Tag Archives: ASD

New ideas and old habits

This year has started with a bang but I still feel like I am back in the twilight zone between Christmas and New Year, where I am never really sure what the date or day is.  I find myself constantly wondering if March is a long way away, and being unsure of which weekend it is that various events are happening. I swear it is because my brain is too full, and not because of my advancing years.

Despite this sense of time escaping me, or perhaps because of it, I have been rather productive.   I have been analysing what works for me in my product lines,and what was a great idea but hasn’t really translated well.  As a result I am working on producing my tea cosies in ‘collections’.   I am still to fully tease out the names of these collections, but in theory there will be a classic collection, a colourful collection and an artisan collection.  I am not rushing into the final details for this plan because it seems to be benefiting from some reflection and refinement!    As part of the classic collection I have been working on some repeatable patterns, with the intention of being able to keep them easily stocked in my shops, and with the longer term intention of releasing the patterns for them. So far the classic collection consists of spots and stripes!

I also finally had a chance to play with an idea I have had for a while of combining patchwork and sashiko stitching to make some insulated dome tea cosies, and I am very happy with the results.

And of course some flowers were created and applied with gay abandon to a number of cosies.

One of the lovely discoveries that I have made over the last month or so, with thanks to a helpful friend, is the wool from Bendigo Woollen Mills.   It is wool that is grown near my home, and processed and died in Bendigo, so is 100% Australian.  It is also beautiful quality wool, so I am switching over to only use that wool in all future creations, which means that I will be supporting other Australian small business people in the process.

And I finally have my products in place at The Collective Store in Brisbane, and in Trove in Canberra.   (On reflection perhaps my sense of displacement in time has more to do with the sheer amount I have achieved so far this year!)

My initial display at Trove, Canberra

On the home front we have a slightly different landscape after my eldest chick was accepted to attend a boarding school located about 4 hours from home. She has settled in well and is discovering the differences between her all-girl Catholic school and this co-ed agricultural fully residential high school.  She will be home at the end of this week for a few days and I am looking forward to seeing her.  I must admit that I am very happy that the advent of smart phones means that I can stay in touch with her much more easily than when I was at boarding school myself.  Back then (in the dark ages) my sister and I had a phone call from my parents once a fortnight, or we had to dial the international operator to make a reverse charges call to them, and letters written and mailed that took a couple of weeks to arrive.  Now I can be texting with her before breakfast, send her a photo of something happening at home, and she has it instantly.  I am trying not to smother her with contact, but it is nice knowing that it is there when she needs it.

The two chicks who are still home in the nest are having their ups and downs.  I, and they, have fallen back into some old habits, which means that old patterns of behaviour aren’t changing in the way that I need them to. My current task is to form new habits myself, and then with them, in the hope of improving behaviour and school attendance respectively.  This parenting gig is hard and I have been tested a lot over the last few weeks.   I am definitely at the point of needing a break, so am working on putting steps in place to see if I can manage some time away. Fingers crossed!

For now though, it is time to sit and contemplate whether to crochet or sew this evening. Tough choices!    I hope that your weeks aren’t getting lost in the fog of being too busy, and that you are finding time to do little things for yourself.

 

But wait, there’s more…..

Okay, last week’s post about being accepted to have my products in store at in.cube8r Gallery and Emporium was pretty big.  But I may be topping it this week with the announcement of plans to be represented in not one but two more shops, and two more States along with it!

I had to practise setting up at home so that I could say that my products would fit into the space I will occupy in in.cube8r so I commandeered the coffee table as my stand in space!

First things first – my box of goodies is in transit to Melbourne today, and should arrive in time for the stocking of my products on 1 February.  (Still so exciting!)   I have included a couple of new lines of earrings in with the shipment too!

The next shop that I will be appearing in is The Collective Store at Wynnum in Queensland (yes, another interstate move!)   This is a beautiful shop that represents handmade artists and designers and gives us the ability to have exposure in a different part of the country!  I will be sending up a box of goodies over the next week, to start my appearance in their store from 12 February.  I may also need to drive up for a visit at some point, given that it is one of my favourite places!   Just in time for sorting out what to send, I have another new range of earrings ready to join the collection, so will be sure to include those in my parcel.

And leaving the biggest announcement (personally) until last, I am very pleased to announce that I am joining the Trove Canberra Collective at the beginning of March (with my products starting to appear in store in late February.)   This is big because some of you might recall that way back when, (in fact about this time of year four years ago) I had an idea about setting up a pop-up shop with some fellow handmade designers in Canberra. I saw an empty shop and thought it might be a great idea to do for a month.   A group of us got together and the idea grew and became an idea about doing this for more than a month, and forming a collective to represent local artists and designers through a shop front.  It was an awesome idea and had lots of support but after a few months I had to face reality and withdraw from it because my family responsibilities were just too big and my time too limited.   But the groundswell of support continued and with lots of hard work the very successful Trove Collective has now been operating for several years.   I have always stayed in touch but didn’t feel in a position to join them until recently.   When I sat down at the beginning of the year to make a plan for how to build my business and to be smarter and more organised about my products, my processes and my brand I decided that it was time to put my hand up to see if I could, finally, join the collective.  I am so happy to be able to announce that I have been accepted!  It is like closing a circle and is a sign of how my plans are shaping, and how I am keeping a promise to myself to carve out some time for me and what I like.   Every now and then I have a moment of thinking to myself ‘what on earth am I doing’, but then I continue on making and designing and realise that all the hard work I have put in over the years has all been leading to this point where I know what I am doing and am happy doing it.

In other news I decided to push myself a little and, over the weekend, I entered two of my tea cosies in the Handicraft section of the Bungendore Show.  Because I sell my creations I thought I should do the right thing and enter the “Professional” class, which is open to all types of handcraft.   It was the biggest class in the section, with some amazing entries, so I was very pleased (and slightly relieved) to have been awarded a Highly Commended for my cactus tea cosy!   (First prize went to an incredibly beautiful leather saddle so you can see the competition was fierce!)  Putting yourself out there to be judged is tough!

All dressed up and ready to go to Missouri – 8 party favours!

We were also very lucky to have a visit from family who live in Missouri, USA, late last week.  I had met my second cousin 40 years earlier (I was VERY young at the time) but hadn’t met his wife.  She and I hit it off when I discovered that she loves tea and all the paraphernalia that goes with it! A match made in heaven!  I gave her a teapot necklace as a gift, and she then turned around and ordered a set of 8 to use as party favours at her next tea party back home!   I was delighted to be able to put them together, knowing that they are off to be shared with some tea loving ladies across the sea!

With all of that happening in my ‘business’ world you would think that things must be going smoothly on the home front!  Well – they aren’t too bad at the moment but this is the return to school week so anxiety levels are high for everyone.   My middle chick had an interview at her current school last week and her levels of distress at just having to walk through the gates were horrible to witness.   (Nothing to do with the school and everything to do with her perception of danger.)  She is being supported by a fantastic mental health team, and we have several strategies and plans in place to try and get her there, and engaged, but there are some ugly days ahead of us I fear.

Keeping life bright with some rainbow crochet therapy.

My eldest chick is waiting on tenterhooks to hear the outcome of an application to a different school (she jumps on me whenever my phone rings to see if it is the school) so she is a bit wound up too.  If she isn’t accepted at this new school she will happily return to her previous high school, with her friends and where she knows the teachers, so the outcome will be good either way.

The home classroom set up ready to go for this year

And my boy started back at school today!  Luckily his first day was a Distance Education day, where he and I worked on the packet of work sent by his correspondence school teacher.  I was dreading it to be honest, but the first piece of work we tackled grabbed his attention immediately and it was a great start to the school year.   He will go into his other school (the one with physical classrooms) for an hour tomorrow (boy am I hoping that we can increase his time at school this year) to meet his teacher and see his friends, so I will return to the daily drive-and-wait routine.   The good thing is that there are excellent Op Shops in the town where his school is, so I will be able to check them for teapots and teacups on a regular basis!

With all of that exciting news it is probably time for me to go and have a cup of tea and tackle some crochet!  My mind is buzzing with ideas at the moment so lets hope that I can translate them into creations!

I hope that you have had a good week, and that if you are getting children back to school I hope that it goes smoothly for everyone.

The 2017 Wrap Up

It is only fitting that the last day of the year is the time when I finally sit down to reflect on the year that was.   I decided a few years ago to stop saying that the old year was horrible and the New Year would be awesome because there is no magic in turning the page of the calendar.  Life is what it is, and if I am always looking forward to the day when it gets better, I will miss the good that is happening right now.  With that being said, there is no harm is looking back, reflecting, and planning for different outcomes in the future, so it is with that spirit that I am writing this post.

On the family front 2017 can be summarised as the year of school changes!  My middle chick started high school, but after struggling with anxiety issues that interfered with her attendance, changed schools in the second half of the year.  Her attendance didn’t improve but her anxiety has, so there are plans in place to support her attendance this year.    My boy started the year at one primary school, then shifted to another, across the border, where he was placed in a support class which was much more successful than mainstream classes without the right supports.   His attendance was still limited to two hours a day, and then reduced to one hour a day, so in the last few weeks of the school year we transitioned to a combination of school attendance and Distance Education.  This is the plan for 2018, so I will be his teacher at home to cover the time when he is not at school.   And finally my eldest chick stayed at the same school all year, and made some great progress in her participation in class, and tried out new subjects like Engineering with much joy.   At the end of the year, following some health issues, I decided she should go and live with her father for a while so she bid farewell to her school and friends, only for the decision to be reversed after some professional advice about the wisdom of her move.   At the moment she is in limbo about which school she will attend in 2018, with several options open to her, including a return to her previous school.

We had our final family stay in hospital in Sydney as part of the ongoing support for managing my boy’s behaviour, and I am proud to say that the staff there couldn’t stop praising us for the major changes that we have made and how well we are doing as a family.  The skills that I learned there will stay with me for life and I often find myself thinking ‘What would Tamar (the senior psychologist on our team) say”  when faced with a new behavioural challenge.   How blessed we are that this service is provided under our Public Health system and didn’t cost me a cent but made such a change to our life.

Supporting three kids with mental health issues, one of whom also has disabilities, is tough work.  There are times when, as another one falls apart just when I think everything is going well, I wonder where I went wrong.  Luckily there are lots of great people around me who are good at calmly pointing out that I am not the cause of the various issues, and that sometimes life just sucks.   I have had some moments of falling apart during the year under the weight of trying to keep everyone’s heads above water, but am happy to be ending the year in a good frame of mind, with solid plans for supporting each child, and continuing the endless search for time for myself!

New teapot earrings made to my own design!

On the farm front we grew our flock by adding a new ram, Gordon Ram-say, who ensured his future with the production of 11 lambs in October, from 7 ewes.  Four of our previous lambs went to the butcher at around the same time, and we have since sold two ewes with lambs to our neighbours, so we are currently sitting at 16 head.   We renewed our chicken flock and currently have a standing delivery of 4 dozen eggs a week to friends in town, plus plenty for our own consumption, so it is going well – bar the current mite infestation that has me cleaning and spraying the coops every few days, and constantly feeling that I have tiny bugs crawling on me!   The realities of farm life!

Shadow

We acquired a new dog, with Shadow the Belgian Shepherd joining us in August, and then sadly lost our beloved Dottie in the week before Christmas.    Our house is a lot quieter without her and we miss her daily.

Dottie

The biggest change for me was the return to designing and making.   After a long period of stagnating, and being uninspired, the return to making started with a desire for a tea cosy for my glass teapot.   Then it grew!  Between researching and designing reusable teabags, collecting and re-purposing teacups by making candles, and planters, and then making tea themed jewellery, a whole new business has grown up under my existing brand.   With that growth I have found a new burst of energy, inspiration and joy.    I have attended three markets, and have plans for more in 2018.

Mesh tea infusers with removable charms are one of my new products going into 2018

I also have plans for products that are repeatable (instead of requiring a new design for each product as I have so often in the past) with ideas about selling some through shops as well as online.   Whether this all comes to pass or not my brain is happy to be back in use!

Organic cotton resusable tea bags

Heading into 2018 seems a little more full of portent that other years because 2018 is the year I turn 50.    I don’t think that there is a lot of magic in turning 50, or that life will suddenly change, but I have decided that there are various things that I can let go of now that I can no longer deny that I am a grown up.   Many of my habits have changed over the last few years anyway, so I no longer go shopping for new clothes, no longer worry about what is the latest trend/restaurant/bar/cocktail/book, and no longer worry that I am not worried!   Over the last decade I have been practising saying ‘No’, and I plan to continue this for as long as I am around.   I am working on identifying when the issue is mine, and when it truly belongs to someone else and therefore shouldn’t worry me.   And I am not investing time in people who don’t deserve the small amounts of free time that I have.  While my 20’s were about having adventures and learning to fit into my own skin, my 30’s were about building a family and my 40’s were about raising my children as a single parent and restructuring my life to achieve this, my aim for my 50’s is about being kind to myself, my kids and our planet.  Anything extra is a bonus!

Wishing you all a kind and peaceful New Year.

Real life, markets and tea

I am preparing to attend my second market in this, my revitalised small business life.  And while I would love to report that all has been smooth sailing i would be lying because that is not how life happens.   For anyone!

On the product development side I have lots of positive things to report, including new earring designs, key rings, wine charms, stitch markers, and more ideas that are coming together.   I have enjoyed finding new ways to make tea related paraphernalia and the process of sourcing supplies, learning new ways to craft things, and thinking about packaging and branding.  The products in the following photos are all available in my shop, with more if you would like to see the whole range.

I have also been crocheting away, making tea cosies and delivering orders.  This cosy is my current favourite and sold very quickly so I am inspired to play with this style a little more.   You really can never have enough ladybirds in your life!

That is all pretty positive isn’t it?   What has real life got to do with all of this?   My chicks and I have been having a bit of a rough life over the last few weeks.   My eldest ended up in hospital for a week unexpectedly (she is receiving great treatment and support for what ails her and will be fine) and the ripple effect through the family is still being felt.   Existing struggles with school attendance have been magnified, and anxiety levels are high.   I saw a friend briefly this morning after a horrible couple of hours at home and answered her query about how I was with a very breezy ‘I am great’, then realised that I was great in that exact moment, standing in the sunshine on her front step, even though a couple of hours earlier I had wondered if the sky was about to fall in.   It is a useful reminder that there are lovely moments even in days of stress.

Big changes are happening in the latest round of strategies to make life better for my chicks. My beautiful boy is now doing a combination of Distance Education and school attendance, which makes me his supervisor.   Not a fun job but we have had some nice moments in amongst the tough ones in the short time we have been doing it.  The long term challenge here is to understand how he learns best so that I can support him to gain the right skills to go on and succeed in life.   He hates to make errors so any process of asking questions or asking him to give answers is fraught with anxiety, and therefore aggression, for him.  In order to give him the best chances I need to stay calm when I really want to scream at him to just do it.   Oops.   Best keep working on not saying that!

Oh how I wish this was true!

My biggest girl is planning a huge adventure, going to live with their father for a while.  She will be living overseas, attending an International School, and being exposed to all sorts of amazing experiences.  I am going to miss her but this is the best decision for her at the moment and she deserves to have a chance to live as a teenager without feeling responsible for her siblings and her mother.  I keep stressing to her that she is not to feel responsible for her father, and that it is his job to look after her, not the other way around, but only time will tell how that one goes.  This is not a decision that I thought I would be making, but it was my suggestion that she go, and I am really comfortable that it is the right decision for her, and that we need to try it as an option for her.   And seriously – what teenager doesn’t get excited at the thought of moving to the other side of the world and getting to see and do amazing things for a few months or longer?!   (I admit openly that I am very envious of the experience she is about to have!)

As for my middle chick, well, she is still struggling at the moment.   I haven’t quite worked out the next strategy for her, to help her to feel safe and secure enough to attend school, but I do have a project to keep her busy for the next few weeks.   Today we had a  blank library box delivered to our house, as part of a larger community project to see 10 little libraries installed in our community.   She is going to design and then paint our box before it is installed, possibly at our driveway, to hold books for passersby to borrow, swap, etc.  I am really excited about this project so am keeping my fingers crossed that she maintains her enthusiasm too!

The blank canvas is so exciting in its possibilities!

That is the real life part of running a small business.   Family and homelife will always have priority, and plans for products and for growing a business will always be affected by whatever surprise event comes along.   And that is where the tea comes in.   Over the course of the last few weeks as we have moved in and out of crisis mode, tea has been a constant theme.   Sharing a cup of tea with a friend as we talk over the latest development in our lives, finding time to sit and drink a cup of tea as a break from being in a hospital room, or sitting at home with a book and a cup of tea to clear my head.   Tea has kept me going in the way that wine would have in my younger days.   My favourite flavours at the moment are a Red and Green Vanilla Rooibus, and New York Breakfast (a black tea with almost maple syrup notes) and a refreshing herbal green tea.   In my younger days (when wine was the answer, not tea) I was a focussed clothes shopper.   I could be in Melbourne for a meeting and pop out at lunchtime and buy my year’s wardrobe before getting back to the meeting.  (I was living in Darwin and shopping wasn’t great there!)   These days I don’t buy clothes and shoes like I used to, but I can hit T2 and stock up on flavours, present my loyalty card and be back at the car within an impressively short space of time.   Same focus, just different products!

Anyway, that is it from my little corner of the world.   Preparing for the Collected and Created Market in Gundaroo on Sunday 19 November from 10 – 4, living a real life, and drinking lots of tea.  I hope your real life is in solution mode rather than survival mode!

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.

 

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.

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.

a little bird made me

July 25, 2015

If you want to get me cranky, protective and outraged, give one of these statements a try when you are next talking to me.  Even better, use most of them in one conversation, and do it in front of my son.  That is a sure fired way to ensure that I will discount your helpful suggestions on how I can better do my job as his mother.  (It will also 100% guarantee that I will write a blog post about it.)

1. He just needs to fit in with everyone else

You think?  Wouldn’t it be great if just telling him to fit in with everyone else was the answer.  Wouldn’t it be great if we were all cut from the same mould and could fit into the designated slot in life that you think we should fit into.  Oh, and while we are at it, thank you for telling me, after knowing him for a very short time, how you know what he ‘needs’.  Because up until now, while I have been dealing with schools, psychiatrists, paediatricians, psychologists, police, social workers and the government, it never occurred to me that I could solve all of this by telling him to fit in.

Fitting in.  What does that look like?  Is that where he doesn’t say anything that makes you feel uncomfortable, doesn’t question whether something is fair or not, doesn’t overreact when he feels he is treated unfairly, and doesn’t interrupt your vision of what your life should look like?  Wouldn’t it be nice if he did fit in.  Did it ever occur to you that perhaps all he wants himself is to fit in.  To not be the kid who can’t cope with too much noise, or with not being perfect at something the first time he tries, who can’t understand why other kids don’t get his sense of humour, who worries that other kids don’t like him because he gets angry when he is overwhelmed.  To be ‘normal’.why fit in when you were born to stand

Guess what?  I don’t want him to fit in.  If he fitted in, in the way that you want him to, he would lose himself, and all the good things that go with being him.  His awesome sense of the ridiculous, his ability to give hugs just at the right time, his sharp mind and amazing strategies, and the endless possibilities that are open before him because he has to work so much harder than everyone else to do the same things that other kids in his class do with ease.

I'm beautiful in my way'Cause God makes (2)

2. He is just doing this to get attention

Of course he is!  What kid climbs an electricity pole in the middle of winter and declares that he won’t come down, in order not to get attention?  What kid rings his mother who is many hours drive away and threatens to kill himself, in order not to get attention?

The question is not whether he wants attention, it is WHY he wants attention.  What overloading of his senses, his ability to cope, his sense of fairness has happened that is causing him to act in such an extreme way?  And what can we do to help him to see that he is loved, supported, and cherished, so that he doesn’t need to behave in this way in order to get our attention.

3. He needs to understand how this makes (insert name of choice) feel

Ouch.  There it is again.  What he ‘needs’ to do.  If only he can rewire his brain circuits so that he understands other people’s emotions clearly, and take them into account when those people are contributing to his need to seek attention, then everything will be okay.  You will love him if he understands how his behaviour is affecting you.

Maybe, just maybe, you might like to think about how an 8 year old kid sees the world.  Forget whether he has special needs or not – most 8 year old kids are still fairly egocentric in their actions.  Telling him to take your feelings into account and to stop this behaviour is not, unfortunately, a magic cure-all.  If it was then I would be rich, having saved many thousands of dollars on specialists because I could have taken your advice for free.

4. He needs to understand the consequence of his actions

Uh-huh.  Again, what he ‘needs’ to do.  Because if he can just think about what his behaviour is doing, then he will stop it, straight away.  Can I remind you again, using small words, that this boy is 8 years old.  He doesn’t like hurting people.  He doesn’t like feeling hurt.  He doesn’t like constantly stumbling through life, letting people down, making mistakes.  If he could, at this age, think of the consequences of his actions and therefore change his actions, don’t you think he would?

5.  He is going to have a miserable life if he doesn’t start to improve his behaviour

Grrrrrrr…….how dare you presume to tell my son what his life is going to be like. And even worse, how dare you tell him that his life will be bad.  He believes the things that adults tell him.  Ever heard of a self-fulfilling prophecy?  And quite apart from my emotive response to how an adult can be so cruel to a child, how on earth do you know what his life is going to be like?  Have you seen the amazing steps he has taken over the last couple of years?  Do you know just how bad things were 3 years ago?  Do you know how much work and support I put into ensuring that in fact he has a wonderful future ahead of him, and how much he looks to the positive future now? And finally, do you honestly think that this is his choice?!  What on earth is he hoping to gain by ‘choosing’ to behave in this way, particularly when not behaving in this way has so many more rewards!

 

Lead by exampleAnd finally – don’t ever, whether a child has special needs or not, talk about that child in such a way in front of him or her.  It is cruel.  And slightly ironic.  While you are so busy telling me that he needs to control himself, behave better, understand the consequences of his actions, you are doing the exact opposite.  Perhaps leading by example would be a better way to help him.

Vent over!  Regular programming will resume shortly!

A small post-script.  If you think you recognise yourself in this post, you probably do.  (And we may never have met.)