Archive for May, 2008

Renos? what renos?

I can’t believe I was so foolish as to think that getting our DA approved (over two weeks ago now!) would signal the start of the actual building phase of our renovation project. In fact, we are really no closer to starting the work than we were before.

The builder came to see us a week or so ago. He wants clarification on the conditions of the DA before he will give us a final price and take out a homeowner’s warranty certificate.

We cannot collect the DA until we have a homeowner’s warranty certificate. Anyone spot a problem here?

Basically, the builder is convinced that council will require a 100mm step-up to the living room slab. Apparently in new buildings, the slab is raised 10cm above ground level to ensure the bases of the walls are not soaked in water in case of flood.

Well, the council has not said they require this. They’ve inspected the site and were satisfied with the level of waterproofing (there is drainage EVERYWHERE on our block – it was previously owned by plumbers – and the house is at the top of a hill, so the likelihood of a flood is somewhere around one in 400 gillion.

I mentioned this to the builder. He said he wants the council to put it in writing that the step up is not required. I told him I thought it would be reasonable to assume that if it wasn’t listed as a condition, then it was not a condition. He didn’t seem to understand this. So, no progress till we get confirmation from council.

And of course they’re not going to give it to us. It’s ridiculous to ask them to confirm that something not listed on the DA is not a requirement. It would be just as stupid if I called and said, “The DA doesn’t say we need to install one of those wind direction thingies with the rooster on top. Can you please write a letter confirming we don’t need one?”

So anyway, I figured they’d never agree to waste time writing a letter to say that an unlisted condition was indeed not a condition. I decided to email them about my dilemma and hope that their response would count as a written confirmation. Alas, they have not replied and I suspect they won’t.

Meanwhile, the builder absolutely insists on an engineer’s report even though council didn’t think it was necessary and neither did the architect. And, to make me extra happy, he’s decided that he can’t simply increase the height of the existing walls. Nope, he says he has to knock down and rebuild.

He gave us a big spiel about how it’s not possible to just add height to an existing wall – would have been way more convincing if he hadn’t previously told us it WAS possible.

Meanwhile, it’s been two weeks since we contacted the mortgage broker and she’s yet to come back to us with any advice or options.

So I am doing absolutely nothing about anything for the moment. IF the mortgage broker gets back to say we can actually borrow the money we need, I might start chasing the council and the builder and the bloody engineer, but until that point I am just over wasting time and energy on this stupid project.

We are currently 19 weeks into this saga with nothing to show for it besides a depleted bank account.


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Meeting madness

On Tuesday I attended my second preschool management committee meeting. The preschool is on property owned by the adjacent church and there are several parish representatives on the preschool management committee.

One of the preschool’s boundary fences is in poor condition and we have been waiting for news from the church about when it will be fixed. On Tuesday night, we resolved that the secretary of the preschool management committee would write to the secretary of the parish council.

The secretary of the preschool management committee IS the secretary of the parish council. She is writing to herself.

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Full speed ahead with the renos….not

So it’s been a week now since our development application was approved. The builder finally called back this morning but had nothing useful to offer.

Each time we talk to him he goes on about needing an engineer’s report but the plans are signed off and we do not need an engineer’s report. I am nervous about convincing the builder of this but I don’t want to throw yet another $500 away before we even start.

Meanwhile, I can’t even pick up the council paperwork because we need a homeowner’s warranty certificate. And we can’t get that till we sign the contract with the builder. And the builder can’t even meet with us till the end of the week.

And it hardly matters anyway because the mortgage broker has not called us back, and we won’t be entering into a contract with anyone if we don’t have any money!

Do not renovate your houses, people! Seriously, this is taking so much more effort – and money – than I ever expected. I hope it’s worth it.

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Uggh, it’s Tuesday again

For the past couple of months leigh has been attending a long inservice with lectures every Tuesday night. The inservice topic is extension maths and since Leigh teaches both extension 1 and extension 2 at her school, it’s very relevant and she’s loving it.

I am not loving it.

When she signed up for the course she knew it would be one evening a week but didn’t know which one. We were hoping for any night but Tuesday. Monday would have been difficult because I have both kids but it’s right after the weekend, so they’re not sick of the sight of me, and we always catch up with friends, so it’s busy.

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday would all have been okay because Hunter’s at preschool in the day, so even though the evening would have been a slog, it would have been a brief slog.

But Tuesdays. Ugggh, Tuesdays.

On Tuesdays I have both kids at home and they’re always sick of each other and sick of me. Our friends’ kids are all in preschool on Tuesdays so there’s no one to hang out with.

Last Tuesday I had a billion errands to run, so we went to westfield and I told hunter that she and hugo could play in the kids’ area before we left. It started out smoothly but after about 15 minutes of play Hunter decided to push in front of another child and take his turn on a piece of equipment.

I talked to her about sharing and asked her to move but ended up having to actually drag her away, screaming. She threw herself on the floor, in the walkway of a billion shoppers, and kicked and screamed. She yelled for me to get away then screamed for me to come and get her.

Eventually I walked away and left her to follow. She did, screaming blue murder, throwing herself on the floor periodically and earning me all sorts of sideways glances and tut tuts from other shoppers. It was beyond humiliating and it went on through four levels of shopping centre as we wound our way, painfully, back to the car.

Sadly, it was a typical Tuesday. Tuesdays always go badly. And then lately, leigh hasn’t been getting home till 8.30, which means I’m flying solo during dinner and bedtime.

Anyway….today is the LAST day of the inservice. So far, Tuesday has still been pretty ordinary. It’s 11am and we’ve been up six and a half hours already. Hugo is whiny and grumpy and has a cold and Hunter’s just told me she doesn’t want to be my friend. I don’t expect much of the day and next Tuesday will almost certainly be crappy, too.

But next week’s Tuesday crappiness will end at 4pm, when leigh walks in the door (and I walk out of it). I can’t wait!

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Walking for MS Awareness

MS Awareness Week is coming up, and this morning Leigh and the kids and I signed up to participate in the MS Walk and Fun Run fundraiser in Sydney on 1 June (I think it goes without saying we picked the walk, right? “Fun run” has always sounded like an oxymoron to me.)

We paid an entry fee but we’re hoping to raise a bit of money through sponsorship, too.

We only registered this morning so I haven’t done anything exciting to our entry page yet (and probably won’t actually do much to it at all) but if you want to see it, it’s at

 Some MS facts

18,000 Australians have MS

Three times as many women as men have MS

The average age of diagnosis is 30 (Leigh was diagnosed at 33)

Five Australians are diagnosed every working day

If you’re a family member or friend we know IRL, stay tuned. We’ll be hitting you up for sponsorship some time soon! 

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One hurdle cleared but the next one is higher

We finally got council approval for our renovations – a mere three months too late. I’ve griped about it before but just to refresh your memories, I no longer have a permanent job. I make as much money as I did before, but banks do not like self-employed people.

Not only do they not like them, they don’t give them a fair go. Our bank – the one to which we’ve been dutifully paying our mortgage without a hitch for over three years – will not take into account the amount of contracting I am currently doing. Nope. They’ll only look at how much contracting I’ve done over the past two years. While I had another job. I wasn’t doing much contracting WHILE I HAD ANOTHER JOB. DUH.

Anyway, that’s the crux of it, again.

I’ve contacted a mortgage broker and she’s looking into it but she’s been upfront about the fact that we’ll have trouble getting finance. It sucks because if I was making this amount of money in a permanent position we’d be able to borrow at least twice the additional amount that we actually need.

And what really gets me is that if we’d borrowed that money before I left my last job (again, thanks council, for taking 11 weeks to rubber stamp our application) the bank wouldn’t even have KNOWN that I was now contracting. So what’s the difference?


Anyway I am feeling frazzled and stressed again. I wish I could look at my bank account and realise there was an extra zero on the balance. Then things would be easy. I want easy! waaah!

Okay, I am done whinging about that. I shall now whinge about something else reno-related.

I don’t know where we’re gonna fit all our stuff when we have to clear out the shed and the back three rooms! In fact, I don’t even know exactly where we’re going to fit ourselves, let alone all our stuff!

I’m hoping the kids might be able to share a bedroom but Hunter’s so unpredictable I couldn’t say for sure. If she’ll go to bed quietly after Hugo’s asleep it might work, at least on the nights where she doesn’t call out to us for random things or wet the bed (both of which she did last night).

If that works, then the computer can be set up in our room and I’ll have to work from there. If it doesn’t work, Hugo will be in Hunter’s room, Hunter will be in with us and the computer will be in the kitchen.

In any case, it’s going to be a squeeze, and that’s before we try to figure out what to do with the lawnmower and the elliptical cross-trainer and 10 billion toys and a TV and who-knows-what-else.

I am actually excited about this reno, truly. I just wish the reno fairy would solve all the associated problems.

Anyway, I’m hoping to pick up the paperwork tomorrow. It’ll cost me another thousand bucks for my trouble.

Reno cost tally so far = about $4k. Work completed so far = none.

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Letter to the pollies

The Bill which will remove much of the descrimination against non-biological lesbian mothers in my state will be debated in Parliament tomorrow. The reforms could be law by the end of the week.

The NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby is making a last-minute push to politicians to secure their votes. Part of that push is a collection of letters from mothers affected by the laws. Here’s my letter, written yesterday:

Today is Mother’s Day. This morning I asked our oldest child what a mummy was. She told me it was someone who helped children with all the things they couldn’t do for themselves; gave them hugs; and looked after them.


She talked a lot about love and care and safety. She didn’t say a thing about biology

or genetics. At three and a half, she understands the meaning of real family.


She doesn’t understand – thankfully – that current state laws do not recognise us as a real family. She has no idea that while it’s plainly obvious to her that she has two parents, the law as it stands considers her to have just one mother. Our daughter and our one year old son are too young to realise that having two mummies means they are viewed differently by the law.


We really hope that by the time they are old enough to understand, there won’t be any differences.


We’ve been fortunate in that we’ve encountered very little negativity about our decision to create a family. But our children should not have to rely on luck to see that they’re treated just like every other child. They deserve to have their family properly recognised, just as we as parents deserve the same legal protections as every other parent.


Right now, I enjoy parental status under the law. My partner does not. She can only collect our daughter from preschool because I have signed a form to say that she can. When our daughter was hospitalised with a breathing problem at 16 months, only I had the power to authorise or refuse treatment. Our children’s birth certificates list just one parent – me – even though both are very aware of having two mummies.


This situation saddens me in a way that defies written description. We are like every other family in almost every respect. We’ve been through sleepless nights when our children were tiny, we’ve marvelled as they have taken their first steps and said their first words. We’ve struggled to keep our relationship on course as we’ve negotiated the rough waters of parenthood. We are just like everyone else. We are not less than. We are equal to.


Legislative change to recognise this reality is incredibly important to us. It’s important because of the practicalities – it will mean we don’t have to fear being legally discriminated against – but it’s also deeply important for what is symbolises.


Our son and daughter are real. They are part of a real family. They have two parents, not one. And they deserve the same legal recognition as every other family.


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Mothers’ Day indulgence

It’s 3.30pm on Mothers’ Day and everyone but me is conked out in a post-lunch stupor. A sign of a good day, no?

Things started in a fairly restrained fashion, with breakfast on the verandah. We had orange and apricot porridge with maple syrup, with a pot of tea for me and a coffee for leigh. Hunter handed out the gifts – nice snuggly warm PJs for me and three pairs of Bonds undies for leigh.

There was a momentary diversion from the merriment when Hunter realised that she would not be receiving any gifts, but she recovered fairly quickly.

For lunch we went to Oatlands House, which is what we also did last year, though last year my mum was with us. It was nice to go to the same place – maybe it’s the start of a tradition. When we went last year, Hugo was not even two weeks old.

Anyway, what began as a refined and rather lovely day became rather less dignified once I made my way to the buffet. I am no great fan of the buffet, usually. I find most are large collections of badly cooked, tasteless slop. But this one was really pretty good last year so I was expecting the same this year…and got it.

I learnt from the lesson of last year and did not eat too much for main course. I had a few pieces of meat, some potatoes, pumpkin, salad and a bread roll. A totally conservative meal if you could overlook the five pieces of potato.

And then came dessert. Oh, dessert.

I knew from last year that there would be a lot to choose from. No, that’s not the right way to express it. That suggests I would be making a selection from the options, as opposed to eating one of just about everything.

Let me try again. I knew from last year that I would be turning up today on a mission to eat a ridiculous amount of dessert. Yep, that sounds closer to the truth.

And I achieved my aim.

I had:

– a chocolate brownie

– a piece of choc-caramel slice

– two (or was it three?) caramel tarts

– a piece of cheesecake

– a berry panna cotta

– apple and rhubarb crumble

and some other caramel thing that I can’t even recall now – I just know there were three varieties of caramel dessert.

Oh, and after that I got four more pieces of potato. And I had one teensy little chocolate with my cup of tea.

Hopefully the new PJs will actually fit…



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The downside to contracting

When you work for yourself, you really have to work for every penny. It seems like that should go without saying, but really I am only just learning this lesson.

When I said I wanted to work 22 hours a week (a lie – I *want* to work about two hours a week. or less) I was thinking about the work-from-home equivalent of spending 22 hours in the office. But it’s nowhere near the same thing.

All you salaried folk get to nick out to the loo, chat with your co-workers, surf the net, make a cuppa and get paid while you’re at it. If it’s a slow day in the office you take home the same amount of money as if it were a busy day.

I only get paid for work I can bill for. And I need to bill for about 22 hours a week to be comfortable. We could get by if I billed for only about 12, but it definitely wouldn’t be comfortable. The belt would be getting tight by about 16 hours per week.

22 hours really doesn’t seem that much, but I am finding I need to put in at least 30 hours at my desk in order to bill for 22. Maybe more.

Because I can’t bill for the time it takes to start the computer or read a brief, or for the few minutes I take to collect my thoughts before I do an interview. And I don’t get paid for all those five minute intervals where I am waiting for something to happen but don’t have time to switch into the headspace to work on something else.

And, worst of all, I don’t get paid a zac for those times when I just can’t focus and need to give my brain a little rest. In my old job, IVP was on the clock. In this job, every minute on IVP is another buck I am not making.

I would estimate that the average worker spends at least 25 per cent of their working time doing things not directly related to their job – chatting with colleagues, writing emails, surfing the net, eating, staring at the wall. Seriously – think about all the things you do in a day that are not absolutely essential to your core job function. Add them up and I expect the number over the course of the week to be at least several hours. For some people (ahem, sister…) there are times when the several hours mark can be reached in one day.

So, now I have to allow for all those hours, then think about trying to fit 22 hours of actual work in on top of all that stuff. Add in a toddler who is at home every day, and a very demanding preschooler who is home on Mondays and Tuesdays. Then the endless round of preschool commitments (today I have to be at a mother’s day afternoon tea at 1.45), doctor’s appointments (Hugo’s due for 12 month jabs) and housework (which, I admit, does not get a great deal of attention from me).

22 hours seemed like a comfortable part time job, until I actually tried to fit it in. If I could get by on three hours sleep a night, I might be okay.

Until next month, anyway – then I’ll be trying to add a full time study load to the schedule.

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The media circus rolls around again – maybe

Our state is finally changing its laws to recognise female same sex parents of children conceived using donor sperm. The changes won’t apply to same sex couples who adopt a child or to male same sex couples who use a surrogate (those topics are being considered separately) but it’s something.

It will mean that the non-bio mother can be on the birth certificate and that she is automatically assumed to be the child’s legal parent. At the moment, the birth mother has parental status and the non-birth mother has no more legal rights than the postie.

It has never presented a big issue for us, but that’s only because we have been lucky. People have, for the most part, been willing to accept us both as the parents of our children, and to treat us accordingly. When Hunter was in hospital a couple of years ago, Leigh was given the same free access to come and go as I was (though I suppose there would have been an issue had she been there alone and needed to authorise a treatment). At preschool the teachers will discuss issues with either of us and are very comfortable with the idea that Hunter has two mums. Our doctor talks to both of us when we’re there with the kids.

But, like I said, that’s just luck. It will mean so much to actually have leigh’s rights as a parent – and our children’s rights to be acknowledged as having two real and equal parents –  enshrined in law. We won’t have to think about whether I should sign paperwork ‘just in case’ or worry that someone may overrule leigh’s word or restrict her access to our children.

The symbolism of the move is at least as important to me as the practical implications. It recognises a shift in the way society thinks about same sex parents and their children. For those who already support our fight for rights, it is a sweet reward. For those who do not, it’s a nice dose of peer pressure.

So this morning we were forwarded an email from the Rainbow Babies group looking for families prepared to participate in media interviews. We’ve volunteered, as we always do. We’ve featured in several magazines now, so perhaps they’ll want some new faces for this campaign (because we’re, you know, way too famous) but if they want us to share our stories, then we will.

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