Rose gardens surround the house

Hello 2015!!

Can you believe that it is February already?  I knew that January was going to be busy for me this year, with the house move, but I really didn’t anticipate just how busy!  Although moving house is meant to be stressful, in fact it was just busy.  I seemed to be short of time to do anything, for days on end, and yet when I got to the end of each day I couldn’t report what I had achieved.  However, the good news is that we are in, the house is now in our names (my parents and I) and we are settling in nicely.  The danger is that those few boxes that haven’t been unpacked might never get unpacked…….  but I am sure that one day I will remember something I need is in one of them and they will be emptied!

A photo by the artist-in-residence of the boy at our dam.

A photo by the artist-in-residence of the boy at our dam.

There are many wonderful things about our new home.  There is room to spread out, for the kids to have adventures, for us to consider what animals we might get to fatten up in the paddocks, or which crops we might plant to generate some income in the future.  There is room to ride bikes, find frogs and grasshoppers, to entertain friends, and to make new discoveries.   The kids decided that swimming in the dam was a pretty awesome summer activity.  Until a visitor spotted a tiger snake (extremely venomous) swimming across the top of the water towards them!!  After that they returned to skipping stones across the water from the bank, after doing a full snake check first!

Looking across the biggest paddock towards the boundary

Looking across the biggest paddock towards the boundary

bywong sunset | a little bird made me

We can see the most beautiful sunsets from our property, but they are especially good when I climb to the top of our property.

The artist-in-residence has been enjoying taking photos of all the gorgeous roses in our garden

The artist-in-residence has been enjoying taking photos of all the gorgeous roses in our garden

 

However there is one drawback in the midst of all this bucolic bliss.  We are currently restricted to using mobile broadband modems as we can’t get cable broadband.  12GB a month for the four of us.  Eek!   Such a first world problem, but such a chore to work out!  It has been quite good for all of us and forced us to change our internet habits, but sometimes it is just plain annoying!

I had already identified that I wouldn’t be doing any of my ‘work’ in January.  I have managed to set up my sewing room (in what was formerly the formal dining room), and have made a laptop bag for my boy to use for going to school.  But that is about it so far!  As usual I have so many ideas, and plans, but the reality of being time poor means that I have to learn to be patient!

A lap top bag for the boy - waterproof of course, with a hint of Minecraft about it!

A lap top bag for the boy – waterproof of course, with a hint of Minecraft about it!

I have been learning a bit more than patience during the last few months too.  I have discovered that I am very like my father in many ways.  Once we moved house the first thing that was required was a new home for our chickens.  Torrential, and unseasonal, rain put paid to the original plan to build something by recycling our swing set on the weekend we moved.  (Okay – I was a tad ambitious in hindsight.)  So a hurried purchase of a ridiculously small and even more ridiculously priced chook shed occurred and we moved the girls.  Then Dad set to work, using completely recycled materials (bar the sheet of plywood we had to buy to build the nesting box).  As he planned, built, measured, and interacted with the rest of us I saw myself reflected in many of his words and actions.  (And not just the good ones!)  After all these years of thinking that I take after my mother so much it has been quite an eye opener to discover that I have inherited so many traits from him!

The emergency purchase chicken coop - far too small for chickens, but pretty good for rabbits!

The emergency purchase chicken coop – far too small for chickens, but pretty good for rabbits!

The first stage of the new chicken palace.  Next steps include a fenced run, and an internal wall to provide shelter from the elements.

The first stage of the new chicken palace. Next steps include a fenced run, and an internal wall to provide shelter from the elements.

I have also had lots of reminders about why we have made this move, and that I can’t plan to do things with gay abandon as I used to, as my children don’t cope with it.  I can’t say that this is a lesson that I have learnt as I seem to keep forgetting it.  I thought that I could swan off the day after we moved, to clean the house we were selling.  in hindsight that was a ridiculous plan but it took three phone calls from crying family members for me to realise that I needed to abandon that plan and return to the farm to support everyone through this massive change. (And I paid someone else to finish the cleaning!)  I had also thought I could head off to the other side of the country for four days to attend the wedding of a dear friend.  A few days before the trip I realised (after a particularly drastic action by my boy) that he was in no state for me to leave him for even a few hours, let alone a few days. So the trip was cancelled too.  It is exhausting being ‘needed’ so much, but I am extremely lucky that I am able to be available so much.  The generosity and support of my parents in helping us to move house has meant that while money has been tight over January, we could keep moving forward.

What else have I learnt?  That my impatience stretches to myself!  I have spent the last week setting up a book-keeping system that will (hopefully) save time and improve processes for the Shop that I support in an admin role.  I kept wanting it to be perfect instantly, and wanting to fix everything that is associated with it instantly, and finally had to realised that I have to switch off, make a plan, and return to that dance of balancing family, work, obligations, fun, and time to let go.  So – more life lessons for this old duck.

The final lesson?  Purple hair die does not last!  So now I have returned to blue, and added turquoise.

IMG_4320

Other big news?  My eldest has started high school and is relishing every moment of it!  The two girls have been catching the bus home in the afternoon, and enjoying that new independence too.  The children were given pet rabbits by their paternal grandparents at Christmas, and the bunnies very happily inherited the chicken coop.  Unfortunately two of them died suddenly of unknown causes a few days ago, so there has been a fair amount of grief as a result.  (And I had to dig two holes because the first one cut some buried irrigation pipe. The ground here is very rocky – more lessons learnt there!)

Three pet bunnies the day before the two grey ones, Pixie and Carrots, died.  Mittens (white) is very lonely now.

Three pet bunnies the day before the two grey ones, Pixie and Carrots, died. Mittens (white) is very lonely now.

I can also report a very positive start to the year for my boy. I am cautiously optimistic, as last year started well too, but he has grown a lot and is constantly learning how to manage himself, and he has made it through the first week remarkably well.  His autism traits are becoming more obvious in his social interactions, so that will be a big focus to support him with over the next few months, but his other behaviours are responding well to his medication and allowing him to control his emotions much better.  Phew!

There you have it – an update on the family news.  Hopefully the next posts will have news on sewing, making, and farming!

One of the Campine chickens having a scratch around the new yard - so many juicy bugs to be found!

One of the Campine chickens having a scratch around the new yard – so many juicy bugs to be found!

What no one tells you about parenting a special needs child|a little bird made me

Wrapping up the year

This year has flown by!  I swear that as I get older, time speeds up and the year seems to have only just settled into it’s routine when it finishes!

My absence from the blog has been longer than usual.  Sometimes life gets so busy that something has to give – in this case it was my blog, and my business.  Not forever, just for a short time while other things work themselves out.

The big news is that as I am writing this I am taking a break from packing up my house.  I know!  You turn your back for one minute and all of a sudden I am moving house!    And that is part of the reason for the blog break – a whirlwind of decision making, house preparation, house hunting, etc has been occurring over the last few months.  With my significant drop in income this year, and some complications that saw me have my children live with me almost full time (no complaints here) my finances took a dive and it was time to say good bye to the ‘executive style house’ in the ‘good suburb’ and look at different options for my chicks and I.  Fast forward a few weeks and my parents (who live overseas) were visiting, and helping prepare my house for sale.  One thing lead to another and now they are moving to Australia (again) and coming to live with the chicks and I on a new property that we have bought together.  Again – I know!  Huge changes!

The new property is about 20 minutes from where we live now, and is in the country.  Yep – we are going to be ‘farmers’.  Well, not really – it is only 20 acres and the land around here isn’t particularly fertile, so we won’t be primary producers, but will have lots of room for animals as pets, room to run, ride (bikes), play, etc.  There are two houses on the property so my parents will have one, and the chicks and I the other.  The ‘big house’ as we are calling it is truly big – I have choices about which room I will use as my sewing studio, and the chicks will all have space for desks in their rooms.  The chicks will attend the same schools as they would have if we had not moved, but will catch the bus a bit more (it goes past our driveway).

A sneak peek of the front garden at the new house

A sneak peek of the front garden at the new house

2015 is looking very exciting as a result.  With my parents in residence I will be able to work more, earn more, develop my business more, and still continue to support my chicks.  The possibilities are endless!

Wrapping up this year and all that has happened would result in a blog post of thousands of words.  2014 has been eventful, to say the least.  A few brief highlights instead then:

  • The Human Brochure that I am part of is definitely a highlight.  I have met some wonderful people, seen amazing things, and been exposed to parts of my town that I didn’t know about.
  • Finishing up my career as a public servant was momentous, but right.  No longer being defined by my profession has been liberating, and I have enjoyed discovering more about myself and my strengths throughout the process.
  • Creating beautiful things continues to give me immense joy and my confidence grows on a daily basis.
  • My eldest chick has finished primary school and heads off to high school next year!
  • Selling my house has been emotional but is the right decision.

On the downside there have been some of the toughest times this year.  My previously reasonably amicable relationship with my ex-husband is now gone, and I have had to make some really hard calls about what is good for my children.  Adjusting my life to parenting a child with special needs has been a long process that has challenged me on every level.  I have been exhausted for a large part of the year.

But overall, looking at the good, the bad and the very ugly, this year has had more highs than lows, and I am finishing on a good note.

To entertain your eyes, a brief selection of some of my recent sewing projects follows – custom orders, Christmas presents, and new ideas.   I hope that this year is ending on a good note for you too, and that 2015 brings new adventures and excitement and love and laughter for you all.

011d2fe7cb8703f9768e068ed40c55ca9d22bd8d3a.jpg 016ae4d2794917009679793bac3bc533a60463f146 0125b5d09624d9f57f45071f1300fc12f569930909012e775f60eb1272f83278720135489744ff862b490113255d23d29fd2b68bf6d9c0cd39d77420ffc6fb   01e9ac9ae7689b346a08da23966b8eac83d8a6fcc7  01e7eebe0fe45d6cf7bf3022ef8d70e3ab3ee1d1d301d42526d3d0df93ebbd9dd62a5351335afa2adfd5  01d1127adba5c32e3239a98f2221a2887305217a88

Time has passed

Things have been a little quiet here on the blog for a while, but my life has been very busy  The second explains the first.  If I try to share everything in one post you will be reading for days, so I thought I would start with some highlights.

Over the school holidays the chicks and I got stuck into our garden and created four vegetable patches – well, one herb garden and three vege patches.  Between chickens, birds and possums we were quickly down to two vege patches and one herb garden, but they are thriving well. I was particularly proud of our efforts in recycling and repurposing in order to protect the gardens!  (These are old junior hockey pop up goals).

Vegetable garden|a little bird made me

A couple of weeks ago the chicks and I hosted some very long term friends for a weekend to experience Canberra as part of the Human Brochure.  I will write in more detail soon, but can report that the weekend was more wonderful than any of us expected!  Some photographic highlights to whet your appetite include:

Kids amazed that they can move a stone at Questacon

Kids amazed that they can move a stone at Questacon

 

My boy tempting a giraffe at the National Zoo and Aquarium

My boy tempting a giraffe at the National Zoo and Aquarium

Sienna feeding a lion - as you do - at the National Zoo and Aquarium

Sienna feeding a lion – as you do – at the National Zoo and Aquarium

My parents came to visit for a week about three weeks ago and are still here.  We decided that I needed to sell my house and move to somewhere that cost a little less to maintain, so have spent the last few weeks working flat out to spruce up the house.  All those little jobs that I have been meaning to do for the last few years have been done and the house looks wonderful!  At the time of writing we are re-thinking the decision to sell, so stand by for developments in that area over the next few months!  If I stay it means that I get to enjoy all our hard work, which will be great!

I haven’t managed a large amount of sewing, with everything else that has been going on, but have been creative in other ways, including making some gifts for my guests using some great quotes from an article about Canberra.

01a3caefaa7aa8ff89adca6a86199d5a746170eb4e Canberra tote bags |a little bird made me

This might be the briefest update in my blog’s history, especially given all that is going on, so I will have to provide more detail and more photos over the next couple of weeks.  In the meantime I have to share my latest hair colouring adventure with you.  My father asked me if it was ‘designed to attract or repel?’.  When I responded that it was ‘to amuse’ he informed me that it had done it’s job!

Jacaranda Hair|a little bird made me Jacaranda Hair |a little bird made me

I hope that you are all well, and being kind to yourselves!

7 Free things to do in Canberra over the Spring school holidays

Our two weeks of school holidays start today!  The children definitely need the break, and their mother isn’t complaining either!  While we have a camping trip planned for the second week of the holidays, for the first week I thought we might explore a bit more of the city we live in, rather than sitting at home with eyes glued to screens.  (Wish me luck!)

There are some amazing classes, programs, and activities available during the holidays, and my children have a long wish list.  However money is a little tight, and I realised that it was probably time for us to craft a list that focussed on things that don’t cost a lot of money, but will be really enjoyable.

These giant snails next to a floral wall spelling out Floriade are beautifully colourful!

These giant snails next to a floral wall spelling out Floriade are beautifully colourful!

1.  Floriade.  Yep – it may be clichéd but the huge floral displays are open throughout the holidays, are free to enter, and provide lots of different opportunities for being involved.  There is a different program of activities every day.  The tips I gained from head gardener, Andrew Forster, were to check the program first thing each morning before planning your day.  There are great things in the ‘Fun for Kids‘ section, including potting their own plants, attending Bunnings workshops, a circus playground with workshops, and more!    (And Bindi Irwin will be at the inspiration hub giving talks one day.) If all else fails, take a picnic and let the kids run around on the big grassed areas.

2. Arboretum.  The national collection of plants is free to enter, and roam around.  In addition to the wonderful wooden pod playground, there are also open spaces for picnics and running around, and amazing photographic opportunities.  There is a free creative corner during these holidays, plus a program of workshops ranging in prices from $10 – $30.  My personal plan is to pack some food and take the kids there with their cameras/iPods etc and run a family photo competition.  If it works I will publish their entries here for you to enjoy!

National Archives of Australia |a little bird made me

3. National Archives of Australia.  You might remember that I enjoyed a tour of the National Archives as part of the discovery phase of the Human Brochure.  I have been wanting to take the children there ever since, and with the opening of the Waterhouse Natural Science Art Prize this week, the timing is perfect!  Entry to the archives is free, and there is a great range of exhibitions that I think my children will enjoy exploring – including one of ‘banned’ material that I think will appeal to my son!!

Industrial remnants installed at the National Gallery of Australia Sculpture Gardens

Industrial remnants installed at the National Gallery of Australia Sculpture Gardens

4. National Gallery Sculpture Gardens.  I suspect that taking my active children (well, let’s be honest, my son) into the Gallery could be a recipe for stress, but I think that exploring the Sculpture Gardens, with reflective sculptures, floating heads, and my favourite, the James Turrell installation “Within Without’, could be much less stressful!  I might even include that in our family photo competition!

5. Geocaching.  We have been a little slack in our geocaching for about a year (oops) but the upside of that is that there will be lots of new caches around town that we haven’t discovered.  If you aren’t aware of geocaching it involves looking for hidden caches/containers that contain a log book, and occasionally swap-able  or track-able items, using GPS coordinates.  You can download a free version of the app to your phone, or use the GPS from your car (or go really rustic and use a compass!) and search for different caches hidden in public spaces, and logged on a website so that others can look for them.  I like to pick a geographic area, park the car and then go for a walk with the kids to find as many as we can before someone gets tired and complains!

6. National Museum of Australia.  The museum is always great for an interactive experience with kids, and these holidays they are running free drop in workshops in their Discovery Space, including one where you can make your own wire sculpture.  (Wonder if the kids will realise that I am there to do it for me, rather than to entertain them?!)

7. National Library of Australia.  On 2 October the Library has a story time session and a movie for children, both of which are free.  But the thing that appeals to me for my children is the Library detective – a free ‘find it’ trail of discovery.

Handmade Markets | a little bird made me

Plus one more.  Handmade Markets.  Entry to these amazing markets (no I am not at all biased) is free!  Of course it won’t end up being truly free as the temptation to buy so many of the beautiful products there is hard to resist, so I haven’t included it in my list of 7 – but wanted to remind you that it is a great day out!  4 and 5 October at the National Convention Centre!  (I won’t have a stall there but will be there helping out anyway!)

There are many more things to do in Canberra over the holidays, but this list will keep us going I think!  What ideas do you have for free activities these holidays?

6 ways to help you bounce back when you are worn out

Over the last few weeks I have recognised that I am getting worn out.  Again.  (This may be the reason for my more thought provoking posts recently, now that I come to think of it!)  Between caring for my children, dealing with the mountains of paperwork that seem to accompany every decision about my son, and my income, and trying to be business like about my ‘business’, things have started to slip.  And, as I said in my post yesterday, it is important to be kind to yourself.

How do you bounce back when you are worn out?

Some of the things that I have found that work include:

1. Keep things simple.  Cancel those social appointments that you are dreading, don’t schedule any complex arrangements, and just focus on the basics.  Looking after you and yours is more important than obligations to friends.  Good friends will understand that this is temporary and that you will be back on deck soon.

Fresh is best |a little bird made me

2. Eat healthy food.  Instead of reaching for the easy peanut butter sandwich, or cheese and crackers, take a few extra minutes to eat some fresh food – a salad sandwich, a fruit platter, or even just grab a banana instead of something processed and sugary.

3. Exercise.  I know – the last thing you want to do when you are tired and worn out is to exercise.  I am not talking about a full cardio work out followed by a boxing class (although if that is your thing go for it!).  I find that even just taking a walk around the block is often enough to get things moving again, to lift your energy levels and your spirits.  Doing a bit more active exercise helps even more!M O V E

4. Rest.  Actually stop, put your feet up, and rest.  Not work on your laptop or tablet.  Rest.  Maybe read a novel, listen to some music, or just be at peace for a few minutes.  My personal favourite?  Lying in a hammock. (Note to self.  Spring is here.  Set the hammock up.  Soon!)

5. Let go of some of your responsibilities.  This is the hardest one for me.  I love sewing, creating, designing, making.  I also love earning some income from it.  But it takes all my focus, and at the moment I need to give the children a bit more focus, so sewing has to take a back seat.  This is hard, but I know it isn’t forever – it may be for a day or two, or for a week or two, but it will all be there waiting for me when I have time and head-space to walk into my sewing room and pick up where I left off.

6. Do something different.  You might remember my favourite graphic from a post a couple of weeks ago.   5 things I learned about divorce|a little bird made meI love this.  It reminds me that if we are in a rut, with tired children, whinging mother, etc, then in order for me to change that, I need to change something I am doing.  Ideas that have worked well in the past include a picnic dinner as a surprise, having a family movie night in the middle of the week, letting the kids build a fort and live in it for a day – even though they use a whole room and insist on keeping it there for days!

What helps you to bounce back when you are getting run down or worn out?

Why you should be kind to yourself

I am sure you have seen various versions of the quote that is variously attributed to Plato, Ian MacLaren and John Watson “Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”  I have been reminded many times recently of how true this is.  Life is complex.  What might be trivial for one person is the world for another. If you can treat every one you meet with respect and without judgement, their lives may be lightened and brightened without you even realising it.

a little bird made me

So why then is it so hard to be kind to ourselves?  As a mother I put my children first.  Their needs before mine.  I have written before about the ‘burnt chop syndrome‘ and how I needed to change my behaviour to stop always eating the burnt chop.  Looking back over the months since I wrote that post I can see some of the little ways that I have changed, in order to look after myself a bit more.  But I can also see that I still haven’t been kind to myself.

Other people praise me for something I have done as a parent, and I can immediately list, even if just mentally, all the things that I haven’t done so well.  I don’t celebrate myself very much, yet I celebrate each step that my children take.  I expect myself to fail at so many things, yet I expect my children to believe that they will succeed at everything if they try hard and practise enough.

Tonight my daughter was feeling miserable and sorry for herself, and I heard myself giving her advice that was good advice, and is advice that I apply in my daily life.  I realised that I need to be proud of my ability to see the silver lining in clouds, the positives in a bad day, and the achievements I have made as a result.  If I am not kind to myself, how can I expect my children to be kind to themselves?

(1)

What do I think is the answer to ‘why we need to be kind to ourselves’?  I believe that if we don’t think we are worthy of kindness, who will?  Remember that you are also fighting a hard battle.  You have a right to kindness.  Look after yourself.  Be gentle with your soul.  Forgive yourself.  Learn from your mistakes instead of wallowing in them.  And celebrate the things that make you special.

As for me?  I have started a 12 week health and fitness program.  I am being kind to myself when I skip a day of exercise, or eat a few extra calories, because I am in this for the marathon, not the sprint!  (And I have lost several kilos in the couple of weeks since I started, and that needs to be celebrated !)

I hope that your week is going well, and that you are able to be kind to yourself.  Today!!

017430f49758cef34b4fffd08bb74bf078ff6ff45f

Spring!!

The air is lighter, the breeze is warmer and everything seems just that little bit easier with Spring finally kicking into gear.  (Of course the grass is also longer and I need to buy a lawnmower, but let’s not let practical facts get in the way of the enjoyment!)

I have been busy, but not with anything I can show you here.  Filling out paperwork.  Paperwork about my son’s special needs, paperwork about child support and why I think I should receive it on behalf of my children, paperwork about how I would like my children to be supported by both their parents. Numbers, facts, dates, numbers, and histories.  My brain is full of it, and my bench is covered in piles of papers sorted into piles (until I realise that one supporting document from one pile is needed to support the issue another pile is addressing, and then chaos reigns supreme.)

It isn’t getting me down too much, but it does mean that all sewing, creating, etc is on hold while I address it all, and still try to be present with the kids.  That is a bit dangerous because it means that I have time to order……fabric, notions, bits and bobs.  As little packages of zips, of fasteners, of webbing arrive my kids roll their eyes at how boring it all is.  and I get excited at the possibilities that each little package holds.  I have so many things I want to be making!!

Webbing and key fob notions..... so many ideas!

Webbing and key fob notions….. so many ideas!

I am using the time productively though – I have finally started a products and prices page (you can see the link at the top of this page) so that those of you who want to place an order now have some reference points to do so!  I still plan on re-stocking my Etsy shop, but this can help in the interim!

However the two most exciting things to report are that I now have an iPhone 6 which means that my photos are so much clearer, and that it arrived in time for a behind the scenes tour of Floriade, our annual floral celebration.  It was beautiful being there before the crowds arrived, with the morning dew on the flowers and the air so clear.  I may have got a bit carried away with photos…….These flowers were planted after a Floriade spectacular a few seasons ago by apprentices who used a bull dozer to plant them randomly along the shores of the lake.

These flowers were planted after a Floriade spectacular a few seasons ago by apprentices who used a bull dozer to plant them randomly along the shores of the lake.

These giant snails next to a floral wall spelling out Floriade are beautifully colourful!

These giant snails next to a floral wall spelling out Floriade are beautifully colourful!

Tulips, tulips, everywhere!

Tulips, tulips, everywhere!

The theme of Floriade 2014 is Passion.  This is the automotive garden reflecting the passion people have for their cars!

The theme of Floriade 2014 is Passion. This is the automotive garden reflecting the passion people have for their cars!

The view from the Ferris Wheel allows you to see the plantings from a different perspective!

The view from the Ferris Wheel allows you to see the plantings from a different perspective!

Passion for fashion reflected in the argyle and houndstooth patterns, while art is reflected in the garden of coloured pencils!

The family, with all it's wonderful diversity, was represented in this garden, and the plantings are surrounded by figures representing different family groups.

The family, with all it’s wonderful diversity, was represented in this garden, and the plantings are surrounded by figures representing different family groups.

The family garden from a different perspective!

The family garden from a different perspective!

I have also started on a fitness and health campaign, and, although I am still struggling to get out of bed each morning, am starting to enjoy the benefits of eating healthy, tasty and nutritious meals and regular exercise.  (I know!  Who knew that the experts were right?!)

We have a few days left until our two week school holidays, a camping trip, some birthdays, and hopefully some time to get out and about and have fun with my chicks.  I hope that your Spring or Autumn has started some new habits or new joys for you too.