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.
Since I last wrote all sorts of things have happened here in the nest, both with my business but also on the farm. Let’s get the colourful exciting pictures out of the way first! I have been busy playing with both fabric and wool, and trying out new things. I made my first large batch of tea bags and listed them on my Etsy shop (the link is at the top of the page).
I also played with bright colours and bobble stitches to make a tea cosy for a custom order and then, because I like it so much, made another for the Etsy shop!
On Monday I received a commission to make a series of tea cosies for a cafe! I will reveal all when they are complete, but I have had fun developing a repeatable pattern which I will publish once I have ironed out all the bugs! This is a picture during an early stage of development!
I have spent quite a bit of time at appointments and in waiting rooms this week so having my portable crochet habit with me has been useful. At the hairdressers on Wednesday I finished this water lily that I had been making using a pattern from Make my day creative.
On Thursday and again today I made lots of little hearts,
and kept perfecting that pattern!
On the home front much more has been happening. Last Saturday we met and decided to trial (before formally adopting) a new dog. It is exactly one year since our beautiful boy Milo contracted pancreatitis, and then died three months later. My boy has been patiently waiting for another dog of his own but I was keen to make sure it was the right dog, and that we were ready. Shadow seems to fit the bill. He is a Belgian Shepherd who was rescued after living rough in the bush on the outskirts of Canberra. Searches have not been able to locate his owners, so a rescue group set out to find him a new home. He has the most beautiful nature and is completely dedicated to my son. The downside is that he is not fully toilet trained at the moment, but that is possibly due to stress, as he is improving daily. With a week to go in the trial I think it will be hard to say goodbye to him and expect that he will become a permanent part of the family!
Saturday brought us other excitement with the discovery by the artist in residence of an injured kangaroo down near our chook run. We cared for him during the day until the Wildcare rescuers could come and take him for treatment. A photo sent through last night shows him doing well, so we are all very happy that Roger (as the kids named him) is doing well! His friends seem a bit suspicious of us though and seem to be keeping an eye on us all!
The other thing I can show you in photos is my new haircut. It has been a while since I had it done – a combination of finances, time and more time seemed to keep delaying me, which meant that by the time I got to the hairdresser she had a lot of hair to work with! I love the end result! I had to take a selfie to share the new look with you!
So there you have it – a week in review! Now to get the fire going because it is cold today, and then to keep working on that pattern! A cup of tea might be in order first though!
I hope that you have had a great week wherever you are!
Hey – we survived Christmas, New Year and most of the school holidays! Cause for celebration! Of course there is one more week of the holidays before the children return to school, so anything can happen (and probably will). How was your Christmas celebration? Ours had an interesting and slightly traumatic start when the new dog (Buddy) discovered and ate most of the contents of the Christmas stockings. Luckily there was only white chocolate in them, but he also found a wrapped gift with chocolate and tried to eat that, along with adding teeth marks to a few other boxes. Between that and Dottie (the small and crazy dog) depositing a poo on the floor just inside the back door that my parents stepped in as they came in to say Merry Christmas it was not an auspicious start! Buddy was then put outside to reflect on his misdeeds, and took himself for a wander, was found by a passing car and deposited at the local vet clinic, 15 minutes away. We located him through the powers of Facebook and eventually had our Christmas meal at about 3pm. In between all the dog drama we shared some lovely family time, and enjoyed watching as each one of us opened our presents. My efforts in making presents was worth it – the children all loved their new pyjamas, my eldest chick is extremely excited by her new quilt, and my mother liked the table runner that I embroidered for her. I was also sent a photo of my very excited niece wearing the pjs that I had made her, so they were also a success!
I stitched this traditional sashiko pattern onto a table runner as a gift for my mother. I will share my tips on how to do this soon.
The big focus for us throughout the holiday period was actually an event after New Year. On 10 January my parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. We couldn’t let such an occasion pass unmarked, so we held a party and invited family and friends. The best thing about having family who live so far away from us (or is it that we live so far away from them?) is that when they come to visit they don’t just come for a couple of hours – they come for a few days so we get to spend time with them doing ‘normal’ things! This was definitely the case on this occasion. My father has 9 siblings and 6 of them were able to attend. My mother’s siblings all sent their best wishes as did those of my father’s siblings who couldn’t join us. Two sets of aunt and uncles stayed with us for a few days, along with my sister and niece and my brother. My brother’s attendance was a surprise for my parents – and it was a true surprise with lots of joy! Time spent talking to family over breakfast or while working in the kitchen was a real treat and made the whole week very special.
Photos of their wedding day, a delicious croquembouche cake and a blessing tree. (And just quietly – how good does the dresser that I renovated last year look?)
For the party itself my aunts helped with cooking, my brother and uncle tackled the grass cutting, everyone chipped in to tidy the garden, and one of my uncles braved Costco with me for shopping! My sister helped with all the decorations, which were lovely, and my sister and brother stepped in to keep the kitchen running and food appearing throughout the evening. It really was a lovely party – kids running around in the garden, adults catching up with old friends and new, and some great family traditions played out, including the family tradition of singing a song written about the couple (in this case to the tune of ‘A bicycle built for two’), signs being held up during the speeches to encourage the audience to clap, cheer or hiss, and lovely memories shared of a wonderful life together.
I am so very fortunate to have parents who have been married for this long. They are the first to admit that it hasn’t always been easy, and that they have had to work to maintain their relationship, but their commitment to each other is tangible and their love for each other continues to keep them strong, and it really does serve to show that great relationships exist.
6 Tips for celebrating a Golden Wedding Anniversary
After it was all over I realised that we had learnt some great tips to share with our friends who might also be hosting a party for their parents in a similar way, so I put together a few of them to share with you all. They are a bit Australian centric, but the ideas can be used in other countries even if the names change!
My parents renewed their marriage vows, 50 years after the original vows, in a mass said at home. It was emotional, happy and a true celebration.
1. The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet has a protocol section that will arrange for the Prime Minister to send a letter to the couple to commemorate the occasion. (I found this out after the fact!)
2. If you are Catholic you can arrange to have a papal blessing certificate sent to them to commemorate the occasion by speaking to the admin staff at your local church office. (The certificate is, as you can imagine, quite ornate!)
3. To create poster sized reprints of the original wedding photos I scanned them onto a USB stick then went to Officeworks and had them print the black and white photos on plain paper at A2 size. Cost per print? $4. A colour photo on thicker paper but still at A2 size was $10. I used Ikea frames that I already owned to hang them and they looked great!
4. We had a croquembouche cake as the ‘wedding cake’. These delightful piles of choux pasty filled with custard and drizzled with caramel toffee and spun sugar with gold leaf were made by a fantastic pastry chef here in Canberra. Natalie van den Bosch of the soon-to-open patisserie Le Bon Melange created this beautiful dessert that had everyone lining up for seconds! (The fact that she had been part of a youth group that my parents ran many years ago in another part of the country was a nice personal twist!)
5. My sister created a blessing tree. This was a ‘tree’ of gold twigs with tiny lights that she arranged in a vase, with tags for the guests to write their blessings for the couple. It was lovely to read the messages after the party.
6. I designed the invitations to the party, and to the house mass that was held on the day of their anniversary, using www.canva.com. This awesome site allows you to design for free, or a for a small charge, using elements that graphic designers use. The invitations looked professional (if I do say so myself!)
I hope that the holiday season has been kind to you. I have been using the time to do some painting – walls, furniture etc, so stand by for some further updates. (Although the photo from the anniversary party does show a newly painted wall, so that can count as a sneak preview!)
I was listening to the iconic John Lennon song ‘Happy Xmas – War is Over’ while celebrating Christmas Eve with my chicks and my parents here in our rural nest, and realised that, in answer to the question ‘And what have you done?’ I have a long list on some topics and a very short and bare one on others. Maintaining this blog would fall on the latter list and yet I am still loathe to let it go. (In fact I just paid all the invoices to renew my web-hosting for another year just this evening!)
So what have I done? This year has been a year of consolidation with life in the country. Our little flock of 5 sheep grew to 17, and we have enjoyed some lovely lamb meals as a result. Our flock of chickens shrank from 14 to 6 and our egg production increased as a result! Go figure! We started the year with two dogs and ended with two dogs, but sadly not the same two. Dottie the crazy terrier has survived to deafen us with her barks but after a couple of unusual and serious illnesses we lost Milo the Labrador in November. In December we welcomed Buddy the kelpie and he is settling in well, but has not replaced Milo in my boy’s affections.
We adopted a resuce dog, Buddy the Kelpie, in December 2016.
On a business level the year started well with me doing lots of sewing for the Shop Handmade, and lots of consulting for a new business venture. By the end of the year the sewing was non-existent and I had to pull back from all the consulting as I was facing burn out again and didn’t want to head back down that path. I live in hope that I will return to consulting and sewing in 2017, but we will see.
Our flock of sheep includes two sets of twin lambs born in late October.
The family front is where the hardest work has been focused. My boy has continued to struggle with mainstream schooling, and with his frustrations turning into aggression and violence. As we end the year I still don’t have answers on the school question but am comfortable that, after 4 separate hospital admissions I am on top of managing his behaviour, and that he is on the right combination of medications. He is 10 now (I know – where did that baby boy go?) and is incredibly articulate, intelligent and compassionate, but also demanding and exhausting. My girls have also had a rough year with the constant stress of living with this stress taking it’s toll on them. I have found an excellent team of professionals to help support them and am sure we will get through this but the combination of all their needs saw me stepping away from the small amount of work I was doing and trying to be as present as possible for all three of them. My artist-in-residence finished primary school with her art chosen for the cover of the yearbook, and my eldest chick has found her groove and her tribe at school and brought home some great feedback on her school report.
2016 has been tough. In our home and in many other homes across the world. I don’t think that there is any particular magic in a new year changing social attitudes, or the way an autistic child’s brain works, but I am hopeful that the 6 week school holiday break will give us all a chance to recharge, refocus and rebuild some of our battered resilience. In the meantime I have gone back to the basics. I have been sewing for the love of creating, not for work. There are handmade pyjamas appearing under several family Christmas trees this year, there is a queen sized patchwork quilt that is almost, but not quite, finished for my eldest chick to receive in the morning under the tree, and there is hand embroidery on another gift after my discovery of the joys of sashiko (Japanese embroidery) earlier in the year. My plan is to work on small personal projects for a while, then to get back to designing and making on a business level when I am ready.
My gorgeous mother helping me to pin the quilt sandwich together before tackled machine quilting it – perhaps choosing a queen size quilt for my first self-quilted quilt was a tad ambitious!
I hope that your Christmas and New Year is spent with people you love, who cherish you for who you are, and that you have a chance to recharge and rebuild before the next year sweeps us away into everyday life again. From my nest to yours, Merry Christmas. xx
I have been very quiet here over the last few months, although still using Instagram and Facebook. I think social media goes in cycles – sometimes it is about the story, sometimes it is about the image and sometimes it is about the conversation. It seems timely, then, when the year is about to roll over, to capture a bit of the last 12 months in story, image and conversation! (All this without sending anyone to sleep. Hmmm….can I rise to the challenge?!)
This year was a big year for my little family with our move to a new nest and rural life. At this point (days away from the 12 month mark) I can honestly say that I do not regret the move at all. There are days when yet another drive into town makes my heart sink, but for the most part even the commute (20 minutes to most places I need to get to) is extremely civilised! We now have 12 hens, 5 sheep, 2 dogs and 4 goldfish.
We bottle fed Poh Poh from when she was about 6 hours old and all fell in love with her.
We welcomed Milo into the household to join Dottie the crazy terrier. He gets a lot of cuddles.
We leased one of our paddocks to the neighbours so we also get to enjoy their horses. The gardens are beautiful and my parents do a lot of work to maintain them (I say guiltily!) We named the property as a birthday gift for my Dad (who is a Deacon) and the same friend who made the sign also made a custom ordered signpost for the garden as a gift for both of them.
The sign for our property made of jarrah from Western Australia by the very talented Michael from Wood and Wax Studios.
The garden signpost with a few of the places my parents have lived marked on it!
Also on the family front we had a wonderful family gathering in September to celebrate my parents’ 70th birthdays – with two of my siblings, and 6 of their siblings, plus partners, along with lovely friends, joining us for about 4 days. We have now established that the house can accomodate 9 extra people, and cope with two camper vans. It was a huge highlight for all of us.
In October we went camping after a (much too long) haitus. It was perfect!
My favourite spot to camp. With this view from the kitchen, there is little to complain about!
Big changes in the house included replacing the very, very, very busy carpet with something a little more neutral, and starting the mammoth task of painting. With the newly opened Ikea store in town light fittings are next on the list!!
Before and after with the carpet replacement!
On the sewing front I have been busy. I had a two month break when I injured myself in an altercation with my boy, but returned and have been busy ever since. For a woman who was intent on being a bag designer I seem to make an awful lot of baby products now – but they sell well, so I am not complaining! After putting my on-line shop on vacation mode about a year ago, thinking it would be for a month or so, it is still not open. The upcoming holiday period is a great opportunity for me to sit down and plan what the next year is going to look like – and how I am going to run my business is a big part of that. I have developed a pile of new products over the last few months, including gift sets, teething blankies (with really soft bamboo velour backing), bibs that can have a dummy clipped to them, fabric covered journals, and a pile of Christmas decorations! They have mainly been sold through Shop Handmade, with a few custom orders here and there.
A boxed gift set with blanket, bib and teething ring toy – part of my new product range.
Teething Ring Blankets with soft bamboo velour and cotton – they feel sooo nice!
Fabric covered journals for keeping all your notes looking good!
I have also completed two very special custom orders for people who wanted cushion covers made using clothing that was special to a deceased grandparent, as gifts for their family. It is a privilege to be entrusted with cutting up these garments that hold so many memories, in order to create a lasting momento.
These cushion covers were made from two shirts that my customer has kept of her grandmothers. I was able to keep the button detail of one shirt, and to add a strip of the fabric on each back too.
Life with my chicks has had it’s ups and downs – as it always does, but as the year draws to a close there is a feeling that we might be making headway with some of my boy’s issues. We had to change doctors and counsellors during the year when his both left town, and although it has been a drawn out process to get everyone up to speed we seem to be there now, and to be gaining extra support to assist in supporting him. The girls have both grown a lot this year, in size and maturity, with the eldest chick even doing household chores without complaining! Wonders will never cease!
I will spend the next few weeks thinking about what is next for this little bird, and my business and my family, and hopefully will appear here with a little more frequency than I have been!
I hope that this year has treated you kindly, that you have been loved and supported, and that the New Year brings joy, creativity and peace to you.
Guess what? It is still winter. I know – who would have thought? We are deep in the midst of the short days, frozen mornings, thick fogs, and wood fires. There has been a significant investment in thermal underwear, ski jackets and gloves – and that is just for around the farm! Although, much to the disappointment of the children we haven’t had heavy snowfalls on the property so far, there have been some in the area, and the snow on the mountains around the area certainly makes for icy winds. It is that time of year when finding a spot in the sun, behind glass, warms your bones and makes it hard to leave. And when the sun across the ground in the late afternoon makes everything glow golden.
The number of livestock on the property has grown. No more dogs (yet) although we have been introducing Dottie to a friend’s Labrador who is quite obliging and lets her be in charge and boss him around, so we will see how that goes. No – we have progressed to horses. Even better – they aren’t ours! We have leased our big paddock to our neighbours who have quite a few horses, and they are keeping some in the paddock (which helps keep the grass from simply feeding the kangaroos). The artist-in-residence is beside herself with joy, and goes to visit them several times a day on the holidays and weekends, and every afternoon on school days. She will have a riding lesson with the neighbours tomorrow and could not be more excited! Dad has great plans for collecting the manure for the garden. The boy thinks that he might learn to be a blacksmith so he can make horseshoes for them. The eldest is a bit bemused by all the fuss, and I just like the sound of gentle neighs and harrumphs across the night air when I am lying in bed – true country life!
The 11 chickens are now all sharing one coop and run, with little drama so far. The white and black (unknown breed) speckled ones should start laying soon, which is good as our original brown girl is coming to the end of her laying life. The shells of her eggs are getting more and more fragile and she only lays one every few days now, rather than one a day as she used to. She is healthy and spritely though, so I am sure that there will be great debates about what should happen to her once she stops laying. (Dad being practical and farmer like, and me being sentimental and protective like!)
The big news is that we are having a party to celebrate Mum and Dad’s 70th birthdays (which are about 6 weeks apart). Apart from the obvious Pinterest frenzy that I have gone into (decorations, drinks, presents, signs, more decorations…..) it has also turned my mind far more sharply to re-decorating. As I type I am sitting surrounded by swatches of carpet. YES! The ugly multi-coloured casino style carpet will be replaced soon! I have found the carpet I want (seriously – anything with a 25 year guarantee on wear, stains, colour, etc will get me in) but the colour? Boy that is a tough one! And why is the carpet so important? Because once we choose the carpet we can choose the paint for the walls……. etc, etc, etc! Grey, beige, greige, mushroom, oatmeal, silverfern, koala, chirp – these are all names I have been considering. Really – what colour is ‘chirp’?
I am not sure how much will actually get done before the party, but it has turned everyone’s mind to the topic. The boy has asked to trial sleeping in the spare room to see if he likes it better than his room. He wants dark blue walls, which to be frank is an improvement on his previous request for black. The artist in residence has created her own Pinterest board with decorating ideas and has settled on a colour scheme (aqua, pale pink and gold). We have spent quite a bit of time discussing how to best carry out her ideas. (There will be recycling, freezer paper stencils, a staple gun, and fabric involved in the current iteration of the plan!) The eldest is just desperately trying to avoid any suggestion that she might have to change rooms (hers is the biggest by far!)
We stayed home for the school holidays. This time last year we had our spontaneous trip to Hawaii. This year life and funds are significantly different, and the weather was horrid, so we stayed home. We had friends come to visit, and family! My nephew managed an evening with us whilst in town on a school trip (he lives on the other side of the country) and my cousin and his wife came to stay for a night, which was so much fun. The kids caught up with friends, had pyjama days, and we played cards, watched movies, went to appointments, etc.
I took the artist-in-residence, the boy and one of his friends, to the theatre to see the Flying Fruit Fly Circus performance ‘Under the bed’ at the Canberra Theatre Centre. (The eldest declaring that she was too old for such things.) It was the first time I have taken the boy to the theatre and it was the perfect performance for it – it started at 6pm, and went for one hour. He enjoyed it, although he and his friend talked non-stop through it. Their commentary was amazing at times – where adults might cringe at a mistake like a dropped hula hoop they were marvelling that it was only one that had been dropped. At other times it had nothing at all to do with the show. I tried to shush them without stressing them out but it had little effect. At the end of the performance the people in the row in front commented that they might be the two biggest chatterboxes in town, but it was mostly good natured. I was a bit amazed at how I coped and didn’t let it stress me out. I explained afterwards that they weren’t misbehaving – they were just coping with this new experience by talking it through.
By the end of the holidays I was exhausted, and sick. Having the kids back at school was a relief on one level, as it meant that I could sleep and recuperate, but stressful on another level, as the boy has not coped with the return to school. I am learning more each day about how to work with him, and by Thursday night had got to the bottom of what was bothering him, so today was actually a good day for him. I feel like it is one step forward, two steps back at the moment, but then I look back at where we were a year ago, and have to recognise that we have come a long way. Learning more about how his mind works, and how he interprets the world around him helps, but then trying to convey that to his teachers, my parents, his father, etc becomes exhausting.
For now though, carpet swatches and Pinterest boards are calling my name. (Yep – its Friday night and I am partying hard here on the farm!) I hope that you are well, and that your weekend is full of creative moments.
Oh – and if you want something to cheer you up and entertain you, check out the page called ‘My Awesome Life’ on Facebook. Very clever stuff.
I am guilty of making many hastyfast well-considered-rapid decisions. Some turn out spectacularly well. (Like buying this property). Others take a bit more time before their success or otherwise can be determined. Last week I made a decision that we needed a second dog (for reasons that seemed sensible upon examination). And within 48 hours was driving 2 hours to collect a rescue dog who was described as ‘medium’ in size and had all the attributes I was looking for. The idea was that he would ‘belong’ to my son, supported by me.
The ‘medium’ dog turned out to be more ‘extra-large’ sized but just delightful so we brought him home.
All the way home I explained to the children, and my parents (via phone) how we would introduce our dog Dottie to the newcomer. Hmmmm….. A slight waste of good air. An excited child let Dottie out of the house just as I was getting Gunner (that is his name) from the car. She went into psycho-attack-terrier mode and flew at him and much screaming, hysteria and a bit of blood later two traumatised dogs were separated.
Much advice and strict rules being laid down by me means that one week on we are still keeping them separate- walking him multiple times a day while she is locked out of the way, etc. His size means that my son can’t walk him on his own, and isn’t really interested in training him. It is an extra job for me on top of all my other obligations. He can’t be let loose to roam because he is still learning not to chase kangaroos,the neighbours sheep, horses, cows. He can’t be left in the dog run because he just wants to be with us, so he jumps, all 4 legs off the ground, as high as the 1.8m high fence. And yet, despite all this, one week on, after many discussions between my parents and myself, we are still persisting in attempting to socialise the two dogs and to train Gunner (who is so food motivated that it is easy!)
At first I thought it was my fear of failure that kept me from chucking it in and returning him, but now I realise that it is bigger than that. Even if we do have to re home him eventually he deserves a chance to be trained, loved, and cuddled. I enjoy my multiple long walks around the property with him each day. It is time to explore my land in more detail, to have time to clear my head, to think and plan. I had forgotten the joy of owning big dogs. (I used to have two.)They have to be walked. You can’t skip a walk because you don’t feel like it, or it is raining, or it is cold. And they can’t just be walked around the block. They have to be walked a long way. It is good for me to be out there going up and down hills again! Whether the two dogs ever become best friends or not, I am going to persist a little longer.
In deciding to devote more time to him I had to assess my time and commitments. After a brilliant few weeks at school my boy has struggled this week, and been home early each day. I haven’t been seeing much, or spending time online sorting out ‘things’ I need to stay on top of. At first I was stressing about this. Then I remembered. Giving my children time is what life is all about. Breathing out and stepping through each day with that as my focus is okay.
Finally, what would a rural update be without photos of the chickens?!