Tag Archives: parenting

Finding time

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

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

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

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

01311b576a01c288d94d0ef1e914d9a481acfb4c59

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

017232f0b04a12be31237bd06ddc96f8165dd3812c

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

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

Baby set |a little bird made me

A custom order set for a baby overseas

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

Ipad case and accessories |a little bird made me

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

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

Our farm |a little bird made me

Wandering on the farm is a delightful pastime

Dam | a little bird made me

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

Farm life |a little bird made me

I love the skies out here!

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

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

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

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

 

 

Why you should be kind to yourself

I am sure you have seen various versions of the quote that is variously attributed to Plato, Ian MacLaren and John Watson “Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”  I have been reminded many times recently of how true this is.  Life is complex.  What might be trivial for one person is the world for another. If you can treat every one you meet with respect and without judgement, their lives may be lightened and brightened without you even realising it.

a little bird made me

So why then is it so hard to be kind to ourselves?  As a mother I put my children first.  Their needs before mine.  I have written before about the ‘burnt chop syndrome‘ and how I needed to change my behaviour to stop always eating the burnt chop.  Looking back over the months since I wrote that post I can see some of the little ways that I have changed, in order to look after myself a bit more.  But I can also see that I still haven’t been kind to myself.

Other people praise me for something I have done as a parent, and I can immediately list, even if just mentally, all the things that I haven’t done so well.  I don’t celebrate myself very much, yet I celebrate each step that my children take.  I expect myself to fail at so many things, yet I expect my children to believe that they will succeed at everything if they try hard and practise enough.

Tonight my daughter was feeling miserable and sorry for herself, and I heard myself giving her advice that was good advice, and is advice that I apply in my daily life.  I realised that I need to be proud of my ability to see the silver lining in clouds, the positives in a bad day, and the achievements I have made as a result.  If I am not kind to myself, how can I expect my children to be kind to themselves?

(1)

What do I think is the answer to ‘why we need to be kind to ourselves’?  I believe that if we don’t think we are worthy of kindness, who will?  Remember that you are also fighting a hard battle.  You have a right to kindness.  Look after yourself.  Be gentle with your soul.  Forgive yourself.  Learn from your mistakes instead of wallowing in them.  And celebrate the things that make you special.

As for me?  I have started a 12 week health and fitness program.  I am being kind to myself when I skip a day of exercise, or eat a few extra calories, because I am in this for the marathon, not the sprint!  (And I have lost several kilos in the couple of weeks since I started, and that needs to be celebrated !)

I hope that your week is going well, and that you are able to be kind to yourself.  Today!!

What no one tells you about parenting a special needs child|a little bird made me

What no one ever tells you about parenting a special needs child

What no one tells you about parenting a special needs child|a little bird made meIn 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.

What no one tells you about parenting a special needs child|a little bird made me

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.

What no one tells you about parenting a special needs child|a little bird made me

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!

What no one tells you about parenting a special needs child|a little bird made me

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.

What no one tells you about parenting a special needs child|a little bird made me

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!

What a week!

All that preparation to begin sewing when the chicks returned to school has delivered very little.    I did get a good start on a project that I have been commissioned to prepare for a magazine, but of course, all I can show you of that are the fabrics I am using!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I have continued to enjoy cutting up old denim jeans and repurposing the fabric into other items – it is quite interesting identifying the useful pieces of fabric in a worn out pair of trousers!  I also found a great spot to donate my de-cluttered clothes, including those fabulous pink sparkly shoes – a charity shop that targets the trendy vintage and hipster market, and uses the proceeds to support a national help line.

Why did I not get more done?  Ah yes.  Life.  The reality of  life as a parent of a child with a disability was thrust upon me.  This week has seen some big changes in the nest as a result.  The boy has changed schools, from a private Catholic school to attend our local public school.  The middle chick was so impressed with the facilities at the new school and so unimpressed with her new teacher that she started a campaign to move schools too.  Torn between teaching her about facing up to adversity and finding strategies to address it, and the knowledge that the public school offers a program that could have been purpose designed for her, we gave in and agreed to move her, and she started today with much joy.  In the space of a week we have gone from three children in one school, to only having the eldest chick there.  Lots of change.  I think that the outcome will be a good one overall, and the boy has certainly had a better experience in the last two days than he had in his first two days at his original school earlier in the week (or in fact the whole last year term at the original school).  And so we change, find even more new strategies, and keep moving forward.  Different schools, different teachers, different resources, different approaches.  Hopefully this one will be a better fit.

I was meant to post my list of DIY ideas for tween gifts tonight.  I promised it in my newsletter.  And while I am half way through preparing the list I am exhausted and have decided to be upfront about the fact that it is not ready, apologise and publish it tomorrow after I have had a decent night’s sleep.  I am sure that you will all understand!

I hope that your week has not been full of life changing events and that your weekend holds delightful things in store for you.

 

Answers to riddles

After the rather obscure references to burnt bits of meat in my last post’s heading, I thought I should clear up some other vagaries in this post!

For those of you who have been reading along over the last year, you might recall that I did my Right Brain business course last year and had all sorts of lightbulb moments that I promised to tell you about.  Then life, and my boy, got a bit chaotic, and all lightbulbs had to be tucked away for a while.  With a new year, and a lovely card (that ironically was in a gift from my ex-husband) stuck to my pin board to remind me that 2014 is my year, I have been dusting off the lightbulbs and adding to them.

The first lightbulb to share with you is that I love making bags.  I love playing with colours, textures and shapes and making those little pieces of art that people get to use.  No surprises there – but a really good reminder about what gives me that zing in my day.

The second lightbulb is that I love to share ideas, to pass on tips, and to help other people to find their creative niche and passion in life.  The first tiny step towards that is my monthly newsletter where I hope to share ideas, tips and links that I find so that you can explore creative ideas until you find ones that resonate with you.  (Heavens knows that making bags was a complete accident for me and now I can’t imagine not doing it!)

The second step in shining the light of that lightbulb on my world is that I am developing some kits so that you can make your own ‘things’ at home, and learn some skills along the way.  Of course there will be bag kits – with everything you need to make a funky, practical and personal bag for yourself.  But I will also be adding in some other kits so that you can make personalised things (like superhero capes) of your own.  I am so excited about this!  I am hoping to have my patterns with testers by early March, so stand by for updates!  (Those who know me understand that I often want to rush in and do everything at once, so the fact that I am doing this in stages is sensible but excruciating at the same time!)

Then last week I was teasing you with images of me walking around the house with wet bamboo fabric on my shoulders to test absorbancy and wicking.  The answer?  I accepted a commission from a lovely business owner to make some bibs for her shop.  She wanted bandana bibs with teething chews attached as she had customers asking for them regularly.  I brought my analytical brain out of hiding and looked at the problem from several different angles and decided that cotton tops, with bamboo/cotton French terry towelling as the lining would do the trick.  The style of a bandana bib is that the folds that naturally form then trap dribble, spills, etc.  Having the bamboo, with it’s super-absorbancy means that all that wetness gets held in the bib, rather than going straight through onto the baby’s clothes.  As for the teether being attached?  Well – I can now say that I have sewn plastic onto fabric (and remembered to change the needle before sewing cotton again)!  Then the question arose of how to close the bib.  Ah-ha!  My days as a mother using modern cloth nappies (diapers) came to the fore – plastic snaps with two snaps on one side makes the bib adjustable.  So I am now the proud owner of a press and die set to install the snaps.  (And we all know how much I love a gadget!)  The trial run of bibs is on its way to be photographed ready for listing at www.LittleBubbalish.com.au – who will sell them exclusively.  Another bit of excitement!  (And while a small deviation from my bag plans, is a great way to play with fabrics for small people that I don’t often get to use!)

01c47005ab4b32d4d3d92e85aeaaa9bcec1ab4e964

In reviewing my business plan from last year, and working on it a bit more I have been focussing on what is important to me at home, in my business and in my working life (you know – the job that pays the bills!)  I had a think about this blog.  You might have noticed that I have been blinging it up a bit over the last few weeks – creating the home page, adding some other tabs, putting up a shiny new header and tag line.  Hmmmm…..perhaps I got a bit too focussed on the ‘business’ aspect of it all, and forgot the stuff that I like doing – writing to you and talking about what is happening here in the nest.  You can expect a return to ‘normal programming’ soon!  (I am still undecided about the ‘home page’.  All feedback welcome!)

And finally – I have been planning.  Let me explain something first.  I am a list maker – I love to tick things off.  I used to be highly organised  (before I had children) but sitting down and developing plans just isn’t my forte.  So to be working through plans step by step is a little unusual for me.  But I have found a workbook that resonates with me (and will share more about it when I am finished) so am actually using it!  The point I am up to today is to list the things that I will do each day.  There are suggestions in the workbook, that are so simple and obvious and yet reading them gave me such clarity.  I haven’t yet finalised my list, but the ones that resonated (yes I am aware that I am using that word twice in one paragraph) with me were to step away from the computer, to spend 15 minutes each day decluttering a part of your house,  to allocate time for emails, etc.  So obvious, but such a good reminder!  There is also a challenge to reduce emails to 5 lines.  (Thank goodness it wasn’t to reduce blog posts to 5 lines – you know how verbose I am!)

While there hasn’t been a lot of sewing (apart from the bibs) happening, there has been a lot of mental activity going on.  I am struggling a bit with the constancy of children due to the school holidays but am trying to find time each day to just focus on being present with them.  It is harder than it sounds.  I am so burnt out from the emotional demands of the last couple of years that dealing with their demands all day means that I am retreating a bit in order to cope.  But a daily reminder to myself is keeping me from falling away too far.  A three day Monopoly game with the boy was hilarious – even when I finally managed to bankrupt him.  The middle chick thought she would make meringues using a recipe from her Science book.  It was an experiment in more ways than one – the electric hand held mixer I received for my 21st birthday died in a puff of smoke and the smell of burning sugar and rubber.  The eldest chick is doing her own version of planning.  She is writing, cutting, sticking and writing some more.  I think she is making lists to try and help her make sense of the transition we are all going through.  Or maybe she is just her mother’s daughter.

Ah look – another long rambling post from me.  If you are still here – thank you.  I hope that your week allows you time to be present with the people who are important to you.

Why I am going to stop eating the burnt chop

As a mother I have always put my children first.  It is what I thought all mothers did, and in fact all parents did.  I didn’t see it as a sacrifice, I simply saw it as the natural order.  It wasn’t conscious, it was automatic.  I heard the stories about burnt chop syndrome (a very Australian phrase that signifies mothers eating the food that isn’t perfect while serving up the good, perfectly cooked food to their children and partner – worth googling) and just chuckled knowingly, because of course I eat the burnt chop.  That is what mothers do.  Right?

Well, no more.  I have become so good at putting my children first, at being a ‘good mother’, at making every decision in my life (career, marriage, finances, food, sleep, car, exercise, holidays….) based on what is best for my children, that along the way I seem to have lost the ability to look after what is best for me.

Well meaning friends and acquaintances have counselled me for years that I do too much, and that I need time for myself.  For a while I had a taste of that time.  After my husband left and when the children would go to his house for one or two nights a week I had what I felt was a huge luxury of time and space.  I would read books, listen to music, arrange to catch up with friends in trendy bars and restaurants, where ‘mummies’ like us didn’t normally go.

But then he left the country and I had the children 24/7 for a few years.  And I was working full time in a high pressured position.  My son started school and started to exhibit all sorts of troubling behaviour like running away.  Daily.  My girls were missing their father and couldn’t understand why he had chosen to leave them.  (Heartbreaking stuff.)  And I was trying to keep the wheels on the wagon, to be the best mother they could have to make up for the father they didn’t have, to be really good at my job so that I could advance and earn more money to pay for the things that they would have had if they had two parents living together, to keep them feeling secure, loved, and yet let them be independent.

I stopped reading books.  Didn’t listen to music at home.  Didn’t go out.  Anywhere.

I kept pedalling as hard as I could to hold down a job, to leave work to rush to the school to help locate or calm my son, then return to the meeting I had fled and assure everyone that everything was okay and continue on, being as professional as possible.

I can’t write more detail about just how hard it all got because it is too upsetting.  I felt I had no choice (and I really didn’t have many choices) but to keep going and putting my children first.

Until there was almost nothing left of me.  Luckily I have people who care about me who recognised what was happening and gave me the right support to see that if I didn’t make some changes there would be nothing left of me.

This year I am putting myself first and doing what I need, to look after myself.  I deserve to be healthy, to be happy, and to be fulfilled.  And my children deserve a mother who is more than just surviving.  Today marks the day that I say no to the burnt chop.  I am going to build a life that nourishes me, and fulfils me.  I am going to stop being the selfless martyr.  And after all these years of being told that I am a ‘good mother’ I am going  to choose to be a more selfish mother, so that I can in fact start to be the great mother that my children deserve.

I am now stepping down from my soap box and heading to the kitchen to eat the single serve dessert that came with our takeaway pizza order tonight (our first in 5 years but the heat has driven me out of the kitchen!) that I am not sharing with my children.

Have a great weekend and remember that refusing to eat the burnt chop is not a bad thing!

 

 

Silver linings

My brain is full to the brim at the moment, teasing out new ideas and strategies to support my boy. I have moments of intense clarity, and then moments when I feel like I am swimming through custard (which sounds tastier than it feels!). Thinking about starting new sewing projects seems a bit overwhelming when there is so much else to think about. Instead I have finished one project (the beautiful pile of capes – more detailed photos will follow after the recipients have tried them on), and played with the camera on my phone to capture some of the colourful and positive things happening in our lives. We have much to be thankful for, despite my feelings of gloom.

The stress of trying to find the right support for my beautiful boy has triggered some fairly intense anxiety moments, so I have decided to use that for good and not evil, and today began the room by room clean up of the house that has been required for so long. Nothing like finding the silver lining in this cloud! The other silver lining? Everything I am doing to support him this week is working. He was so proud to report to the paediatrician today that “I have made good choices for four whole days!”. Yesterday morning I went to wake him up and he wasn’t in his bed. I presumed that he had snuck into my room to use the ipad. Instead I found him sitting on a chair in the lounge, cuddling the dog and having a gentle morning chat to her. Moments like that melt my heart and remind me of why I am fighting for him, and why I can’t give in or give up.  My two girls also need some extra love and support at the moment.  Thank heavens for Miss N the au pair who is proving to be just the beautiful soul that we all needed in our lives.

So please bear with me while I have a break from regular crafty blogs and instead provide the occasional photo of something that is making me happy. You never know – I might even finish cleaning the house and start sewing furiously! It has happened before……..