Just wanted to boast:
It has its own cartoon and everything!
Just wanted to boast:
It has its own cartoon and everything!
As you may know, if you’ve been reading my constant bragging, I’ve been doing a little work lately for Jesuit Publications (bear with me, I’m going somewhere here). One of the pieces I wrote a few months ago for Australian Catholics was a sort of how-to guide for taking children to Mass. Words can’t describe how smug I felt writing that article. I was the guru. I had all of the answers. I had finally made it and could now dispense wisdom for the masses (‘Masses’?).
I did not yet have twin toddlers.
Over the past several Sundays, my complacent words have been echoing in my ears as my husband and I have struggled to grapple with two rowdy little people who seem to have a liturgy allergy (sorry). They are so noisy. And they’re always making bids to escape. And they conspire against us.
Daisy and Poppy also have their own language that they’ve settled on between themselves. For example, they don’t call Christopher Robin by his actual name. Christopher spent so much time trying to get the girls to say ‘bum’, that they have decided that this is his name. We’re all kind of used to it. But when the altar servers process in to church and Daisy and Poppy see their brother solemnly carrying the candle, it gets a little awkward when they start shouting “BUM! BUM! BUUUUM!!”
Things were at their worst last Thursday. It was Holy Thursday Mass, which started at 7:30pm, which meant I had to get the children fed and dressed and into a crowded church at a time when everybody was tired and cranky, especially me. We were all squashed in together at a pew up the front, near the side door. The twins were fairly well behaved (though not completely silent) throughout the Blessing of the Holy Oils, and the Liturgy of the Word, and the special-edition homily, and the rather ponderous Washing of the Feet (since when was Holy Thursday Mass so LONG?). But when it got to the middle of the Eucharistic Prayer, Poppy decided she’d had enough. For a while now, Poppy had been making bids to escape and I had been stopping her. I knew from experience that if I let her go, she would dash out of the church, or go dancing around the aisles, or dart into the sacristy and emerge, beaming, from the side door out onto the altar, like some special guest on This is Your Life. Poppy was making her indignation loudly known. It was time for me to scoop her up and take her out. As I stepped into the side room of the church, I noticed the neat, fortysomething man who had been sitting behind us at the beginning of Mass. Had he moved here to escape us? He did not return my rueful, apologetic smile. As I remonstrated with Poppy, I could hear Daisy’s loud proclamations from inside the church. I winced.
We managed to survive the rest of Mass, but it was a slog. Daisy also had a turn in the room next door. Neat Man was still there and still unsmiling. By some miracle, my husband and I managed to keep our faces straight when Annie constructed DJ headphones from her Alice-band and two Project Compassion boxes and pretended to spin discs. But it wasn’t until afterwards, that my husband filled me in on what happened when I was in the other room.
While I was having stern words with Poppy and sharing awkward space with Neat Man, Daisy was chattering loudly in her dad’s arms. Neat Man’s wife (who is also very neat and who looks like Sarah Palin) tapped my husband on the shoulder.
“You will have to take her out. I just can’t concentrate!”
My husband remained where he was. He wasn’t going to leave the other children by themselves and he knew that the Consecration happened by virtue of the Holy Spirit and not Sarah Palin’s brain power. Later, at the Sign of Peace, Sarah Palin turned her back abruptly on us and only shook the hands of the people behind her.
I must admit I felt a little heartbroken when I heard about this. I didn’t know Sarah Palin that well, but I had always imagined she was my ally. She was a mum, after all. Didn’t she know how hard it was to raise children in the faith? Did she think I brought my children to Mass on purpose just to mess with her? All of a sudden, I didn’t feel welcome at the Lord’s table. Perhaps Mass just wasn’t supposed to be for young families. Or perhaps it was only for families that had it all together. I decided in that moment that we wouldn’t go to the big Easter vigil Mass with the fire and the candles and the incense and the bells, but instead attend the more subdued Sunday morning Mass. I didn’t want another run-in with Neat Man and his Alaskan wife.
I might also mention here that we got through the Good Friday service without too much trouble, because the twins slept through most of it. The family behind us had small noisy children, however, and, while I felt deeply for them, I was also acutely aware that Neatman and Palin (who were sitting further away this time) probably assumed it was us making all that noise again.
Anyway, on Sunday morning, we tumbled into church, almost on time, though Poppy was still in her pyjamas. I was working so hard at focussing on all the nice parishioners who smile and look dotingly at the twins that I didn’t notice that NeatPalin were standing rigidly at the other side of the church. When Poppy let out a yelp towards the end of Mass, Neatman turned and looked right at us. EEK!
I’m feeling better now for telling you about it, my blog friend. And I’m pretty sure I’m the only one in the family who was really upset by it. Mr Knightley takes all things in his stride. Daisy and Poppy continue to run things their way. Annie is stoked with her charity-box headphones. And as for Matilda, Bum and Harry, they couldn’t be happier. They’ve discovered a new recruit to work at the Barbara Feeney Shush Helpline!
Meanwhile, I think I need to contact the Australian Catholics editor. I want to add a footnote to my article: “Please note: if you have toddlers, none of these rules apply. All you can do is pray for God’s sweet mercy and wait for the storm to pass.”
This article is a bit of a departure from my usual style (I’m trying to be all serious and hard-hitting). I’m so excited – I got published in Eureka Street!
One of the reasons I haven’t been posting so often on this blog as I would like is because I got myself a paid job as a columnist for a really-truly magazine. It still thrills me to get an email from My Editor, describing the requirements and deadline for the next column; it gives me such a buzz to have an Important Reason to go off to the cafe to write and edit; and it sends me through the roof to send off the finished copy to be published.
Because everything is done via email and from home, it almost doesn’t seem real. If my life were a movie, there could easily be a twist halfway through in which the audience discovers that the important Editor Kate has been corresponding with and writing so feverishly for is, in fact, a mere psychological construct, a delusion, built to fulfil Kate’s desperate desire to have her writing taken seriously. What we have been witnessing has in fact been a young mother’s school-lunch-and-laundry-fuelled descent into madness. Gripping viewing.
But there is one day in all the year that reassures me that it’s not all made up and I am, in fact, a writer. An after-work Christmas Drinks at the offices of Jesuit Publications. A place to meet other writers and have proper adult conversations. I couldn’t wait.
You might remember me talking about this epic event last year, when I brought the twins with me. This year, I would be child-free. A proper, grown-up writer. And even though Wednesday was a crazy day with everything on, I was going to make it work if it killed me. I even put together a timeline to make sense of it all. It looked like this:
1. (9:00am) Mum takes Annie to kinder, morning jobs and schoolwork done
2. (11:00am) Early lunch
3. (12:00pm) Drop Harry at his atrium session.
4. (12:10pm) Go to the shops to buy ingredients for the salad the children would be bringing to the scout barbecue that evening. Also get birthday present for Matilda’s friend.
5. (1:30pm) Pick up Harry.
6. (1:40pm) Get dressed up. Make salad. Prep swimming gear.
7. (3:00pm) Pick Annie up.
8. (4:00pm) Swimming lessons
9. (5:00pm) Drive to husband’s work
10. (5:15pm) Swap cars with husband. Husband drives to scout BBQ. I drive to city.
11. (6:00pm) Arrive at party. Acquire glass of champagne and fashionably bored facial expression.
It all went pretty smoothly until Step 6 (get dressed up / make salad / prep swim gear). I had put Matilda in charge of the salad preparation. I needed to put a lot of work into getting ready. I was going for ‘Sophisticated Writer to be Taken Seriously’, not ‘Dowdy Matron’. I even went to the trouble of putting shimmery bronzing cream on my arms and (shaved!) legs. The stuff was hard to open as I haven’t used it in over a year. I was as I was wrestling myself into a pair of magic underpants, designed to stop people from congratulating me and asking when the baby is due, that Matilda called up the stairs.
“Mum . . . I think you might need to take a look at this”
The salad stuff we bought was pretty straightforward – cherry tomatoes, olives, avocado and a large bag of pre-washed ready-to-go lettuce mix. It would only take a few minutes to assemble. But we had hit a roadblock. The un-opened bag of pre-washed lettuce contained a very large, live insect.
I sighed, tossed the salad bag into the car and proceeded to step 7 (pick Annie up). The kinder assistant was curious to know why I wasn’t in my usual uniform of jeans, sneakers and banana-spattered science-fiction t-shirt. I swelled up and told her about my grown-up writer event. The assistant looked genuinely impressed. This woman has seen me bring four of my children through the kinder and has been privy to all of my organisational fails – turning up late, forgetting forms and money, failing to provide family photos, failing at book week. I don’t often feel like a grown up when I come to kinder. But today was different.
It was with a jaunty swagger that I hurtled towards step 7.1 (return defective salad). I got myself a salad upgrade and a refund. I ignored the uneasy feeling that I was merely replacing the salad with more from the same poorly washed batch – I had no time!
I applied my make up at the red lights on the way to swimming lessons and managed to achieve a convincing ‘smoky eye’ over the course of three backed-up intersections. Whilst the children were in the pool, I put together one page of ideas on how I could revolutionise the magazine, just in case the conversation tended in that direction.
After handing the car, children and salad over to my husband, I drove off to battle the traffic. The Google Maps lady kept cheerfully directing me through bewildering shortcuts. One time she asked me to turn right from a side street onto a busy road with no traffic lights. Then she made me cross three lanes of thick traffic in 500 metres. I got the sense she was enjoying herself.
As I waited in a stagnant river of cars and painted my nails, I realised in dismay that I’d forgotten to do my homework. I’d planned to bone up on back issues of the magazine and its sister publications. I’d wanted the work of the writers I’d be meeting to be fresh in my mind so I could pay them the compliment of being familiar with their work. Alas! I would have to wing it.
When I finally pulled into the carpark at Jesuit Publications, I took a few moments to recover. I pulled my hair out of its ponytail-knot. I had washed my hair in the morning and tied it up when it was still damp. If my plan worked, it would be all tumbling waves when I took it out. But it wouldn’t last long, which is why I waited until just now. I looked at myself in the rearview mirror. My hair looked AMAZING. I can’t remember the last time my hair looked that good. I wanted to take a selfie. I finally understood why people TOOK selfies. But no time! Must go be a grown up writer and impress people. I tucked my one page of revolutionary ideas into my bag. Just in case.
I must have been one of the first people to arrive, despite my fears of being late. There weren’t many cars about and the balcony seemed rather quiet. I slowed my step. I didn’t want to be too keen. I tried to open the door. It was locked. Strange. Slowly, very slowly, I pulled out my phone to check the date on the invitation.
Oh. What is WRONG with me?
You see, I had been telling everyone it was on Wednesday, I had made preparations for Wednesday, I had even emailed my editor and signed off with ‘see you Wednesday!’, I just hadn’t properly checked the date on the invitation. My “Wednesday” claim was not backed by solid evidence.
The drinks were scheduled for Thursday.
Tomorrow, my hair would be lank, my nail polish chipped and my dress would smell of day-old car sweat. I was never going to look as grown up and fabulous as I did in that moment, and there was nobody there to see it. I dragged my feet back to the car. If my life were a film, this would be the climax when the protagonist realises that there is no ‘Jesuit Publications’. She would rub her eyes and realise the office she was trying to access, was, in fact, an accountancy firm and the magazine had been a mere figment of her tortured mind.
I sat in the car, feeling rather bereft. I needed to find a bright side. In the end, I found four:
I felt a bit better as I drove back through all the traffic. When I got to the scout hall, I discovered another bright side:
5. I was totally the best-dressed mum at the scout BBQ!
Things weren’t so bad. I was still a grown-up writer. And if the kinder assistant asked me how things went, I could always lie through my teeth. She doesn’t need to know.
I smiled smugly and fixed myself a plate of insect salad.
There are two baskets of clean washing on my living room floor.
In my bedroom, there are two full baskets and three more are sitting outside my bedroom door (“tripping hazard!” says Mr Knightley). One of these baskets is full of unmatched children shoes, the rest have more clean washing.
I also discovered a basket of clean washing under the desk in the schoolroom/nursery/study and another in the boys’ room. There is a basket with dirty washing in the girls’ room, but I suspect it began life as a basket of clean washing, which got buried.
I figure I really should do something about this. So I tipped one of the bedroom baskets into the other one. Now I only have one basket of clean washing on my bedroom floor.
It feels good.
Oh, blog! How I’ve missed you! I’m sorry it’s been so long since I wrote to you. I’ve been very busy not putting washing away.
So I figure I should probably write the sequel to my previous post. The only problem is, it’s not very interesting. So I’m going to just give it to you in point form. That way you can have a story which is not to interesting to begin with, plus the added bonus of lazy writing. Enjoy.
It’s several weeks since I got my hair done and it’s settled in a lot better now. I even had a go fixing the layers myself with a pair of nail scissors. The next time I go to the hairdressers, I’ll be more specific about what I want.
The very thought is making me sweat icicles.
I really need a haircut. It’s becoming ridiculous. This morning, when I was putting my jeans on, my pony tail got caught in the waistband. And my hair keeps getting involved when I try to eat soup, it just sort of drapes itself into the bowl. Plus it’s the wrong colour. I’m supposed to be blonde, but my hair seems to ignore this fact. Now the wrong-coloured roots have grown past my shoulders. The wrong colour has taken over. I try to tell people it’s ‘ombre’ or ‘balayage’, but really it’s the ‘avoiding salon’ effect.
You might think it sounds glamorous, but it’s not. It was all very well when I was pregnant. Double-pregnancy hormones made my hair all glossy and full of body (I was full of body everywhere, it would seem). And, what’s more, I had a legitimate reason for not getting my hair done. I was far too pregnant. But once the twins were born, all my pregnancy hair fell out and gathered in tumbleweeds about the house. My look was no longer “Pregnant Gisele Bundchen On Her Day Off” rather “Drab But Pious Homeschool Mother Sews Aprons For Her Sister Wives”.
I know I would feel better if my hair were shorter and back to its proper colour. I know all I have to do is work out a time and pick up a phone and make an appointment and turn up, it’s just that…
Hairdressers make me nervous. There. I said it.
Most of the time I’m a confident, articulate person and a great conversationalist. But something about a room full of blow dryers and the smell of Moisture-Lock Colour-Hold Super Salon Treatment Spray sends me spinning all the way back to Grade Five. My tongue gets all thick. I don’t know what I’m supposed to say.
And I already felt like an odd and awkward sort of person when I went to the hairdressers before I had six children and decided to homeschool them. Now I feel like a total freak.
I’m intimidated by the amount of power the hairdresser has over me. A hairdresser has the ability to affect how you feel about yourself when you look in the mirror for the next six weeks (or, in my case, two years). Just how much bleach is she putting in that mix? What does she mean ‘caramel highlights’? What if she interprets my request for ‘layered cut’ as ‘Warwick-Capper-Mullet’?
I tried to tell my friend M about my problem a couple of days ago, when she told me I needed a hair cut.
“Is it too expensive?”
“No.” (well, it is expensive, but that’s not the reason)
“Do you need babysitting?”
“No.” (except that I do, but that’s not the reason)
“Do you just want to keep your hair the way that it is?”
“No.” (it’s driving me crazy)
“Well, what’s the problem? What? What? I can’t hear you. Did you just say you’re frightened of the hairdresser?”
Later that day, I got a text from Lovely M. It was a link to a groupon for 75% off colour and cut at a salon not too far away. M offered to come with me and I was struck with a lovely vision of the two of us side-by-side with our hair in rollers and our heads underneath those bonnet hair-dryers, discussing that new band from England and whether we preferred Paul or Ringo. But after a few more texts, it dawned on me that M was not offering to get her hair done at the same time as me: she’d just been to the hairdressers, it’s what had sparked the conversation. M was offering to come along to hold my hand (her words).
It was at this point I realised I might have a problem.
“I can do this” I muttered to myself as I clicked my way through the sign-in process and keyed in my credit card details, “I am a GROWN UP.” And, ignoring the bland stares of the other people in the library, I triumphantly purchased my ticket to several weeks worth of good-hair-days.
It was only when I googled the name of the salon to find out the opening hours that I began to feel some reservations. The business had quite a lot of online reviews. There were three gushing five star reviews; the same number of reviews, I imagine, as of staff who work there. All the rest were scathing one-star reviews. Reviews that said the hairdressers were ‘rude’ and ‘mean’. I gulped.
I saw M again today.
“So anyway, I bought that groupon.” I announced, a little smugly. My tone also said “See? I’m totally capable.”
“When are you booked in?” she asked (a little knowingly, it must be said)
“Um, well, actually I haven’t booked it yet…” I stammered. The smugness was fast evaporating.
“Do you want me to call them for you? I can do it right now.”
“NO! No! I can do it!” I am capable, dammit!
“What’s their number?”
“No – I just need to check some things before I call them”
“Um, just some, um, things?”
I haven’t been yet. My hair is still getting snagged on door knobs and looking far too brown. But I will go. I figure if it’s a bad experience, it will make a neat sequel to this blog post. If it’s a good experience, I’ll have nice hair again. It’s win-win. So I’ll go. I’m totally going to book it. All I have to do is pick up the phone and arrange a time. And I will, I totally will.