Tag Archives: twins

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.

Advertisements

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.”

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.

Greetings from Babyland!

Often these days, when friends (or, indeed, tradesmen) come to visit me, they might find I’m in my pyjamas feeding a baby. My conversation will not be witty or sparkling, and they may have to make their own tea, but I will be happy to see them.

As you, my reader friend, come to visit me at my blog today, imagine I’m wearing pink flannelette pyjamas with a piece of toast stuck in my hair.  My writing may seem a little stilted and bland, but, gosh, I’m glad to see you!

My beautiful twins are now almost eight weeks old.  For the most part, I’m enjoying my vacation in Baby Land.  We’ve developed a simple routine of feeding and nappies, and lessons and feeding, and feeding and washing, and feeding and feeding.     And cuddles.  There are always plenty of baby cuddles to go around (though they sometimes come with a side order of baby spew).  It’s really rather blissful.

We don’t often leave the house, but when we do, it seems we achieve instant celebrity status.  Everybody wants to talk to us and ask us (the same five) questions and tell us about the twins in their life.  Most of the time, my extroverted nature revels in the attention, but it can be a real challenge if we’re trying to do something in a hurry.

I’ve decided to christen the girls “Daisy and Poppy” after the mischievous twins in Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom.  Not exactly literary, I know, but it seems to fit.  Those of you who don’t have preschoolers in the home may not have heard of Ben and Holly.  Those of you who do will have heard far, far too much.

Daisy and Poppy

And, now, if you’ll excuse me, Daisy is letting me know my services as a milk maid are urgently required.

Thank you for coming to visit!

Welcome Twins!

On August 3 (yes, that long ago!) we welcomed a pair of healthy twin girls into the world. They are truly delightful. Twins are pretty relentless, because, well, there are two of them.  I’m trying to get better at accepting all offers of help and even asking people to help me.  This goes against the grain a bit.  I like to be Capable Woman.

The good news is, I spoke to my husband, and he agreed to relax the no-photos-of-the-children rule just this once, because, let’s face it, newborns are pretty anonymous.  And I’ve taken Mr Knightley saying I can share a photo of the twins to mean pretty much the same as saying I can share several photos.  How can I choose between these pics?

 

 

twins

twins

twins and me

In real life, the twins have the loveliest names, honouring both my wonderful grandmothers.  In blog life, I still can’t think of what to call them.  I was convinced I was having at least one boy, so I had thought about what to call them if I had one of each (Luke and Leia) or two boys (Fred and George), but I never thought of what to call two girls.  Can you think of any girl twins in literature or popular culture?  Or even pairs of girls?  I can’t come up with anything that suits.  Sweet Valley High and The Twins at St Clare’s have girl twins but it’s not really a fit, plus I was more of a Babysitters Club/Malory Towers sort of girl.  The gumnut babies are actually boys (I know, right?) and using the names Snugglepot and Cuddlepie would get real old real fast.  Anne of Green Gables had girl twins when she grew up (called Nan and Di) – but who would know that?  And calling them Thing 1 and Thing 2 would just be mean.   I’ll just have to think on it some more – if you can think of anything, please, please leave a comment!

Actually, leave a comment even if you can’t think of anything – I really need something to keep me amused at three in the morning!

Odds and Ends

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Behold:  Harry’s birthday cake:

dodgy cake with increasingly indecipherable writing

I ran out of writing icing.  Fail.

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

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

*dial tone*