Author Archives: katelikestocreate

Save The Madonna!

Hi everyone!

One of the magazines I write for is an 120-year-old publication called Madonna. It’s a magazine about spirituality in everyday life for lay Catholics. It’s always a great read and the short reflections on the readings of the day are always full of insight. Especially the ones on the seventh of the month, because I write them. Unfortunately, things are looking pretty dire for Madonna. If they can’t get their subscription numbers up, they’re going to have to close down. 

So I need you to have a think. Are you looking for something to enrich your prayer life? Do you have a friend or parent or aunty who might benefit from a gift subscription? Would you like to get your Christmas shopping done early?  This is where you need to go:

https://www.madonnamagazine.com.au/article/subscriptions

In the meantime, I thought I’d share an article I wrote for Madonna last year. It feels rather poignant now, for us Melburnians, when we can’t have anyone  at our house. If you buy the upcoming Spring edition, you can read my thoughts on being quarantined at home with six children.  There is no swearing this time, I promise!

Cover of Madonna Magazine Winter 2020

 

I want to be a hospitable person. I really do. I fantasise about friends and neighbours dropping in at any time and feeling nurtured by my home. Can you picture it? My house wafts with the smell of baking cinnamon teacake, there are fresh-picked flowers on the table, my kitchen is immaculate, and I somehow have a perfect hour-glass figure, which makes my handmade apron look really cute. Then I set out a casually effortless meal so delicious and lovely that my friends scrabble to take Instagram pictures (#impromptucatchup #friendlyf #sospoiled) whilst I smile and shrug and look relaxed.

I have six children. That was part of the plan, you see. I’ve always wanted the vibrancy and hospitality of a large family. But, while I’ve acquired the children, I haven’t quite got the hang of the hospitality.

Here’s where I get stuck: my house is in a state of constant disarray, and that’s putting it politely. I’m looking at the book-case at the moment. It has bath toys in it. Why? And there are swimming goggles on the kitchen bench. A tower of clean washing glares at me from the couch: why won’t you fold me? And in every, every corner and crevice are marbles, lego pieces, random play money, and Coles Mini Shop collectables. I’ll invite people over when the house is tidy. It’s bound to happen one of these days.

In the meantime, hospitality remains a vague ideal that I do nothing about. I’m ashamed to admit this, but the idea of inviting my parish priest over for dinner – to an oppressively messy house and chaos cooking – so paralysed me that our last PP finished his term and moved away without ever receiving an invitation. I’m determined to make amends with our new PP, but I worry: what if word gets back to my old PP that I’m having dinner with the new PP even though I never invited the old PP in his entire 7-year term? He’ll think I secretly hated him the whole time. These thoughts keep me awake at night.

When I hear the story of Jesus telling Martha, who was stressed-out with hosting, that she should sit down and be present, like Mary, part of me wants to roll my eyes and say “Typical man! He doesn’t recognise the work that needs doing!” But then I realise this means I think I know more than God, so I tone it down. Perhaps I do need to take Jesus’s message on board: it’s not important whether the house is perfect or the food impressive. Let’s just be together among the mess!

So what if I find the idea of dinner intimidating? There are plenty of other ways to be hospitable without hosting dinner parties. I’m getting pretty good at the post-school-run morning tea that sometimes becomes also a cheese-toastie lunch. Lately, I’ve been playing with the idea of setting a fire in the backyard firepit and inviting friends over for some roast chestnuts and experimental damper. Or maybe I could make a trip to the playground with another mum a bit more special by bringing hot chocolate and biscuits. A friend of mine did this for me once and ever since I’ve considered it an Ultimate Life Goal. Meanwhile, I don’t own a thermos. Or maybe I could host a potluck? Come over for dinner – except I need you to bring the dinner!

In the meantime, as I wipe crumbs and mop spills (I maintain that it’s actually OK to cry over spilt milk, if it’s the fifth spill that morning), I can remember that what I am doing is not mere drudgery. It’s a form of ministry. I am making my home fresh and welcoming for guests. And if guests arrive after the fifteen minute window in which my house remains tidy, I’ll invite them in anyway. Because that’s what hospitality is about.



Pod Person

 

Meme: "You should put that in a podcast/so I can unsubscribe"

 

I’m on a podcast!


The Majellan is one of the magazines I write for. I can’t share the articles here because it’s only print and app-based (but do feel free to subscribe and tell them I sent you!)

I wonder if you can hear the gentle struggle as I try unsuccessfully to steer the conversation towards “Kate Moriarty: Serious Writer” when it instead barrels along the path of “Kate Moriarty: Professional Mother”.

I shouldn’t nitpick. We did spend an entire half-hour on the glorious topic of ME, after all!

You may notice, I’ve updated the aliases I’ve given my kids (is this even allowed?) I never really liked “Daisy and Poppy”. Now that I know my twins better, I call my little girl who loves Batman and has her hair cut with a fringe “Penny” (after Penny Pollard) and my girl who is full of energy and a miniature megalomaniac “Pippi” (after Pippi Longstocking). I sputter this out in a garbled mess at the beginning. I was a little nervous.

Have a listen:

https://majellan.media/figuring-out-families/

Love in the Time of Corona

 

A poster of fun things to do at home, entitled "LOCKDOWN FUN!". Coloured textas on butcher's paper. Includes "Baking", "Treasure hunts", and "Pillow blanket forts"

So tomorrow’s our first day of full-Corona-Lockdown. Matilda and Christopher will be on break from high school, Harry and Annie will be home as usual, but unlikely to want to do any lessons when their siblings are on holidays, and there’ll be no kinder for Daisy and Poppy.

Somehow, this whole Corona crisis has thrown me into a sort of adrenaline-fuelled Pollyanna persona. Why, this is a blessing in disguise! Clear schedules! Family togetherness! Let’s go make some wonderful memories!

It’s weird, really. I should be suffering more. My extrovert heart should be crushed from social deprivation. My Catholic soul should ache with hunger for the Eucharist. My writer’s mind should itch for a chance to work on my novel (note to all you Facebook writers who are raving about how many words you’re going to get down while you’re under house arrest. I’m happy for you. Really I am. Meanwhile, I do all my writing in cafes and libraries, so…)

But I’m not suffering. Pollyanna mode won’t let me feel these things. At least, not yet. Did you know we have two birthdays at home this week? Tomorrow, Annie turns eight (!), then on Thursday it’s my husband’s birthday. I was talking to my sister Jan about this today, going on about cake decorating and presents and bonfires and glow sticks and s’mores and party games. She got a hefty dose of my Pollyanna spirit.

”You’re right,” she said, “It’s important to keep your spirits up. Did you know there are some people who don’t call it ‘self isolation’, they call it ‘self retreat’?”

”Oh yeah?” I said, “Perhaps they should try sharing a house with two relentlessly hyperactive four-year-olds. Happy fucking retreat, guys!”

With many apologies:

https://laptopontheironingboard.wordpress.com/2020/03/23/love-in-the-time-of-corona/

OK, so it was a brief lapse, but it wasn’t long before Pollyanna was back in full force. I sat down with my kids and a packet of textas and we wrote down as many fun things as we could think of that we could still do while in lockdown.

A second poster of fun things to do at home, entitled "LOCKDOWN FUN!". Coloured textas on butcher's paper. Includes "Make bath bombs", "Kids cook dinner", "record audiobook", "stop motion lego" and "Make crabapple jelly"

 

I’m trying really hard to ignore the fact that most of these things are not so much fun for ME.

 

Here’s what MY fun list would look like

1. Endless Jane Austen screen adaptations featuring dishy men with smouldering scowls.

2. A quiet room with NOBODY TOUCHING ME.

3. Gin. 

 

I’ll keep you all updated. Please let me apologise for swearing. I haven’t used bad language on the blog before and I don’t plan to do it again, but I think we can all agree, we are living in strange and unusual times which warrant an errant f-bomb.

Jan says “I love pandemic Kate!”

Bloop

Two children’s backpacks, each with a corresponding lunchbox and drink bottle

 

Time for my March blog post! What should we talk about? This month, I worked on the romantic subplot in my novel. It wasn’t easy, but I finally convinced my lovers to kiss each other. Then I went back in time and made them fight. I don’t think romance is my strong suit.

I’ve started writing for The Majellan magazine. My latest article has been published, but the only way you can read it is by buying the magazine (boo!).

The twins are going to kinder this year. You’d think I’d have got the hang of it by now, but kinder mornings are a mess! It takes so much brainpower to get two often uncooperative young ladies fed, cleaned, dressed, shod, and out the door, with an appropriately stocked lunchbox and hair neatly tied back and a water bottle each and the show-and-tell bag and that form we were supposed to fill out and return last Friday. And a sun hat and a rain jacket, because Melbourne. I’m that mum who sidles in fifteen minutes late after the doors are locked.

No. Scratch that. I was That Mum last week, but this week will be different. This week I’ll be on top of mornings. Well, not counting Monday. That was a practice day.

My sister is doing a course in life coaching and I’ve volunteered as a coachable guinea pig. This means I talk regularly with one of the student life coaches (not my sister, but her lovely classmate) and work on strategies to make my life easier. This week, I’m going after mornings. Here are my plans:

1. Prepare everything the night before. Clothes, shoes, lunches, bags, drink bottles. Yes, know I always say I’m going to do this, but this time I mean it!

2. No checking Facebook before morning-tea time, after the kinder run.

3. Tell myself that kinder starts at 8:50am, not 9:00am.

4. Remember my iron and zinc tablets. This has nothing at all to do with the kinder run, but I figure I might as well do this if I’m remembering things.

Maybe if I get really good at this life coaching, I’ll become Super Capable. This could be the end of my endless blog post material! Or perhaps I could start a new, Aspirational Lifestyle Blog. Be like me! From Blooper to Gooper! I could design my own skincare range and everything.

Watch this space.



Post Script: So I took that wonderfully stylised picture at 9:05 this morning (don’t judge). We got to kinder late, and after I stood in the rain giving the twins hasty up-dos with hair-ties scavenged from the floor of the car, I realised in dismay that we had only one of the required two backpacks. The Star Wars backpack was neatly packed, with lunchbox, drink bottle, and a change of clothes. The only problem was, it was still inside my house. By the time we’d settled the twins, smiled apologetically at the kinder teacher, driven home, grabbed the errant bag, delivered it to kinder, and driven back home, it was 9:45am. I promise I’m not making this up.

I might have to wait until next week to be Super Capable. In the meantime, I need to take my iron tablet. I forgot yesterday.

The Year of the Novel

An empty coffee cup beside a tablet and bluetooth keyboard

The coffee was so delicious, I drank it before I remembered to take a photo…

Hi everyone. It’s 2020 and I’m full of all the optimism a new year brings.  On every day of my summer holiday, I got up early and ran to the cafe to write.  It was kind of blissful. Here’s what I’ve decided: 2020 is The Year of the Novel. I’m going to limit the number of magazine jobs I take on and instead focus on writing my book. By December, hopefully earlier, I plan to have a full manuscript to badger my friends with. I realise, this is one of those things that’s much more exciting for me than it is for the rest of the world, but it’s still VERY EXCITING. I’ve also decided to dust off my poor, neglected blog and write posts once a month. Publishers like it if you have an active online presence. A platform. See? I know all the industry-speak.

Please ask me how I’m going with this throughout the year. I need your help to keep me accountable!

Deleted Snark

Sansa Stark giving Sansa snark

Hi everyone.

So I wrote a piece for Eureka Street in response to Leunig’s latest mummy-shaming cartoon. Have you read it yet?

I’ve had a few requests to share the comments I ended up deleting because they were too snarky. Here are the sweepings from the cutting room floor. I don’t take much convincing – they were my favourite bits!

Here we go:

1. “I was using the phone to get work done. Although, from what I know about you, being a working mum is another thing to be sneered at. I know you think I shouldn’t be working. But we don’t get to relax on a single income. As a generation, we have to hustle. I know you’re a Boomer and it was different for you, well done. Just so you know, #metoo isn’t a conversation about which one of your friends has bought another investment property.”

2. (this one just has an extra bit at the end) “It would be easier, perhaps, to put my baby into childcare for one day a week. Then I could get some rest, get my freelance work done. But I don’t dare to. I’m still haunted by those cartoons you did when I was a teenager. The baby in creche, all alone, staring at the ceiling, wondering why Mummy doesn’t love him (“Call her a cruel, ignorant, selfish bitch if you like, but I will defend her”). Do you remember? You did them in the 90s, back when you were still relevant.”

3. “I’m guessing you were that man in his seventies. I saw you in the cafe I passed, reading the paper with your avocado toast, before sauntering home to dash off your latest judgey cartoon.

That cartoon. My brain picks at it like a dried scab. I can’t help myself. I spent the best part of this week in the exclusive company of a small person whose conversational qualities are limited to say the least. My brain needs something to work on. I can hear your defenders inside my head: “Somebody’s sensitive! Guilty conscience?” But it’s not that. Well, it’s not just that.

Look, I have notes. Firstly, I liked how you rhymed ‘pram’ with ‘Instagram’. That’s the cartoon’s main strength. The poem’s meter is a little off. Plus, it would have been funnier if the baby were given a name, don’t you think? (“poor little Hunter” reads better than “beautiful bubby”). Also, next time, try making the cartoon two years ago, before the topic has become overworked and trite. I just think that if you’re going to insult me, you should do a better job of it. Be edgy, you know?”

Thank you for letting me get that off my chest. I feel like I’ve just been to confession. As you can see, I have a wise editor who protects me from myself!

Mass With the Bare Essentials

Hi everyone! I’ve decided to republish some of my old Home Truths columns here. I’ve set up a Facebook page for “Kate Moriarty – Writer” and I’m trying to gather all my writing to the one place.

This column was first published in Australian Catholics Easter 2016

25-clarks-1

I long to see the day where I sail into 9am Mass with six children all clean and combed in their Sunday bests. I’ve always yearned for people to describe my children as ‘well turned out’. Especially church people.

Today was not that day. My husband had taken Matilda early so that she couldn’t be an altar server, and it was up to me to get the remaining children clothed and in the car and to Mass on time. Harry was dressed and ready like a champion. Unfortunately, his outfit was the same one he’d been wearing obstinately for the past three days. Christopher was performing a slow tai-chi dance with his breakfast, but was dressed at least. Annie was barefoot in her pyjamas staring blankly at her toast like it was the last clue in the cryptic crossword. The twins were fast asleep. And it was five-to-nine.

So I started gathering bags and babies, shepherding everyone into the car. The pyjamas Annie had been wearing looked enough like regular clothes to get away with. It was only later I noticed the vegemite stains all down the front.

Annie and Harry were putting their seatbelts on in the back of our van as Christopher and I organised the twins. “Annie, are you wearing shoes?” I call back whilst grappling with a four-month-old in a five-point-harness. “Yes, Mummy”, Annie responds in her sweetest voice.

And we were on our way, but we were oh-so-late.

We arrived. Annie grinned broadly, “Actually, I forgot my shoes!”, she announced triumphantly, like the punchline to some wonderful joke.

In all of the shouting and searching that followed, Annie alone was calm and unruffled. We found one shoe. There was only one. I think this was a million times worse than if there’d been no shoes at all.
The homily had just started as I sidled into Mass with my rag-tag posse of children. Annie remained unshod. If we kept a low profile, we might get away with it. In a quick exchange of sign language (I believe I employed the international sign for ‘I wish to strangle my child’), I brought my husband up to speed with the situation. His response was devastating, his expression deadpan:
“We’re on Offertory.”

In theory, being invited to bring the gifts to the altar is a wonderful privilege, I should have felt honoured that my husband was asked to participate with his family in this special way. Unfortunately, the idea of parading my dirty, barefoot, misbehaving children down the aisle for all to see was not altogether a tempting one.

When it came time for the Offertory Procession, I assumed a confident expression. Perhaps, if I smiled bravely and walked tall, nobody would notice my three-year-old was sans footwear. That aisle seemed much longer than usual. Father Jacob, flanked by Matilda and another server were miles away. After traipsing barefoot through the gauntlet of parishioners, Annie imperiously insisted on delivering her bowl to Matilda and not the priest. Father Jacob swallowed a snort of laughter.

I spent the remainder of Mass alternatively blushing and shushing. As we prepared for a swift exit, a lady grasped my elbow.
“It gave my heart so much joy to see your family bringing up the gifts,” she said with genuine warmth. My heart melted a bit. Mrs Thomas is almost old enough to be my grandmother. She has raised six children herself and was recently widowed. Mrs Thomas chose not to see the unwashed clothes or exposed feet or complete lack of liturgical style. She saw a family trying their best despite their imperfections, and loved us. In that moment, Mrs Thomas was God to me.

I opened my mouth to respond, but was interrupted by a loud yowling. Annie, it would seem, had stubbed her little toe on the kneeler.

And that, my dear, is why you should always wear shoes to church.

Job Fail

Stair with incorrectly installed bannister.  Text: you had one job.

So here’s the thing: I had an experience that was perfect blog post material. I was actually composing it in my head as it was happening to me.  I would have called it ‘Job Fail’, and we all would have had a nice laugh about it together.  But then I managed to pitch the idea to my editor and got it published.  There is something truly beautiful about getting paid for being daft.    But here’s the other thing: when I put stuff on my blog, I have a certain luxury of anonymity.  I can blather on about things to my own secret club and nobody really notices.  After my article was published in the magazine, however, I got an email from one of the chief characters in my fail story, who had recognised himself straight away, despite my attempts to conceal his identity.  He was so gracious and lovely, but I wanted to sink through the floor. How mortifying!

Anyway, please read it.  It’s called The Hassle of the Hustle (aka “Job Fail.”) and you can find it on page 26 (print page 24) of the April edition.  Can you see how I linked to it twice?  That’s how much I want you to read it.

Reflection on the Nativity

Traditional painting of Our Lady breastfeeding (or trying to)

Don’t you hate it when they get to that distractible age and won’t focus on breastfeeding? Stop looking at the angels, Baby Jesus!

 

Have a look at a piece I wrote for Pray.com.au on the Nativity. It got me reflecting on what it felt like to be a new mother. Did Mary feel this way too?

More Excitement!

So I haven’t got around to telling you yet (unless I know you in real life, in which case I’ve probably told you far too many times!), but I won an AWARD.  My editor at Australian Catholics entered one of my columns in the Australasian Religious Press Association awards and it won GOLD for ‘Best Humorous Article’.   I’m so super stoked!  Apparently, the other entrants weren’t particularly humorous, so I wasn’t so much the funniest as the only funny one, but I’m still going to see this as a win.  It was AUSTRALASIAN, not just Australian, and it was RELIGIOUS, not just Catholic.  I’m mega smug.

So I’m going to reprint the winning article here.  Enjoy!

Minimum Wage Barbie in McDonalds uniform

What a Girl Wants

If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s anxious research.  Whenever I feel overwhelmed, I read. Information soothes me.

When my eldest daughter was born, I devoured every book I could get my hands on, from What to Expect When You Expect to be Expecting, to Embryo Einsteins, to Have a New Newborn by Friday.  Imagine my dismay when I discovered that simple toys could reinforce oppressive gender stereotypes and cripple the cognitive development of my wee girl-child.  So, from the very start, I endorsed train sets, puzzles and every variety of Danish plastic construction system. Now, at almost twelve, Matilda is assertive and articulate and wants to be a mechanical engineer when she grows up (when she’s not busy being the Prime Minister of Australia).  This, of course, is all due to my wise parenting methods. So I knew exactly which approach to take when my next daughter was born.

Annie, however, in all her four years of life, has politely declined Thomas and His Friends in favour of all things pink, sparkly and monarchical.  

“Mummy, I want to be a princess!”

“That’s a good idea, Annie.  Did you know that princesses are wise rulers and important decision makers?  Let’s pretend your kingdom is a constitutional monarchy and implement free and fair elections for all of your subjects!”

“Do I get to wear a shiny dress?”

“OK, sure…”

The real challenge came for me last Christmas.  Annie’s wish list had only one item on it. Her large brown eyes shone and she spoke in hushed tones of finally owning . . . a Barbie doll.

Oh, Lord.

I know the marketing executives would tell me that this tiny mannequin is actually an empowering role model, a true feminist.  Didn’t I know there is even a Doctor Barbie?  Girls can be doctors too!  I try to swallow this, but it sticks in my throat.  Barbie is, above all things, pretty. Literally, she is an object to be dressed and admired.  I want more than this for my daughter.

“What else do you want for Christmas, Annie?”

“Just Barbie.  If I tell Santa something else, he might not get me the Barbie.”

“What would you do if you got a Barbie?”

“Play Barbies.”

“OK.  But you know Barbie’s not all that great.  What does she do? Wear clothes? Sit around her dream house bemoaning the lack of space her vital organs have to function within that tiny tiny waist?  There are better toys than Barbie!”

“Oh, I know you don’t like Barbie, Mummy,”  Annie says composedly.

“You do?”

“Yes.  That’s why I’m asking Santa to get me one”

But for all that, Santa, in all his wisdom, did not get Annie a Barbie doll.  I imagine he couldn’t bring himself to turn into the lurid pink aisle at the toy section of Target and fork out thirty dollars for an 11-and-a-half-inch eating disorder just waiting to happen.  I’m sure he tried. I’m sure he went back again and looked and scratched his beard and called one of his best elves for advice. But it was not to be. On Christmas morning, Annie ran downstairs and opened her pillowcase to discover a Lego set for a pink princess castle, complete with flowers, princess and pony.  I held my breath. Annie looked up at me – and beamed.

“Look, Mummy!  Look what Santa got me!  It’s just what I wanted! It’s just what I asked him for!”

Wait, what?  Had she completely forgotten our conversation?  And how could she have asked Santa for this Lego set?  She’d never seen one before!

Shut up, Kate!  Just shut up! You’ve almost got away with it!  Smile! Nod!

“Oh, yes, Annie.  Gosh, Santa is very clever.  You know, I think he’s even smart enough to be a princess!”