The Virus Diaries: Goodness

March 26, 2020 at 5:56 pm (Cat pics, Fully Sick, funny, general life)

Look, I know there are lots of things that suck right now. But I’ve never seen such a flood of kindness, generosity, and support. I’ve never felt so connected to the whole world—in a good way.

This entry is almost entirely made up of just stuff from my facebook and twitter feed from the last hour. It’s a random mixture of encouragement, humour, information, stuff to do, and resources to help people either deal with self-isolation or understand why it’s necessary.

The above was posted by Julia Vee from the Parasol Protectorate facebook group.








The “Bear Hunt” is all about putting teddy bears in windows and front gardens for kids to spot as they walk around the neighbourhood.












And here are some videos:

A bunch of late-night hosts are working from home. It’s messy, awkward, and hilarious:

This is my favourite song right now. It’s rude and funny and strangely inspiring (make sure your kids aren’t in the room).


Another parody song:


A beautiful in-character bit of encouragement from The Doctor herself:


A charmingly odd news article. It kind of epitomises how so many people are reacting to this global challenge—with humour, with love, and with everyone asking, “What can *I* do to help?”

Here’s a news article thinking about how COVID-19 will change the world, which is fascinating for all of us (I haven’t had time to read it yet, because I’ve been hard at work all day preparing something VERY special for the school holidays). Not necessarily uplifting, but sometimes it’s nice to have someone say, “This is what will happen next, then this, then this.”


And how about twitter, that infamous trash fire?

This guy is always like that. He bleeds love and kindness every single tweet.


(If you haven’t read Gail Carriger’s funny supernatural steampunk tales, you should!)

I wish I was in Melbourne right now, but I also love how facebook has so much content talking about how important artists are right now.









I’ve been fielding emails and calls all this time. My Flourish home mental support people switched to phone calls, but gave me a million other options of ways to stay connected, and also checked a whole lot of practical things (do you have food? Can someone look after your kids if you are sick?)

My chemist called me up to say they’ll be delivering my regular medications to me, and is there anything extra I need? My friend Chevelle climbed into a store refrigerator to get me the last, lost pack of frozen peas. My Mum finished painting the signs we were making together (pics soon). People are looking at their pantry and giving food away over social media.

A woman I have never met gave me a quilt she made. That’s not even because of the ‘rona. She just… makes quilts, and gives them away.

Here is the quilt (gorgeous, isn’t it?) hanging on my washing line (hence the odd pic) for several days so any ‘rona germs can die before I touch it.

It is, in a word, beautiful.

I’m not saying the ‘rona doesn’t suck. It does. I’m not saying certain people aren’t being tossers. There are some people making awful decisions out of various kinds of fear. But what I’m mostly seeing is kindness, thoughtfulness, generosity, humour, and creativity—all at unprecedented levels.

We can do this. We have each other.

Resource of the day: I can’t believe I’m saying this, but if you’re not on social media now is a great time to join.

Donation of the day: What weird item or talent can YOU throw out into the zeitgeist?

Personal action of the day: Have you heard of #FormalFriday? Or my alternative, Wear-A-Bra Wednesday? Go ahead and dress up. It’s good for the soul.

Hoarding item of the day: Pet food and litter (only 2 weeks’ worth, okay?)

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The Virus Diaries: Big News in TJ Town

March 25, 2020 at 8:05 pm (Cat pics, Fully Sick, general life, Mum Stuff)

Yesterday, I received money! From the internets!

I think this means I just monetised my blog. Amazing.

But that’s not the big news of the day. As per yesterday’s announcement, it’s all about TJ, and specifically his teeth.

Way back when his big sister was losing teeth and we laughingly told TJ that his teeth would fall out in a few years, he was very disturbed by the whole idea (even when we explained how adult teeth are coming through, and that it doesn’t hurt, and told him the current going rate for the tooth fairy).

Over time, he became reconciled to the possibility that he might one day make the switch, bit by bit, to adult teeth. Then he began looking forward to it, and we assured him that it would happen automatically; he didn’t need to do anything but his teeth would eventually start to fall out (and not all at once either).

Last year, he told me he had a sore tooth. “This one?” I asked, pushing down on it gently.

“Yes,” he said, in his most pathetic maybe-I-can-stay-home-from-school-tomorrow voice.

“It’s not hurt,” I told him, testing and confirming my hypothesis as I spoke. “It’s wobbly.”

And there was much rejoicing.

That really was last year. Before the fires, floods, smoke, and hail of last Summer, and before COVID-19 affected our lives in any way. A good chunk of his lifetime ago, proportionally speaking.

Then last night he ran into my room and threw himself face-first onto my bed (this is how he enters my room). “Mum! Mum! Mum!” he said. “My tooth is super duper wobbly, look!”

He was not wrong. I told him it would definitely fall out within the next few days. (He declined my offer of assistance.) We took a photo to send to Daddy, and called him to tell him. Daddy was suitably impressed.

Then TJ tried a variety of pain-free techniques his Poppy had shown him: Blowing on his tooth. Dancing. Nodding. Nothing happened. So he ran around the house a few times screaming, “I’m so excited! I can’t believe this is really happening!” and then came back and hurled himself at my bed again.

Then he looked up at me, and I saw his cheeky face freeze in surprise and consternation. My stomach dropped in maternal fear.

He opened his mouth, and his tooth fell out into his hand.

The penny dropped for me a moment before it dropped for him: “Your tooth! That’s your tooth! It fell out!”

And he jumped up and down, and ran to tell his sister. And we called Daddy and told him. And we called Nana and Poppy and told them. And we took photos to send to the grandparents. And to Dad.

And there was much rejoicing.

Because sometimes staying home and slowing down is more epic and exciting than anything else could possibly be.

Resource of the day:

I haven’t read this article yet, but I’m extremely excited to watch Picard! [Editor: That’s only relevant to the US, but we can buy some Amazon Prime to watch it ourselves.]

Donation of the day:

People are still having babies, and it can be a very lonely time even when the world isn’t mid-plague. These guys help, and there’s a DONATE button at the top.

Personal action of the day:

If you’re not fully isolated (or sick) yet, hire a cleaner. They might need the cash at the moment, and they’re the professionals at this stuff.

Hoarding item of the day:

Winter jackets. We won’t need them for at least a month or two, but better to get it done now if you can. It’s easy to buy awesome winter jackets online (keeping in mind that mail can get COVID-19 on it so you may want to keep the parcel outside for up to two weeks before opening it).

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The Virus Diaries: Educational Obstacle Course

March 24, 2020 at 3:52 pm (Cat pics, Fully Sick, general life, Mum Stuff)

Last night, my daughter made up a story about a magical eagle protecting smaller birds. It was lovely. Just one problem: the villain was the main character’s cruel and despotic mother. She told it with perfect innocence, which makes it so much worse.

She also said today that she can’t wait until she has kids so they can rock her in a hammock. Well, sure.

In the above pic she’s dressed (since we’re outside) but her latest apocalypse outfit is a blanket draped around her like a Greek goddess. And why not?

And the evolution of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” has reached its inevitable conclusion:

As you can see in that video, Zipper remains torn between her desire to be near her pet humans and her desire to avoid the Dangerous Blue Swinging Thing.


I’ve been terribly impressive this week. On Sunday I had an idea for an educational obstacle course that got the kids reading (at their different levels), exercising, and practising maths (at their different levels) at the same time.

I gathered together all the vaguely exercise-related outside toys I could think of, plus some others, and got rid of trip hazards in the yard. Then I collected 2- and 3-letter verbs, ie words that TJ could read and then do. Here’s my collection: go, get, run, hop, hit, pat, get, up, jog (also ‘and’, ‘cat’, ‘dog’, ‘fox’, ‘mat’, ‘rat’). Or if he’s particularly impressive: jump, pull, push, sing, climb, skip (also ‘ball’, ‘down’). We’ve been learning ‘th’ and specifically ‘the’ and ‘this’. He is already able to recognise his numbers.

Then I wrote a 20-part story that never had more than a few sentences at a time (for Louisette to read), with an underlined bit that TJ could read, and actions for each part. I printed out two copies; one for me to follow along with, and one to tape up section by section around the yard (I should have made the numbers bigger so they could more easily spot the clues in the correct order). Here’s the full story, with my comments in italics. Feel VERY free to cut, paste, and adapt to your own yard or house.

The Runaway Rabbit

A rabbit is a handy main character because you can get the kids to hop the whole course if you like and/or wear rabbit ears if you have them. Also, a lot of kids struggle to pronounce their ‘r’ sound, so this can be a good time to practise the ‘rrr’ growl sound (although not on Day 1 when they’re overwhelmed by all the novelty). The plot of “something’s chasing you” and/or “the ground is lava” is extremely adaptable. Attentive readers will note that it’s not necessary for every section to make story sense. The kids get how the story works and will go with the flow.

I probably should have put clear contact on the clues but I reckon they’ll last 1-2 weeks even if it rains, which is as long as the kids will be willing to do this every day.

I chose a ‘handwriting’ font so that the letter ‘a’ would be printed the way it’s written (unlike the font I’m using right now). Reading is hard enough without making up a new letter shape.


  1. You are a rabbit. There is a fox coming! Go this way.

  1. The fox is getting closer! You need to jump lots of times and say a times table.

For example: 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, 22, 24.

Obviously #2 is at the trampoline. But kids can jump up and down without a trampoline if you don’t have one.

  1. You hurt your foot! Hop here.
  2. Quick! Jump aboard the train to escape that cheeky fox. Push this.

I set up a wooden toy train set on the table, which was one of the most labour-intensive parts of this whole thing because I needed to bring it in each night and then set it up again each morning. Your mileage will vary.

  1. Oh no! The fox jumped onto the train too! You need to step up onto the roof of the train. Don’t fall!

Any stable bench or chair will work.

  1. Carefully climb this way to get onto the next carriage. Don’t fall!

Moving from one bench/chair to another.

  1. The fox has fallen asleep on the train. Very quietly get down and rock Mum so the fox stays asleep and you can escape.

Hammock time. Or they could sing a song and/or do a dance until the ‘fox’ falls asleep.

  1. You got off the train, phew! What time is it now? Look at the clock.

This works with any clock/s, ideally with batteries removed so you control what time it is (for them to practise telling the time).

  1. A volcano is erupting! The grass is lava so don’t let it touch you.

Lay out any objects that the kids can use as stepping stones (pavers are great).

  1. Oh no! Five baby rabbits are falling from an apartment window above you.

Catch 5 balls and give them back to their mother (the washing basket).

We have a ball run. As long as you have a ball, the kid/s can play catch for this section. Or you can use a basketball hoop and ball here eg ‘Throw the baby rabbits through the hoop to safety.’

  1. The lava is coming even faster! You need to take the car.

We have a toy car. Alternatively, this is a good time to do more hopping, if you haven’t already.

  1. You see something round in the distance. Is it a safe place? Go to the hoop.

This is a hoola hoop hung from the washing line with string/rope/ockey strap. A bent hoop works fine. This is the part that impressed the kids the most.

  1. Step in and over the hoop.

‘Step through the hoop’ is clearer, but I was trying to use words TJ could have a go at.

  1. There’s even more lava! Get the car and go back to the same spot as before. This is designed so Mum doesn’t have to move the car when she resets the course.
  2. There’s so much lava everywhere! You will need to balance very carefully along a narrow ledge to get to the only safe place. Step on the rope.

I used a skipping rope (which Louisette loved, and TJ said was too hard for him). Any rope will do and is great balance practice.

  1. Climb up onto the porch and then sit on the steps. Phew! Time for a break!

Up and down steps is great exercise.

  1. Oh no! Even more lava! Throw the ball through the hoop!

This is where our basketball hoop came in (and much chasing of runaway balls, which is also great exercise). We have a stool next to it for the shorter kid.

18. The fox has found you again! RUN!

Cunning parents will have their kids run more than a few steps, eg ‘Run to the tree and back.’

19. A tall tree! Climb up here and you’ll finally be safe.

This loops back to the place where they started, which makes it natural for them to try it again if they’re keen. (Mine were not.)

20. Aha! The fox ran away and the volcano finally stopped erupting. You’re really safe now, and the other rabbit family is safe too.

Good job.

The End.

This is my kids (5 and 8) doing the first part of the course for the first time.

It’s extremely important to balance confidence and skill. TJ is very excited about reading, so I felt I could get away with more than one TJ-oriented word per section (especially as I’ll be running them through the course daily for at least a week). Always aim for ‘too easy’ rather than ‘challenging’ because confidence is more important than competence in primary school. Younger kids should just read one or two sections (which could be built up over time eg 2 the first day, 4 the next time, then 6, and so on).

Teaching is learning, so a bigger kid helping a smaller kid is EXCELLENT for the bigger kid. It shows them how far they’ve come.

On the other hand, doing the course with multiple kids is extremely likely to cause fights (especially at the end of the day). Your kids are probably desperate for one-on-one attention.

Obviously you can set different times tables and different clock times whenever you like. For Kindy, being able to read ‘Such-and-such o’clock’ is plenty, and they’d probably practise counting rather than times tables on the trampoline.

Repetition is good (I’m NOT making a new course for each day!) and memorising words is part of reading. On her second go, Louisette’s reading was much more fluent. TJ refused to do it a second time, saying that balancing on the rope and getting a ball through the hoop was too hard. I offered help and he refused.

Kids are punks… so try to keep it simple in case they point-blank refuse to try it. Which will definitely happen in some families.

At least the cat appreciates it.

Resource of the Day: That was it. This will be all we do for the next week or so of school. (I am lying; TJ will continue learning Jolly Phonics letters, because that’s what he wants to do.) Here‘s my guide to educating your Kindy kid at home for as little as ten minutes a day in case you missed that.

Donation of the Day: Do you know someone will a big birthday, event, or (gulp) wedding that is going to be cancelled or postponed because of the COVID-19 virus? Buy or make them something super special (then don’t let anyone touch it or go near it for 9 days, then wash your hands and deliver it to their porch).

Personal Action of the Day: Disinfect the kids’ school bags, especially the handles (especially if they’ve just had their last day at physical school for a while).

Hoarding Item of the Day: Buy a kindle. Then you can read a million books without risking any germs from the post. And I suspect postal workers will be overworked too.


We have extremely exciting news for tomorrow!

Well, it’s extremely exciting to us. And especially TJ.

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The Virus Diaries: Goals

March 23, 2020 at 4:38 pm (Cat pics, Fully Sick, general life, Love and CJ, Mum Stuff)

Yesterday the news broke that the state governments of the ACT (that’s me) and Victoria are closing down schools this week (effectively over-ruling the Prime Minister who is still prioritising the economy over safety).

Millions of kids rejoiced. Millions of parents trembled in their stylish yet affordable boots.

Three seconds later the internet was flooded with cries of praise for teachers everywhere.

Meanwhile, at home, Chris informed me that I apparently once said, “Not now, my husband is coming” in my sleep.

For the record, Chris Evans and I were REHEARSING. JUST REHEARSING. I swear. We are professionals.

In other news, TJ had a shower yesterday (that’s not the news part). During said shower, he blew a raspberry on the shower glass. I told him not to let his face touch the glass. So he licked it. So I said NOT to let his FACE touch the GLASS. So he spat on it. So I said NO SPITTING and that’s when he mooned me. Buttcheeks pressed right up against that glass.

Then he sang his latest version of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”:

In the eyeball, the creepy eyeball, the eyeball sleeps toniiiight!

Hush my eyeball, my creepy eyeball, the eyeball eats you toniiiiight!

In case you haven’t heard the original:

Here’s a pic of TJ pushing me on the hammock. As you can see, he is actively trying to tip me out of it. Little punk.


It’s good to have goals.

My daily goal is to make sure the kids eat three meals (and fruit), and shower each day, with some kind of schoolwork happening for each kid on each weekday (even if it’s a drawing activity—great for hand-eye coordination—or playing with lego, or whatever). For myself, to shower and blog each day and to keep enough spoons that I can be nice to my family even when they’re annoying.

I wrote about my writing goals yesterday. Then I finished dealing with the comments on “The Floating City” and decided to aim to add 1000 words to each of the final chapters. I added over 500 to Chapter Eleven yesterday, which I’m extremely proud of. It’s a relief to do some of my ‘real’ work for a change. I feel much more myself (and I promptly had a manic episode and stayed up, full of ideas, until 4am).

I also aim to convince my extremely cautious cat Zipper to one day jump into the hammock with me. She has put her paws up on the side of the hammock three times in the last six months (only ever when it was just me and her in the yard), so I know she’s thought about it. But for the most part she reacts to my entreaties (“Zipper? Zip Zip? Prrowr?”) with a Dignified Indifference.


I also aim to try and achieve the following gardening tasks:

a) To propagate the purple-leaved bush out the front of our house. It looks good and weeds don’t grow under it, so I plan to eventually have it cover most of our weed-prone front garden. So far I’ve had two cuttings in water for several weeks. They didn’t grow roots but they didn’t die either, so today I stuck them in some dirt. We’ll see how they go.

b) To keep my basil plant alive. The stalks are so fragile I’ve destroyed many basil plants due to either rinsing the leaves or just adding water too hastily. It’s also very touchy about direct sunlight, and will immediately die if it’s put in a window (let alone outside). This one has a few half-brown leaves but still looks pretty good. Have I finally cracked the code to keeping basil from dying? We’ll see. . .

c) To grow potatoes. NOT because Australia is going to run out of potatoes, but because everyone needs a postapocalyptic hobby. First I gotta clear some of those weeds, though (and by “I” I obviously mean “Chris”). At the moment our front garden is perilously close to being a lawn.

I COULD aim to have a tidy house, but that’s too far out of the realm of possibility.

And I definitely aim to have proper air conditioning before winter, but that’s a very difficult task and I don’t yet have a solid plan (other than “wait for some disability support cash” which is by no means guaranteed even if it’s our only plausible option right now). At least we have a (very loud and clanking) portable air conditioner now, so combined with milder temperatures I have a chance at regaining a little health (maybe).

This week, I have a goal to do an EPIC and GENIUS obstacle course for my kids (I think I mentioned I had a manic episode last night). More on that later!

Resource of the day:

A hypothetical home schooling timetable (which I definitely don’t follow):

Recommended donation of the day:

Give me money. I’d love some. My PayPal is

Recommended personal action of the day:

Hide all your kids’ noise-making toys.

Recommended Hoarding item of the day:

DVDs (they have novelty value, and you can still watch them if the worst happens and Netflix crashes)

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The Virus Diaries: Sanity

March 22, 2020 at 2:54 pm (Cat pics, Fully Sick, general life, Mental illness, Mum Stuff, Writing Ranting)

There are two major mental challenges when it comes to staying in one’s home. In no particular order they are:

1) Spending time with other people.

2) Not spending time with other people.

Today is all about my advice on staying sane! And yes I’m aware of the irony of a mentally ill person telling others how to chill.

My first recommendation is to recognise that all of this is really, really hard. Different people will struggle with different aspects, and will cope (or not cope) in different ways. Some people will cope really well, but don’t let that make you feel bad. They definitely suck at other things which aren’t relevant right now.

If being with your immediate family (or housemates) 24/7 is hard for you to deal with, I recommend being honest (ideally before you snap and scream your truth at people) and figuring out a way to get some space. Camping in the yard? Going nocturnal (if your housemates are diurnal)? Trading people with one other household? Getting a TV for your room so you never have to share the remote? Personally I’m really enjoying having Chris sleep elsewhere (hello darling), because it’s super annoying that he falls asleep more or less instantly every night while I have nightmares, toss and turn due to muscle pain, etc.

If being out of contact with your social circle is the worst part for you, then look into some of the creative ways people are connecting at the moment: Zoom is very popular, also Skype, twitter, and facebook. Also people sometimes sing together from their balconies, or make a giant outside circle (6 feet apart) to chat of an evening. Or you could actually talk on the phone.

And of course you may be one of those lucky ones who suffers from both #1 and #2 above. Good luck to you.


I’ve had a few very lonely times in my life, and I have a pretty good skill set for this kind of thing. The most notable ‘lonely time’ was when I was eighteen. I lived in Indonesia with Indonesians for six months, and no one spoke English so I didn’t truly ‘talk’ to people for all that time. Before that journey I was good at Indonesian in the sense that I had an A+ in Year 10 Indonesian classes. By the end I was more or less fluent.

That was the second time I’d been to Indonesia—the first was a fortnight as a blonde-streaked and adorably pimply sixteen year-old (with a group of other young and young-ish people). For your amusement, I dug up this Real Physical Photo of me being utterly distracted by a baby animal (I haven’t changed much when it comes to cute animals):

Pretty sure that bracelet spells “Jesus”. Not much is changed there either (nowadays I have a tattoo of a cross, and I still want to make the world better).

I think I had one phone call with my family during my six-month visit to Indonesia. I didn’t have a mobile, and the place where I stayed had a single landline that was rarely used. This was in the distant time of the year 2000. There was one TV at the place I was staying which was certainly not for my use. There was no Netflix. No social media. No internet (except internet cafes, which I visited once a week). I had a discman (a tiny battery-powered CD player) and a few CDs, which was all the music I had, and all the technology too. During that time I wrote my first full-length book about my experience. In the first draft it was over 200,000 words… all of them written freehand.

In case it wasn’t obvious, writing is my #1 coping method. Even if you’re not a writer, journalling (or even blogging) can be really helpful to process life, especially a big experience like isolation or quarantine. I do genuinely recommend you try it. Which brings me to my first idea of ways to cope:

1. Do something. Whether it’s your job, journalling, writing a novel, gardening, or whatever, try not to slide into the utter nothingness of pure unfettered laziness for too long (it gets old after about three days, and it can be hard to snap out of it). Wear pants. Shower. Eat breakfast at breakfast time. Cook proper food and clean the kitchen every night. A lot of people are celebrating “Formal Fridays” where they dress up for the day and post photos online.

2. Stop. Take at least one day a week off, whatever that means for you. Enjoy that lazy Sunday vibe, stay in your PJs all day, eat nothing but cereal, do no schoolwork, whatever. Apart from anything else, this gives you something to look forward to.

3. Do healthy stuff. Eat well (especially fruit and vegies, or things will not go well in your bathroom), and figure out a way to exercise (walking, running up and down stairs, playing soccer with the kids, whatever). Make yourself get up at a certain time each day (with one ‘sleep in’ day a week because sleeping in is awesome). Get some sunshine if you possibly can (I’m assuming you at least have a balcony). It really helps your body feel like you’ve done something and can therefore sleep at night.

4. Be polite no matter what. Small annoyances built up fast, whether it’s the noisy way your kid eats or societally institutionalised sexism (exemplified by your husband dropping his dirty socks on the floor). Blame coronavirus, not each other. Save your big fights for a time when you’re allowed to go and stay at a friend’s house if you need to cool down. The most important thing is not to burn any bridges with the people you love. So be nice. Seriously. Hating the sight of your family is a side effect of home isolation, not a sign it’s time for a divorce.

5. Pick your goals wisely, and change course as required.

Even under the heading of ‘writing’ I have a lot of very different things I’m working on:

a) Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. A super exciting fun shiny new book… which is currently not coming together, so I’ve moved it to the back burner for now.

b) The Floating City. A climate change/scifi book that has given me a huge amount of grief but is ever so close to finished. I’m currently going through the sensitivity readers’ comments (usually small facts or phrases so not hard to change) and then I’ll be editing just the ending. But I’m forcing myself to go slow because I often rush endings and I don’t want to do it for this book.

c) Flight. Another really fun book, which needs an edit and a couple more chapters (around 20,000 words). I was going to enter it in a contest last year but I got the date wrong and as a result it wasn’t ready in time. So I’m aiming for this year instead. I have had a lot of excellent feedback from about 5 different places, so I need to go back and find it all, then deal with it. A lot of it is major criticism that will require big rewrites… but the book itself is really good and really fun, so that will be enjoyable-although-difficult when I get to it.

d) Blogging. It’s taking a lot of my mental space at the moment, which is good because I feel like I’m doing something worthwhile (and it’s bad because the rest of my writing is suffering). And it’s free therapy. And technically work, since writers are meant to be bloggers too these days. So I do feel kinda righteous. At the same time, I’m writing this on Saturday to post Sunday so I can take Sunday ‘off’ blogging.

I haven’t got around to doing any schoolwork with the kids today, which is fine. It’s Saturday. I was planning to at least do a fun activity with them, but so what? I didn’t tell them, so they’re not disappointed. The great thing about setting goals for myself is I can let myself off the hook as needed.

6. Failure is always an option. If you end up in a fetid pile of dirty washing, buck naked and screaming at your two year-old that you want a divorce… that’s okay. It might look and feel like the end of the world, but when things are normal again you’ll go back to normal too. If you fail in your goals, wallow for a day, think about whether your goals need to be altered, and then start fresh.

7. Remember humans are amazingly adaptable, even you. Your first ten minutes of homeschooling may make you want to give up on humanity altogether, but in the usual pattern of good and bad days and good and bad moments, you’ll get better at doing this. So don’t extrapolate the pain of that ten minutes into the weeks or months of isolation ahead. Change hurts, but you’ll settle sooner or later into some kind of routine and it won’t hurt this much all the time. I promise.

8. Do fun stuff. Bake stuff you’ve always wanted to try, or watch that series everyone was talking about three years ago. Get day drunk in your living room. Whatever works for you (and doesn’t cause long-term harm).

9. Humour. There are a bazillion and one jokes and songs about the coronavirus now. Dive in and laugh at all of this nonsense.

10. Whatever works. The above list is aimed at healthy people. Those with health conditions that flare up randomly will need to adjust day by day and often hour by hour. But that was always true. And if wearing PJs every day works for you, go for it!

It might not look like it, but this is a picture of TJ. He asked me to take it so… well, there it is.

Resource of the day:

Someone else’s take on how to work from home.

Stuffed Capsicum (serves two, or one hungry person):

1. Slice a capsicum in half and scoop out the seeds and ribs so it makes two little bowls. Roast them facing down for ten minutes at 200 degrees celcius.

2. Mix a small amount of cooked rice with crushed nuts (you can smash them to bits yourself with a potato masher), chopped tomatoes, basil, garlic and a teaspoon or so of either cream, butter or oil. You can also put in tuna, cooked chicken pieces, tofu, or almost anything.

3. Flip over the slightly-cooked capsicum halves and fill with the mixture. Cook another 5-10 minutes, top with grated cheese, and eat.

Recommended Donation of the Day:

Support a musician on Kickstarter. Musicians are losing gigs and money at a really high rate, and music is one of the things that makes life better during isolation.

Recommended personal action of the day:

Carefully (because you don’t want to wet or break them) clean your TV remotes.

Recommended hoarding item of the day:

Buy another TV. Unless you already have one TV per person in your house, this will help you stay sane.

* * *

For those following along with the Castle Project, one of the vacant lots I had my eye on (unfortunately it’s impossible to track the owner) is now under construction. I reached out via the email on the builder’s notice, but no joy there I think.

I need to start applying for grants but I… haven’t yet. The tabs are open, however. Maybe this week.

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The Virus Diaries: Gaslighting

March 21, 2020 at 1:33 pm (Fully Sick, general life, Mental illness, Mum Stuff)

If you haven’t heard the term before, “gaslighting” means convincing someone that they’re crazy, irrational, or mistaken. In its original form, that means changing a person’s environment without their knowledge. I’m talking mainly about the ‘fear versus safety’ dynamic currently playing out in every family and school and workplace right now. There are four factors that make gaslighting particularly potent (and deadly) during a pandemic.

1. Germs are invisible.

Seeing is believing, and that makes it really hard to take the coronavirus seriously. It’s particularly tricky because the symptoms are so similar to a cold or an ordinary flu (both of which are a big part of normal life and no big deal unless you live in a nursing home) AND a significant portion of people are transmitting the virus while having no symptoms whatsoever.

2. The most concerned people aren’t the ones we like to listen to.

Coronavirus hits the elderly and the immunocompromised the hardest, and our capitalist society puts very little value on those groups. It’s a harsh truth, and at the moment it’s a deadly one.

Look, I’ll be honest. It feels a lot less tragic to lose a 90 year-old than a 9 year-old. Their lives are of equal value, but one of them has a lot more of it left than the other. I understand that. I also understand that older people (NOT all of them) have a reputation for being morally behind the times—racist, sexist, etc—and it’s tempting to think that losing a higher proportion of older folk might mean an overall gain in human rights, as younger people are more likely (again, not all of them) to vote in a moral than a purely self-motivated way. It’s an interesting argument in part because of how utterly awful and immoral it is, and from the supposedly “moral” side of politics too.

I literally heard people talking recently `about how the world would be better with less old people in it. That is not okay. Not now, not ever.

Old people are undervalued in our society. Let’s not be awful people about this, okay? Please?

Now (*rolls up sleeves*) let’s talk about the other major invisible group in our society: the disabled and chronically ill, most of whom are immunocompromised or otherwise vulnerable (eg dependent on other people) in a hundred different ways. I’ve mentioned I have fibromyalgia and diabetes (among other conditions). The death rate for diabetics who contract COVID-19 is currently around 10%. That’s a whole lot better than, say, a 50/50 chance of survival, but it also means that if I get this, there’s a one in 10 chance I will literally die from it. That’s not cool!

Fibromyalgia is one of the most annoying conditions in the world. Allow me to describe it in two different ways:

a) Fibromyalgia is a disease of the nervous system that affects 2-5% of the population of developed countries (including Morgan Freeman). Because it’s based in the nervous system, it causes widespread muscle pain, migraines, muscle twitches, joint pain, and depression. Some people are able to function despite their fibromyalgia. Others (like me) are permanently disabled. There is no cure.

b) Fibromyalgia is a ‘wastebasket diagnosis’ given to people—mostly overweight and clinically depressed women—who complain of widespread pain but show no physical signs.

Can you spot the difference? Which do you think is a more accurate description—the one that makes it sound like a genuine disability, or the one that makes it sound like feeble-minded fatties are whining about imaginary issues?

A lot of “invisible illnesses” (migraines, depression, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) cause sufferers to get an extra level of issues due to people struggling to believe their conditions are real. Yes, a lot of people are just awful (especially when one tries to get some kind of financial support—immediate family members and Centrelink are sometimes wonderful but often the greatest gaslighters in the world) but I do understand that our minds instinctively shy away from long-term pain in others. It’s hard for me personally to hold onto the fact that Australia keeps innocent children in offshore detention in order to shirk our international responsibilities and to deliberately aim to get a reputation for cruelty. Aren’t we the good guys? Surely there MUST be a good reason, or it’s not as bad as it sounds, or something?

In the same way, it’s hard for people to accept that another innocent person is going to suffer physically and financially for the rest of their lives. So it’s natural, in a way, to choose not to believe that fibromyalgia (or whatever) is actually real. Or if it is real, then it’s natural to believe that’s it’s not really as bad as people say. Or if it is that bad, then it’s natural to believe that the sufferer must surely be able to do something to fix it. (Which is where you get doctors telling people to lose weight for EVERY condition imaginable, even though studies show that dieting does more harm than good and that it’s possible fibromyalgia actually causes the weight gain in the first place.)

All of which is to say that people like me, with chronic health issues, are often treated like we’re irrational even when we’re not. (I could tell a hundred painful and shocking stories of family members and/or medical people simply choosing to believe that fibromyalgia isn’t real. At all.) Our suffering is not respected. So when we hear, “Don’t worry about COVID-19! Healthy people will be fine!” we hear, “Only worthless people will die—and lots of them! So THAT’S fine.”

And of course when chronically ill people say, “This is serious. We’re dying!” simple denial comes into play and there’s a knee-jerk response of, “I shall not live in fear! I shall take my family out to a crowded restaurant and encourage others to do the same!” Plus of course, the knee-jerk anger response: how dare chronically ill people—already a burden on the taxpayer, the slackers!—so callously disregard the needs of The Economy.

And yes, the economy matters. People suffer when the economy suffers. I’ve personally lost several thousand dollars of a pathetically small income already, and there are MANY others in much worse positions.

So, it’s complicated. Which makes gaslighting easier.

And of course there’s a certain number of people who are already fond of disregarding any scientist. It’s become a matter of pride. Which is, obviously, dumb. All the more so because skepticism is associated with intelligence and sometimes (often) it just… isn’t. But when people’s in-group, or sense of their own intelligence, or general identity gets tied up with “skepticism at all costs”… it’s a very hard thing to stop.

3. Fear isn’t fun. Brave is fun.

Writers all know that a story must centre around an interesting and ACTIVE protagonist. Because no-one likes solving a problem by doing nothing. That applies to both fiction and real life. It’s surprisingly hard to sit at home and do nothing (or work from home, or home-school kids), and soon a person starts feeling stupid and wants to do something active. So instead of fighting the virus, we start fighting the associated anxiety. We prioritise normality and the economy and Not Living In Fear rather than doing the less-glamorous thing—staying home.

4. I can’t remember what my fourth point was. Darn it. I’ll edit it in when I do.


In summary, don’t give in to fear, but do change something you can change, whether it’s self-isolating your entire family or just washing your hands for longer than you used to.

Resource of the day:

A video running the classic “powder that glows under UV light” experiment. It’s quite fun and kid-friendly (except for a couple of seconds of people fighting over toilet paper). Also it goes for ten minutes so that’s ten minutes of home schooling done for the day. Don’t watch it if you have obsessive-compulsive tendencies.

Recommended donation of the day:

Oxfam is a great poverty-oriented charity. You know anyone poor always suffers when things get worse around them, so help Oxfam help them. It’s super easy to make a one-off donation.

Recommended personal action of the day:

Wash your hands. It’s an oldie but a goodie. Twenty seconds, with soap and lots of rubbing.

Recommended hoarding item of the day:

Puzzles. Gotta have something to do, amirite?

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The Virus Diaries: Kids

March 20, 2020 at 5:14 pm (Cat pics, Food, Fully Sick, general life, Mum Stuff, Writing Ranting)

I just had someone call me for a medical survey and I was WAY too excited to talk to someone outside of my immediately family. It’s been =almost= six days.

Whatever “it” is, I’m losing it.



Unimpressed cat is unimpressed.






I managed to get both kids outside for a bit today (TJ is a ball of energy at all times; Louisette… takes after me). And we’ve all showered, and the kids have both done some book learnin’. I am winning at life, and I’ve survived a whole week of home schooling.

Proof Louisette went outside today:











Louisette also had stomach cramps today, which means our family is 4 out of 4 for having SOME kind of illness (probably a very minor gastro episode). So the question of, “Should I keep my kids home from school?” is moot for us, because everyone everywhere agrees that if your kid is sick at all they should be home.

But here’s some general advice from five experts, most of whom reckon schools should stay open and non-sick kids should stay at school (for the moment; things can change in an instant of course).

I find it absolutely astonishing that kids are not (currently) identified as the major disease vectors that they usually are. It goes against everything I know about children, hygiene, and infectious diseases. Noting for the record that I am NOT an immunologist and so you shouldn’t listen to me, allow me to give you an extremely fresh example…

TJ had a bath today. When it was time to get out, I did what I always do, and asked him to squeeze out his facewasher and give it to me so I could put it straight into the washing machine. He fished it out, started squeezing it… and then shifted his head underneath the dripping cloth so he could drink his own bath water.

It was like my very own real-life reenactment of this infamous scene from “Man Versus Wild”:

Not so cute now, is he?


Ah, who am I kidding? He’s still cute as pie.

Extremely gross pie.






When it comes to the question of, “Should I keep my kids home from school?” the answer is YES if your kids are the tiniest bit sick with anything.

(You’re probably aware that a lot of people have COVID-19 and are infectious without having any symptoms at all. Fun! And that kids tend to have much milder experiences with this virus than adults, which is good in the sense that no-one wants kids to die. Ever.)

Resource of the day:

Ten questions to ask yourself when considering keeping healthy kids at home.

1. If my kids are home, is there someone who can stay home with them, who is NOT over 60 years of age or otherwise immunocompromised?

My answer: Sorta. I’m immunocompromised but I’m also their Mum. If I wasn’t writing this blog or chronically ill I’d even be able to keep up with my work (with a certain amount of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”-related disruption).

2. Does keeping my kids home cause an essential worker (eg a health or store worker) to be unavailable?

My answer: Nah; we’re good.

3. Will my children fall behind at school if I keep them home?

My answer: Yes, a bit. But not as much as most since they’re both enthusiastic learners and Chris and I both have teaching experience. Primary kids require more input from parents while older kids are more likely to take time off school as a chance to go and see friends (which is clearly even worse than having them at school) but can also, theoretically, do homework to keep up. I think two hours a day is plenty of time for high schoolers to keep up with schoolwork. If your kid definitely can’t do school work for two hours a day at home (or can’t be trusted to stay at home), that’s going to be tricky.

4. Are my kids or any other members of the household at higher risk?

My answer: Yes, me.

5. Will my children suffer from the social isolation?

My answer: Mine barely saw people in the Christmas school holidays, so they’ll be absolutely fine.

6. Can I keep this up, possibly for months?

My answer: Looks like we’re going to find out :-/

7. Do I want to take a conservative approach while evidence is not 100% clear?

My answer: Yes. Although it does look like the evidence so far suggests kids are way less dangerous than usual germ-wise.

8. Is isolation going to risk the mental health or harmony of my family?

My answer: Yes, a bit, but we’re all pretty good at coping with this sort of thing (introversion helps, plus experience with my chronic illness, plus all of us are screen addicted in a big way).

9. Can the parents still work and/or earn money?

My answer: We’ll take a hit, but fundamentally yes.

10. What if the schools are all shut down completely and your isolation period is longer than you would have chosen?

My answer: At least I wouldn’t feel like this was all an over-reaction on my part. Plus we’d have official school resources to work with. In any case, if this goes on for months we’ll cope—one way or another.

Bonus kittypic.

Recommended donation of the day: Who do you know who is a single parent? They often have less secure working arrangements as well, so check they have food and toilet paper and (if you’re up to it) offer to mind their kids for X number of days (making it clear if you are/are not able to mind sick kids).

Recommended personal action of the day: Pick one area (cleaning the bathroom, washing bedlinen, washing towels, cleaning doorknobs) that you probably don’t do quite as often as you should, and choose what your new normal will be. Something sane and manageable eg I theoretically wash our bathrooms every week (that’s what I did before I got sick) but it’s more like twice a year in reality these days. Official guidelines are to wash the bathroom every time someone uses it (definitely not gonna happen—apart from anything else, us diabetics pee about 20 times a day), so I’m going to make the effort to clean the bathrooms once a week. But no more than that, or I’ll be overwhelmed and definitely fail.

Recommended hoarding item of the day: Go and see your dentist while you can. (Lockdown guidelines will allow essential visits but not checkups.)

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The Virus Diaries: Fear

March 19, 2020 at 8:02 pm (Cat pics, Food, Fully Sick, general life, Mental illness, Mum Stuff)

Happy news, shoppers: Australia produced enough food for 75 million people (those links are to two reliable sources), and we are absolutely not going to run out*. Seeing empty shelves is at the same time terrifying (“Are we going to run out of milk???”) and annoying (“Ugh, I have to go without such-and-such for a bit.”). Also dangerous, because of course shops are a great place to pick up COVID-19 and a LOT of people are visiting shops more often rather than less due to being unable to find particular items.

Once enough people realise that we will NOT run out of food (or toilet paper), things will calm down and shops will look normal again. Apparently even on total lockdown in Italy grocery shops are still open (but only one household member can shop at a time, no kids are allowed, and only a limited number of people can go in at a time in order to keep them physically separated). So there’s actually no need to stock up at all.

I understand the fear, of course. Empty shelves are an absolute classic apocalypse scenario, just under “mushroom cloud” and just above “zombie attack”. And it is dead scary when I can’t find the milk I need (‘need’).

But this empty shelf thing is going to stop as quickly as it began, and probably very soon (based on those two news articles being in my news feed on facebook, which means the reassuring facts are going viral rather than the usual panic and misinformation).

*there may be a shortage of citrus fruits at some point due to a lack of labourers. I think we can all survive that.

In other news, my portable air conditioner is SUPER DELIGHTED to see you!




































I’m too lazy to look up the term outline of subjects that my kids’ impressively organised school emailed out at the beginning of the year. But I did get Louisette to read with me yesterday, which is just about the best thing to do with any kid. (If you’re one of those parents who gets their kid to read to them every day, you’ll do fine with home schooling.)











Dr Seuss is an interesting author. Some of his books (“Green Eggs and Ham”) make fantastic early readers. Others are full of difficult-to-read made-up words (recommended for Year 4+ I reckon) and others are a mixture. The above pic is Louisette reading “Oh, The Places You’ll Go” (doesn’t that book title sound kinda ironic suddenly?) which was quite challenging but perfect for us right now. (If in doubt, always give kids something that’s easy for them to read. Confidence and fun are MUCH more important to the reading experience than “getting challenged”… and obviously I’m talking to myself here.)

Here’s TJ looking impressively academic as he does a spelling test (“Don” and “bed” was the entire test).


















Learning to read is an incredible task, taking years and years and years. But there’s no thrill like seeing one of your kids read to the other.

Other than, perhaps, the thrill of getting your standoffish cat to sprawl over your feet.











She was especially gorgeous today, I gotta say.











Zipper has three main expressions. First is her, “I despise you” expression, which you’ll see in most photos—and indeed, most of the time in real life. She has resting feline face, that’s for sure. Second is her, “Ah, poor me! I’m starving and trapped! Please have pity on meeeee!” which is the face she applies when she would like me to check her food level (it’s easier to have me check it than to bother doing it herself) or open a door (why YES she has a fully functional two-way cat door that she is perfectly able to use). The third is the expression above, which I call, “Medieval maiden disturbed while bathing in a picturesque pool in the forest”. She is beautiful, and wishes to be admired, but is far too classy to actually let people look directly at her without being offended. So yeah, she’s a cat.

That bit of broken blue plastic is a ball pit ball that was smashed by hail back when Australia was burning/flooding/storming. We haven’t fully cleaned everything up yet.

It does feel rather like we’re being hit by several apocalypses one after the other. Technically “apocalypse” means the end of the world. As in, Jesus comes back but not in a nice way. But language is flexible, and it’s come to mean “the end of normal society” which is a very different thing. Any war is utterly disrupting, and therefore apocalyptic. So is the COVID-19 pandemic. Us scifi writers have been predicting various kinds of major societal change since science fiction was invented—not because we definitely think the world is doomed, but because we have enough imagination to think that it could, and to wonder what that might look like.

There are loads of fictional books on pandemics (many of them predicting this year, since 2020 has always been a cool and futuristic-sounding year), because we have a very connected and populated world, and infectious diseases are a thing. A major pandemic was always going to happen, much like worsening droughts, fires, and extreme weather temperatures (although, as I pointed out yesterday, one of the likely side-effects of the COVID-19 virus is that the environment will benefit as people realise society is a lot more flexible than we thought). So here are my wild guesses as to what our post-coronavirus world will look like:

*A lot more people will homeschool, because they’ll discover a knack they never knew they had.

*Rights and protections for casual workers will be dramatically increased.

*Health Care (both infrastructure and staff) will suddenly be a higher priority around the world.

*Politicians, celebrities, and business-people of various kinds will use less air travel. Because no one actually LIKES long-haul travel, and because the appeal and the sheer habit of face-to-face contact will be considerably lessened.

*Many businesses will fail, including airlines, small businesses (such as escape rooms and book publishers, sadly), and restaurants. Other businesses (steaming services, DISNEY, internet services, delivery services, chatting services (Zoom especially), and home-schooling programs will make a considerable profit.

*Book sales, on the whole, will go up and even when the major demand period is over, will stay higher than they currently are—especially ebooks. Because people will most definitely have more time for reading, and some of them will form habits that last.

*Sales of antiseptic/antibiotic hand washes will go up and stay up as a lot of people add them permanently to their daily routine. (The next pandemic will of course evolve to be immune to antibiotics.)

*The world will develop a cooperative system in which health care workers travel across the world to assist when pandemics happen. They will have paid quarantine periods after returning home. Those who do get sick and recover will be in the front lines when their own country is having a surge of whatever illness it is, because they will be immune. Governments will issue immunity passes, and those with them will be paid well to do a lot of important jobs (health care of course, but also food delivery, child care, etc).

*More companies will organise themselves so that they can manufacture what is needed when there is a surge in value eg a paper towel company switching to toilet paper, perfume companies switching to sanitiser (this is happening in France), and so on.

*There will be a lot of divorces, and a baby boom.

*A lot of people will quit their jobs to start small businesses, to home school, to write a novel, etc. Most of them will get over it within 12 months.

*Most people will know somebody that has died from the COVID-19 virus (or the inability to get medical care due to an overwhelmed health system), and the world population will dip by 1% overall (the world population is steadily growing, so it won’t actually decrease the population, just slow it). People’s grief won’t be lessened because we had some warning, but it will be shared on a global level (for better or worse). It’ll be a little like Princess Diana’s death, in that strangers will be deeply affected—but those who lose someone close to them may or may not be soothed by the “shared grief” effect. (Remember your manners when others are grieving: if the person you are talking to is closer to the dead person than you, then your grief is less important than theirs. Don’t talk, listen. If you’ve lost someone very close to you, go ahead and talk. Or be silent. Whatever works for you and doesn’t harm anyone else is healthy. Don’t talk excessively about your connections to dead people you barely know.)

*Many countries around the world will crack down on those who spread fake news online. It will never be as easy to spread misinformation as it is now, although trolls and politicians will get creative in attempting to circumvent new laws. There will be a lot of people whose whole job will be to monitor and fact-check stuff before it gets to the public. People who spread deadly misinformation will be charged with manslaughter and will go to jail.

*People will, unfortunately, be even more xenophobic than they are now. (Please don’t let it be you, Dear Reader.)



There are many types of fear at the moment.

*Fear of actually dying. That’s something I’ll talk about another day.

*Fear of losing a loved one. Unfortunately, this is moderately rational. Right now is a good time to make sure you’re at peace with your parents, grandparents, and siblings. And to teach your elderly relatives to Skype, if you possibly can. (Or you can learn to talk on the phone again.) And then, unfortunately, to stop visiting them for several months.

*Fear of the invisible enemy. It really is like a horror movie where we can’t see the baddie, isn’t it? My favourite thing about being in isolation is that I feel like I can relax in some ways. If my kids get it, I’ll get it—that’s just life, and I could spend my life scrubbing or I can just accept it.

*Fear of running out of food/toilet paper. This is paramount for most people at the moment (so much closer to where we live than the fear of dying), although I think it’s going to get better in a week or two as shops return to normal and we all look at one another and say, “Er, sorry I panicked a bit there”.

*Fear of infrastructure failing. Hospitals are the most at risk, obviously. The whole point of self-isolation is to slow the virus down and flatten that curve so things don’t get as bad as they are in Italy. I’m terrified of power and/or the internet cutting out, and I think it’s possible that could happen for up to three days. Ditto drinking water, and garbage collection. And toilets (handy hint: a half bucket of water poured down a toilet will cause it to flush just fine)…PSA: DON’T flush tissues, wipes, etc down your toilet if you don’t have toilet paper. Put them in a bag in the bin or you could be the a-hole who blocks up sewage in your neighbourhood. I have some water bottles filled up and I’ll be careful to keep my laptop and the kids’ devices fully charged as much as possible. Phones will likely be fine as long as we don’t have a major event like a bushfire or hailstorm (in which case everyone calls everyone in the same five minutes and the system gets overwhelmed). But with skeleton crews of staff due to quarantines/illness, it’s possible even our phones will die for a bit. At least we’ll likely be at home with our loved ones when that happens. Don’t worry: everyone knows that any of these disasters are Serious, and they WILL be fixed quickly. Like I said, I reckon if there is serious disruption it won’t last more than three days at the absolute maximum. This coronavirus thing is a big deal, but it’s not a movie. Not everything will go wrong, honest.

*Fear of lost income. I’ve personally lost a few thousand dollars due to the cancellation of various events. It’s not fun. Others have it much worse. I don’t have any answers for you, except to make sure your friends know if you can’t buy food. This is one of the times when we have to support each other.

*Fear of keeping kids at home. Yeah, that’s a big one isn’t it?

In unrelated news, TJ now likes to sing “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” at full volume, and has also begun making up new verses including the following: “In the poo poo, the mighty poo poo, the lion poos tonight…”

So that is the soundtrack of our personal corner of the apocalypse. But of course I appreciate that most families with young children will have them shouting “Into the unknooooown! Into the unknooooown! Into the unknOOOOOOOOOWWWWWWN!” and it would be a rather extraordinary 5 year-old who could hit those notes like Idina Menzel.

So. I’m one of the lucky ones.


















I deliberately bought Nutella (hazelnut chocolate spread) because it’s an awesome treat that might inspire the kids to continue eating sandwiches. We’re low on bread so today we used wraps. My kids are already enthralled with the novelty of wraps (as opposed to… er… bread) and Louisette was especially impressed that I cut hers into “pretend sushi”.

Then I made both butter chicken and lemon chicken for dinner (a big effort) and both of our little punks refused to eat it. At which point I said, “I’ll be in my room” and let Chris negotiate them into eating… something.

* * *

Fear is a big deal, and it’s okay to feel scared as the world changes around you.

The most important thing is not whatever is screaming at you in your head (The LION POOPS TONIIIIIGHT… and he’s never ever going to stop and I’m going to snap and burn our house down just to make it stop), but make sure that before you act on your fear you ask yourself this question:

When this is over, who do I want to be?

Do I want to be the screaming woman snatching toilet paper from another woman in a supermarket?

Do I want to be the one with a full cupboard of hand sanitiser whose neighbour died because they kept going to the shops looking for some sanitiser of their own?

Do I want to be the one who was so concerned about the kids touching their faces that she screamed at them until they cried?

Do I want to be the one ignoring scientists and endangering the vulnerable by refusing to obey medical advice about hygiene and isolation?

Do I want to be the one spreading misinformation that makes people less safe?

Do I want to be the one yelling at an overworked and scared nurse who is too busy to answer some questions that I could probably google for myself?


Or, do I want to be the mum that made up dumb songs for the kids to sing for 20 seconds as they wash their hands?

Do I want to be the one who sorted the pantry and found a whole lot of canned vegetables to give away to a health care worker right when there were none to be found in the shops?

Do I want to be the one who made their diabetic friend feel safe by checking in on him every day, and doing his grocery shopping so he could self-isolate?

Do I want to be the one who decided that a single mum I barely know would be officially part of our family, so we could self-isolate together (eg swapping the kids back and forth, but not seeing or visiting anyone else)?

Do I want to be the one who keeps their own family close, but remembers to be considerate of the rest of the world too?

Do I want to be the one sharing happy or funny content to help other people to remember that we’re more than our fears?

Resource of the day: The weather is gorgeous! Go outside and play. It’ll tire out your kids and adorably freak out your cat!

Recommended donation of the day:

If you either have kids or like kids and you know someone who is going to struggle to keep their kids home from school, adopt them into your family and share the child care load together. (Be aware that child care is a big deal and a lot of parents will instinctively say no. That is fine.) Bonus points if they’re a health care or supermarket worker. We want those people to stay at work if they can!

Recommended personal action of the day: Wash your shopping bags and/or hang them in the sun.

Recommended hoarding item of the day: A hammock and/or tent so you can feel like you’re on vacation in your back yard.

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The Virus Diaries: CoroNaNo?

March 18, 2020 at 6:14 pm (Fully Sick, general life, Mum Stuff, Steampunk, Writing Ranting)

The greatest excitement yesterday was five year-old TJ doing a little bit of reading. More on that later.










Since Chris went to work yesterday, he also went shopping. We’re still in that grey area of prepping for full-blown isolation and rather half-arsing it in the meantime.

The ennui of staying at home has already got to me a little, and I also had the classic school-holiday moment of getting to about 3pm yesterday and just wanting to shut down. Those who are chronically ill will be familiar with the sensation of running low on spoons (you can read about Spoon Theory if you like). I DID get both kids to shower and do some schoolwork, plus of course playing the wii with TJ (Louisette watches TV in her room while drawing, and TJ plays the wii. This is our life now—but while Louisette barely needs anything from me, TJ really wants me to play WITH him. All day, every day). So technically I was A Good Mum (TM) yesterday by my very limited standards, but… tired out, and all too aware of how little I actually did.

I am also “at work” technically (I’ve been working from home for years), but I got almost no writing done this week. (Okay, yes, I wrote a LOT here on the blog, which definitely counts even though it doesn’t get me any money.)

Sunday I was barely functional brain-wise, so decided to call it a ‘Sabbath’ (I try to take one day off per week) and not feel bad.

Monday I didn’t write anything, but I did some outlining.

Tuesday I felt… wrong… about my outline. I went and looked at a different chapter 1 that I wrote and, sure enough, it had a lot more in it. So we’ve established that my outline needs more work. A lot more.

Today is Wednesday.











This is Zipper snuggling up to TJ in bed. They are adorable. In Zipper’s early days, TJ tried to feed Zipper crackers and to get her to play with his toys. She is naturally cautious of the noisy and fast-moving TJ but she loves him and trusts his gentleness… especially if he’s unconscious.


Today was meant to be about suggesting at-home projects for people to do, specifically writing a novel. (The title is a reference to NaNoWriMo aka ‘National Novel Writing Month’, in which people around the world attempt to write the first draft of the first 50,000 words of a book in a month.)

I still do recommend that. Is there something around your house you’ve always meant to fix/paint/assemble/disassemble/weed/plant/etc? Now (or soon) is your moment!

Of course that includes writing a novel. Or a short story. Or a poem.

I’ve always been extremely self-motivated and (with the exception of what I eat) self-disciplined. I wrote about 15 novels/a million words (yes I literally lost count) before I was first published. (That first book was my Australian fantasy steampunk novel, Heart of Brass, which you can buy online and I’ll sign and send it to you. It’s now part of a completed and published trilogy. I can send the whole thing to you, in fact, or you can get it at Amazon or your local bookshop.)











It looks like today will be a day of thinking about how bad the outline of the book is until something occurs to me that makes it better. To be honest, I think I tend to shove too much plot into a small space, so what I need is to let my character slow down and have lots of little bumps along the way to the main goal.

Yes, that’s the solution. I just need to let it bubble for a bit so I think of some “little bumps” that show character and the environment of the story.



















The story is called “Dr Jekyll and Mr Holmes”. It’s an interactive novel, so the reader will choose the personality and strengths of both Dr Jekyll and Mr/Ms Hyde. Hyde can be evil or not, as the reader chooses. Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler will both appear as romantic options, and there is a murderer on the loose in Victorian London. . .

It’s set in the same magical steampunk universe as all my steampunk tales (there’s a semi-coherent list here that I keep fairly up to date). It’s not my first time using actual historical characters. The above picture is Miss Lavevski, an absolutely real, famous, and accomplished equestrian of the Victorian era who performed in a circus. Isn’t she spectacular? She appears in my longest interactive steampunk tale, Choices That Matter: And Their Souls Were Eaten. You can get it for your device via iOS or Google Play. There are three stories in the app, and I’m deeply involved in all three. The app has over 1.5 million downloads. (Which is seriously impressive, I gotta say.)

* * *

Let’s talk grocery stores and empty shelves. As you know, I’m immunocompromised, self-isolating, and extremely limited in what I eat.

A day of (relatively) “safe” eating for me would look like this:


Special K and full cream lactose free milk and two squares of chocolate. (I can eat most other cereals but Special K is probably the healthiest thing I regularly eat. The chocolate gets me out of bed and also keeps me regular.)

Morning Tea: Milo.

Lunch: Brie sandwich on white bread (I usually dither between the less-safe alternatives of mi goreng with egg and/or cheese (that’s what I had today), a sandwich with cheese and avocado/beetroot—I don’t like cheese on its own but avocado and beetroot are both equal parts delicious and dangerous due to FODMAPS—or peanut butter and jam—both of which are not safe foods for me as nuts contain salicylates and jam contains fruit).

Afternoon Tea: Milo + cheese and crackers + lollies/chocolate.

Dinner: Roasted Lamb/Chicken and potatoes (safer without gravy or any kind of sauce) or frozen fish and chips. Usually some sweet potato and/or carrots. Zucchini if I’m being extremely impressive (it’s my safest green vegetable). The maple-marinated salmon is pretty good, although I do react a little to peas. I can also have tuna mornay fairly safely.

Supper: Milo and popcorn and lollies (popcorn is mildly unsafe digestively speaking but I figure it’s healthier than more chocolate).

So I basically live on Special K, cheese (which has some lactose but way less than milk), lactose free full cream milk, chocolate, lollies, milo, lamb (chicken just grosses me out for some reason, and so does fish—I can handle each type about once a week but I could easily eat lamb every day), and potatoes.

I have 2-3 weeks’ worth of most things, but only a weeks’ worth of lactose free full cream milk. Chevelle looked for it on Sunday and Chris looked for it yesterday with no luck.

I started stocking up on groceries when there was still toilet paper in the shops, and since Chris was able to find some frozen fish yesterday Louisette will be fine for quite a while. But yes, I’m very anxious about the possibility of running out of my small list of safe foods. So am I, a self-isolating diabetic & chronically ill mother of two, deserving of more milk? Or am I, a fat person who barely even tries to control her blood sugar, takes money from healthy taxpayers, and isn’t able to provide adequate long-term care for her kids, undeserving?

Everyone wants to keep their family safe, and to give them all their usual foods and supplies. I get that. Don’t give someone a death glare just because they’re buying the last pack of toilet paper. They might need it, or they might be getting it for someone who does.

Let’s be clear though: Anyone who has more than 6 weeks’ worth of stuff stocked up and no plans to share it is a terrible person (or, if this is your normal way of living and you had the food before the crisis, a bit of a genius really). That’s where I draw the line.

Any person with a young and healthy household who has recently hoarded more than 2 weeks’ worth of essentials (toilet paper, cleaning products, meat, etc) is also someone who had better be giving that stuff away (or selling it at the normal retail price) to those who need it more, starting now.

Any person who is selling anything essential (any kind of food, hygiene, or cleaning item) for inflated prices needs to stop now and sell them for a normal price. Even twice normal price is okay for a lot of things. I understand that some people make a living selling stuff online, or that selling stuff might be their only source of income at the moment due to casual workers not having work. But this is not a good time to be making a killing. Because people are literally dying, and many many more are suffering in less dramatic ways.

My current toilet paper supply is enough for 1-2 weeks, although there’s still a lot of diarrhea in the house so things could get tricky soon.

My mum has a cold (“OR IS IT MORE???” says the internet) and is now self-isolating. She’s going to finish painting the copper signs for me, so that’s handy!

Chris will be working from home tomorrow, and probably Friday. His work, part of the public service, is doing a clever thing where half the centre works from home each day. Why is that clever (I hear you ask) when that means everyone is still exposed to the total amount of germs at the centre? It’s clever because it’s a great step along the way to having everyone stay home. They will find and figure out a LOT of bugs (the computer kind) by doing this, and hopefully when the time comes for everyone to work from home they will be ready.

I rather hope that when the coronavirus is a memory, a LOT more people, including Chris, will be able to work from home. Chris’ travelling time is over 2 hours a day, over 10 hours a week! He doesn’t mind it but I sure do, especially when it’s 5:00 and there’s still an hour and a half until Daddy gets home, and everyone is hungry and cranky and tired (especially me).

I’ll talk some other time about my predictions for how the world will change after this. I think the environment will benefit a LOT as we realise how flexible our entire society can be when we actually try to make big changes. And… I don’t want to celebrate any individual person’s sickness or death (even though many politicians cause widespread suffering including sickness and even death so the world is empirically improved if they are not in it)… but a lot of people who refuse to believe scientists (in this case immunologists) are going to die. And hopefully those heroic scientists who have been shouting about climate change for decades will be listened to at last.


Resource of the day:

Do you have a Kindy kid staying home? I wrote a nice and easy home-schooling guide for parents of Kindergarten kids that takes as little as ten minutes a day, and is designed for non-teachers. I’ll probably do one for the rest of Primary School pretty soon.

Recommended donation of the day:

Do you know someone in the medical profession? Ask them what you can do to help while they’re under immense stress (and about to face more). Are you able to mind their kids if the kids are sent home from school (even if it’s just one day, or one day a week)? Can you deliver food/toilet paper care packages so they don’t have to deal with shops AND hospital life? These are the kinds of actions that could literally save lives.

Recommended personal action of the day: If it’s sunny, hang all your cushions and doonas and other often-touched but not machine washable items out in the sun for the day. It’s a brilliant free disinfectant.

Recommended hoarding item of the day:

What do you require in order to do that project you’ve been putting off? Notebooks and sweet stationary to plan your novel? Paint for your art (or your gutters)? Tools? Nails? Now is your moment to prepare for that project.

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Home Schooling Your Kindy Kid

March 18, 2020 at 4:55 pm (Fully Sick, general life, Mum Stuff)

Suddenly your kid is home from school and you’re expected to do a teacher’s job with little or no help?

I have many years of experience as a teacher and tutor, not to mention being a mum of two. This blog entry is designed to make things more manageable for parents who are NOT teachers but are suddenly home schooling their kids for up to several weeks at a time (aaaarrrgh!)

It’s not an easy thing to do, but the good news is that you can 100% keep up to date with Kindergarten in less than an hour a day. (Personally I’m taking about ten minutes a day with my son.)

Another piece of good news is that your Kindy kid is likely to be thrilled to be learning, and all the more so to be learning with their parent/guardian one on one. Today I said TJ had to do 100 jumps on the trampoline before he was allowed to do schoolwork. Healthy bribery!

These are the three most important things kids learn in Kindy:

(a) How to be a school kid. How to sit quietly, how to play well with others, how to obey a teacher, etc. If you’re at home, that one is on hold for a while. That is what most of your kid’s day is ACTUALLY about when they’re at school. Luckily, you don’t have to worry about that right now! Yay!

(b) Maths. In Kindy, that mostly means the ability to count to a hundred (this video has exercises too, which we badly need to tire out our kids right now), to read numbers, and to do some addition. Practice those three skills, in that order, for a maximum ten minutes a day (or 1 minute five times a day) and if your kid has already got those three things sorted out, feel free to do some subtraction too, and you’ll be ahead of the class. (Number lines are your friend.) Or skip maths altogether. Seriously.

The Numberblocks are cool for a lot of very early maths concepts. Remember, repetition is good. Remember that especially if your kid falls into the vast whirlpool of educational YouTube videos (it’s a good thing right now, so let them do it). They’re truly excellent, but supervision is a good idea as YouTube does have its dark corners, and some are deliberately targeted at kids.

(c) MOST IMPORTANTLY, learning to read and write. Here’s what to teach, in order:

1. Books have words in them, and words make stories. Spend time reading to your kid every day if you possibly can (fiction and non-fiction). There are videos of people reading kids’ books online if you don’t have any at home. Playschool episodes always have a story and can be accessed via the ABC kids website. Yes, that’s right. Watching TV every day is educational.

2. Say/Sing the alphabet.

3. Have the kid practice writing and recognising the first letter of their name, and then recognising their whole name. If you like, label objects around the house and have the kid practice ‘reading’ the labels (really they’ll memorise them, and that’s fine—memorising words is not cheating, but a great start to reading). Fridge, table, door, etc.

3. Get to the point where the kid recognises every letter of the alphabet, and can say the most common sounds of the letters (a-a-apple, b-b-banana, c-c-cat, etc). Do a maximum of THREE letters a day, or up to 5 if your kid knows a lot already and it’s mostly repetition. ONE a day is absolutely plenty, remembering to go over what you’ve previously learned until you’re sure it’s “stuck” in the kid’s head (and then go over it again about once a week, but don’t do all your revision at once or the lesson will be too long). Flash cards are cool and you can get the kid to draw pictures to go with each letter, building them up 1-5 cards at a time.

4. Have the kid learn to write their whole first name. If it’s a mix of capitals and lower case, that’s fine. If they can already write their name confidently, it’s time to get them writing it a little better eg capital letter and then lowercase; forming letters in the correct sequence (eg b has a line then a curve; a is written with a circle then the line; the circle of o starts at the top… the way you do it as an adult is probably correct).

5. Start the whole alphabet again with Jolly Phonics (the key to education is repetition, and with Jolly Phonics it won’t feel too repetitive to the kid because they’re learning movements this time). It’s a great program that starts with the most useful letters. Again, do a maximum of three a day. I’m doing 1 a day with TJ. Each day we watch the song, do the action that goes with the letter, and then I write down a bunch of words with that letter in them (bonus points for any that aren’t at the beginning) and TJ underlines the letter in each word. Again, we go over previous letters every day until he seems to have them very well learned—and then we do them again once a week. Phase 1, Phase 2, etc.

6. If all that is going well, start practising how to write more letters, a few at a time—lower case first, then upper case (or both at once, which most people do instinctively). The Jolly Phonics order is great.

By the way, TJ did Jolly Phonics in pre-school (although he doesn’t remember the experience fully) and is doing it again from ‘scratch’ in Kindy. Repetition, repetition, repetition.

7. If THAT is going well, start forming words with letters from the beginning of the jolly phonics range. Eg. it, sit, sat, cat, rat, mat. See if the kid can recognise/sound out those words, and maybe try writing them if they want.

8. If THAT is going well, add some useful “sight words” like “The” and “That” so you can build simple sentences that your kid can actually read. Eg The cat sat. The rat sat. That cat sat on it.

If you get that far, congratulations. You’re way ahead of the average kid.

If you’re doing well, you can even start helping the kid read simple books (this would happen around May in schools, with custom-made books only). It’s a VERY slow process at first, so choose books that are short, with very few words on the page. If you don’t have kids’ books, just write sentences that are as simple as you can make them, with short words that use sounds in their most common form eg rap rather than wrap, at rather than eight (eight is a word whose spelling makes NO sense and is thus a “sight word”).

Obviously, if you get any material or advice from your child’s teacher, do that instead of (or in addition to) the above.

If you wish you had some science to teach, here’s a brilliant video site for science and all kinds of awesome stuff. And here’s one of MANY lists of science experiments you can do at home.

When your isolation period is over, remember how glad you are to not be a teacher, and never forget that teachers deserve at least twice as much pay as they’re getting.

Here’s a LOT more info and reassurance from a homeschooling Mum.

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