Archive for the ‘advice you don’t need’ Category

Not actually from our dentist day, but a sufficiently toothy smile captured on camera by my friend Sarah.

A few months ago we got a letter in the mail from some part of the government (Centrelink? Department of Health? Ministry of Magic?) that offered free dentist visits for your two-year-old. I can’t remember if it was a particular amount of visits or if it was a particular amount of money, because we are children whose filing system is “throw it on the kitchen bench”, but either way we thought it about time to ship the Rocket off to get her fangs checked out, especially as everywhere we take her people are desperate to give her free candy.

Looking up toddler dentist visits online brought up some interesting info. Notes that seemed quite helpful suggested you play dentist with your kid, counting each others’ teeth, so we embarked on that immediately and it was quite fun. The internet also suggested things not to say to your child, like “It probably won’t hurt,” or “They shouldn’t have to use a needle” and the like. As it pointed out, those are your fears; your kid has no concept of them. The Rocket’s such a little ball of health we haven’t even had to take her to the doctor her whole life for anything but checkups, so she’s never been prodded by a doctor (though she has tantrumed at a Maternal Health Nurse who tried to measure how long she was.) She doesn’t know the dentist is a place for anything but a box full of toys we play with when picking Teach up from getting wisdom teeth out. So we just said the nice dentist would count her teeth and check they were healthy and that hopefully they wouldn’t notice we gave her a sip of Coke at the movies the other day like the A+ parents we are.

So she turned up cheerfully at the dentist and everyone greeted her with enthusiasm and in she went into the consult room. She sat on Teach’s knee as we waited, and we pointed out all the things in the room – cups of blue liquid, sinks, a moving rocket chair, lots of gadgets for looking at teeth, gloves and things. She was interested and fearless, but desperate to consume some mouthwash.

In came her dentist, Dr Waple, who is a bit handsome and rockstaresque as far as dentists go (though, in case you are wondering, he is Teach’s dentist – I pick mine based on names now after having childhood success with Dr Blase, aka Dr Whatever; my newest, I kid you not, I picked out of the phone book because his name was Dr Blood). He complimented her on her dress and was very relaxed and jokey; she smiled at him immediately. He showed her the little tooth-counting mirror, counted her teeth up to twenty, then told her she did a great job and gave her a pink balloon with a tooth superhero on it. And that was it. We didn’t even have to pay anything. The dentist explained that they like to start their dental experiences like that so kids have immediate good associations with them. And hell, it left us happy with them too; now we go back in another few months for a more thorough checkup. And I suppose, to demonstrate good dental care, we should book ourselves in too. Dammit.


This probably happens at every dentist, but ours is lovely, so here: Balwyn Dental Group

375 Whitehorse Rd, Balwyn

9836 3247


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So, the Rocket’s birth was not a fun experience for anyone involved, really. I still remember squatting in the small hospital pool that I was hoping to have a water birth in, almost chewing the side of it in pain and panic and wailing, “This is never going to end!” It did (obviously), with the help of a friendly doctor and a glinting pair of forceps, and there she was: my little Rocket, bright pink and wrinkly and, thankfully, not particularly fussed about all the work put into getting her out into the world. But then she didn’t sleep. Not at all, not for three days. Little bits here and there in someone’s arms. A couple of minutes when she was swaddled in blankets and put in a crib. I lay there on my hospital bed, worried and bone-achingly tired from the birth and the feeding and then this little baby not sleeping like those other quiet little babies in the ward, and I didn’t know what to do. Everyone tried holding her. I fed her almost constantly and expressed tiny drops of colostrum into a syringe for her. A pediatrician was called on the second day and gave her some baby Panadol, or something, in case the forceps had given her a headache. Nothing worked. Teach asked a doctor, “Should we try a dummy?” and the doctor shrugged and said, “Maybe?” So off Teach went and bought some. And the Rocket did not sleep, but she stopped crying. And so did I.

What’s ridiculous about this, of course, is that I am trying to justify my use of the dummy. As if I am waiting for you to pat me on the head and say, “It’s fine! You had to use it. It was basically a medical necessity. The world would have literally ended without you using it.” Because I hadn’t wanted to give the Rocket a dummy; we didn’t have any back at home. We were unprepared. God, we were unprepared for everything about that first week. Month. Year. Anyway.

Yet I never had any judgement on anyone else using them, before or after I had a kid of my own. They always seemed like a pretty handy idea, right? Then what’s the big deal? The big deal as per fucking usual is my own stupid head, making me insecure about using it, giving me unhelpful thoughts like: Are people going to judge me for using it? Will they criticise me behind my back? Will she have enormous dental problems from two months old? Will I realise one day that no one actually cares about what I’m doing except for me? (Apparently not.)

I remember that first time the dummy came out in my mothers group meeting, at the health centre. It might have been the second meeting, maybe the third. There was about nineteen mothers, twenty babies, and a handful of grandmothers, and we were all dressed up to impress each other, our kids were all freshly laundered, some asleep, some yelling, some feeding. Then one mother finally caved and gave their kid the dummy they were yelling about, and then about another six of us immediately, gratefully, reached into our nappy bags and brought ours out too. I wish I could remember who that first mother was, but I don’t; I just remember being so happy that it wasn’t only us who used them.

I’m not here to produce articles on whether they are bad or good for you. I am here to say, like I always want to say: you are a good parent. You’re doing fine. Gosh, your kid loves you. Dummies, no dummies, a kid who refuses dummies even though you desperately wish they wouldn’t; it’s fine. You’re fine. High five the computer screen right now just like I am. Go team caregivers! WHOO!

Anyway, one day this dummy business did all have to end, and we decided it would be last week for some unfathomable reason (yet again, past Fiona is just the worst.) There are a few good ideas out there for getting rid of dummies. Santa accepts them for extra presents, I’ve heard. One friend suggested your kid can take it to Build-a-Bear and shove the dummy in with the stuffing, creating a new, cuddly comforter to have in bed with you. We went for what I recall was my friend Sally’s idea: you give your dummies to the Dummy Fairy, who takes your (disgusting, chewed, fluff-covered) dummies to the little helpless babies that need them, and rewards you with gifts. Bribery! It’s one of my favourite things as a parent. As per Sally’s suggestion, we invested in a ‘Lil Fairy Door. You can pick these up at markets and online; if you are a Last Minute Lisa like me, you can also get them at Adairs Kids, though fair warning, they are EXPENSIVE. Because we’d already hyped it up and needed to buy it to continue with the enthusiasm, I shelled out the fifty (!) dollars for it, but if you are a Prepared Penelope then by all means look around. (And no criticism to Adairs, who need to make profits and stuff, but I could have just bought six years worth of dummies instead.)

We had been talking about said fairy for a while now. When she started to tell other people we knew it had sunk in a little, so we kicked it up a notch. “Rocket, what does the fairy take?” “Dummies!” “And what would you like her to leave for you as a present?” “MORE DUMMIES!” (Little smarty pants.) We eventually sold her on the idea when she realised her parents were good for just about anything to get this done and that she wanted a Sylvanian Families house to go with her figurines – other people have bought fairy wings, which also seems lovely. So we get home from the shops last Thursday and Teach snuck off into her room and then was heard exclaiming, “Oh my gosh! Rocket! Something’s in your ROOM!” So we went to investigate and YOU GUYS, there was a DOOR, right there on the wall, all covered in glitter. We knew right away what was up so we collected the dummies and put them on a plate, adding a few pieces of Pocky (her father thought this was a generous idea), sprinkling everything with fairy dust to let the fairy know to come out, and adding pictures we all drew of what the fairy looked like. (Despite my best efforts against it as my least favourite colour, apparently she is pink from dress to eyes, though has blue hair.) We put her to sleep with much excitement at eight o’clock, waited until she actually fell asleep without her dummy at twenty past ten (bleurgh), and then assisted the fairy by removing the dummies, pictures and snacks (sadly the Pocky had been excitedly covered in too much glitter for consumption) and quietly swapping them for this house.

Happily, she slept solidly all night woke up around 6:30 – her usual wake up time is probably around 7, when we get up – and without further ado we got her up and exclaimed “Whoa, look what happened!”, whereupon the Rocket promptly saw her dummies gone, threw herself on the ground and wailed. Once we’d talked her down and pointed out the house, she sniffled her way over to it and then suddenly realised it was really real and really hers, and she has played with it obsessively ever since.

Sleeping has not been easy these past five days. Her day sleeps used to be super easy – throw her down, say “See ya!” and she was out – now it takes at least half an hour, if at all. Last night, again, it was after ten o’clock before she went to sleep; on Sunday, when she didn’t have a daytime sleep at all, we put her down at eight and BAM she was asleep. Still I will fight for these day naps; I need them to remain human. Part of me wonders why I made it so hard for myself by doing it now, and not later when she might have been easier to convince; part of me guesses it’ll be hard no matter when it happens. All I know is that the fairy’s door left us on Sunday, but the very kind fairy (who had a gift voucher) left her a book about dinosaurs going to sleep with a ribbon tied around it, and one day, instead of never sleeping, she will be a moody teenager who sleeps all the time, and I will look back at this post and sigh.

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Last Saturday, some dear friends of mine threw themselves a celebration of their love, in Sydney. They’d kindly flown down to celebrate the similar shindig Teach and I had for our tenth anniversary a few years ago, and we’d been wanting to take the Rocket on a plane for a while, so when we received the invite we threw caution to Sydney’s gale-force winds and booked ourselves some flights. Then I set to becoming anxious.

Kids on planes can send opinion columns completely bananas. They should be quiet – no, they should have their own section – no, they should NEVER FLY. Just whatever you do, don’t ever make anyone around you aware of the fact that sometimes the people we share this planet with aren’t attuned to their needs. Don’t get me wrong, I sure as hell didn’t want to spend any of my international flights next to a kid who screams for nine hours straight, but what do you do? If a kid’s gotta get overseas then they gotta get overseas; it’s not like flying is anything but cramped and annoying anyway, and yet it is a complete and beautiful miracle that we can do it at all. What I’m trying to say is: get over it.

Anyway despite all the above I still made extensive and panicked plans about How To Stop The Rocket From Having Any Negative Emotion during the flight. Luckily, she adores planes – we live under a flight path so every time we go outside we can usually see them, and we point and shriek excitedly at them – so she was already super keen on the whole thing. For about a month beforehand, she would wake up every morning and I’d say, “What are we doing today?” and though the answer was generally “swimming”, “Gymbaroo”, “park” or “three coffees” she would always give me this tiny smile and say, “Plaaaaaane?” So, excitement about flight, check.

I booked the flights for her awake-times, 12pm on the way out and 5:30pm for the return, so she would be rested and happy. The return was a stupid idea of course, because I thought smugly to myself, she will have had her afternoon nap and will be so very happy, and didn’t think until we were already in Sydney that of course you have to check out of your hotel in the morning and thus she had nowhere to nap. The upshot is she didn’t sleep, but was so thrilled about going on a plane again that it didn’t really matter.

Then I packed our bags. She has a rocket backpack (you name it, she has it with a rocket on it) and I nicked it from her and filled it with super excellent things to keep her occupied. Here is what it contained:

Side pocket 1:

– water bottle (FYI, those sippy-straw ones will spill over during the flight due to air pressure in the cabin making water come up the straw, but it’s pretty funny)

Side pocket 2:

– Matchbox dragon car

– Hot Wheels digger

– Little People Batgirl car

Front pocket (aka snack central)

– jelly babies to chew on during takeoff (on the return flight this was a free lollipop she got given at a candy store)

– little apple-flavoured rice cakes (bizarrely popular for something pretty dull)

– animal-shaped biscuits (“Do you want an animal biscuit?” “DOGGY!” “You ate all the doggies.” “BAAAAA!” “You ate all the sheep. Have a butterfly.”)

– Sweet William chocolate (neglected)

– muesli bar

– different type of muesli bar (the first option is always wrong)

– no fruit because I wasn’t sure if you could take fruit interstate. I still don’t know. If you can I would’ve packed an apple to make me look like I am Very Healthy At All Times, then she would’ve thrown peel all over the floor.

Main pocket

– new books:

a) Sam’s Sandwich, which has food fold-outs and a rhyming story and gross bugs in sandwiches, and was totes perfect

b) Where’s Maisy?, Oh god, who knows, what if she is missing FOREVER??

c) Some book about catching a plane that did not hold her interest in the least despite being, you know, quite topical

(I also bought Harry and the Bucketful of Dinosaurs including an actual bucket full of dinosaurs and secreted it in my carry-on luggage in case of a giant screaming crisis which never eventuated; I have since hidden it and will bring it out at some future desperate moment.)

– favourite teddy of the moment (she’s not really attached to any of her 87,000 stuffed toys – sometimes she NEEDS to take one to the park but it is usually abandoned on the slide after three minutes. Luckily her most recent semi-favourite was bag-sized.)

– small, blank notebook

– two sheets of stickers

– new crayons (they broke immediately. Don’t buy crayons from the Reject Shop.)

– *cough* a Nintendo DS (so, yes, she is only two, but I upgraded to a 3DS because I am a small child who LOVES things in 3D, and the trade-in on my old DS Lite was only $20, so we thought we’d keep it for the kiddo. Then a few weeks ago we were at EB Games and she found a copy of Cookie’s Counting Carnival for less than ten bucks, and I was all, “What’s the worst that can happen?” and it turns out the worst that can happen is a kid screaming, “COOKIE MONSTER!” all day because she is now a gamer at 2 1/4 years old. The games we have are pretty simple – counting, moving things around the screen, pointing at shapes, etc. Most of them are probably available in similar form for your smartphone/tablet but it’s nice not to worry about her deleting everything important like your Two Dots scores.)

a) Cookie’s Counting Carnival (Has actually improved her pattern recognition. Is short. Don’t pay more than $10 for it.)

b) Ready, Set, Grover (Better graphics than above, and only $6. Teaches “healthy habits”, apparently but not really. Not quite as good or easy.)

c) Dora Saves the Mermaids (Ugh I hate all Dora things, she is the worst. Sadly, this game is absolutely perfect: easy games, doesn’t care if you get everything wrong, teaches her three Spanish words. Pretty short but I don’t really feel bad about panic-spending $19 on it the day before we flew out.)

So that was quite a lot of things, but if I hadn’t just been given a book voucher it would’ve been a handful of half-chewed opshop books, and my iPhone, and stickers and snacks. We didn’t actually get through everything: I hid the bag after we landed and re-presented it to her on the way back with the rest of the things. That held me in good stead.

ONTO THE FLIGHT. She was happy and excited for the drive in, and the bus trip from our long-term parking. She didn’t mind the short-ish queue to check in our one bag. We were early (rare for us) and went to get some chips and watch the planes take off for a bit. Then through the scanners, to the gate. The departure lounge was probably the most tedious part for her because I hadn’t planned for it and she was getting excited because the plane was RIGHT THERE, so we walked to the end of the gates and watched the planes meander around and take off and be loud.

We’d prepared her for things to be very loud and noisy, and that it was supposed to happen and was pretty funny, really. Watching the planes was probably helpful, and she didn’t seem scared.

Once kids hit 2, they have to get their own seat; I’m not sure how fares usually work, but we flew Virgin and they charged a full fare for her seat. Apparently on long haul flights it’s about 50-75%. Before that age, they sit on your lap. For the very first time, I let someone else have the window seat and put her in it. Actually, I took the aisle seat, because the last time I flew, at 7.5 months pregnant, I freaked the hell out and started crying, thinking we were going to die and I had endangered her. (It was a calm and fine flight; I blame hormones.) I thought her much calmer father was a better seating partner. She was thrilled when the plane taxied around the tarmac, saying, “Plane moving!” and beaming. It found its runway, revved up, then sped up: this was when she panicked a little, leaning into the brace position we’d just taught her and looking a bit scared, but ten seconds later as the plane took off, we said, “Your tummy is going to feel pretty funny!” and she laughed, then settled in her seat with her book and didn’t fret for the entire flight. I didn’t panic either, seeing her brave little happy face. If a two-year-old can deal with a plane, a thirty-two-year-old probably can too, right?

I asked some friends before the flight for advice and stories. The resounding piece of advice from my mothers group was “Food and iPad”; one friend told me a story of his son on a plane running up and down the aisles before tripping, hitting his head and bleeding everywhere, then sitting in his chair and kicking the seat in front of him the whole flight. Luckily the Rocket’s feet don’t reach the seat in front, but she was just divine, happily playing and reading and eating and looking out at the clouds and sky. When we prepared to land, we prepped her for the hilarious upcoming bouncing, and as the people in the aisle across from us held onto their armrests and gasped at the bumping, the Rocket just laughed and bounced herself around yelling, “Wibble wobble!” Then we landed and she clapped the plane and I can’t even tell you my utter relief.

I don’t like offering advice because, as a general rule, I don’t know what I am talking about. But I think telling her all the plane things were going to be funny and hilarious worked out well for us. It’s easy, natural and fine to fall into the way of saying, “I know, it’s scary, isn’t it? I’m here, it’s fine, I love you, hold my hand,” and we did say she might be scared but it was all supposed to happen and was a fun type of scary, and there she was, happy, surely with popping ears but not a peep about it.

The return flight went much the same way; I hadn’t learned my lesson and she was a bit, er, rambunctious at the departure lounge, so next time I’d give her something new for that little wait, I think, though it prepared all the other people around us for a scene that never actually eventuated, so that was nice.

So there you go. That was our first time with a kid on a plane; it will probably have ruined us for every subsequent time, when she is a complete jerk. The flight was only for an hour, and I don’t know how people keep kids happy for an international flight (my sources tell me phenergan, but see your doctor for such things, and the Rocket’s Gran says she gave it to her son on a flight once and instead of sleeping he stayed awake having panicked hallucinations, so, you know, that could happen.)

But don’t let other passengers cramp your style. Take your kid on holiday, or to visit your family, or just for funsies. Your kid has just as much of a right to fly as anyone. Vive le avions*, punks.


*Google translate tells me I got this wrong but it can sod off. Avions vive, indeed.

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More than a year ago, when all of our kids were still too young to walk, my mothers group took our pile of children to Ruffey Park. On the Victoria Street side, there’s an adventure playground, barbecues, a set of very shiny toilets; we were impressed. But kids who can’t walk don’t really enjoy parks that much; we sat under the shade of a tree, threw a pile of toys in the middle and let them Battle Royale it out on our picnic rugs. We always went to parks when our kids were tiny, just to sit in the grass and swap stories and breastfeed and not actually touch the playground equipment, because don’t you know swings are DANGEROUS? I remember those times fondly, distant memories where our children couldn’t run off at high speed in different directions halfway through an important and meaningful conversation with another mother. I enjoy my time with the Rocket more now that she has an attitude, but I probably haven’t finished a sentence out loud with my mother-pals for about ten months. (At least they understand.)

Then, at their first birthday bonanza, while they were all precariously balancing and taking tiny steps, we met at Ruffey Lake Park again, with all children and bonus fathers, this time on the other side, coming in off the Boulevard. That park is for younger kids, but even then, none of us really tried out the equipment (I heard that someone broke BOTH LEGS *AND* THEIR KIDS’ LEGS going down a slide together!), too busy, anyway, playing with all our new birthday toys. But it planted a seed, and we’ve met there at least ten thousand times since.

Playgrounds are interesting, the way they completely change in size and terror measurements. The first time I went to Ruffey for a proper, actual play, I followed the Rocket around waiting for her to injure herself; the distance from the top of the slide to the ground if you didn’t go down the slide itself (and only on your belly, in case your shoe stuck and you flipped over and fell), was at least three metres, surely. The swings were too high off the ground. The step up to the little wooden cubby house was too high. Those rope ladders – couldn’t she get stuck? What if a kid kicked her in the face when they spun around on those tall poles? And the moving bridge. She’ll fall over immediately, obviously. All these other kids around the place – don’t their parents KNOW that it’s dangerous?

I don’t even consider myself that much of a helicopter parent. I let the Rocket take risks and try to help herself when she’s stuck or tangled, but I have my limits of where I feel too anxious to continue. I have friends who are much braver and I have endless admiration for their ability to let kids run free and figure stuff out, and I have friends who always help out their kids in sticky situations, and I love them for the way they’ve shown their kids that they’re always there. I’m not critical either way. Neither type of parenting is conducive specifically to raising a monster or an angel. We do what we’re comfortable with, and that’s super okay. I stretch the boundaries of my comfort, when I can.

This picture is from maybe six months ago – I tried to be very forgiving as she stomped in mud gleefully and became completely covered, because I am a complete hater of getting dirty and it’d be nice for the Rocket if she wasn’t as precious as I am.

Ruffey Lake Park is beautiful, and big. In fact, I’ve been to both park sides and wandered aimlessly but have yet to encounter the actual lake itself, though there are probably ducks and the Rocket would probably flip right out about that. It’s bushy, with lovely tall trees everywhere, and running tracks. There is a lot of space, and little interesting park additions: metal stands that could pass for bins but that actually make animal sounds when you pass, a water pump, flying foxes, bridges to nowhere, things to bang and make noise with. There’s a sunshade over the playground, and the aforementioned cubby house, and swings and slides and all kinds of traditional things. It’s a park. You know the drill.

I went again, last week, three days in a row. Once with my friend S (who took a couple of these accompanying pictures), once on my own, and once with my friend F and her son, whom the Rocket calls Hammy because no two-year-old can pronounce their friends’ names right. It had been a while since I’d been – pre-Christmas, at least – and I noticed something about the park: it had shrunk. I don’t know why the council made everything slightly smaller, but they did. The distance from the top of the slide to the ground was shorter than I was, because I could reach up and give my daughter a kiss as she stood proudly at the top deciding which way to go down. I didn’t worry that she would catapult directly off the side of the equipment where you slide down the pole; I thought that she’d probably realise she couldn’t get down, and would head for the slide. She had a go at the rope ladder, went into the cubby house and made some friends. She helped another little girl up the steps to the slide. A magpie stole a cracker right out of her beautiful little hand, and she cried for a brief moment, accepted my hug, then realised there was a DOG RIGHT OVER THERE, so who cares if a magpie stole your cracker? (FYI if they weren’t so fast I would’ve punched that magpie right in the face, because I don’t believe in animal cruelty, unless said animal is mean to my kid.)

We call these things “weeble-wobbles”, because everything is baby talk now. Or “waby wawk”, as it is known as of right now. Notice the tucked-in t-shirt is so she doesn’t get slide-burn on her skin. Practical, yet not at all stylish.

I asked the Rocket if she wanted to go over to the big mountain of slides; F hesitated with Hammy, as they are much longer slides, and the climb to get there is complicated. I knew exactly why she was worried – for the same reason I had been just two days earlier – and suggested we go anyway, as a mother team: one at the top, getting the kids up there, one at the bottom to catch them. She walked up the side, looked down at us and said, “You know, this isn’t as tall any more.”

May this campaign to make playgrounds smaller, month by month, never stop.

Slide mountain: you climb up to get there. If you’re two, you might try to climb up the steep side and fall directly on your ass, and your grown-up might laugh at you.

Ruffey Lake Park

King Street, George Street and Victoria Street, Doncaster


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soba noodle salad

Ugh, summer. I mean, sure, who doesn’t like to go to the beach or eat ice cream on the porch, but not every day can be spent driving for an hour while your kid screams for food (“NACKYYYY!”) so you can go to the beach only to have them say, “No water. NO WATER!” Likewise ice cream probably shouldn’t be an everyday food. You gotta mix that up with icy poles every now and again. Anyway, all but one day this upcoming week is going to be over thirty degrees, and tomorrow is FORTY degrees, and one of the things that always collapses in my family on hot days is the idea of dinner. Who wants to turn on an oven or stand over a pot of boiling water? No one, that’s who, and so when it gets hot we don’t always eat spectacularly well. Pies and salad, maybe, pico di gallo if we’re feeling super lazy. But one of my favourite things to make when it’s hot is my soba noodle salad, adapted from the delicious one I frequently order when we go to the Vegie Bar; mine is not quite as delicately flavoured, but at least I’m much more generous with the cherry tomatoes.

Serves 2ish.

Soba Noodle Salad

dried soba noodles (I get them in a pack that has three handfuls banded separately; I use all three.)

cherry tomatoes (as many as you desire, cut into halves or quarters)

couple of spring onions, mostly the green parts, cut diagonally. or however you like, I’m not the boss of you.

1 avocado, diced

decent handful of snow peas, halved or diced or whatever

1/2 packet of Japanese teriyaki marinated tofu, in 2cm cubes. I mean sure you could marinate your own, but that’s not how we roll in this house.

tbsp-ish of sesame seeds, toasted in your frypan

A few splashes of soy sauce

A couple shakes of sesame oil


Basically, you boil the soba noodles – it only takes about four minutes – then rinse them under cold water. Throw everything else in and shake over the sauce and oil. It’s cold, it’s amazing, I would eat it every day if I could. It doesn’t last spectacularly well overnight, but it’s pretty straightforward to cook again the next day if, perhaps, you want it again. Which I do.

Another good thing about this dish is that it’s easy, when deconstructed, to give to the Rocket. I slice the snow peas into long strips (sometimes she eats them, mostly not though), quarter the tomatoes, dice up the tofu, add some avocado, and pile on some noodles. She loves it. We love it. Everyone loves it! I even had a request to bring it to a Lunar New Year potluck, though I had forgotten to adapt it for those guests who couldn’t eat avocado. But secretly, you know, more for me.

What other good hot-day foods do you like? Pre-veg we always had zaru soba, where you have a big heap of soba noodles and you dunk them in your bowl of zaru soba sauce along with a swish of wasabi and some spring onions. It was heaven, but we have yet to make our own vegetarian sauce (we used to buy it from our friendly neighbourhood Asian grocery, though haven’t found a pre-made brand without fish in it), though I’ve seen recipes online. When we were in Japan in summer we ordered it everywhere, and I miss it. Here is a picture of zaru soba to break up this post, because I never take pictures of food. Also, in my salad above, the avocado inevitably goes mushy when tossed and makes everything look a little unsexy.

Thanks, ifood.tv!

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on immunisations

Okay, just to be clear, this isn’t a post about the pros and cons of vaccinating your kid. Just do it, so that we can all not die. Great.

Anyway, so taking your kid to get their immunisations is about the most heartbreaking thing you can do. That first time, you take your tiny, titchy little baby–some potatoes are bigger than that baby–to a clinic (or your doctor; we always went to the public immunisations at our local maternal health centre) and you let someone jab it with needles until it cries. You did that, you monster! You let someone hurt your baby! Will they ever forgive you? Will they forever remember that you did that to them?

No. They will not. They love you. It’s okay. You are panicking more than they are. You really are.

So, in these public clinics, you walk in, take a number, wait, get nervous about your kid getting hurt. (Don’t forget, they have no idea what’s going on and are thrilled to be in a different place with new and freshly disgusting toys.) After a while, they call your number, get your kid’s health book, stamp some things, and send you into the next room. There are chairs, and a screen. Behind that screen, there are children who are yelling. On the chairs, there are children who are calming down. A health professional will appear from behind the screen and summon you in. Then there are needles and it’s a reality. Hold on, guys, it’s almost over. You’re doing fine. Your kid still has no idea what’s happening. Last time, the Rocket tried to grab the needle herself. Then, generally, one parent holds the baby, immunisations are administered (oral! needles! both! then another needle!) and if you can help it, don’t watch that giant needle go in your baby’s tiny fat thigh. Also, don’t watch their face transform from happy to distressed. Just look elsewhere. When the baby is good and hysterical, pass it onto the other parent for a hug. You are basically good cop/bad cop at immunisations. Except that sometimes it ends in a nurturing breastfeed, and that probably doesn’t happen often on Law & Order. (I could be wrong. There are a lot of episodes.)

As they get older, there are different tricks. The Rocket recently had her eighteen-month immunisation, which was just one jab in the arm. As soon as we sat down, the nurse gave her a swirly stamp on her right hand. The Rocket was as excited as is physically possible to be, and the nurse said to me, “Right. When I tell you, stamp her other hand with this flower stamp.” On the count of three, I stamped, the needle went in. The Rocket was again thrilled by her stamp. She paused and looked at her shoulder, then went back to looking at her stamp. Not a peep. No rage. Nothing. We went back outside to sit in those chairs for fifteen minutes–to wait and make sure there’s no adverse reaction–and played with the new things we bought her to make it up to her that we’d just caused her deliberate physical pain. She didn’t care, though she happily shared some of her space stickers with a new friend she made, then she and the friend nicked some other kid’s iPad and watched Charley Bear (a terrible, horrible, no good very bad show). Then, when we put her in the car to go home, we accidentally pinched her with the belt buckle. Then she cried.

There is no real point to this post. Immunisations are awful and necessary. Teach gets very anxious about them; I barely muster up any stress until I see the needles. The Rocket has held a grudge against me about a PlayDough incident that last longer than any immunisation-based grudges. They are horrible. And you are doing a marvellous thing.

A wild Immunisation Monster appears.

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Even for a toddler, the Rocket is pretty small. Of course, this was of much consternation for me when she was younger and all of her problems felt like my fault even when no one explicitly said so (because how good are parents at feeling guilty, amirite?) and that I didn’t feed her enough or maybe I should stop stacking books on her head. At last check, she was in or below the bottom 3% of the population in regards to general length/weight/giganticity of head. But then I had the bright idea of seeing where I was on a graph, and after a lazy Google, it turns out that I am in the bottom 3% of height as well. Teach comes in at a nice round 50%, the Australian male average for height, but let’s face it, odds are not in the Rocket’s favour that she will be 6 foot 7. Though then at least someone could change the light bulbs in the bedroom without a chair.

Along with the maternal miniatureness she inherited was the bane of my existence: tiny feet. At 31, my feet are a size 5 and still aren’t big enough to fit into shoes at most shoe shops or even Target/Kmart unless I buy from the kid’s department. (Which I do. And which is cheaper, by the way.) It’s why I was never the person to squeal about shopping for footwear. It’s too depressing. So with the Rocket the size of your average ten month old at sixteen months, she can walk like a champ but it is goddamn impossible to find shoes for her. I’d always sighed over ads and people’s angst about shoes for kids. Who cares? I would think. Just buy sneakers! (You will understand here why I have never been a style icon.) Well, now that I’m a parent, I get it. Shoe shopping is a fucking pain in the arse, and apparently I’ll have to do it for her MORE THAN ONCE.

It was so hard to find shoes for her that met my fairly basic requirements that I am going to explain where I found them here, lest some other small-footed babyparent need this probably very obvious information.

My needs were:

1. Hard sole for running around in grass/damp.

2. Size 2.

And that was it. But lord, you’d think I was a diva with nineteen requirements for how I want water in my trailer with the amount of difficulty I had with it. But I tried. Where? LET ME TELL YOU MY TROUBLES, INTERNET.

1. Clarks. Upon the recommendation of some friends, this was the place to go for appropriate, long-wearing shoes. And they had very tough-looking shoes, albeit not pretty but who really cares? Well, sadly, they didn’t have them in a size 2, which wouldn’t have mattered anyway as they were SEVENTY FIVE FRICKING DOLLARS, ARE YOU KIDDING ME? FOR A SHOE THE SIZE OF MY HAND? A shoe made of chocolate would last about the same amount of time as it takes a kid to grow into a new size, and would cost like 10% of that AND I could eat them. I couldn’t even stifle a laugh, I just barked hysterically about it while pointing it out to Teach. Then we ran away.

2. Other proper kids shoes stores. (i.e. Betts, etc.) Still nothing with a hard sole under a size 4. Most of the shoes were still $60. Let’s be honest, there is no way I’m paying more for shoes for the Rocket than I’d pay for my own shoes. $60 is ridiculous, and Teach works full-time and I work part-time, so if it’s even out of our range it’s completely frightening for a significant part of the population.

3. Target/Kmart/Big W. All of these are useless for us 3%ers, as we are now known. (We, currently, being me and the Rocket, and she can’t talk yet or even type, so let’s face it, it’s just me.) Kmart starts at a 3, so comes out a clear winner, if not actually helpful at this time. I did buy her a pair of size 3 boots, which hang on to her calves like my size 6 boots do, but I think they restrict her ankles too much so I am not their biggest fan. Up until yesterday, they were The Best I Could Do, so she wore them anyway. (Target also start at a size 3, and I bought some fire engine ones for her in excitement, but she fell out of them after three steps, which isn’t entirely useful.)

4. Pumpkin Patch. Nope. Everything is cute, but hard soles start at a 4.

5. Zara. Unexpectedly, their shoes are super-cute, reasonably priced in comparison to Clarks, and start at what I estimate as a 3. (A European 18.) I hadn’t been able to get back with the Rocket in tow to try them on, but I’d like to – most were under $40, which is still a bit steep, but once you’re sick of looking it becomes quite reasonable, actually.

6. Your Friendly Asian Kids Shop. Let’s face it, a place I am likely to find stylish shoes is in Asian clothes/footwear shops, so it stands to reason that I could maybe find some in a kidswear store. My local favourite is one called HoneyBaby, which has the bonus of a Thomas the Tank Engine table for the Rocket to get into fistfights over. And lo, I found a hard-soled shoe that FITS, much to my delight, and to my HAPPIER DELIGHT, they are shoes that SQUEAK, so I can hear her wherever she is, AND they have SPIDER-MAN on them. Her face when she first put them on was one of the most lovely things I’ve seen, so, no regrets, but let’s face it, the flaws are a) Marvel are probably not getting paid for the use of the image on these five-dollar knockoffs, but mostly b) they are open-toed sandals. Great for summer (though please let her have grown out of them by then) but not so great in winter, when the grass is perpetually damp. But SO CLOSE. She wore these to a beachside playground during the school holidays and other kids went nuts for them.

7. Best and Less. SUCCESS. Oh my god, my face when I saw they had entire racks of hard-soled shoes that started at a 2 and soft-soled ones up to, I think, a 5. (Because surely the opposite problem happens too – bigger or older kids that can’t walk, which is totally normal.) And they had them in different colours and styles and well it was amazing. The Rocket, bless her very tiny cotton socks, loves trying on shoes (it is insufferable to mention it though because people will be all “LOL LADIES AMIRITE” no sir, no you are not) and was very tolerant of me putting all of them on her. And we found the perfect-fitting pair which were cute and they were, happy of happies, twelve dollars. And so I went to buy them, and by the time we got to the cash register the Rocket had taken her old shoes off and was offering them to me in exchange for her new ones, so, you know, a good sign. Sadly, they didn’t have any full sneakers in the “girl” rack – they were all mary janes, though at least with decent cover – but the “boy” side had heaps.

They are black, with many different colours of flower, so I can pretend they suit everything! But sadly, when you have a kid, you realise you must throw all accessory-matching out the window, and just be happy if every item doesn’t have chew marks on it. Though I’m hardly one to talk, as I buy one pair of Vans per year and wear them every day.

So if this problem pertains to you, go straight to Best and Less. Yes, it smells like over-laundered granny knickers, but it works. DO IT.

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