Photograph Fail.

The dreaded form

I think I might be a special-needs parent. I don’t mean to say I have kids with specific problems, though they do have quirks enough between them, I mean I am a parent who has special needs. 

It would seem that the most simple tasks are far beyond my capacity.  At Harry’s kinder, we were supposed to fill out this “All About Me” sheet – you know the kind:  “my favourite colour”, “my favourite toy”, etc. etc.  That part was simple enough, but we also had to include a family photo.  A quick scroll through my phone told me that such a picture simply did not exist.  Any proper whole-family photos were taken before Annie was conceived.  After that, all our pictures were missing somebody – because one of us was always taking the picture.  No matter.  I had a plan of attack:

1.  The next time we were all together and in the company of somebody extra who had opposable thumbs, we could all bunch together and ask them to take a photo for us.

2.  Then I could put the picture on a USB stick.

3.  Then I could run down to the shops and get the photos printed

4.  Then I could stick the photo to the bit of paper with all the answers on it

5.  Then I could put the bit of paper on the shelf by the front door where I wouldn’t forget it,

6.  Then I could take the completed form to kinder to be stuck on the wall with everyone else’s.

It was a good plan.

Unfortunately, I never accomplished Step One.

Whenever we were out with friends and family, there were always so many interesting and exciting things going on that I never managed to remember to have a photo taken.  But I did become very good at remembering to do it at three o’clock in the morning afterwards.

And I haven’t even told you the most embarrassing part yet.

I was supposed to do this at the start of the year.

Throughout the first few weeks of Term One, everyone else’s All About Me forms were plastered all over the wall in the Home Corner, complete with cheerful, glossy photos.  That wall haunted me.  After several weeks of trying and failing to procure a photo, I finally decided I’d missed the boat and getting the form in now would just be embarrassing.

I was wrong.

A few months later, a second All About Me form came home, complete with a blank rectangle for the family photo and a little pink post-it note asking me to fill it out and bring it to kinder.  In a guilt-fuelled frenzy I took action and quickly set about forgetting to get the photo taken all over again.

Then, in Term Two, Annie turned three and started kinder in the younger group.  Annie was also given an All About Me form, with a blank rectangle for the family photo.  I now possessed two All About Me forms (three if you count the original) and zero family photos.

And my ability to perform a series of straightforward and simple tasks did not seem to be improving.

But things were looking up.  When Christopher Robin made his First Communion, we had a family photo taken, all in our Sunday Bests and by a proper photographer (well, he was one of the dads, and he was doing it for free, but it was a way of making up for not being allowed to take pictures during the ceremony and he did have some pretty impressive equipment).  At last, we would have a proper whole-family photo and my nightmare of shame would be over.

And not a moment too soon.  When I went to kinder for the parent-teacher interview, Annie’s kinder teacher made a polite enquiry after the much-overdue family photo.  She was really kind about it actually.  To spare my feelings, she made it sound like this was a new request and not something they had been wanting for the past six months or so.  Here’s the thing: it turns out all of the family photos, no longer on Kate’s Wall of Disgrace, were now mounted on bits of cardboard and compiled into a special book, sitting in the library corner.  The teacher showed it to me.  All of the children loved to look at this book and find the page with their very own family.  Plus it achieved all sorts of developmental outcomes about Belonging and Sense Of Self and something about Affective Cognitive something-something Relationship.

I’m pretty sure my two children were the only orphans with no special photo page.

But it was OK.  I reassured the kinder teacher that said photo had now come into being and all I had to do was get my hands on it and print it out.  She said I could even email her a digital copy and the kinder would print it off (how bad did that make me feel?  Like most kinders, ours is a struggling not-for-profit with little in the budget for coloured ink or photo paper).

Also, Matilda’s and Christopher Robin’s homeschool co-op had put in a request for family photos to be emailed around, just so we could match everyone together and see which kids belonged to which parents.  It was a great idea.  I was so glad to have that photo at last.

Except I didn’t actually have it yet.  After a few weeks of waiting, I worked out I was actually supposed to bring a USB to the co-ordinator of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (the group Christopher made his First Communion with), so I could download the photos from her computer.  Which would have worked, except Catechesis was now on break and I wouldn’t be seeing the co-ordinator for a few weeks.  But it was OK, because kinder was also on holidays.  By the time kinder started, I would be able to return Annie’s and Harry’s portfolios complete with the family photos, if not the All About Me forms (they were all a little worse-for-wear with food stains and torn edges and, in one case, a small footprint).

I sent the co-ordinator a message and asked if she could perhaps find the one whole-family photo and email it to me.  She responded promptly and said she would look it up and send it to me right away.  Which was great, except I sent that email over a week ago and I still haven’t heard back from her.

There is a whiteboard in the foyer at kinder with a list of the names of families who are overdue in returning their portfolios.  All of the other names are gradually disappearing, but ours remains.  I probably should chase up the Catechesis co-ordinator for her email, but I can’t bear the thought of making another person feel bad for forgetting to send in a photo.  I also thought about taking a family selfie in the bathroom mirror, but that would require cleaning the bathroom and that thought just depresses me.

Tonight, though, things are going to change.  We’re all going to my mum and dad’s for dinner and I’m not going to get sidetracked this time.  I’ve put several alarms in my phone and I will ask everyone there to not let me leave without a family photo in my phone.  We will finally have a proper picture of the whole family we can use for all our kindergarten and co-op needs.

At least for the next two weeks before the twins are born and it immediately becomes obsolete.

10 Short Takes … On Harry

10shorttakes

This is embarrassing.  I came up with the idea for 10 Short Takes ages ago, thinking it would become a regular thing (not just for me, but for the entire internet).  And then I just sorta forgot about it.  But now I’m going to take it out and dust it off, because I thought of something else I could do with it.  So here are 10 Short Takes on my magnificent five-year-old, Harry.

 

  1. Harry does not enjoy dressing up.  Remember Book Week?  Recently, Harry’s kinder did a pirate day.   I tried to tempt him with skull bandannas and stripy tops, but Harry politely declined and insisted on his faithful dinosaur t-shirt/tracksuit pants ensemble.  When I came to pick him up at the end of the day, Harry was the only one not sporting a cardboard hat and/or eyepatch.  He was just Harry.paper pirate hat
  2. The following day (AKA not Pirate Day), Harry made a beeline for the craft table as soon as he arrived at kinder and constructed a pirate hat for himself. He wore it all day and has been wearing it off-and-on ever since.  I guess you could call him a late adopter…
  3. Harry worships his daddy.  Daddy features in most of Harry’s pictures and the only dress-up in the box Harry is interested in is an old, white business shirt.  When Annie wears this shirt, she is a doctor or a rocket scientist.  When Harry wears it, he is only ever Daddy Going to Work.
  4. Harry loves clocks. For a while, he took to wearing an analogue watch with no batteries.  Whenever he entered a room with a clock on the wall, he would adjust his watch accordingly.  For his birthday, Harry’s grandparent’s gave him a proper watch with batteries and everything.  It’s digital and the screen can light up in different colours.  This is the joy of Harry’s life, although he still wears the dead analogue watch sometimes, for old time’s sake.Harry's watches
  5. Harry’s uncle also likes clocks. He has a collection of expensive watches from Japan.  Harry enjoys sidling up to Uncle Greg and comparing watch features (Greg’s watch has GPS, Harry’s watch can make a cool beeping noise).  I think Greg enjoys this too.
  6. Harry’s favourite television show is Letters and Numbers on SBS.
  7. Harry and Annie are fast friends, though polar opposites. Annie is quite assertive and extroverted and loves to perform to a crowd.  Harry is introverted and can take a while to warm up to people he doesn’t know.  When Harry is feeling out of his comfort zone, he sticks with Annie to feel safe.
  8. Harry and Annie are also partners in crime. Recently, I caught them out.  Annie had helped Harry to push a stool into the pantry.  Harry climbed the stool to access a miniature green tea Kit Kat from a bag of treats Uncle Greg had brought us from Japan.  This he promptly unwrapped and snapped in two, giving half to his sister.I probably should have told them off more, but they were so darn cute solemnly munching their spoils that my heart just wasn’t in it.
  9. Harry’s favourite colour is dark brown.
  10. Harry does not like noisy crowds. When amongst loud strangers (or, indeed, loud friends and family), Harry will either sit quietly with his hands over his ears (a gesture Annie will often imitate, assuming she hasn’t managed to command the crowd’s attention so that she can sing them her favourite song), or find someone he trusts to answer his maths questions.  Crowds can be unpredictable and loud, so it’s comforting to know that five plus two is still seven, regardless.

Odds and Ends

My notebook is chock-full of half-written blog posts. They all seem a little bland to me. This post is going to be short and, let’s face it, rather dull, but (and this is important) I’m going to finish it and type it up and post it.

The article I wrote for Australian Catholics has been published (!!!)  If you click here, you can catch a tantalising glimpse of the title, graphic and first paragraph.  The rest, unfortunately, is only available to online subscribers.

If you live in Australia, you might be able to get a copy from your local Catholic church or school.  Failing that, I might see if I can get permission to reprint the article a few months from now.  I’m not really sure how these things work.

I’ve also written an article for Madonna, AC’s sister publication (!!!), but that will just be a re-working of my Mary, Help of Kitchens post and it hasn’t gone to print yet.

My (other) work in progress.  See that bit of purple at the bottom of the shot?  That's my belly...

My (other) work in progress. See that bit of purple at the bottom of the shot? That’s my belly…

The twins continue to grow and I am now officially the size of a small W-class tram.  I am coping with all this by waddling everywhere like some oversized toddler and perfecting the art of Phoning It In.

Behold:  Harry’s birthday cake:

dodgy cake with increasingly indecipherable writing

I ran out of writing icing.  Fail.

I think, perhaps, I should rename this post “Odd and End”, because I can’t think of anything more to tell you and my break is almost over and I’m determined to actually finish this post so it doesn’t become lost among my other half-written monstrosities floating around the place.  Incidentally, if there is something particular you would like me to write a post about, please leave me a comment.  I’m feeling a little stuck at the moment.

And now, in the spirit of Phoning It In, I’m going to finish this post right now, without anything witty to round it off and without tying any ends together.

*dial tone*

Bliss

Meme: picture of oddly smiling Mr Bean with caption "This is my excited face"

Oh! I am so excited! Please be patient with me while I have a little gush.

A couple of weeks ago, I sent an email to Australian Catholics magazine.  I’d been meaning to do so for a while now.  I kind of hoped they might take me on to write something for them and I gave them links to some of my posts (OK, six posts.  I may have gone a little overboard).  For those of you who didn’t go to Catholic school here and didn’t receive a copy of this glossy quarterly with your Friday newsletter, Australian Catholics is an entertaining and accessible magazine which also seeks to address the deeper questions of what it means to be a Catholic in today’s world.  As far as church-based colour publications go, it’s kind of a big deal.

Of course, it’s worth mentioning that the reason I had the mental clarity to compose this email was because my heroic husband had taken all of my offspring (well, not the ones in utero…) on a camping trip, leaving me to wallow in the luxury of a quiet house with nobody to please but myself (I tidied the kitchen bench and it stayed tidy!)

Anyway, the thing is they wrote back!  And they said they would be Definitely Very Interested in me writing an article for them!  And then, after an exchange of emails (my response email had something in it about how their response made me do little squealy noises in my chair.  Not sure why I felt the need to share that.  Probably should have pretended that I’m such an in-demand writer that this sort of thing is totally commonplace but I think I was high on the fumes of the spray-n-wipe on the kitchen bench which was still clear and shiny), and also a phone call (do you remember what we were talking about?  That was a long tangent I went on in the middle.  You might need to go back to the start of the sentence.  Sorry about that.), I agreed to write a 550 word article for them which would tie into the theme of their upcoming issue.

And they would totally pay me for it.

It was after about half-an-hour of dancing around the house that the panic set in.  Wait a minute: this isn’t like my blog where I bang on for as long as I like on a topic that interests me.  This is a professional article with a set topic.  I don’t think I have anything of use to say on this subject.  And I have to be funny.  I can’t be funny on purpose.  What am I going to do?

Plus, by now the children were all back home and I was feeling far less sure of myself and my writing abilities than I had been in my super-confident child-free bubble.  But, after talking my husband, family and Lovely M to death on the topic, I somehow managed to tease out a few ideas without having to invent a fake ‘fail’ story (my sister’s suggestion: I don’t think I could have pulled it off).

I didn’t have much time to write the article, which I think was a good thing.  It stopped me from procrastinating and agonizing over my lack of things to say.  In the end, I got down to work and scribbled down something that was far from brilliant, but still workable.

And about twice as long as it needed to be.

I think it’s a good discipline for me to put my writing on a diet sometimes.  I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but brevity isn’t exactly my strong suit.  The first few hundred words I culled made everything sharper and snappier and gave the article a good pace.  But I still had to lose 180 more words and I was down to muscle and bone!

In desperation, I emailed the draft around to my family and they gently coaxed me to scrap and condense, without neglecting to stroke my ego (“this section reads really well.  You did a great job, Kate.   Now, get rid of it.”)

Some friends asked me “how do you find the time to write?”, then they visited my house and stopped asking that question.  As I spent my days furiously tapping at the keyboard or wandering about vaguely, churning ideas in my head, the entire house quietly and promptly fell into disrepair all around me.  Let’s just say, the kitchen bench had long lost its sparkle.

The final, rather emaciated draft, was chock-full of apostrophised contractions and was sometimes so word-frugal that it didn’t make sense.  Even then, it was 34 words over.  But my editor (“my editor”: doesn’t that sound nice?) very kindly said they could work with that, and so, in a fortnight or so, my article is going to print (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

Thank you so much for making to the end of this post.  It was such an indulgent one – bloated and well over the word limit, long past deadline (I started writing this weeks ago), and with no real point to it.  But that’s the best thing about having a blog, I guess – every now and then I can get away with indulgent and boasty writing.  Maybe my next post will have some sense in it.

I guess there’s a first time for everything.

Barbara Feeney

pop art design - close up of a woman gesturing "shhh"

I’m not sure I should be telling you about this.

It started innocently enough, but now it’s spinning out of control.

You see, it’s like this.  Our local parish is pretty much run by old people.  The women tend to be named Pat and the men are all Grahams and Bills (except when they’re actually Brian, but I digress).  Some – like my hero, Pat Baker – are warm, giving folk, full of wit and wisdom.  Others can be rather narrow-minded and fiercely opinionated: what our late PP referred to as the ‘Parish Antiques’.  Many have a good measure of both these aspects, and all are hard-working souls with deep parish loyalty.

The person I want to tell you about today is a formidable lady by the name of Barbara Feeney (well, OK, not really.  I had to change her name.  But we can all pretend.)  Barbara Feeney is a sacristan (she gets the church ready before Mass) and a special minister (she helps to distribute Communion), and her facial expression of choice is a disapproving frown.  Barbara would best be known to the parish school children as the lady who stands near the door of the church aggressively shushing them as they file out after a school Mass.  Unlike her duties as a sacristan or special minister, this policing of juvenile noise-making is a self-appointed role.

Barbara is also very strict with the young altar servers, pulling them into line for spilling wax when they walk with candles and fidgeting in their seats during Mass.  There is a person in the parish who is in charge of training the altar servers.  It isn’t Mrs Feeney.

In the sacristy (it’s like a ‘green room’, but for priests) after one particular Mass at which Matilda was serving,  Barbara descended upon the small knot of altar servers with another Stern Parish Lady (SPL) to back her up and launched into a tirade about their terrible behaviour (The altar servers’ behaviour, I mean, not the angry ladies’).

I must have missed it, but apparently towards the end of Mass, some of the altar servers had been fiddling with their tassels and giggling.  Mrs Feeney berated them for ten minutes and SPL nodded grimly at intervals for good measure.

Had I been nine years old and in the sacristy at that time, I would have fallen to pieces, become a quivering mess.  Matilda, however, is nothing like her mother and I think this is where the trouble started.  To be fair, Matilda listened demurely enough to this post-liturgy tirade and did not answer back in any way.  But the seed had been planted.

It started small.  When Annie and Harry were chatting animatedly after lights-out, I overheard Matilda calling out a warning: “You better be quiet or Barbara Feeney will come and shush you!

Before long, Matilda and Christopher Robin had developed an advertising jingle:  “Barbara Feeney’s Helpline says ‘Shush!  Shush!'” (to the tune of Motor Finance Wizard).  In retrospect, I should not have giggled at this.  Nor, I suppose, should I have fallen about helplessly with laughter when Matilda used Microsoft Power Point to devise a full-scale advertising campaign for said helpline (Noisy neighbours ruining your life?  Barbara Feeney can help!  Call now and get your first shush free!).

You see, it’s hard to explain to your daughter that it’s not at all respectful to refer to dignified SPLs as Barbara Feeney’s ‘sidekicks’, when you’re focussing so hard on stopping tea from pouring out of your nose.  (Do you know where Barbara Feeney got her qualifications as Chief Parish Shusher?  It was at Monassshhh University.  She got a double degree in Stern Lectures/Finger Wagging).

It’s getting worse.  All of Matilda’s friends know about her hero, Mrs Feeney.  At a party recently, several children were jumping on the trampoline at once lustily singing the helpline jingle.  This wasn’t even at our house.  And Matilda’s friends live all over the place.  Slowly but surely, the Legend of Barbara Feeney is spreading all over Victoria.

I’m scared.  It’s only a matter of time before Barbara Feeney herself finds out.  More than once, in the middle of Mass, little Annie has called out “Oh no!  Look, Mum: it Baa Baa Fee Nee!”.  I try to make her be quiet.  I try talk to my children about ‘respecting your elders’, but Barbara Feeney is their favourite topic of conversation and I don’t know how to stop them talking.

If only there were a helpline I could call…

Busy Fingers #4

Baby Presents

Is it just me or is everybody having babies?  I thought I’d share some little projects I turned out recently for my fertile friends and their freshly-minted progeny.

crocheted elephant

I love this elephant.  The pattern for it is so clever that you hardly have to do any sewing together (I HATE sewing together bits.  I always do a wonky job.  It drives me crazy).

crocheted elephant

It’s all very elegantly designed (which I suppose would make it an Elegant Elephant).  And the fabric in the ears makes me swoon (even though I had to sew it).  I made it for my friends who recently had a baby girl.

Recently, I was making a set of tiny teddy bears as a get well soon present, using Lucy Ravenscar’s excellent design (I swear I’m a little obsessed with that brilliant woman and her clever patterns), and I ran out of wool before I finished one of the bears.  It struck me that this half-finished bear would make a very cute finger puppet.  And THEN I remembered the Bananas in Pyjamas that I’d made for my nephew and I thought it would be a good idea to give the bananas some teddy bears to chase on Tuesdays.  This was to make a present for my friends who had recently welcomed a baby boy into the world (and who already had two preschool girls who might also benefit from the present).

bananas and teddies finger puppets with pouch

Lucy Ravenscar’s bears and Chisachi Kushima’s elephant (as translated by Stephanie from All About Ami) are elegant patterns that are a joy to make.  Unfortunately, my pattern for banana finger puppets is a clumsy and complicated mess that brings no joy to the fingers and ends up looking rather wrong.  I’m too embarrassed by it to share it on my blog.  There must be an easier way.

I purchased a little pencil case from an entrepreneurial eleven-year-old on a market day at our homeschool co-op.  I figured it might be useful for my friends to carry the puppets around in a purse or nappy bag so that they could be on hand (sorry) to entertain their kids in waiting rooms, cafes or churches.

puppets in pouch

If I could only get a better handle on the banana component, this might be a good gift for my friends who live far away when they have babies – it would post so easily.

Oh!  And I mustn’t forget to let you know that these presents were ALL made from stash yarn.  But I did it before I took the shameful photo of my yarn mountain, so no progress made there…

Sigh!

Edited to add: The very talented Veronica from Veronica’s Miscellaney (who, incidentally, is another Australian Catholic Homeschooler who Crochets) has worked out an excellent pattern for these bananas.  She used the same method as me, but added some critical tweaks that have made all the difference.  You can view it here: http://veromarybrrr.wordpress.com/2015/04/07/bananas-in-pyjamas/

Stash Confessions

OK, so maybe I have a problem.

I’m not sure how it started, really. I’m sure it was innocent enough to begin with, but it’s now got to the point where I don’t even have a handle on how much things are getting out of control and I’m too scared to face up to reality.

My name is Kate Knightley and I own an excessive amount of yarn.

Drawer overflowing with yarn

I think it might be taking over my house. I’m pretty sure I can stand in any room and, if I look carefully enough, find evidence of my addiction. Plus there’s all of the stuff I have hidden away. I have two large bureau drawers dedicated to concealing my stash and I think I have the problem contained, but then sometimes I uncover random Lincraft bags chock-full of lambswool/alpaca blend.

It frightens me.

And worse than just the wool – the half finished projects.  Oh!  The shame!  They glare at me reproachfully from the various places I’ve tried to hide them.  They call to me:  Kate!  Kate!  Only three more rounds and I would have been complete!  Kate!  Don’t you love me?

I’ve tried to be good.  Really, I have.  So many of my recent projects have used up stash wool rather than new wool.  I’ve tried to be creative and figure out ways to work with what I’ve got.  But it doesn’t seem to help.  It’s like Strega Nona broke into my stash and stirred it up with her magic wooden spoon.  It’s like the Magic Pudding of stashes.  It doesn’t make a difference how much of it I consume.  It doesn’t get any smaller.

Illustration from Norman Lindsay's The Magic Pudding in which pudding has been replaced with a ball of yarn

Mr Knightley has his suspicions, but he doesn’t know how bad things really are.  I have been guilty of concealing my (necessary and perfectly legitimate) yarn purchases from him (“this old skein?  I’ve had this for ages”).

But now it’s time to face reality.  I’m going to get all the yarn I can find together and take a picture.  This might be a little disturbing:

embarrassing collection of yarn

Oh!  The shame!  It’s only in a heart shape because Christopher Robin helped me collate it all  (“You love your wool, really, Mum”)

And here are the dud projects:

graveyard of abandoned projects

Don’t look at me!  I’m hideous!

And here’s what makes it all much worse:  I want to buy more.  I want to buy so much more.

This weekend I went to Healesville with my husband of twelve years and we spent some blissful time exploring markets and second-hand shops sitting in lovely cafes all without the company of our children, who, delightful as they are, tend to have grabby hands and an electron-like capacity of being in many places they shouldn’t be all at once.

I got the chance to feast my eyes on some gorgeous hand-made baby clothes and it gave me a desperate case of the wanties.  My fingers started itching to create some adorable hats and jackets for the twins and none of the yarns I already own are quite what I am looking for.

I’m beginning to fantasise about gender-neutral pallettes in rich, unusual colours tempered with soft greys and creams all in finger-weight yarn.  Or large balls of thick, soft, natural-coloured wool.  Or the vivid, jewel-bright colours of Rowan DK or Debbie Bliss yarn (I’ve never actually owned these brands, but everybody on the internet seems to use them and the colours are to die for).

Did you know you can order yarn online and they deliver to your door?  Can you imagine what it would be like to open a parcel and find it full of delicious wool?  I was chatting about this with my husband on the weekend (we were eating lunch in a Healesville café and I’d just seen the inside of this amazing store).  His eyes were a little glazed over for most of the conversation (“granny square matinee jacket” / “New Zealand possum yarn” / “new method for edging blankets’), but he snapped back to reality when I mentioned purchasing yet more wool.

“What are the names of these websites?” he asked, with concern wrinkling his eyebrows, “perhaps I should put a block on them…” and then he went on, talking about “my own good” and “saving me from myself” and “seeking professional help”.   I’m not sure – I wasn’t really listening.  My mind was exploring colours and textures and exciting new projects.

It’s sweet that he cares about me, but he really doesn’t need to be concerned.  It’s fine.  I can stop at any time.

Plus I bet I can get a discount for ordering in bulk.

 

Do you have a wool or craft stash that is getting out of control?  Please photograph and/or write about it and we can enable link to each other.  This is a safe place.  There is no judgement here.