superimposed on my daughter’s cheeky grin.

I whisked my head sideways to avoid the looming fate. The spittle plopped on my pillow and I made a mental note to myself to change the pillowslip.

I’ll probably forget.

I dispatch Kaelyn to check on the state ¬†of her brother’s rooms. She is distracted by our ginger tom, Blaster. He submits to her earnest affections and I make myself a cup of freshly ground coffee with our Rancilio.


I step outside to check on the state of things.

And stand on a dead rat.

“Eurghhh! Don’t touch that cat”, I yell back at the house. I hop from one foot to another sloshing my coffee in the process. Other than the dead rodent, things appear largely to be in order.

I make a mental note to pack away the last of the Halloween decorations including the RIP sign on the front porch.





I browse the online version of the New York Times before the kids start clamoring for breakfast. From “Our ‘Mommy’ Problem”:

“Motherhood is no longer viewed as simply a relationship with your children, a role you play at home and at school, or even a hallowed institution. Motherhood has been elevated – or perhaps demoted to the realm of lifestyle, an all encompassing identity with demands and expectations that eclipse everything else in a woman’s life”.

I laugh at this:

“The current culture demands that every mother be all in, all the time. My sister-in-law told me about a mom at her kid‚Äôs elementary school who took the basic school T-shirt that everyone got and painstakingly created a beaded fringe at the bottom, replete with cinched waist and perfectly cuffed sleeves. All of the other little girls gathered around, screeching variations of ‚ÄúI want the same thing!‚ÄĚ Incredibly enough, instead of laughing in their unrealistic faces the way our parents might have, all the adults started mumbling, ‚ÄúYes, O.K., we can do that, sure, I‚Äôll learn a challenging new craft, no problem. Tonight, of course. We‚Äôll do it tonight.‚ÄĚ This made my sister-in-law, who was already late for work, want to teach a few people the artisanal craft of rearranging someone‚Äôs face using only your bare hands. We are outclassed at every turn. We are outspent and out-helicoptered and outnumbered. It used to be good enough just to keep your house from being coated in a thin layer of dog hair and human feces. No longer.”

And this:

“FORTY years ago, my mother and her two friends drank coffee, ate homemade cherry pie and chain-smoked their way through lively debates over whether a popular author was daringly frank or a chauvinist, while their children were expected to play nicely outside and rarely interrupt. Today, all three mothers might instead be engaged in some elaborate craft project, with each woman stopping the conversation every few seconds to open a little jar of paint or to help glue on some tiny eyes.”


I slap my head with the palm of my hand.

My son’s third grade class was given a craft project to decorate a paper scarecrow.

A MONTH ago! It’s still outstanding due to a combination of procrastination and lack of motivation.
I’m sorry, but most third grade boys are scarcely capable of coloring inside the lines let alone being able to deploy the skills required to kit out¬†a paper scarecrow using the suggested fabric and ‘other materials’.
The paper scarecrow has sat in the Homework tray for a month whilst every two days I cajole my third grader to start on his ‘Scarecrow Project’. Occasionally I weakly email my son’s teacher to say, “It’ll be in this week”.
We can’t not complete this homework project. They’ll be graded on it for their first semester report card. On one hand this is outrageous. It’s a freaking art project.

On the other hand I can see it helping teach valuable project management skills.
And cutting and pasting strengthens finger muscles for ELA (English Language Arts) This Common Core Standards jargon is everywhere these days. In my day it was known as Reading Writing and Art. Separate subjects.

The jury is out on Common Core but the curriculum has a Kumon like feel about it. There is endless¬†repetition with fractionally different examples and mastery of one topic before proceeding to the next. Great to prevent gaps in knowledge and monitor the progress of the child’s learning but quick learners can get bored having to explain why they ‘know’ something.

“But I just KNOW,” is the oft heard phrase at our Homework table. “This SUCKS”, is another common phrase.

common core

I’ve noticed the teachers adapt their teaching style to compensate. Some allow for extra credit. Others drop everything and take the kids to the playing field for¬†real life examples.

Regardless of the veracity of the curriculum; I realize the writing is on the wall. There is going to to be some cutting and pasting and employment of Project Management Skills. Today.

“I’m too busy to decorate a Scarecrow!” I mutter. Five children does give cause to to fill one’s day in. But I’m resigned. I ¬†get my cutting and pasting tools out. I ransack my brain for ideas.

Quite frankly I feel defeated.¬†Several¬†days earlier I had looked into my son’s classroom to see what the finished product might look like. What a mistake that was! It would appear there are a lot of third graders capable of turning out perfectly decorated; blinged up paper scarecrows.
I’m dubious that a Third Grader could reliably place buttons let alone sharpie on a well appointed lop-sided scarecrow smile.

And I’ll eat my hat if my son’s classmates hemmed the¬†¬†denim material adorning some of the scarecrows as dungarees.


I realize I’m a reluctant victim of the “All In”, Parenting Syndrome as per the “Our ‘Mommy’ Problem” Blog Post. Instead of handing my son some crayons and telling him to get drawing, ¬†I am doing his art project for him. To the best of my meagre ability. ¬†I don’t want my son to have the only crayon drawn Scarecrow on the classroom¬†wall and be awarded a ‘2’ for a grade.

The worst of this whole business is that I don’t have the craft skill of some of the other Mom’s. I tell myself that I’ll be learning valuable project management skills and set to work.

Axel insists that the dungarees be white. “That’s so lame I mutter”. Everyone knows Scarecrow dungarees are denim or burlap. But I guess my son has to have some input into the project so I can look his teacher in the eye.

I make a paper dungaree template. For the shirt I ¬†cut up an old pair of swim shorts from GAP. They are three seasons old and have a hole in the crotch. It’s about time they were retired despite the temptation to pass them onto my youngest to get another swim season from them.

I make a fatal mistake and get my son to draw in the eyes and the smile.

Scarecrow gets a thin smile and three eyes.

My husband wanders past and says “that’s so cute”, about my Scarecrow. I feel vindicated. My scarecrow may not be the most polished but Hubby thinks it’s cute. Which means he thinks I’m cute. Possibly. I’m wearing my gardening clothes; cutoffs, the aforesaid hat and a deranged smile as I pick¬†through buttons for the final touches.

I place the hat I’ve stolen from a scarecrow in a neighboring garden. It’s not the first time I’ve turned to criminal acts in the name of Motherhood. Like Mob Bosses, we do what we have to do. ¬†As “Our ‘Mommy’ Problems” blog post notes; the perception of “Motherhood” can me erroneous and appearances can be misleading. We are people with the Mommy overlay. We have different strengths and weaknesses to meet the pressures coming from every direction.

I may not know how to hem denim but I know how to pilfer.

I throw a handful of leaves on the paper dungarees and take a picture of the finished product.

Paper Scarecrow


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