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.
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.
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.
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.
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!