Category: Diary

Zen MF Progress, Cont.

A little more on this

I had an assumption that the greatest challenges to being a zen motherfucker (as a parent) would be about things like: the child breaks your coffee cup, then spills cereal everywhere, then does a poo on the lounge room rug, then treks the poo through the house, then puts your car key down the heater vent. You know?

But I was wrong. All those things are fine.

I’d prepared myself to let go, to an extent (and I had a long time to adjust to it – from the day the cute little baby does a little piddle on a bath towel) – for example, I can be bummed about a coffee cup breaking, but I know that it’s only a coffee cup, and I know that my kid didn’t mean to upset me, and I know that from now on, I need to push everything further back from the edge of the kitchen bench. I might get annoyed, or be fed up with cleaning up messes again and again and again and again and again, but I can still keep my cool.

Nope, it’s something else that’s the big threat to my Zen MF intention: it’s the inability to proactively and healthily address your issues with irrational toddlers.

Like – if you’re in a relationship, and your partner is doing a bunch of small things that grate on you, you can unhealthily bottle up your frustrations and then bam!, one day you explode. Stupidly and unhelpfully. Or you can figure out a way to proactively address it, maturely and calmly.

Or in the workplace, if you keep being given excuses about why you can’t get a raise to go with your recent advancement in job title (and job responsibilities), and you keep being put on projects as a project manager instead of as a designer (your actual role), you can get all passive-aggressive about it and do rubbish work and surf Facebook all day and furiously bad-mouth the company to everyone you know, or you can proactively and healthily draw a boundary as to how you’re being treated, and choose a path like: a) I will work here for one more year to get a brilliant portfolio and then go for a job at this other company I really like, or b) I will quit and find a better place for me.

But with toddlers! Hahahhahahahah, no.

[Aside: I didn’t understand the distinction of “toddler” before I had kids. I didn’t really know anyone with babies and I lumped all babies together as “babies” and then every other small child was “little kids” and then I guess they eventually looked like “school kids.”]

Toddlers – these cute little energetic balls of curiosity and impulse-driven-behaviour (and love and destruction) – are no longer babies and also not yet ready for kindergarten/preschool, so they’re not preschoolers. You think maybe they can understand things on a logical level, a rational level (“If you pour your water on the floor, I’m taking you to your room, do you want me to take you to your room? No? Okay then, don’t pour your water on the floor.”) – but their curiosity and impulses gets the better of them almost every time, and then they do whatever the heck they want to do, for the 1,207th time. And the 1,208th. And you take them to their room and they cry like THEY NEVER EXPECTED AND NEVER WANTED THIS TO HAPPEN AND HOW CAN YOU BE SO MEAN and then when you let them out maybe they tip some water on the floor for the 1,209th time and then run off happily to up-end a bucket of Lego and hit their sister on the head with a toy saucepan.

So, I can plan to take my breaks. I have (maybe) a couple of hours break every day when the kids are sleeping. If the day’s been hard, then when James comes home from work, he can take over, and I can go for a walk outside. I get my Saturday mornings off. But sometimes you have a certain prepared amount of patience and resilience, and something else comes along – the kids are sick, you get sick too, you can’t take them to play group or occasional care or do the usual activities that would get everyone out of the house and legs-stretched. And then, maybe, you feel like you need help, but you feel silly for asking for help – come on, surely you can deal with the kids, at home, for just one more day? And you’ve all only got the common cold, it’s not that big a deal? And while the younger toddler is having a nap, you can give the older toddler your tablet to play games on, so you get a break for an hour? Like, you can deal, right? It’s hardly a huge deal, compared to so many other possible tough situations in life, right?

And then maybe the younger toddler wakes up from their nap, and the older one has had enough of playing with the tablet, and your down-time is O.V.E.R. and now you are faced with several hours with them and getting everyone lunch-fed (but they’re refusing all their normal foods because they have colds) and then your older toddler takes his toddler headphones apart (they’re not even broken – just taken apart – no big deal, really) and for some reason, it’s the straw that broke the camel’s back. It doesn’t make logical sense. But you get upset. And the older toddler runs over and bops you with a egg-flipper from the kitchen and the younger toddler is eating a book and then the older toddler grabs you from behind and jumps on your back and strangles you and says, “I WANT A PIG BACK RIDE!” and you pull them off and shout, “JUST LEAVE ME ALONE FOR ONE MINUTE,” as you take the parts of the headphones and try to put them back together, and the older toddler runs and jumps on you, “I WANT A PIG BACK RIDE!” and you walk to the bathroom and slam the door shut (I know, what? Am I a teenager?) and they run and grab their step stool and open the bathroom door and you hold the door knob and shout, “JUST LEAVE ME ALONE FOR ONE MINUTE,” and they look stunned as you’re shouting, and you close the door in their face and sit down and try to put the headphones back together with your back against the bathroom door, so they can’t open it, and you can hear them crying and yelling and crying…

And you take a few minutes to calm down.

And then think, what the hell just happened. 

And, how can I make sure this never happens again.

And you go back out and start finding some lunch food for everyone (which will be rejected and rejected and rejected and eventually they will eat two pieces of popcorn each and 1/4 banana and a handful of cereal and sultanas) and think, my goodness, really, how did that happen.

So – all I can think is, if I can see that things might be harder than usual – if everyone is sick, or activities are cancelled or prevented from happening, or whatever – I need to pre-emptively ask for help. I need to ask my family, ask my partner, and say – I am running out of resilience and patience and mind-space at the moment. Maybe?

Slow Work

I am kind of… doing design work for the first time in about 15 years. Very basic design work, for now.


I already had Pixelmator and I’m using the trial of Sketch. When the trial runs out, I’ll decide whether or not to continue with Pixelmator and Sketch, or whether to jump to Adobe.

Cost comparison:
Pixelmator and Sketch $165 ($30 and $135 AUD)
Pshop and Sketch $291 ($156/year and $135)
Adobe Suite $792/year

I’ve been saving lots of image files – pictures of design styles that I like, packaging design/email design/web design, fabulous font faces, colour inspiration and ideas, and assets that I might be able to use at some stage (fonts, patterns, icons), etc. I don’t know whether to save them into Apple Photos, or just into desktop folders, or to use some other software. If anyone has any tips, please tell.

One difficulty has been with getting colours right – sometimes I’ll see a colour that I’d like to use, and I try to approximate it in the software, but it’s very different once printed. So I’m going to buy the Pantone Color Bridge Set (second-hand or new, not sure yet) at some stage, and in the meanwhile, I’ve bought a Palette Cube, so I can grab colours accurately.


I bought a new MacBook – my old one, from 2010, was struggling if I had a few design files open, and only held battery charge for about an hour.

Pros: It works! Backlit keyboard. Thinner, lighter, better resolution, smaller, even more portable. USB-C means I’ll be able to get a battery pack and not have to rely on wall outlets in the future.

Cons: The keys are noisy. There’s no way to type quietly anymore. No MagSafe, so I bet someone will trip over my charging cable and haul the MacBook to the floor. No charge indicator on the charging cable, although I’ve read that another company is making cables that do this.


I’ve been working on Product 1 for about 9 months. It has a lot of artwork, and Alison is creating all the wonderful illustrations while studying and working (her butt off).

I’ve been working on Product 2 for abut 1 month. It only needs me. I’m aiming to send out the trial run next week, to get prototype feedback.

I try to work for an hour a day. I should call the business Snail Mail.


This week, I found out that CMD + Shift + Left/Right Arrow moves you through Safari tabs. For years I’d set up my own keyboard shortcuts! But they were there already! Dope.

End of May

I’ve been tired/sick, so only posted music for a while! I’m so behind on my to-do list.

On Friday, James had a day off and I slept most of the day. Oompf.

I had my morning-off today. It was lovely. It makes such a difference to how I feel (like my own person, not a person who just exists for les children) and how easy it is to parent (I have more patience, attention, ideas, resilience, energy).


I’ve been thinking about how ~ ~ ~ ~ you will inevitably get better at whatever you do everyday, so what do I want to get better at?

I’ll be getting better (hopefully) at being a parent. Can’t kick that daily habit. I would like to get better at graphic design, maybe? And supporting myself with my own business. The latter one is a priority, so I’m working on that every day. I’m toying with the former. Trying it on for size.


I’ve recently appreciated these articles:

You should’ve asked by Emma

Fathers pay more attention to toddler daughters than sons, study shows – The Guardian

Neuralink and the Brain’s Magical Future by Tim Urban

And this video – Hank Green on “Redefining What it Means to Matter.”

I don’t know why I wasn’t into the Vlogbros a million years ago. Michelle has loved them since the beginning. My sister loves them. I am late to all the parties.

ALSO. I didn’t think I was a fan of Chris Martin or Coldplay, but I was watching carpool karaoke videos last night and I found this one seriously dorky and delightful. Martin sure seems like a happy fellow!


I started reading Infinite Jest, read it for about a week, then didn’t pick it up for about a week, no, two weeks… and thought, heck, I’m not enjoying this. Let’s move on.*

So now I’m reading Jumper and Tools of Titans.


I’m still working on my small business. I knew it would take a long time to get off the ground, and I knew that everyone underestimates how long something like this takes, and yet I still did. Oh, human! We’ve been working on it (as our side project) since October last year. We’ve come a long way… and yet. Still so much to do.


* Jeepers, I got sidetracked and just read this amazing review of Infinite Jest!

Gender Neutral Baby, Addendum

A friend asked me if I had any thoughts on innate gender differences, seeing as I’ve a toddler boy and girl, and I’ve written about trying to keep things gender neutral before.

I had to say, I can’t tell any innate differences due to gender so far, but my kids have very different personalities (surprise, surprise!), so who’s to know what’s innately a gender difference and what’s just personality?

My boy is very inquisitive, physically active, and enjoys a lot of stimuli. He’s always trying to figure out why things are the way they are, and how they work. But as much as he can be go-go-go, he also really needs his rest, loves his comfort toys, loves sleeping, and is a deep sleeper. He’s all go or all stop.

My girl is more even stevens. She’ll be active, but at a slower pace. She watches and then makes up her mind how she feels about something, rather than diving in and reacting with a range of emotions as she goes. She’ll come over for a hug and to sit on my lap, having a mini rest, then she’ll be off again. She’s more of a light sleeper.

The gender differences that society continues to push, however, never cease to blow my mind. I’m prepared for the ones I know – that my kids will be bombarded with images of sexualised / objectified women in the media, but the men aren’t portrayed that way; that people will tell my daughter she’s pretty and comment on her clothes, whereas they’ll tell my son that he’s clever and busy; that there are more books with male protagonists than female. Yeah, I knew all those would happen. I try to counteract them as much as possible.

(It’s not something I like talking about, because I find it depressing.)

Recently, a couple of extra punches to the gut:

  1. In kids’ TV shows, female protagonists/characters are rare (see below)
  2. I bought a range of boys’ (blue blue blue) and girls’ (colourful!) clothing for my boy, so my girl is now wearing his hand-me-downs, and I’ve noticed how much the cut of the clothing differs, and how they are treated differently because of it. Boys’ clothing is straight cut, girls’ clothing is skinny and fitted. I didn’t notice this when my boy was wearing the range of styles, although I did remember thinking he looked a bit hipster sometimes – but when my girl wears the boys’ clothing, I see how “unusual” it looks on a girl – the baggier style makes her look older and tougher than she actually is, whereas when she’s wearing form-fitting girls’ clothes, she looks more dainty, tiny, fragile, younger, sweeter. Imagine that – just the cut of their clothes is making people assume one child is sweeter. Oof. It all starts right here.

C’est ça. I try my best.


Kids’ shows that my kids watch, and gender of characters

Male protagonist(s) (13)

  • Baby Jake
  • Bing 
  • Daniel Tiger
  • Pocoyo
  • Shaun the Sheep
  • Giggle and Hoot 
  • Peter Rabbit
  • Thomas the Tank Engine 
  • Kazoops
  • Little Roy
  • Dinosaur Train
  • Boj
  • Hey Duggee

Group cast, mostly male characters (5)

  • Octonauts
  • Go Jetters
  • Sesame Street
  • The Wiggles 
  • In the Night Garden

Equal female/male (6)

  • Charlie and Lola
  • Ben and Holly
  • Play School
  • Twirlywoos
  • Teletubbies
  • Sarah and Duck 

Female protagonist(s) (4) 

  • Lah-Lah 
  • Olivia 
  • Peppa Pig 
  • Mofy

When our birth rate is about 51% boys and 49% girls, you’d expect that the characters in entertainment would reflect this. But nope, we are still the second sex. That’s what my son and daughter are learning. And as for the representation of any other peoples… 


P.s. In related news, Fathers pay more attention to toddler daughters than sons, study shows


So after the figuring-out-that-you’re-unhappy and the working-on-it and the exploring-ways-to-be-happier and the changing-things-in-your-life and then figuring-out-that-you-gain-happiness-from-personal-growth and the working-on-that and then getting-frustrated-you-don’t-know-what-to-get-better-at and the reading-books-on-that and the exploring-different-options and then the changing-your-life-with-fewer-distractions and gaining-more-discipline and finding-out-more-what-you-like-doing and then working-at-it and working-at-it and working-at-it and feeling-pretty-good-because-you’re-disciplined-and-working-on-stuff and also understanding-that-you-can-enjoy-the-process-not-just-a-finished-product and experiencing-general-satisfaction-and-wellbeing (breath!) maybe, just maybe, you get to a day where you’re-putting-work-into-things-but-don’t-really-have-anything-to-show-for-it and maybe, just maybe, you think: What will make me feel like I’ve actually done something / gotten somewhere / got something to show for my work? And you think about it and decide: I need to have a “ship” list. And: I need to figure out what I can produce, at the end of the day/week/month/year, that will make me feel like I’ve gotten somewhere and made something. And ship it!


P.s. We received the first feedback from one of our trial run customers and it was very positive, which is excellent! I’ve registered the business name and all that shebang, so now we are working on finalising the product and suppliers and costs and so on. I guess all my life I’ve been accustomed to making things in companies, so when you think up an idea, you have various people making it happen, and you have a project timeline that seems entirely reasonable – plan all phases, work on phase 1, prototype, test, phase 1 launch, refine, work on phase 2, prototype, test, phase 2 launch, refine, etc. But when it’s just a couple of people, and it’s not your full-time job… whoa! That timeline looks BONKERS. Like, it’s going to take years until you have a product together! Okay then. I’ll keep working.

W.A.S.T.E. T i m e

A million years ago, I used to make little graphics for my websites, and I’d lose millions of hours doing it (in a good way). I’ve spent my spare minutes this week ~lost in the flow~ playing around with graphics, ideas, colours, shapes, fonts.

When I (almost accidentally) read The Happiness Project back in 2012 and thought it was fantastic and started working on being happier, I did some exercises here and there (from The Happiness Project, from The Artist’s Way, from other books) on how do I lose time / what is my flow. I was constantly stuck answering that question, because I had made my sensible adult life efficient and devoid of frivolous meandering – I was good at UX, so why would I code anymore, why would I do any graphic design anymore, why would I make music anymore, why would I make videos anymore? (etc.)

I thought, if I couldn’t answer that exercise question, then I must be really hopeless. I thought I should know the answer immediately. And if I didn’t know the answer, maybe I hadn’t even found my thing yet. Which was also kind of awful, because I didn’t know how to go about looking for my thing.

Four years later though, I see how long it’s taken me to get here, to relearn all this stuff that I used to enjoy. Four years to un-efficient myself and to be OK dawdling for hours making graphics and coming up with names for potential products and planning and brainstorming ideas and creating gifts.

I recently read The Dance of the Possible: the mostly honest completely irreverent guide to creativity by Scott Berkun, and the first chapters (I think about the first five chapters?) were great, and Berkun mentions this phenomenon about how we become more efficient as we Adult, and how we stop wasting time/exploring/playing. Yup.