Tag Archives: family

Fifteen Minute Fail

OK, so here’s what happened.

I got a voicemail from the office of our local member of parliament. Now it just so happens that our local MP is friends with my husband. I mean, they’re not BFFs, but they get along well together. In the voicemail, Brad-the-Staffer said that our MP was going to be at a media event tomorrow and wanted to make sure he had enough people there to protest the closing of a police station. My first thought was “Thanks, but no thanks!”. But then I considered the following:

  1. It would be nice to help our local MP out. He was a good egg and this was an issue he really cared about. What’s more, he’d been really helpful in the past at championing issues that we cared about.
  2. It would be on a Friday morning. We’d pretty much done all of our school work for the week already. And this could count as “Political Science” or “Media Studies” or something.
  3. I actually did want to protest the closing of the police station.
  4. The kids would get a real kick out of getting their faces on the evening news.

I had one argument in opposition:

  1. My face was covered in pimples. Literally. I don’t know if it was hormones or blocked pores or a very localised pestilence, but they traversed my face like a bright red constellation. It was not a pretty sight. It was not TV material.

But I could get around that one point. My makeup bag had been missing for a bit, but I’d recently found it at the bottom of the coat rack by the front door. Inside that makeup bag would be a tube of foundation. I didn’t often wear foundation, but I knew a light coating would do wonders to disguise my spots. I was all set.

The next morning (the day of the Media Event), after sorting out all the usual morning things (nappies, breakfast, clothes, nappies, coffee, dishes and nappies). I set to work. I tried to find something to wear that looked both “stylish and sophisticated” and “everyday casual”. Then I fished out my newfound makeup bag from its hiding spot and opened it up to get my foundation.

Except it wasn’t there.

I went on a crazy search rampage all over the house and the floor of the car making frantic strangled noises as I did so. But it was no good and I was out of time. I loaded the children into the car and headed off. I would stand near the back, preferably behind somebody in a large hat. I would help make up numbers. I would avoid all cameras.

We arrived late and out of breath. It looked like I was the only one who brought kids, so it was a good thing I had such an abundant supply. Somebody handed us posters to hold and I did my best to look unobtrusive and nondescript. I was a background artist. The more background the better.

Then the blandly handsome Man from the Network spoke to us. He looked vaguely familiar. As he talked us through the logistics of this media event, a few things became more clear to me:

  1. This was not a spot on the evening news. This was an article for the network’s current affairs program, best known for its advertorials, reality tv star interviews and exposès entitled “Is This Australia’s Shiftiest Tradesman?”
  2. Given that I was pushing a stroller containing two adorable little girls, I was required to stand at the front and towards the centre of our small crowd. Urk.
  3. I could feel the spots on my face growing larger in size. Really, I could.
  4. I worked out where I’d seen the Man from the Network with the game-show-host charm. I’m fairly certain I’d seen him asking accusing questions through the screen door of Australia’s Most Shameless Con Woman.

Once we were arranged into our positions, it was time for us to be filmed. The Man from the Network asked us to chant “WE WON’T COP THIS” and “WHAT A COP OUT” loudly and without cringing. And we stood there and we shouted the words because The Man from the Network had some strange hypnotic charm that we were powerless to resist.

After our impassioned slogan chanting, it was time for The Man from the Network to film individual interviews with concerned residents. To my great relief, plenty of people were willing to go on camera and have their say. While this was happening, I monitored my children as they balanced on the police station’s brick fence and chatted to the Shadow Minister for Police, whom I discovered is an absolutely lovely man, who also has a young family.

It was just as I was thinking “I could probably leave now and nobody would notice” that I turned and saw Guy Smiley and his film crew standing right in front of me. “We would really like to hear from you,” he intoned. I shook my head and apologised and made polite excuses, but then he smiled. And he had SO MANY TEETH. And they were so white. I found myself nodding helplessly and the camera started rolling.

Now, as I was getting ready that morning, my mind did explore what I might say in the event I was interviewed. Let me tell you, the Kate in my mind was so eloquent, so articulate, so intelligent. The Kate in my mind spoke of “knock on effects”, “unintended consequences”, and “furthermore, what compounds this problem…”. Naturally, it follows that once the camera was on me and the Network Man twinkled sympathetically and asked “As a mother, do you feel fearful for your children’s future in a world without police?”, I responded glibly “Errr… duh… police are…goooood…”

And it only got worse from there. A goodly portion of my fifteen minutes of fame will be expended looking like a measles patient and blathering on like a bewildered four-year-old. Oh help.

As I stumbled away in the wake of the interview, I once again met with the Shadow Minister (incidentally, I think somebody should write a series of graphic novels about “Shadow Minister”. Legislator by day – vigilante by night!). I was still feeling a little dazed. “I had some really smart things to say on this issue, but once the camera was rolling, they all flew out of my head and I couldn’t think of what to say!”

The Shadow grinned ruefully, “Welcome to my life!” he said.

Later that day, I purchased foundation, BB cream, tinted moisturiser, and two types of concealer. I also discovered the missing foundation in my husband’s car. I’ve been watching the current affairs show every evening. On Monday night, there was a special event that took up most of the episode. One of the survivors of the 2006 Beaconsfield Mine Disaster’s marriage had failed. The current affairs show in question had managed to secure rights to interview this man and his soon-to-be-ex wife. This also gave them the opportunity to get more mileage out of the exclusive interviews of the miners they purchased eleven years ago.

On Tuesday night, there was an exposè, entitled “Butter Price SCANDAL”. “SCANDAL” was in red letters, stamped diagonally across the title. But, still, no “cop out” story.

Wednesday and Thursday were still bereft of slogan chanting locals concerned about law and order, but all was not lost. I did find out that one of the actors from a hospital drama in the 90s is going to jail. Half the article was spent explaining who exactly this man is, which was very helpful.

“Maybe it’s taking so long because they need a lot of time to photoshop the spots off your face,” was Christopher Robin’s helpful suggestion.

I’m nervous. All my friends are going to watch my debut television performance, because even though I meant to keep it a secret, I also can’t resist telling a funny story. I’m going to receive a lot of teasing over this.

But I’ll just have to cop it.

 

PS. It did air. On Friday. I’m barely in it at all! If you squint, you can see me in one of the group shots, but mostly it’s Kate-free. I can only assume they tried to photoshop the pimples away, but as I was more spot than woman, they erased me completely.  You will be relieved to hear, however, that both slogans made the cut. If I were inventing this story, I wouldn’t have written it this way, but the real life version is a bit of an anticlimax!

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Triduum Fail.

1950s church family

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.

1950s Church Family

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!

Sarah Palin's Book:

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.”

Grown Up Writer Fail

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.

pop art crying girl

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.

bug in salad bag

bug in salad bag!

Can you see it? Down, down, standards are down!

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:

  1. I hadn’t missed the event. At least it wasn’t scheduled for yesterday.
  2. I had just experienced an outing without children.
  3.  It actually wasn’t my fault. I said ‘see you Wednesday’ to the editor and he didn’t contradict me. He’s an editor. It’s his job to pick up on writer’s mistakes.
  4. I would have time to read up on the other writer’s work, after all.

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.

Hair Apparent

cousin itt

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”

“What things?”

“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.

Maybe tomorrow.

Scraps and Pieces

Scrapyard cars

 

Hi everyone.

My husband’s taken the kids to Aldi, so I really should write something.  But I’m feeling the crush of perfectionism that comes when I’ve been away from the blog from too long.  I feel guilty for avoiding you.  Sometimes I forget that my blog isn’t actually a person, it really does feel that way sometimes.

I don’t have anything of great importance to share, but I thought I’d show you a few excerpts from messages I sent my family recently.  After all, this is how this blog began.  The original ‘fail’ posts were just group emails I sent out to my parents and brothers and sisters, many of whom were doing far more interesting things overseas.

Anyway, if you’re reading this and are related to me, please excuse the clip show.  I’m just trying to get back in the swing of things.

Also, if you have an idea of something you’d like me to write about, drop me a line in the comments.  I’m a bit ‘duh’ at the moment…

1. Goodmorning

“Hi everybody. Annie, in her quest for milk, managed to distribute half a litre on the kitchen floor, over the top of a stool, into Matilda’s shoes and all throughout the plate cupboard (both shelves). The worst part is, I was in the room the whole time, just didn’t realise what she was up to.

The cup in question somehow got a hole in the bottom. I can imagine Annie thinking “Why does this keep happening to me? Perhaps I should try pouring it over here instead?”

Everybody’s decided to join in the “I’m a nutter Knightley” chorus. Christopher is still in his pyjamas doing dishes at a rate of 1 dish per hour, Harry keeps trying to turn the TV on, Daisy wants to be fed nonstop and I had to confiscate Matilda’s iPhone after she kicked Christopher in a temper. No Background Briefing podcast for you today, Missy!

2.  Awkward

So I went out with a bunch of nice homeschool mums last night.  As we were walking to our cars I got a message from my husband: “ETA?”.  He was thinking of watching a movie and wanted to know if he should start it without me.  I surreptitiously communicated with my thumb:  “We’re in the carpark now, but that could still mean another hour or two.  These women do not know how to stop talking.”

Then my friend’s phone beeped.  A moment later she says “was this message meant for me, Kate?” and she read it out.  All at once I realised what I did.  I saw my husband’s text on the screen of my phone as it came in, but when I opened Messages to reply, it took me to the screen I had open from before, when I was texting my friend to let her know I was on my way.  I tried to gabble out an explanation, but it was a bit hard to talk because even my teeth were blushing.

I was home in time for the movie.

3. Ego a go go

I got an email from my editor yesterday. I was in the swimming pool cafe with Harry, Annie, Daisy and Poppy. I was a little noisy about it: “What’s this, children? An email from my EDITOR? I wonder what MY EDITOR would like me to write, me being a WRITER and all”

Then I looked impressively around the cafe. Harry said “I want chocolate.”

 

Multiple Choice

I wrote this piece for my local multiple-birth magazine, Duplication:

Pretty notepad with pen, tea and chocolate

This is some kind of miracle.  I sit at the Bunnings Warehouse Cafe table with my notebook out.  Steaming cappuccino to my left, two sleeping babies to my right.  My other children are happily entangling themselves on the playground next door.  This is really happening.  I am going to get some writing done.

Let me just savour this moment.

Wait.  Oh no.  Oh dear Lord, no.

I sensed her hovering before I saw her.  My twins have an admirer.  Don’t make eye-contact.  Don’t make –

“Hello!”

“Erm, hello.”  dammit!

“What lovely babies!  Are they twins?”

Really?  What kind of question is that?  Singleton babies aren’t issued in pairs, as a general rule.  I consider the following responses:

  1. “No.  They were having a ‘Buy one, get one free’ sale at Babies R Us.”
  2. “Nope.  That one’s a decoy.”
  3. “No.  This is what the new Baby Bonus looks like.  You get a bonus baby now.”
  4. “No!  Triplets!  Good Lord!  Where’d the other one go?”
  5. “I think you might need glasses.  That’s one baby.

But then I bite my tongue.  She is a kindly looking lady after all.  I remember when my eldest was born.  None of my friends had children and I was new to the area.  It would get pretty lonely during the day.  I would go out walking with the pram wearing my brightest smile and hope that somebody, anybody might offer me a small morsel of adult conversation.  Nobody ever did.  I think they could smell my desperation.  

It’s different with twins.  Whenever strangers set eyes on my baby girls, I can actually see them drop their guards.  Their features relax and they become all chatty.  It’s a beautiful thing.  I really should be more grateful that this well-meaning woman is interrupting the one pocket of me-time I’m likely to get this week.  I summon up a grin and prepare to say something encouraging.  But now the multiple-birth fangirl is reaching out to tickle my sleeping twins.  Twins who are only asleep because of the four long laps we walked of this bewildering hardware superstore.  I can feel the warm smile slide right off my face.

“You touch that foot and you die, lady!”

Placenta of Attention


A few weeks ago, Jesuit Publications invited me to their end-of-year Christmas drinks.  The amount of joy and excitement I felt about standing around with a group of strangers drinking wine out of a disposable cup was perhaps a little out of proportion.  I was writhing with anticipation.  It didn’t matter that I was breastfeeding newborn twins.  It didn’t matter that I was holidaying an hour’s drive away.  I would be there.  I would make this happen.  This was more than just a Christmas party.  This single event would transform a series of emails and corresponding bank transfers into a proper and legitimate job as a writer.

My husband, bless him, took charge of  the older children and didn’t question my desperate zeal for a minute.  My only hurdle was to try to contain my excitement enough to pass as a sophisticated writer and not a tragic keeno.   Armoured in my best industrial-grade shapewear and a stylish black dress (not the one in which I was caught impersonating a pregnant woman), I tried to maintain a nonchalant expression as I heaved the double stroller up a narrow flight of stairs (yes, I know – I should have gone up and asked someone for help, but I didn’t know anyone there and I was feeling awkward enough as it was.)

As soon as I stumbled into the party, I drove my stroller into the nearest group of strangers and introduced myself.  We immediately started talking about Daisy and Poppy, who were both awake and making eyes at their new friends.  Having your own set of twins can be a useful icebreaker in these situations.  In this instance, we embarked upon Standard-Issue Twin Conversation #5: “Do Twins Run In Your Family?”, and this kept us going for a good ten minutes.

Pretty soon my brother Bobby arrived.  By a funny coincidence, Bobby also freelances for Australian Catholics, and for its sister publications, Eureka Street, Madonna and PrayerBlog (those links are to articles he wrote.  No, don’t click on them yet, wait till you’ve finished reading my post.).  We had thought nobody would know that we were related because we had different last names, but they had figured it out.  I also met my editor for the first time.  I was a little disappointed that he looked and sounded nothing at all like JK Simmons (“Bring me Spiderman!”), but I’m going to christen him ‘J. Jonah Jameson’ anyway.

editor

 

I already knew the magazine’s photographer (Peter Parker), because he had also been the photographer for my wedding.  I greeted him and he initiated Standard-Issue Twin Conversation #3: “Are They Identical?”

I hesitated.  This topic of conversation is more awkward than it might sound.  It starts innocuously enough:

“Yes, we think they might be”

I always try to hurry the conversation on to a new topic from here, but it never works:

“What do you mean?  Don’t you know for sure?”

And this is where it gets tricky.  You see, Daisy and Poppy look almost exactly alike and there is a chance they could be identical.  But in the womb, they presented as fraternal twins.

“What do you mean ‘presented’?”

Erm.  They each had their own sac and placenta.

It happens every time.  As soon as I say the word ‘placenta’, things get awkward.  I can see the colour drain from Peter’s face.  His eyes fill with panic.  I feebly continue explaining about “the stage in gestation at which the egg splits”, but everything about his body language screams “I don’t care!  I don’t care!  I need to get out of here!”

Hand drawn cartoon depicts wild-haired Kate conversing with photographer in front of baby twins in stroller. Kate's speech bubble contains diagram of 3 varieties of identical twins (single sac and placenta, two sacs, single placenta, two sacs, two placentas). Photographer has wide eyes and a frown. His thought bubble contains a picture of an exit sign. Caption reads "Standard-Issue Twin Conversation #3".

I’ve talked about this before.  There’s no getting around it.  There’s no way of answering the question without using the word ‘placenta’.  I’ve tried euphemisms, like ‘food source’ or ‘environment’, but people just ask me what I’m talking about and then I have to say it and they instantly regret talking to me.  I’ve even tried word substitution,  but “Play centre”, “Plus sender”, and “Please enter” all produce the same effect

As Peter ran away to refresh his drink, I gave Bobby a confidential nudge,

“It happened again!  I had to say ‘placenta’!”

Bobby’s eyes filled with confusion and panic.  I have talked about this before.  Just not, it would seem, with Bobby.

Pretty soon I was talking to another one of Daisy and Poppy’s admirers.  This nice lady initiated Standard-Issue Twin Conversation #1: “Oooooh!  Twins!”.  Bobby, meanwhile was talking to J. Jonah and a couple of other people about writing.  I was able to eavesdrop whilst still talking to the nice lady as I have the responses to “Oooh Twins!” pretty thoroughly rehearsed.  I was beginning to suffer from a major case of Conversation Envy.  This is when I tried my trick.

As my conversation with Nice Lady finished up, I took two large steps away from the pusher, and then sidestepped my way into Bobby’s conversation.  I was now close enough to see my beautiful twins, but not so close that people would want to talk to me about them.  As well as J. Jonah (who, incidentally, was just as nice as his emails, possibly even nicer), Bobby was also talking to  theologian, writer, mentor, comic and all-round-good-guy Fr Albus.   I already knew Albus from my work in youth ministry ten years ago, but I didn’t expect him to remember me.  He knew who I was, however, and had even read my writing (!!!).  Albus described my style as ‘like a domestic bushranger’.  I have no idea what that meant, but I didn’t care.  I was having a major fangirl moment.

A small crowd was forming  around pusher where Daisy and Poppy were cooing and smiling.  People were having Standard-Issue Twin Conversations with each other.  I heaved a satisfied sigh, confessed my relief to Bobby, J. Jonah and Albus and prepared for more intelligent, grown-up writer conversation.

But it wasn’t long before a member of this small fan club broke away and migrated to our conversation.

“Are you the mother of those adorable twins?” he gushed,

“Yes she is,” said Albus in a firm tone of voice, “but Kate was just saying how she would like to talk about something other than babies.”

“Oh.  Right.”  said the doting Twinsketeer, and he immediately re-arranged his facial features from infatuated to informative.  It turns out that this gentleman was also a veteran journalist from one of the major newspapers.  What followed was a conversation so epic, the memory of it has sustained me through much supermarket small-talk in the weeks that followed.

As for Standard Issue Twin Conversation #3, I recently tried a new, if rather dishonest, strategy:

“Are they identical?”

“Yes.  Definitely”

“Are you sure?”

“Absolutely.”

“Really?”

“Really.”

“How sure?”

“100 Placenta.”