Improved 36 month assessment quiz

1. Place a toy on a soft level surface. Without support, can your child find a way to injure an eye or extremity within 30 seconds?

☐  Yes
☐  No
☐  Oh Jesus, get some ice QUICK

2. Can your child make a 3 or 4 word sentence? Does it make you doubt your formerly unshakeable beliefs regarding life/death/science? eg:

“How do germs think?”
“Why are all these smoked salmons dead?”
“Where was I before I was in your tummy?”

3. Without help, can your child put on a coat, jacket or shirt by herself?

☐  No
☐  God no
☐  If anything, child is now less dressed than when we started.

4. With your child watching, line up 4 blocks in a row. Does your child:

☐  Copy you
☐  Sob hysterically and demand new blocks
☐  Injure an eye or extremity within 30 seconds

5. Draw a straight line for your child to copy, like this:

Which most closely resembles your child’s line?

☐  Exuberant markmaking

☐  “Jellyfish wearing gloves.”

6. Does your child jump and run like others of the same age? Are you satisfied that they are wholly convinced of their own athletic prowess? Are you regularly called upon to gasp at their superhuman abilities? How are you preparing for the moment when your child has to run an actual race and comes second-last only because a kindly teaching assistant feigned cramp?

7. Overall, do you agree that your three year old fits into one of the officially recognised preschooler personality categories?

☐  Nic Cage mo-capping Red Fraggle
☐  Foil left in microwave
☐  Sentient lacrimal gland officiates onion wedding
☐  Shouty

Please sign this form and present it at your scheduled 36 month assessment. If you have any concerns about your child’s development in the interim, consult your local bus stop, where you will find cheerful seniors willing to share since-discredited advice from the late 1940s.

Lost in bag:

Life coaching with Steve

I’m having a rough week (it’s Monday), and Imaginary Life Coach Hugh Jackman is literally off partying with Trumps. I’ve drafted in Steve Rogers as my emergency back-up, but I’m not entirely sure we’re a good match.

Dear Steve Rogers,

Thanks for agreeing to be my new Imaginary Life Coach, you seem fairly ethical.

The last few weeks have been challenging for me as a neurotic parent, as my pre-schooler has been gleefully exposed to both minor explosives (‘fireworks’) and major gourd-based fire hazards. To further tempt certain death, she insists on wearing a sparky nylon costume within a half-mile radius of many of these pursuits.

When will this madness end? And how many times is it acceptable to shout ‘BE CAREFUL!’ in any given day?

Yours sweatily,


Steve says:

Miss, many thanks for your correspondence. I sincerely hope we can work together despite my busy schedule of politically unauthorised ass-kicking and troubled frowning.

Seems to me that while we’re very cautious with today’s children, they are certainly exposed to ever-greater risk. When I was a kid, we spent Halloween throwing rocks or contracting scarlet fever, but now everyone’s under pressure to dress up as a sexy pain au chocolat and set a cat on fire.

You can never be too careful, and a stern verbal warning is almost as effective as a righteous punch in the spleen. You may also like to experiment with ‘DANGER!’, ‘FALL BACK!’ and ‘YOU ARE NOT COVERED BY MY EMPLOYER’S OTHERWISE-GENEROUS HEALTHCARE PLAN.’

As costumes go, would she consider a Lycra mix, or a Kevlar-based ballistic component?

Yours etc,

Imaginary Steve Rogers

Dear Steve,

Is it ever acceptable to eat a Barny Bear for breakfast? What if you’re in a rush and you forgot to buy Ready Brek?

Yours carbtastically,


Steve says:

Good morning.

Let’s be serious – there are three main food groups to focus on if you want to look buff, catch bad guys, and outlive literally everyone you know. Canned beans. Peanut butter. Fruit-based pie. That’s it. Eat a Barny Bear for breakfast if you want, but God help you the next time you have to catch a helicopter with your bare hands. Hand.


Dear Steve,

Did you know you can put Sudocreme on razor burn? I dunno, my last guy was chattier.


Steve says:

Noted. Sorry.

Thanks Steve. Maybe don’t invest in the NVQ just yet.

More weird stuff like this:
Life coaching with Hugh
More life coaching with Hugh
Man, I feel like a WAHM-argh



My Epic Journey to See Hamilton, or How I Took My Anxiety Disorder On A Road Trip And You Totally Can Too*

This is the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever written, mostly cause I know it’ll come back to haunt me forevermore, but I know that documenting this stuff online can be v useful for anyone else frantically Googling their own postnatal insanity. Hello, intrepid Googlenaut! How are you? Dig deep! I believe in you!

*Not my disorder, obviously, it’s been through enough. Take your own baggage to London already.

October 2016

They see me rollin’, they ghostin’

Fourteen months postpartum, while I’m still madder than a box of frogs, I am now almost passing as a normal human adult. I can take the baby to the shops (sweating), I can sleep in a roughly horizontal position, only waking (sweatily) once or twice each night to check the room temperature, baby’s temperature, baby’s nappy and which of my favourite celebrities have died.

Some of my 2015 baby cohorts have returned to work, gone on exciting holidays and even, WHAT, got pregnant again, while many of my other non-baby friends have ditched me in alarm or possibly disgust. Turns out everyone has hashtag-time-to-talk about mental illness until it involves a lot of acting weird and dressing like a scarecrow, at which point they want you to shut up and go away. Fair.

But! None of this matters because Jim has exciting news (although this grab suggests Chris swooped in on the act):

Yep, I can’t yet leave my kid in a room alone for 5 minutes while I pee, but SURE I’ll be able to leave her overnight to go and see a show! I’ve got ages! I just need to chunk this task down into steps. Really fucking stupid steps.

November 2016

Like a room with a really low roof

I jitterbug to the GP and explain that the CBT approach of ‘happiness is a choice!’ is the mental health equivalent of ‘amoebic dysentery is a valid lifestyle option!’ I need the drugs.

I score 20/21 on the HADS-A test and come out with a Sertraline prescription and a lot of feels, including shame and hunger. Shunger.

January 2017

The drugs actually do work

My skin is clearing. My hairline marches forward to meet my glorious Gandalf eyebrows. I leave Ada sleeping alone on occasion. She fails to explode or vanish while I eat dinner, so I get bolder and watch TV with Chris sometimes.

I watch the movie Iron Man on my phone a lot, trying to adopt the can-do attitude required to escape an Afghan cave, only instead of an Afghan cave it’s a bungalow in Dundee, and instead of an electromagnetically-powered armour and a vengeful rebel warlord it’s anything-not-pyjamas and one cheerful toddler. Chris gives me a tiny Iron Man to carry around, although Ada keeps trying to eat him.

January 2017

This is the road to well

Next is a big step in two tiny stepettes – Ada needs to first be socialised, then left with Someone Who Isn’t Me. And before I can do that, I need to get to some out-of-the-way places. Which means… driving.

Driving includes everything anxiety sufferers hate – danger, quick decision-making, and unpredictable situations. Also, sometimes people will beep their horns at you if you hesitate for too long at a roundabout. Just typing that makes my eyeballs twitch.

I drive Ada to the nearby supermarket. I drive her to the less-nearby soft play. I drive her to Arbroath! Although that’s accidental – I missed the turning for Dobbies. These traumatic daily outings leave me shaky and with an alarming electrolyte imbalance, but we are free and meeting people. People from Arbroath!

Meanwhile, Hamiltalk has gone military.

April 2017

Grandma, we love you

Ada recognises my parents and will stay with them for an hour at a time. Indeed, she will often favour Grandma over me, if biscuits are involved. She is terrified of literally everyone else, particularly the scary baby at playgroup who hogs the xylophone. I accidentally make an enemy of scary baby’s mum and become a playgroup dropout, shunned from Broughty Ferry church-hall-based society.

August 2017

Blue Monday. Also Fridays.

Nursery. Nursery is brutal. Ada cries all the way there, and for the first few weeks has to be pried from my arms screaming ‘NO MUMMY!’ as I cheerfully wave ‘Bye bye, have fun!’. I spend the sessions waiting in the library across the road, shaking and trying not to throw up. My mind has blanked the following three months, meaning I probably spent them sleeping in my clothes on Ada’s bedroom floor. On the upside, my hair looks GOOD.

Christmas 2017

Looking for a mind at work

I now have a job, it is awesome. In the week leading up to my first day, Ada is ambulanced to hospital for a breathing problem then almost lops a finger off in a freak crafting accident, while I get viral sinusitis and about four hours of sleep. I wash up in the office in much the same way Tom Hanks washed up to that really huge cargo ship; bearded and disbelieving. I am giddy.

Chris experiences his first screaming nursery drop-off and is so traumatised he says it takes him a full morning to recover.

Over in Hamiltalk, Jim has now actually seen Hamilton! He has passed into a another realm; one we cannot truly understand.

January 2018

In the still of the night

Grandma and Grandad stay overnight at ours ‘to see Ada’s bedtime routine.’ Ada is terribly excited and goes down swinging after 90 minutes of stroking my hair and recounting Tinkerbell’s origin story, like Gina Ford’s worst nightmare. Good luck, guys.

February 2018

In the eye of a hurricane there are dumplings

It is time. We dress as if for work, drop Ada at nursery, then drive to Edinburgh airport. I haven’t fully decided if I’m actually going to step on a plane yet – at this point, I’d consider a departure lounge burrito and a tear-streaked drive home a pretty good day out at any rate.

I get on a plane. The plane takes off. I have left a scrappy note granting my parents temporary guardianship in the event of a terrorist incident or aeronautical catastrophe.

We land at Stansted and my Apple Watch notes that my heart rate is that of a hummingbird on a rollercoaster.

I eat 10 gyoza and practice my Instaskillz.

I’m having a low-level out-of-body experience. I wish Iron Man was here.

We sit down. We watch the show. I know it’s only a stupid musical and one stupid night away, but it’s everything. I can’t believe we made it.

Thank you everyone who helped us on our way to Hamilton.

Also? If anyone writes a musical about Tinkerbell’s origin story, I am THERE. After a fashion.

More life coaching with Hugh

Imaginary Hugh Jackman answers the questions that no one but me was asking. At 3am. In my head.

Dear Hugh,

I don’t really understand what Uber is. I thought it was… well, I told my husband what I thought it was, and he laughed at me for ages but then didn’t correct me. I think maybe it’s more of a London thing, but I haven’t lived there since bendy-buses and I’m woefully out of touch. 

Also, all my friends use Air B&B, but I feel this is surely the best way to wake up wrapped in tinfoil while someone lists your pancreas on eBay?

Please advise!

Mate, forget it. You know how I get around? I walk, like a man. Or prowl, like a grizzly. Or jack a motorcycle from a barn, ride it through a wall and bang it down a dirt track, raking the ground with my mighty claws any time I want to execute a parking manoeuvre. And no, none of that was meant to sound dirty, grow up.

What’s Uber? I dunno, Google it, get the app, get over it. But yeah, if someone says you can stay in their outhouse in Vanves for ten Euro and a Twix then they are definitely going to rob you blind, photograph your junk and send your thumbs back to your mother in a fur-lined matchbox. We all know that, come on.

Dear Hugh,

Is it acceptable to send my toddler to her new nursery with a glossary of all the mad shit she keeps repeating? For example, at the moment she walks up to me twice a day and insists “We don’t do magic, we’re elves! HADOO!” But because she’s two, it just sounds like she’s speaking in tongues through a malfunctioning Darth Vader mask. And what if the nursery people aren’t even aware of the complex socio-political themes of Ben & Holly’s Magic Kingdom? Should I propose a weekly vocabulary summit?

Yours helicopteringly,


Yeah, go on, have a summit, and why not make it daily? Or better, just follow the kid around wearing an interpreter headset, like at the UN. Or, you know, you could actually take advantage of the wildly qualified daycare professionals and go home and do some work.

I’m gonna tell you what I told my arch-nemesis and noted Dundonian, William Stryker, when I was skewering him in X-Men 2: “How does it feel, Bub?” That might not mean anything to you, but frankly these movies ain’t Shakespeare and it was slim pickings, right? Right.

Hey Hugh,

Several younger friends are all over Instagram with photos of their pregnant bellies cradled in wildflower meadows, plus pristine nurseries, swaddles hand-knitted in musk ox, piles of tasteful paperbacks they’re planning to read and usually some kind of ambitious quilting project for when the baby’s napping. Am I duty-bound to tell them to cover everything in tarps, buy a shitload of frozen pizzas and mentally prepare some brutal late-night insults for their significant other? I feel bad for them.

Sure, if you want to send them into a goddamn meltdown. You want me to tell you that you’ve got perimenopause and Type 2 diabetes in your near-future? Or that one day you’re finally gonna grind your molars into dust and you’ll have to eat creamed corn for the rest of your life? No.

If someone had warned me, back in 1886, that I’d soon have terrifying retractable bone claws, become a fugitive murderer, fight in all of the 20th Century’s most attractively-uniformed wars, kill or maim pretty much every woman I’ve ever loved, be forcibly weaponised by a shady military organisation then press-ganged into a team of mutant do-gooders, you know what I’d’ve done? EXACTLY ALL OF THAT.

So shut your mouth and send them a sack of organic cashews or whatever in three months when the pictures get all blurry and insane.

Imagined own-brand confectionery design meeting, Friday 4.35pm, Morrisons HQ

CONFECTIONERY DEVELOPMENT MANAGER: Right guys, let’s get through this, I’ve got a make-or-break trip to Gdansk tonight and I’ve got like three tabs open. So, here we go, a nice easy one. It’s an own-brand Snickers, yeah? Just make it look like they’re going fast and do a great big trophy or medal or something. Done.


MARKETING REP: Yes, what it is, is they used to be called – well, it was about 20 years ago now, but I suppose some people do think of them as –

CONFECTIONERY DEVELOPMENT MANAGER: Look, it’s done! Medal! Zooming! Okay. 


Right, Penguins. Who cares, no one’s eaten a Penguin since 1992. What else could suggest ‘penguin’ in the mind of the consumer? Make them think ‘Shit, it’s a cheap Penguin!’?

MARKETING REP: Ice? Snowflakes?

GRAPHIC DESIGNER: What about some Arctic animals, like bears and stuff?



CONFECTIONERY DEVELOPMENT MANAGER: Mars bars. So, it’s a spacey vibe, Mars, stars, astroglide, whatever:

I guess?

CONFECTIONERY DEVELOPMENT MANAGER: Twix. I’m really stuck on this one, let’s word associate.



CONFECTIONERY DEVELOPMENT MANAGER: What do I even pay you idiots for? It’s FINE, Daddy’s got it. As always:

Now everyone get home and get some damn sleep. I need you fresh on Monday to think of new breakfast cereal names. Fucking board said no to ‘Special J’.

Man, I feel like a WAHM-argh

We’re up all night to get mum. We’re up all night to kill mummy.

People often say to me ‘Jenny, how do you write words for money AND look after a toddler all day long?’ and ‘How do you come up with column ideas while sleep deprived?’ and ‘What’s that smell? I think it’s coming from the sink?’ So here are my top tips for being a work-at-home mum, huzzah!

Wear real clothes

Slobbing around in your pyjamas all day makes it really difficult to get into work mode; I find the most efficient way to maintain a srz bznz persona is to sleep fully dressed. Stick a discounted Joules blazer over that rumpled fine knit and you’ll look like a goddamn professor when the Tesco man arrives at half-past sadface.

Interstitial time

Use small idle moments to work on other tasks. Waiting for the bath to fill? Load the washing machine! Call centre keeping you on hold? Wipe down the kitchen surfaces! Toddler insisting you help her crawl up and down the stairs over and over again? Develop a complex imaginary relationship with your favourite X-Man! Awaiting the sweet release of death? Chop up some vegetables for dinner! Note that none of these tasks will ever be completed, leaving you feeling like Martha Stewart has attacked your home with a mallet.

Write anything, anywhere, whenever

It’s important to develop your own USP. Mine is ‘Scarecrow woman blindly pecks out acceptable copy on her phone at 3am. Sometimes in the car*.’

Let your toddler help

Ada loves to help out around the house! From inspecting the contents of the bin to sticking crayons up the hoover, it’s amazing how the most mundane tasks can become an enrichment opportunity. Or a trip to A+E.

Drink a lot of coffee

How much coffee do you currently drink? Double it. If it’s not yet dawn, add condensed milk.

Listen to Chris

Chris says I should conclude this post by pointing out how unsuccessful I am at sane WAHMing lest I come across as some kind of smugpants princess lazybones. Done. #coffeetime

*Parked. Safety first, insomniacs!

Shameless self-promotion, December edition

Here, in a bid to convince Google-happy employers of the future that I didn’t (just) sit on the floor eating bonbons for the whole of 2016, are some actual real-life places you can find my work this month. If you want, I mean. No pressure. Bonbon?

Ohhhhhhh Comely

Be the sexiest mofo in your local artisanal coffee house with issue 34 of Oh Comely. It includes my piece about returning to the motherland, but don’t let that put you off – there’s also pretty photography! And time travel! And other writers who don’t throw exclams around like cheap confetti at a 1960s wedding! Check out the sampler then buy it here and head to Costa, tiger.

99 problems but a chainstitch ain’t one

What do you mean, you haven’t yet crocheted a giant retro stocking for your child/partner/cat? Do you have hands and eyes? Then there is no excuse. I made this in a weekend and my fingers almost fell off – totally worth it. Find the pattern in Your Crochet Christmas and get your RSI on this December.

BONUS: Make two and you can use them as actual stockings for a giant or someone with elephantitis of the legs.

Is this real life? Better, it’s MacLife!

I have something in super-awesome US tech title MacLife this month. Do I remember what? No. Is it good? Maybe. Does it feature passive-aggressive mention of something weird my husband does? Almost certainly. Perhaps long-suffering editor Matt will step in and help us out. I’m sure he has nothing better to do SORRY MATT I TRIED. #brandscaping

Edit: Thanks Matt! January 2017 issue, I share my efforts to stop eating like every meal is my last. 

But wait, there’s also some award humblebragging

Chris and I won a PPA Scotland award! Sure, it was in a novelty category, but frankly the same could be said for most of my lifetime achievements. Thank you, PPA! Fistbump!

I want to be in the room where FAQs happen, or Hamilton: a quick-start guide

Haha, have you heard there’s a musical about, like, the first US treasury secretary Alexander Hamilton? A hip-hop musical?

Yep, I told you about it ages ago. To be fair, you probably didn’t listen because I was sweating and shedding like a thyroid-addled greyhound at the time.

Is there like, rapping? Do the founding fathers rap and ‘bust moves’? Because that’s hilarious!

Uh-huh. *examines nails*

I dunno, sounds kind of gimmicky…

Look, you can spend a few weeks scrunching up your nose at the very thought of Hamilton or you can CLIMB ON BOARD THIS SEXY BANDWAGON NOW AND RENEW YOUR ENTHUSIASM FOR LIFE AND CRY HAPPY TEARS AND THANK ME LATER.

Wow. Okay, relax, god. So where should I start, this thing is about a thousand hours long. Also I know nothing about US history or politics and I don’t really like hip-hop. Or musicals. Or things that other people like, because I am a special snowflake with unique and quirky tastes.

Get over yourself, princess; you’ll love this, I promise. You don’t want to be like one of those oddballs who refuses to watch Star Wars, do you? DO YOU?


No. Exactly. Okay, so the speediest way in is probably:

Watch creator Lin-Manuel Miranda perform an early version of the opening number at the White House in 2009 – notice how everyone laughs at the beginning… but not for long. Also notice Michelle Obama snapping along. 😍 Uh, turn the subtitles on if, like me, you are old.

Love it a little bit already? Course you do! Now check out the full cast performing the same number in 2016. Look at those costumes. LOOK AT THEM.

Now go about your life as usual until you start getting the creeping earworms that invade your brain and dreams and conversations with concerned friends and family.

Yep. Okay. Okay. I’m totally with you. Now what? I am a functioning adult with a fulfilling career and social life. I don’t have time to follow two hours of governmental wrangling in the form of dope rhymes!

Hey, no need to brag, Busy McBusykins. First get on Spotify and listen to the first three tracks which are like a juggernaut of blinding magnificence that will make you question the point of your existence. Probably. Then if you’re feeling intimidated by the rest of the album, check out the plot summary on Wikipedia – you can hop around listening to the juicy bits that interest you like Say No To This (sex!), Stay Alive Reprise (death!), Yorktown (war!), Guns & Ships (guns! Also ships!), The Room Where It Happens (political banjo!).

Wait… it’s happening! I can’t stop listening to Hamilton and also telling people about Hamilton and please help me ahhhh!

Shh, you’re safe here on the bandwagon. Just relax into it.

I feel like I can rap now. Can I rap now? Am I a rapper?

No you’re not. And neither am I. Rapping is for the privacy of your own shower, like hair removal and secret leftover pizza.

Gotcha. So can I buy tickets to Hamilton London?

You can certainly try – check out the website here then sob a bit because you’ve missed priority sign-up. LOL, should’ve listened to the crazy sweaty lady back in April, suckah!

Um, thanks. To whom should I address all further concerns?

No problem. First rule of Hamilton Club is ‘Tweet Jim, he’ll know’. Second rule is ‘Secret shower pizza is secret’.

Back from the brink with an iPhone and debit card autofill


I have had a baby, it is not going well; sadly because she is sleeping through the night at a freakish 5 weeks old, no one takes any of my problems seriously. 

The baby is knackered but only naps if I rock her on my lap in a dark, silent room. I take to devouring eBooks on my iPhone, the first one I read is Room.

Room is incredible and, for a book set almost entirely in one room, unexpectedly thrilling. I read it during the hours and hours I am (at least voluntarily) trapped in a dark room with my child, not noticing the irony until it’s over and I start wondering if I could roll myself up in a rug and ask Chris to pop me outside on bin day.


I have been diagnosed with a post-natal hormone disorder and severe anxiety. Much of my hair has fallen out, I have awful skin and I sweat all the time. I am sent to a therapist who makes me download an app called iWorry Lite; I have to upgrade to the paid version after 24 hours because I have too many worries. Chris finds this darkly hilarious. The baby gets her first cold.

I watch a bit of Australia on my phone each night, then fall asleep listening to David Mitchell’s Back Story and Bill Bryson’s The Life & Times of the Thunderbolt Kid on repeat.

I like memoir audiobooks, mainly because you don’t lose the plot when you fall asleep (although I have, arguably, lost the plot). These two are my favourites; I listen to them over and over, Chris eventually buying me fancy low-profile Bluetooth headphones so that the baby doesn’t develop some kind of Pavlovian narcolepsy every time she hears David Mitchell on a panel show.


I am a little better. The baby sits up. I resign from my job and become oddly unmoored. I do an online writing class and read Sarah Crossan’s amazing One, all on my phone. Jim recommends I listen to Hamilton and I buy that too, so the whole month is spent in verse, with weird couplets running around my head. 

I manage to make Hamilton’s massive political and ideological themes all about my ridiculous little life; I do need to rise up! I’m not stupid! I do think these pants look hot!

I fail to convince anyone else to get into Hamilton, so I rap Scottishly at the baby. My inner life has become strange but vast as my outer life has shrunk to mashing pears and inspecting poop.


We have moved to the motherland! On our first afternoon in our new town I run into an aunt, and the following day my dad visits and plays blocks with Ada. We put a tent in the garden and she laughs at the wind and pulls up fistfuls of grass. For the first time, I am parenting solo for most of the week; it’s not as bad as I expect. I get some writing work; Chris builds me a desk but I still do most of it one-thumbed on my phone.

I buy the new Star Wars film. I’ve been holding out for a quiet night to watch it on the big screen TV, but I’ve decided to watch it in snatches on my phone as the poorly baby clings to me in her sleep. It’s fine. It’s fun! Life is easier now I’ve accepted that Me Time comes in minutes and seconds rather than days and hours.

Now I’m watching Lady Dynamite, a hilarious Netflix show about Maria Bamford’s descent into and recovery from mental illness. I recognise her flashbacks like they are mine; the raggedy clothes, the exhaustion, the social awkwardness, the confused friends, the keen attempts to use therapy strategy in real life situations, the staring, the blue winter light. You must watch it! Except you, mum, it’s very rude.

I get a lot of flak, usually from older people, for always having my phone in my pocket or on the counter or in the baby’s drooling maw, but it has honestly saved my sanity many times over during this hardest of hard years. Get a good smartphone, pregnant ladies, you won’t regret it.