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:


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


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.


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?)


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…

And You Are…Ummmm?!

Photo Credit: Whitney Lee Photography

School’s back!  The hallway has been spontaneously transformed into a dumping ground for schoolbags, and the kitchen bench has disappeared under a load of lunchboxes. There’s no real homework yet, but after only four days of the current academic year I cannot guarantee what my reaction will be if another book to be covered emerges from Marvel Girl’s backpack…the mere thought of contact adhesive fills me with a vague nausea and sense of impending doom.

There are always a few wrinkles to be ironed out at the beginning of each school year, but in the scheme of things most of them present only minor challenges. So far Marvel Girl has managed to wear the correct uniform on the right day, Miss Malaprop hasn’t yet lost her (extra carefully labelled) new hat, and I’ve managed to track down one of the last elusive copies of the required Handwriting Textbook at the local mall.  (I’m banishing the thought of covering the damn thing yet…I will probably need to perform at least an hour of creative visualisation and yogic breathwork before I even consider retrieving the roll of contact from wherever I threw it in the dark recesses of the cupboard).

But, as I said, these are but trivial trials — nothing that can’t be solved by a single application of brain power, elbow grease or a large glass of red wine.  No, the big challenge is The Name Game.

The Name Game, for those of you who are blessedly unaware of its existence, is that jolly pursuit we parents pursue in playgrounds across the country at the start of every school year.  We begin by greeting our close friends, some of whom we haven’t seen all summer, with enthusiasm — we ask after their spouses, natter on about the older and younger siblings of their child who is in your child’s class, perhaps even mention their dear devoted dog — all by name.  We feel confident, chatting away. We’re upbeat. This is going to be a great year!  I mean, look at me — just look at me — talking away, remembering those monikers, getting it all right!

And then, we turn to say hello to some other friends, or maybe — more accurately — they’re acquaintances.  Their child was in the different class last year, and while we cheerily say, “Hello Hermione!” to their adorable daughter, we inevitably turn to the parents and acquire a slightly fixed grin before asking, “Hi, how are you? How were the holidays?” (perhaps a little bit too brightly) to distract them from the fact that you can’t quite recall their name.  But we excuse ourselves, on this occasion, because let’s face it: the kids are all in identical school uniforms, so you are forced to associate their actual faces with their actual names. But the parents?  Well, it’s quite possible that Marty’s mother was wearing a red spotted top when you meet her, but who in God’s green earth knows what she has on today?

But then you begin walking toward the school gate, feeling a little less poised but remaining ready for the next drop off (at preschool this time…there can’t be too many faces to contend with there, right?) when you bump into a tearful mother of a new kindergarten pupil who clearly knows you from somewhere, and you offer reassuring platitudes and rummage through your handbag to proffer tissues all while racking your tiny brain for some clue as to where it is that you met them (Was it Playgroup? Music class? No…maybe Swimming? Or Ballet?) in the faint and very distant hope that you might recall something — maybe even just the first letter — of their name.

By the end of the week, when you’ve traipsed through school and preschool playgrounds, dropped and picked up kids from a mind-boggling array of extra-curricular activities, and received three invitations for upcoming birthday parties for children you are now unsure whether you actually know, you’ve had it.  Your confidence is shot, the week is a blur of a thousand faces, and you can barely remember the names you once bestowed so lovingly on your own children.  Your sleep has been troubled, as you’ve been jolted awake in the small hours of the night, finally recalling that it was Marissa who had a kid starting at Marvel Girl’s school this year, Marissa who you met at Playgroup two years ago, and her daughter’s name was…oh dear God…what was her name?

Yes, The Name Game gets us every year.  It’s akin to being asked to swallow a baby name book and subsequently regurgitate it in certain combinations at very specific times — basically, when Sally waves at you from her car in the Kiss and Drop line, and you need to recall — instantaneously — that her husband is Paul, that William is in Marvel Girl’s class, that their twins are called Mabel and Molly (not at preschool yet, bless them) and they have a cat called Elvis.  And when you do actually get it right (don’t forget to buy yourself a lottery ticket afterwards), you feel like you’ve just won the City to Surf in world record time or nailed the Croquembouche Challenge on Masterchef.

I haven’t got through the first full week of this year’s Name Game yet.  I’ve already had moments when I’ve only managed to smile and nod at a sort-of-familiar face, and one instance when I actually had to ask someone I know well whether I had correctly introduced her to someone who I knew but she didn’t. It’s becoming abundantly clear that I’m no Sherlock Holmes: if I ever had a Mind Palace, it’s now so full of names and random facts about Disney fairies and every last lyric from Frozen that there is room for no more. But that’s the nature of The Name Game. It gets to you like that. At this point, it’s a wonder that recall what my own name is.

Thank heavens the kids just call me Mum. That, I think, I can remember.