This week of the school holidays has been busy with visitors, shopping to prepare for the winter school terms, and a few more visitors. It has also been rainy, windy and wet. But surprisingly that hasn’t stopped the children spending time outside!
The boy has been designing and building a fort under a tree near the dam. Each visitor who arrives is taken to examine the fort and assist in its further construction. On Wednesday there were three boys down there, sharpening sticks, building a shower (?!?!) and having a ball. The boy received a pocket knife as a gift from his father last week so it has been used for much of this activity. Which meant three boys with cuts that required band aids- but not a word of complaint from any of them!
Yesterday it was the boy and another friend out there for hours, and happy as larks! When her father came to collect her I noticed a bruise and cut near her eye. She calmly explained this had happened when she fell from a tree she was climbing. No hysterics, or even tears! This move to the country with space to have adventures is good for everyone!
It is also good for beautiful garden images!
In between all of this I have been squeezing in some sewing and planning. Hopefully there will be photos of some new products to share in the next few days.
But for now it is time to sleep. Tomorrow is ANZAC Day, commemorating 100 years since troops fought at Gallipoli. It is a day where we remember and respect all those who served in the wars and in our defence forces, who fought to give us a life where kids can still be kids, and where climbing a tree and building a fort can happen.
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.
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!!
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!)
This year has flown by! I swear that as I get older, time speeds up and the year seems to have only just settled into it’s routine when it finishes!
My absence from the blog has been longer than usual. Sometimes life gets so busy that something has to give – in this case it was my blog, and my business. Not forever, just for a short time while other things work themselves out.
The big news is that as I am writing this I am taking a break from packing up my house. I know! You turn your back for one minute and all of a sudden I am moving house! And that is part of the reason for the blog break – a whirlwind of decision making, house preparation, house hunting, etc has been occurring over the last few months. With my significant drop in income this year, and some complications that saw me have my children live with me almost full time (no complaints here) my finances took a dive and it was time to say good bye to the ‘executive style house’ in the ‘good suburb’ and look at different options for my chicks and I. Fast forward a few weeks and my parents (who live overseas) were visiting, and helping prepare my house for sale. One thing lead to another and now they are moving to Australia (again) and coming to live with the chicks and I on a new property that we have bought together. Again – I know! Huge changes!
The new property is about 20 minutes from where we live now, and is in the country. Yep – we are going to be ‘farmers’. Well, not really – it is only 20 acres and the land around here isn’t particularly fertile, so we won’t be primary producers, but will have lots of room for animals as pets, room to run, ride (bikes), play, etc. There are two houses on the property so my parents will have one, and the chicks and I the other. The ‘big house’ as we are calling it is truly big – I have choices about which room I will use as my sewing studio, and the chicks will all have space for desks in their rooms. The chicks will attend the same schools as they would have if we had not moved, but will catch the bus a bit more (it goes past our driveway).
A sneak peek of the front garden at the new house
2015 is looking very exciting as a result. With my parents in residence I will be able to work more, earn more, develop my business more, and still continue to support my chicks. The possibilities are endless!
Wrapping up this year and all that has happened would result in a blog post of thousands of words. 2014 has been eventful, to say the least. A few brief highlights instead then:
The Human Brochure that I am part of is definitely a highlight. I have met some wonderful people, seen amazing things, and been exposed to parts of my town that I didn’t know about.
Finishing up my career as a public servant was momentous, but right. No longer being defined by my profession has been liberating, and I have enjoyed discovering more about myself and my strengths throughout the process.
Creating beautiful things continues to give me immense joy and my confidence grows on a daily basis.
My eldest chick has finished primary school and heads off to high school next year!
Selling my house has been emotional but is the right decision.
On the downside there have been some of the toughest times this year. My previously reasonably amicable relationship with my ex-husband is now gone, and I have had to make some really hard calls about what is good for my children. Adjusting my life to parenting a child with special needs has been a long process that has challenged me on every level. I have been exhausted for a large part of the year.
But overall, looking at the good, the bad and the very ugly, this year has had more highs than lows, and I am finishing on a good note.
To entertain your eyes, a brief selection of some of my recent sewing projects follows – custom orders, Christmas presents, and new ideas. I hope that this year is ending on a good note for you too, and that 2015 brings new adventures and excitement and love and laughter for you all.
Our two weeks of school holidays start today! The children definitely need the break, and their mother isn’t complaining either! While we have a camping trip planned for the second week of the holidays, for the first week I thought we might explore a bit more of the city we live in, rather than sitting at home with eyes glued to screens. (Wish me luck!)
There are some amazing classes, programs, and activities available during the holidays, and my children have a long wish list. However money is a little tight, and I realised that it was probably time for us to craft a list that focussed on things that don’t cost a lot of money, but will be really enjoyable.
These giant snails next to a floral wall spelling out Floriade are beautifully colourful!
1. Floriade. Yep – it may be clichéd but the huge floral displays are open throughout the holidays, are free to enter, and provide lots of different opportunities for being involved. There is a different program of activities every day. The tips I gained from head gardener, Andrew Forster, were to check the program first thing each morning before planning your day. There are great things in the ‘Fun for Kids‘ section, including potting their own plants, attending Bunnings workshops, a circus playground with workshops, and more! (And Bindi Irwin will be at the inspiration hub giving talks one day.) If all else fails, take a picnic and let the kids run around on the big grassed areas.
2. Arboretum. The national collection of plants is free to enter, and roam around. In addition to the wonderful wooden pod playground, there are also open spaces for picnics and running around, and amazing photographic opportunities. There is a free creative corner during these holidays, plus a program of workshops ranging in prices from $10 – $30. My personal plan is to pack some food and take the kids there with their cameras/iPods etc and run a family photo competition. If it works I will publish their entries here for you to enjoy!
3. National Archives of Australia. You might remember that I enjoyed a tour of the National Archives as part of the discovery phase of the Human Brochure. I have been wanting to take the children there ever since, and with the opening of the Waterhouse Natural Science Art Prize this week, the timing is perfect! Entry to the archives is free, and there is a great range of exhibitions that I think my children will enjoy exploring – including one of ‘banned’ material that I think will appeal to my son!!
Industrial remnants installed at the National Gallery of Australia Sculpture Gardens
4. National Gallery Sculpture Gardens. I suspect that taking my active children (well, let’s be honest, my son) into the Gallery could be a recipe for stress, but I think that exploring the Sculpture Gardens, with reflective sculptures, floating heads, and my favourite, the James Turrell installation “Within Without’, could be much less stressful! I might even include that in our family photo competition!
5. Geocaching. We have been a little slack in our geocaching for about a year (oops) but the upside of that is that there will be lots of new caches around town that we haven’t discovered. If you aren’t aware of geocaching it involves looking for hidden caches/containers that contain a log book, and occasionally swap-able or track-able items, using GPS coordinates. You can download a free version of the app to your phone, or use the GPS from your car (or go really rustic and use a compass!) and search for different caches hidden in public spaces, and logged on a website so that others can look for them. I like to pick a geographic area, park the car and then go for a walk with the kids to find as many as we can before someone gets tired and complains!
6. National Museum of Australia. The museum is always great for an interactive experience with kids, and these holidays they are running free drop in workshops in their Discovery Space, including one where you can make your own wire sculpture. (Wonder if the kids will realise that I am there to do it for me, rather than to entertain them?!)
7. National Library of Australia. On 2 October the Library has a story time session and a movie for children, both of which are free. But the thing that appeals to me for my children is the Library detective – a free ‘find it’ trail of discovery.
Plus one more. Handmade Markets. Entry to these amazing markets (no I am not at all biased) is free! Of course it won’t end up being truly free as the temptation to buy so many of the beautiful products there is hard to resist, so I haven’t included it in my list of 7 – but wanted to remind you that it is a great day out! 4 and 5 October at the National Convention Centre! (I won’t have a stall there but will be there helping out anyway!)
There are many more things to do in Canberra over the holidays, but this list will keep us going I think! What ideas do you have for free activities these holidays?
My marriage ended 5 1/2 years ago when my husband announced, via email, that he ‘couldn’t do this anymore’. At the time I truly had not seen it coming. Looking back I can see that the marriage was doomed. Ah the wisdom of hindsight.
Since then I have been through the ups and downs and ins and outs of divorce. While I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, and while my first question to anyone I meet who tells me that they are thinking of leaving their partner is “Is there any way you can fix this?” there are a few things I have learned along the way that might help someone else going through separation and divorce, particularly if there are children involved. I am not an expert, these are my personal experiences and learnings, but they seem, from discussion with friends, to be universal.
1. The grief process following divorce is the same as the grief process following death of a loved one. I truly didn’t understand this until I read a blurb in the back of a vampire fantasy novel by Laurell K. Hamilton (I was hiding in bad literature at the time) where the author talked about thinking that nothing would be worse than losing her mother as a child until she got divorced. That statement shocked me but also resonated with me. The death of a marriage is more than just walking away from someone you have loved. It is the death of your dreams, of your idea of who the other person is, of the idea of who you are, of how you fit into your community and family, and of your belief in your future.
Once I understood this I realised why I had been angry, sad, wanting him back, etc. It helped me to heal and bounce back much more quickly when I realised that my reactions were ‘normal’.
2. Putting your children first in every decision you make about how to react to your separation helps. When I remembered to look at my decisions through the lens of ‘how will this affect the children’ my decisions were much better than when I had knee jerk reactions of ‘I don’t want this to happen’, ‘Hell no way am I agreeing with you’, or ‘You need to suffer too’. (All of which are completely normal but not completely pleasant reactions.)
3. Something that was a problem during your marriage will continue to be a problem after your marriage. I know – really obvious huh?! For example it took me a long time to realise that the issues that we had about money during our marriage were exactly the same issues we were having about money after our marriage. In fact it has taken me 5 years to realise that there is no point engaging in those discussions as nothing changes. The sooner you learn to change your response, the sooner the situation will change. By not engaging in these pointless conversations I am more able to gain perspective, less frustrated and more able to just ‘let it go.’
4. Biting your tongue lets your children develop their own relationships and form their own views on their parents. Look. I am no saint, and I make mistakes like everyone else. However I have tried really hard not to tell the children every thought, feeling, frustration or anger I have towards their father. They need to be able to work out his role in their life themselves, untainted by my history and views. I try to just give them simple facts, or direct them to him for their answers. When it is really hard I simply say ‘I don’t really understand why he did that either. Maybe you should talk to him about that so that he can help you to understand.’ What I mutter under my breath, in my mind or to my friends when the kids aren’t around is something quite different!
5. There is no perfect way for children to share their time between their parents. No matter what people tell you there is no perfect solution. Week about, every second weekend, every Friday night, half of each week, just on school holidays, and all the other weird and wonderful arrangements that we can dream up will never give our kids the ideal balance or life. They will always feel a little displaced, out of sync, and disrupted. There will always be the drama of telling a teacher ‘sorry I left that at Dad’s house’, or ‘Mum won’t sign the form because that is on Dad’s week’ or any of the hundred ways that they are forced to publicly share that they come from a broken home. All we can do is support them, listen to them, give them a voice (but not control when they are too young), and let them know that we understand.
Life is complex. Learning more about how to lead better lives helps to deal with that complexity. Do I sound sage or just weary? Either way – time for a cup of tea while I contemplate the latest development in the household.
In the last couple of years I have had to come to terms with the diagnosis of my boy as having special needs. I have been walking through the fog of discovery ever since, usually taking one step forward and two steps back. I have been extremely fortunate that I have a wonderful family who provide great moral support even though none of them live within driving distance, a steadfast group of good friends, and that I have the skills to research and find the information I need. I have also had to learn a new set of skills and shift my thinking dramatically about so many parts of my life, so I thought that if I shared a few of those discoveries here it might help someone else who ends up in the same boat.
1. You have to become your child’s advocate. There is no one else in the world who knows your child as well as you, and who has more right than you to stand up for what is right for your child. If you aren’t comfortable challenging the authority of teachers, principals, doctors, or your own family, it is time to learn. Challenging them doesn’t need to be aggressive, but it does need to involve questioning whether there are other options, whether factors that affect your child have been taken into account, and whether this is in the best interests of your child.
2. There are laws to protect your child from discrimination, but the only person who is going to remind anyone about them is you. Become aware of your rights and your child’s rights. When the school says ‘oh he/she can’t join the class to do (such-and-such) because he/she will be (insert any myriad of reasons)’, don’t agree and apologise for the inconvenience that your child has caused. Instead ask what reasonable steps they could take to include your child in the activity. Often just by asking the question they will be reminded that they have a duty to try and include your child, and will take steps to do so.
3. You cannot do everything yourself. No matter how independent, strong and resilient you think you are, when you have a special needs child you need to make sure that you ask for help when you need it, or accept an offer of help when it is made. Your child needs to have other people in his/her life that they trust and are comfortable being with, and you need to have people that you can leave your child with, knowing that they will be cared for and looked after.
4. You will learn to appreciate little things that make life good. I used to think in terms of a good week, or a good month. Now I celebrate a good hour, and sometimes even just a good decision about something small. Being able to sit and drink a good cup of tea in one sitting is worthy of a celebration isn’t it?!
5. You will become very good at making apologies for not attending events. I have lost count of the number of times I have had to give last minute apologies, not accept an invitation, or rearrange plans because I know that I need to stay home and not disrupt (further) our routine by going out. I used to feel embarrassed or awkward about it. Now I just say “I am very sorry but a family commitment has come up and I won’t be able to attend’, and no one ever complains to my face. It is about establishing your priorities – what is more important – your children or your social obligations?
6. It is okay to trust your own judgement. I recently took my children on a spur of the moment holiday to Hawaii. (I know – crazy stuff!) If I had thought about it for too long I probably would have listened to all the warnings about travelling with my son, and what could go wrong. But instead I relied on my own judgement that I could manage the situation for him, and for his sisters, and although I began to question my own sanity on the overnight flight there (when no one slept and he was becoming agitated at the sound of a toddler crying) it turns out that I was right. By taking everyone’s needs into account we had a lovely holiday that was much more stress free than life at home usually is!
7. You have to look after yourself. This one is probably obvious to many of you, but it wasn’t to me, and I learned the hard way what happens if you don’t read the warning signs. I had a breakdown/burn out at the end of last year that has forced me to learn what happens if you just keep going without caring for yourself. Whether it is having time to read a book, catch up with friends, have a hair cut, go for a walk – something that soothes your soul, and re-energises you is essential if you are going to be a good parent.
8. Special needs kids fight with their siblings just like other kids. My boy and one of his sisters argue with each other a lot. It is loud, it involves lots of whining, and it drives me crazy. But I have to remind myself, and everyone else, that this isn’t because of his condition – this is standard sibling stuff going on. And in the same way, the two of them will play together for hours without a cross word and get angry with their older sister for interrupting the rhythm of their game. Sometimes kids are just kids.
9. You will get to know all sorts of amazing new people. I have become friends with other parents of children with special needs who I would not otherwise have met which is great for support, but in fact, because my son looks at the world in a different way, he talks to people I would never think to engage with. I have lost count of the number of times we are at a shop and all of a sudden the lady at the fruit section is chatting to us about her life, or at a camp-ground and we are invited to join a camp-fire because they have met my son, or at a park and the other parents know that I make and sell things, thanks to my greatest advocate.
10. You will learn to laugh at yourself and with your child in a whole new way. Okay, so maybe that is because if you don’t laugh you’ll cry some days, but laughter is good for us, and if you can remember to laugh at the ridiculous, everything feels so much better as a result.
If you have any points to add here, please feel free to do so by commenting!
This week I am able to announce that I am officially human. Even better, I am a local human. I am one of 101 local humans selected to be part of a ‘human brochure’ about Canberra. My chicks think it is hilarious that I am now a local human. Over the next couple of months I will meet my fellow 100 humans and we will get to visit all sorts of VIP events at local attractions – many of which involve food and/or alcohol, and places I haven’t visited. The chicks get to attend a few events with me too. Then we get to spend time sharing our experiences in our local region, using social media, culminating in a weekend in October where we can show our city off to family from out of town. It is a pretty big deal.
Of course, you know me – part of me is terrified about all the juggling of competing priorities, about letting myself put me first for once, about meeting all these uber-cool fellow humans and remembering that they have all been fooled into thinking that I am uber-cool too. The other part of me is really excited about getting to go out and have fun with adults doing cool things! If you follow me on any of the social media I use (instagram, twitter, facebook – oh my I am so cool these days) you will see the hashtag #humanbrochure appearing and you will now know what it is about! (and I promise I will try to reduce my use of the word ‘cool’, given that it isn’t actually that ‘cool’ these days.)
Of course, with the confirmation that I am human, comes the realisation that I am a mere mortal, and therefore fatally flawed. Which isn’t really a surprise to anyone! The notification about being human also arrives at the same time as a whole slew of good things, and an avalanche of challenges. Life. Gets you every time doesn’t it?
Good things first (then you can choose to skip the challenges if you want!) I was selected as part of the launch of a new feature on Ebay where you can make your own collections of things that you like. They selected a pile of bloggers and other people to create the first collections, to set the scene for the launch. So far I have had two sets of 5 collections approved, and am working on a 3rd. I tend to use Ebay for very functional things, so taking the time to stop and look around has been interesting. One thing I have learned, very quickly, is the importance of good product shots. I have been aware of it for selling on Etsy for a long time, but really hadn’t thought about it in the Ebay context, until I was looking for images that would hang together well. Oh my there are some shockers out there. One image of a gorgeous vintage porcelain piece had a background of a piece of uncovered, dirty rubber foam. Others showed delicate things for babies sitting on the carpet for the shots – which just didn’t work! The whole image of Ebay as a place for bargains might be the reason, but given the amazing array of good available there, I suspect that the move to collections might start to have an impact on the way people choose to display their wares.
The next good thing was lovely feedback from a customer, lovely feedback from a colleague, and a request to be allowed to quote one of my blog posts in someone’s book (!!!) all within a day or two. It is a bit like getting a compliment from a random stranger while walking down the street – it makes your day! I have also managed to have some of my items on Etsy make the front page after renewing my involvement in my teams on the forums – one of those cases where promoting others really does help yourself.
This one made the front page of the US site, so massive exposure for my bag!
The middle chick is currently directing the shooting of a video that will star the boy, as an entry in a competition to represent the local milk company. Whether they win or not is irrelevant as they are having so much fun making it, negotiating the story line, and adding special effects – it is hilarious to listen to them!
And finally, I was able to sit down and make my first bag using the leather I recently purchased. It is very different from sewing with fabric – not just because of the bulk of the leather when dealing with seams etc, but because it seems to stretch and move when it is sewn (despite my judicious use of clothes pegs to hold it together) and unpicking (which I did a LOT of) leaves holes in the leather that don’t disappear like holes in fabric do. Still – the results are so different to fabric that I think I will continue learning and practising. I am considering investing in an industrial machine – I suspect that would help a lot! For this one I used some leather from a piece of milled hide, a part of a sleeve from a suede jacket a friend sent me, and lined it with an indigenous print cotton.
As for the challenges? My boy. That beautiful soul who snuggles in and remembers the most awesome details about conversations you have had years before, who loves to be able to help, who fills my heart with joy. Once again we are back to dealing with challenges. The respite gained after the trip to the chiropractor was short lived. I suspect the change in houses over the weekend contributed to it. For a boy who doesn’t deal well with change, moving between houses each week is challenging. I have said it before and I will say it again. Divorce sucks. It doesn’t just suck because the adults are hurt and grieving. It sucks because the children who have no control over their environment get hurt, over and over, for years after the fact. I struggle every day to think about how I can reduced the impact of our family circumstances on my boy. There are no simple answers. However his school continue to find ways to support him to feel okay about himself. When a relief teacher did something in reprimanding my boy that still makes me shake with emotion, the boy was able to come home feeling good about himself (and completely unaware of how upset I was) because the executive teachers made sure that he was safe and felt wanted and useful. God bless them. We are entering another phase of analysis and diagnosis with yet another specialist. The next few months will be challenging. Again. Thank heavens that when he is good he is awesome!
Heading into the weekend with the rounds of winter weekend sports, children who need to be ferried from friend to friend, and all the other activities that seem to fill our days of ‘rest’ I am hoping to be able to get a little bit of sewing done – and finishing those last few rounds on the rug for the girls’ room! I’ll check back in and let you know how it went!