Field Trip Fail.

Ceremonial Mace

Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while will know that my eldest daughter, Matilda, has a passion for politics.  Matilda’s favourite TV show is Behind the News and she would be happy to watch footage of Clive Palmer trying to get out of a sports car all day long.  A couple of years ago, when asked to write a story for Religious Education about two friends who had a big fight and then forgave each other, she wrote about Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard.

When I first started to think about homeschooling Matilda, before I’d even started to think about curriculum, I knew I wanted to go on an excursion with her to Parliament House in the city.

At first, we had hoped to go on a ‘Role Play’ tour (where school kids get to dress up as the Speaker, the Serjeant-at-Arms etc), but I would have needed to organise a larger group.  I had also toyed with the idea of going to watch our local member give a long and boring speech on some local issue, but that proved a little tricky too (seeing as though I never did anything other than think “that’s a nice idea“).  In the end, I decided to keep things simple for our first visit and do an ‘off-the-street’ tour, which run on the half hour.

The day started pleasantly enough. We caught the tram in without any issues. Harry happily counted trams out of his window (he went nuts when we passed the depot), Matilda read her library book, Annie had a nice long nap and I was able to sneak in some crochet time. When we reached the city, we explored Fitzroy Gardens and had an early picnic lunch at Treasury Gardens (I didn’t want them to be hungry and cranky when we got there). We then wandered up to Parliament House to catch the 12pm tour. It was here we hit our first snag: tours did run on the half hour, but took a break from 11:30 – 1pm for lunch. No matter. I set my phone alarm for 12:45, and after running a few errands, we traipsed over to Treasury House next door to have a look.

The little museum at Treasury House was so interesting that Matilda asked if we could stay there a little longer and take the 1:30 tour instead. Accordingly, at 1:25pm, we stumbled up all the Parliament House steps, dragging the stroller behind us.

Parliament House

Source: Wikimedia Commons

We walked through the metal detectors, got our bags scanned and were emblazoned with security stickers. As we approached the main door, I noticed the tour guide was glaring at us and gesturing that we hurry. We were late! I checked the time. No. We weren’t.

We had to leave all our bags at the front desk, along with the stroller. My heart sank and I panicked a little at the thought of a free-range Annie. This was going to be harder than I’d planned.

We were soon joined by a small group of tourists and an attractive young woman who looked like she might be studying for her PhD (based on no evidence at all. My brain just decides these things for me). She was fascinated by the Parliament and seemed like a grown-up version of Matilda.

The tour guide peered down at Annie and Harry the same way a nurse might study an infected wound. “Will they be able to cope with this tour?”, she demanded in a tone that left no question of her severe doubts.

I flashed my most charming smile, “I’m sure we’ll manage,” I cooed, in a display of radiant confidence. The voice in my head disagreed loudly.

We walked into the Queen’s Hall. Annie and Harry skipped joyfully around the large space, which we had to ourselves, whilst Matilda listened politely to the rules. The tour guide stopped mid-sentence, “you really mustn’t let these children stray too far from the group.”, she snapped at me (her tone said: “you really are the worst mother I’ve ever seen”). In scarlet confusion, I scooped Annie up and grabbed hold of Harry’s hand. Annie began to grumble. I shushed her.

The tour guide was now telling us some facts about Australia’s levels of government. It would seem she was less confident of her material when she wasn’t talking about the rules. As she floundered through State and Federal jurisdictions, an evil thought entered my head: perhaps she might ask Matilda for help? Tilly knew all this stuff back-to-front. The tour guide abruptly yanked me out of my reverie. “I’m sorry, I can’t do this!” she exclaimed, “that is really disturbing me. I cannot do my job while he is doing that”, I looked to where she was pointing. Harry was quietly twirling on the spot, arms outstretched. She glared at me as I ushered Harry and Annie to a step at the side of the room. “This really isn’t a tour for children. They just don’t have the attention span!”. My scalp prickled with shame.

Annie, sensing my stress, was becoming more and more agitated. She made booming announcements for everybody’s benefit. “Let me GO, Mummy! I want to WALK!”, “Don’t say ‘SHUSH’, Mummy!”, “I don’t LIKE this!”, “LET ME GO!”. I let her sit on the step next to me and she calmed down a little bit. In my bag were toy cars, crayons, dinosaurs and finger puppets.  Unfortunately, my bag was locked in a cupboard at the front desk.

I was feeling a little bad for the tour guide. I remember what it was like to be a nervous student teacher. Maybe this was her first day or something. If she wasn’t confident of the material she was presenting, or was not a confident public speaker, distractions could be torture. At the same time, I wasn’t sure what I could do about it. The rules were very strict: once you joined a tour, there was no leaving the group (otherwise, the terrorists win).

Queen Victoria in Queen's Hall

But by now I had bigger problems. Annie had worked out that the step we were sitting on was, in fact, a small stage. She stood up. I looked at her. “NO.” I stated firmly. She looked directly back at me.  A wicked grin spread over her features. She had already made her decision.

The next minute saw me desperately trying to hush and catch Annie as she sang and danced on the stage, just out of reach. If the tour guide saw her within ten feet of the lectern microphone, she would lose her na na.

I don’t know how I managed to get Annie off the stage without the tour guide seeing, but I do know that the moment I did it, Annie dissolved into ferocious howls. Harry clambered on top of us in an attempt to comfort his sister, and it was in this tangle that the tour guide approached us. “We are moving into the Legislative Assembly now. You can stay in the room next door until you have them under control.”

Thus I found myself in a small room with a few carved benches, a phone and a grandfather clock. Annie soon calmed down (the clock helped) and so we crept into the Lower House of Parliament. As I attempted to climb into the second row of seats, the tour guide stopped me. “You can’t sit there!” she exclaimed in exasperation, “front row only!”. I blushed and fumbled my way to the front row seat. As I sank down onto the chair next to Matilda (I would have preferred to sink through the floor), Annie climbed off my lap into the spare one next to me, muttering something about “my own seat”. Unfortunately, Annie’s legs are not long enough to extend over the edge of chairs designed for members of parliament. “There can be no shoes on the seat”, the tour guide barked. I quickly started working on the buckles of Annie’s Mary Janes. Suddenly my coat was far too warm for me and my eyes felt hot. “No! No! They are MY SHOES” Annie shouted in consternation, and promptly burst into tears. I tried very hard not to do the same.

“This just isn’t working at all. You need to get out.” The tour guide pointed at the door. Dragging Annie and Harry, I was already halfway there.

As soon as I was back in the naughty room, I unzipped my thick coat and removed the five kilos of liquid explosives I had sewn into the lining. I then leisurely constructed a large bomb which I placed in the grandfather clock, set to explode the next parliamentary sitting day.  Then, left to my own devices, I went on my own tour of all the restricted areas with my plastic rocket-launcher.

No I didn’t.

But I could have, for all their security pageantry.

Instead, I’m sorry to say, I had a little cry. We had come all this way. We had been planning this excursion for weeks. I had called ahead and the man had recommended this tour. I said I was bringing toddlers and he said it would be okay. It meant so much to Matilda. I dried my eyes and managed to get a grip, but I had broken the seal. For the rest of the day it was going to be hard to stop the tears from bubbling up again.

I didn’t know what was happening in the room after I left, but Matilda filled me in later. Apparently, as soon as I was out of ear-shot, the tour guide exclaimed, “Honestly! I don’t know what that lady was thinking! I would never have brought children on a tour like this!” and continued on a miniature rant to everyone. Matilda was boiling with indignant fury. There was so much she wanted to say. She felt the wretched powerlessness of being the only child in a room full of adults. And then, she tells me, something wonderful happened.

“How dare you?”

The young PhD woman had stood up and was glaring at the tour guide. “You were so rude to that woman. Her children have a right to be here. They did not deserve to be treated like that.” Matilda told me that this woman (my hero!) went on to say all of the things Matilda had so desperately wanted to say herself. From that point on, Matilda spent her time shooting grateful smiles at the PhD woman and practicing her Julie-Bishop-Death-Stare on the tour guide.

When the group emerged from the Lower House, the tour guide approached me.

(get a grip, Kate, get a grip)

“I’ve been told off in there: they seem to think I was rude. I hope I didn’t upset you.”

I nodded briefly at this apology-of-sorts (don’t cry don’t cry don’t cry don’t cry) and we moved on to the Upper House.

For the rest of the tour, the tour guide behaved towards us with a mixture of overdone politeness and stifled resentment. Thankfully, the kids behaved themselves. At one point, when describing carvings on the wall which symbolised the importance of the Next Generation, the tour guide made a simpering gesture to Matilda. Unfortunately, Matilda was still persistently and stonily channelling our Foreign Affairs Minister, so it was all a little awkward.

Julie Bishop

Source: Wikimedia Commons

At the end of the tour, the tour guide approached me again. Poor woman, she must have felt bad.

“I really do hope I didn’t offend you earlier,” she began, (don’t cry don’t cry don’t cry) “That woman stood up in front of everyone after you left the room and told me off. I can’t afford for that to happen in my job. This really isn’t acceptable.” (wait a minute – was she scolding me?).

I drew a deep breath:

“…planning this excursion for a long time…” (don’t cry don’t cry don’t cry don’t cry)

“…when I spoke to the tour office…” (don’tcrydon’tcrydon’tcry)

“…Matilda is fascinated by Parliament and democracy…” (DON’T CRY DON’T CRY)

The tour guide seemed mollified and moved into a frenzy of over-compensation. As a result, we got an awesome showbag from the school tours office and, rather than having to struggle down the steps with the stroller, we were escorted all the way through the remarkably inaccessible and poorly-signed accessibility exit.

We stumbled into Spring Street and blinked in the daylight. That tour took far longer than I’d anticipated. I drew a ragged breath. I wanted to find a child-friendly cafe to collapse in. Then I checked the time.

We were late! We were late! We were never going to make it on time to pick Christopher Robin up from school!

I thought fast. The tram would take forever in school traffic. We’d be better off taking a train for at least part of the journey. We rushed to the nearest entrance to Parliament (underground) Station. Which was stupid. We should have rushed to the entrance with the LIFT. After I almost died carrying the stroller (with Annie in it) down a large flight of stairs and stumbled through the turnstile after swiping all the tickets, we were faced with the challenge of descending a double-length escalator at double-speed. That thing’s scary at the best of times! But we were fuelled by adrenaline and stupidity. Matilda dragged the collapsed stroller and held Harry’s hand (champion) and I carried Annie on my hip. Ugh. But we got to the platform in time to catch a crowded triple-express (and then a BUS) so that we weren’t as horrendously late as we feared. Two school boys immediately gave us their seats as we got on the train (don’t fall sobbing on his shoulder, don’t fall sobbing on his shoulder) and the otherwise surly bus driver was really helpful in getting us to our stop.

Parliament Station Escalators

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Safe at home, we flopped, all five of us, catatonic, on the couch.  Matilda spoke up.

“I just worked out what I should have said.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, when we were in the Legislative Assembly and that woman was telling the tour guide off, I should have stood up after her and said ‘I second that motion!'”

That’s my girl.

Get Ready for Art in August!

artwork

 

It’s almost here!  Art in August – an excuse for those of us who don’t think we’re very artistic but like the idea of nurturing our creative side to crack out the paints and pencils and spend some time doing art for art’s sake.  We do this without apology or explanation.  We do not listen to the voice that says we have more important things to do, we don’t deserve this time, and, what’s more, that picture looks like rubbish.  We produce and we post!

If you’d like to join in, here’s what you have to do:

  1.  Get creative (and don’t apologise about it)
  2. Take a photo of your creation (unless you’ve created a photograph, in which case you can skip this step)
  3. Post this photo on your blog
  4. Link back to this post and mention somewhere that you’re joining in Art in August

I will link to you in my blog as well.  If you don’t have a blog, there are two ways you can join in:

  1. Post your work on the blog’s Facebook page
  2. Email the photo to me at laptopontheironingboard-AT-gmail.com  (I’ve written it out that way to stop robots spamming me; when you email me, write it out the regular way)
  3. I will post it on my blog for you.  You can even use a pseudonym, if you like…

I really should have put this post up months ago.  I haven’t given you much notice, I’m afraid.  But no fear – it seems to be the tradition for Art in August to post well into September and October!

 

PM Essay

I’d like to start with a small apology to all the gentlemen who might be reading this (yes: both of you!)  This post will touch on the topic of – ahem! – hormones…

Most times of the month, I’m a fairly patient, laid-back, easygoing sort of person.  But, twelve times a year, I transform into a short-tempered, moody, destructive maelstrom.  Like a werewolf, but the sort that gets weepy watching superannuation commercials.

I’m a bit that way at the moment.  I’m feeling rather down on myself at the state of my house.  Two weeks of school holidays have taken their toll and the house is dysfunctional with mess.  It’s all dishes and clutter and Lego and loom bands and crumbs and random artefacts that look important yet seem to belong nowhere.

And clothes.  I think Strega Nona must have broken into my laundry and stirred my washing basket with her magic spoon.  Now I have so many dirty clothes, they’re spilling out the door.  It won’t be long before they take over the village…

Strega Nona with her pasta pot

I’ve been going a little nuts about it all.  Mr Knightley’s delightful-but-Type-A friend came over today and while I knew I couldn’t get the house to the level that Type A would consider ‘tidy’, I wanted at least to lift it out of the state of embarrassing neglect that made us look like the victims of a sock-and-duplo explosion.  As a result, I spent the morning venting and vacuuming and shouting and sweeping.  I bit everybody’s head off several times and, internally, I was biting my own head off (“What is WRONG with me?  WHY can’t I keep a tidy house?  How is it POSSIBLE that this many items can fit in the space under one couch?”) . I barked at Matilda for leaving her hardly-worn clothes on the school-room floor (she’d changed her mind on what to wear today, it would seem), roared at Christopher Robin for leaving his shoes all over the house, snapped at Harry for singing an inane song ad infinitum , wailed at Annie as she painted the table with cornflakes-and-milk, and ranted at the house in general about how hard it is to be me.

Mr Knightley, who had quietly wiped down the kitchen stove and benchtops, convinced me to stop for a minute and then swiftly administered coffee and chocolate.  It worked for a short time, but, really, I was beyond help.  It wasn’t long before I was again storming about the place, sometimes muttering darkly, sometimes screeching like a car alarm.  At lunch time, I snapped peevishly at Matilda, “that’s my seat!  Can’t you see my soup’s there already?”, but then I realised she was putting a note in my place.  Here it is:

Note from Matilda

If you can’t make out her handwriting, this is what it says:

“1 FREE NIGHT AT THE SPA

To Mum,

When you said “I was going to have a nice relaxing bath tonight but it’s too messy”  (I did say that last night, in another PMS-fuelled rant) I thought I’d give you this to say thanks for letting me have nice relaxing baths when I’m tired and worn out.  So I’ll clean the bathroom and you can borrow one of my Pippi soaps.

Love from

Tilly”

I felt rather small.  I had been awful to everyone all morning and my nine-year-old daughter still had the grace to treat me with generosity and understanding.  I gave her a fierce hug and cried copiously and surreptitiously into my soup.  But I’m fine, really I am.

Just don’t show me any superannuation commercials any time soon…

 

10 Short Takes … on Annie

10ShortTakes”

  1. Annie is my youngest daughter.  She is a sturdy two-year-old with hair like corn silk and deep brown eyes fringed with long dark lashes.
  2. I named Annie after Anne of Green Gables because she is utterly charming.  In real life, Annie is named after Mr Knightley’s Nan (do you remember me mentioning her buttons?) who was also utterly charming.
  3. Annie is the self-appointed Boss of the Family.  When she enters a room, she flings her arms wide and announces “I’m HERE ev’rybuddy!”
  4. Annie’s couture of choice is a tattered fairy dress paired with gumboots.  Today we’re going out to see friends. I dressed Annie in a sweet embroidered denim dress with a red top and tights underneath (every now and then I like to play dress-up dolls).  Annie protested stoutly as I dressed her up, but I kept distracting her and we got through it.  But just now, Annie’s come out of her room wearing only the red top and tights and brandishing one of her fairy dresses.  “I want to dress like a PRINCESS, Mummy!”.  I asked her what happened to the cute little denim number: “It in da wash.”  Sigh.
    fairy dresses on washing line
  5. Sometimes I try to apply some Mighty Girl philosophy to Annie’s regal aspirations.  “Princesses are wise leaders who make important decisions for their country”, I state solemly as I pull yet another tulle confection over her head.  “I so pitty!”  Annie replies with equal solemnity.
  6. As well as a junior monarch, Annie loves to be a ballerina, a mermaid, a rock star, a Wiggle and a superhero of her own devising, unaccountably called “Super Love Heart”.  Matilda will rig her up with a small blanket pegged around her shoulders and Annie will jump around the place and announce “SU-per Wubbart IN da rescue!”
  7. Sometimes, Annie and Harry play a game together called “Jack and Jill”.  I can’t quite understand the game itself, it seems to only involve them calling each other “Jack” and “Jill” and treating each other with exaggerated politeness.  There’s no bucket or anything.  I love this game.
  8. Yesterday, at breakfast time, a cranky Annie had a go at Christopher Robin: “want the milk, you idiot!” she proclaimed with gusto. “We don’t call each other ‘idiot’ in this family” I admonished.  “But they are idiots!”  Annie protested, with a stubborn toss of her golden head.
  9. When Harry has been naughty and is in trouble, he will go to Annie for consolation.  Annie will always stop what she is doing to give him a cuddle.  It’s very hard to stay cross at him when this happens…
  10. Annie’s favourite game is when she pretends she is Mummy and I am Annie.  Harry, however, finds this altered reality highly disturbing and will climb into my lap and insist on calling me “Mummy” despite his sister’s protests.  Cute.  Very cute.

Continue reading

So, I’ve been thinking…

10 Short Takes

I get stuck sometimes with blogging.  I write these long, rambling posts with far too much detail and then nothing for weeks on end.  Then, it’s like I’ve set a standard for myself to write another overly-long post.  Well, no more!  I’ve had an idea for another sort of post for those times when I don’t have an epic fail to write about and I haven’t constructed something out of wool to boast about.  I’m calling it “10 Short Takes”, a list of 10 comments or pictures on a given theme.  It will combine my love of numbered lists with the discipline of brevity.  It will also be a nice way to keep in touch without the pressure of a long post.

This doesn’t mean I won’t be writing any more painfully long posts full of tangents and asides.  I’m pretty sure I couldn’t stop that if I tried.  That’s the way I talk as well, incidentally.  I prefer not to get straight to the point.  I can spend more time in the centre of attention that way.  These short takes will be in addition to the rambly ones and (hopefully) will help to fill up the long breaks between boasts and fails and miscellaneous God-bothering.

I was also thinking this might be a nice chance to have a bit of a link-up.  If you’d like to have a go at a ’10 short takes’ post, link to me and I’ll link to you.  All you need to do is write 10 comments (or photos) on any theme of your choosing.  I’ve even been playing around learning how to make a button:

10ShortTakes

 

Ohhh!  I can’t believe that worked (after the fourteenth try, I mean)!  So if you’d like to use the button in your post, copy the text in the above grab box and paste it in your post when it’s in “Text” mode (not Visual – see those two tabs at the top?)

I’ll follow this post up with some “10 Short Takes” posts.  The ironic thing is, this whole idea got me stuck for a while (I’d written most of this post beforeSlump‘) because I wanted the first “Short Takes” to be perfect and thus I froze.  These posts will not be perfect.  But an imperfect post that’s actually published is better than a long absence whilst I chase unrealistic ideals.  It would be really strange if you were sitting at my virtual kitchen table and I only spoke when I had something profound and well-edited to say.   Blogging is not a performance, it’s a conversation.

Blogging is not a performance.   It’s a conversation.

Stay tuned.

Slump

I’m stuck.  I want to write you a great post, a pithy post, a post that really says something, but I’ve hit a bit of a slump.  I’m all blocked up.

I say it’s all because I have no time to write, and in a way that’s true.  Small people tend to crowd my headspace these days and (while I love them and my vocation fiercely – I’m living the dream, I truly am), I crave an hour or two alone to write as much as a twelve-year-old girl craves a One-Direction poster signed by Harry or Corey or whatever his name is.

But in another way, that’s completely not true.  When I’m stung by a good writing idea, I’ll write when I have no time at all, furiously scribbling on old receipts and the backs of envelopes whilst the house falls into disrepair all around me.

"The Frenzy": a cartoon depicting chaos surrounding an oblivious Kate who is writing furiously.  Annie empties cornflakes onto the table, Harry is watering the television and the other two have kindled a small fire on the table and are roasting marshmallows

Good times.  But I’ve no idea what to do to get stung.  It just happens.

I was talking to my friend Strider today.  He’d brought Merri and Pippin over for a play (Arwen was working and Samwise was at a sleepover).  As we sipped hot beverages and gazed at our children rolling about on the trampoline (“Simon says: take off your pants!”), Strider asked me about my blog: did I have any posts in the works?  And was he ever going to get mentioned? (I promised him a Tolkein-themed pseudonym months ago).

So I told him, here’s what I’m working on at the moment (except that I’m not working on any of them):

  • two short stories for a local competition
  • two articles for Seton Magazine
  • A new whole series of blog posts that I want to make into a linky
  • Another Art in August linky
  • this post

Strider nodded wisely.  “Just pick one, Kate.  You’ve made it too hard for yourself.  Don’t worry about the others until the first one is done.”

He’s right.  I’ve allowed everything to pile up and bottleneck and have become all overwhelmed.  And the more time passes from my last post the greater the pressure to write something really epic to compensate for the long wait.  I get paralysed by perfection.  And this makes me avoid writing even more.

Amidst all this confusion, my Inner Critic saunters in and takes advantage of the situation and insists loudly that none of these ideas are any good anyway and I’m kidding myself if I think I am any sort of writer.  I think guiltily of all the readers I must be losing because they think I don’t write here any more, that Laptop on the Ironing Board is the cyber-equivalent of a ghost town, not worth visiting.  And then my mind crowds with images of creepy abandoned amusement parks and rusty swing sets and tumbleweeds and I feel so sad for my poor neglected blog and I think I should really write ten very special posts to make up for it and then I remember that’s what got me into this mess in the first place.

So, here is a post that’s not so epic but which I hope will act as a sort of brain-Metamucil and get things moving again.

There’s nothing like being regular, after all.