Tag Archives: parenting

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.

So this is Christmas….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Waiting Place

Dr Seuss is a source of much wisdom.   His book “Oh the Places You’ll Go” is a firm favourite of mine.  As I was reading it to my son a few nights ago I realised that at the moment I feel like I am in what he describes as “a most useless place.  The Waiting Place……”    I think I have been hanging out here for a while without realising.    What is required now is to listen to Dr Seuss’ advice on the subject “No!  That’s not for you!   Somehow you’ll escape all that waiting and staying.  You’ll find the bright places where Boom Bands are playing.”

How did I come to be in the Waiting Place?   A combination of circumstances really.    Parenting a child who requires round the clock support and supervision, and who goes to school for, at most, 4 hours a day, cuts into the time available to ‘get things done’.    It cuts into the ability to go out and be amongst the bright places.   It removes the ability to commit to anything socially or in relation to employment, and it uses up so much energy that it is easier to lie on the bed reading trashy novels on a kindle than to use the time to play with fabric and make beautiful things.

But it is not all about parenting a beautiful boy with lots of needs.   It is also about getting a bit lost along the way in terms to what I want for my business, what I want to provide for my family, and what I want for our future.   I have had so many plans and visions of how to make my creative business a financial success – and then have to shelve those plans in order to focus on family issues.     I provide consulting services to another business, and I enjoy that.  I like the feeling of being part of a team, of being able to solve problems, of being valued.   But in making that choice I have chosen to use my spare time to work for someone else on their business and not on my own.    Do I regret that? No.    Being involved in another business has been good for me on many levels, and I have been aware of the choices I have made at each point.

But it all means that I am sitting the dreary Waiting Place.   Waiting to have that chance to build my own business, waiting for my son’s behaviour to be more manageable, waiting for other significant adults in his life to understand his needs, waiting to have time to do things that make me happy, waiting to be able to have a day off parenting, waiting to remember my identity outside of being a mother and daughter, waiting to find that bright place where Boom Bands are playing.   Boring.  Dreary.   Blah.

All this is by way of a confessional/explanation about why I have this fabulous website, and beautiful branding, and exciting ideas….. and it is just sitting here.  Waiting for a bit of love and attention.   I am not quite sure what the next step is.   There are so many options – I can reinvigorate the business that I love so much, let it sit until I have time, or admit defeat and walk away.    The only person who can make these decisions is me.   The only person who can stop all that waiting is me.     I have been constantly busy working on the family/parenting stuff, but the business/me stuff?  Not so much.

Might be time to take more advice from Dr Seuss when he says  “You’ll get mixed up of course, as you already know. You’ll get mixed up with many strange birds as you go.  So be sure when you step. Step with care and great tact and remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act.   Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.   And never mix up your right foot with your left.”

Time to retune the Great Balancing Act that is my life.  Time to read back over the blog to see what has reinvigorated me in the past.   And time to remember that writing to you here is good for my soul.

To finish on a more positive note, Autumn is sneaking in very slowly this year on the farm.   We haven’t required winter clothing yet and haven’t had to light the fire.   But the colours are changing, and today we have had rain, so the feel of Autumn is slowly taking hold. The chicken coop has been cleaned out in preparation for cooler weather, the sheep are down in the home paddock eating the grass while we have it, and my parents have been busy gardening to keep our gardens looking beautiful.

Autumn Rose|a little bird made me

The continuing warm weather means that the rose garden is full of luscious blooms.

Yellow roses alway make me think of the Debra Conway song.

Yellow roses alway make me think of the Debra Conway song.

 

 

 

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

25/07/2015

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.)

 

Un-jumbling my thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Thoughts about Mental Health (now that’s ironic)

While at my cutting table, preparing some new stock (‘hooray’ I hear some say, ‘finally’ say others) I have been reflecting on two different conversations that I have had in the past week, and how I have responded, reacted and considered the issues raised.

The first was a conversation with a friend last week who was complaining about his ex-wife and in the midst of the conversation said ‘And you know she is still on antidepressants.’  This took me aback and I blurted out ‘But so am I.’   (He has known me for a long time and we have discussed my medication on several occasions.)  He responded “But you are pretty high functioning, and able to operate at a senior management level” as if this somehow meant that I didn’t need to be on anti-depressant medication.

My response was that people of all walks of life, with all sorts of ability take antidepressants.  This does not mean that they are not capable, not able to function, not ‘sane’ (which was the underlying message about his ex-wife of course).  It really got me thinking about how so much of society sees that medication for mental health is somehow not a good idea, or a sign of weakness, or a sign of an unstable character.

Talking openly about mental health isn't the easy choice, but it is the right one.

Talking openly about mental health isn’t the easy choice, but it is the right one.

Then yesterday I received a communication from my ex-husband who suggested that our son may have an auditory processing disorder, and that I should research this, as it can often be mistaken for ADHD (which our son is diagnosed with, along with other mental health issues.)  Now apart from the fact that I already have an independent psychological assessment report that states that our son has processing difficulties (that has been provided to his father) it made me realise that because our son’s condition is being treated so effectively with medication, (after years of trial and error with everything from naturopaths, chiropractors, diet, exercise, behavioural management strategies etc – so please don’t offer me new alternatives to medication) his father now thinks that he doesn’t have the very issue that he is being medicated for.

While my initial reaction might have been anger at yet another challenge to the professional advice that I have sought and questioned and administered over the last 4 years, it occurred to me a little later on that perhaps the two conversations had something in common.

Neither of these men would suggest that a person prescribed medication to address a heart condition should not take it.  Neither would they consider offering their own diagnosis on what the ‘actual’ problem was.  They wouldn’t suggest that this person wasn’t fit and proper to carry out their job based on their use of prescription medication.  But when it is a mental health issue, they were both happy to judge, to re-diagnose, to second guess and to ignore the effects of medication as treating a medical condition.

None of this is new I suppose.  It just saddens me that despite education, information, and open conversations, people still can’t see past their prejudice about mental health to look at the evidence sitting in front of them.   I don’t have any answers to how to solve this, but I am comfortable with my resolve to talk about my experiences with my own mental health and that of my children (where appropriate) to remind people that depression and anxiety can affect anyone from any walk of life, and is treatable.  Maybe it will help someone else to understand that it is simply another medical condition. Nothing more, nothing less.

And now I return to cutting out fabric.  Happy days!