Insanity…Uncovered

covered-ombre-linen

Ombre linen covers, anyone? Perhaps not me…

Here in this Great Southern Land — which, over the weekend turned into the Great Scorched Land when the fifteen hottest places ON THE PLANET were all on Australia’s Eastern Seaboard — our children have started a new school year.

Two weeks ago, all our gorgeous little munchkins trouped dutifully off for another year of educational learning and fun at primary and high schools around the country. For the record, it was not much cooler then: last Sunday night was the first time Sydney’s temperature dipped below 20˚C since January 20th. Seriously. That’s 23 days and nights of temperatures above 20˚C and, believe me, it got hideously hot during the day…

I mean, a lot happened in those twenty-three days. America, apparently, got itself a brand new President. Those crazy cats in North Korea tested another missile. Beyoncé took to Instagram sporting a veil to announce she’s having twins (though I should point out she was also wearing mismatched underwear, which as all mothers know is a dead giveaway that you’re already raising children). Over on Twitter, the hashtag #ShePersisted was born. In the Amazon, a butterfly flapped its wings.  (Disclaimer: this last event may not have been deemed newsworthy but I’m reasonably sure it did occur…though I’ll leave it up to you to decide which of the aforementioned events, if any, are connected.)

But anyway, it wasn’t the heat or any of that other stuff that caused me to lose my mind, people.

No, it was far more simple than that:

covered

Yes, yes…I get the general principle. It’s the execution I struggle with.

I TOTALLY LOST MY SANITY COVERING MY CHILDRENS’ SCHOOL BOOKS IN CLEAR PLASTIC ADHESIVE.

Yes, you know what I’m talking about…I can sense you all nodding sagely and feeling my pain, because I suspect that you, too, have experienced it.

Here in Australia clear plastic adhesive is commonly called “Contact”, though I’m no longer sure whether this is because Contact is the brand name used by the major manufacturer of the diabolical stuff, or because contact with your children is likely to be limited by whatever they’re currently calling the government department that deals with emotional abuse after you’ve finished screaming expletives and threatening violence covering all their school books.

I mean, I try. I really do.

Most things about being a mother of primary school aged kids I think I’m reasonably good at. My children generally turn up at school wearing the right uniform and carrying the correct equipment. Including their nutritious lunch and recess and fruit break and water bottle.

Every day.

But covering school books in Contact?

I’m utterly woeful. Completely hopeless. Borderline dreadful.

And, to make matters worse, my darling cherubs spent a considerable amount of their first few days back at school carefully colouring in beautiful cover pages for their school books, which they dutifully glued to the front of their workbooks. Paper cover pages, you understand.  Some of them, in the interests of being environmentally and economically responsible, had paper covers on BOTH sides of the book so it could be used for two subjects. (Those ones are my favourite. No, really they are). At any rate, they were really quite lovely, until…

…well, until I totally bungled covering one of the books and, when trying to remove the plastic adhesive from the cover, ripped one of my kids’ ornately decorated cover page in two.  (This, to be honest, may actually have happened more than once).

I’m so sorry, I whispered.

covered-more-likely

All those nifty Pinterest “how to” videos on book covering? I suspect this tome would be just as helpful…

My younger daughter looked down at the mess I had made, aghast and uncharacteristically silent.

The older one — who has now had her books butchered by her mother for the fourth consecutive year — was a bit more supportive: she sighed (quite philosophically, I thought), shrugged, and said: Well, Mum, you did your best.

Which I did.  Really, I did.

And I promised them that next year, Next Year, would be different. Because next year, I am going to be PREPARED.

Yes, my friends!

Next year, I’m going to study all those lovely Pinterest tutorials that do their utmost to appraise you of the tried and tested tips and tricks for book covering — and look! Oh, will you just look at their darling photographs of the seventeen new and exciting ways you can cover your books: decoupage covers, coloured duct tape covers, ombre linen covers, crocheted covers.

(What the…are these people actually serious?!)

Next year, I am going to source the highest quality clear plastic adhesive money can buy for covering my childrens’ school books, and I am going to unroll said adhesive (probably down the entire length of my house) and weigh it down for a week or three so it does not spontaneously and sadistically re-roll itself during said covering process.

(Because that won’t inconvenience a soul, will it?)

covered-tequila-mug

Ah yes…the tequila cup I ordered for Christmas, in preparation for “Book Covering Season”…

Next year, I am going to make a quiet trip to the family doctor and get a prescription for beta-blockers (and/or whatever else he’s prepared to give me), followed by a stop at the nearest bottle shop for some tequila (or any other clear, water-like substitute, with which to wash those tablets down).

(Ahhh…now this might actually happen…)

In the meantime, I’m going to sit in a dark, quiet corner, hyperventilating into a brown paper bag while I count up to 1,349,265 (or maybe 1,349, 266) and wondering just how Beyoncé would go covering books for her soon to be three children in plastic adhesive…particularly if she’s still wearing mismatched underwear and a veil…

Parental Guidance Recommended

A Let them Be Little

How much should I tell them?

One of the greatest challenges of being a parent is finding the right way to explain things to your children — or maybe not the right way, but the one that is most age appropriate, or the one that they will actually find some way of correctly interpreting and understanding.

I was reminded of this when Miss Malaprop came home from school yesterday and said her teacher had read her class a story about Moses and the Israelites in Egypt. Ever true to her pseudonym, Miss Malaprop didn’t quite manage to say ‘Israelites’, but she had a pretty good go at it — and I must admit I was too distracted by the sheaf of school notices and permission slips that has somehow managed to materialise in my kitchen since school resumed two days ago to discern the exact word she used as a substitute.

Now, being fully aware that my younger daughter is never one to speak to one so lowly as her mother of the knowledge bestowed upon her in the classroom unless she at least seven questions to ask me about various aspects of what she has learned, I braced myself for the inevitable barrage. I presumed — incorrectly, as it turned out — that she probably wanted to know all about the basket into which Moses had been placed among the bullrushes, its capacity, its relative seaworthiness, that sort of thing. Or perhaps she wished to quiz me about exactly what the Egyptian princess who found Moses might have been wearing that day, and whether her ensemble would have included a crown?

Wrong again.

“Mummy, what are slaves?”

This was the question that came from my smallest child’s lips. It came out so sweetly, so innocently, that I was forced to stop, immediately, and turn away from the tottering pile of lunchboxes I had just plonked onto the kitchen bench.

How do you answer a question like that when the person who has asked it is so young that they have only just started school? And how do you explain something as abhorrent and cruel as slavery to that person when you believe it is your solemn and sacred duty to protect them from all that is evil in this world?

A Dobby

Dobby, the House Elf who started it all…

“Slaves,” I ventured, “well, they’re a bit like the house elves in Harry Potter — the ones who have to do everything their masters tell them to, and don’t get paid.”

Miss Malaprop’s greeny-blue eyes lit up with dawning comprehension — somehow, incredibly, I had managed to hit upon a reference she understood straight away.

“Oh, OK then,” she said, nodded her head, and ran off to play.

Now, in my defence, Harry Potter is Miss Malaprop’s current obsession. It is not unusual for me to hear her yell, “Expelliarmus!” in an attempt to disarm her sister during one of their inevitable fights, and when given an alphabet book to complete for homework over the holidays she decided that drawing a picture of Voldemort was an excellent choice to illustrate the letter V.

Moreover, we are currently half-way through reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which details Hermione’s crusade to improve the lot of house elves at Hogwarts by founding the Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare (S.P.E.W.), so the concept of slavery — albeit it in a fictionalised, relatively child-friendly context — is not entirely unknown to her.

But should I have said more? Had I just completely trivialised a serious topic? Should I have checked that Miss Malaprop understood that I meant that slaves are individuals who have been denied that most basic and fundamental of all human rights — freedom — and that they are not tiny creatures with large ears and bulging eyes who toil away in the Hogwarts kitchens?

A Cleanup

This wouldn’t work in my house…I’d have to resort to a whole other fandom to get my laundry hampter sorted properly.

If it was a trivial matter we were discussing, I wouldn’t think twice about making an example of Dobby and his kin, or of shamelessly appropriating whatever other popular culture references I need to make my children understand things. Believe me, I’ve even considered putting pictures of Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker above the laundry hamper so that my kids learn to correctly differentiate between the Dark Side and the Light Side. (Honestly, the two of them can rhapsodise for hours over the different types of light sabers or various random skirmishes during the Clone Wars, but heaven help them if they can figure out how to separate whites from colours when it comes to doing the washing.)

But that’s just the small stuff.

Anyone who follows this blog with any regularity knows that when I believe it is called for, I am not afraid to put fingers to keys and speak up for what I believe in, regardless of whether it’s to do with Asylum Seekers, Marriage Equality, the Death Penalty or whatever other injustice I perceive in the world. And I think it practially goes without saying that I want my children to be raised with a strong sense of social justice and an awareness of the things that impact other people — not just themselves.

A Jason

The very lovely Jason Isaacs, resplendent in what he called his “Paris Hilton wig”, letting them be little.

I know that in the years ahead there will be many questions, hard questions, that Miss Malaprop and her sister will ask me to answer. And I hope that I have the courage to face those questions with an open heart and an open mind, and to answer them as best I can without diminishing the facts or distorting the truth.

But I don’t think that my girls — my mostly sweet, still innocent girls — are yet ready to open the book on the grisly lessons of the history of humankind, with all its madness, mayhem, murder and misogyny.

So in the meantime, I’m going to keep answering the difficult questions my kids ask by referring them to things that they already know and understand, even if that knowledge and comprehension is partially drawn from reading Harry Potter.

I would imagine that by the time they’re up to reading the Hunger Games, the conversations will be very, very different.

But for now? I’m with Jason Isaacs on this one.

Dobby is in his trailer.

 

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Sprechen Sie Liebe?

Darth Christmas

‘Tis the season, people…

‘Tis the season…so they say.

The season of attending a seemingly endless whirl of Christmas parties and festive functions involving various degrees of fun, stress, inebriation and/or sugar.

The season of juggling multiple (not to mention competing) schedules to ensure that everyone gets to their ballet concerts, client drinks, end of year school assemblies and only Rudolph knows what else — and woe betide you if you forgot to charge your phone and failed to video your offspring’s rousing rendition of Jingle Bells for the grandparents to watch later.

And the season of wondering just how Marvel Girl’s school managed to schedule a swimming carnival and a carols night on the same date…and of trying to remember to smile (rather than grin fixedly or simply scream) when Santa Claus turns up on a trailer with a sack filled with brightly coloured lollipops to hand to your already delirious preschooler a full hour after her bedtime…

Elves

One for my bookclub lovelies…

It really is the season, the silliest of seasons, perhaps…but in amongst all the absurdity and there’s still a lot to be thankful for:

I remain (eternally) grateful, for example, that the lovely ladies in my book club are all firmly of the view that licensed premises are the best place to convene our meetings — particularly if there’s a courtesy bus to take us home.  Every last one of us will put up with our husbands’ japes about our reading glasses having stems rather than lenses if we can be left to talk about our…er, um, chosen book — yes, I’m sure it was a book we were discussing —  every six weeks or so, no matter what time of year it is.

Nov-Dec 2015 020

Nobody likes a half-assed jingler…part of my Christmas wall in my kitchen.

 

I am equally glad that Christmas gives me a brilliant excuse to indulge my love of cheap and tacky decorations and to bedeck my home with banners, candles, baubles, wreaths and whatever else we have to hand.  I love that my little Miss Malaprop reminds me most days in December that “there’s no such thing as too much tinsel!”, but I am also quite relieved that Marvel Girl was prepared to change the tone of her letter to Santa so it didn’t bear quite so much resemblance to a solicitor’s letter of demand.

I am definitely appreciative of the fact that my children are learning to verbalise what they are feeling at this time of year: from the dizzying, wondrous, joyfilled, frequently candy-cane fuelled heights, right down to the despairing depths of the massively over-tired, over-excited, and over-just about everything.

fabulous

It’s easy to run out of steam, riding the Christmas Crazy Train…

I will admit that my heart did break a little bit this morning when a pair of mournful greeny-blue eyes looked up at mine and Miss Malaprop confessed that “her love tank was not very full”: it seems that riding the Christmas Crazy Train isn’t always easy, especially for small people desperately counting down the days until the arrival of one S Claus.

But I am also grateful that she spoke up, so I was able to surprise her with a love-tank filling visit to The Kitchen Nook, her favourite cafe to hang out in before preschool, and that upon arriving there we simply sat down and were presented with our regular order (one life-preserving long black, one not-so-hot chocolate) with a smile and a nod — without even having to ask for it.

It’s the little things, people…they don’t go unnoticed, and they count — regardless of the season.

Because that’s all it took, really: it may not seem like much, but a few minutes spent sitting together in a welcoming cafe, sipping our drinks and having a bit of a chat was all that was required to help us rediscover our Christmas spirit.

Tinsel

Spend time, speak love…

And when you strip away all the parties and presents, the baubles and the bling, and even the tinsel, that’s what this season is really about: spending time with people you love, and making sure that you’re speaking the same language.

So — sprechen sie liebe?

Parlez-vous l’amour?

Do you? Go on…’tis the season.

 

 

 

Teething Problems

Rooftop BalletMarvel Girl lost her first tooth last night.

It was always going to happen sooner or later — later, in Marvel Girl’s case — but like many of life’s milestones, I am never as ready for these things as I think I’m going to be.

In the midst of her excitement, her jubilant preparations for the impending arrival of the Tooth Fairy (not to mention Miss Malaprop’s massive meltdown at the sight of her sister’s bloodied mouth), I felt torn between sharing the intensity of her joy and the old familiar tug of…of…of that feeling for which we have no adequately descriptive word in English.

It’s a blend of something like nostalgia, sometimes tinged with regret, but somehow resurrected by pride.  It’s born of the knowledge that my Marvel Girl and her sister are growing up.  And it’s inevitably followed by a rushing reminder of Gretchen Rubin’s ever so accurate observation that “the days are long, but the years are short”.

The Portuguese, bless them, have a word for this feeling, or something very like it: Saudade.

“Saudade” translates, to the best of my knowledge, as “a nostalgic longing to be near again to something or someone that is distant, or that has been loved and then lost”, or as Anthony de Sa puts it, “a longing for something so indefinite as to be indefinable”.

I feel saudade most acutely in those moments when part of me recognises, at some deep and otherwise undetected level, that after this, things will never be the same. These are the occasions when I feel that I am bearing witness to life — most frequently, for me, to the lives of my daughters. These are the moments that are captured by my heart’s camera, imprinted between heartbeats, indelible impressions of life most raw and pure.

You can get a free printable of this quote here.

You can get a free printable of this quote here.

I watched my Marvel Girl’s spontaneous dance of joy last night, her tiny tooth held tight between her fingertips, thrust up towards the light, and I knew the moment for what it was.

I won’t forget it, just as I won’t ever stop reminding her how much I love her, or how much she loves to dance.

And when I confessed to a dear, dear friend today that I was still feeling torn between saudade and sweet delight, he reminded me, ever so gently, that there was never ever any going back.

There is only the moment, to enjoy as much as is humanly possible.

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Miss Malaprop

Miss Malaprop is my much-loved younger child.  Like most preschoolers she is relishing her first forays into the big wide world, working out what her personality feels like from the inside as we, in turn, discover what it looks like from the outside.  She is sensitive, extremely kind, quick-witted, hilariously funny, determined (sometimes to the point of stubbornness, at other times to the point of lunacy), has an alarming capacity to throw spectacular tantrums, and gets up to so much mischief you’d think she was the lovechild of Loki Laufeysen.  She enjoys reading books, dressing up, creating things (especially involving paint, tape, glitter glue, regular glue, well…anything sticky, really), and playing with — or more likely tormenting — Marvel Girl, her older sister.

Miss Malaprop also loves to sing.  Loudly.  Sometimes even in tune.  She particularly likes to sing along with the music she likes.  And, as you might have guessed from her pseudonym on this blog, she doesn’t always get the words quite right.

“WE ARE DONE WITH BEING BESIDE THE JELLY!” she belted out from the back seat of the car the other day (as I attempted to protect her tiny developing ego by stifling my mirth and narrowly averted driving off the road).  Lord only knows what the silent many — let alone the Madden Brothers — would have made of that one.

It seems, however, that Miss Malaprop is not particularly fussed what the lyrics really are.  We did try explaining to her, in the kindest way possible, that Sheppard are actually singing “Say Geronimo!” and not referring to a long extinct dinosaur in their recent hit.  I suspect she simply prefers to sing, “Hey Pteranadon” instead — she is a big fan of Tiny, Shiny and Don from Dinosaur Train, after all.

Wikipedia defines malapropism as “the use of an incorrect word in place of a word with a similar sound, resulting in a nonsensical, often humorous utterance”, and I must admit that in addition to finding it one of the funnier entries I’ve encountered spouting from that omniscient fount of all online knowledge, I particularly enjoyed that it included links to other linguistic wonders such as Bushisms and mondegreens.  Strictly speaking, my dear daughter’s pseudonym would be more accurate were it Miss Mondegreen, given that she is notorious for substituting words she knows (or thinks she hears) for the lyrics of the songs she likes to sing.  But since malapropism is derived from the French mal à propos, meaning “inappropriate”, and she is equally renowned for making statements or asking questions that are as untimely as they are unsuitable (such as proclaiming — loudly, and with great solemnity — that “Ruth’s father died!” when he is actually standing right behind her) , I have retained my original choice.

And despite her occasional indiscretions and musical blunders, Miss Malaprop is never, ever intentionally malicious. Rather, she is one of the most empathetic and considerate little beings I have had the privilege to meet, and the vast majority of the time I am more than proud to be her mum.  She is the sort of child who, if yoiPhone photos 158u appear to be at all down in the dumps, will attempt to rally your spirits with a rendition of her own inimitable version of that old favourite from The Jungle Book movie:

Look for the bare necessities
The simple bare necessities
Forget about your worries and your STRIPES!

Take that, Shere Khan.