Abaondoned undies, exhausting forks

It’s occurred to me lately that we need to rethink the division of labour in our household. Because as the kids are growing up, life is getting seriously busy – and I’m slowly turning into a grumpy old cow.

Long gone are those toddler years when staying in jamies until noon was de rigueur, and ordering drive through coffee in your ugg boots was an acceptable days outing.

early days

These days there are alarms going bleep-bleep and befuddled children to boss about.  There are sustaining breakfasts and inspiring lunches to be negotiated. There are bags to pack, uniforms to locate, permission slips to be signed and teeth to be brushed. Those teeth need to be brushed Every. Single. Morning.   Top if off with a school bell to meet, and it gets me almost every time – I’m doing that shouty thing before the day has even properly started.

And the days when I try to complete the whole saga and then continue on my way to work?  Multiply the degree of difficulty by approximately 1.75, if you expect to a) remember your lunch and b) not look like you’ve been dragged through a bush backwards.  Some women do it every day of the week – and it baffles me how.

But then I read a few of those smug, ‘it’s really not so difficult if you’re organised’ type blog posts and came across this gem:

I have 3 young boys to get to school in the morning and have no trouble . We have a timetable. 6.30 – 7am – breakfast and shower. 7 – 7.30 – Chores, which are broken into 3 groups and they do each morning. They rotate at the end of the week. 7.30 – 8 – relax, 8am – depart for school. Lunches are made on Sunday night and packed in the fridge/freezer for the whole week with their name on them. Have been doing this since the youngest was 4 yrs old and have no problems at all.Pocket money of $5/wk is paid every Sunday. My boys are healthy, responsible, organised, good at school and sports and very happy..

Is she for real?  Do people really get their jollies packing a week’s worth of lunches every Sunday night, before unwinding with a well-overdue sock drawer inventory and a cup of camomile tea?  Obviously Ms Smarty Pants here doesn’t need to ask her children to do something at least three times before it will even appear on their radar – giving her plenty of time for her pelvic floor exercises while cooking day 13 of her 20-day rotating menu cycle.

Anyhow… I recently decided to implement a system of weekly chores and pocket money – because it dawned on me that if I don’t, I may well miss the bus, and end up with children who still don’t know how to use a washing machine at age 35.

The bedroom formed the ‘core focus’ of my new system.  From now on it was up to them to ensure it was tidy every morning, or they could kiss goodbye to their sweet $2 on Sunday.  In addition, he would take charge of emptying the dishwasher cutlery basket, she would help sort the clean washing, and they would both take turns feeding the dog.  I wrote it up, had it laminated and hoped for the best.

high hopes

One week down the track, we hit a snag.  My daughter had ‘run out’ of underwear, and so I went in to investigate and found no less than 5 pairs of underpants (balled up within various garments) in the bottom of the closet.  I delved deeper, and discovered several pairs of pyjamas covered in vegemite smears or crusted-on porridge, and shoved in various PATENTLY NON-PYJAMA draws throughout the room.

Arlo started out brilliantly with the cutlery task (completed with more precision than my husband, who favours the ‘turn upside and tip’ approach).   But predictably his enthusiasm faded, to the point where a direct transcript from his most recent unpack goes something like this:

Oh… this is soooo booorrrring (drop one fork into draw)…  It’s going…. to…. take…….. all………day… (drop one spoon into drawer) …. It’s….. tooo…. hard…. and… booooorrrrrring….. {enormous sigh}

Observing this spectacle, I fought against every fibre of my being, which wanted to take him and shout: JUST LET ME DO IT YOU LAZY GOOD-FOR-NOTHING OVER-PRIVILEGED UPSTART in an alarmingly Alf Stewart fashion.

Surely I should just save myself the angst and do it myself, properly, with no need for the drill-sergeant routine?  But that would be quitting.  So we’re pressing on.

I’ll let you know if the point ever comes when the kids ‘helping’ actually saves me time, and doesn’t make me want to stick a fork in my leg.  But until then, I’m keeping a good stock of Bombay Sapphire at the ready.

He got the cutlery blues


It’s cool to be a bit crap

With a short (but welcome) burst of school and kinder again this week, I’ve found myself taking stock of my winning and non-so-winning moments these school holidays.

Let’s start with my great moments – the ones where I was patient, creative and engaged with the children.  I baked with them (to be honest, it was more for them than with them).   I painted and crafted with them (and then finished their projects when they got bored and drifted off).  I took them to the library, to live theatre and the movies.  I spent a whole day making over their bedroom until it was fit for the pages of a glossy coffee table magazine.  I even strapped my bewildered feet into ice skates for the first time ever, in a surprise mother-daughter bonding session.

Looks pretty impressive on paper, doesn’t it?

School holiday moments (the good ones)

My feel-good school holiday montage

But in the interests of transparency, I’ll also share some of my not-so-great moments. Such as the three days straight where it rained pretty much constantly, and the puppy crapped and pissed in the house a lot.  On those days, the children fought and sulked, I yelled (even though I realise it’s not cool), and frequently resorted to eating chocolate hiding behind the pantry door.  To be honest, I was a bit of a grumpy cow.

And what made my mood even more morose was that all of my friends seemed to be doing interesting, fun-looking stuff on Facebook and Instagram.  I wondered why I was stuck in a funk at home, while everyone else was (apparently) exploring Melbourne and revelling in their children’s company?

Social media can be a bugger like that at times.  Like when you’ve just stepped backwards into a puddle of urine (again) and thrown the dishcloth dramatically across the kitchen and bellowed WHY IS THE DOG INSIDE THE HOUSE AGAIN?  AM I THE ONLY ONE WHO EVER TAKES HER OUTSIDE FOR A WEE!!? At times like this, it can seem like everyone is a more creative, proactive and fun parent than you.

creative parenting

What’s wrong with me? Why didn’t I think to fashion superhero elements into the children’s clothing this morning? (image: Abbey Hendrickson)

But looking back on those grumpy cow moments, I’ve decided to cut myself a bit of slack, because the truth is that being in charge of little people doesn’t always make for a relaxing, uplifting experience.  At times it can be exhausting and (is it okay to say this?) pretty boring. I’m just not that into hide and seek. Or playing memory match, with the house a veritable pigsty around me.  Does that make me a crap parent?

What I suspect is that everyone has their crap parent moments.  We all lose the plot now and again, and say things we regret as soon as the words are out of our mouth (even the most excruciatingly patient, earth-mother types).  It’s just that we generally don’t broadcast them on social media.

And in the parenting stakes, I’m pretty sure it’s okay to be a bit crap now and then.  We’re human, after all.

So next time you read that blog post – from the amazing, inspiring tree change family who live in the idyllic farmhouse and gather organic vegetables, which they cook in their rustic kitchen and eat at their hand-crafted, reclaimed timber dining table every night … just imagine what doesn’t make it into the blog.

Like maybe sometimes the children refuse to wear the romantic gumboots and be photographed picking berries, and instead chuck an enormous tantrum and demand to play on their mother’s iphone, which she is constantly shoving in their face at every instagramable opportunity.

You’ve got to admit – it’s kind of fun to conjure up.

gumboots are so hot right now

Empty gumboots (image: Monica Hoinkis)



NEWS FLASH: Impossible Quiche Saves Day

I’m sitting on the couch, snatching a moment of peace with my coffee and computer. The weather’s grey and drizzly, the puppy’s sprawled in the plush bean bag by the heater (I’ve conceded defeat on that one), and the room is filled with the loud tick-tock of a metronome.  One of the kids was playing on the keyboard, but has since scuttled off elsewhere, leaving just the oppressive tick, tock, tick, tock.  And so goes my Thursday afternoon.

dog comaWe’re almost a week into the holidays, and my patience is waning.  I’m trying to embrace the mess, but really I’m not fooling anyone.  I’ve reverted to ‘take no crap’ mode.  In the car just now I presented them with the facts: If you don’t stop arguing I’m going to lose the plot!  Of course, what I really wanted to say was I’m dangerously close to LOSING MY SHIT.

…< big breath >….

The addition of our newest family member – the delightful Billie – has added an extra level of intensity these school holidays.   It’s been wonderful watching the kids rolling on the grass with her, lovingly making her dinner and cooing to her while she laps up her puppy milk. And against house rules, we’ve engaged in many indulgent, late-night couch snuggles.  She’s beautiful.

billie on bean bag

With the territory though, has come a few not-so-great moments.  There’s the early mornings which always start with paper towel, Pine-O-Clean and rubber gloves.  And there’s the constant stream of ‘Billie NO!’ ‘NO SHOES!’ and ‘No BITE!’ exclamations throughout the day.  Beautiful, and kind of exhausting.

Because of the puppy we’ve stayed close to home this week, and I’ve been donning the apron and getting my Nigella on a bit.  So while I’m inspired, here’s one thing I’ve been meaning to do for ages:  I want to share the magic of The Impossible Quiche.

Don’t worry – I haven’t gone all ‘easy, quick meals for mums’ on you.  I’m just really loving this quiche right now – it’s dead simple and bloody delicious.

The ‘impossible’ component is the lack of any pastry, yet the oddly pastry-like end product.  And the bit I’m amazed by is that it’s all light and fluffy, rather than all eggy and wet like your traditional frittata.  As long as you have the integral ingredients of eggs, milk, flour and cheese, you can make up the rest depending on the contents of your fridge.

I also tried this with gluten free flour, and it still worked beautifully.  The kids and my ‘eggs are not dinner’ husband all gave it their seal of approval.  And (be still my beating heart!) it even holds up well for lunch the following day.

Behold.. The Impossible Quiche (thanks Anna!)

The Impossible Quiche

Core ingredients:

4 eggs

1 cup grated cheese

1/2 cup self-raising flour

1 1/4 cups milk

Discretional ingredients:

Spring onion / onion / any vaguely onion-like vegetable in arms reach

Chorizo / ham / bacon / last night’s leftover sausages

Cherry tomatoes / capsicum / sun-dried tomatoes / spinach leaves / any old crap from the crisper

Basil / parsley / neither


  1. Preheat oven to 200 celsius and grease a large, round, quichey-looking dish (I use a non-stick fluted metal pie dish)
  2. Heat oil and cook spring onion lightly, then add tomato / ham / other crisper remnants and cook down for a few minutes
  3. Whisk eggs, milk and flour in a bowl, then stir in cheese and add vegetable mixture from the pan.  Season, add herbs.
  4. Pour mixture into quiche dish and bake for ~40 minutes, until golden on top and not wobbly in the centre.  Leave to stand for 10 minutes.
  5. Slice and serve with a green salad (the kids may baulk – but at least you tried)
  6. Pour yourself a glass of wine, sit back and bask in the glory of the impossible quiche.

Go you.


ps. It also helps to close your eyes and pretend you’re sitting in a wine bar
(Image: Judy Merrilll-Smith)

The upside to Gastro

Viral gastro.  It spreads like wildfire and takes no prisoners.  And if you have school-aged children, you’re a sitting duck.  Before you know someone in your fold is incubating, you’ve already been sneezed on (and spat on, and shared bathwater, towels and eating utensils with them). The chances of escape are slim to none.

I don’t think I need go into gross detail here.  Most of us have been there and bought the t-shirt.  And if you have children, buying the t-shirt means being spewed (and possibly pooed) on.

But this weekend, while we waited-out our quarantine period at home, I’ve been considering the upside to gastro.  I’m a glass half full kinda girl (with a blog to write).

Cleanliness is next to Godliness

Let’s face it.  The kids’ bedding really did need a wash, and sometimes it just takes fate (in the form of a projectile vomit) to step in and force your hand.  On the upside, while you’re scraping the slimy chunks off the sheets in the wee hours, you can also give next week’s ‘to do’ list a pre-emptive tick.

And that awkward spot behind the toilet cistern?  God knows when you’d’ve found time to crawl in and clean around there, without the vomit splatter to guide you.

washing line

If we look on the bright side, gastro is a timely wake-up call for the distracted housekeeper (image: Ian Rees)

Strength and agility training

If you’re a parent, you’ll be aware of the universal fact that children seldom know when they’re about to vomit.  We all know the scenario:

Parent:   Do you feel sick sweetie?

Child:     No… (squirming uncomfortably)

Parent:   Hmm.. Should we get the bowl to the just in case?

Child:    I’m not sick. (turning green) I just want a biscuit.

Parent:  Hmmm.. (eyeing child suspiciously)

Child:    I don’t feel g….. euaaggchch! Bleurgh! (SPLAT)   Waahhhhhhh!

But with practice, you can make up for this deficit by developing superhuman vomit detection senses.  Given enough training, you’ll snap to attention at the slightest moan.

Before you’re even awake, you’ll be streaking to their side, deftly dodging obstacles like an elite athlete.  You’ll impress yourself with what you can use to intercept those surprise projectile offerings!  An old bowl is good, but if you don’t have one handy, your cupped hands (or your nightdress held aloft) are perfectly good alternatives.

It’s better to take one for the team, than be faced with the lingering smell of it on the rug ’til to the ends of time.

You’ve heard the stories of mothers who lift cars to rescue trapped children?  Well the speed at which I can appear at my child’s side – bowl in hand, in the middle of the night – is eerily similar.  If the vomit-dash was an olympic sport, I’d’ve smashed a few WRs this weekend.

Book of vomit?

Why do I vomit? Great subject for a take home reader.

No more boring shopping trips

Going to the supermarket is so boring and expensive – but in the case of gastro, you need only duck out once to stock the house with icypoles, rehydration fluids, antiseptic paraphernalia and paper towel.  After that you can board up the windows, pop on the tele, and wait for the next man to fall.

And while I’m on the subject, who are you kidding with the Glen 20 anyway?  You can cover every surface of the house in that stuff, but you’ll never escape.  Haven’t you watched zombie movies?  A splash in the eye is all it takes (and although the result isn’t quite as immediate, if can often be just as dramatic).

zombie child

Remarkably similar to my experience late Friday night (image Oscar Ocelotl Aguirre)

A Licence to be lazy

When you have gastro, and you’ve splashed the news all over Facebook, you can be assured no-one’s going to be dropping by.  Your friends don’t want to know you (and those who have visited over the last week are wishing to sweet Jesus they hadn’t).

The upside here is that whole family can stay in pyjamas indefinitely.  There’s no need to make the beds or vacuum.  You certainly won’t be welcome at swimming lessons (that’s one weekly argument eliminated).  And come to think of it, there’s no need for makeup or hair washing either  – it’s only going to get vomited on again!

Finally, because you need all the distractions you can get, usual television rules are suspended.  Leave it on all day.

Revel in the snuggle time

Although we love them, children are generally exhausting.  They talk a lot, make a mother-load of mess and ask for food constantly.  They also rarely sit still, which means limited snuggling opportunities.

Gastro brings out the vulnerable side in any child, and for a brief while, you are once again the centre of their universe.  You get to ask sweetly: Can I get you anything possum? or Are you okay little fella? You get to sit up all night and watch Rage, smoothing a little one’s silky hair and uttering sweet nothings to soothe them

Go you earth mother you.

Mealtimes are a breeze with gastro

 (image: teamjimmyjoe.com)

(image: teamjimmyjoe.com)

It sounds like a ridiculous 1950’s ad line, but gastro gives you a rare pardon from one of the most relentless constants in life – mealtimes.  It’s truly amazing the time you find on your hands when no-one wants to eat.

In the land of gastro, dry biscuits or bananas are perfectly acceptable meal offerings (or you can get fancy and take it up a notch with vegemite toast).  This eliminates any need for the usual bargaining and cajoling over vegetables, and puts you permanently in the good books.

Let me share one of my most treasured moments this weekend:  It was the look on my child’s face when they asked for dinner, and I suggested an icy pole.  For an instant, as I tenderly peeled back the paper, and shuffled them back toward the television, I was the coolest mum on earth.

Muffin-top begone

As a dietitian, I’m often asked for quick fix weight loss ideas.  And although I’m loathe to jump on the fasting is so hot right now bandwagon, I’ve got to say:  When it’s unavoidable (and hopefully infrequent) it’s amazing what a few days without food can do for you.

Just think of all the fundraising chocolates you’d’ve scoffed if you weren’t busy mopping up vomit.  Your weary abdominal muscles haven’t seen such a workout since you made that one, ridiculous attempt at body pump.  And ask yourself: when was the last time you went this long without alcohol, coffee or salty food?

Your body loves you right now.  Your liver loves you right now.  And when you finally turn the corner, and sum up the energy to get out of pyjamas and into your jeans again, you’ll notice a bit of extra breathing room.  Well enjoy this gift to you from gastro (you’ve worked hard for it, after all).

And seriously, imagine how good that first glass of wine will taste, when you’re back in ruddy good health…

10 totally unrealistic lunchbox ideas to make your blood boil

I did warn you that I was by no means done, on the subject of school lunches.  Specifically, I need to finish my rant about the contents of this cheery-looking little yellow book, which set me off in the first place.

The Lunch Box

It’s not that I feel any real malice toward the authors –  I’m sure they are nice people, and that no-one was actually harmed in the making of this book.  Perhaps they live in an alternate universe, where time can be suspended indefinitely in order to make lunch, where children’s lunches are packed in wicker baskets, and set out at picnics under shady trees?…

Anyway, I’m working through my emotional issues around this book.  And to help me do so, I’ve selected the ten lunch ideas I found the most irritating and preposterous.

You be the judge.

1.  Celery, cream cheese and sultana tree.

Where do I start?  I mean, this is the first page of the book, and we can already see some pretty outrageous examples of food styling gone mad.

snack tree for lunch box

A carrot has been carved into a sun, which is shining down on a celery, cream cheese, peanut butter and sultana tree.  Oh, and I think the flowers have been fashioned from two different cheeses.

For now I’m going to ignore the fact that most schools don’t encourage nut items at school, and just ask the question: How does one assemble and transport such a tree in a lunch box?

When we tried a version of this in my daughter’s lunch box, the result was decidedly less ‘tree in under blazing carrot sun’ and more ‘glumpy smeary celery logs’.  They arrived home in much the same fashion, with a few nibbles around the edge.

2.  Hand sewn fabric sandwich and fruit bags in fresh, zesty colours

At risk of alienating readers, I going to come right out and just say F-A-R-K OFF at this point.

stylish sandwich

Now I don’t sew, but if I did, I still wouldn’t be caught dead making fabric sandwich pockets when I have a cupboard full of, sturdy, unsquishable, WASHABLE containers that are designed for the purpose of transporting sandwiches.  Simply preposterous.

3.  Glass of risoni and grilled vegetables

pasta salad for school lunch

The most pressing issue here, is that the food stylist does not appear to comprehend the simple physics of the harsh school bag environment.  A bright yellow napkin tied up with twine isn’t going to do much for you when you’re trying to clean mouldy fetta out of the darkest corners of a school bag.

I also don’t know of many parents who keep a stock of risoni and grilled vegetables in the fridge, in the off chance that their child may ‘order’ the risoni salad that day.

(Okay, so it looks pretty tasty – but I think that’s partly me, projecting my fantasy that it’s just been delivered to me while I sit alone in a cafe and read the paper).

4.  Pretty infuriating pita wraps

At a stretch, these infuriating wraps may be appropriate for cute Instagram opportunities at race-day picnics.  But let’s be serious for a minute here.  They have no place within spitting distance of a school ground.

pretty annoying pita wraps

I think we all agree that a pita wrap is a pita wrap, regardless of how many hours you may spend cutting pretty paper with serrated scissors and tying them up with matching twine.

But thanks to The Lunch Box for creating this visual, which my children can contrast against the austere (yet infinitely more practical) cling-wrapped version I make.

5.  Home made sushi handrolls

Okay my kids love sushi, and this looks great, but….

Home made sushi handrolls


Come Monday morning, you won’t find me rising an hour or two early to roll my own sushi for the kids lunch boxes (and I don’t know any of my friends who would beg to differ).  This one fits into both the ‘life is too short’ and the ‘don’t be ridiculous’ categories.

6.  ‘Fruitwiches’ (AKA silly ways of using fruit in a sandwich)

brown mush sandwiches

For a change here, I’ll stop picking on the food stylist, and take the author to task on these sure-fire candidates for the ultimate sandwich fail.

Firstly, I give you the pear and avocado open sandwich.  As the layperson will be aware – both pear and avocado have a tendency to turn a delightful shade of brown once they are opened and cut.  They are also very high in moisture content.  So it doesn’t take a masters in Nutrition and Dietetics to predict that by the time lunch rolls around, this creation will have morphed into a very sad, soggy brown object de mush.

Or perhaps your child is more of a ‘strawberries, strawberry jam and goat cheese on a toasted english muffin’ type?  OH PLEASE SPARE ME!!

7.  Devilishly devilled eggs.

Excuse me?  Have I unwittingly boarded a time machine and been transported back in time to a 1970’s cocktail party?

deliciously devilled eggs

I mean, sure this looks quite fetching for an alfresco lunch with a crisp glass of white, but I think we digress.

Next time I find I’ve been forward-thinking enough to have pre-boiled eggs at hand… they will be mashed up with mayonnaise and chucked between two slices of bread.  Quite simply, life is too short to make devilled egg salad for your child’s lunch box.

Okay, now bear with me – I can feel you flagging, but we’re almost there.  My last three candidates are sure to get your nostrils flaring with pure indignation.

8.  Oats with ‘toppings galore’

non-breakfast oats

This is not lunch!  This is quite clearly breakfast.  Why would I want to take a perfectly good breakfast option and try to turn it into a lunch?

A handy little hint states ‘No-one likes cold oats, so be sure to use a well-insulated container’.  

Well I’d like to tell them where to shove their well insulated container, because I stand by my original statement that this is BREAKFAST, and therefore I will feed it to my child first thing in the morning, eliminating the need for the INSULATED CONTAINER.

9.  Swirly layered yoghurt and fruit compotes

On the sweet side

As you will have identified without my help, there are a number of issues here. These include (but are not limited to) the idea that any parent has the time or inclination to create such a dish for a school lunch, and the fact that, quite clearly, THIS IS A DESSERT.  It’s a lovely idea for a brunch party, but I think I’ll stick with my conventional option of yoghurt in squeezie tube, frozen so that it doubles as a cool pack.  Sheesh.

And finally, I bring you the last, but by no means least annoying lunch box idea:

10.  Cheesy steak roll (or if you prefer, hipster child burger)

Mini brioche steak roll

I saved this one for last as it got up my nose the most of all.  It involves making a ‘special sauce’ (which you whip up with 4 different ingredients), and requires both cooking in a pan (of the onion and peppers) and then heating under a grill to melt the provolone cheese. And although it is not implicitly stated, that bun just reeks of the brioche variety.

‘just wrap in foil and slide into an insulated bag to help keep the roll warm’.

Quite simply, this is NOT IN ANY WAY a valid school lunch suggestion – I would be both a fool and a masochist if I thought otherwise.  It is perhaps acceptable for a swanky Saturday night burger at home with a glass of cider.

And that brings me to the end of this rather cross little post.  I hope you’ve been fuming alongside me all the way, and will forgive me for today’s rather shouty demeanour.  You see, us nice dietitian folk can get just as cross as the next person when provoked.

I mean, take another look at the hipster lunch burger.  Tell it doesn’t make you want to stab someone.

Stick This in your Sanctimonious Lunch Box

I have a bone to pick with the people at Scholastic Books – they recently tricked me into ordering one of the most irritating books of all time.

The Lunch BoxIt’s pages are filled with perfectly styled, perky images of food that has clearly never been in sniffing distance of a battered old lunch box.  But I’ll save my ranty-pants exposé for another time, and another post.

Right now, I’ll just want to get on my school lunch soapbox for a bit, and explain why the whole process is such a momentous brain drain (and why I’ve never had the inclination to tie up a pita wrap in coloured paper and string).

You might imagine that after five years of nutrition training, I’d be able to come up with some pretty awesome school lunch ideas without the help of a book.  But being a dietitian hasn’t equipped me with any superpowers in creative lunch box planning, or the patience of a saint.

There are three main issues I have with the whole Lunch Conundrum:

1.  There are just far too many variables involved, and too many points at which the whole process can fall down.

As is clear from the flow chart I’ve created (see Figure 1), the execution of a successful school lunch is dependent on a number of consecutive variables all being met.  These encompass the pre-planning stage, the actual assembly and transit, and the oft-neglected stages of disassembly, sanitizing, and debriefing.

The middle spheres shown in Figure 1 (below) depict the integral role of various containers and temperature regulating devices in the school lunch box.  This paraphernalia must first be procured, and then clearly labelled and stored (in the perpetually chaotic ‘Tuppaware cupboard’).  And as losses are inevitable, stock-take and replenishment must occur on an ongoing basis.

The orange markers draw your attention to some of the danger points in the school lunch cycle, and key stumbling blocks where the whole process can come undone.

School Lunch - Stages of Readiness

2.  Most children I know are as fickle as all f*&%.

I’m sorry for swearing, but the school lunch process brings out the potty mouth in the best of us.

This week they love orange segments, next week they’ll make the ‘why don’t you just make me eat vomit?’ face if you suggest orange.  They beg you to buy salami because their best friend is allowed to have it every day, but within a few days it’s old news, and coming home all greasy and gross in the bottom of the lunch box (or worse still, just loose in the school bag).  Now what are you supposed to do with the large salami stockpile, which you bought in bulk because it was on special?

This is the reason that Stage 4 – the debriefing (see Figure 1) – is such a key point in the cycle.  If you unwittingly skip this step, there’s a high likelihood of ending up with a kitchen stand-off and a rejected lunch box the next morning.

3.  School lunches will never end.

The fact is, that only a number of hours after you’ve engineered and assembled the lunch(es), you need to be locating and washing the containers, and planning for the next day.  This is where I frequently come undone.  I generally feel so relieved that one set of lunches is done and dusted, that I neglect the fact that it all needs to happen again the very next day.  It’s quite frankly exhausting – and one of the reasons that weekends and school holidays are such things of joy.

And I just calculated that I’ve got another 12 years of this ahead of me.

I’ll leave you with this meme I created.  With any luck it will go viral and I’ll be commissioned to write my own smug 101 fast fun and fabulous school lunches book by this time next week 🙂

Death and taxes (and school lunches)

Meme by Marnie (a meme and a flow chart in the one post – how’s that for value?!)


The Nits are getting Bigger..

Last week, while dutifully brushing and tying up my daughter’s hair before school, I made a Very.  Unpleasant.  Discovery.


This was the moment I’d been dreading for the past five years, since our children entered the world of formal childcare.  And over those years, we’d dodged the bullet so many times that I’d started to think we were immune to them.

Only a week earlier I’d been discussing this apparent immunity over a glass of wine with two other mums.  Unknowingly (and regrettably), I had jinxed myself, and it transpired that all the essential oil spritzing in the world couldn’t save us from the dreaded nits.

Feeling itchy yet? I don’t blame you.

There was scant evidence, but there they were.  And they had decided my daughter’s head was a good place to set up camp.  I felt slightly woozy and positively outraged at the prospect.

Ick.  Yuck.  Yuck.  Double yuck.  Blerk.  Shudder…  I took a deep breath, steeled myself and herded the kids into the car.

At the pharmacy, the teenage sales assistant visibly recoiled, then composed herself enough to point gingerly toward the far isle.  Quite clearly I was on my own here.  She wasn’t coming to help us, and frankly, I didn’t blame her.

After a good ten minutes of standing before a bamboozling array of anti-lice products and preparations, I decided on the scariest-looking, most-napalm-like product I could find – the Triple Action Pack.  First you hit them with the eight hour lotion, then the thirty minute foam, and then the nit comb and conditioner.  Good.  I began to feel proactive, and empowered.  I would declare holy war on the nits!

It was at this point that a well-meaning stranger decided to stage an intervention.  ‘Don’t get the metal comb!’, she cautioned.  ‘My kids hated it and screamed when I used it – it virtually tore their hair out’.  Ah… really?  Thanks lady.  Thanks for sharing that helpful advice RIGHT IN FRONT OF MY CHILDREN, who were suddenly looking horrified.  And it didn’t stop there.  She then launched into a monologue about her sister, who’s two boys had lice for months.  She just couldn’t get rid of them – and she was a hair dresser, and their hair was only a centimetre long!  Oh feck!  There went my false bravado and feelings of empowerment.  I was back to feeling violated and disgusted.

So who are these people, I would like to know?  Are they employed by evil pharmaceutical companies to haunt the hair-care isles and scare the living shit out of parents?  Because it certainly worked.  And it doesn’t stop with the zealous, nit-obsessed strangers in the pharmacy.  Oh no.  It’s the friends and acquaintances who feel the need to share their horror stories of recurrent nit infestation which really get to me.  Even worse, some of them seem to have surrendered to the inevitability of nits – and are no longer particularly phased or disgusted by them.


Well I wasn’t going to become one of them.  Not me.  I smiled weakly, thanked the nit-lady, and accepted the plastic comb.  What was another $5, after all?

I’ll spare you the details of the remainder of our day, except to say that thankfully, I had nowhere to be.  The children were slathered in the napalm lotion, causing them to resemble drowned rats, and I set about laundering every item in the house.  I don’t think there’s anyone that would blame me for going a bit OCD with this issue, but I did feel a little deranged whilst boiling up a soup of brushes, hair clips and elastics in a saucepan.  

So at which point do you stop?  At 3am Saturday morning, while I lay in bed trying to think of anything but nits, I even pondered the merit of wrapping the car seats in cling film for the next two weeks. Seriously!  And that’s where I decided I must stop obsessing.  I mean, surely my husband would call the loony bin if he found me out there with a roll of Glad Wrap at that hour?

Let’s fast-forward now to one week down the track, and allow me to share my good news story.  It seems that our nit experience was contained to the one head, which after a week of intensive combing and then a re-dousing, is impeccably clear.   For now, I’m claiming victory in the War On Nits, but rest assured I will not be relaxing my vigilance just yet.

There will be weekly combing sessions (which, thanks to i-pads and smart phones, are remarkably well-tolerated by the little people of the house).  And before signing off, I’d like to share a few thoughts I’ve had over the past week:

1.  Let’s forget about stopping the boats.  How about we give a break to the innocent, desperate people who decide that boarding a rickety vessel to Australia is their best chance in life?  I’d like to see a party with a tough Stop The Nits policy Now surely that would unite the people of Australia, save us billions of dollars every year and a whole lot of mental anguish?

2.  Although I’ve never considered polygamy a great idea in the past, I can see a definite advantage to having sister wives, in the case of nits.  Those extra hands would be indispensable during the daily, hour-long hair combing sessions, and also for on-the-spot scalp checks every time I feel the slightest tingle up there.

3.  I’d like to thank whoever invented wine.  Actually, alcohol in general.  Without it, I may still be in the foetal position in the corner, clutching a nit-comb and contemplating home schooling.

I think I did the right thing by stopping at two children.  I just don’t think there are enough hours in the day to maintain the War On Nits, with any more than two.

What is it they say about families?  Sharing is caring?

Re: Formal Complaint, School Holiday period ended 14 July, 2013


Dear School Holidays,

I regret to inform you that I am writing to make a formal complaint, which I plan to pursue through the appropriate channels, until I have a resolution.  My primary complaint is in regard to false advertising charges.

Firstly, you were sold to me on the promise of enabling quality time with my chilled out, engaging children, who would luxuriate in long sleep-ins and creative play opportunities.  There was no mention, in your brochure, of my children deciding to make an olympic sport of arguing, or of their plan to turn the house into a rubbish tip / war zone / obstacle course.  I certainly was not advised of the requisite five-fold increase in washing.

When I signed up, I did not realise that July school holidays came with mandatory waves of drawn out illnesses that would hit one child, then the next (just as the first one was coming good).  Frankly, I could have done without the bi-weekly doctors appointments, and surprise visits from feverish children in my bed at 3am.    I suppose you think that simultaneous croup and vomiting in the middle of Friday night Sex and The City repeats was amusing?  It was not.

On another matter, I would like to address the issue of art and craft activities.  Prior to all future school holidays, I would appreciate it if you would arrange delivery of a large shipping container of art and craft materials, along with a part time project coordinator (must have industrial cleaning experience), and a case of gin.  And on that note, I don’t know if you are acquainted with Mister Maker, but if you are, could you please ask him to tone it down?  His perky attitude and obsession with gloopy glue are getting up my nose, and placing unrealistic expectations on regular parents, who do not have ‘doodle draws’ or time lapse photography at their disposal.

I would also appreciate, in future, a list of appropriate suggestions to be used when my children complain of being bored, or being hungry, or having been wronged by their sibling.  I have completely over-used the suggested ‘you’re a smart girl/boy, I’m sure you can find something interesting to do’, the ‘you can chose a piece of fruit, or wait until the next meal time’, and the ‘please be kind to each other, and try to work through your differences’.  I have therefore been resorting to sarcasm, and ‘oh for F*$# SAKE!!’ under my breath a little too much, which I realise is not ideal.

Incidently, can you please suggest an appropriate consequence (I don’t think I’m supposed to call them punishments), for the following scenarios:

a)  Walking out of a store and wandering up Burke Rd alone, whilst I am engaged in the purchase of more frigging art and craft materials.

b)  Screaming and striking at each other in the bath over who’s turn it is to hold Kwazi Kat or the giant squid.

c)  Repeatedly sneaking dried apricots from the pantry when they have specifically been told not to (yes, I know it sounds petty, but it was the principle at sake)

My final issue is the absence of any actual ‘holiday’ component this school holidays.  Instead, I was regularly subjected to Facebook posts from families frolicking in Europe or the Pacific Islands, with their tanned, cherubic-looking children.  

Although I have found the whole experience decidedly harrowing, I would feel inclined to overlook the above issues, and withdraw my complaint, if you could see fit to arrange a suitable island escape (preferably Polynesian) for the coming holidays this September.  You may liaise with my husband on this issue, as I wash my hands of the whole affair, and would prefer not to be bothered with the details.


M. Nitschke