Tag Archives: costume

Book Week Fail: Part Two.

Before I start, I just want to say I am mortified at the amount of time it has taken me to write the sequel to this post.  I’ve been knocked about with a nasty dose of the flu and my laptop has been misbehaving a little as well.  The problem is, the longer the break since my last post, the more I avoid writing the next one.  I didn’t mean to build up this much suspense!  You’re going to find Part Two a bit of a let down after such a long wait!  Oh well, here goes…

I woke up super-early on the morning of the Book Week Parade.  Partly because I had plans to get everything organised and to arrive at school with time to spare (I was determined to get it right this year), but also because I had an early morning Skype-date with my sister, Jan.  I don’t say ‘conversation’, because these sessions are more likely to involve my children climbing all over me and shouting at the computer as they jostle for prime position.  They love their Aunty.  And the camera.

As bed-time in Britain was fast approaching, we bid farewell to Jan and I felt the familiar pang of distance.  I miss my sister so much.  But now it was time for weetbix and toast and uniform and matching socks and The Bunny Spoon (no other spoon will do for Annie’s breakfast).  I needed to get cracking on my own breakfast, too.  I’m one of those types who needs a proper high-protein breakfast to function on any level.  On a good day, I will have eaten breakfast and hung a load of whites on the line before the kids wake up.  I enjoy this semi-annual event, I really do.  Today, I was running a bit behind, but no matter.  I was able to beat eggs and shout at my children simultaneously (thankfully I didn’t get confused and shout at the eggs whilst beating my children).

Mr Knightley emerged wearing some hideous running clothes.  He was leaving early to drop the car off for a service (and would run to work from the mechanics).  I reminded myself that nobody would actually see his olive-green windcheater as he always kept a clean shirt and pants in his office and bit back any fashion advice I might have been tempted to share.

It was as I was saying goodbye to my husband that Harry somehow managed to tip an entire bowl of soggy weetbix onto his lap.  Ack!  I got busy with paper towels and the laundry sink and found him a clean set of clothes (“I hate the stripy t-shirt!”).  Things were starting to get a little hectic.  My FODMAP-friendly omelette was ready, but nobody seemed to be wearing shoes and I still had to make the lunches (too busy constructing costumes to remember to do it the night before…).

That’s when the phone rang.

It was my husband.

Here’s the general gist of our conversation:

  1. Before Mr Knightley left the house, we swapped keys.  He was taking the family car to the mechanics, I would drive the car he usually drives to work (on loan from my sister).
  2. The keys to his office were in my hand bag.
  3. He had an important meeting at 9am.
  4. He was wearing a truly dreadful sweatshirt.

I gaped.   I almost cried out “But you don’t understand – it’s BOOK WEEK!” before realising that things that are desperately important in Mummy Land bear no relevance in the rest of the world.  This did give me a moment of existential angst, I must say.  But then I took a deep breath,  allowed myself one look at the truly delicious omelette and steaming cup of tea before turning the stove off, clamping a lid over the pan and swinging into action.

I slapped sandwiches together whilst shouting “Shoes!  Mail Bag!  Put that down!  Time to go!”.  Then I scooped up the costume bits and ushered everyone into the car (after retrieving Christopher Robin’s shoes from under the trampoline).  We managed to get to Mr Knightley’s work by 9:05.  He’d already had a shower, so wouldn’t be too late for the meeting.  Then we raced back to school.

Saucepans

We were late, we were so late.  We had to park miles away and walk through the school carrying  the costumes and back packs and Annie (she wasn’t wearing any shoes).  When we got there, the parade had already started.  The kinder kids were already on the stage.  I wheeled around to face Harry. “Let’s get your costume on!” I said, in what I hoped was a cheerful voice.

Harry shook his head.

“Come on!”  I trilled, trying not to sound too maniacal.  “look at all your friends!  Won’t it be fun?”  I was already trying to dress him.  Harry started to panic.  “No!  No!”  he wailed, “I hate this!  I hate the Saucepan Man!  I want to be Woody!”

We don’t own a Woody costume, nor is Woody a character from a proper book (not counting spin-off merchandise), but I don’t think either of these arguments were going to convince Harry in this moment.  “Just the hat?”  I cajoled,

But Harry was shaking and in tears.

I should have known by now, Harry doesn’t do costumes (remember Christmas Eve?).  In fact, I really should have been grateful he was wearing clothes at all.  I heaved a big sigh, folded him up in my arms and found a place to sit.  His tears and snot were warm against my neck.

Christopher Robin had already gathered up his tray of Marvellous Medicine and hurried off to sit with his class.  I realised, too late, that I had never weight-tested the tray with all of its contents.  It was really heavy.  Christopher’s arms wobbled as he held the tray and his voice sounded a little strained as he told the school he was “George and the Marvellous Medicine”.  But he got through it like a champion.

Marvellous Medicine

This was the point where I was planning to sneak off home, but Harry was still sitting on my lap, his face firmly buried in my neck.  I had asked him coaxingly a few times if he’d like to sit with his class, pointing out all his little friends, but he just shook his head, without actually removing it from my neck.  I was going to have to watch the whole darn thing.

It was around the time the Grade Fives were on the stage that Harry looked up from my neck.  “My tummy’s rumbling,”  he announced, “I haven’t had any breakfast!”

I realised, with horror, that the only weetbix Harry had encountered before I bundled him into the car was the bowl he’d tipped on his lap.  His tummy growled.  Mine growled back.

“I haven’t had any breakfast, Mummy!”  Harry repeated loudly and insistently.  Several teachers and parents turned to look.  I smiled brightly and tried to reassure Harry under my breath.  This was the day I was going to convince everyone that I had it all together and homeschool was working out just fine, thank you very much.  Would the Book Parade never end?

At last it was time to gather everything together and walk Harry to kinder.  But the student wellbeing teacher was honing in on me.   She looked at me with a glance that took in my face, barren of make-up, my bored-looking nine year-old, my dirty-faced, pyjama-clad two-year-old, and the quivering four-year-old firmly attached to my leg.  She gave me a trademark warm smile that seemed tinged with concern.  I smiled bravely back.

I think she was trying to talk to me about Matilda’s ‘transition’ back to school, but her face had somehow morphed into a hot cheese-chicken-and-spinach omelette with a fresh pot of tea on the side.  I nodded hungrily.

Omelette

At Harry’s kinder, his teacher was taking photos of all the children in their costumes before they took them off to play.  At some point, I will receive a book week photo of Harry, dressed as  Harry, baring his teeth disconsolately for the camera.

I think I’ll put it in a frame.

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Book Week Fail: Part One.

Last week was Book Week (actually, by the time I post this, it might be a little longer, but let’s just pretend it was last week).  Here in Australia, at a certain time of the year, Facebook news feeds everywhere become choked with pictures of school-aged children in costumes.  They all carry the same two word caption: Book Week.  This is the week the Children’s Book of the Year is awarded and suburban libraries try to out-do each other in creative celebrations.  Book Week represents everything I should love, so why does the mere mention of the word fill me with a vague sense of nausea and dread?

I tend to put a lot of pressure on myself on Book Week dress-up day.  When you’re a stay-at-home mum, you don’t often get the chance to prove yourself.  There are no clear-cut KPIs and no performance reviews in my line of work.  It all pretty much boils down to two tests:  visits to the Maternal and Child Health Nurse and Book Week.  As you may know, my previous performances at MCH visits have been underwhelming to say the least.  Book Week, therefore, would have to be Kate’s Time To Shine.

In the past, I’ve been disorganized and turned up late with costumes that didn’t quite work, like the time Matilda arrived half-way through the parade with tangled hair in a generic fairy dress as ‘Silky’, a last-minute substitute after I discovered that a five-year-old couldn’t manage the sheer weight of a Saucepan Man costume when it was made up of proper stainless steel saucepans.  We were both gutted.  I had planned to bask in the glow of good-costume-approval and Matilda had devised plans to pretend to be comically deaf all day (maybe she still did: she’s not easily deterred).

Hand drawn cartoon.  A wild-haired Kate is holding a saucepan and looking disconcerted:  her five-year-old daughter has collapsed under the weight of her saucepan costume.  Caption reads

Can you tell there’s a squashed child under all those saucepans? Can you even tell they’re meant to be saucepans??

This year was going to be different.  A week before the day and I was already thinking it over.  There could be no phoning it in.  No Shrek.  No Spiderman.  No Buzz Lightyear.  My children and their costumes would represent the richness and diversity of well-written children’s books.  The school librarian would nod approvingly and nudge the literacy co-ordinator.  “Do you see those children?  They will go far in life.  Their mother is doing an excellent job.”

I needed to think.  I majored in Literature in University.  I adore children’s literature.   This was a unique opportunity to exhibit my Sublime Literary Taste.  People would see me as a real-life Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan’s character in You’ve Got Mail: how could you not know that?).

“What are you doing for Book Week?”  I interrogated Lovely M.

“Ugh!  Book Week!  Peter says he wants to bring his scooter.  Do you know any literary characters who ride scooters?” I shook my head doubtfully.  M sighed.

“Things would be so much easier if I had a little girl with red hair,” I mused, “think about it:  Anne of Green Gables, L’il Orphan Annie, Pippi Longstocking, Sunny Ducrow, Madeleine”

Nancy Drew,” added M, “Millie that red crayon girl”

“Do you think I can convince Christopher Robin to wear a red wig and a dress?” I asked wistfully.  M shook her head.  I sighed.  Lovely M started googling scooter-themed books.

Harry’s costume, at least, would be easy enough.  At some point since our failed Saucepan Man attempt, we had managed to acquire a set of lightweight toy saucepans (I promise we didn’t get them just for Book Week.  At least, that’s what I keep telling myself).  Harry would be an adorable little Saucepan Man; I just needed to think up a decent costume for Christopher Robin.

I ran the idea past my siblings at Family Night.  They’re young and creative and don’t have kids.  This sort of thing is actually fun for them.   We were deep in discussion of proper construction methods of a giant peach and Cindy had just run off to fetch a teapot that looked a little like Aladdin’s lamp when Greg (or Peter) struck gold (they both are taking credit for having the idea first. I’m not getting involved)

“What about George’s Marvellous Medicine?”

The idea had real promise.  Christopher Robin could wear regular clothes and just carry a tray with ‘medicine’ ingredients on it.  Given that we were having this conversation the night before costume day, this plan had great appeal.

As soon as I got home from my parent’s house, I got to work stringing together toy saucepans and gathering household items to put on George’s tray.  I also filled up a bottle with water, put food dye in it and labelled it “Marvellous Medicine”, just to drive the point home.  When I went to bed that night, I was feeling rather smug.  My boys would look adorable.  My Facebook boast would get so many likes. For the first time ever, I was going to get it right on Book Week day.

At least, that’s what I thought.

Nativity Fail.

nativity set

Every year, just before Christmas Eve Mass, my parish puts on a little children’s nativity play.  And this year, Harry was old enough to join in.  I watched him with pride at the rehearsal as he sat on the altar steps next to his big brother, solemnly clutching his assigned wooden sheep and singing carols very dutifully.  I could already see how it was going to be.  On Christmas Eve, all the otherwise stern-faced parishioners would be nodding at each other indulgently and pointing to the altar.  There sat the quiet and obedient little three-year-old with the mop of golden hair and enormous brown eyes as he performed Away in a Manger in Australian Sign Language.  “That boy has come good,” they would mutter to each other, “he used to turn up to Mass late and without shoes on and shriek abuse at Father during the consecration, but no more!  Just look at him sitting so still!  I call that fine parenting!”.  My heart swelled.

The rehearsal was a long one.  Annie was getting tired of being strapped in her pusher.  When I unclipped her, she promptly trotted over to the altar steps and sat down amongst the other children.  It was all very cute and she looked very proud of herself.   I let her stay there for a little while, but I soon began to sense her presence was making the co-ordinator rather anxious, so I coaxed her back to my seat with toy cars and kept her there.  I could tell from the smile of approval and relief the co-ordinator sent my way that I’d done the right thing.  It’s true: I do value other people’s approval far more than I ought.  Annie, realising she’d been duped, began to howl piteously.

When the rehearsal ended, it was time to fit the children for their costumes.  Being one of the smallest, Harry was last to be fitted.  As we approached, I could hear him murmuring to himself: “but I don’t need a clothes.  I don’t want one.  I just don’t need a clothes”.  The kindly parish lady held up a small brown robe.  Harry’s eyes widened:  “No.  No.  No, I don’t need it.  No!  No!  Take it off!  Take it off!”.  I didn’t want to make a big thing of it or – for that matter – tear a hole in the lovingly handmade costume.  Harry can have a bit of a thing where clothing is involved.   In the end, we held the robe against Harry’s wriggling form to measure it.  “Never mind,” said the kindly parish lady as she pinned a label with Harry’s name on the costume’s coat hanger, “it’s been a long morning.  He’ll be fine on the night.”

Christmas Eve was a day that went by in a bit of a desperate whirl.  A couple of days earlier, my mum and I decided we would move the family Christmas to my house (Mum and Dad are getting their kitchen renovated and, whilst the builder had given them many reassurances that the kitchen would be ready by Christmas, it would seem he had not specified which Christmas).   I was feeling quietly jubilant by this prospect.  I still feel the novelty of having a home of my own and now I would have the chance to get it all dressed up for Christmas.  Surely this was some sort of housewives’ rite of passage?  My head spun with the possibilities.  What about this?

hand made ornaments

Image credit: Mollie Makes, http://www.molliemakes.com

Or this?

decorated jar

Image credit: Craft & Creativity, http://craftandcreativity.com

Or this?

little wreaths

Image credit: http://www.welke.nl

My home would be so beautiful and charming.  Everybody would exclaim over all of the sweet details and thoughtful touches.  But before I could let loose with the decorations, I needed to tidy up.  After all, an artist must always begin with a clean canvas!

By the time Christmas Eve rolled around, I had modified my expectations a little.  OK, so I probably wasn’t going to get a chance to make beautiful, bespoke decorations and create a Pinterest wonderland here on earth, but at least I could focus on making it fresh and tidy and welcoming.  So I wrote a list a mile long and got lost in a frenzy of sweeping and dusting and endless picking-up-and-putting-away (or picking-up-and-scratching-head-over-random-objects-that-seem-beyond-classification).

It soon got to the point where I realised I wasn’t going to get the house tidy in time for Christmas.  My delightful children were expertly manufacturing mess at a faster rate than I could possibly dispel it.  I decided on a new goal – I would make the kitchen functional.  My family had suffered weeks in a house without a working kitchen, it would be a relief for them to work in a shiny-clean and clutter-free space.  I might even clean the oven (hey: there’s a first time for everything!).

But as we hurtled towards the end of the day, I realised forlornly that I was not going to accomplish any of my goals and now had to focus on force-feeding dinner to my children before getting them to the church by 6:15-no-later.  I had sort of hoped to coax Mr Knightley into taking the children so that I might have some child-free time to get some stuff done and – hang on! – get dressed for church.  But, as Mr Knightley ruefully pointed out, he had been working in the garden all afternoon and was covered in dirt and grass clippings.  He would need the time to have a shower.

We were already late.  There was no time to discuss matters.  It was possible that I fumed a little as I strapped Annie into her car seat (she was looking very sweet in a bright green fairy dress Matilda had found for her) and muttered to myself about my husband’s tendency to find urgent things to do in the safety of the garden whenever I go into stressed-out-cleaning-banshee-mode, but this is not the place to document such grumblings.

As we raced towards the room with all the costumes, I took note of the pretty dresses and floaty blouses all the other mums were wearing.  The earrings and the makeup and the high-heeled shoes.  I was wearing a faded peasant top that makes me look a little pregnant and my jeans with the frayed bit at the bottom.  The co-ordinator (looking spectacular in a black lacy number with red lipstick) made an elaborate display of relief when we burst in the door (eleven minutes late) and ushered us to the dressing room where the kindly parish ladies were waiting.  I shared a brief look of solidarity with the KPLs and gamely girded my underdressed loins.  Harry had already started to shake his head.

As I cheerfully approached him with the robe all gathered up and ready to pull over his head, Harry shot one look of disgust and pure loathing at the proffered garment and bolted.  I somehow managed to rugby-tackle the miniature maelstrom as he ran laps of the room shouting “No-no-no-no-no-no!  Help!  HELP MEEE!” and began to wrestle arms and legs and heads into sleeves and neckholes and skirts.  It was just as I stopped applying the costume and picked up the tea towel headdress that Harry managed to fling the small brown cloak off in one swift movement and resumed his protest march around the room.

By now, everyone else had departed for photos-on-the-basketball-court.  So, with one arm dragging Harry and the other pushing the stroller (which contained both Annie and the wretched costume), I proceeded outside to resume negotiations.

Harry and I sat facing each other on the asphalt.  I had managed to poke Harry’s head through the costume, but that was as far as I’d got.  I gestured helplessly at the other little shepherd boys as they posed together for a photo.

“Look, Harry,”  I coaxed, “all the big boys are wearing their costumes.  Don’t you want to be like a big boy?”

Harry glared at me mutinously.  I tried again.

“Do you want to sit with me and Annie like a baby?”

“No!”

“Then you must wear your costume”

“No!”

“Then you won’t be able to be in the play”

“No!”

“Are you a big boy or a baby?”

“No!”

“Just try it”

“No!”

And he ran away.

I sat, bereft, on the bitumen.  Two of the dads were regarding me from on high (they were tall and standing up, I mean).

“Nobody would say you didn’t give it a good go.” said one consolingly.

“There’s always next year,” said the other.

I sighed and climbed to my feet.  Mr Knightley appeared by my elbow.  “There’s still time if you want to run home and get dressed up.” he said, “Go now! Hurry!”

So I raced home, pulled my favourite summer dress off the line, flung it over my head, poked my feet into some pretty sandals and raced back to the church.

I fell in the door just moments after the play had started.  As I stumbled to my seat, I took in the scene before me.  Christopher Robin and Harry sat beside each other.  And Harry was in full costume, with only one arm poking defiantly out of his neck hole.

It was a Christmas miracle.

I looked across to the angels.  There sat Matilda, a halo of silver tinsel on her dark hair, singing her eight-year-old heart out.  And there, sitting amongst the Heavenly Host all in white, was a small green fairy.  Annie shot me a warning look that said don’t ruin this for me, Mother.  Mr Knightley smiled indulgently.  The co-ordinator smiled nervously.

I flopped down into my seat.  Meh.  Three out of four ain’t bad.