Tag Archives: humor

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!”

 

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Pitch Fail

Monkey (well, technically a chimp) on a typewriter

You’ll never guess what just happened.

So I’ve been trying to drum up a bit more business writing freelance.  I feel like I could probably take on one more monthly gig while still managing to keep track of which of my children is which (the non-identical ones, at least).  And then the Archdiocese of Melbourne went and got itself a new Archbishop, which meant a special edition for the magazine I write for, which meant they wouldn’t be needing ME to write for them this month, which left me feeling a little bereft and unwanted and resentful of the Archbishop elect (how DARE he?), especially when an extra bill came in for exactly the amount I would have been paid if it had been business as usual.

So, I had some time to sell myself to editors.  But I didn’t really know how to go about it.  I hunted around on websites, but couldn’t find any email addresses.  Then I made myself a profile on LinkedIn, but it seemed all the editors had private accounts.  When I told people about my hunt, they invariably would tell me about a newsletter of magazine they knew about that was “always looking for writers”, but which only offered the joy of seeing your name in print as payment.  Thank you: no thank you.

Lovely M had some contacts, so I armed her with some material to chase them up with.  But I haven’t heard back, and I didn’t want to bug her.  Plus I didn’t want to face up to the idea that my writing was NO GOOD and not worth a second look.   I’m going to my high-school reunion in a month and all of the publications I write for have the word ‘Catholic’ in the title somewhere.  This needs to change.  So I pressed on.

Then, as I was digging about on LinkedIn (“you have almost reached your browsing limit”), I found the details of the editor of the Woman’s Weekly!  Perfect!

So I spent a whole day crafting a breezy-chatty-yet-professional introductory letter and chose three of my best pieces to share.  I wrote about how I’d grown up reading the Weekly and how it’s still close to my heart.  I showed it to my family and asked their advice.  I pitched ideas for future articles that I said I was already working on.  I fantasised about being Pat McDermott’s understudy (she writes “Patter” – perhaps I could write “Scatter”?).  And then I waited.

Here was my plan:  I figured the editor would most likely begin her day by going through her emails.  She would start early – Maybe 8? Maybe 8:30? – because she might have a meeting at 9.  So if I sent my masterpiece at, say, 8:45am, it would come floating in to the top of the pile right when she’s in email-reading mode.  I was all set.  The PDFs were attached and all of the publications I mentioned were also hyperlinks to articles I had written for said publications.  Any minute now and I would press send.

But that’s not really a true picture of events.  It wasn’t like I was sitting there with my finger hovering over the send button, watching the clock.  I had set the laptop open with everything cued up on the kitchen table, that is true.  And I got in perhaps thirty seconds worth of finger-hovering.  But then Annie needed help making porridge and Poppy wanted milk poured and Christopher needed me to shout at him to stop teasing Harry, and Daisy wanted me to find the Thomas the Tank Engine spoon.  And then the doorbell rang and it was my mum and I hadn’t seen her in WEEKS and she’d brought food over and we needed to talk lots as we reorganised the fridge to fit it.

Mum looked across to the kitchen table.  “Uh-oh.  Daisy’s on your laptop.”

“Oh, isn’t that cute!”  I said.  It was cute.  Daisy was working away with the same intensity she must have seen her mother display countless times before.  Then I froze.  “Get off Mummy’s laptop, Daisy!”  I exclaimed, and rushed to the table.  My email page was open, as it had been before.  Now, however, a line of bold text ran across the top of the screen “Your email has been sent”.  Wait: what?

But surely this wasn’t such a bad thing.  I was going to send the email anyway – maybe Daisy had done me a favour dispatching it in such a timely manner?  It was like she was my adorable little personal assistant.  I frantically scanned the sent message.  It was such a bad thing.

There, in the middle of one the opening sentences, Daisy had added her own input: a string of random letters and punctuation marks.  In a mad panic, I dashed off the following message:

“Oh my goodness!

With regards to my previous email, my two-year-old jumped on my laptop as I was answering the door.  She made her own amendments and sent the email off before I was ready!  With the exception of “wor/.,.,,,,,,,mbfczsk”, the email is what I meant to send. Please excuse young Daisy’s input and be assured that I am usually a scrupulous proofreader and never short of anecdotal material!

If you’ll excuse me, I’ll go crawl into a nice dark hole now…

Regards,

Kate”

Except I used Daisy’s actual name, not her blog pseudonym, because I figured I should be honest and it’s a nice name, which shows good judgement on my part.

So that was yesterday.  The time in between has been spent clicking the ‘refresh’ button on my email and jumping at loud noises.  But she hasn’t written back.  She hasn’t written back AT ALL.  I’ve taken to wringing my hands together and muttering at strangers.

I blame the new Archbishop.

 

PS.  I just went back to look at the email I sent and discovered, on top of everything else, I wrote the name of the magazine wrong.  I wrote “Women’s Weekly” – not “Woman’s Weekly”.  And I did it MORE THAN ONCE.  What is WRONG with me??  No wonder she hasn’t written back!  She probably didn’t even read as far as “wor/.,.,,,,,,,mbfczsk”, she probably threw her computer aside in disgust when she saw I didn’t even bother getting the name of her publication right.

I need to go mutter at some strangers (“Comensoli…ComenSOLI!”)

Interview Fail

cassette tape recorder. Label on tape reads 'VERY IMPORTANT"

 

So I’ve been doing a bit of writing lately. Apart from my Very Own Column at Australian Catholics magazine, I’ve also started to write features, as a freelancer, for Melbourne Catholic magazine. I often get confused looks when I try to explain this to people (and I often try to explain this to people, even if we weren’t, in fact, talking about it). Melbourne Catholic is a separate magazine, despite the similar name. It comes from the Archdiocese, rather than the Jesuits.

Features writing is fun and interesting, but my great love will always be in trying to make people laugh (which is why that first paragraph is such a side-splitter).  I’m not the greatest at interviewing people (you actually have to stop and let them talk, I’m told), but I do like the feeling of having yet another Important Writing Job and more opportunities to talk loudly about expecting an email from MY EDITOR and looking around impressively whenever I’m in a crowded place.  I think the staff at Aldi are a little over it, to be honest.

So far, I’ve written a feature on crochet and another one on grief.  I’ll share them with you when they get published (the crochet feature is out, just not electronically yet).  The most recent one I’ve been writing has been about the refugees in Eltham.  It’s a topic I care about, but it’s been a real pain to write.  I’ve had to interview no fewer than eight people.  I don’t mind the talking-to-people part of interviewing; I can even do the listening-without-interrupting part if I concentrate hard enough.  It’s the finding-ten-minutes-of-peace-to-make-a-phone-call that I’ve struggled with the most.

Now there was a particular person I’d been especially keen to talk to.  Many of the other interviews had left me with important questions that this woman could answer for me.   But I’d had a bit of trouble, first with tracking her down, then with finding a time I could talk with her.   Many a time I’d put the TV on for the kids, locked myself in the bathroom with recording equipment all set up and made the all-important call, only to find that she was in a meeting or off-site.  Getting information wrong on a crochet article would be one thing.  I didn’t want to get it wrong on such an important topic.  The deadline was looming and still we hadn’t spoken.

On Mondays, the kids and I go to a homeschooling co-op, held in one of those amazing mega-churches.  It’s the best.  On this particular Monday, I was upstairs in the cafe, sitting at a table and trying to get this article written.  Christopher, Harry and Annie were in their various classes, run by the mums and dads.  Daisy and Poppy (who are now two-and-a-half-can-you-believe-it) were in a cute little play area with a pool fence around it.  I scratched my head as I looked at what I’d written so far.  If I didn’t speak to this woman, there would be a lot of holes in the article.

Then my phone rang.  It was her!  It was totally her!

I knew these weren’t ideal interview conditions.  The cafe was noisy and the twins were unpredictable.  But I also knew if I let it go to voicemail and tried to call back later, I would find she was off working hard doing her actual job and not at her desk.  This was my one window.  I answered the phone smoothly, set it to speaker and set my iPad to record.

“So tell me, what is the history of this project?”

Of course I knew the history of the project.  I’d done my homework.  But I wanted a neat little ‘expert’ quote from her to put at the start of the article.  It would frame things nicely.  Interview Lady launched into a description of the situation in Eltham, sounding a little perplexed at my apparent ignorance (she later would recommend a series of fact sheets she had written) just as Daisy started to shriek piteously.

I looked across to the play area.  Daisy stood wretchedly beside the toy oven as Poppy did a victory lap, holding several golden strands of her sister’s hair aloft as she strode along.  I bustled silently into the pen, admonished Poppy with only my eyebrows and a very pointy finger, scooped up the whimpering Daisy with the arm that wasn’t holding my phone and iPad and brought her back to the table with me.   “Mmm.” “Yes.”  “Really?”  I said calmly, taking the sugar and placing it on a different table.

Foiled in her sugar-eating attempt, Daisy picked up the pepper and began shaking it liberally onto the table.  I took it from her.  She let out an unearthly howl.  I put it back.  She continued in her redecorating.

“What would you say are the challenges facing refugees, given our current housing situation?” my voice didn’t waver.  I don’t think Interview Lady could tell I was trying to wrestle my iPad out of Daisy’s grasp.  But then that stupid free U2 song started playing at full volume.  She must have bumped something.

Daisy lay down on the ground in (thankfully) mute protest as I desperately jabbed at buttons to make Bono shut up.  “Tell me more about that,” I said (to Interview Lady, not Bono), as one of the security guards waved to get my attention.

I looked to where he was pointing.  Poppy had pushed the toy washing machine up against the side of the play pen and had used it to clamber onto the quite-high fence.  “Hi Mummy!” she cackled as I solemnly hoisted her onto my shoulder and brought her back to my table.  Interview Lady was on a roll, telling me all sorts of things without pausing for breath.  This allowed me to go into a silent panic without having to think up another question.  Daisy was gone.

“Is there anything about the Eltham project you would consider applying to future projects?” I pulled Daisy out from under the table.  She had run around the corner and was lying at the feet of some other cafe patron.  I now held a twin under each arm and was balancing my phone and iPad under – actually, I’ve no idea how I did it.  All I know is, when I put them down to try to organise myself, they ran for the stairs, shouting “SLIDE!”

I should explain.  This particular very-large-church has a tunnel slide that children can take downstairs to their well-resourced kids’ ministries because of-course-they-do.  I mean, I’ve tried suggesting to my parish that perhaps we could set up a small box of toys and a play rug for children to use after Mass when the grown ups are drinking (instant) coffee and it’s been all too hard to think about.  Noooope we wouldn’t want to encourage children to come to Mass or anything.  Heaven forbid.

What was I talking about?  Oh yes, the dratted slide.  A couple of little girls and their mums were  already having a play on this contraption.  One of the girls is a four-year-old I’m going to call Buttercup who is friends with the twins.

So Daisy makes a dash for the slide, pushes past Buttercup and dives straight down it.  “MRS KATE!  MRS KATE!  IT WASN’T HER TURN!  MRS KATE!”  I know Buttercup said this because it’s right there on the recording, drowning out whatever salient point Interview Lady was making.  I nodded expressively and sympathetically (and silently) at Buttercup and said “do go on” to Interview Lady.

“MRS KAAAAAAATE!”  Poppy was jubilantly sitting at the top of the slide.  This was her position of power.  If she sat at the top of the slide, without actually going anywhere, all the children around her would go berserk.  Poppy loved this.  Buttercup gave Poppy a shove.

“What do you see as your plans for the future?” Poppy made it halfway down the slide tunnel, stopped herself, and began climbing back up (“THAT’S NOT ALLOWED!  THAT’S NOT ALLOWED!!”).  Daisy, meanwhile, was climbing back up the stairs for another turn.  I gave the other mothers an apologetic smile.  I was that mother: nattering away on her mobile phone whilst her children cause havoc.

“Do you have any final thoughts?”

“I HAVE A STINKY NAPPY MUMMY!”  Daisy did have a stinky nappy.  A real eye waterer.  And Poppy had come out at the bottom of the slide and was not coming upstairs.  I walked down the stairs with Daisy (“NO!  NO!  SLIDE!  SLIDE!”) to fetch Poppy before she went running off down the corridor and out of sight.  The interview was wrapping up.  I thanked Interview Lady, saved the recording and emailed it to myself seven times.  Then I apologised to the other mums and trudged upstairs with the twins to clean the peppered table.

While I might have relived the trauma of the afternoon when i transcribed the interview later, it did provide me with some very useful information and quotes.  I’ve since written the article and am waiting to hear from MY EDITOR to see if she thinks its any good.  I expect to hear from MY EDITOR any minute now and am checking my phone rather agitatedly.  Of course, she’d need time to actually read it and then to formulate a response.  Plus MY EDITOR would have other articles to read as well.  I really mustn’t worry about it.  I really must stop.

At least, that’s what the assistant manager at Aldi tells me.

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, very 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 writers’ mistakes.
  4. I would have time to read up on the other writers’ 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.

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.”

The Holy Family

Icon of the Holy Family

Although it might be later by the time I actually publish this post, as I write, today is the Feast of the Holy Family.  I always find going to Mass on this Sunday a bit of a rude shock.  I mean, we only just went to Mass on Chrismas Eve, three days ago.  I can clearly remember acting as a human straitjacket for my five-year-old in a stifling heat that no number of ceiling fans would dispel.  The time that followed was filled with sugar and excitement and late nights and tears and tantrums, and, what’s more, the children have been misbehaving too.

It felt like a bit of a stretch to get everyone out of bed this morning to go to Mass.  I know it’s wrong to feel that way.  I do love Mass more than anything, deep down.  Really, I do.  I just don’t enjoy putting clothes on children and saying ‘shush’ for forty minutes.

I know some of you will be thinking “Why are you so strict on yourself?  Surely God will understand if you don’t go just this once?”.  This is a good question with a long answer, so perhaps it’s a conversation for another day.  The short answer is that I know myself well enough to realise that the moment I start making excuses for not making the effort, it becomes a whole lot easier to not make the effort the next time and the next until I find I’ve stopped going to church altogether.  I’m the same way with exercise.  Plus, the children are watching (that sounds like a good title for a horror movie, don’t you think?  The Children Are Watching…)  and it’s important that they know that going to Mass is a part of who we are.

I just wish I could have called these noble principles to mind this morning as I tried to prise my reluctant three-year-old out of bed and convince my eight-year-old that ‘glacial’ is not the best speed-setting for his morning weetbix consumption.  Mr Knightley had taken Matilda to 9am Mass early so that she could 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, his methodical nature is a godsend on mornings like this.  I was even willing to overlook the fact that his outfit was the same  one he’d been wearing obstinately for the past three days.  Christopher Robin, as I mentioned, was performing some sort of tai-chi inspired slow dance with his bowl and spoon, but was dressed at least.  Annie was barefoot in her pyjamas staring blankly at her breakfast like it was the last clue in the cryptic crossword.  The twins were asleep in their cot.  And it was five-to-nine.

So I started my sheep-dog routine, gathering bags and babies, rounding everyone up into the car.  I had already decided that the pyjamas Annie had been wearing (a plain pink t-shirt and black Star Wars shorts)  looked enough like regular clothes to get away with.  There was no time.  It was only later I noticed that she’d somehow managed to get vegemite stains down the front of it.

I read a lot of blog posts about the importance of dressing your best for Sunday Mass.  I’ve written before about this desire of my heart.   My children were not looking well turned-out this morning.  Even the babies’ jumpsuits seemed grubby.  Nothing about their clothing expressed respect for this blessed institution.  But there was no time; there was no time.

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.

As I was pulling into the church car park, I made some quick decisions.  Unloading the pram and strapping the babies into it would take too much time.  Christopher and I could carry a baby each.  Let’s go, let’s go!

I pulled back the middle seats to let Annie and Harry out.  Annie grinned broadly, “Actually, I forgot my shoes!”, she announced triumphantly, like it was the punchline to some wonderful joke.

I’m not sure I can properly describe the full extent of shouting and searching that followed.  Annie alone remained calm and unruffled.  We found one shoe hidden in the car.  There was only one.  I think this was a million times worse than if there had been no shoes at all.

25-clarks-1

I had two options.  I could rush home to get shoes for Annie.  This would make us abysmally late for Mass.  We would achieve nothing more than a Drive-Thru Communion Service, if that.  Or, in another failed attempt at ‘Natural Consequences’, Annie could attend the Holy Mass barefoot.

The Gospel reading had just finished as I sidled into Mass with my rag-tag posse of children and slid into the pew next to Mr Knightley.  Annie remained unshod.  If we kept a low profile, we might just get away with it.  In a quick series of whispers and a fair bit of sign language (I believe I employed the international sign for ‘I wish to strangle my child’), I brought Mr Knightley 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 of bread and wine to the altar is a wonderful privilege, I really should have felt honoured that somebody had tapped my husband on the shoulder before Mass started and asked him 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.  The corner of my husband’s mouth was twitching ever so slightly.  But I didn’t punch him.  I had other problems.

When I took the babies out of the car, I forgot to grab their bunny rugs or wipes.   I was a little distracted, you see.  Now Daisy was in my arms, forcing her fingers into her mouth wrist-deep and bringing up little pockets of spew, like some deranged supermodel (I’m sorry.  That joke is inappropriate, I know.  But it’s been a long day for me).  I only had a couple of tissues to work with and those tissues had to work very hard.  I could sense the people in the pew behind me silently promising themselves not to shake my hand when it came time for the Sign of Peace and I didn’t blame them one bit.

When it came time for the Offertory Procession, I assumed a confident expression.  Perhaps, if I smiled bravely and walked tall, people might not notice that my three-year-old was sans footwear.  That aisle seemed a lot longer than usual.  Father Jacob, flanked by Matilda and another altar server were miles away.  After traipsing barefoot through the gauntlet of parishioners, Annie imperiously insisted on delivering her bowl of communion wafers to Matilda and not the priest.  Father Jacob seemed to be struggling to suppress a snort of laughter.  I didn’t punch him either.

The rest of Mass passed smoothly enough apart from the following:

  1. Annie and Harry had a rowdy disagreement as to who got to complete the maze on the parish notices helping the Wise Men to find Baby Jesus.
  2. Daisy got bored of trying to swallow her knuckles and decided to wail enthusiastically instead.
  3. Annie announced, for the benefit of all parishioners: “I’m hungry!  I haven’t had any breakfast!”
  4. Poppy, well, Poppy made use of her nappy.  She was, well, she was very thorough in this endeavour.

The final hymn was Joy to the World.  I joined in lustily.  As we prepared ourselves for a swift exit, I felt somebody grasp my elbow.  It was Mrs Price Who’s Ever So Nice.

“I just wanted to let you know how much joy it gave my heart to see your beautiful family bringing up the gifts,”  she said with genuine warmth.  My heart melted a little bit.  Mrs Price is almost old enough to be my grandmother.  She has raised six children herself and is still grieving her beloved husband who passed away last year.  Mrs Price chose not to see the unwashed clothes or exposed feet or complete lack of liturgical style.  She saw a family trying their best despite all their imperfections, and loved us.  In that moment, Mrs Price 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 friend, is why you should always wear shoes to church.

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.