Category Archives: Life

This too shall pass

If you read yesterday’s post you will understand that I was struggling, feeling broken and more than a bit overwhelmed. It had been a bad day, in a bad week, bad month, year…… you get the drift.   Thank you to all who reached out with words of support and to share their own stories – it really does make a difference!

This morning I woke up feeling a bit better but still quite broken.  My son refused to go to school again and I didn’t have the energy to deal with him.  Then his nurse called to check in and suggested that I should consider arranging to have a stay in the private psychiatric clinic over the school holidays to have a break from the children and re-charge.  Now while I understand where she is coming from, and I fully believe that ‘if mumma ain’t happy ain’t nobody happy’ etc, a stay in a psych ward did not sound like the answer to my prayers!

While still reeling from that call I realised that I needed an urgent appointment to get a prescription renewed for my son because, despite all the reminders that it was about to expire, I hadn’t managed to actually make the call.   I had been thinking about ducking into town on my own as a way to escape the stress, so the thought of taking him with me did not fill me with joy. But you know what? It should have.  Because he and I had a really thoughtful, logical and forward thinking chat on the drive in about how we are going to tackle his school refusal together.   Then we looked at funny dog memes and laughed together while we waited to see the doctor, and when we saw the doctor, who is new to the practice, he made both her and I laugh with his funny puns and one liners.   He was delightful in the supermarket, and helpful (more than either of his older sisters would have been in the same circumstances!).  Then we went to an Op Shop that I like to check for teacups and teapots and he charmed the volunteer working the counter, helped me carry my finds and was generally delightful.  And he insisted that I needed to buy one teapot in particular.  The most expensive item in the photo below.  The teapot that is actually meant to sit on top of a cup – which was absent.  Making it the most expensive and least ‘together’ item in our haul.  And yet it has charm and quirkiness that I can work with.   A lot like him. (It is the striped one front and centre!)

 

To find my way out of my dark hole of depression I needed to remind myself of the good, the joy and the laughter that life with this gorgeous boy brings.   And being forced to take him to the doctor was the best medicine that I could have had.  Better than shopping therapy (which I can’t really afford, let’s be honest!).  Better than drinking tea (shock, horror) and definitely better than drinking wine (gee my life has changed.)  Enjoying him having a good day while we did things together was all it took.

I also had a lovely chat with a friend on the phone, ran into another friend at the shops quickly and generally had positive interactions that helped.   A lot!

I write this as a reminder to myself for future reference, and as a way of letting you know that I am okay.   I know that I need to work on my self-care, and this is a good reminder to put some plans in place for the school holidays that are coming up.  But I also know that, as a wise and wonderful friend of mine often reminds me, “This too shall pass’.    (Thanks Lizzie.)

Now to go off and be inspired by these new purchases – I see some cacti (crocheted) and some hole drilling for planting in my future!

Public lives and behind the scene

I have spoken before about the public face and private face of social media and how very few of us (including me) share the ugly stuff of life in all its rawness when we post. Every now and then I break the rules and share some of the gritty stuff, not as a cry for help and attention but as a way of letting other people who are also going through a hard time know that they are not alone. I have a safe space on Facebook in a group of parents who have kids on the spectrum, or with ADHD, or the myriad of acronyms our children are diagnosed with. It is wonderful to talk about school refusal, medication side effects, the latest broken appliance or hole in the wall (none for a while luckily!) with people who don’t judge or offer advice like ‘you need to be stricter’, or ‘you need to stop them manipulating you’ or ‘have you tried changing his diet’. But I don’t tend to post that stuff in the open.

Sometimes it is because I just don’t want people to know how hard life is, other times I don’t want to deal with their pity. Because one of the absolutely hardest things in the life of a single parent of kids with special needs is that there actually isn’t anything anyone can do to make it better. It is my responsibility and my joy and my burden. And it is exhausting and rewarding and draining and bloody hard work. And even though I really just want to run away and hide some days, I don’t. Because where would I go, and how much worse would things be when I got back?

So my reality for today is that while I am feeling particularly broken today there is always something to keep me going. Today I managed to get my boy to school for the first time this week and as I sat outside the school after dropping him off, waiting to see if he would run away in the first 15 minutes, so I would know whether it was safe to drive away I felt like crying. But then I decided to drive past Spotlight to see if they had any new colours of t-shirt yarn and found they had a sale on all yarn! A full basket later I was back to counting my blessings and remembering how privileged I am compared to so many others. Because shopping therapy had brightened my day. (Well – lifted it a bit anyway.). Then I then popped into an op shop and heard a well dressed young woman with three kids in tow explaining that she was there for the food bank because her husband had left and she had no money to feed her children. I would put money on the fact that she wasn’t advertising that on social media. And yet there she was, being brave and resilient for her children. Getting on with life.

My message in all this? You know that saying about not judging people because you don’t know what they are battling? It is a good one to hold on to and to practice. It doesn’t matter how people are dressed or where you see them shopping. You don’t know their story and you don’t know how much kindness they need in their life. Be kind, always.

As for me? Creating is my therapy of choice as you know, so I have been busy making things and trying to ignore housework. And drinking tea.

Tea obsessions

The resurgence of my creativity has continued!  Over the last couple of weeks I have made more tea cosies, have poured tea-scented teacup candles, have potted succulents in tea cups and have crocheted succulents in tea cups!  I have also made more reusable tea bags.   The idea of using a theme and creating around it is working well!  And being creative continues to be the best therapy for my busy, overwhelmed brain.   The last few weeks have been hard, with both my boy and my middle child experiencing difficulties that have impacted on the whole family.  Having something creative to sit and do while the world is crumbling really helps my sanity!  The fact that people also give me lovely feedback on the output doesn’t hurt either!

This was highlighted this morning when I ducked out to deliver a tiny teacup crocheted cactus to someone who I have communicated with online but haven’t met in person before.  On the drive into town I was feeling awful – tired, overwhelmed, and close to tears.  But after meeting with this delightful young woman who was genuinely interested in meeting me and in what I do, I walked away with a smile and a much lighter heart.  In discussing what I have been doing I also had some ideas on a new product (still in the tea cosy line) that I am going to work on over the weekend.  Replacing my feeling of stress with the feeling of being creatively inspired was the best medicine!!   That and a cup of tea when I got home and the rest of the day has been much better!

  

I had a similar experience a few days ago when I received a message from a friend who lives interstate, telling me that she and her husband love what I am doing and want to invest in me, and could they order a pineapple tea cosy like the one I had just made. Now this message on it’s own would have been a highlight, but the author of the message is a very talented artist, whose work I have admired for about 20 years, so to receive that sort of compliment just made me glow inside!!!   I am happily working on a new pineapple, tweaking the pattern as I go, because I think I might publish this one too!    The lovely thing is that the first pineapple came about as a a result of a comment that one of the women who follows my Facebook page made about another cosy, which has a succulent on top (the green one above).  So the collaborative process has been lovely!

Growing this ‘tea obsession’ has meant visits to various op shops, and more frequent visits to Spotlight to buy wool. The funny thing is that I have enjoyed tea and the rituals around making tea for a very long time. But it is only now that my children are noticing how much I enjoy tea – or in the words of my boy, how much I am ‘obsessed’ with tea!  I have been taking them op shopping with me, which they enjoy as they get to find things for themselves, and my boy likes to tell the shop assistants that his mum is obsessed with tea and tea cups and tea pots. Then he tells them about all the things I make that he thinks are awesome, and everyone comes away with a smile.  I complimented him on his social interaction with some counter staff yesterday, after he told them about the delivery I was making, and he said ‘you are really good at talking to people too Mum.’   To receive such lovely compliments from this boy who has worked so hard to overcome some significant battles has really been lovely.  He tells me that my obsession with tea is quite nice really!

 

These days it is hard to know how to write about the difficulties that my children are facing.  They have a right to privacy, and I have to weigh up the greater good of sharing their/my struggles with mental health to reduce stigma, versus their right to privacy.  I think that this in part is why I haven’t blogged as much over the last year or so.  What I can share is that I have learnt a new appreciation for the public school system, where they have no choice but to embrace diversity and be flexible in their approach to educating students who don’t fit into the ‘normal’ box.   While one of my children has thrived in the Catholic education system, the other two have not, and it has been detrimental to their long term mental health. Luckily I know more now, so have felt comfortable making the latest round of changes for my middle child, and she is already happier and more positive.  But it means I have to re-establish relationships with yet another school, getting to know the staff, keeping track of how she is being supported, and generally starting from scratch again.  That in itself is exhausting, but on the bright side, the new school is the one that my boy will probably attend for High School so at least they will know me by that time!

My collection of tea pots to use as models and for trials is growing!

The other exciting news to share with you from the farm is that it snowed last weekend!  With no snow all winter it was nice to have an afternoon of it just before winter ended!  The kids and dogs had a great time out in it – even if they refused to dress warmly for it!

While I am still uncertain how all of this tea obsession will go in the longer term, in the short term it is providing joy, and that is what I will focus on!   I  hope that you are taking care and finding joy in small things around you too.

 

A lot can happen in a week!

Since I last wrote all sorts of things have happened here in the nest, both with my business but also on the farm. Let’s get the colourful exciting pictures out of the way first! I have been busy playing with both fabric and wool, and trying out new things.    I made my first large batch of tea bags and listed them on my Etsy shop (the link is at the top of the page).

 

I also played with bright colours and bobble stitches to make a tea cosy for a custom order and then, because I like it so much, made another for the Etsy shop!

  

I also played with some new applique ideas and made cup cosies. This one uses a pattern by Flo and Dot on Ravelry called Flo’s campervan keyring and bunting for the applique.

On Monday I received a commission to make a series of tea cosies for a cafe!   I will reveal all when they are complete, but I have had fun developing a repeatable pattern which I will publish once I have ironed out all the bugs!    This is a picture during an early stage of development!

I have spent quite a bit of time at appointments and in waiting rooms this week so having my portable crochet habit with me has been useful. At the hairdressers on Wednesday I finished this water lily that I had been making using a pattern from Make my day creative.

On Thursday and again today I made lots of little hearts,

and kept perfecting that pattern!

On the home front much more has been happening.   Last Saturday we met and decided to trial (before formally adopting) a new dog.  It is exactly one year since our beautiful boy Milo contracted pancreatitis, and then died three months later.    My boy has been patiently waiting for another dog of his own but I was keen to make sure it was the right dog, and that we were ready. Shadow seems to fit the bill.  He is a Belgian Shepherd who was rescued after living rough in the bush on the outskirts of Canberra. Searches have not been able to locate his owners, so a rescue group set out to find him a new home.   He has the most beautiful nature and is completely dedicated to my son.  The downside is that he is not fully toilet trained at the moment, but that is possibly due to stress, as he is improving daily. With a week to go in the trial I think it will be hard to say goodbye to him and expect that he will become a permanent part of the family!

   

Saturday brought us other excitement with the discovery by the artist in residence of an injured kangaroo down near our chook run.  We cared for him during the day until the Wildcare rescuers could come and take him for treatment. A photo sent through last night shows him doing well, so we are all very happy that Roger (as the kids named him) is doing well!  His friends seem a bit suspicious of us though and seem to be keeping an eye on us all!

  

The other thing I can show you in photos is my new haircut.  It has been a while since I had it done  – a combination of finances, time and more time seemed to keep delaying me, which meant that by the time I got to the hairdresser she had a lot of hair to work with!   I love the end result!   I had to take a selfie to share the new look with you!

So there you have it – a week in review!  Now to get the fire going because it is cold today, and then to keep working on that pattern!   A cup of tea might be in order first though!

I hope that you have had a great week wherever you are!

 

What else has been happening?

In addition to the big news that my creativity has returned, you might well ask what else has been happening here in the nest!  This year is, once again, flying past and we are more than half way through it!

Autumn was colourful and not too cold and then winter hit with a cold snap that hasn’t really lifted yet.

  

For me the year has, as usual, had its challenges. Learning to accept that I can’t do all that I once could, because being a parent has to come first, seems to be a long lesson to learn. I still forget and agree to do something that sounds great, only to get to the date and realise that it just won’t work for the family for me to be absent for an afternoon, an evening, etc.  I seem to constantly be cancelling plans and letting friends down, but, in one new step forward, have learnt not to carry that guilt with me.  Phew!  On the up side, following a series of linked events that saw my parents absent from the farm for the majority of a couple of months, my independence has grown significantly and I no longer have to rely on them to help me get things done – although it is still nice when I get home to find that Mum has folded my washing or tidied my bench!   I have managed to finish two crochet blankets – one started two years ago – and am enjoying their warmth during this cold winter.    Keeping life simple seems to be my motto in order to survive!

 

This year has seen new schools for two of my chicks.  After many unsuccessful attempts to have my boy placed into a learning support unit within the school system he was enrolled in, I made a phone call to the Department of Education for New South Wales.   What a different response!   As a result he now attends a school in Queanbeyan where he is supported beautifully and where he feels safe.   He is still only attending school for 2 hours a day, but he is engaged in active learning when he is at school, which is a big step forward.    Throughout this process I have, again, had to learn some new lessons about changing my expectations for his future, and accepting that the role of a special needs parent is a different one from parenting non-special needs kids.  You would think that after 5 years of advocating and supporting him I would be on top of this gig but it turns out that there is always more to learn!

My artist-in-residence started high school this year.  I am still not sure how I missed that this was going to be a big deal for her and why I was so surprised when she struggled with the transition!   All the signs were there, so I am not sure where my head was at that point!  6 months in we are making progress at supporting her to attend school, and to cope with the change of class every hour, plus the different people she has to see, but we are well and truly at the beginning of this journey with a lot of work to do to keep her supported and safe.   In the meantime she has made great progress with training her kelpie Buddy, and is continuing to produce amazing works of art on a daily basis (along with a whole lot of teenage attitude).

The eldest chick has really hit her stride this year.  She is (more or less) on top of her school work and has chosen electives that she is really enjoying, especially Engineering.  She has recently joined Army Cadets and is constantly amazing me with her drive, determination and organisation.  She has been working on her fitness and can be seen many mornings running around the paddocks in the freezing cold, weaving in between the sheep and kangaroos with her headphones on!

The farm is producing food for us!   We have a freezer full of lamb, and with a new ram (named Gordon Ramsey) we hope to have more lambs in the spring.  Our free-loading chickens went to new homes (no really – they did) and our new ones are producing eggs a plenty, which means baking is happening, along with egg and bacon breakfasts. (Now to think about getting some pigs…..)

It has been a dry, cold winter and the dam is at a very low point, which means that it freezes around the edges overnight quite often!  We have also had some impressive fogs.

  

How’s that – summarised 6 months in less than 800 words!    I hope that you have been well and that life hasn’t been too complex for you.

January and a Golden Wedding

Hey – we survived Christmas, New Year and most of the school holidays!  Cause for celebration!  Of course there is one more week of the holidays before the children return to school, so anything can happen (and probably will).    How was your Christmas celebration?  Ours had an interesting and slightly traumatic start when the new dog (Buddy) discovered and ate most of the contents of the Christmas stockings.  Luckily there was only white chocolate in them, but he also found a wrapped gift with chocolate and tried to eat that, along with adding teeth marks to a few other boxes. Between that and Dottie (the small and crazy dog) depositing a poo on the floor just inside the back door that my parents stepped in as they came in to say Merry Christmas it was not an auspicious start!    Buddy was then put outside to reflect on his misdeeds, and took himself for a wander, was found by a passing car and deposited at the local vet clinic, 15 minutes away.   We located him through the powers of Facebook and eventually had our Christmas meal at about 3pm.   In between all the dog drama we shared some lovely family time, and enjoyed watching as each one of us opened our presents.   My efforts in making presents was worth it – the children all loved their new pyjamas, my eldest chick is extremely excited by her new quilt, and my mother liked the table runner that I embroidered for her. I was also sent a photo of my very excited niece wearing the pjs that I had made her, so they were also a success!

I stitched this traditional sashiko pattern onto a table runner as a gift for my mother.   I will share my tips on how to do this soon.

The big focus for us throughout the holiday period was actually an event after New Year.   On 10 January my parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.   We couldn’t let such an occasion pass unmarked, so we held a party and invited family and friends.    The best thing about having family who live so far away from us (or is it that we live so far away from them?) is that when they come to visit they don’t just come for a couple of hours – they come for a few days so we get to spend time with them doing ‘normal’ things!    This was definitely the case on this occasion.  My father has 9 siblings and 6 of them were able to attend.  My mother’s siblings all sent their best wishes as did those of my father’s siblings who couldn’t join us.  Two sets of aunt and uncles stayed with us for a few days, along with my sister and niece and my brother.   My brother’s attendance was a surprise for my parents – and it was a true surprise with lots of joy!   Time spent talking to family over breakfast or while working in the kitchen was a real treat and made the whole week very special.

Photos of their wedding day, a delicious croquembouche cake and a blessing tree.   (And just quietly – how good does the dresser that I renovated last year look?)

For the party itself my aunts helped with cooking, my brother and uncle tackled the grass cutting, everyone chipped in to tidy the garden, and one of my uncles braved Costco with me for shopping!   My sister helped with all the decorations, which were lovely, and my sister and brother stepped in to keep the kitchen running and food appearing throughout the evening.  It really was a lovely party – kids running around in the garden, adults catching up with old friends and new, and some great family traditions played out, including the family tradition of singing a song written about the couple (in this case to the tune of ‘A bicycle built for two’), signs being held up during the speeches to encourage the audience to clap, cheer or hiss, and lovely memories shared of a wonderful life together.

I am so very fortunate to have parents who have been married for this long.  They are the first to admit that it hasn’t always been easy, and that they have had to work to maintain their relationship, but their commitment to each other is tangible and their love for each other continues to keep them strong, and it really does serve to show that great relationships exist.

6 Tips for celebrating a Golden Wedding Anniversary

After it was all over I realised that we had learnt some great tips to share with our friends who might also be hosting a party for their parents in a similar way, so I put together a few of them to share with you all.   They are a bit Australian centric, but the ideas can be used in other countries even if the names change!

My parents renewed their marriage vows, 50 years after the original vows, in a mass said at home. It was emotional, happy and a true celebration.

1. The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet has a protocol section that will arrange for the Prime Minister to send a letter to the couple to commemorate the occasion.   (I found this out after the fact!)


2. If you are Catholic you can arrange to have a papal blessing certificate sent to them to commemorate the occasion by speaking to the admin staff at your local church office.  (The certificate is, as you can imagine, quite ornate!)


3. To create poster sized reprints of the original wedding photos I scanned them onto a USB stick then went to Officeworks and had them print the black and white photos on plain paper at A2 size.  Cost per print?  $4.     A colour photo on thicker paper but still at A2 size was $10.    I used Ikea frames that I already owned to hang them and they looked great!


4. We had a croquembouche cake as the ‘wedding cake’.   These delightful piles of choux pasty filled with custard and drizzled with caramel toffee and spun sugar with gold leaf were made by a fantastic pastry chef here in Canberra.  Natalie van den Bosch of the soon-to-open patisserie Le Bon Melange created this beautiful dessert that had everyone lining up for seconds!   (The fact that she had been part of a youth group that my parents ran many years ago in another part of the country was a nice personal twist!)


5. My sister created a blessing tree.   This was a ‘tree’ of gold twigs with tiny lights that she arranged in a vase, with tags for the guests to write their blessings for the couple.   It was lovely to read the messages after the party.


6. I designed the invitations to the party, and to the house mass that was held on the day of their anniversary, using www.canva.com.   This awesome site allows you to design for free, or a for a small charge, using elements that graphic designers use.  The invitations looked professional (if I do say so myself!)

I hope that the holiday season has been kind to you.  I have been using the time to do some painting – walls, furniture etc, so stand by for some further updates.  (Although the photo from the anniversary party does show a newly painted wall, so that can count as a sneak preview!)

 

So this is Christmas….

I was listening to the iconic John Lennon song ‘Happy Xmas – War is Over’ while celebrating Christmas Eve with my chicks and my parents here in our rural nest, and realised that, in answer to the question ‘And what have you done?’ I have a long list on some topics and a very short and bare one on others.     Maintaining this blog would fall on the latter list and yet I am still loathe to let it go. (In fact I just paid all the invoices to renew my web-hosting for another year just this evening!)

So what have I done?    This year has been a year of consolidation with life in the country. Our little flock of 5 sheep grew to 17, and we have enjoyed some lovely lamb meals as a result.  Our flock of chickens shrank from 14 to 6 and our egg production increased as a result!   Go figure!   We started the year with two dogs and ended with two dogs, but sadly not the same two.  Dottie the crazy terrier has survived to deafen us with her barks but after a couple of unusual and serious illnesses we lost Milo the Labrador in November.     In December we welcomed Buddy the kelpie and he is settling in well, but has not replaced Milo in my boy’s affections.

We adopted a resuce dog, Buddy the Kelpie, in December 2016.

We adopted a resuce dog, Buddy the Kelpie, in December 2016.

On a business level the year started well with me doing lots of sewing for the Shop Handmade, and lots of consulting for a new business venture.  By the end of the year the sewing was non-existent and I had to pull back from all the consulting as I was facing burn out again and didn’t want to head back down that path.   I live in hope that I will return to consulting and sewing in 2017, but we will see.

Our flock of sheep includes two sets of twin lambs born in late October.

Our flock of sheep includes two sets of twin lambs born in late October.

The family front is where the hardest work has been focused.   My boy has continued to struggle with mainstream schooling, and with his frustrations turning into aggression and violence. As we end the year I still don’t have answers on the school question but am comfortable that, after 4 separate hospital admissions I am on top of managing his behaviour, and that he is on the right combination of medications.   He is 10 now (I know – where did that baby boy go?) and is incredibly articulate, intelligent and compassionate, but also demanding and exhausting.    My girls have also had a rough year with the constant stress of living with this stress taking it’s toll on them.  I have found an excellent team of professionals to help support them and am sure we will get through this but the combination of all their needs saw me stepping away from the small amount of work I was doing and trying to be as present as possible for all three of them.  My artist-in-residence finished primary school with her art chosen for the cover of the yearbook, and my eldest chick has found her groove and her tribe at school and brought home some great feedback on her school report.

2016 has been tough.  In our home and in many other homes across the world.  I don’t think that there is any particular magic in a new year changing social attitudes, or the way an autistic child’s brain works, but I am hopeful that the 6 week school holiday break will give us all a chance to recharge, refocus and rebuild some of our battered resilience.   In the meantime I have gone back to the basics.  I have been sewing for the love of creating, not for work.   There are handmade pyjamas appearing under several family Christmas trees this year, there is a queen sized patchwork quilt that is almost, but not quite, finished for my eldest chick to receive in the morning under the tree, and there is hand embroidery on another gift after my discovery of the joys of sashiko (Japanese embroidery) earlier in the year.  My plan is to work on small personal projects for a while, then to get back to designing and making on a business level when I am ready.

My gorgeous mother helping me to pin the quilt sandwich together before tackled machine quilting it - perhaps choosing a queen size quilt for my first self-quilted quilt was a tad ambitious!

My gorgeous mother helping me to pin the quilt sandwich together before tackled machine quilting it – perhaps choosing a queen size quilt for my first self-quilted quilt was a tad ambitious!

I hope that your Christmas and New Year is spent with people you love, who cherish you for who you are, and that you have a chance to recharge and rebuild before the next year sweeps us away into everyday life again.  From my nest to yours, Merry Christmas. xx