Random Round-up

It’s been a little while since I’ve popped in to say hi here, so thought get around to finally posting this little round-up post which has been sitting here in draft form for a while now! Here’s a little snapshot of what I’ve been up to…

I’ve just binge-watched… The Heights on ABC iView. Drawcords were Marcus Graham and that one of the co-creators/producers is an old bookseller work buddy of mine. But once I started watching the show I was hooked on the characters and wanting to know more about them. I’m now feeling a little regretful that I was so greedy and I now have to wait until July for new episodes!

I'm reading... Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. I can see why this is on a lot of must-read lists for creative types. It’s a stellar read for anyone wanting to take a crack at a creative life.

I’m taking photos of… really random things… cranky looking tomatoes, spaghetti twirling itself into a heart shape, faces in the chipped away parts of a brick wall…

I'm grateful for... being able to update some of our appliances. We’ve just got a new fridge (I think the old one was 15 years old!) and we have a clothes dryer after not having one more over a year (but surviving surprisingly well even in winter!)

I've been busy with...  parties! It’s party season and I’ve been doing a lot of baking for birthday celebrations and school events. The oven has been running hot!

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Australia Day

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Last year on Australia Day,  I was talking to my daughter about our plans for the day and we started to talk about Australia Day itself.  We chatted about how lucky we are to live in Australia and that this country is something to celebrate.  Knowing that she was somewhat aware of our history of colonisation and that she had an interest in Aboriginal history and culture, I mentioned that there has been talk about changing the date of Australia Day.  She wasn't too impressed with this idea as she thought it was going to change our particular plans for the day, so I thought of an analogy that may help her be more understanding and empathic.

I thought of her Paw Patrol toys which she loves so much - all the vehicles and different dog characters.  "Imagine if a child came to our house," I began, thinking on my feet and not really sure how this was going to play out.  "And they took away all of your Paw Patrol toys.  I see her eyes widen, horrified at even the thought of this. I continue, “Then later on someone says, ‘Hey, let's have a day to celebrate how much we love Paw Patrol!’  And of all the dates to choose for the celebration, they choose the same date as the day that child came to your house and stole all your Paw Patrol toys."  My daughter does not look impressed.

"Of course, you still love Paw Patrol, and you want to celebrate how great Paw Patrol is, but it doesn't feel right to celebrate it on a day that is sad day for you.  We could choose another day, right?"

"Yep," she says, appearing to understand this moral conundrum.

So why don't we change the date? And why am I sharing this clunky explanation I provided to my then four-year old with a year ago? Well, because it helped me to get to the core of my beliefs. And I believe this is a national conversation that we should be having right now. I just wasn’t quite sure how to put it all in words a year ago.

And it seems like the best and most respectful place to start is to listen to Indigenous voices. Tammy Solonec, a Nigena woman who is an Indigenous Rights Manager at Amnesty International says:

“Like other Australians, I enjoy a public holiday and like to celebrate. But as an Aboriginal person, 26 January is a painful and alienating day. It marks the start of the colonisation and the suffering of our people— it is no celebration for us. Let’s respect the survival and resilience of our Indigenous peoples and change the date so we can all celebrate Australia Day together.” (Source: www.amnesty.org.au)

For more from Tammy Solonec, please click the link here to one of her articles at Amnesty International.

And as it turns out, 26 January hasn’t always been the chosen day for our national celebration anyway.

(For more on this, please take a look at this article by Chloe Sargent on SBS.)

So maybe change need not be that scary after all?

The Word on the Street

Forget about new year’s resolutions, it seems the thing to do these days is to choose a word to set your intentions for the new year about to unfold. I first embraced this approach at the start of last year and my word back then was ‘balance’. It seemed a good idea at the time - with a demanding day job, busy and boisterous kids, a hectic household, plus my creative projects bubbling away in the background, it seemed I would have to find a way to balance all of these things. My daughter also started her first year of school and this brought along with it a whole range of emotions and an endless list of things to remember to do. Balancing turned to juggling, and pretty soon it was more just keeping the balls from hitting the floor!

So this year, I’ve decided on a new word that I think will have a little more longevity. For 2019, my word will be ‘prioritise’. I figure there is always going to be an never-ending to-do list and while striving for balance seemed noble, perhaps a better approach for me right now is to prioritise rather than balance. That means really thinking about what I commit to in all parts of my world, and how they play out day-to-day, and also at critical time points. And perhaps balance will be a nice by-product?! Here’s hoping anyway!

Hope the new year brings you all the wonderful things!

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Planetary Rubbish

I've recently been thinking a lot about the impact of our consumer society on our poor planet, and what we can do about it.  I've been trying to make more and more changes to reduce the waste that is generated by our household, and also striving to be more responsible about how we dispose of waste.

It seems that we are more aware today than ever before of the long-term impact of today's rubbish and there is a definite movement towards being more proactive when it comes to tackling this issue.  But I can't help but wonder how we got here.  Was it that our generation inherited the 80's and 90's mindset of consumerism and we're now at the age where our eyes are open to what this means for the planet and we're trying to turn it all around?

Well that was my thinking at least until I sat down with my daughter the other evening to do her homework. Her home reader for that week was ‘What Happens to Rubbish’ and it was all about what happens to rubbish after we dispose of it and it highlighted the incredible length of time it takes for common items to break down*.  Aluminium such as soft drink cans can take up to 500 years, glass bottles and jars up to 1000 years, and plastic bottles and foam cups as long as millions of years. That's right millions. And it turns out this information isn't new.  The reader was published in 1999!  So all of this has been common knowledge for at least 20 years yet we are still not consistently recycling aluminium and glass, and we are still using items such as foam cups that cannot be recycled and take millions of year to break down.  That's right.  Millions.  

I feel I'm at risk of getting ranty, so I'm just going to leave you with a little sketch that I did of planet earth the other night, along with a song that has been stuck in my head since I read the phrase "around the sun" the other day.  It's a song from my childhood that was probably popular/unpopular around the time I had black school shoes with a tree and the word 'environment' embroidered on them. (Weird, but true! ) They were actually really cool, believe it or not.  Feel free to mute the song of course if it's not your thing (everyone's got an opinion!) or if you have legitimate concerns it may become an ear worm.  (The risk is real!)

 

*What Happens To Rubbish? (1999)Costain, M., Macmillan Education Australia.

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When Sleep Calls...

Live life to the fullest!  Cherish every moment!

Lean in, reach out, give back....

Well, what happens when you just need to lie down?

When you realise you're like a tired kid who just needs a cuddle and to be tucked into bed?

 

I'm usually up late writing, editing, illustrating, pitching, posting photos, or managing to-do lists, house stuff or school-related things.

 But last night I decided I was having a night off.  I was just plain old tired.

And I had to listen to my body telling me to slow down.

 

It was time to take a break.  Put tools down.  Clock off.

And so I gave in.  I surrendered to this call*

And it was just what I needed.

Sure the to-do list was there, projects were unfinished, sure the house was a mess, but I felt rested.

 

(*I didn't actually make it to my bed at this point.  I fell asleep in my child's bed after bedtime stories.  But it still counts, right?)

 

 

 

 

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On the Circuit: Kid Lit Vic 2018

Melbourne-bound with Victoria Mckinlay

Melbourne-bound with Victoria Mckinlay

Next in my catch-up series of what I've been up to in recent months, is a little write-up of the Kid Lit Vic Conference that was held at the gorgeous Melbourne Town Hall building in May.  Boasting an impressive line-up of authors, illustrators, and publishers Kid Lit Vic is a leading event on the calendar for children's writers and illustrators.

 

 

The opening address by Leigh Hobbs had just the right balance of candour, encouragement and humour, and was the perfect way to kick off KidLitVic 2018.  It is hard to imagine that there was a time that his work wasn't published but Hobbs revealed the struggle of his early years in the children's book industry.  I was spellbound as he shared an anecdote that detailing exactly the toll that rejections had taken on him, with Hobbs having to stop the car one driving on a highway one day as he felt physically sick.  But Hobbs didn't give up, and that was the powerful message he delivered to the room of aspiring, emerging and established creatives in the room.

The winning combination, he said, is talent, luck, and perseverance.  And Hobbs is certainly proof of what can happen when these three things align. After his first book was published by Penguin, Hobbs has gone from strength to strength, with 17 books with that publisher, and highs such as Mr Chicken goes to Paris now being sold at the Louvre, Horrible Harriet brought the stage, and Hobbs named Australian Children's Laureate for the 2016/2017 term.

Hobbs explained that a driving factor in the path to success is more than just wanting to keep creating characters and stories, but the fact that you actually "can't not do it".  The address finished on a motivating note, with Hobbs speaking of the desire to create being like a pilot light and that we need to "nourish, protect and keep that light burning bright".

 

 

Hanging out with Amelia McInerney, Liz Ledden, and Nat Amoore.

Hanging out with Amelia McInerney, Liz Ledden, and Nat Amoore.

Donna Rawlins' workshops came highly recommended in the lead-up to the festival and I've got to say, the intel was spot on.  The 'Directions in Art Direction' workshop was filled to the brim with enthusiastic, talented illustrators who were absorbing as much information as they could in the workshop.  Rawlins' has an absolute wealth of knowledge on illustration and art direction having been in the book industry for over 38 years as an illustrator, writer, editor, and art director, having founded Scholastic's trade publishing list, working at Walker Books Australia for the past 10 years, and also teaching illustration at the Centre for Continued Education at the University of Sydney.

A key concept to keep in mind when it comes to illustrating children's books, suggested Rawlins, is that it is "more than just picture-making, it is storytelling."  The workshop explored the toolkit that Rawlins suggests illustrators keep on hand to be able to be able to add subtext to the story, continually improve their work, and push through blocks and difficult periods.   Speaking with honesty, warmth and humour, Rawlins provided helpful guidance and encouragement, perfect to guide me on the right path as a fledgling illustrator.

 

 

With presentations, workshops, panel discussions, publisher consultations, and an Illustrator Showcase, there is something for everyone at KidLitVic.   I had such a fantastic time meeting publishers, soaking up all the knowledge on offer, and catching up with writer/illustrator friends from all around the country.   I left feeling very inspired and motivated to continue on my journey in the children's book industry and can't wait to see what the future brings.

 

 

 

 

 

The surprising aspect of my personality that the Creative world has revealed...

If I had to describe myself a year ago, 'risk-taking' would not have made the list.  I would have said that I'm more of a planning, cautious type.  But I've learnt that in this field of work that opportunities are there to be taken, even if you don't feel entirely ready.  I've found myself signing up for things, feeling initially excited, then incredibly nervous, and these are perfect conditions for the rise of the ever-lurking inner critic.  While sometimes this would lead me to feeling like I couldn't do it, I soon realised that I needed to see the opportunity for what it is, and when I need to reach out to others for the crucial information and guidance to make the most it.  And with deadlines looming, I've found I've then achieved so much more than I would have otherwise.  I think of it a being a bit like that mad clean-up you do before someone comes over to your house.

So here I am putting my hand up,  reaching out, doing the work, and seeing what happens.  You may wonder, do I regret any of these nerve-wracking experiences?  Not at all.  They are pushing me to extend my skills, to connect with new people, and to show my work. So here's to taking some risks... well, calculated risks at least!

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Where have I been? First stop: Creative Kids Tales Festival

Illustration by Gemma Patience

Illustration by Gemma Patience

So I've been a little quiet here of late but it's all been for a good reason. I have been out there on the road (or in the air) attending writing events around the country.

Oh yeah, and I had pneumonia.  But let's focus on the writing!

Here's a little recap of the first of the events I attended, the Creative Kids Tales Festival held in Sydney in March, and organised by Georgie Donaghey in an incredibly short space of time and offering a fantastic line-up of presenters.

 

Suzanne Gervay was her usual energetic ball of passion, inspiration, and humour and opened the day by looking at the art of writing about difficult topics across different genres and for various age groups. Standout messages included the importance of knowing that "the very first thing you have to be, is brave," and that there is no need to shy away from difficult topics but that you need to know how they are done. The key to doing this, suggested Gervay, is achieving a balance between light and dark so that that the reader doesn't feel "the heavy hand of the topic" but instead feel the "hand of hope".  Gervay suggested a gentle approach, recommending, "throw them seeds. Kids will take the story where they need to."  Wise words from a wise writer.

 

Wai Chim spoke of writing from the "germ of a truth" and referred to her recently published book Freedom Swimmer, the tale of two boys who set out to swim from China to Hong Kong in search of a better life which was inspired by a true story. The author of the Chook Chook series and Shaozen shared her process of researching events and then writing with a focus on the human experience within these events.

The room was provided with a snippet of hope when the CBCA Notable author revealed that her break into publication came through the slush pile at University of Queensland Press. Wai Chim offer further inspiration by detailing how her second book came about after she spoke at a conference, and that events like the CKT festival were important as "you never know who will be there".

 

Tristan Bancks popped into the festival via Skype and had the room entertained talking about about his processes for writing and marketing his books.  Bancks revealed insights into his writing process and discussed his commitment to writing morning pages every day and advised of the need to protect writing time. The author of the Tom Weekly series and recent release The Fall also spoke of the importance of tapping into your skill set beyond writing, which may include experience in presenting, marketing, or teaching.  Bancks discussed the need to connect with readers such as through book trailers and having activity downloads available online. Bancks discussed a typical year for him involving seven months of writing, four months of touring and a one month holiday.

 

Sue Whiting encouraged tackling difficult topics in children's writing, stating that when writers take on the risk of writing about these topics, that publishers may too. Whiting offered this advice from the unique position of having written 65 books across the trade, education and novelty markets (including eight novels and seven picture books) and also having been at the helm of Walker Books as a publisher for a decade. Whiting gave examples of difficult topics handled well such as: Pearl Versus the World in which the grandmother has Alzheimer's disease, The Book Thief which features death as narrator, A Single Stone which addresses the gender and power for middle-grade readers, and A Monster Calls which is a book about love, loss and hope.

 

Sarah Davis spoke of her work as an illustrator using traditional mediums such as paint and pencil, along with 3D models and digital illustration. She generously shared insights into her illustration process, such using reference photos.  Davis also recommended that writers"leave room for the illustrator to breathe and tell their own story". After sharing her skill across various artistic mediums, Davis amazed the room by responding to a question from the audience about her art training by revealing that she was self-taught, largely through googling the techniques that she wished to master.

 

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While I feel a little sheepish about it taking a while for me to write up this event, I have realised that one advantage of this is that I can see  just how much of the information I have taken on board, and how it has shaped where I am right now.

I felt encouraged to continue to write about difficult topics and I have continued to pursue an interest in writing for middle-grade readers, and I have also been motivated to continue to work on my illustration skills having heard that a fabulous illustrator such as Sarah Davis is self-taught.

I can't finish this write-up without mentioning that my gorgeous writing buddy Victoria Mackinlay signed her first book contract as a result of meeting with a publisher at the festival. I absolutely can't wait to see her wonderful story come to life.

With all of this fabulousness coming out of the festival, I am definitely looking forward to the next one!

More info?

http://www.sgervay.com

http://www.waichim.com

https://www.tristanbancks.com

 http://suewhiting.com

 http://sarah-davis.org

 https://www.creativekidstales.com.au

 

Jack of All Trades... Master of None?

I was recently asked about my greatest fear in pursing my creative dreams.  I'm not sure of the answer I gave at the time, but the one that is in my head right now, is that I've feared that I'd be a 'jack of all trades, master of none'.  You see, my creative ambitions don't fall neatly into one category.  I like to write.  I like to paint.  And I like to take photos.

I've primarily been focused on picture book writing, but I've also been dabbling in freelance writing, middle-grade fiction, and I have some scribbles that make up the beginning of a novel.  On top of this, I am learning how to paint, having not pursued it much since high school.  I'm also getting the hang of using my SLR in manual mode, a skill that also been dormant since my high school days of black and white photography.  (Digital SLR cameras weren't available back then, so it was a necessary skill in those days!)

So how did it all begin?  After my first child was born, I felt such a shake up in my thinking about what I could do with my spare time.  Yes, you can laugh at that bit.  Having a baby doesn't leave a whole lot of spare time, but it does at least give you thinking space about what you could do with spare time, if and when you manage to grab a few minutes. All those hours spent feeding through the night, or walking through the streets with the pram had led to something creative brewing. The problem was that I didn't really know exactly what to do with it.

I did some terrible writing.  Some awful artwork.  And took some pretty average photos with my SLR in automatic mode.  Then I completed a picture book writing course and I learnt about the conventions of the picture book and gained some insight into the workings of the publishing industry. All the stuff I needed to know if things were going to go anywhere, but I wasn't yet developing many story ideas.  I tried to get into painting with watercolour but I found it intensely frustrating that I couldn't produce the images that were in my head.  I packed it all away to focus on our house renovations and then it was time to go back to my day job.

A year later my second child was born and life became much busier than before. Things thankfully settled down and again I had some time to think about how I could funnel my creativity somewhere rewarding and purposeful. With two children now, it was even harder to find time to myself.  Even though my older child wasn't having a regular day sleep at home anymore, I was so thankful that both children would each have a car sleep after lunch each day.  I would park under a tree, and take out a notebook and scribble down all the things in my head that I felt I had to record somehow - observations, feelings, ideas that I thought I could use in a future novel.  I thought these scribblings were just my way of capturing ideas so I wouldn't forget them.  I then did some reading on the process of writing fiction and turns out this is not an unheard of way of beginning a novel.   So there you go, I was actually starting another project and intuitively I sort of knew what I was doing.  And I stuck at it.  And before too long, these scribblings were forming part of a broader narrative.  

Around this time I also had some ideas for a parenting book and jotted down chapter ideas and had a chat with people who may like to collaborate.  I tried watercolour again, and produced some illustrations that I didn't actually hate.  I continued to work on my picture book manuscripts.  And then came the biggest turning point, I started attended events for children's writers and illustrators. I went to festivals and gatherings.  I joined a critique group.  I made connections.  I put together a website.  I channelled my ideas from the parenting book into pitches for freelance articles.  I agreed to be part of an illustration exhibition (and immediately felt ill at the prospect of this endeavour but pushed on anyway).  I was gaining some momentum, and then yes, you guessed it, time to go back to my day job.

But this time it was different. With all of these wanderings through different creative territories, something had started to take shape, something that wouldn't just go away as easily as before.  Maybe it was the strength of having made at least some progress across a few domains.   I'd refined some picture book manuscripts to a point where they were ready for submission to publishers, I'd participated in the illustration exhibition (and made some wonderful connections), I was blogging regularly, and I even had a freelance article published online.  And I'd made friends in the writing/illustrating world to help keep me inspired, motivated, and who really understood this new world that I was in. Things were on a roll and I was keen to get work done whenever I could… early morning starts before the rest of the house woke, late at night when the rest of the house was already sleeping, and during the day in any pockets of time that came my way. Thankfully, my youngest was having mammoth day sleeps which gave my productivity a massive boost.

And the thing that was such a relief to me throughout all of this, was the realisation that each of creative endeavours had somehow complemented the others.  It hadn't been just a trade-off with my time, with one skill suffering because I was spending time on another.  They all worked together.  Illustrating characters from my manuscripts brought them to life and helped me to understand more about them than I could have ever imagined.  Blogging helped me to write even when I didn't feel inspired but because of a self-imposed deadline, a very handy skill to have when you're seeking freelance work or just wanting to push on with your creative writing.  Persevering with watercolour helped me to be more fluid with my movements and more confident and resolute with my decisions. Trying a new medium such as goauche taught me to be experimental, and helped me to achieve a closer approximation of the images in my head that I had been trying to bring to the page.  Photography helped me to capture a moment or a feeling with more speed than writing or illustrating could, and getting the knack of manual mode took the quality up a notch or two.  And the photos provided original photographic content for my website.  

Having all these things to dip into gave me choice and helped to lift my energy when working on one project had worn me down.  Sure, I still find it frustrating that I have so many projects on the go at once and very little time for any of them.  But I've learnt that with deadlines to work to, I can make the most of snippets of time. And this jack of all trades now even wakes up before the birds most mornings.

The master bit?  Well, I don't worry so much about that anymore.

 

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Back after the Break with a little post I like to call 'The Round-Up'

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I'm watching... Schitt's Creek on Netflix.  It took me an episode or two to really warm to it, but I'm now hooked. Dan Levy and Catherine O'Hara are the standouts for me... Levy's facial expressions and O'Hara's comic delivery are spot on.

 

I'm reading... On Writing by Stephen King.  Part-memoir, part-masterclass, and totally enthralling.  I am a sponge.

 

I'm listening to... Alvvays.  I'm happy to have the sweet and catchy melodies from this indie group from Toronto hang out my head for a while.  They've been around for a few years now but I've only recently discovered them, along with the musical genre 'jangle pop', to which they apparently belong.  (PS. The band name is pronounced 'Always', just to save you a Google search.)

 

I'm remembering... the divine smells from The Body Shop.   It's all thanks to a new handwash having a similar scent to an old Body Shop favourite. It's taking me down memory lane to my frequent trips to The Body Shop as a teenager in the 90s.

 

I'm grateful for... so much... the big things (being lucky enough to be born in Australia)... the small things (the toddler having a big day sleep yesterday in amongst the ups and downs of a sleep regression).

 

I'm trying... to have more focus on the task at hand.  I find I'm always trying to juggle so many things at once, that instead of focusing on what I don't have time to do, I need to focus more on what I am actually doing.

 

I'm planning... the year ahead.  I'm jumping back into my creative life after a break over the holidays, and hoping to build upon the momentum from last year. I'm reflecting on my achievements over the past year months, no matter how small.  And I'm so grateful for all the beautiful souls who are cheering me on.  I'm on the path to exactly where I want and need to be... I just need to keep moving.

 

 

 

 

 

Source: http://www.cbc.ca/mediacentre/program/schi...

Death & Marriage - big discussions with A Small Person

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Despite all the discussion of marriage equality about the place, I haven't actually spoken about it with my daughter.  She's only four, and call me a wimp, but I'm just not ready for her to find out about the homophobia and hatred that lurks about the place.  But out of nowhere the other day, she started a conversation about marriage.

"Can you marry two people?" she asks.

"No, sweetheart, just one," I answered simply, not at all ready to delve into the topic of polygamy. 

"But you can change who you are married to?" she asked.

"Oh, yes, you can do that," I said, smiling at my husband who was nearby, listening to this play out.  I'm pretty sure he knew my smile meant that I was amused by this conversation and not that I was secretly compiling divorce papers.

Having received answers to her questions, our four-year old was ready to continue her train of thought.

"So a girl can marry a girl.  And a boy can marry a boy", she said.  This was not a question. There was no rising inflection at the end.  No raised eyebrow.  No searching into my eyes to try to pick up on my thoughts on the topic.  This was a definitive statement.

"I want to marry someone the same age as me," she continued, "because then they will die at the same time as me."  She decided she would marry either one of her two close friends at school. But she hadn't decided yet.  One was a girl, the other a boy.

I smiled at her, but inwardly my heart dropped.   This was something that I often ponder.  How we can fall in love, make a commitment to someone, have children with them, and love each of them with such a fierce love, all the while knowing that something may happen one day that will take them away from us.  That we each have our own lifespan determined by genetics, environment, lifestyle, and fate.  That we each know when we began but we don't know when we end. That the very thought of losing someone you love so intensely is unbearable even as a hypothetical thought.

For now though, she just needed someone to understand her thoughts and fears.

"I get it, sweetheart," I said. "You don't want to die alone," I said, as I put my arm around her and squeezed her close.

 And isn't that how we all feel, queer, straight, or otherwise?

 

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How To (Barely) Survive Your First Book Week

Step 1: Feel smug that you don't need to organise a book week costume this year.  Oh the joys of preschool, sure it costs the same amount of money as a mid-size car each year, but it is simple in comparison to the complexity and busyness of primary school. 

Step 2: Receive an SMS from a preschool mum at dinner time saying she just can't wait to see what costume you put together for Book Week.  Feel quite confused as the kids aren't starting primary school until next year.  Check your email on your phone while juggling a tired one-year old, a hungry four-year old, and a colander of pasta.  Discover the preschool has announced the kids will be celebrating Book Week next week.  Calculate the number of days that leaves you to organise a costume.  Work out that it's five.  Crunch the numbers again hoping for a bigger number.  It's still five.  Console yourself with the idea that you function better when fuelled by adrenaline anyway.  

Step 3: Ask your child which book character they would like to dress as.  Spend the next ten minutes discussing the difference between characters from movies, and characters from books.  And character from books that were really movies first, but then a tie-in book of some kind was released as part of a broader marketing campaign.  Say no to Poppy from Trolls and Rainbow Dash from My Little Pony.  Admit your preschooler is correct in saying that they own books with those characters in them.  Stick to your guns, knowing it will be worth it to get this out of the way because there are seven more Book Weeks after this one.  Realise, hang on, there's a small child on your hip. You have two kids.  There are actually nine more Book Weeks.  Consider how many more Book Weeks there may be if you decide to have another baby in a couple of years.  Pour the pasta into the kids' bowls and stare off into middle distance pondering that thought.

Step 4: Feel triumphant when your child suggests that she dress as Kevin the cat from The Cat Wants Custard (by P. Crumble and Lucinda Gifford). This will primarily involve a black long-sleeve shirt and black leggings, both of which your daughter already owns, which is the parenting equivalent of winning the lottery.

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Step 5: Stop off at Spotlight to buy some felt to make the cat face mask and something to fashion into a cat tail.  Marvel at the carnage in the dress up section.  Start to realise that Book Week is a brutal sport.  Have a weekend so busy that you don't have a chance to make a start on the costume.  Reassure yourself that you'll have the next day with both kids in child care and plenty of time to create a Book Week costume masterpiece.

Step 6: Wake up to find that the toddler has crusty conjunctivitis eyes after being splendidly clear for four days.  Start crying because this is the third week in a row that one of the kids has been home sick and your husband is away for work again.  Start unpacking the dishwasher.  Feel terrible and heavy with guilt as your chubby-faced boy sits in his high chair crunching on handfuls of cereal, watching you cry-clean.  It's not like you don't want to spend time with him, it's just that you need to just be a person for a few hours. Not a mum-person.  Just a person.  Realise that with all the tears, you can't really see well enough to unpack the dishwasher, and with glass tumblers and pointy utensils it's possibly not the best task to be doing right now.

Step 7: Drop off your daughter to preschool and return home with your sweet toddler with his now completely normal, healthy looking eyes. Roll your own eyes several times.  Decide it's time to regroup.  Kiss his soft little cheeks and put him on the floor to play.  Time to start doing.  Lay out all the items you've gathered.  Congratulate yourself on your fantastic progress.  You've got this!  Drop that thought immediately as you realise it's time to take your car to the mechanic for an inspection to be able to renew your registration.  Pick up the toddler and scurry out the door.

Step 8: Get home and realise that the Apple TV remote is missing. Without this, there is no Play School on tap. Things do not look good for you.  Look at the Montessori-inspired corner for play that you love so much but you know it's just not going to cut it right now.  You need Play School. Without it there will 500% more toddler interruptions. You need Aunty Justine or Uncle Alex to appear.  Preferably Alex doing the Robot Dance but you'll settle for anything right now.

Miraculously the TV starts playing Play School all on its own.  Some kind of sorcery has occurred.  Feel in awe, but there's no time for questions.  You must press on. The costume must be made before preschool pick-up time or your daughter will start to unravel with nervous energy.  You know that telling her you'll make the costume the night before just won't cut it.  Events like this are overwhelmingly exciting for her and if things aren't ready in time you know her brain will go into overdrive.  You feel fuelled by wanting to avoid one of her infamous meltdowns of massive proportions.  You also feel fuelled by your toddler repeatedly pinching the skin on the backs of your knees.

Step 9: Lay out all the bibs and bobs on the dining table. A piece of thick black felt.  Pieces of green, yellow and pinky-red felt.  A black pom-pom garland for a tail.  Thick black elastic and thin black elastic.  Scissors.  Hole punch.  Needle and thread.  White stocking socks.  The toddler has made his way down the hall and has pulled out a dozen books from the shelves.  He is now fanning pages of a Japanese picture dictionary past his face.  Put the books away and return the toddler to the lounge room.

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Step 10: Start cutting out the cat face from black felt.  Out of the corner of your eye, notice that the toddler has now opened the pantry and is now taking out jars and bottles one by one.  You recall the incident the other day when he left a jar of agave syrup lying on its side and you discovered this fact when you later found a sea of sticky syrup all through the pantry drawer.  Look around for the empty paper towel roll you put through the door handles of the pantry to stop him from opening them.  You can't find it, so you reach for the closest thing on hand, your weathered copy of The Handmaid's Tale.  Rejoice that it fits perfectly.  Lament that it really doesn't look like you're going to get a chance to re-read it any time soon.

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Step 11: Discover that in a further act of sorcery that the TV is showing Play School episodes on repeat.  BY ITSELF.  Something that has never happened in the history of your house.  Again, no time for questions.  Cut out eye holes in the mask. Cut out white eyes and black nose.  Wonder why it doesn't look right.  Realise you are using a black and white photocopy as a template and you have blindly followed this, using black and white felt!  Time for a do-over! Cut out the shapes again, this time using the coloured felt. (Duh!) Fashion a tail out of the pom-pom garland and loop some thick elastic through it so it can be secured around your daughter's waist.  Cut a strip of green to make a collar.  Cut out little yellow circles to decorate the collar.  Look at all the pieces to be sewn on.  Look at the clock.  Preschool pick up time!  The sewing will need to take place after the kids are in bed.  Resolve to have eggs for dinner.

Step 12: Have what you think is an innocuous chat with the educators at the day care centre. They tell you how much they've missed the toddler, and that if his eyes remain clear throughout the day, he can come back to daycare the next day.  Hallelujah.  Make what you think is a throwaway comment.  "Toddlers don't dress up for Book Week, do they?" you say, making what you think is largely rhetorical question.  "Oh yes, of course they do!" comes the reply.  You are sure your face just turned into the red-cheeked, wide-eyed emoticon.  You try to rectify this.  You're not successful.  Not even remotely.  You are now the scream-y face Munch-inspired emoticon.

Step 13: Battle through three hours of the dinner/bath and bed routine.  In the middle of this, you realise the toddler can dress as the main character from It Wasn't Me by Shannon Horsfall.  He conveniently owns a blue and white striped jumper and denim jeggings (both hand-me-downs from his sister) and you whip up some black felt glasses for him.  It's perfect.  And he does love that book.  Specifically sneaking into his sister's room to sit on her bed and leaf through the pages.  It's perfect.

Step 14: With the kids finally asleep, it is time to for you to sew.  With a needle and thread.  Old school.  It's going to take time, effort, concentration.  And something from the fridge.  Choose an appropriate bottle for the hour.

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Step 15: Wake up precisely two minutes before the kids.  Curse yourself for ignoring your alarm at 5:30am and all the snooze alarms that followed.  Juggle the hungry toddler, the hungry preschooler, the hungry cat, and the clothes racks with drying laundry clogging the living room.  Notice some milky white water in a puddle on the kitchen floor.  Immediately think the cat has thrown up, but the sound of running water alerts you to something else.  You open the laundry cupboard to find you left the water running into the dirty cat food bowl to let it soak in the tub, just around the time the toddler woke for the day crying.  Use several large beach towels to mop up the large puddle of water on your floorboards.  Feel like you have contained the disaster.  Then your daughter points out there's still water dripping from the sink.  Open the cupboard below to find it and everything in it soaked in water.  You have flooded the laundry cupboard in your open plan living area in the midst of the breakfast feeding frenzy.

Step 16: Concede that you do not, not even sometimes, function better when fuelled by adrenaline.

Happy Book Week, everyone!

 

 

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