Thinking of the children

Not long before last Christmas I was driving home from a visit to Grandma’s when the twins started reciting a long list of things they wanted from Santa.

A bit disturbed at the length of the letters, I politely pointed out to them that they couldn’t have everything on their lists. Predictably they asked why and I explained to them that there are poor kids in the world who only get one or even sometimes no presents.

There was a heavy silence from the backseat before a small voice piped up with “Daddy, why doesn’t Santa like poor people?”

Sometimes I think we forget that these little people who are apparently growing up so quickly have very little in the way of context and comparison.

At this stage I’d already committed to volunteering to work in an orphanage in Thailand and this cemented the idea that my five-year-old twins needed to come with me.

So earlier this year we jetted out for Thailand where we spent just under two weeks working in an orphanage originally set up for orphans of the tsunami of 2004.

I wanted to help and make a difference and showing the girls that ‘poor kids’ aren’t just an abstract expression was a bonus.

But I hadn’t counted on the intensity of the visit upon me. I certainly expected it to be difficult but it was far more harrowing than I ever anticipated.

Hearing stories of how the children ended up there was nothing short of devastating. I’ll spare you detailed recaps because they will bring tears: both to you and me. We truly live a sheltered life in a very lucky country.

We built temporary shelters (30 seasons of being a Survivor fan finally bear fruit), we planted gardens, we created a paved road, we scrubbed floors, we cooked for the entire orphanage one night (Spaghetti Bol), we took them out to restaurants (a huge treat), we bought them a giant washing machine because they were handwashing for over 200 children.

And we took turns looking after each other’s kids when it just became too much. I cried a lot and I wasn’t alone.

The orphanage is strict on their children attending school but when they weren’t there they played with our kids with zest. It’s sad to see children so hungry for hugs.

Not that they weren’t happy – in fact they were largely extremely positive – but the visit and playing obviously meant the world to them.

I went over hoping to make a difference. I came back feeling I hadn’t done enough. And wanting to adopt 200 kids.

Which is why I’ve signed up for a ride across Thailand next year to raise money for the orphanage. It’s through an amazing organisation called Hands Across The Water which ensures 100% of monies donated goes straight to the orphanages. No admin or marketing fees.

No funny one liners or final lines this month. Just a plea to help me make a difference. You can donate at or go to the and search for me.

Help me help them.

Because a smile on a child’s face is truly priceless.


However the cards may fall

This week was ‘free pick’ week in Show & Tell. Gypsy took her new monkey (Tails) she received while in hospital last week. Rhapsody on the other hand took her poker set.

Thanks Granddad.

*sigh* I think I may have the world’s only five-year-old girls who can explain what small and big blinds are.

The post-baby body (man version)

Every Dad has abs.

A bold statement perhaps and I know a lot of women are sneaking sideways glances at their partner’s beer belly and scoffing at this point but it’s true. Just ask him.

He’ll tell you he’s in good shape. If pushed he’ll go on to grudgingly admit that he’s let himself go “just a touch” but dismiss it as “just a temporary thing”.

You see males really can see their abs. Granted, occasionally they may be beneath a layer or two or fat but we can still see them. We know they’re there.

And we’re convinced they’re only a footy game or two with the lads away from coming back.

The first three years of the twins’ life I pretty much holed up in the house. It was such an effort to go out. Heck, it was such an effort to get through a day let alone finding time for me. Meals were eating whatever the girls didn’t or munching on a pack of rice wheels that were lying around.

As a result I didn’t sleep much and I put on 10 kilograms. And by 10 of course I mean 15. Or a figure in that vicinity.

But I always consoled myself with the fact I could get it off when I needed to. A quick diet, some exercise and I could drop that weight just like I did when I was 20. It’s a man thing. Our confidence is so strong it can become delusion without us even noticing.

A woman looks at her body and only sees the faults. She then magnifies them by a factor of approximately a million. We men look at our bodies and minimise the faults and amplify the positives. Even if those positives are actually from the timestream rather than the here-and-now.

The problem is we’re not 20 anymore. It doesn’t come off as quickly as it used to.  Personally I blame the pretty bland fashion of today. The strength of 80s and 90s haircuts and clothing was you either pulled them off or lost 10,000 kilojoules through sheer embarrassment. If you don’t believe me then google “80s fashion”.

But robbed of neon colours and spiky hair what can I do today? I could go to the gym but who wants to be seen there when you haven’t got a gym body?

There are dozens of miracle devices advertised on television but unless I’m supposed to lose calories laughing at the ‘science’ behind them they’re no good to me.

It looks like I may have to resort to old-fashioned sweat: exercise and diet. I could even get a personal trainer because nothing makes feeling like you’re about to have a heart attack better than someone screaming at you to work harder and have that damn heart attack. I think my last personal trainer used to chase me with defibrillator paddles. I’m still not sure if it was incentive or precaution. Or perhaps a hallucination caused by oxygen deprivation.

The point is (there is one here somewhere) that it’s hard work having a good body. But to get one you need commitment, dedication and discipline and not just go to the gym because you paid for it. You need to give up sugar, run until you drop, be the best you can be, have the eye of the tiger and know the difference between core strength and cor blimey!

Or alternatively I could just stop caring what others think about my body.

Because I’d really miss sugar…

Buckets of fun – the new bucket list

I recently found a bucket list I wrote many, many years ago. So long ago in fact the term bucket list hadn’t been invented so my list was entitled “Just Live Life and Do It Damn It”.

It’s been fascinating reading the dreams of an Anthony that was care-free and single.

But as I went through the dreams and musings of what feels like another life altogether, I couldn’t help but wonder what a bucket list written AFTER I’d become a parent would look like.

There are obvious choices such as taking the kids to Disneyland and being able to go away for a single night without having to pack 16 bags and play car-packing Tetris.

But the changes in perspective are enormous. Pre-kids Anthony may have fantasised about a cute Danish girl joining him in the shower, but post-kids Anthony just longs to have a shower all by himself without any interruption.

The pre-kids bucket list had extensive travel plans on it. Post-kids I’m happy to get the kids out the door before 7.45 each morning.


Pre-kids: Read all the classics.
Post-kids: Actually get to read more than one adult book a year.


Pre-kids: Conquer Mt Everest.
Post-kids: Conquer the never-ending mountain of washing.


Pre-kids: Stay up all night on a tropical island and watch the sunrise.
Post-kids: Sleep through the entire night and not have to see the sunrise.


Pre-kids: Jump out of a plane.
Post-kids: Get through a meal without having to make airplane noises to get someone to eat.


Pre-kids: Build a dream house.
Post-kids: Get through a day without stepping on a Lego piece from their dream house.


Pre-kids: Participate in a group sky-dive.
Post-kids: Go to the toilet alone.


Pre-kids: Attend every match of <your sporting team> live this season.
Post-kids: Get to watch one half of one game on television undisturbed.


Pre-kids: Survive swimming with sharks.
Post-kids: Survive drop-off and pick-up at school (survive swimming with sharks).


Pre-kids: Learn an art or craft.
Post-kids: Keep your walls free from permanent art.


Pre-kids: Dine at Michelin starred restaurants around the world.
Post-kids: Drink a cup of tea without having to reheat it three times.


For the record there were 176 things on that old bucket list and going through them I was delighted I’d actually done 152 of them. For a moment I couldn’t help but revel in the abandon of the past.

And then the twins ran into the room with pictures of their horse-riding last week and excitedly recounted everything as if I hadn’t been there with them and I realised that while pre-kids Anthony had fun, post-kids Anthony has purpose.

We still travel. We still embrace new experiences. But now it’s not about me. It’s about showing the girls how wonderful life can be. About sharing the experiences.

I feel a bit sad for pre-kids Anthony: he didn’t have ‘be a parent’ on his bucket list and right now I couldn’t imagine a more fulfilling thing to do.

The true meaning of Easter (aka What Does Easter Mean to a Parent?)

As parents we want our kids to be happy and healthy. To achieve this seemingly simple goal we ensure our children exercise regularly and eat fruit and vegetables.

No, really we do. Well some of us do. Sometimes.

Ok, maybe it’s more that I heard of a tribe living in remote Guinea where they eat nothing but green vegetables. And they like it.

But that’s only because they’ve never heard of marketing. So they’ve never been subjected to the barrage of images that hypnotises us into eating rubbish that thirty years ago our parents would not have even fed to the dog.

At no time is this more prevalent than Easter. For our Guinea readers, Easter is a time of celebration where we gorge ourselves on as many chocolate eggs as our stomachs can handle (sometime more).

And by celebrating I mean taunting diabetics with our disregard for their feelings and our own health and waistlines.

No wait that’s not right either… it’s a time where families come together and recognise the beauty of new life. We do this by eating enough sugar to put the children of our personal trainers through private school.

And really Easter is about the children. And not just of our personal trainers and dentists. It’s about the ability of our kids to develop the analytical capacity to choose from an endless ocean of chocolate options. It’s about their negotiation skills – the ability to utilise pester power on parents.

And ultimately it’s about learning the lesson that too much chocolate will make you run around like a banshee before collapsing in a heap. A lot of children have problems with this last lesson so they may wish to repeat the exercise a few times.

And by a few times I mean thirty years.

Some traditionalists claim Easter is seven-weeks long. These people are way out of touch. In the modern world Easter begins December 27 and is marked by the appearance of hot cross buns and the aforementioned eggs on supermarket shelves.

It lasts until the shops no longer have stock. So about May/June.

Now some will try to tell you that Easter is about the resurrection of Jesus. That it’s a time of reflection. A time to be spent with family to recognise a major religious event where the Son of God died for our sins.

But Marketing tells me these people are what scientists call ‘kooks’ and/or dinosaurs. These scientists may or may not be on the payroll of Marketing but they wear lab coats and produce ‘studies’ about how 9 out of 10 dentists love Easter, so I must believe them.

And after all, these ‘kooks’ also believe Christmas is about goodwill and peace on earth. And – most shockingly – that Christmas is a single day!

That’s right. One solitary day. Not a four-month long festival of commercialism and inciting toddlers to nag us for Elsa’s new green dress.

Can you imagine?

Time is precious

Sometimes I’m a little jealous of the girls’ teachers. This first year of schooling was a little tough at times with separation issues (mostly for me).

As I write this my twins only have two weeks of pre-prep left. The year has flown by in a flurry of activity, curiosity and endless birthday parties.

And it’s been wonderful for the most part. I’ve certainly learnt a few lessons myself but this transition phase where the girls went from spending most of their time with me to where they spent a large part of their week with a teacher has been hard but really good for them.

Having said that I’m looking forward to holidays and being able to spend more fun time with my girls again. It’s nothing against their amazing teachers, but I kind of want them to myself again for a bit. Does that sound strange?

I mentioned this to a parent of an older child and they certainly looked at me as if I was deranged.

But it’s true. Maybe it will change later in life but I can’t wait to go back to days of fun with my two little ones. Yes, it will be exhausting and draining but playing with them makes life worth everything.

However as I look at all the activities, camps and clubs available over the holidays I can’t help but wonder if you can be too active?

Throughout the year we had the opportunity to try an array of sports and join a long list of clubs. And some kids have so very much on, such as dancing, soccer, gymnastics, tennis, swimming – and all top of on school. It doesn’t leave much time.

Seriously some children have more clubs than my golf bag. Which remains unused for the past five years incidentally…

It’s true – while my kids are exercising non-stop, my physical activity has dried up and my pre-pregnancy weight is a thing of the past.

‘My life’ is merely acting as chauffeur and bill-payer for the kids who are having a super active life.

And with December upon us it’s an active life that will once more have me in the centre of it. And the Queensland summer means I’ll spend my days balancing outdoor activities with an hour of screen time, indoor games and lots and lots of glorious books.

Play dates interspersed with trips to the beach, the library, the cinemas and parks. Painting, pottery, cards, colouring, dancing and dominoes.

Man, with so much to do I almost need an assistant to help me coordinate and supervise. Someone good with kids.

Hmmmm, I wonder what the teachers are doing during holidays…

First Aid for first-time parents

Part of having very active kids is the inevitable accidents and incidents. And first time parents panic easily when faced with injuries and potential harm.

But fear not, you can learn from my experiences (and the fact my best friend Paul is a respected medical professional).

ELBOW – I once inadvertently dislocated Rhapsody’s elbow. I was walking hand-in-hand when she protested about wanting something, threw her feet up in the air and dead-weighted herself. I felt terrible and like an abusive parent despite not actually having done anything other than hold on to her hand while she threw a tantrum. I’m assured this is very common in young kids and, as I learnt, pretty easily fixed in seconds once medical staff are confident it’s just a radial head subluxation.

FOREIGN OBJECTS IN THE NOSE – Barbie shoes are hard to remove from the nostril. Trust me. If you can’t easily remove a foreign object from the nose go to the Emergency Department. The stories they tell . . .

AND THE MOUTH – Kids will inevitably swallow things. Most, such as small coins, rocks and marbles will pass but medical experts will always want to ensure there is no blockage to the airways. The photos they have . . .

BUTTON BATTERIES – Having said that, there are some things that require immediate urgent medical attention if swallowed. Small button batteries (such as watch batteries and toy batteries) represent a VERY high risk of serious harm. Do not delay seeking assistance. AND KEEP THEM AWAY FROM KIDS.

DISLODGED TOOTH – If a tooth gets knocked out then there is a chance – even if it’s slight – it can be saved. Immediately immerse it in milk or saliva. There’s no guarantee, but it will increase the odds.

BURNS – Burns can be common but need to be dealt with properly. The burn needs to be exposed to cold running water for at least 20 minutes. Do not ice a burn and do not bath it – cool or cold running water only.

HEAD KNOCK – If it’s a bad bump go straight to hospital where they will observe the child for a period of time. Do not expect an automatic CAT scan as there are very good reasons they will avoid scanning unless necessary.

POISON – One of my twins once came from her bedroom in the middle of the night glowing in the dark. She’d been chewing on a glow stick. Panic ensued in the parents. If your child swallows something you’re unsure of, ring the poison hotline (13 11 26). They’re incredible and their advice is invaluable.

TICKS – There is a lot of misinformation about how to remove ticks and most of it is NOT for Australian conditions, which are indeed different. The current line of thought highlights freezing them off, which is done by a medical professional. Not you with an ice pack. Or a stubby.

SNAKE BITES –  Do not wash the wound as hospitals have venom kits that can identify the venom, do not tourniquet (put a clean hankie over the bite and immobilise the rest of the limb with a compression bandage) and do not try to suck out the venom (Hollywood movies have taught you poorly – this doesn’t work and you could actually end up envenomating yourself).

POSSIBLE SPIDER BITES – Marks, scratches and pricks from running through the grass? No Emergency Department will ever be upset you’re checking, so don’t worry about ‘wasting their time’. This is a child’s life we’re talking about. So if in doubt, check it out.

Which is actually the recurring theme: don’t be afraid to get professional advice. Don’t worry about appearances, embarrassment or seeming paranoid. Ring 131 HEALTH or go to your Emergency Department. They are here to help.

And if the Barbie shoes in the nose becomes a regular thing then perhaps you need to buy the board game Operation. Or stop buying Barbie dolls.

The Laws Of Parenting

As a beloved old TV show was fond of repeating, “you cannot change the laws of physics”. And just as science recognises there are simply some absolute truths of the world, we all know there are strict laws that govern children and parents.

And you don’t need a PhD in Parenting to know how true these laws are:


The Dawdling Principle

No matter how early you plan to leave for an event, the time allowed will be taken up by children dawdling. At this stage I could be ready to leave a full 24 hours before dance classes (which are held literally 400 metres from my house) and the girls would find a way to ensure we burst in just as they’re closing the doors. Yet again.


Eyes-stomach ratio

The laws of physics do not always seem to apply to children. For example their stomach is quite small physically but apparently capable of eating every chocolate or packet of chips in existence. We joke about dessert stomachs. Kids, like cows, have multiple stomachs and they’re ALL dessert stomachs.


The Principle of Uncertainty

In science, the Heisenberg Principle of Uncertainty tells us you can know the position of a particle OR its velocity but not both. In parenting, the Sherratt Principle of Uncertainty states you can either hear exactly what your kids are doing OR paranoia creeps up on you because you CAN’T hear what your kids are doing.


‘Toddler’s ear’

A little-known condition where toddlers’ hearing is distorted. ‘Toddler’s ear’ manifests by changing the meaning of our speech. For example I say “No” and they hear “ask me again in ten seconds”. See also ‘Husband’s Ear’ where the patient suffers temporary sporadic deafness dependent on situations.


IMP (Infant Magnetic Pulse)

Children under the age of 5 regularly emit a magnetic pulse of attraction. Curiously it’s only triggered when they have new and/or expensive clothes on, and instead of metal they attract dirt, mud, food and all other things messy. The effect can be reduced, if not totally eliminated, by dressing them in cheap or hand-me-down clothes.


Situationally Horrific Infantile Tantrums (note the acronym)

It’s an absolute truth that no matter how well behaved your children have been, the moment you step into public the likelihood of them throwing a loud tantrum increases exponentially. Studies conducted on the subject conclusively showed that “it was impossible to get any work done with all these damn kids crying and screaming in the scientific facility”.


The Lyon Poo Principle

Bowel movements are intrinsically linked to travel plans. It’s true: your kids won’t need to poo until you’re just about to leave or have just left. Similarly, they will often wait until you’ve struggled to get that complicated one-piece snowsuit/ballet outfit on before declaring they need to go. 25% of our time in Copenhagen was dressing, undressing and re-dressing the girls before snowplay.


The communication correlation

Child volume inevitably increases whenever you’re on a phone call. As does the likelihood of tantrums, fights and all-out riots. Interestingly, the more important the phone call, the greater the likelihood of intense cacophony.







From the mouths of babes

I don’t really worry about what other people think and when I became a parent I simply expected this to continue. How naïve was I?

Like most parents I’ve had the pubic meltdown tantrum in a very crowded environment. It’s not fun and you can’t help but feel self-conscious.

With the girls starting pre-prep recently, I genuinely wanted to make a good impression on the mums (who all turned out to be lovely by the way) so when we were sitting around playing games before they went in I praised Gypsy as she built a very elaborate wall with window.

The other parents heard me and looked over and I found my chest puffing out a bit as they nodded appreciatively. Then she put a little person in the window looking out. I was still impressed until she fetched a doll and car and put them next to the window and ‘ordered’ six nuggets. The same parents burst out laughing.

I was surprised to discover I was embarrassed. Sure we don’t do drive-thrus that often but instead of laughing myself I found myself defensively protesting to the other parents. Very unlike me.

But now I am back in control of my self-consciousness I want to reassure other parents that embarrassment is just part of the gig. And it could always be worse. And to prove it some of my friends’ stories should make you feel better:

Kathy: <son> told me an elaborate story in Reception about how he had hit, sworn at and kicked the teacher at school. I was mortified. Made him write a letter of apology. He took it to the teacher the next day. She said “But none of this happened?!”. He was bored, wanted drama, so he made it all up. I ended up in tears (I never cry!) in from of all the other shocked school Mums.

Paul: in the waiting room of a large medical practice with Henry when he was three. Two muslim women,in full burqa walked in and the little guy, with the true innocence of a, shouts out “Look Dad, ghosts!” The women didn’t hear him but there was a lot of laughter and looks from those sitting around us.

Shannon: Liam had an awful spurt (while potty training) of peeing at restaurants in potted plants when we weren’t looking!! He was so quick and hard to catch!

Gerard: At a cafe with my sister & I, my daughter was running around the table and hit the corner of the chair in the groin area. She then told Daddy (as we always kiss the hurties) to (very loudly) KISS MY VAGINA DADDY!!! KISS IT!!!!

Samantha: The lady at the front of Coles last week looked rather manly and as we walk past her Jack points and asks extremely loudly, “Mum is that a man?” I tried to shh him and hurry past which only made him shout louder “But mum what is it?”

Kat was walking through Coles when her 3yo started chanting, “I’m a big black girl, I’m a big black girl” “Imagine my horror when we were then stuck in front of a family who appeared to be of Islander appearance at the checkout.”

Personally I think she was just channeling Oprah. But the final word goes to Kathy (again) who made me feel better about my embarrassment in front of other parents with this beauty.

Kathy: I was dropping Child C off at class and Child D decided to roll around on the floor (in front of quite an audience including the teacher and lots of Mums) saying “Look I am drunk. Just like Mummy.”

Just toying with me

Amongst all the paperwork I had to sign when I became a parent I didn’t realise that nestled somewhere between the birth certificates and the endless hospital forms was a franchise agreement for a Toys R Us megastore.

How else can I explain my house being full of wall-to-wall plastics? We used to have a double garage but now we park on the driveway as the girls and their toys have established squatters’ rights. Just about every storage space in the house has been taken over by toys in every shape and colour.

Now when I was young I had toys of course and I fondly remember my Star Wars action figures, dart gun and Ipso blocks (they were plastic blocks with lollies inside). And the tree in the backyard. And rocks. Such a simple time.

But today’s children have to have everything. Including iPads (no doubt to help keep track of their toy catalogues) and every derivation of well… every variation.

Because it’s not just the fact there are thousands of different toys to choose from – each franchise has a million variations and accessory packs.

So our twins have what appear at first to be copies and duplicates but are actually cunningly different modifications. In other words this second one has two tiny orange dots on it Daddy so it’s OBVIOUSLY totally different.

I’m joking of course – my girls don’t say “totally” or I would disown them. But the bit about the nearly identical copy being passed off as a different toy is true.

And it’s not as if the twins need anymore anyway (and indeed for their past two birthday parties we’ve asked people to not buy presents) but storage keeps diminishing as the toy population booms. Balls, bikes, tea sets and of course the Queen of Retail *shudder* Barbie.

Now Barbie by herself isn’t a problem (no body issues in this house yet other than my own ‘abs of flab’) – it’s what she comes with. Accessories. Clothes. And more accessories. It’s a plethora of little weapons that will inevitably embed themselves into my feet at 3am because the concept of “putting stuff away” is foreign to anyone under the age of 37 apparently.

But I can’t just buy Barbie and her seemingly endless wardrobe. Nooooo. I have to get her friends, her boyfriend, her sisters and her entire family (including a horse). Basically I’m supporting her and her complete network. Somewhere along the line I have become Barbie’s pimp. Except I’m driving a CX7 while Miss Mattel gets around in a Ferrari!

Which I paid for.

I should point out my girls don’t ask for all this stuff. They just keep getting it anyway. In fact in over four years they’ve each only asked for one specific toy. And they didn’t get it (hey don’t look at me – I was away, I still feel bad about it and santa became the scapegoat).

Most of this problem comes from having wonderful friends who have contributed out of good intentions. In fact on their third birthday party the girls received so many presents we put half of them aside. And then forgot about them.

On a completely unrelated note is it bad to “regift” presents to your own kids? I’m asking for a friend of course.

Maybe it’s time the girls got acquainted with the Joy Of Rocks…