The Penski File

After my “why don’t you apply for a promotion” post here, and all the mum barriers I discussed in this post, the universe opened a can of whoop ass.

I was headhunted.

Not by a hidden tribe of new Guinean tribesmen, no no. But worse. A recruitment consultant.

Anyhoo, he found me on Linked in.

He messaged me.

I may have ignored him.

He messaged me again.

I may have given a non committal reply.

He asked could he ring me.

I said yes.

He asked when.

I didn’t reply.

He rang.
He talked. I listened. And my “yeah yeah yeah, you’re recruiting for some dodgy private registered training organisation” shifted when I heard the employers name. In my industry, it’s a pretty important name.

And I stood on the lawn outside my office, sipping a cup of tea, and he mentioned the money and I snorted tea out of my nose.

But I can’t.
I can’t do it.
I have a two year old.
I have a two year old I almost lost. Five times. My two year old who almost never was.
I can’t do it.
I’m not good enough.
It’s too big.

Just agree to a conversation, he said.

He’s clever, this guy.
Just a chat, he said. (he read me well. Softly, softly catchee monkey).

So I met with him. He told me about the role.
Just have a chat with them, he said. You’d be great.
So I suited up, and bothered about my hair, and hub-in-boots took a day off, and I met with them. It wasn’t really an interview. It was pretty relaxed. I was pretty relaxed. Because I have a job. And I wasn’t thinking of moving. So it didn’t really matter what they thought of me.

Here I am, I said. I’m a mum first, I said. I wasn’t thinking of leaving, I said.
Can you do this part of the role?
Honestly? I think I’d be rubbish at that part, until I was up to speed.
How about this part?
Yes, well I was thinking in the future you need to do x,y,z and think about changes to a, b and c.
Tell us what you’ve done that is similar?

So I told them. About lecturing, about working to improve students’ writing, about conference papers I’ve written on education. About textbook materials I’ve written (after telling the publisher how rubbish their book was and they gave me a contract). About future plans. About problem based learning. About bringing the real world into the classroom.

Come back and meet another member of the team, they said.

So I did.
And I didn’t try that hard.

Have a tele conference with staff in Melbourne.
So I did.
And I didn’t try that hard.

Have the job, they said. Oh and here’s another $10k on what you thought we were offering. So…..that’s a 50% pay rise.

I don’t want it, I thought. Nothing is worth the loss in flexibility. Nothing is worth the loss of time with jman. It will be like old corporate. I’ll be overworked. I’ll turn into a nasty person. I’ll be stressed. I won’t see my husband or my child. It will be too hard. I’ll be trapped. I don’t want to have to suit up every day.

I don’t want to get the ferry to work on Sydney harbour and stop at the nice coffee shop in the 200m from ferry to office. No no no.

Playgroup, going to playgroup, factored in my decision. Because at present I’m in the office 3 days (one huge day) and work at home 2 days with a lot of flexibility around when things get done.

I had another conversation with my potential boss. She said she arrives at 9:30, after dropping 3 kids at school. She leaves at 4:30, then logs back on about 8pm to do work at home. She comes in four days a week and works the other one at home. Every other person in the team is a mum with small children that does some work from home. Every. Other. Person.
It isn’t all doom and gloom.

If playgroup made the decision, it would be costing $700 a session. Or maybe $400 for play group and $300 for another play date.
Which seems pretty stupid.
You can’t put a price on family time. Or can you?

But I’d still have family time.

You’ve never proven yourself in a new job, whilst being a mum.
You’re not good enough, technically.
You’ll never manage. You’ll look ahead and see the sameness of weeks stretching before you and freak. The hell. Out.
Your kid will hate you and you’ll get a divorce.

You’ll never get this opportunity again.
If this opportunity appeared out of thin air once, It can appear again.
My current workplace is firmly in decline. Less students, more teaching hours, bigger classes. Possible loss of office, parking and campus in future. Possible difficulties when EVERY SIX MONTHS I have to renegotiate my whole existence, my whole timetable, all childcare arrangements. I could be asked to teach any time between 9am and 10pm, five days a week, and only have a bit of wriggle room.
I don’t want it.
I could do it.
I have tenure. Tenure is like gold.
Tenure is like a handcuff.
Money. Money. Money.

In the new job, there are Professional colleagues. All professional colleagues. With money to throw at problems, not stupid policy restrictions and budget restrictions and nepotism to rival any industry. Not like here, with mysoginists three deep stuck in 1975 versions of gender. Not here, where the incompetent / lazy get rewarded, and stay, and the rest of us stand around and fix up their mistakes.

I ignore the things that annoy me in this role, mostly. Because there’s a point. There’s a point. I am bringing home good money, it is not stressful (mostly), and I can be a mum. Whatever I don’t like is irrelevant. Because I am doing it for a reason.
I am a happier person when I leave my ambitious self sitting quietly in a corner.
But I’m older now.

Maybe I could bring her out, for the ride, but not let her take over and turn into a stressed out egomaniac. Because I’m not really insecure anymore. Mostly. Even though I have doubts about my abilities. I look at them and go “Oh! There’s you being silly having doubts again. Oh well, just be quiet, doubts, and get on with doing the best job you can. Nope! Not perfect. Oh well. That’s ok too.”

So. Yes. Big decision time.

We’d need an extra day’s day care. Not available in current family daycare.

Hub-in-boots would swap to earlier shifts, to do pick ups, so I could just take it easy getting home. It is possible he could swap from a Monday-Friday week to a half day Sunday-Thursday week. It is possible.
I could do more online grocery shops.

Decision time.

I am wavering. I have wavered. And both times, I’ve decided no.

Then something has happened at work that made me go “WHAT WERE YOU THINKING? SAY YES!”

I am living liminally, on the threshold of leaving, on the threshold of staying, and I’m STUCK.

The universe opened a can of whoop ass.

And I’ve said yes.

Is the job beyond my skills set?  Is the job going to ruin our finely balanced quality of life? If you’re looking for me, I’ll be working on the Penski file.

Two is so becoming

Two is ridiculous!

“What you like? A babycino? You want marshmallow? Here’s your money”

Yes, we can play cafes, we even wait while the pretend cup fills up, but the money is never quite going in the right direction.

It started two weeks before his birthday, in a cafe. He made this horrible loud noise, sitting beside me. “What are you doing?”
“I’m an elephant, mum”. Yes, yes of course you are. And just like that, we’ve gone into pretend. Sure, we’d done pretend toast and cups of tea, but nothing like this.

This week he has:
* washed a “shirt” (face washer) in the “washing machine” (small bucket in the bath) and handed it over “here’s your new shirt all dry, mum.”
* ordered zucchini slice with calamari, schnitzel, mashed potato and broccoli for dinner (just a moment sir, the bistro will call you when your number is ready )
* driven in a “car” (box) to grandmas, then loaded all the animals (animal fridge magnets) in. When asked where he’s going ” to the zoo!”.


His language is ridunkulous. Just insane.
“You’ve got a drink of water. I’ve got a drink of water. Daddy’s got a drink of water”

“I was splashing, Aunty cathy. I splashed.” (His use of past tense is better than my students).

” look mummy! There’s a dump truck! A dump truck! Hello mister dump truck. Where did the dump truck go? Where’s he gone? Mister dump truck, where are you?”

“Oh wow, that’s delicious, mummy”

Revisionist sentences: “milk, mummy. A drink of milk. I would like a drink of milk. I would like a big drink of milk. A cup of tea milk, (milk in a mug not a sippy cup) mummy. Please, mum mum. Tank you.”

Gross motor skills / independence

He can walk up and down stairs without holding on, all of a sudden.

He likes to climb into the car seat, not be lifted in.

He can climb rope nets on playgrounds (mostly).

He is suddenly very cooperative about having his teeth cleaned, but allergic to high chairs. Whereas he used to quite like being fed when he was tired, this Is not a thing we do now. In fact, many things have rules. Like :THOU SHALT NOT BUTTER MY TOAST. I DO IT.

But he still runs like a little fairy called twinkle toes. Very funny.


I thought I’d never say it, but I think we’ve weaned.

We’d been on a feed first thing in the morning in bed thing for a long time. There was a feed when you pick me up at daycare thing, but that passed a little while back.

He still quite likes grabbing at my boobs. “Mummy’s boobs. Mummy has boobs. I don’t have any boobs.”

And we had a half hearted attempt at a drink on request the other day, the first in two weeks.

I was at a a loss how to manage weaning. The only method that made sense to me was first, night weaning (via dad only settles in the night). That happened a long time ago , maybe at 8 months?

Then, the only thing that made sense was “don’t offer, don’t refuse”. It was the only “way” that seemed ok to me. Don’t get me wrong. There were times I thought oh for the love of god, stop!. But I never wanted to make that decision for him.

There was an undercurrent to it early on, because weaning would be needed for any subsequent goes at IVF. When everyone asked “what about number 2?

And I wasn’t ready, and he wasn’t ready, and I couldn’t force weaning on him. Especially not with an “other” motive. I needed to put a full stop on one sentence, in the right place, before I began another.

It turns out that full stop is probably the last one in that paragraph. And I think I’m (mostly) ok with that. And we’ve weaned. We’ve just about weaned. We made two years. I am so proud of that. Not to put down anyone else’s choices, but when most other things were the exact opposite of natural, this was one thing I really really wanted, that I saw as very important.

I was only ever aiming for three months.
Then six months.
Then a year.
Then the questions started. are you still feeding him? When will you stop? You can give him cows milk, you know (I did. I still do).
When it works for us.
Which turns out to be just after he turned two. Which was a lot longer than I’d ever thought.


There are a lot more moments, these days, when I just stop, and look at him, and think you are amazing. You are just a funny little person, where did you come from? How could this be me, sitting here with you? hoe could this be me, singing Bob The Builder with you as we walk through a supermarket? (On a loop : bob the builder, can he fix it? Bob the builder, can he fix it? Bob the…. you get the picture).

For so long, as babies, they are becoming. becoming a sitter, becoming a babbler, becoming a crawler, a walker, a laugher, a talker.

Now, at 2, all of a sudden like a light has been turned on, I feel he has become.

In the back garden

So, leading up to jman’s birthday, In The Night Garden was still on at 6:30 of a night, often just was we were eating/ finishing dinner. Yes. I know. TV and dinner = bad.

But it got to be a bit of a thing. Jman always sits up to the table with us (note, we NEVER sat at the table before, but we decided it was important as a family thing once he started solids). Anyhoo , when it was on we would talk about the show, sing the songs, and, weirdly, we, the adults, got to quite like it.

One night, I suddenly went “hey, isn’t our yard a bit like the night garden?”. It’s green, it has rolling hills, it has trees, it has a corner with a pebble garden.

We freakin live in the night garden.

So I decided it would be kind of fun, and it would blow his tiny mind, if, for his birthday, I just night gardened up the yard. Because, you know. Planning a holiday, recovering from an ambulance trip, holding down a full time job, not enough of a challenge.

So prior to a fabulous holiday (there will be a post, I promise), I started collecting bits. I made the tardis like carriage out of a shoebox, a pad of coloured construction paper and glue. I also bought some old school pegs, red and blue felt, and whipped up a couple of pontipines.

Hub-in-boots thought they were excellent.

But the true test is a toddler, so I let him see it before the holiday, to see did he recognise it.

He nearly lost his mind! The pontipines house I painted out of an old red box that a gift hamper came in from a dear friend when I was on bedrest. There’s a nice poetry to that repurposing.

After the holiday, I lost momentum a bit. Anyway, below are very brief ideas of what I did to bring the night garden to the backyard… helps. I’m a fan of wine craft. It’s like minecraft, only more social.
the pinky Ponk


OURS: (draft form prior to final pimping)

Green balloon
Pink paper
Yellow paper
Small pink balloon
Pom pom

If you only do one night garden craft, make a pinky Ponk! Get a big green balloon. Blow it up. Blow up bigger than you need, then let it down slightly this stretching seems to make it less likely the balloon will pop.

Stick on spots of Pink and yellow paper, then make crazy propellers. I used orange craft foam ( from a junk shop), cut into petal shapes and sticky taped. (Sellotaped) on so they stand up.

I made a nose out of a pink balloon, and tied the two balloon “necks” together.

I stuck a big propeller on the back with a pom pom glued into its centre. I tied it into the tree from two anchor points, so it didn’t blow around too much.

DIY Ninky nonk




The tardis:
Shoe box (tall and thin )
Blue paper
Yellow paper
Pom pom
Glue stick

The pumpkin:
Large jar, preferably plastic
Green, yellow, red paint

The teeny tiny house:
Little white box
Small piece of cardboard for little roof

The main carriage:
Something red and lantern shaped!
Something for wheels ( I used milk bottle tops mounted on satay sticks)
Pom poms for decoration

Tardis carriage:
I cut out little windows on three sides, and covered the shoebox with blue paper, and lined the windows with yellow. I added thin yellow stripes.

To make the roof, I used left over corrugated cardboard from last years invites, painted it red, cut two squares of slightly different sizes, then cut diagonals into the corners so it would fold into a roof like shape.

To space the roof pieces I glued old blocks in between the red rooves, and mounted it all with a straw. The straw had a pom pom sewed on one end and blue tack on the other. I stuck the roof on the main box, and left the shoebox lid so he could lift it off and put things inside,

To stop the kids ripping off the paper stripes, I sprayed this with several coats of varnish.

The pumpkin:
I chopped up an old giant jar of protein powder, painted it green with yellow windows topped with red dots, and that was the pumpkin shaped ninky nonk carriage.

According to jman’s second favourite show, mister maker, you can get paint to stick to weird surfaces if you mix it with “gloopy glue” (PVA glue). He’s right! It’s not perfect, but it works.

I cut vertical slits all around the bottom piece, then just sort of sat the top piece inside it, so the carriage could still be opened and approximated a pumpkin shape. Another idea is to use a paper lantern.

The little house carriage, I made out of an old box of labels, adding a roof via a piece of red shoebox I rescued from the recycling bin.

The Aladdin ‘s lamp style carriage I really struggled with. I used a cheap zip up red sunglasses case, attached milk bottle top wheels, and a pom pom, and connected them all with crazy pipe cleaners. You could also paint a banana!

I wanted him to be able to investigate the ninky nonk, so I made sure everything could open. Then, the night before the party, I hid little surprises in the ninky nonk, like dried apricots, little packets of biscuits Etc.

The pontipines


10 old fashioned pegs, wooden
Red felt
Blue felt
Permanent marker
Box, large shoebox shape
Cardboard for roof and chimney
Black moustache material ( I used pipecleaner)
A straw
Needle and thread

I needed something quick and easy for the pontipines, given there are ten. They wear red trimmed in royal blue, and they all have slightly different outfits.

*For daddy pontipine, a black pipe cleaner made his moustache. His hat is a tall square of felt, glued onto a circle of red felt then glued onto his peg head.
* mummy pontipines binoculars I made from two straws cut off and joined, and looped it around her neck with a pipe cleaner.
* the kids I just sewed red felt, trimmed with curves of blue felt and glue

Their outfits I sewed together. One side was a sort of a rounded out triangle, the other side was similar but I included arms. So the arms were one sided, not proper sleeves, and I didn’t bother with hands. I sewed them with a contrasting cottoned just over stitching the edges. Quick and dirty! The hats were getting really annoying and not working, so I just stuck felt circles on their heads, and drew faces with sharpie pens.

When I was over making them, I left three. I told jman they were pontipines doing a nudie run. Naturally, these became his favourites. They are now missing in action. Along with the chimney.

I wallpapered the pontipine ” house” inside with old wedding wrapping paper. It needs a chandelier, and I may add a small Xmas decoration for this later.

The characters

I decided I’d make some characters and stick them around the lawn, and I thought the haa hoos were prime candidates given their big bold shapes and basic design.





Originally, I’d planned to do these with balloons as suggested on the ceebeebies sites but I decided this was too risky if they all popped.

So I bought a roll of mixed colours A3 construction paper, and drew them over two sheets joined together.

Yellow haa hoo

Yellow A3 paper x 2
Sticky tape
Coloured dots
Large old cardboard box (optional)
Glue stick
Black marker, white paint

Lay the A3 paper out, joining the sheets together with a slight overlap. Draw a dodgy starfish, or an “x” with an extra “arm” pointing straight up. Draw the ends of each “limb” blobby and rounded.

Draw big eyes, big black pupils, and paint eyes white.

Go crazy with dots. Get toddler to help.

To make a standup character:

1. Cut out your paper figure
2. Glue this to cardboard, avoiding folds in the box where you can
3. Cut out, slowly, using a box cutter. Avoid toddler playing with box cutter.
4. Use Sellotape to stick a cardboard triangle-ish stand on the back, about 2/3 of the way up

Purple haa hoo

Use purple construction paper
Draw a blob shape, a bit like a basic babushka doll
Draw big eyes in black marker, and paint inside of eyes white
Paint large yellow daisies with darker yellow centres

If you wish to, turn into cardboard stand up figure.

Light blue x shape

Do another x shape, with rounded ends ( four limbs). Mark on eyes in black, paint white eyeballs.

Paint or stick on lighter blue dots ( small)

Blue blob

Use blue or red paper.
Draw a blob!
Cover the blob in a checkerboard pattern. So if paper is blue, cut out red diamonds and assemble them all over the blue blobby haa hoo.

There is another haa hoo ( a big ass daisy), but I got tired.

Iggle piggle and upsy daisy

So, for these guys I stole large bits of paper from a butcher paper flip board at work.

In fact, I needed large spaces to do it in, so I drew them at work! I thought these guys would look really dumb and be very hard but they were not. I am no artist.

Iggle piggle I felt would look more convincing if he was doing something, so he’s in a sort of dance-y position. I just sketched him free hand looking at a picture. I painted him blue ( cobalt blue mixed with white), and drew on his red hair, black eyes and mouth.

Upsy daisy is quite easy if you just concentrate on one element at a time, and get the colours right! Because they are simple, Childlike characters, they are easy to draw. If you struggle, some people on the net used and overhead projector to project and trace them onto big paper. I originally wanted to so this, but I think they turned out ok freehand. Another idea is find colouring in sheets on sites like ceebeebies, as the one dimensional simplified image is easier to copy.





“Cooking”: eating the night garden!

Lowest level of difficulty:

Buy individual boxes of dried fruit like sultanas (or lollies)
Print out a nice night garden image
Glue it to the box

Subcontract out birthday cake to niece, who is very clever!

Medium difficulty: Makka pakka marshmallow men!

Get 4 small and 2 normal white marshmallows.
Create one long spaghetti “spine”
Break off two spaghetti “cross bars”
And a spaghetti leg brace


Stick the two large together using your spaghetti spine. On top of makka pakka’s head, stick the spaghetti through a flattened out sultana.This is safer than toothpicks and more digestible. The head is “circle facing you”, the body is longways.

Using the first cross bar, insert spaghetti into makka pakkas head like the bolts on Frankenstein. Add sultanas on either side like ears.

Optionally, you can stick the sultanas on with icing.

Use the second cross bar through his body, to stick on small marshmallow arms.

Use the bottom of the spine spaghetti and the extra small piece to Stick on legs using small marshmallows ( circles facing you)

Draw on a smiley face with melted chocolate. Makka pakka!


20140807-234402-85442719.jpgFiddly level of difficulty: tombliboos biscuits

I found some little teeny tiny low sugar gingerbread men we occasionally buy. Of course you could make your own, but i was short on time. I used coloured chocolate (white chocolate and powdered food dye works best), and piped on an overall colour with a very fine nozzle , let this dry for 10-15 minutes, then piped on contrasting dots and squiggles for hair.

The most fiddly part were the eyes. I tried a few things and settled on pre made icing writing tubes, using white then black dots for pupils. Don’t do them too large or cute tombliboo becomes scary Sid vicious meets alien. Well, mine did.


I experimented with icing the tombliboos, but I’ve made a lot of handmade chocolates in the past, so I found chocolate easier. Go with your strengths, I say. The first batch looked like a “saw this on Pinterest, nailed it ” attempt! I got better. I didn’t paint on smiles, as on the little gingerbread faces they just turned into total freaks that would frighten the children. Keep it simple. This would be easier to do on larger biscuits, but I was trying to avoid giving the kids too much sugar or colouring, so the smaller the better for me.

Watermelon tombliboo house:

Hub-in-boots was along for the ride, and he brilliantly thought up a watermelon house. Of course, watermelons are out of season here, and he found the shop with the largest possible watermelons and didn’t check the price. $35 later….and he forgot to carve it!!!!

Sometime into the party, the tombliboo house appeared. It was way cool. Problem is, I’m not sure we got a photo! We ate a lot of watermelon. A LOT. OF. WATERMELON. We also had party number 2 at mums, and as you can see he’s getting hard to keep up with! More on life at 2 and holidays soon. X