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Teaching an old dog new tricks (or 3 things my son has taught me)

I have a low tolerance level for many things in life, and apparently am not shy about expressing this.  In share houses over the years, before I married, there were many running jokes about my scathing statements of disbelief at the actions of others (normally my friends or flatmates), and while I still maintain that many of my comments were warranted (particularly about the infamous exploding dish of sausages incident) most of the time it just served to remind me that I can have a short fuse and a cutting tongue (and, of course, to try and temper it).  For a long time this amused me (I was young and arrogant). Then I became a parent, and it worried me.  I have clear memories of sitting with a neighbour (who seemed to have her life together) and confessing that I felt that all I did was yell at my children.  She sensibly questioned whether that was in fact true, and helped me to see that I wasn’t operating in a state of constant anger, but I certainly worried about it all the time.

Fast forward 7 years or so, and I have realised that I have changed.  On Monday, whilst my son was having a meltdown, I ended up with an injury to my hand that required a trip to the emergency department. (Nothing broken, just sprained.)  In conversation with an acquaintance she asked how I managed to keep my cool, and not punish my son for his actions, and I realised that at no point during this incident had I yelled at him.  This old dog (purely in the sense of abusing the clichéd phrase) has learnt new tricks.

Raising my children has helped me to mature and grow in many ways, but I think the most valuable lessons have come from facing the challenges that raising my boy brings.    He has helped me to learn some important lessons, and change my behaviour.  At the moment I am most conscious of three gifts he has given me:

1.  Controlling my temper and emotions.

Anger Quotes | http://noblequotes.com/When dealing with a child having a meltdown, punishment is not the answer. Angry words used to a child who is already in sufficient pain to be raging against the world will cause more damage than they solve.  Reacting in anger is just throwing fuel on an already well burning fire. Providing reassurance, security and support, and looking for the source of their pain has better short and long term effects, and leaves you feeling better about yourself (win, win!)  None of this is rocket science, but so many of our reactions as humans, formed through our own life experiences, are habitual, so changing those habits is tricky.  Having a child who doesn’t respond to your habitual responses either makes or breaks you I think!  In my case I had to learn new responses.

2.  Knowing what my priorities are.

DON'T QUITIf you have your priorities clear, decision making becomes easy.  (Yes, I know that is obvious but it has taken me a long time to get that sorted in my own head.) Today a former colleague (and still friend) asked if I wanted a job with a great organisation doing work I would enjoy.  After two seconds of thinking ‘that would be great’ I calmly explained that I can’t do that, as my boy needs me, my girls need me, and I can’t ask my parents to take on the level of responsibility that being a full time carer to my boy requires.   And it was okay to say that. I didn’t have to fake being calm about that decision.  (Ginormous step forward!  No furiously planning which strategies could be put in place to make it all happen, whilst juggling 5000 balls in the air. Just acceptance that this is not the right time.)

3.  Patience.

Patience is the calm acceptance that things can happen in a different order than the one you have in mind.This last discovery will shock my old friends. It appears that I have learnt to be patient. Well, more of the time than I used to.  This week I can’t sew, can’t paint, can’t crochet, and can’t attend to a whole list of things I want to be doing because of my injured hand.  Instead of fretting, feeling frustrated, or whinging about it, I have accepted that my plans have to be on hold for a while.  This is a big change for me!  I have chosen to see it as time to do other things, and for the most part that is working out.

Raising a child who sees the world in a different way, and who wears his emotions outside his skin so he feels raw and bruised much of the time is hard, and it wears me down. But honestly, it has been the making of me.  A number of people have told me that he is lucky to have me as his mum, but they have it wrong.  I am lucky to have him as my son.  He has made me a better person, and definitely a better parent.

As a final note, and in keeping with the theme of teaching old dogs new tricks, we are currently minding a friend’s Labrador for a month, and Dottie, our insane and aging terrier, who was so traumatized by our last attempt to bring a new dog into the home, is coping!  I have long thought that giving my boy his own dog to care for and play with would be great therapy – and so far that is proving true.  I see another dog on our horizon!

I hope that you are well, and finding good in the rough patches of life.

Un-jumbling my thoughts

This morning my car and camper trailer are being inspected so that I can transfer their registration to the State we moved to earlier this year. This means I am sitting in a very cold waiting room in a mechanics yard for an hour. After the chaos of getting all three children out the door this morning I am enjoying the peace (although not the cold so much!)

Peace means time to sit and reflect, and organise my thoughts. (If only I had bought a thermos of tea life would be perfect!). My thoughts are a bit jumbled and if course I need to work out why! I rarely air my dirty laundry on this blog, but today those stinky jeans and smelly tops might get a bit of airing as I share some of my thoughts on parenting and divorce.

I have had some challenging interactions with my ex-husband and his current girlfriend over the last couple of days and I think that is the cause of the ‘jumbling’. I have realised that I resent having to form a new relationship with her because he has started a new relationship. I didn’t choose to have her in my life, but because of his choices, I have to start the whole dance of explaining the background of why my children behave the way they do, interact (or don’t) with their father the way they do, are triggered by certain behaviours (no matter how illogical they are), and why even though he may be an awesome father in her eyes, there are aspects of our children’s care where we have very different views. It is one of those side effects of divorce that you don’t factor in (if you factor anything in.)  Whether she is a lovely woman or not, having to tiptoe through the awkwardness of not criticising this man she is ‘very serious about’ and not screaming  ‘open your eyes woman – do you honestly think it was all my fault, and all the fault of his next partner’ down the phone takes it out of you!

And there is the ongoing conversation with him about why I am being so selfish as to not be working full time in a public service job. If only I would do that ‘everyone’s lives would be easier’. The repetition of the same conversation, with no new understanding or recogition on his part about my role in supporting our son, and his bizarre accusations that he would be happy to pay child support to my father, but not to me as he knows that I ‘spend it all on fabric’ (yes – truly – he said that) are exhausting.  While the advice to ‘just not engage with him’ is sage, there are occasions (like last night) where talking to him about what is happening for our kids is in the children’s best interests.  Until he asks when I am returning to work because he is sick of giving me money.  (Of course he isn’t giving me money – he is contributing to the support of our children who live with me the majority of the time.)

This all makes me look back and wonder how I ended up here. How did I fall in love and marry someone who has such different views on life from me?  How did I hide the truth from myself for so long?  Why do my children have to suffer because of decisions that are beyond their control?   And there you have it – a jumbled mind.  Sigh.  Life is complex.  And the grief for the loss of what could have been is deep.

As always I need to balance all of this out with the good things in life. On Mother’s Day my boy, who had a bit of a rough morning before he came home to me, curled up on my knee and fell asleep for over an hour.  Honestly, it was the best gift!  None of my kids have done this for more years than I can remember.  To just sit and hold my usually wriggly, jiggly son, breathe in his soft boy scent, feel his warm skin and his gentle heart beat, was a gift that I cannot measure.  My girls made me cups of tea, gave me big hugs and spent time talking to me. I am truly a lucky parent.  The simple things in life bring so much joy.enjoy the simplethingsinlife|a little bird made me

Now my car and trailer have the all clear, I am heading home for a warm cup of tea and to sit in front of the fire to defrost while I catch up on bookwork, and, although I have no answers to my rhetorical questions, my mind is less jumbled.  Thanks for listening to my brain dump.  I hope that your week is not full of jumbled thoughts, and that you have moments for quiet reflection on the good things in life.

 

Film stars

This morning, for something completely different, the chicks and I took part in filming a promotion for Canberra that focussed on the Shop Handmade. Normally for such a big deal I would stress about what to wear, my hair, makeup etc. what the chicks were wearing, how their hair was, etc…. However this morning was so cold I abandoned all fashion selections and went for warmth instead, in my own slightly different style. (Seriously, when you have turquoise coloured hair you don’t look traditionally fashionable anyway).

My eldest chick decided, quite adamantly, that she didn’t want to participate, but the younger two loved it! I heard the middle chick telling the director that she just wanted to ‘be a star’. The joy of being 10 years old and confident! Even better my boy, my beautiful boy who faces so many challenges, held it together and had fun all morning.

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As it turns out, the success of the morning had to be paid for. Tonight involved meltdowns of the proportion we haven’t seen for a while. A reminder that I can never take the good stuff for granted. I had started to get complacent and plan social activities for us as a family. One of those lessons that I, apparently, need to learn again.

However it did confirm something else I had already worked out. Having my parents living ‘next door’ meant that the girls could go there for respite while I handled the drama. And we ended the night calmly. Which meant I sat on the couch and finally watched the movie ‘Pitch Perfect ‘. (A friend had threatened to de-friend me if I didn’t watch it!! And we have tickets to a preview of the sequel as a fundraiser for breast cancer research, so I gave in to the emotional blackmail.) As someone who normally doesn’t sit and watch TV, it was just the break I needed! Even better, the copy I have includes the singalong lyrics! Danger, danger!!

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Tomorrow is a new day.  The weather forecast is still dire, but the school holidays mean that we will find friends to keep everyone busy, and I will try to remind everyone to be kind – including to themselves. (And will do my best to apply that advice to myself!)

Precious cargo

Tonight I opened a box, sent from Tasmania by a dear friend.  It is full of fabric from three generations of her family, and she is entrusting it to me as someone who will make good use of it and appreciate where it has come from.  Talk about precious cargo!  I will be taking my time to examine each piece and really think about what to do with it.

Opening the box and thinking about precious cargo got me thinking about my last few days and other sorts of precious cargo I have encountered.

Yesterday was rather dramatic. I was sitting at the bench having a cup of tea and chatting to two friends when I heard our dog Dottie barking ferociously.  I stuck my head out the door to have a look and found her flinging a dark coloured snake with her mouth. The snake wasn’t running (slithering) away though – it was attacking her.  After calling her away I went to look for the shovel and told my friends what was happening. As we looked for the snake and watched the dog we realised that she wasn’t well, so a phone call to the local vet, a pile of towels wrapped around her and under her and with one of my friends holding her carefully, off we sped to the vet.

Dottie on a drip and receiving oxygen, still managed to be charming.

Dottie on a drip and receiving oxygen, still managed to be charming.

The good news is that we arrived safely, despite my rally driving over the mountain range that sits between us and the vet.  The vet rushed to meet us in the car park, and was able to treat her quickly, and she should make a full recovery.  The bad news is that the treatment is extremely expensive ($1500 just for the anti-venom medication alone).   The moment that our precious cargo stopped panting loudly and my friend thought she had stopped breathing will stay with me for a very long time.  Dottie is very precious to all of us, and to lose her would have been devastating, particularly while the children are away visiting their grandparents and having adventures with their father during our school holidays.

It has really shot home the need for us to be prepared for snake bites for humans as well.  Time for some first aid revision and reminders for the children and adults!!  (The snake was later located and dealt with by my parents who were digging out the garden bed it had disappeared into.  It was a juvenile tiger snake, so we are very lucky.  A grown tiger snake would have killed her.)

We are really experiencing the full extent of country life this week.  The day before Dad and I had to make the hard decision that it was time for two of our old hens to go.  We didn’t want to do it but knew that it had to be done.  I described it as ‘farmering up’ – taking responsibility for the hard bits of being an animal owner as well as the good bits.  They had been precious cargo – they had introduced us to being chicken owners, had provided wonderful eggs, and had taught us a lot about caring for our animals.  The responsibility to end their lives with respect was a heavy one.

On the flip side, our green hued eggs continue to be produced as precious cargo to be carried from the coop.

Green eggs|a little bird made me

In amongst all this drama and country life I have been cutting out patterns, matching fabrics, and dreaming big. Might be time to put the fabric with the machine and actually make something!  How novel!

I am also enjoying the beautiful roses from our garden in these lovely vases that a friend gave me as a house warming gift.  The sight and smell of them warms my heart.

Bud vases |a little bird made me

I hope that your precious cargo, whatever it may be, is safe and well tonight.  Give them an extra squeezy hug, just because you can.

 

Finding time

I have been reflecting over the last week on what it is that I am doing with my time!  When I worked full time I seemed to have more time to sew, to blog, etc. Now that I am self-employed I seem to be running in circles all the time.  I am not sitting idle, and am not spending hours surfing the internet, yet I seem to not get to the things that I want to do.  This was frustrating me for quite a while, until I realised that the things that I have added in to my days are the very reasons that I am no longer working full time.

Over the last few years I have had to shift my priorities.  I have had to change my parenting style. I have re-invented our day to day life.  (Not just once!).  The reason that I have less time available to sew, or blog, or return phone calls, or pay bills (oops!) is because I am more present in my children’s lives.  I am still not engaged at the level that I could be, and am certainly not a saint (heaven forbid) but I have come to realise that by spending more time putting the children first our life is better.  Now when my boy is starting to get angry and lash out I can normally pin point the cause within a few minutes.  I can usually remember the strategies that will help him to calm down without escalation.  (Usually.  Definitely not always.)   When my artist-in-residence is collapsing in a ball of spiky frustration I can see where it has come from and help her to unravel and calm down.  (Sometimes).  And when my eldest chick is having completely out of character episodes of appalling behaviour I have no idea.  Until I empty her rubbish bin and realise that she has been sneaking her little brother’s snacks – full of gluten – and her body is attacking itself.

Much easier to be kind to myself when I think about what we have dealt with each day and how we have resolved it!

I have had a couple of great moments this week that I wanted to share.  I was fortunate enough to be invited to see Mary Poppins, the musical, being produced by the Free Rain Theatre Company at the Canberra Theatre.  (One of the amazing up-sides of the Human Brochure experience has been invitations to so many wonderful events!)  I took the artist-in-residence and we absolutely loved it!  It was, to quote Mary herself, ‘practically perfect, in every way’. We even had a chance to have our photos taken with some of the cast afterwards!

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The artist-in-residence having a night at the theatre.

The artist-in-residence having a night at the theatre.

This weekend just past was also very special.  The Handmade Markets were on, in a new location here in Canberra.  I am still not at the point where I am ready to return to having my own stall, but I love my role in the background of the markets, which allows me to interact with all the market designers on an individual level.  The exposure to so many talented people is a true delight.  Even better, I was able to take the children with me and when we stopped to talk to different stallholders the children had the chance to interact with them too.  They got to taste beautifully handcrafted chocolate (thanks Cicada chocolate!), to receive hugs and rainbow roses from GG’s flowers (special hug thanks to Gayana), and the artist-in-residence was able to talk to different artists about their work and her own art.  Mick from Leafy Sea Dragon presented her with one of his cards depicting one of his own artworks as an encouragement to another artist.  She was thrilled!

The eldest chick and her two friends ran their own business throughout the markets, providing stall holder support.  They were exhausted but very happy and very proud at the end of the weekend.  This band of 12-year-old young women are learning about money management, customer service, hard work, planning, and innovation at a young age and I could not be prouder of them!!

I also managed to sneak myself a treat on Friday night.  I had an hour to fill between finishing helping with the market set up, and when I was to collect the children from their father’s house.  I thought about ringing friends etc but decided to take myself into town for a meal on my own.  We have an area here called ‘The Hamlet’ which is where the gourmet food vans park, and various funky shops are tucked away.  I went to the Mr Papa van – Peruvian Street Food.  Oh my goodness.

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The burger made with slow cooked pork belly, sweet potato, and a very tasty sauce and salsa combo is heavenly!   I then followed it up with a little trip to the Frugii Dessert Laboratory where the ice-cream alchemist creates beautiful ice-creams, and desserts!  (The owners are also delightful people!)

017b44bb4b29c63f9f742e0e02f00cabd99df22e73I had the choux pastry with hazelnut cream, and blood orange syrup.  And even better – I had time to sit and enjoy and just have time to myself.  Talk about bliss!

Baby set |a little bird made me

A custom order set for a baby overseas

After all this inspiration my plan was to sew, design, and create all week.  Hmmmm…… the best laid plans!  Between routine medical appointments, school meetings, housework, and general family commitments, I have managed only a very small amount of sewing.

Ipad case and accessories |a little bird made me

An ipad case, coin purse and key fob for a birthday girl in Melbourne.

The good news though is that I have created some new pattern templates, which is speeding up my process a lot.  (Instead of measuring and cutting each piece I am now using a template to cut each piece – such a simple thing but one I just hadn’t done!!)  I also finally made a key ring fob – something on my ‘to do’ list for a long time.  I like it!  Maybe I should make some more…..    where is that ‘to-do’ list again?

Our farm |a little bird made me

Wandering on the farm is a delightful pastime

Dam | a little bird made me

The dam is the source of much entertainment – and home to some venomous snakes!

Farm life |a little bird made me

I love the skies out here!

I did spend time with my boy down at our dam finding rocks, sticks and long grasses to try and create ‘survival tools’ like spears and knives.  We haven’t been particularly successful yet but we have had a lot of fun trying!

And I indulged in some fabric shopping – with no particular project in mind!  It is just so lush!  The new range from Skinny la Minx, via Hawthorne Threads.  Drool.

01336619eb5f8a927b88032198547f2c2f9f3620e1Now to decide what to do with it!  Choices, choices, choices!

I hope that you have been able to find time for yourself in your week too.

 

 

Autumn

We are settling in well here on the farm.  We have grown our chicken flock by 4 with the addition of some Araucuna hens – and they lay green eggs!  Green, white and brown eggs

The Dr Seuss references abound as you can imagine!  One of the hens has been named Sam-I-Am, while another is Yertle the Turtle.  Then we divert into random chicken names like Fiona and Big Bertha.  Dad continues to work on perfecting their coop and run and we all love just watching them as they scurry around negotiating their larger group.  The ‘pecking order’ is alive and well!

With time has also come room to start sewing again.  What a joy!  I am taking it slowly, and focussing on building up stocks in the Shop Handmade, and filling some gaps in their stock, so have expanded my range of baby goods a bit, and am not back to bag making just yet.

New products for my range - Reversible baby blankets - flannel one side and cotton the other!

New products for my range – Reversible baby blankets – flannel one side and cotton the other!

A quilted baby blanket from organic cotton and cotton flannel - this one was hard to put in the shop!

A quilted baby blanket from organic cotton and cotton flannel – this one was hard to put in the shop!

 

Baby change mats with laminated cotton outers, bamboo padding and cotton lining have also joined the product list.

Baby change mats with laminated cotton outers, bamboo padding and cotton lining have also joined the product list.

I am also working on some concepts of  re-branding.  The break away from blogging and sewing has given me time to reflect on where I want to take this little adventure I call my business, so stand by for a bit more movement over the next few months!  Now that I have a studio set up it is easier to think about moving forward again.

My sewing studio.  Still need to work on the curtains and carpet and paint - well the decor generally - but the space is awesome!!

My sewing studio. Still need to work on the curtains and carpet and paint – well the decor generally – but the space is awesome!!

I have been focussing on my own health a bit more over the last couple of months.  For the first time in my living memory I have lost weight, and kept it off, and passed that magic weight point that has alluded me for over 20 years.  You know that point where you diet, get down to a certain weight, but just can’t get below that, even though you have plenty of excess ‘body’ that could go?  I actually beat it!  Even better, I am feeling healthy and energised.  I did it using a product system that my sister is selling – I was extremely sceptical at first but have been converted.  Now to get the exercise happening a bit more regularly (my never-ending battle!)

What else have I been up to?  A quick trip to Queensland to celebrate a friend’s 50th birthday.  It was a great weekend full of colour, laughs, great music and shared stories.  The interesting thing is that these are people I met a couple of years ago, by chance, at a Bluesfest.  We just clicked, and have become fast friends ever since.  The people I met at their house and the party were all just like them – warm, generous of spirit and amusing.  One of the guests said that ‘your vibe attracts your tribe’ and this is so true when I think of this family!

Nothing like a tropical back yard party to set a great scene!

Nothing like a tropical back yard party to set a great scene!

With more headspace, and time to start designing again comes a return to fabric buying, researching, and coming up with ideas.  Look out – the grey matter is ticking away coming up with all sorts of ideas here!  I am even contemplating making something for myself.  I know!  Wonders will never cease!  But in the meantime here is an awesome free printable for pop-up hot air balloons that I found on the wonderful site Design is Yay, by the delightful Wita.  (That is my favourite sort of researching – finding cool things to share!!)

Our weather is just starting to turn cool, so I am even contemplating crochet again.  That change of seasons is always enough to kick me into gear!  I have been happily pinning ideas on Pinterest (so addictive but such a good way to capture ideas for later!)

I hope that your week is going well and that you have awesome plans for your weekend!