Sunday, September 30, 2012

Week 39 of Craft Project a week: Pyjama pants for all!


This week's project - pyjama pants for all of us! All of these pants were made by repurposing sheets I found at the op shop.  I love finding old sheets at the op shop to turn into something new. It means that things I make are unique and that they are cheap.  The doona cover I used for Jacob's pants cost $4 and I can get four pairs of pants out of that - bargain!

I've got making pants down to a fine art now. It literally only takes me half an hour from start to finish so it's easy to just run them through the sewing machine/overlocker. The cutting out bit is the worst bit I think!      

Esme and I show off our pj pants!
Jacob is pretty pleased with his.

These pants are perfect for warmer nights.  Now fingers crossed we actually get some warmer nights so we can all wear them ;) 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

My Perfectly Imperfect Boy

It's been a bit of a journey to get here but last week we finally got a diagnosis for Jacob.  Autism Spectrum Disorder.  And a mild intellectual disability (although we are more than a little dubious with that diagnosis given that Jacob didn't really have a good rapport with the psychologist and refused to cooperate with most of the things she did with him!)  And so the next stage begins...

It hasn't really come as much of a surprise to either Chris or I that Jacob has Autism.  He has always displayed traits that are typical of kids with Autism.  Things like being fearful of noisy, dark places (we took him to Scienceworks a couple of months ago and he did not cope very well in that environment!), liking things to be in a certain order and routines to be the same, preferring to play on his own and difficulties with social interactions, his obsessions with trains, his repetitive hand movements, his meltdowns over seemingly unimportant things (obviously important in his mind!), bowel problems and speech issues (he still calls himself 'Jacob' or 'he')

Looking back, I can see there were pointers to the Autism fairly early on.  He was always slightly behind peers in achieving his milestones (things like crawling, walking, etc).  He was not an overly 'affectionate' baby either and would not spontaneously give cuddles or kisses.  At the time, I thought this was just normal (it's hard to know with your first what is normal or not normal!) but since having Esme and Gideon who are very affectionate I know this it isn't and that Jacob was 'different'. 

I guess in my heart I knew there was something different with Jacob but in those early years I was happy to look past that and just believe that he was just a little slower to develop than his peers.  His eccentricities were the things we loved about him - things like being fascinated by and getting such excitement by the littlest things - a bug crawling along the ground or the wind blowing the leaves in the tree.  He loved going to Kinder and developed a really good relationship with his Kinder teacher.  She just seemed to 'get' him. 

Towards the end of his time at Kinder, I would watch Jacob with the other kids at Kinder and realise that he wasn't 'normal'.  While the other kids at Kinder had developed relationships with each other and would play together Jacob would prefer to play by himself and would not willingly interact with others (although he didn't seem bothered if someone came and played alongside him). 

He made the transition to school really well (helped by the school being in the same place and most of the same kids from Kinder going as well) and thrived on the 'rhythms' of the school day (he goes to a Steiner school so it is quite structured).  He's even made a special friend at school.  I talked to his teacher at the beginning of the year about my 'concerns' about Jacob and asked her to watch him and see what she thought.  By the end of the first term she said to me that she thought there were some issues.  She wanted us to get him assessed before he went into Class one (when the academic learning begins at Steiner - up to that point all the learning has been through play).

This was the lowest point for me emotionally.  Suddenly all my fears about Jacob were 'real'.  I guess I had been secretly hoping that I'd be told that I was just imagining things, that Jacob was perfectly 'normal'.  I didn't want to get Jacob assessed.  I didn't want him to be labelled in a certain way.  Jacob was just Jacob and we didn't need a label to tell us otherwise!  After lots of discussion with the teacher and friends who have children with disabilities I came to the realisation that labels are not necessarily a bad thing and that that can be useful in helping others to understand the child (and for getting funding to help them achieve things). 

And so we began the assessments.  Two paediatrician appointments, one psychologist appointment and four speech therapist appointments later we finally got our diagnosis.  Everyone seemed to agree with the diagnosis which I guess made the whole process smoother.

Now comes the hard part of deciding how we go about helping Jacob.  We have decided to go down the biomedical pathway for now (you can read more about this at the MINDD website).  This will involve a lot of changes to our lifestyle.  I'm feeling a little apprehensive about it all but excited to see what changes it will bring to Jacob (I've heard a lot of positive things from others who have gone down this pathway).  We will also continue with Speech Therapy for him.  He is doing really well with this and likes the Speech Therapist he sees. 

The hardest bit about all this assessments was being told that the things we loved about Jacob and the things that made him special were suddenly the very things that made him 'autistic'.  But Jacob has a very unique way of looking at the world and we're getting back to loving the way he looks at things.  It's beautiful to have someone who constantly teaches us to be amazed at the little things in life.  The other day when we were in the car travelling to school and the sun was flickering between the trees as we drove.  Jacob was in fits of laughter and told us that the 'sun was blinking at him'.  It's those types of things that make him so special. I think everyone who meets him senses this specialness about him too.

Sure, we have good times and bad times.  Days when it seems to be one meltdown after the other. Times when we perhaps cannot go to places we want to because Jacob is too fearful.  But we get there.  And we're learning to live life with our perfectly imperfect boy.   

Monday, September 24, 2012

The balancing act

This year I made the decision to go back to work for one day a week.  Gideon was 7 months old when I returned.  I have blogged previously about the mummy guilt I felt at returning to work. Three terms down the track though and I still feel a little this way.  It's not exactly the same feeling as I had before I started but it definitely feels like a real balancing act between my home life and my work life. 

My Mum is doing an awesome job looking after the three kids.  And I know Gideon is fine without feeds and without me there now.  In fact, he probably sleeps better for Mum than he does for me at home!  But there has been quite a few times this year that Gideon has been sick and I have had to take time off work (Gideon seems to get a whole lot more respiratory sicknesses than the other kids ever did which we suspect is due to his adenoids - but that's a whole other story ;)) or he's not been 100% and I have still gone to work.

The hard bit is making that call.  Do I take time off or do I go to work?  How much time off is ok without being excessive?  If I do take time off I feel like I am letting work down (and my students - I work at a special school so having a day off means the kids have a replacement teacher or their class split and their routine is disrupted for the day).  If I don't take time off I feel like I am letting my kids down.  For me, family comes first.  It's not even a question.  When the kids are obviously sick I take time off.  But sometimes they are just not 100% and you have to make decisions about whether you should or shouldn't go to work (and then end up feeling guilty all day if you do decide to go to work!)

My mum has an auto-immune disorder too so if the kids are even a little bit sick it is higher likely that she will get whatever they have.  So I feel guilty whenever I send them off with a sniffle or the like that she is going to end up sick as well! 

Then there's been times that I have missed things at Jacob's school because I've been working.  All the special occasions at Jacob's school this year have been on Fridays.  I've had to miss his Autumn Festival and his Spring Festival (for which the kids did a little Eurythmy performancy - I was really sad to miss this!)  I know that my mum loves going to these but gee I feel guilty for being the only mummy not there for her son.  In my mind I am not performing my 'duties' as a mum (no offence intended for other mums that choose to work - this is just how I feel about things myself!)

Teaching is a pretty child friendly job. I get school holidays off to look after my kids and I don't have to put in extremely long hours in face-to-face time (I say face-to-face time because teachers do actually put in a lot more hours away from the classroom!)  But sometimes I wish I could have a job that is more flexible. One that I can work my hours around my children's needs and take time off to see those important performances by my kids.  

But then again, I love my job.  I love working with kids with special needs and taking delight in every small achievement they make.  And I can't really do what I do without being away from home!  So where does that leave me?  I'm not quite sure!  I suspect that this mummy guilt will continue until my kids are all grown up.  In the meantime I shall just have to learn to deal with it.  

For others that work outside the home how do you find balancing work/family life? 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Why I quit Facebook

I love Facebook for a multitude of reasons.  Not least of which is being able to keep in touch with friends who live far away and share information quickly and easily with them. I also dislike it for a number of reasons.  And it is for those reasons that I have chosen to deactivate my account for the moment. 

Facebook can be a huge time waster.  It is very easy to sit there and scroll through pages to find out what is happening in your friend's lives, catch up on groups you belong to and check out businesses.  I just found that Facebook was taking up more and more of my time.  I would literally feel compelled to sit down at the computer and check it at certain times of the day.  And that was taking time away from my children and my life which, to me, wasn't right.  I used to justify things and say that my time on Facebook was my 'time out' from the kids.  But it got to the stage when I would 'have to' just do something on Facebook and the kids needs got put to the background while I did that something.

I also found that I was judging myself by other people's posts.  While I knew in my heart that people don't always put up honest posts, I always felt that I was inadequate in my parenting/life when I'd read a post about how someone had cleaned their whole house, baked, done such-and-such an activity with the kids, and so on.  I felt like I just couldn't compete (and for those that did and do put up honest posts - I thank you!) 

As much as I hate to admit it too, I do have a jealous streak.  I wish I could be one of those people that is happy with their lot in life (and believe me I am trying to be) but I'd often see posts about people doing such-and-such or having such-and-such and I would feel jealous.  It got to a stage where even going on Facebook would leave me with a horrible feeling and so I knew it was time to get off there.

It does make me a little sad that most people haven't even noticed that I have left Facebook.  I've had no emails or anything from people that I thought I was quite good friends with.  Which makes me believe that they have so many friends on their Facebook account that someone leaving their friend count does not even make a blip on their radar. 

And that's another thing that bugs me about Facebook - the anonymity of it all.  Most people are friends with so many people that  if their count dropped they wouldn't even know who it was that left their friend's list.  At least I always used to notice when my friend count dropped and made an effort to find out who was actually missing!

It just all feels so superficial. Whatever happened to picking up the phone or connecting with someone in real life (or even email is a bit more personal than Facebook!!)  I feel sad that things have come to this.  And the sadder thing is that I think my Facebook hiatus will have to come to an end soon.  Mainly because I need it to keep a connection with friends.  I also need to help moderate our local ABA group page and lots of businesses only have Facebook pages these days too! 

I definitely think I will be changing the way I use Facebook in the future though.  I will be using it more as a tool to do things rather than as something that controls my life.  I've really enjoyed these couple of months without it in my life.  

Week 37 of Craft Project a week: Orange digger pants

My friend's son turned 4 recently and I wanted to make him something special.  I asked his Mum what she thought I should make and her only suggestion was something orange as her son loves orange.  I had some cute digger fabric left from making things for the kids previously so I teamed it up with this bright orange cord and made some funky pants for him.  I think they turned out quite well! 

Funky pants with diggers

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Week 36 of Craft project a week: Seatbelt covers

This week's project was made using some of the tie-dye material my friend from Makeya did for me a while back.  I haven't taken a photo of this project being used for it's intended purpose but it's actually a pair of seat belt covers.  Quite a while ago when Gideon was wearing his beautiful tie-dyed jumpsuit a friend commented on how she'd love some seat belt covers like that.  So of course I had to have a go at making some.  They are very easy to make and very similar to the Ergo suck pads I made earlier this year (minus the PUL backing!)  Now just to find some time to take them to my friend...

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Fairy Birthday

Esme decided on a 'fairy' theme for her birthday party this year.  I have to say I was very grateful that she chose this theme after lots of other alternatives were thrown around (a spider birthday was on the list at one stage.) 

The invitation
Of course, we had to invite all Esme's fairy friends to her birthday so we needed an invitation.  I was a bit particular about what sort of invite I wanted for her as I didn't want things overly 'girly' (although they kind of ended up that way by the end!) I found a template I liked and Chris did some work on photoshop to make it up.

The activities
We had lots of fairy activities planned for the party.  When the kids arrived we had a craft activity for them to do.  Chris had made up some fairy wings using coat hangers and stockings and the kids got to paint them (check out the wings in my other post).  It was a little more messy and time consuming than I had originally bargained on (the kids kind of drifted away in the end and parents were left to finish their wings!)  but still fun. 

Decorating their fairy wings.

After the kids had done their decorating they came inside to play some games.  We had fairy pass the parcel (with glowsticks between the layers and a bead set as the present in the middle)  We then played musical toadstools.  I'd made up some toadstools previously to use for this game.  They are simply felt circles glued together with a hot glue gun.  I'd also planned to play 'fairy, fairy, gnome' (instead of duck, duck, goose) but we'd run out of time by that stage. 

Playing fairy pass the parcel - Gideon wants to help!

Playing musical toadstools after the party.
The food
Along with the regular party fare (sausage rolls, zucchini quiche, spinach and fetta rolls, ham and pineapple pizza - all homemade of course) we also served fairy bread.  For drinks we had special fairy berry punch (aka berry cordial made in the thermomix!)  For dessert we had cake, magic mushrooms,, fairy teacups (kind of like this picture) and fairy wands (fruit cut out in star/heart shapes and threaded onto skewers)  I made up little fairy labels to put with each bit of food. 

Magic mushroom - unfortunately we didn't get photos of the other food

The cake
Esme choose the cake which was a toadstool fairy cake.  The original cake is from the Woman's Weekly cake book but instead of using their icing and colours Chris took a bit of poetic licensing. 

Esme's toadstool cake
The party bag
Instead of the usual party bags I decided to make each child a fairy skirt.  We only had a few kids coming so it wasn't too much work to make them.  Although, saying that, it did take me quite a few hours to get the pattern right and them all sewn (see my other post to find out more).  But the kids all seemed to like them which made it all worthwhile! 

Four fairy skirts ready to go!
All in all, it was a very successful day.  Esme had a great time with her friends and everyone enjoyed all the 'fairy' activities.  Now I can have a break from birthday party planning for another year ;) 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Week 35 of Craft Project a week: Fairy wings

I made a fairy skirt for Esme's fairy party the week before so this week we have been making fairy wings to match.  We used this tutorial to make some fairy wings from wire coat hangers and stockings (I say 'we' but actually Chris did all of this bit!)  I then painted Esme's wings to match her skirt. The paint on the stockings looks quite effective.  I think Esme's wings still need a bit more glitter though!

All the kids got to decorate their own fairy wings at Esme's party which then enjoyed (until they got a little distracted and parents had to finish them!)  At the end I used my trusty hot glue gun to glue the elastic on and the flower over the top to hide all the wire.  I forgot to take photos of all the other kids' wings at the end although I do have photos of Jacob's wings which I think he decorated beautifully.  Chris accidentally got black stockings for Jacob's wings but the paint turned out really well on the black in the end.  I love that Jacob chose a pink flower for his wings! 

Jacob is ready to fly!
A close up of Jacob's wings
Now there are lots of beautiful fairies flying around! 
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