NoveltiesphotoWe’re two weeks into the fitness kick here at the House of Gusto and slowly but surely, things are changing for the better. We have been aided by an unprecedented run of good health for the whole family – although obviously having typed that I will return today to seven plagues upon my house.

I have been exercising quite a lot. It turns out the trick to exercise is not trying too hard. Apparently I knew this when I was a child but had forgotten until now. A few weeks ago I came across an old homework book from when I was eight, in which I wrote the following sentence:

‘If it does not rain we are going to have our athletics carnival on Wednesday and I am going to get lots of energy so when the starter goes I am going to be champion of the novelties.’

Now that sentence says a few things to me. It says that my habit of writing overly long sentences goes back a very, very long way. It says my pessimism is deeply ingrained – these good things were only going to happen if it didn’t rain, which it probably would. And most importantly, it says that even at eight I knew that aiming low is the key to exercise success. I was not planning to win a running race. I was not planning to jump the highest or throw a javelin the furthest. I was aiming for ‘Champion of the Novelties’, which I think means things like the egg and spoon race and the sack race. History doesn’t relate how I actually fared at this carnival, but the lesson is one I carry with me today. Continue Reading »

Save The Horses

In about three weeks we are going on a Big Trip. We’re heading to the USA to see my side of the family, and spend a week on a beautiful ranch on the border of Colorado and New Mexico, then stopping for a few days in Hawaii on the way home. We’re very lucky and very excited. We’ve been booking and planning and discussing for ages, and this week H and I began the most important part: a twenty-four day fitness and diet kick. We’ve realised that although we are truly fine specimens of man and womanhood, there’s just a bit more to us at the moment than we’d like, in an ideal world, and we’re a bit wary of being the two people at the ranch who need a crane and a winch to be loaded onto our mounts. And we don’t really want to turn up and see the wranglers’ eyes widen in horror before they lead away our svelte stallions, Dazzle and Spry, who could easily outrun a bear, and lead out two solid old draughthorses named Ironsides and Sherman Grizzlysnack. Continue Reading »

Garnet, who has a lot of dandelion picking to do to get back in my good books.

Garnet, who has a lot of dandelion picking to do to get back in my good books.

There is a new rule in the House of Gusto: no one is allowed to eat or drink within 10 metres of our car. There is a very good, very expensive and extremely revolting reason for this.

Two weeks ago we bought Garnet a new sippy cup. One week ago we went away for the long weekend and when it was time to come home, we thought we would outwit our children and wait until bedtime before leaving the farm to drive home. This would, we theorised, mean that we could feed them dinner, bathe them and put them in their pjs, strap them into the car, hand Garnet his bedtime milk in his new cup, then get on the road and they would fall asleep. When they were sleeping we could listen to a few episodes of Serial, which is a bit too murder-based to comfortably listen to with the kids awake. Once home, we would transfer their deeply sleeping little selves into their beds, tuck them in warmly, and retreat to watch a hundred episodes of Suits on Netflix.

Things did not go exactly to plan. Garnet stayed up the whole way home, so we listened to the Shawn the Sheep Christmas Remix. I was having murder-based roasting fantasies about that wretched beast after ten minutes. May Blossom obediently fell asleep five minutes into the journey, but woke with a start half an hour before home. ‘Shhh, back to sleep,’ we soothed her, hopefully. ‘No,’ she said. ‘If I fall asleep you’ll carry me upstairs and put me to bed and I’ll miss out on having my books read. I’m staying awake.’ Fuck. Foiled. Continue Reading »

Tough Love


This morning, as I prepared the third course of May Blossom and Garnet’s breakfast, I began to think they were a bit spoiled. After they had eaten cereal, followed by fried eggs and Vegemite on toast, May Blossom asked for some leek and potato soup. My desire to be finished with the short order cooking was quashed by my rule that if a kid ever asks for vegetables you give them vegetables very quickly before they have chance to change their mind, so I warmed up the soup. Then May Blossom asked if they could please have the soup in some tiny vintage cups and saucers she has recently discovered in the sideboad, where I hoard such hand-wash-only trinkets from our carefree days pre-children. And so I came to be serving vichyssoise in demitasse cups, like some fancy amuse-bouche from the degustation menu of a Michelin-starred restaurant (with more Vegemite smears on the table, obviously).
As I traipsed back and forth from the kitchen to the dining room, I consoled myself by thinking of all the ways we don’t spoil them. Because H and I can be quite hardarsed parents when we put our minds to it.

Continue Reading »

legoThis week has marked an important childhood milestone in our household: the transition from Duplo to Lego. Due to my fear of my family actually drowning in clutter and the paramedics not being able to push the door open to reach us when we are lying on the floor, our feet cut to ribbons by the sharp plastic edges of the little bricks, I’ve been strongly resisting this transition by using a clever psychological technique called lying, but they saw through me. Continue Reading »


Just one of the strange scenarios I have found in my home recently. By coincidence, a reasonable accurate portrayal of our life: a naked cat having a tantrum (Garnet), a moose who is over it (May Blossom) and I am obviously Mummy Pig, bearing it all with the patience of a saint, while wearing too much mascara. Not pictured: H, off earning money to keep us in antibiotics and steroids.

In news that will surprise precisely no-one who has ever read this blog before, here at the House of Gusto we are once again beplagued with illness. In under a month we have had one sinus infection, one chest infection, one ear infection, some viral tonsillitis, four common or garden variety colds, two cases of croup and one case of severe infectious impetigo. Jesus wept.

The only thing left to try is giving up on the healthy diet, with all the fruit and vegetables and quinoa, give up the probiotics and the immune boosting herbs and vitamin C powder and gummy vitamins, and try a regimen of McHappy Meals and white bread with margarine and hundreds and thousands, washed down with full-sugar Cocoa-Cola. I’ll let you know how we get on.

So there has been a lot of not going out, time off pre-school and quarantining ourselves at home, which has made everyone go completely do-lally. The children are beginning to turn on each other, and at times I’ve been tempted to just leave them to it. At other times I rally though, and attempt to intervene when a whack leads to a pinch, which leads to a thump which will eventually land someone in hospital. But even intervening has its risks.

A week or so ago Garnet and May Blossom were squabbling over something toy-train related, which is weird because only one of them gives a toss about the trains. She squeezed his wrist hard. He whacked her. I made them apologise to each other, then to distract them I pointed at their hobby horses, lying conveniently in the doorway like the overpriced trip hazards they are, and said, ‘Hey don’t your horses need some exercise? How about you take them for a ride! They’ve been stuck in their stable all day!” (When I haven’t slept for a fortnight I speak with a lot of panicky exclamation marks in my voice).

May Blossom piped up, “Actually they’ve been very bad today.”

“Really?’ I asked, ‘What happened?’

She replied, “Well, they kicked over a bucket of water they weren’t supposed to. Then they ripped up some books, then drew on some paper they weren’t supposed to. Then they broke some newly made chairs … And then they killed an old man.”

Well, I thought. That escalated fast. Those horses have indeed been very bad. Those horses need more than exercise.

When we are home too much I start stumbling across creepy toy vignettes around the house. Like this:

These aren’t even the old-man murdering horses. I can’t imagine what atrocity these animals committed.

Sometimes, when I can, I have been taking the least sick child out of the house for an exciting adventure. That rarely ends well. Garnet and I managed to go to the butcher early this week, as a special treat. While the assistant butcher was getting our order together, Garnet introduced himself to the jolly fat main butcher, who got excited because it turns out his father’s name was Garnet. He showed Garnet around and named all the different meats for him. ‘This is lamb and this is bacon and that is pork and that is chicken.’ Garnet repaid this kindness by getting his words all confused and as we left he tried to say ‘Bye, Butcher,’ but it came out ‘Bye, Porker’. To the big fat jolly kind butcher, who looked a little shattered.

After that it was only about a day before Garnet got the viral croup that May Blossom had. I should have known he was coming down with something, because she had perked up enough to play Schools, which meant it was his turn to get sick. She lined all her stuffed rabbits and cheetahs up on the floor and wrote some letters on pink slips of paper, which went in a box, but then had to come out of that box at roll call and go into a different box (she’s mad for bureaucracy in her games – can’t get enough paperwork). Usually Garnet will join in a game like this, but this time he came for roll call, sat in class for five minutes, then muttered ‘I’m going back to my shed,’ and stomped off. He doesn’t have a shed. I think he means the corner of the playroom where the oven full of ponies is. I’m a bit scared of his shed.

Helpfully, May Blossom and Pipsqueak look like twins born four years apart, so I can illustrate this post with a picture of my own child to protect the identity of my niece.

Helpfully, May Blossom and Pipsqueak look like twins born four years apart, so I can illustrate this post with a picture of my own child to protect the identity of my niece. And yes, her hair was real.

Two months ago my brother, Superchief, and sister-in-law, Doctor V, had their first baby. Pipsqueak, as she will be known on this blog, is, like both of her cousins before her, a beautiful, sparkly, dark-haired bundle of Refusal To Sleep. She is one of those babies who catch your eye and won’t break your gaze. It’s like she was born in a staring competition. I fear she is extremely clever, and I wish her parents well with that.

Although they live very nearby, since Pipsqueak was born my children have almost constantly had some noxious virus or other that you wouldn’t want to expose a newborn to, which upsets them very much because they adore Sweet Baby Cousin Pipsqueak, as Garnet has dubbed her. He was actually quite cross about her to begin with, and claimed he was the only baby in town and would I please open up my tummy so he could get back in. When I refused, because I am mean like that, he settled for shoving himself up the front of my top, where he spent a good part of Pipsqueak’s first few weeks of life. He hadn’t even met her at that stage, because of the snot, but he was distinctly unimpressed with losing his position as Baby of the Family. Of course when he eventually did meet her he was just as smitten as everyone else and has been nothing but lovely about and to her ever since. Continue Reading »


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