Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Little Name Big Heart [Review]

There are certain things in life where the name just doesn’t fit the object.

“W” is pronounced ‘double u’ but it’s actually double ‘v’.

We call them a pair of pants, but there is actually only one.

It doesn’t change the value of the object but it isn’t exactly descriptive either.

When I was offered the chance to try out one of the handmade Binky blankets I was expecting something small, for in my mind a Binky is cute and little. I had missed the line on the website indicating that the blanket was the size of a single bed...

To read out what happened next click here to go to my blog post on Mamadoo and for the chance to win one of two Binky Blankets click here.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


I was recently asked to write a post for first-time dads, and as neither a dad nor a first timer, I felt unqualified. So I asked my male friends for their advice (that article to follow soon on the Mamadoo blog) and one response was so funny and heartfelt I asked if he wanted to write a guest post for Relentless.

Failure IS an Option: by Glenn Dungate

I can remember clearly the emotion and excitement that I felt as I walked through the sliding glass automatic doors of the hospital the day after Maisie was born. I had gone home the night previous and fallen asleep strangely free of burden and worry and, instead,  filled with pride in the strength of my wife and elation for our “bundle of joy”. The need to clean the living hell out of our townhouse and watch as much Foxtel as possible was also strangely thrown into the mix.

I have never felt peace and excitement like I did in those first few days. Overjoyed that I had a daughter. Overwhelmed that I had seen things happening between my wife’s legs that I was sure would scar me for the rest of my life and euphoric that two was now three. A family. My family. Our family.

Then she came home. Free from the support of Midwives and Doctors, Maisie was now alone with us. I laid her down on a play mat and stared at her. What was going to happen now ? How was “it” going to happen and what was “it” exactly ?

For me “it” was the fear of failure.

I failed at three months after I dropped her on her head onto the tiled kitchen floor. This happened on the first day that my wife had left me alone with her. I was in tears and a major panic as I called my wife, crying down the phone that a lump was appearing on her head. Cradling her as her cries subsided we hopped into my bed and I tried to comfort her. She started falling asleep. I panicked again. Sleep after head trauma equals concussion.  I tried to keep her awake, she didn’t like that. Maybe because it was her nap time and her dad was red eyed and bouncing her up and down singing “Wakey wakey Maisie” over and over and over again.

I failed when she was a toddler and  I grabbed her arm in anger. She wasn’t listening, it was bath time and she had better things to do. She was in a typical Maisie moodI grabbed her right arm as I leaned down to try and reason through clenched teeth and she immediately burst into tears saying “You hurt my arm”. I was heartbroken.  I have always felt that hitting a child in punishment is beyond wrong. The thought that inflicting pain in the belief that it will create reason and understanding is brain dead and pathetic.  Anyone with intelligence knows that there are times that you cannot reason with them. There are times that you cannot make them understand. There are times that you have to think happy thoughts and take deep yoga like breathes. This was one of those times. And yet, I had just hurt her in my attempts to reason with her. More tears from me and a major apology followed.

Then my wife became pregnant. Euphoria soon turned to unbearable sadness when at 12 weeks we had to terminate the pregnancy. The pride in the mental and physical strength of my wife that I had felt with the birth of our first child returned, though in completely different circumstances.  I wanted to take all her pain. I wanted to hold her and not let go. Even though it was nature and even though there was nothing we could have done……. I felt I had uncontrollably failed.

In the months and years that have followed I have experienced the Jane Austin-like highs of love, pride and awe along with the Shakespearean-like battles of sadness, fear, anger and rage that only a child with the combined DNA of two crazies like us can produce. 

Despite my fears I have succeeded many more times than I have either truly or falsely failed. Maisie is now 5 and the “it” has become the realisation that parenting is a glorious burden. Embrace it and every piece of luggage that goes with it.  If you are true to yourself and more importantly to the human in your care, you can’t fail.

Glenn Dungate

Friday, August 1, 2014

Would You Like to Review My Children's Books?

A couple of years ago, stuck in the middle of school holidays with my then-five year old Bombshell, we decided that we would write a book together.

Specifically, I would write it, and she would do the illustrations. I let her choose the most important aspects of the book, such as the name of the main character (Fairy Sparkle Rose), the colour of her dresses, and the 'twist' at the end of the story. It is a story about being yourself and not following the pack.

I enjoyed it so much, I wrote another book 'How the Rainbow Got its Colours' which is a story about sharing.

Then earlier this year, obviously with the 'D' word flapping around the back of my head, I wrote a story called 'My Body My Shape' (yeah, the title is a work in progress) which is a story about loving different shapes and sizes.

I don't know why the image is doing this, but I assure you the books themselves are completely normal

Each story is aimed at 4-6 year olds. They are very simple stories, with painted illustrations by my daughters. I have simply printed them myself on Snapfish, so the production is basic.

But I have a few spare copies, and I will post them to you if you wouldn't mind reading them to your kids, and then emailing me a few lines telling me what you think. Be honest, there's no point telling me they're awesome if you actually think they're crap. If you happen to own a publishing company and you love them, then yes, I am willing to sign a contract.

It's first in, first served, so please email me your name and postal address to (email only please, don't put your personal details on Facebook)*.

Update: thanks to everyone who responded, but I have had more offers to review the books than expected,and unfortunately, there are no more copies available.

I can send packs of two books to the US or Europe (2 on offer) and packs of three books within Australia (up to five on offer). (Sorry about the discrepancy, but it costs a lot to post things across the world).

* I promise not to stalk, harass or sell your personal details to anyone. Just in case you were wondering...

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Why I Will Never Use the D Word

‘Mummy,’ my middle daughter said to me a few weeks ago in utter horror. ‘You’re wearing… pants!’ 

She practically spat the last word and it probably matches my own perception of this particular item of clothing.

I have a few body hang ups and I dress in a particular way. I never wear pants, shorts or jeans. I only wear long skirts, preferably to my ankles, sometimes longer, never shorter than calf length. I often wear rather low cut tops, rationalising that if the eyes are drawn upwards, they won’t be looking at my overly ample bottom and legs.

It’s dumb, I know. No one actually gives a crap what I wear or what my body looks like under it. But I had body issues as a teenager and they don’t just disappear because you ‘grow up’, just because you get married, or just because you ‘know better’. Body issues get right to the core of who you are, whether you want to be bigger or smaller or more curvier or curvier in different places. Whether it’s something you obsess over, or something you put in the ‘too hard’ basket and decide to think about it later.

So apparently, it would appear my four year old had never seen me in a pair of pants before when she caught me one morning in a pair of tracksuit bottoms. She studied my legs as though she hadn’t realised I had any.

‘WHY are you wearing pants?’ she wanted to know.

‘I’ve been doing some exercise,’ I told her.

She gave me a good all over glance. ‘Why?’ she asked again.

To her four year old eyes, I look exactly the way I am supposed to look. Mum shaped. Specifically her-mum shaped. She doesn’t yet understand concepts like fat or thin or sexy or unfit or athletic or what is desirable or not. As far as she is concerned, the way I am now, is just the way I am meant to be.

As far as I am concerned, I am in the worst physical shape of my life. I currently weigh the same as I did when I was 9 months pregnant with the Bombshell. Over the past seven years I have put on about 25 kilograms (55 pounds). I can’t run a few metres without getting puffed. My knees protest about everything I do. I eat what I want, when I want. I drink too much alcohol. I can’t sit cross legged on the floor. I have a BMI in the obese range. I don’t feel obese, but I don’t feel good.

It aint pretty.

So, after years of watching my weight balloon, and solving the problem by just buying bigger clothes, I have finally decided to do something about it. I have been wanting to do something for years but there was always a reason, an excuse not to. I am pretty good at making excuses. I was either pregnant or breastfeeding, or wanting to get pregnant, or I had a bad-sleeping baby, or I didn’t want to sacrifice my writing time. Or any time, for that matter.

But six weeks ago I signed up for an online ‘body transformation’ program that I haven’t followed in the slightest, but it didn’t matter. My head was finally in the right space and I have been cutting down on booze, cutting down on snacks, reducing portion size and looking the other way when cakes, chocolate or other temptations are placed in front of me. Mostly anyway. Oh, and the exercise that is beginning to transform me.

I sneak downstairs before 5am every day, and do a different exercise video in the family room. In Perth at the moment, it stays dark until after 7am, so at 5am it’s pretty dark and quiet and lonely. Just the right place I need to get my wobbles out. And there is a lot of wobbling.

When the girls ask me why I am exercising, I say it is to make my body strong.

When they ask why I am eating so many vegetables, I say it is because they are full of goodness.

When they ask me why I’m not eating dessert, I say it is because I am listening to my tummy and it says it is full.

I will never tell them I am on a diet or that I am trying to lose weight.

There are two reasons why I will never use the ‘D’ word in front of my daughters. One, is because I am acutely aware that they will inevitably form their own body issues over time, and be damned if I am going to raise them in a household where mum is constantly dieting and denying herself in the name of numbers of a scale.

Secondly, is because I don’t want to be on a diet for the rest of my life. Nothing could depress me more than the thought of dieting and all the negative connotations that come with that loaded word dictating the way I eat for the rest of my life. However, I can realistically see myself ‘eating healthily’ for the rest of my days, with occasional treats and being able to still enjoy food, but just less of it, and perhaps avoiding certain foods 95% of the time.

I can live with teaching my daughters to ‘eat healthy’. I don’t think I can live with teaching them about the concept of dieting.

Sure, it may seem like semantics to some people, that I am simply choosing a different word to describe the same situation. But I have not discussed this with my kids. I haven’t told them I am changing the way I eat or the fact I now exercise. I haven’t made a song and dance in front of them.

I just do it. Like the advert says.

And it’s working. I can see it and I can feel it. Yes, the numbers are changing but I am trying not to focus on that (but on the flipside I feel proud of those numbers and I can totally understand why people obsess over them).

And even though I don’t think the 5am starts are sustainable in the long term, what I am noticing is that six weeks on I can do so more. I can run up the stairs (well, jog). I don’t need as much food to feel full. I don’t feel the need to eat dessert just because my mouth wants it. I am feeling happier with myself. I am not needing two or three glasses of wine at the end of the day.

I just want my kids to look at me and see a happy mum, to see that she is eating well and is happy with herself. Notice I didn’t say ‘happy with her body’. Happy with the way I am living.

Maybe one day I will even buy a pair of jeans.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

What Sex in the Movies Would be Like if They'd Had Kids

‘Are you nervous?’ Jack asked.

‘Au contraire, mon cher,’ Rose replied breathily. ‘But my back hurts squashed up in the back seat of this old car. Can’t we go upstairs and do it in bed?’

Jack stroked her face, trying to calculate how much foreplay was required before he could get to the fun part. Rose kissed his fingers, hoping that it wouldn’t be a long drawn out episode. She had a great book in her cabin she really wanted to get back to.

Jack started to unbutton Rose’s dress. ‘Can you turn the light off, please Jack?’ Rose asked, pretending to nibble on his ear.

‘Why?’ whined Jack. ‘You look gorgeous, I want to see you.’

‘I’m covered in stretch marks and still can’t drop the baby weight. It’s lights off or nothing.’

Jack rolled his eyes but reached up and turned the overhead light off. The car settled into a dim gloom. They resumed kissing.

‘Put your hands on me Jack,’ Rose demanded, trying to get things moving along.

‘Hang on a minute,’ Jack said, his voiced muffled. Rose heard a crinkling sound and Jack pulled a condom out of his pocket. Rose moved slightly under his weight as he fumbled with his pants.

‘There’s not much light in here,’ Jack commented, holding the condom up to the window to see which way it would unroll. Rose sighed and began thinking about what she would be ordering for dinner the next night, and that beautiful purse she saw in the window of the boutique upstairs. She needed to go and have a closer look.  

‘Rose? Rose?

‘What? Oh… yes baby, put your hands on me. Ow!’

‘Sorry, there’s not a lot of room in the backseat. Can you help me with your corset?’

Frustrated, Rose pushed Jack off and removed her pantalets.

‘Look, that’ll have to do. We’re in the back seat of a car: it’s hardly romantic. Let’s just get this over with.’

Jack couldn’t believe his luck.

Suddenly Rose stiffened. ‘What was that?’ she asked. ‘Are the kids awake?’

Jack swivelled his head in the direction of the sound. ‘Not sure, should I go and check?’

Rose glanced at the clock display on the dashboard. It was getting late and she was tired. ‘No, let’s just do this.’

‘Wait,’ said Jack. He clambered off Rose and lent over the front seat to retrieve a box of tissues. He placed it within easy reach, before climbing back on.

‘Good idea,’ said Rose. They kissed and as Jack nibbled her neck, she thrust her hand against the back window, making a little moan she hoped sounded convincing.

‘And Jack,’ Rose warned, ‘I know your heart will go on forever, but tonight I hope nothing else goes on forever.’

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Not Another Poo Story

The Bombshell and the Mop ran breathlessly into the kitchen where I was clearing up the remains of dinner. They were both completely nude.

‘The baby pooped in the shower,’ the Bombshell squealed.

‘Yeah, she did a poo right on the floor,’ added the Mop.

They both looked very excited and were jumping up and down.

‘Why are you telling me?’ I asked them as I wiped the bench.

‘Because Dad told us to,’ said one.

‘And it’s really smelly,’ added the other.

‘We don’t want a shower anymore, we want a bath,’ they said.


I followed them into the bathroom where my husband was shoving reams of toilet paper into the loo. Baldy stood in the shower forlornly, looking at the floor.

‘Did you have an accident in the shower?’ I asked her.

‘Poo,’ she said rubbing her face.

‘Don’t rub your face,’ my husband said grabbing at her hand and squirting soap on it. He threw the bathmat at me. ‘Put this in the wash, will you?’ he asked.

‘Does it have poop on it?’ I asked, holding it away from my body slightly. He nodded.

‘How?’ I asked.

‘She picked the poo up and threw it out of the shower,’ he said matter of factly.


The last thing I heard as I wandered into the laundry was my husband yelling at the older kids to get in the shower.

‘Neverrrrrrr,’ they declared, then footsteps bolting for their bedroom and a door slamming.

Can’t say I blame them.

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Emotion With No Name

I had only been asleep an hour or so when I was woken by a blood curdling scream from downstairs.

I looked at the clock – 11.30pm. Assuming I could be stuck downstairs with Baldy for the rest of the night, I grabbed my glasses and dressing gown.

I wrapped my gown around me as I stumbled down the stairs, mentally preparing for what I might find.

“Mummmmmy, Daddddddy,” came the howls.

There might be vomit, I thought, listening for the gagging noises. There might be fevers, wondering how high I had left the heater.

I opened the door a crack, inhaling deeply, trying to detect a smell. Poo? Vomit? No.

The light fell across Baldy’s little face, her hair messy and wild.

“Dummy. Gone!” she wailed.

You’re kidding, I thought.

Those screams were worthy of being axe murdered, a Huntsman dropping on your face or your bed catching on fire. They were real screams of terror and fear. But a missing dummy? You have got to be kidding me.

I gingerly patted down the sheets, still expecting to find a pool of vomit. Nothing.

I ran my hand around the edge of the mattress, between the side of the cot looking for the rogue dummy.

“Dummy. Gone!” she wailed.

We need to get rid of the damn dummy, I thought.

She shifted impatiently and I heard the tell-tale sound of the plastic chain. I picked it up and clipped it back onto her sleeping bag.

She immediately stuck it back in her mouth, lay back down, head on her pillow, and went to sleep.

I looked at the clock. 11.35pm. I knew it would easily be 1am before I would fall asleep again, so I certainly wasn’t going to hang around. I was glad she wasn’t sick, but I was bloody irritated at having been woken for a missing dummy.

That feeling, the one only parents understand, that is an equal mix of relief and annoyance, was strong as I trudged back upstairs.

They really need to give that particular emotion a name.

Any suggestions?

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Is There Such a Thing as a Simple Trip to the Shop?

It was just meant to be a simple trip to the shop.

Silly me, there’s no such thing as a simple trip to the shop.

I usually avoid taking all three girls out as much as humanly possible, so on a day when it was just myself and Baldy Baby (no longer bald, or a baby!) I decided to head to a rather fancy shopping centre in search of nothing more complicated than some exercise videos (long story), and some strawberries and bananas.

Having failed miserably on the exercise video front (although I did pick up a copy of ‘Belly Dancing Blitz: Shake off those pounds’!) I went in search of some fruit. As I pushed the pram into the lift, a Dad already inside with his little girl a tad younger than Baldy shot me a look. He tousled his daughter’s hair. ‘Rosie refuses to go in the pram anymore, don’t you darling. You’re a big girl now.’

Rosie was too busy picking her nose to notice her Dad’s smarmy comment, and I just smiled and nodded. 

He wouldn’t feel so superior if I let Baldy out of her pram and she somehow set off the shopping centre’s fire alarm and all the fire sprinklers flattened his carefully blow dried hair. (She would, I don’t know how she’d do it, but she would… so I keep her in the pram for everyone’s safety and sanity.)

In Coles I quickly found some strawberries and bananas, and placed them on the hood of the pram, before becoming distracted by some ham and cheese buns. Suddenly Baldy reached up and flipped the hood, pulling it down over her face. ‘Raining!’ she declared (was she having visions of the fire alarm going off?).

The punnet of strawberries flew across the air before smashing on the ground, popping open and spewing strawberries across the floor. The bananas followed in a graceful arc.

I swore quite loudly.

As the heads swivelled in my direction, I mumbled to myself as I squatted down and began picking up the fruit salad. Baldy watched with interest as she kept flipping the hood up and down.

I nabbed a packet of the buns and sped off towards the checkouts. Seeing an empty space I pushed between a lady and her trolley and began poking at the screen in front of me. She was staring with her mouth open.

‘That’s not a self-service register,’ she hissed. ‘There’s a line,’ she said indicating the three people behind her, also staring in shock. I had been poking at an advertising screen, which was now telling me that I really needed new insurance in case I suddenly died. I could only hope.

I wrestled the pram past the woman and her trolley full of cat food, and went in search of the actual self-service registers. After realising that Coles registers weren’t likely to accept my Woolworths rewards card, I finally managed to escape. I just needed to get back to the car.

‘Bun please,’ Baldy asked, poking her head around the side of the pram.

I stopped the pram in the middle of the mall, and pulled out of a still-warm ham and cheese bun and handed it to Baldy. I had only taken a few more steps when she declared ‘yuck’ and threw the bun out of the pram, which landed exactly in front of the back wheel, which then gracefully rolled straight over it.

Struggling to not swear, I grabbed the flattened bun and deposited it in the nearest bin before practically running to the car.

And the funniest thing of all – this was actually a GOOD trip to the shop.
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