Tag Archives: special needs

This too shall pass

If you read yesterday’s post you will understand that I was struggling, feeling broken and more than a bit overwhelmed. It had been a bad day, in a bad week, bad month, year…… you get the drift.   Thank you to all who reached out with words of support and to share their own stories – it really does make a difference!

This morning I woke up feeling a bit better but still quite broken.  My son refused to go to school again and I didn’t have the energy to deal with him.  Then his nurse called to check in and suggested that I should consider arranging to have a stay in the private psychiatric clinic over the school holidays to have a break from the children and re-charge.  Now while I understand where she is coming from, and I fully believe that ‘if mumma ain’t happy ain’t nobody happy’ etc, a stay in a psych ward did not sound like the answer to my prayers!

While still reeling from that call I realised that I needed an urgent appointment to get a prescription renewed for my son because, despite all the reminders that it was about to expire, I hadn’t managed to actually make the call.   I had been thinking about ducking into town on my own as a way to escape the stress, so the thought of taking him with me did not fill me with joy. But you know what? It should have.  Because he and I had a really thoughtful, logical and forward thinking chat on the drive in about how we are going to tackle his school refusal together.   Then we looked at funny dog memes and laughed together while we waited to see the doctor, and when we saw the doctor, who is new to the practice, he made both her and I laugh with his funny puns and one liners.   He was delightful in the supermarket, and helpful (more than either of his older sisters would have been in the same circumstances!).  Then we went to an Op Shop that I like to check for teacups and teapots and he charmed the volunteer working the counter, helped me carry my finds and was generally delightful.  And he insisted that I needed to buy one teapot in particular.  The most expensive item in the photo below.  The teapot that is actually meant to sit on top of a cup – which was absent.  Making it the most expensive and least ‘together’ item in our haul.  And yet it has charm and quirkiness that I can work with.   A lot like him. (It is the striped one front and centre!)

 

To find my way out of my dark hole of depression I needed to remind myself of the good, the joy and the laughter that life with this gorgeous boy brings.   And being forced to take him to the doctor was the best medicine that I could have had.  Better than shopping therapy (which I can’t really afford, let’s be honest!).  Better than drinking tea (shock, horror) and definitely better than drinking wine (gee my life has changed.)  Enjoying him having a good day while we did things together was all it took.

I also had a lovely chat with a friend on the phone, ran into another friend at the shops quickly and generally had positive interactions that helped.   A lot!

I write this as a reminder to myself for future reference, and as a way of letting you know that I am okay.   I know that I need to work on my self-care, and this is a good reminder to put some plans in place for the school holidays that are coming up.  But I also know that, as a wise and wonderful friend of mine often reminds me, “This too shall pass’.    (Thanks Lizzie.)

Now to go off and be inspired by these new purchases – I see some cacti (crocheted) and some hole drilling for planting in my future!

Public lives and behind the scene

I have spoken before about the public face and private face of social media and how very few of us (including me) share the ugly stuff of life in all its rawness when we post. Every now and then I break the rules and share some of the gritty stuff, not as a cry for help and attention but as a way of letting other people who are also going through a hard time know that they are not alone. I have a safe space on Facebook in a group of parents who have kids on the spectrum, or with ADHD, or the myriad of acronyms our children are diagnosed with. It is wonderful to talk about school refusal, medication side effects, the latest broken appliance or hole in the wall (none for a while luckily!) with people who don’t judge or offer advice like ‘you need to be stricter’, or ‘you need to stop them manipulating you’ or ‘have you tried changing his diet’. But I don’t tend to post that stuff in the open.

Sometimes it is because I just don’t want people to know how hard life is, other times I don’t want to deal with their pity. Because one of the absolutely hardest things in the life of a single parent of kids with special needs is that there actually isn’t anything anyone can do to make it better. It is my responsibility and my joy and my burden. And it is exhausting and rewarding and draining and bloody hard work. And even though I really just want to run away and hide some days, I don’t. Because where would I go, and how much worse would things be when I got back?

So my reality for today is that while I am feeling particularly broken today there is always something to keep me going. Today I managed to get my boy to school for the first time this week and as I sat outside the school after dropping him off, waiting to see if he would run away in the first 15 minutes, so I would know whether it was safe to drive away I felt like crying. But then I decided to drive past Spotlight to see if they had any new colours of t-shirt yarn and found they had a sale on all yarn! A full basket later I was back to counting my blessings and remembering how privileged I am compared to so many others. Because shopping therapy had brightened my day. (Well – lifted it a bit anyway.). Then I then popped into an op shop and heard a well dressed young woman with three kids in tow explaining that she was there for the food bank because her husband had left and she had no money to feed her children. I would put money on the fact that she wasn’t advertising that on social media. And yet there she was, being brave and resilient for her children. Getting on with life.

My message in all this? You know that saying about not judging people because you don’t know what they are battling? It is a good one to hold on to and to practice. It doesn’t matter how people are dressed or where you see them shopping. You don’t know their story and you don’t know how much kindness they need in their life. Be kind, always.

As for me? Creating is my therapy of choice as you know, so I have been busy making things and trying to ignore housework. And drinking tea.

Tea obsessions

The resurgence of my creativity has continued!  Over the last couple of weeks I have made more tea cosies, have poured tea-scented teacup candles, have potted succulents in tea cups and have crocheted succulents in tea cups!  I have also made more reusable tea bags.   The idea of using a theme and creating around it is working well!  And being creative continues to be the best therapy for my busy, overwhelmed brain.   The last few weeks have been hard, with both my boy and my middle child experiencing difficulties that have impacted on the whole family.  Having something creative to sit and do while the world is crumbling really helps my sanity!  The fact that people also give me lovely feedback on the output doesn’t hurt either!

This was highlighted this morning when I ducked out to deliver a tiny teacup crocheted cactus to someone who I have communicated with online but haven’t met in person before.  On the drive into town I was feeling awful – tired, overwhelmed, and close to tears.  But after meeting with this delightful young woman who was genuinely interested in meeting me and in what I do, I walked away with a smile and a much lighter heart.  In discussing what I have been doing I also had some ideas on a new product (still in the tea cosy line) that I am going to work on over the weekend.  Replacing my feeling of stress with the feeling of being creatively inspired was the best medicine!!   That and a cup of tea when I got home and the rest of the day has been much better!

  

I had a similar experience a few days ago when I received a message from a friend who lives interstate, telling me that she and her husband love what I am doing and want to invest in me, and could they order a pineapple tea cosy like the one I had just made. Now this message on it’s own would have been a highlight, but the author of the message is a very talented artist, whose work I have admired for about 20 years, so to receive that sort of compliment just made me glow inside!!!   I am happily working on a new pineapple, tweaking the pattern as I go, because I think I might publish this one too!    The lovely thing is that the first pineapple came about as a a result of a comment that one of the women who follows my Facebook page made about another cosy, which has a succulent on top (the green one above).  So the collaborative process has been lovely!

Growing this ‘tea obsession’ has meant visits to various op shops, and more frequent visits to Spotlight to buy wool. The funny thing is that I have enjoyed tea and the rituals around making tea for a very long time. But it is only now that my children are noticing how much I enjoy tea – or in the words of my boy, how much I am ‘obsessed’ with tea!  I have been taking them op shopping with me, which they enjoy as they get to find things for themselves, and my boy likes to tell the shop assistants that his mum is obsessed with tea and tea cups and tea pots. Then he tells them about all the things I make that he thinks are awesome, and everyone comes away with a smile.  I complimented him on his social interaction with some counter staff yesterday, after he told them about the delivery I was making, and he said ‘you are really good at talking to people too Mum.’   To receive such lovely compliments from this boy who has worked so hard to overcome some significant battles has really been lovely.  He tells me that my obsession with tea is quite nice really!

 

These days it is hard to know how to write about the difficulties that my children are facing.  They have a right to privacy, and I have to weigh up the greater good of sharing their/my struggles with mental health to reduce stigma, versus their right to privacy.  I think that this in part is why I haven’t blogged as much over the last year or so.  What I can share is that I have learnt a new appreciation for the public school system, where they have no choice but to embrace diversity and be flexible in their approach to educating students who don’t fit into the ‘normal’ box.   While one of my children has thrived in the Catholic education system, the other two have not, and it has been detrimental to their long term mental health. Luckily I know more now, so have felt comfortable making the latest round of changes for my middle child, and she is already happier and more positive.  But it means I have to re-establish relationships with yet another school, getting to know the staff, keeping track of how she is being supported, and generally starting from scratch again.  That in itself is exhausting, but on the bright side, the new school is the one that my boy will probably attend for High School so at least they will know me by that time!

My collection of tea pots to use as models and for trials is growing!

The other exciting news to share with you from the farm is that it snowed last weekend!  With no snow all winter it was nice to have an afternoon of it just before winter ended!  The kids and dogs had a great time out in it – even if they refused to dress warmly for it!

While I am still uncertain how all of this tea obsession will go in the longer term, in the short term it is providing joy, and that is what I will focus on!   I  hope that you are taking care and finding joy in small things around you too.

 

What else has been happening?

In addition to the big news that my creativity has returned, you might well ask what else has been happening here in the nest!  This year is, once again, flying past and we are more than half way through it!

Autumn was colourful and not too cold and then winter hit with a cold snap that hasn’t really lifted yet.

  

For me the year has, as usual, had its challenges. Learning to accept that I can’t do all that I once could, because being a parent has to come first, seems to be a long lesson to learn. I still forget and agree to do something that sounds great, only to get to the date and realise that it just won’t work for the family for me to be absent for an afternoon, an evening, etc.  I seem to constantly be cancelling plans and letting friends down, but, in one new step forward, have learnt not to carry that guilt with me.  Phew!  On the up side, following a series of linked events that saw my parents absent from the farm for the majority of a couple of months, my independence has grown significantly and I no longer have to rely on them to help me get things done – although it is still nice when I get home to find that Mum has folded my washing or tidied my bench!   I have managed to finish two crochet blankets – one started two years ago – and am enjoying their warmth during this cold winter.    Keeping life simple seems to be my motto in order to survive!

 

This year has seen new schools for two of my chicks.  After many unsuccessful attempts to have my boy placed into a learning support unit within the school system he was enrolled in, I made a phone call to the Department of Education for New South Wales.   What a different response!   As a result he now attends a school in Queanbeyan where he is supported beautifully and where he feels safe.   He is still only attending school for 2 hours a day, but he is engaged in active learning when he is at school, which is a big step forward.    Throughout this process I have, again, had to learn some new lessons about changing my expectations for his future, and accepting that the role of a special needs parent is a different one from parenting non-special needs kids.  You would think that after 5 years of advocating and supporting him I would be on top of this gig but it turns out that there is always more to learn!

My artist-in-residence started high school this year.  I am still not sure how I missed that this was going to be a big deal for her and why I was so surprised when she struggled with the transition!   All the signs were there, so I am not sure where my head was at that point!  6 months in we are making progress at supporting her to attend school, and to cope with the change of class every hour, plus the different people she has to see, but we are well and truly at the beginning of this journey with a lot of work to do to keep her supported and safe.   In the meantime she has made great progress with training her kelpie Buddy, and is continuing to produce amazing works of art on a daily basis (along with a whole lot of teenage attitude).

The eldest chick has really hit her stride this year.  She is (more or less) on top of her school work and has chosen electives that she is really enjoying, especially Engineering.  She has recently joined Army Cadets and is constantly amazing me with her drive, determination and organisation.  She has been working on her fitness and can be seen many mornings running around the paddocks in the freezing cold, weaving in between the sheep and kangaroos with her headphones on!

The farm is producing food for us!   We have a freezer full of lamb, and with a new ram (named Gordon Ramsey) we hope to have more lambs in the spring.  Our free-loading chickens went to new homes (no really – they did) and our new ones are producing eggs a plenty, which means baking is happening, along with egg and bacon breakfasts. (Now to think about getting some pigs…..)

It has been a dry, cold winter and the dam is at a very low point, which means that it freezes around the edges overnight quite often!  We have also had some impressive fogs.

  

How’s that – summarised 6 months in less than 800 words!    I hope that you have been well and that life hasn’t been too complex for you.

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.

 

 

 

An end of year wrap up

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 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 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 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!

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!

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!

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.

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!

Teething Ring Blankets with soft bamboo velour and cotton – they feel sooo nice!

Fabric covered journals for keeping all your notes looking good!

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.

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.