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; the way you do it 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.






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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The Virus Diaries: Rationing

March 17, 2020 at 1:53 pm (Food, Fully Sick, general life, Love and CJ, Mental illness, Mum Stuff, recipes)

[Day zero and day 1 of the Virus Diaries]

We had our first ration rage incident last night.

For context, you should know that 8 year-old Louisette has inattentive ADD and she takes Ritalin. She barely eats as a rule—here is the aftermath of a typical breakfast:











That is lemon butter and honey on white bread. She has eaten one bite and then declared herself full. Obviously, we’re long since given up on the idea of a healthy breakfast and we just try to get her to eat SOMETHING. Ritalin is known to suppress appetite but this is a typical breakfast even when she hasn’t taken her tablet yet.

One thing that DOES happen in the late afternoon/evening is that the effect of the Ritalin wears off and she is suddenly very cranky and starving. And also super duper vague (as in, you can tell her there’s a new toy for her on the kitchen bench and she won’t be able to hold the thought in her head long enough to walk through the house and get it).

A meal that’s easy enough for me to make and that she consistently likes is frozen chicken nuggets and fish (it’s a victory if we can even get her to have hot chips). She has 3 nuggets and one battered fish fillet, with tomato sauce, mayo, and lemon juice.  I have stocked up on nuggets but we only have two fish fillets left. So last night I added a nugget to the tally but only gave her half a fish. While it was cooking I told her that I had done so and explained why, and she seemed fine with it.

When she collected the cooked meal, however, she screamed and sobbed because her piece of fish was so small. Chris calmed her down and she ate her dinner in the end. But that was our first rationing experience and it sure wasn’t pretty. Poor Louisette. She is an extremely sweet and gentle girl but coming down off Ritalin severely heightens her emotions. She and TJ are both slightly flagged (not tested yet but Louisette is on a waiting list) for being on the autism/asperges spectrum as they’re very very particular about certain things, especially Louisette eg how her shoes feel when she puts them on, and ALWAYS having a hat on outside even if it’s literally just to walk to the car. (The one exception is when swimming.)











I don’t cope well with rationing either, so there are fun times ahead.

Yesterday Chris and Tim were both feeling much better and I had some errands to run (picking up and dropping stuff outside people’s houses). My junk food supply is very strong but low on non-chocolate lollies (I’m intolerant of pretty much everything but if I eat a variety of things I think the effects are less). I really love Kool Fruits (they’re like round mentos) and there is a particular local shop that usually has them, but didn’t have them the last two times I went there. So I thought I’d go in real quick and see if they had any, since no one is making me quarantine myself and it would be a very quick visit with theoretically less people that a big supermarket.

It was unusually crowded, so clearly I wasn’t the only one targeting a smaller shop in hopes of getting some food supplies. I bought a LOT of lollies and 1 litre of lactose free milk. I’m quite anxious about running out of lactose free milk because it’s one thing I’m NOT intolerant to. I have enough for about a week, and it’s extremely hard to get at the moment.

Chris has actually gone to work today, so I’ll most likely ask him to attempt to do some shopping too. I would rather he stayed at home, but at the same time I can see that it’s important to not abandon society altogether just yet. And I want more STUFF.

We have settled into our coronapocalypse outfits. I wear pajamas; TJ wears undies and nothing else; Louisette wears undies, a dressing gown, and gumboots.

With the exception of hangry Louisette, everything is quite peaceful. My kids love staying at home doing nothing. You should have seen the joy on TJ’s face when I told him we’d skip school for at least the rest of this week. Here’s an approximation:











I’m doing some school work with the kids each day (less than half an hour, which is actually plenty for most primary schoolers). TJ is in Kindy, which like many schools is doing Jolly Phonics, in which letters are introduced in roughly the order of usefulness, and each letter comes with a song and a dance move. I was able to quickly figure out where he’s up to (‘h’) and do that with him. The only hard part is that he desperately wanted to keep going. Adorable, non?

Today is ‘r’.

Louisette is in Year 3. We’ve already been practising Spanish numbers as her class has been doing Spanish for years whereas she’s only just started. I only got around to doing school stuff with her quite late yesterday, so I stuck to Spanish because I knew that even hangry Louisette would enjoy that. Today we’re doing clocks—every time I get up, I adjust the hands of a clock and ask her what time it is on my way past.

Uh oh. Tim just had diarrhea. Still no sign of fever, but that’s ominous. Or not. He had dried fruit on his breakfast, which is a classic diarrhea-inducing food.

Speaking of my cute little disease vector, here’s a fun fact: he always insists on having company when he goes to the toilet. He then sings songs (“In the Jungle” is a favourite at the moment; I love hearing him sing it around the house… Louisette does not), asks maths questions (“Mum, what’s 7 half of?”) and talks about computer games (yeah, that’s gonna be a thing forever I think). Last time he went to the toilet he decided it would be funny if he threw his undies around and played with them like a kitten with string.

And now he’s singing, “Peach is a stinky butt-butt” over and over. (He’s playing Mario Kart.)

Kids are gross, is what I’m saying.

Chris and I decided long ago that if any member of the family got covid-19, we would separate the house into two zones – diabetic me in the master bedroom and ensuite; Chris and the kids in the rest of the house. At the moment we’re doing a soft version of that. Chris sleeps in his study and only uses the main bathroom. I only use the ensuite. This is great for me, because I get the biggest bed to myself. (This of course inspired the classic pre-divorce question, “Daddy, why don’t you and Mum sleep in the same bed any more?” which amused me because I’m odd. And because we’re actually not getting divorced. Side note: I bet divorce rates go up after mandatory quarantining. I recommend quarantining your house in sections, for both health and sanity.)

Hmm. Tim just had diarrhea again. It’s a rare symptom of covid-19 and there’s still no fever in any members of the household, but it is a bit suggestive that he’s had a sore throat and diarrhea.

Now that I’ve told you that my 8 year-old still has tantrums and my 5 year-old is just a windmill of gastro, here’s a little dialogue I overheard yesterday:

Louisette: TJ, is it all right if I go into your room and play with your blue monkey toy?

TJ: Sure. Actually you can keep it forever.

What little angels, right?

Last night I dreamed that I ended up with twelve orphaned kittens that I oh so graciously offered to find homes for—hoping, of course, to get Chris to agree to keep at least one.

I have dreams about getting another kitten at least once a week. If I can think of a decent excuse to get a second kitten in real life, I will grab it with both hands. But of course we have Zipper, and one cat is sufficient for survival. With a cat, my immediate family, chocolate, books, and the internet, I can survive most things.

Here’s Zipper yesterday, annoyed as usual that I’ve gotten the camera out.











And I noticed yesterday that my potatoes have sprouted. Which is good!

About two weeks ago I set aside three potatoes (ie one of my rare safe foods) to plant a “The Martian”-style food source in our front garden. We’ve actually grown potatoes there before, so I feel mildly confident that I can make them grow. Of course, things escalated a lot sooner than I expected so it’s unlikely they’ll have time to grow before all of Canberra is on lockdown. Still, I’m proud of them. Especially since the basil plant I bought a week ago is already looking melancholy.












Resource of the day:

Fried Rice


Cooked rice

Any vegetable you got, cut up small.

Any meat/eggs/tofu you got, cooked and cut up small.

Soy sauce if you have some.

A dessert spoon full of sugar.

Any oil you got.

  1. Fry in a pan.
  2. Eat.

Tim is currently liking fried rice with peas, corn, egg, and soy sauce. (Can you tell that that’s what he eats when Chris and I are eating maple marinated salmon?)

Recommended donation of the day:

Order some Chinese delivery or takeaway food. Restaurants may well close soon, and apparently some Chinese restaurants are being avoided due to people being racist. Eat that yummy yummy food while you can! Order lots, and freeze some for later. I know meat (and for that matter potatoes) are in short supply at the moment, so this is a handy way to stock up on protein.

Recommended personal action of the day: Disinfect (but don’t wet) your phone and keyboards.

Recommended hoarding item of the day: Order hot water bottles online. If a lot of people are staying home with heaters on (when the weather gets colder), we may have power outages. Save electricity and protect your family by having something that only requires ten minutes of electricity (to heat the water) every coupla hours. In fact, most hot water taps are sufficient for a hot water bottle even after the electricity is off (as you have hot water stored up in your water heater).

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The Virus Diaries: A Million Shades of Grey

March 16, 2020 at 12:58 pm (Fully Sick, general life, Mum Stuff, recipes)

Beginning of the Virus Diaries.

I dreamed that Chris Evans (aka Captain America) and I were rehearsing a romantic scene (yes there was kissing, shut up) for a new Marvel movie. I often dream I’m rehearsing for Marvel movies—usually with Zendaya and Tom Holland, because apparently my unconscious mind thinks I’m in my 20s—and it’s enormously fun.

An SMS woke me up (because so much is getting cancelled at the moment, there are a lot of organisational messages flying about) but I managed to step back into my dream.

Unfortunately I now dreamed that I’d overslept and was running late to rehearsal. I frantically got ready, including a shower because I didn’t want to smell bad while kissing Chris Evans (my unconscious mind is very considerate of major Hollywood stars), but my car was missing. I begged my mother to borrow her car, which I’d never driven before, and she reluctantly let me (KISSING CHRIS EVANS, MUM! I GOTTA GO BEFORE I GET FIRED!!), at which point I rabbit-hopped across the road just as a cop car came around the corner. I babbled frantically that I was just driving the car for the first time and not drunk or anything and pleeeeaaase let me go to work. That’s when they noticed my mother’s car was out of rego.


At which point I was woken by another SMS, and I got up. Might as well, since Marvel was definitely going to fire me. Oh well, it’s not like I could survive the Marvel Diet anyway.

Pretty sure the dream was courtesy of this article at the Mary Sue web site:

And Now a Thread of Chris Evans as Hand Sanitizer Because We Deserve It


Today is Monday. It was going to be the kids’ first swimming carnival, but it got postponed—luckily for us, as we’re staying home anyway. I’m 99% sure none of the Banks family has the COVID-19 virus, or even a regular flu, but we’re doing the right thing staying home under the circumstances. Going to work sick is not cool any more, my peeps.

The title of today’s episode is all about that funny limbo state most Australians find themselves in right now. Do we self-isolate? When? How much?

Things have changed so quickly from, “Eh, it’s just a bad flu. If you’re healthy, you’ll be fine” to “Lockdown” trending on twitter because people WANT the government to shut everything down immediately.

My family is one of the “lucky” ones as Chris works in the public service which is big enough that a lot of people will be able to work from home (although the system is definitely not strong enough for it to go smoothly or to work for everyone) and I suspect we won’t lose any pay. Our kids are extremely screen addicted and will cope very well with being socially isolated for weeks on end. I already work from home (except for when I’m selling books at fairs/festivals, so I’ve already lost some income there and will continue to do so for some time). I even have a new book that I just started writing! I’ll talk more about that later, I promise.

A lot of people—particularly casual workers—are going to have a very hard time. Disabled and chronically ill people are already having a bad time (being treated as even more expendable than usual), and are also more likely to die, and are also extremely likely to have necessary services (such as nurse visits or people who deliver their groceries for them) cut off. Please check on anyone you know who’s elderly, disabled, chronically ill, or suffering income-wise.

In health terms, Chris still has a sore throat and headache but no fever.

TJ is five and a hypochondriac. When he feels sick, I generally ask him what hurts and then ask him if his elbows hurt, telling him that if his elbows hurt then it’s serious. Sure enough, his elbows always hurt under those circumstances. Then he starts naming other painful body parts. But my careful questioning yesterday seemed to support the statements that he has a sore/nauseous stomach and a sore throat.

I have a sore throat, migraine, body aches, diarrhea, and nausea. All of those are pretty standard (fibromyalgia is a disease of the nervous system, so it’s all about that widespread pain and fatigue), although I’m not usually nauseous. I don’t feel feverish at all.

Louisette is fine.

Yesterday was actually a surprisingly eventful day. We had two visitors (from whom I kept my distance, even though I felt like a fool). My Mum dropped by to pick up some stuff my sister’s kids had left here, and to drop off half of a sign that we are painting together. The sign is very exciting. It’s also very hard to photograph, since it’s displayed inside a window and the glass is very reflective.















This photo probably isn’t as exciting to you as it is to me. It’s not, as it might seem at first glance, a photo of our rubbish bins. The “Through Rooms” sign is metallic paint on a sheet of copper. We will eventually finish the other side, and the whole thing will say:

Shooting Through

Escape Rooms

But in any case it’s not super urgent to finish it since I can’t run the escape room at the moment. So every who sees it will just be left pondering what “Through Rooms” could possibly mean.

My second visitor was a friend who had offered a few days ago to do shopping for me if necessary… and although it definitely wasn’t technically necessary, it was certainly useful. Here’s the list I gave her, and how it all went down (italics is for things that I suspected might not be in stock):

6 litres full cream milk [for Tim and Chris for a week] – success!

A bottle of maple syrup (see yesterday’s recipe) – success!

A frozen Hawaiian pizza – success!

A pack of frozen salmon (again, for yesterday’s recipe) – success!

20ish apples – success!

10L lactose free long-life full cream milk (Louisette and I go through at least 10L/week) – utter failure! There was not a single litre to be had. Luckily I just bought some the other day so we’re okay for at least this week.

6L normal (ie with lactose) long life full cream milk – success, just… she had to buy the expensive organic stuff. Which she did, because she loves me.

2 packs roll-ups – success!

1 loaf white bread – success!

1 wheel of brie – success!

4 pack of non-diet ginger beer – success!

Aldi ‘Confidence’ toilet paper – hah! Nope.

1 pack frozen peas: There were none to be had anywhere, but she spotted a pack lurking behind unrelated items in the frozen food section and literally climbed into the fridge to GET FELICITY THOSE PEAS BECAUSE AIN’T NO FRIEND OF CHEVELLE GONNA GO WITHOUT FROZEN PEAS WHEN SHE SAID SHE WANTED FROZEN PEAS. SUCCESS BABY!

Dear frightened friends, we’ve all seen the footage of people fighting over toilet paper in an especially bogan corner of Australia. It’s a scary time, not just because of the COVID-19 virus but because fear brings out the worst in people. Please remember my friend climbing into a supermarket refrigerator and take heart. Times like this bring out the best in people too.

Be best, my dear ones. Be best.

Be like Zipper.











My poor able-bodied husband was a bit embarrassed that I let someone fetch my groceries like that, especially the ginger beer and Brie (in his ignorance, he considers them non-essential items). I have many many years of practice at being dependent on others, and with the way things are going we (that is, everyone in Australia) may not be able to go shopping for much longer. No one is going to starve, but everyone is going to have to go without something (eg their favourite brand of noodles). Don’t forget to stock up on treats.


There was a minor miscommunication over dinner and the pizza was entirely consumed by the not-Felicity members of the household. Which is fine really, since I’m intolerant of both ham and pineapple anyway… and I had Brie and crackers for my dinner. Yum.


My son TJ is hilarious. Yesterday he ran a series of experiments to test which one of his hands was:

1. Heavier

2. Faster

3. Better at punching air

4. Better at slicing air

His conclusion based on vigorous experimentation was that his hands weigh the same, and are equally proficient at punching and slicing air. However, he informed me that his left hand is slightly faster than his right. (He is right-handed, so there may be a tiny flaw in his research somewhere.)

He also tried Brie for the first time.





































He liked it, but declared that he was full after one piece. Excellent. I ain’t sharing my brie with the kids.


Resource of the day:

Recipe for perfect stovetop popcorn (warning: DO NOT burn popcorn. It is an extraordinarily noxious smell).


1 tablespoon oil

1/3c popping corn (it’s quite hard to find in shops; usually on the top shelf)

salt, butter, sugar, cinnamon, etc

1. Put oil into a saucepan, add three corn kernels, put the lid on, and put it on medium heat for around 5 minutes (if you are absent-minded or have fibromyalgia or some other brain-breaking condition, put on a timer for 5 minutes, then 2 minutes, then one minute).

2. When all three kernels are popped, remove the pan from the heat. Take the three popped kernels from the pan with tongs and throw them away.

3. Add the rest of the kernels, put the lid on, and count out one minute (I use the timer again).

4. Put the saucepan back on the heat, shaking it every so often to move the kernels around. Keep the lid on a slight angle so steam can escape (but not popcorn).

5. When there are no pops for 10 seconds, turn off the stove and pour your popcorn into a bowl/s. Add your salt/sugar/etc as you like, using the hot saucepan to melt butter if you’re adding butter.

I use about a tablespoon of butter, twice as much icing sugar, and 1/4 tsp of salt.

I eat the whole lot myself, but it could easily serve four people.

Recommended donation of the day: Check on your retail workers, elderly neighbours/parents/friends, and disabled/chronically ill people. Assuming you’re well, it may be useful to grocery shop for them and/or clean their home surfaces.

Recommended personal action of the day: Clean every doorknob, light switch, and handle you can find in your home and/or car and/or office. People are very likely to mock you if you do this in public, but do it anyway.

Today’s recommended item to hoard:

Fresh herb plants. Hopefully you can keep them alive long enough to keep eating them (fresh greens) until the virus crisis is over.

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The Virus Diaries: Day Zero

March 15, 2020 at 12:01 pm (Fully Sick, general life, Love and CJ, Mental illness, Mum Stuff)

Here in Canberra we’ve had fire, toxic air, floods, and record-breaking hail (pictured). Now it’s pandemic time.

Trigger warning: discussion of severe depression

I’m immuno-compromised in a few different ways, the most obvious of which is that I’m diabetic. At the moment, that means my chance of dying if I get the covid-19 virus is around 7% (without allowing for fibromyalgia or any of my other health issues).

Things escalated quickly here in Australia over the last few days as thousands of events were cancelled and people continued to panic over toilet paper. Now’s as good a time as any to mention that I have a pretty severe anxiety disorder. Sometimes the experience of anxiety can actually be helpful at a time like this, because I’ve spent many years sorting rational from irrational thoughts (people with anxiety KNOW they’re stressing excessively over minor things, but our bodies continue to send panicked messages through physiological symptoms, which is super fun) and in many ways it’s like I’ve trained for this moment. In other ways, not so much.

My favourite thing about the covid-19 virus is that it doesn’t tend to hit kids very hard. So it hasn’t triggered a full-on Mama Bear reaction, or you know I’d be crash-tackling anyone who coughed in a public place and pouring bleach over them. [It’s worth noting here that I have been coughing in public plenty, due to one of my various non-infectious complaints. Please don’t crash-tackle me or pour bleach over me.]

Obviously, if someone hurts one of my kids, they die. That’s just science.


So Chris (my husband) told me last night that he had a sore throat and felt “heavy” in the chest. We slept in separate beds, having long since agreed that if anyone in our house was sick we’d separate me from the rest (which is now an official recommendation for anyone immunocompromised). He only just woke up (it’s 11am) so we haven’t taken his temperature yet today, but we have already checked him for fever (last night) so it’s a good thing I thought ahead and bought thermometer covers. He didn’t have a fever last night, so he’s almost certainly fine, but of course we’re being careful. I’m not the only immunocompromised person in the world.

I wouldn’t call myself a panic buyer, but I would definitely call myself a covid prepper. (You can judge me or admire me, as you like.) I expected to have more time to slowly build up supplies of long-life milk (and yes, toilet paper) but I do have quite a bit of food. If this is the moment when our family starts a period of self-isolation, we’re pretty well set up.

Last night I found out that some hospitals in Italy are not letting older patients have respirators, because there simply aren’t enough to go around and older patients are less likely to recover and more likely to need respirators for longer. That is absolutely horrifying, and for more than simple human decency. Like I said, I’m diabetic. That means every infection takes longer to heal. And I’m a ‘bad’ diabetic, too. I’m very very overweight, and my eating habits are enough to make any diabetes specialist swoon in horror. There are several surprisingly rational reasons for me to cheerfully continue eating like an Oompa Loompa.

First, chocolate and lollies are delicious.

Second, I’m not coping. With anything, really. I’m literally afraid of spending more than a few hours with my own children (due mainly to fibromyalgia and my average stress level being at around 90% so it’s hard for me to be nice about the 25th request for something the kids are perfectly capable of fetching on their own). I’m afraid to leave my house (heat makes me sick), to see people (I sweat and stink), to stand up (it hurts). I spend most of my waking hours in both pain and fear, mostly fear of more pain. Chocolate and lollies are an essential crutch that helps me do some of the things I really should do each day. I never do everything that I should (eat well, exercise, spend some actual time with my kids, give kids healthy food, deliver kids to school and home again, maybe say/do something nice for my husband, do something that earns money, shower, dress appropriately, brush teeth, brush hair, maintain a moderately clean house) but I do generally manage to shower and to take the kids to and from school, and to not yell or scream or swear directly at anyone, and to organise some kind of dinner for all four of us.

Third, junk food keeps the worse of my depression at bay. If I cut down on junk food, even a little, I get suicidal within 24 hours and homicidal within 48 hours. I lost a little weight before I got married to Chris, and I had to concentrate while driving to remind myself to NOT deliberately cause an accident—and that was when I was physically healthy, childless, not on any weight-increasing medications, and engaged to the love of my life.

Fourth, I’m intolerant of FODMAPS and Salyicylates. Which is to say, dairy, most fruit, most vegetables, any artificial sweeteners, and processed meat. I eat about one serve of fruit a week and one serve of vegetables a day (one or two a week if you don’t count potatoes). That mostly leaves carbs and meat.

So. I won’t be dieting unless I’m also in a padded room with a vitamin drip.

And I’m a little scared that if I get sick at the wrong time, or if ventilators are in short supply, that I will be judged unworthy of full treatment, and will be left to die. And my kids will find out that Mummy apparently cared more about chocolate than being alive to raise them.

That’s a pretty intense worst-case scenario.

(Chris has an extremely calm, naturally content personality. I think he’d cope okay emotionally if I dropped dead, although in practical terms he’s at his best with someone looking over his shoulder a lot because he’s a little TOO calm and content at times. Obviously, for all my faults, the kids are way better off with both of us.)

I’m feeling super panicky today, in case you can’t tell. A part of me just wants to start self-isolating the whole family immediately (partly just to dive into the not-so-nice experiences that are likely to happen sooner or later, instead of waiting in suspense).

Here’s another picture of our cat, Zipper.

Resource of the day: A meal that you can make with rice, frozen salmon, frozen peas, frozen corn, maple syrup, sesame seeds, and sesame oil (ie all stuff that can be stored for months before they’re cooked):


cooked rice

salmon fillets

peas and corn

sesame oil

maple syrup

sesame seeds

1. Defrost salmon and marinate it in the maple syrup and sesame oil (about a tablespoon of each). Anytime between ten minutes and a day is fine. Line a tray with aluminium foil and chuck the salmon on it in a moderate/hot over for 5-15 minutes depending on how you like it.

2. Put leftover marinade in a fry pan with rice and vegetables, and mix/fry it until salmon is done.

3. Put rice on plates with salmon on top. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Eat.


Recommended donation of the day:

Buy a book by an Australian small press. I recommend Odyssey Books or Shooting Star Press. They will post it to you, so you don’t need to leave the house. A lot of small businesses and small authors are suffering as our fairs and festivals are cancelled.

You can buy stuff from me directly here. I still haven’t recovered financially from the events of last summer (and we were relatively unscathed).

Recommended personal action of the day:

Wash your hands for 20 seconds before leaving the house and after returning home. (If you’re doing that already, good!)

Today’s recommended item to hoard:

Easter eggs. Go ahead and hoard some Easter eggs, since the shops are likely to close at some point (possibly causing a shortage and/or sudden panic buying) and if you have kids stuck at home at Easter, you can easily hide eggs around the house and yard and that will definitely satisfy the little monsters.

[Editor: Shops aren’t going to close. Not even if we go on full nation-wide lockdown.]

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Big House Idea Update

February 14, 2020 at 10:17 am (Entries that matter)

So I haven’t given up on the idea from the last blog entry.

I’ve learned many things since then, the most notable of which is that major refugee agencies recommend charging a normal amount of rent… which means this ‘big house’ idea is no longer pure charity, but a genuine investment.

I’ve also gained one large piece of the financial puzzle: I have a building designer who liked the idea and will design the house for free.

And on the down side, it’s looking very unlikely I’ll get a large insurance payout, as I have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia rather than rheumatoid arthritis.

We have had a tenant in our house for 1 and a quarter years, as we continue to struggle financially. I’ve been doing pretty badly brain-wise for the last couple of years so we had the tenant move out and we got our master bedroom back (the only room big enough that there is enough space to walk around both sides of a queen bed). Louisette was pretty happy sharing the converted garage with Chris (his study) so we left her there, and the “spare” room is mine… sort of. Some of the kids’ toys are in there, one wall is all bookshelves, and there’s a bed. The bed is a miniature version of one part of the ‘big house’ idea—it means we can shelter at least one person if they need to evacuate due to fire/smoke. (Only people we already know who have personalities that can mesh well with ours for a few days in cramped quarters.)

I’ve also begun spreading the word that I’m offering free English lessons for Indonesian speakers, although there are no takers yet.

And I spent quite a quite a while designing house plans, deciding the house should look like a castle, with square towers on each corner (two of which would hold large disability-friendly lifts).

So it’s not the ‘big house’ idea any more, it’s the ‘Castle’ idea.

Things are progressing slowly because, well, I’m chronically ill. I hope to find a large organisation to fund and own the castle and/or a government grant.

So that’s where things are at the moment.

Here’s a cat pic, featuring the newly-painted (by us!) wall of ‘my’ room.

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A Beautiful Dream

January 30, 2020 at 3:48 pm (Entries that matter, Fully Sick, Uncategorized)

I wrote this blog entry on November 29th 2019. It was fairly obvious I was having a manic episode, so I didn’t post it right away. I still don’t fully know if I’m going to pursue this, but although the idea has evolved considerably (more on that in another entry) it is still very much with me. So, without further ado…


Not that long ago, I wrote about the injustice of the developed versus the less developed world, and my ongoing struggle to find a solution to my own white guilt (ideally one that is actually just and fair on a global/moral level, rather than just making me feel better… but also one that made me feel better because why not?)

I may or may not write an article about the other side of that—how I’m marginalised as a woman, as a disabled person, etc. But I won’t write about that today.

Today, I want to talk about my new shiny dream of the future.

This has started because of the above thought trains, combined with the fact that I have a very hefty trauma insurance plan that it seems must surely, somehow, net me some big money sooner or later (just as soon as one of my many chronic illnesses ticks the right set of boxes).

One of the contradictions of my life is that I live in a really nice house, with air conditioning and everything. So I’m rich. But heat above about 20 degrees literally makes me sick. So I “should” have air conditioning… right? But so many people don’t… I’ve personally met many people without plumbing, or a roof, or walls. . .

So here’s my shiny new thought-bauble: If I do get a massive insurance payout (and, to be honest, the maximum amount I could possibly get wouldn’t come close to being enough for this but might be enough for some of it), I would like to buy the house immediately next to ours, knock it down, and rebuilt it as not just one dream house but two, one on top of the other, designed in such a way that the two houses can be divided in a multitude of ways

eg the bottom house is for one family and the top house is for another family;

the bottom house is for two single people living completely independently (ie with their own kitchens, bathrooms, and living rooms) and the top house is for me and Chris to retire in while also caring for an elderly relative or two;

Half the bottom house is for a married couple, and the other half is studies for the family living upstairs;

Louisette and Tim house-share the top house, and Chris and I live in the bottom house, but the garage (currently both Chris’s study and Louisette’s bedroom) is converted back into a garage;

…and so on.

So it’s a fabulous, big, health-helping house for me AND an investment property at the same time.

But this is the part that is really awesome: Having effectively three houses, we could use the other two (or part/most of the other two) to house Indonesian refugees for 6-12 months each. During that time they could pay a proportion of their income (zero when it’s zero) and I could help them with English, with schooling, with getting a visa, getting a driving license, etc etc.

I used to speak fluent Indonesian and both Chris and I have teacher-ish brains so we’re well suited to help people transition into Australian society. Which is extremely helpful, useful work—especially as climate change will be making more and more refugees in the near future.

If I (or any of our parents) got sicker and we needed rental income or more space, we’d have it. Hopefully we could coordinate things so two Indonesian families were part of our mini-community at the same time (I’m a benevolent dictator, but I imagine it would be a blessed relief for anyone living here to have someone else they could talk to in Indonesian).

So if this dream came true, I’d have more space in my house (and perhaps a secret passageway or two) and I’d also be fulfilling the long-dead dream of being someone who helped low-income Indonesian people (by lifting them up to my financial level, rather than lowering myself to their poverty level as per 12 year-old me’s life plans).

I’m not publishing this article, but I’m writing it at 2am on Friday 29 November 2019. Chris and I just had a little chat about “If we were billionaires, we could….” including the above, and he was quite positive about my ideas (“Sure, if we’re billionaires”). And about having a book-lined TV room/basement. Which was enough to send me into manic mode. And here I am.

I mentioned I was manic, yes?

Right now I honestly believe with all my heart that I’ve found my true and ultimate purpose in life (this, plus writing, plus napping, plus being a loving mother and wife and friend).











When I wrote the above, I knew that Climate Change was bad, and coming soon. I didn’t know I’d be buying P2 masks that my sister brought from Queensland because there were none to be had in all of Canberra. I also didn’t know that I’d be seeing golfball-sized hail smashing windows and cars in my suburb in the same suburb.

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Best interactive fiction of the decade

December 27, 2019 at 12:52 pm (Uncategorized)

My 10 Interactive Fiction Games of the Decade:

-Howling Dogs

-Counterfeit Monkey

-Cragne Manor

-80 Days

-Superluminal Vagrant Twin

-Choice of Robots

-Hadean Lands



-Depression Quest

(For influence, innovation, and skill)


This is a cut and pasted tweet from mathbrush/Brian Rushton, who is the most generous reviewer in a field where there are a lot of incredibly generous reviewers.

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Alrighty Then

November 23, 2019 at 9:37 pm (Food, general life)

A few days ago, I decided to give up on NaNoWriMo (aka National Novel Writing Month, in which writers attempt to write the first 50,000 words of a novel during November each year), which was the right thing to do (the book was under-ripe and I was meant to be editing other books anyway). I love NaNoWriMo in part because I’m slightly manic depressive—enough that I can survive the inevitable depression, and live with the decisions I make when manic.

Anyway, so having left the mania train of NaNoWriMo I’ve spent my days watching TV and eating chocolate. But every so often, more or less accidentally, I did something useful around the house. Which is, you know, good and stuff.

Today, in a wild burst of enthusiasm, I set up what we call our “big pool”. We specifically bought it so I could hop in with the kids, which I did. Then I continued to supervise from a hammock. It was awesome.












Flushed with enthusiasm, I decided to attempt the impossible: feeding Louisette a Green Vegetable. To be fair, she has said to me more than once in the last week that she wants to eat more green vegetables “because I hardly eat any vegetables”.


Zucchini is my safest green vegetable (in terms of food intolerance), and has hardly any taste. I fried slices of zucchini in butter, garlic, and powdered fennel. Fennel, because I had Louisette sniff several herbs and choose her favourite. I had her smell it again as it was cooking (yum), and choose a cheese to go with it. Then I cut tiny squares of said cheese. When the zucchini was cooked perfectly, I turned the fry pan off and placed cheese on each slice, so it would melt juuust enough to be extra delicious.

And it was. Each slice of butter-saturated zucchini was a mouthful of glory. Louisette picked up a piece before declaring it inedible.


TJ didn’t get as far as physically touching any of it.



I also made risotto with roasted sweet potato, sundried tomatoes, mushrooms, and bacon. TJ had some of the rice, and I managed to convince him to eat some bacon. Chris and I enjoyed the risotto.











So, all in all, I’m reminded why I don’t generally make an effort.

But I did have a win this week. I bought fish fingers for the first time, and both kids loved them.


In other news, John Scalzi mentioned “domestic felicity” in his blog a day or two ago, and I realised that should absolutely be the name of my blog. Oh well.

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