Tag Archives: special needs

Real life, markets and tea

I am preparing to attend my second market in this, my revitalised small business life.  And while I would love to report that all has been smooth sailing i would be lying because that is not how life happens.   For anyone!

On the product development side I have lots of positive things to report, including new earring designs, key rings, wine charms, stitch markers, and more ideas that are coming together.   I have enjoyed finding new ways to make tea related paraphernalia and the process of sourcing supplies, learning new ways to craft things, and thinking about packaging and branding.  The products in the following photos are all available in my shop, with more if you would like to see the whole range.

I have also been crocheting away, making tea cosies and delivering orders.  This cosy is my current favourite and sold very quickly so I am inspired to play with this style a little more.   You really can never have enough ladybirds in your life!

That is all pretty positive isn’t it?   What has real life got to do with all of this?   My chicks and I have been having a bit of a rough life over the last few weeks.   My eldest ended up in hospital for a week unexpectedly (she is receiving great treatment and support for what ails her and will be fine) and the ripple effect through the family is still being felt.   Existing struggles with school attendance have been magnified, and anxiety levels are high.   I saw a friend briefly this morning after a horrible couple of hours at home and answered her query about how I was with a very breezy ‘I am great’, then realised that I was great in that exact moment, standing in the sunshine on her front step, even though a couple of hours earlier I had wondered if the sky was about to fall in.   It is a useful reminder that there are lovely moments even in days of stress.

Big changes are happening in the latest round of strategies to make life better for my chicks. My beautiful boy is now doing a combination of Distance Education and school attendance, which makes me his supervisor.   Not a fun job but we have had some nice moments in amongst the tough ones in the short time we have been doing it.  The long term challenge here is to understand how he learns best so that I can support him to gain the right skills to go on and succeed in life.   He hates to make errors so any process of asking questions or asking him to give answers is fraught with anxiety, and therefore aggression, for him.  In order to give him the best chances I need to stay calm when I really want to scream at him to just do it.   Oops.   Best keep working on not saying that!

Oh how I wish this was true!

My biggest girl is planning a huge adventure, going to live with their father for a while.  She will be living overseas, attending an International School, and being exposed to all sorts of amazing experiences.  I am going to miss her but this is the best decision for her at the moment and she deserves to have a chance to live as a teenager without feeling responsible for her siblings and her mother.  I keep stressing to her that she is not to feel responsible for her father, and that it is his job to look after her, not the other way around, but only time will tell how that one goes.  This is not a decision that I thought I would be making, but it was my suggestion that she go, and I am really comfortable that it is the right decision for her, and that we need to try it as an option for her.   And seriously – what teenager doesn’t get excited at the thought of moving to the other side of the world and getting to see and do amazing things for a few months or longer?!   (I admit openly that I am very envious of the experience she is about to have!)

As for my middle chick, well, she is still struggling at the moment.   I haven’t quite worked out the next strategy for her, to help her to feel safe and secure enough to attend school, but I do have a project to keep her busy for the next few weeks.   Today we had a  blank library box delivered to our house, as part of a larger community project to see 10 little libraries installed in our community.   She is going to design and then paint our box before it is installed, possibly at our driveway, to hold books for passersby to borrow, swap, etc.  I am really excited about this project so am keeping my fingers crossed that she maintains her enthusiasm too!

The blank canvas is so exciting in its possibilities!

That is the real life part of running a small business.   Family and homelife will always have priority, and plans for products and for growing a business will always be affected by whatever surprise event comes along.   And that is where the tea comes in.   Over the course of the last few weeks as we have moved in and out of crisis mode, tea has been a constant theme.   Sharing a cup of tea with a friend as we talk over the latest development in our lives, finding time to sit and drink a cup of tea as a break from being in a hospital room, or sitting at home with a book and a cup of tea to clear my head.   Tea has kept me going in the way that wine would have in my younger days.   My favourite flavours at the moment are a Red and Green Vanilla Rooibus, and New York Breakfast (a black tea with almost maple syrup notes) and a refreshing herbal green tea.   In my younger days (when wine was the answer, not tea) I was a focussed clothes shopper.   I could be in Melbourne for a meeting and pop out at lunchtime and buy my year’s wardrobe before getting back to the meeting.  (I was living in Darwin and shopping wasn’t great there!)   These days I don’t buy clothes and shoes like I used to, but I can hit T2 and stock up on flavours, present my loyalty card and be back at the car within an impressively short space of time.   Same focus, just different products!

Anyway, that is it from my little corner of the world.   Preparing for the Collected and Created Market in Gundaroo on Sunday 19 November from 10 – 4, living a real life, and drinking lots of tea.  I hope your real life is in solution mode rather than survival mode!

Spring 2017

Not the catchiest title for a blog post but there is so much to report from the last few weeks that I needed a catch-all phrase!  This time of year is when I traditionally get moving – on projects, in the garden, around the house, etc.   After the cold short days of winter the arrival of sun, longer days and a garden popping with growth is just good for the soul.

Which means that over the last couple of weeks we have been away camping, I have painted my son’s bedroom (finally) and our garden is full of beautiful blooms and green-ness!   Our camping trip was only for three nights, but we were at our traditional spring campground, right on the beachfront and it was just what we all needed.   We had two other families with us which meant that all the kids were busy and entertained, and the adults got to relax, catch up with each other and take turns watching children.  My parents joined us for two nights which was an added bonus (especially because I left my favourite teas at home and they kindly delivered them for me, avoiding a major first world catastrophe!)

From our tent we could watch the waves, and were very excited on our last morning to be able to watch a mother and juvenile whale breaching and playing right in front of us – my daughter described it as doing back-flips as the baby jumped out of the water and landed on it’s back over and over again.  The day before we had seen dolphins in closer and a whale further out but this was a new level of wonder!

 

We arrived home vowing to book for longer next time – and hopefully with the same group of friends as it worked so well.  In the three days we were gone the garden had really started to blossom – literally!   And the warm weather hasn’t just brought me and the flowers out into the garden – the lizards are appearing to sun themselves.  As long as the snakes don’t join them we are fine!

A shingleback lizard hiding amongst the plants

A blue tongue lizard sunning on the concrete, very unperturbed by me and the dogs.

The most exciting spring news, however, is that at least 7 of our sheep are pregnant, and judging from their size, the size of their udders (who knew I would become an expert on sheep udders?) and the date that ‘Gordon Ramsey’ was introduced to the flock I think we will start to see lambs arriving from next weekend.  I am excited but nervous about this development – hoping that nothing goes wrong, and that all the babies and mothers are healthy.   Yesterday my boy and my father and I constructed a shade shelter/wind break from shade cloth and an old trailer cage frame – I love being able to repurpose in all areas of our life!  I also plan to make another one with some pallets and corrugated iron.   I had hoped to finally get to repurpose the swing set frame that I had originally planned to use for a chicken coop, but have accepted my father’s sensible advise about a different plan (for now!!)

The new shelter being completely ignored by the sheep

We had a livestock issue of another kind last week when my boy spotted a mouse in his room.   Because I am such a chicken I quickly went and asked my parents (who aren’t scared of mice) to help – and while they cornered, capture and dispatched the mouse I delivered the famous ‘I told you so’ speech to my son about eating in his bedroom, not tidying up his mess etc.   Of course, as a result of the mouse he then wouldn’t set foot in the room, insisted on sleeping in my room, on us fetching his clothes, etc. I hoped that it would pass with time but when, after returning from camping, he was still resident in my room it was time for drastic action!   My parents kindly agreed to take all three children for a visit to their other grandparents, leaving the middle child there for a week, and overnighting with the other two.   That gave me the chance to tackle his room – which I had been planning to get to for some months now that his aggressive behaviour has reduced significantly and the walls aren’t being damaged anymore.  The before and after photos show what an improvement a simple coat of paint can achieve!   I also cleaned out his wardrobe, sorted his toys and steam cleaned his carpet and he is once more happily back in his own room, and working hard to keep it tidy!   Success!   I bored everyone with my progress on facebook and Instagram, and one friend asked whether I had ruined the surprise by doing so.  I explained that that surprising my boy is not a good option.   To help him cope with any change he needs to be given lots of warning, to take part in the decision making, and to understand the process.   Before I started painting I discussed it with him, and asked whether it would help him go back in there, and whether the change in colours (which he has been resisting for more than a year) would be a good idea.  Luckily he embraced the idea and was delighted with the result!  Autism parenting requires a whole different mind set!

During all of that time I didn’t get much ‘making’ done.  But it did give me time to think and plan. There is something very meditative about painting walls!  I have my first market stall in three weeks time after a three year break, so thinking about what I need to prepare, what stock I need, what branding is required, etc is a shift in thinking.   After years of supporting other designers to hold stalls at one of the best markets in the country I am starting small, with a primary school fair, but my nerves might be bigger than when I last was involved as a stallholder!   I will let you know how I go with getting organised!

In the meantime it is a long weekend here, the sun is out, and I have piles of washing to attend to!   I hope that you are having a great week, with some achievements of your own!

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