Author: Jessica (page 1 of 17)

It’s about time I wrote here again..

So I realised it’s been about two months since I last updated here. That’s way too long I know, but in my defence: I feel like I have only just stopped to come up for air this month for the first time since before Christmas.  End of last term was hard, the lead up to Christmas was hard, Christmas was hard and then going back to school again was hard. I wasn’t really in a place to write about stuff when I was wholly consumed with just getting through it myself. Yeah. Life has been hard, and I guess it’s hard to find motivation to blog when all it feels like I am doing is having a bitch and whinge. No one wants to read that shit, or do they?

Anyways, I digress.

We are coming up to week 5 of Term 1 now so things have settled a lot beyond the whole initial holyfuckwhatthehellisgoingon feel.

Beans began kindergarten this year and after some initial difficulties transitioning in the mornings, is doing so well. I would be lying if I said that I didn’t cry big fat happy tears the day she came home from her first day and told me she made a friend and had a great time. Her kinder have been amazing with the supports they have effortlessly put into place for her, and I can see her social confidence growing by the day. Once upon a time she would be very hesitant and reluctant to be around other kids, and would go in the opposite direction to them – now she actually seeks them out. She even told another child at the library the other day who was hesitant to talk to her when she said hi that “it’s okay, I sometimes don’t feel like talking either.” HEART. BURST. This Friday gone Beans was fitted for orthotics to help her feet and leg pain and is off to a specialist next month for investigation into the possibility of her having a connective tissue disorder. She has lots of pain in her legs and joints and her hypermobility means by the end of the day she’s pretty well knackered. In spite of this, she is bouncing along (with some #threenager attitude thrown in though, of course) and is managing all the hurdles life throws at her pretty darn well.

Wilding is well.. still a force to contend with. She takes life by the balls (so to speak) and inches every single ounce she can get out of it. Her reading has taken off and this new skill is providing her with a lot of satisfaction and personal joy. We discovered accidentally over Christmas time when there was a lot of driving to be done, that a way to make car-rides a lot more enjoyable for her was to put podcasts onto her iPod that she could plug in and listen to. This gives her the audio feedback she craves without her needing to make the noise herself (much to our pleasure). This week however I have had to switch her headphones for the noise-limiting variation because it turns out she loved the audio-sensory feedback so much I was worried she’d permanently damage her hearing, heh. Never a dull moment with this wild card! We have noticed a pattern of her sleep and eating regressing when she’s struggling with anxiety so to manage this, we are keeping tabs on her food intake and making sure her teachers allow her plenty of chances to eat alone without others present. Also, in spite of what I thought was best – giving Wilding too much warning about upcoming events is actually counter-productive as it just lets her stew on stuff, so we have found by doing the opposite her anxiety is better managed too. School continue to be fantastic with supporting her and she takes regular chill-times throughout the day and is doing awesomely.. well, providing most things go her way. 😉

RaralilyO is plodding along beautifully, interspersed with feisty outbursts that typically make her totally my daughter. She’s learning to regulate her emotions and despite having a red-hot temper, she really does tolerate her sisters and their special needs so well. I sorta forgot how bitchy 8 year old girls can be though, however I am getting a good reminder whilst I help her to navigate the sometimes seemingly endless labyrinths that is young-girl friendships and politics. Rara is totally into netball and sport, something Cj and I are really embracing as it is something that is just for her that she doesn’t have to share. She’s also continuing on with the violin and has seemed to have passed her pokemon phase, thank goodness.  She’s got a wicked sense of humour, can procrastinate like nobodies business (second only to her father maybe) and still gives the best hugs ever – when she’s not talking your ear off, that is.

Sno is into her last year of primary school. Like, holy hell – how did that happen?! Attending school on a four-day week basis is still working really well for her, although we have switched her off day to Friday so that I can capitalise on child-free days whilst Beans is at kindy and do work or like, go for ocean swims alone. Having a four day week at school plus plenty of scheduled downtimes is working really well for Sno. Despite having a few struggles at the moment regarding being bored (the perils of being gifted/twice exceptional) we are finding a happy medium. Having that one day off a week where she doesn’t have to rush out the door and can just spend it chilling or doing whatever she wants is helping so much. As is non-verbal digital communication tools (ie phone and laptop). We are embracing technology and its ability to give Sno the power to communicate even when she feels unable to do so verbally. Because of this, her hours-long screaming meltdowns have sorely reduced too. Her amazing teachers have installed an app on their phones and hers which she can use as a means of communicating when face-to-face seems all too hard. On days when she comes home and something is bothering her, she feels empowered to hop straight onto her laptop and email her support person/teacher her worries instead of having to sit at home and worry over them all night or until the next day. Meetings to sort out worries or issues can be easily arranged via text and therefore her anxiety is sorely reduced. She even emails her psychologist beforehand about the things she wants to discuss with him! It’s been a life-changer. Over the next few weeks we will be investigating possible high-schools for her and although this is a little daunting for everyone, I feel like we have it in hand.

I don’t ever write about Cj without his permission and he’s currently taking the smalls to their swimming lessons so in the interests of maintaining a supportive, loving marriage – I’ll skip over his update. Needless to say though, we are coming up to our twelve year anniversary and he’s still the most extraordinary man I’ve ever met.

Which leaves me with me. After an initial “oh my god all my children are at kindy or school what the hell do I do with myself now there isn’t even housework to do” reaction to my newly-acquired 2 child-free day week.. I am doing okay. Not shit, is my preferred response to that question. I graduated the end of last year and I am chugging along with my freelance work, hoping to ultimately score a full-time writing gig so that Cj and I can swap roles and I can tag the fuck out of this whole full-time parenting gig. Truthfully, I am bloody knackered. From being always “on” and from being a full-time advocate for my girls, in whatever form they need. All the phone calls, appointments and back-and-forth leaves me pretty well done. Writing is an awesome catharsis for me, something I can pour myself into and I am hanging for that role-swap break as I mentioned. It’s been a confronting experience for me to be stripped back to just being at home for myself, a transition I have welcomed even with all of it’s vulnerabilities. It has felt uncomfortable, but I am working through that. I’m embracing this time now by going for ocean swims, attending to my own health needs and not needing to drag small children around to them. I’m spending more time with my Mama who has alzheimers (oh boy, is that a whole other post for another day) and I’m trying to see where the wind takes me. Without sounding too corny, life really is such a journey. I feel the hard yards are behind us now, and despite everyone taking any opportunity they can to tell us how scary teenagers are – I feel ready and excited for what is ahead and feel thankful on a daily basis that we live somewhere so beautiful.

Wow, how’s that for an update hey? Congratulations if you made it this far! I knew it was overdue.

 

Silly Season Survival Tips

Christmas is a crazy time of year for anyone, autistic or not. When you add in sensory and social overload for autistic peeps – it can be hugely stressful and challenging. The noise, the fuss, the crowds, the hype – it can be a recipe for disaster!

the girltribe + 1 on a recent city trip

Over the years we have kinda fine-tuned the girls coping strategies for this time of year so I thought I’d share them here so others can benefit from them, too. Just simple things that work for us and help to make the long Christmas holidays a bit more bearable.

  1. Take one or two down-days for every up-day.
    Social outings and events can be exhausting for autistic peeps – crowds during Christmastime even more so. So for every single day that is an “up” day – meaning when you and your child are out and about and being around other people – allow a day or two at home, for a “down” day.  On down days, allow your autistic child to do whatever they want that feels good and give them plenty of space to retreat and recover however they need.
  2. Pack a sensory toolkit for days when you’re not at home.
    On the days where you have family events to attend or are having days out, pack a sensory toolkit for your child. Make it a habit for your child to bring this toolkit with them whenever you’re planning on being out of the house for more than an hour. In Sno’s toolkit (which is just a messenger style bag) she packs: water bottle, noise-cancelling headphones, her phone with podcasts loaded onto it and music, a fidget toy, a piece of velvet, lip-balm, an essential-oil roller ball bottle filled with her favourite smell, a few books, her glasses, some xylitol chewing gum, pen and paper and a word search book. This stuff enables her to take down-time when we are out and when we are travelling so she can effectively self-regulate, which brings me to..
  3. Keep sensory tools in the car.
    In our car there are always a few fidget toys, cold water that we bring on the day and a puzzle book. Wilding (6) also brings along her iPod and headphones into the car because we all find when she’s listening to her own music she’s less likely to verbally stim and send us all bonkers!
  4. Decline invitations or leave early.
    It’s important to remember you don’t need to attend every single event you’re invited to. If your child is exhausted and struggling, it’s perfectly acceptable to say no to attending and if you do attend, remember – you can leave whenever you want. We like to arrive early before the whole family crowd arrives and then we often leave early too, before the girls get to the completely-over-it stage.
  5. Communicate effectively.
    This is in regards to communicating with family members to explain how Christmas affects the autistic peeps within your life, and also in regards to communicating with your autistic peeps. We have a calendar in our house in a commonly used area and on the calendar I write what is happening that week – always allowing for Tuesdays and Thursdays at home wherever possible. Sno, Wilding and Beans (and Rara!) all enjoy knowing what is happening when each week. This reduces anxiety a great deal.

Remember to take time to do things you all enjoy, and take regular time-out wherever possible, too. Self-care may sound cliched but it is so so important to avoid burn-out. Blessings. x

 

 

 

A letter for Kindergarten

Beans is 3.5 and she begins kindergarten next year. A thing I have done for all my autistic girls in the past is put together a letter about them for the teachers to give to the parents of the children who will be attending kindy alongside Beans. It helps have everyone on the same page with regards to my daughters who have special needs and in my experience, encourages inclusion, compassion and understanding. It also saves me from having to repeat myself too.

I thought I’d share the letter below that I did for Beans.  This letter is completely opposite to the one I wrote for Wilding – isn’t autism amazing like that?!

Anyway:

Hello there,

My name is Beans. I will be attending kindy next year. I’ll be 4 in May and I have three big older sisters.

I wanted to write to you and tell you a bit about me, so that kindy can be a really great experience for us all.

I’m autistic. That means I think, feel and process my environment differently and in my own way compared to other kids. 

Meeting new people can be a really overwhelming and difficult experience for me. This may mean sometimes I cry or have a shutdown where I don’t talk. Other days I may look like I’m not happy to see you or be at kindy, but that isn’t really true. I do want to be here, I’m just adjusting to my environment and that can take a while. 

Kids can be really loud and busy and lots of kids can often be a lot for me to take in. I’m sensitive to noise and crowds and I struggle with transitions. 

I have my very own quiet space at kindy, and my own teacher aide to help me. If I am having a hard morning, the best thing for you to do is say hello to me quietly and then give me some space. Please don’t crowd me or touch me without my permission, that just upsets me more. I promise I will come out and hang out with you if and when I am ready.

When I’m anxious, I find it hard to talk. So I might wave instead, or not at all.. When I am comfortable and happy, it’s hard to get me to stop talking! I also jump on the spot like a little bunny rabbit when I am happy.

I really love puppies, playing in the water, imaginary play and dancing. I also really love hugs and cuddles when I am ready for them.

I’m really looking forward to coming to kindy and I will see you soon.
Feel free to ask my Mama Jessica anything, autism is a big part of our lives (my Daddy is autistic and so are 2 of my 3 sisters) and we are totally open about our lives.

Love, Beans.

Please feel free to use a similar version of your own if you feel it applies to your child or may help.

 

What IS working for us

At the end of a very tumultuous term 2 this year where Sno was experiencing major anxiety and a huge amount of traumatic meltdowns, we decided as a collective tribe to give Sno the term off mainstream schooling. We homeschooled her for term 3 and had a much happier chilled out child, but it wasn’t working on all levels. There was still anxiety, there was still issues – they were just manifesting in different forms. Sno kept telling me she missed her friends and so when I raised the idea of going back, she was positive and receptive – and a little apprehensive, understandably. We needed that time however to discover a few things that we could implement into a school environment, and I think we needed that time for some major self-discovery for everyone in our family – but Sno especially.

“Turns out, autism is just tricky no matter where it learns,” she said to me one morning. Yep.

She’s been back at school for six weeks now and things are going really well. Far better than term 1 & 2 and even better than term 3.

I thought I’d share some of the supports and changes we have put into place that have been contributing to the successes.

  1. A four day week.
    This has probably been the greatest change we have made. Sno attends school on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Wednesdays off are spent at home, no outings – no expectations. Just chilling at home. She does not do schoolwork on this day unless it is self-driven. Because Sno only had 2 days at a time to get through, she’s far less overwhelmed. Our school required us to have a supporting letter from Sno’s psychologist to process this flexible arrangement.
  2. Learning about Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA) and implementing strategies.
    Although it is not formally recognised in Australia (although it is in the U.K.), when our incredible psychologist told us about this and how he believed Sno to fit many of the criteria – I wanted to learn about it as much as possible. In a nutshell – children with PDA refuse things/requests/demands as a means of regaining control when they are feeling awash with anxiety. Once the demands are lessened, so is the anxiety. I have found these resources to be the most helpful, and this book which I inhaled and then passed onto the teachers and beloved Grandparents, too.
  3. Non-verbal communication pathways.
    One of the things that Sno struggles with the most is communicating her wants/needs/worries when she is feeling anxious. For her tenth birthday she received from us her own phone to aide in communication and organisation (using the Calendar and WhatsApp, mostly) and it’s been fabulous. Sno finds using technology to communicate when she’s anxious to be far easier than having to draw attention to herself. Verbal communication embodies far more elements: deciphering body language, facial expressions, working out a good time to talk, drawing attention to herself and articulating emotions. With text on a computer or phone – it’s just black and white, direct and to the point. Sno has been using her laptop that she got given from the Variety Charity to email her teachers and psychologist regularly, too. The other night I was out at my Barre class and I was able to help her through coping mechanisms via text when she was experiencing a panic attack whilst my husband was putting one of our other daughters to bed. Technology has been a life-line for us. When she’s come home and had a rough day she immediately emails her teacher or case worker to let them know. This enables her to have the worry “off her chest” and dealt with immediately, so it doesn’t linger and cause more anxiety.

There have also been other things that have been helping, too.  Things like;

  • Spending the last 20 minutes of every school day in a quiet space in the SEU (special education unit).
  • Using her noise-cancelling headphones during class time (especially music) and assembly.
  • Being given permission to leave class at any point without having to ask when she’s feeling anxious.
  • Beginning each day in the SEU away from the noisy morning banter of the other children.
  • Using a wobble stool in class to provide sensory input and a fidget cube, too.
  • Visiting a Biomedical General Practitioner for supplements to help with anxiety and sleep.
  • Getting glasses with a converged lens from a Behavioural Optometrist.
  • Regular time booked in for Sno with the school’s youth worker to chat and debrief.

Phew! I hope some of these insights are helpful for others in similar situations. I feel confident that things will continue to improve and I am so so so incredibly proud of the amazing achievements and hurdles Sno continues to overcome. I’m also super thankful for the amount of effort all the support people in Sno’s life have been going to for her, because they believe in her. (For the record, I have asked Sno if she’s okay with me sharing this post and she’s actually read over it and approves because she wants to help other kids, too. )

 

 

 

Fussy eating; look a little deeper.

Despite being a major extrovert and not having many struggles socially, when Wilding gets anxious or overloaded the first thing that gets affected is her eating – or lack thereof, swiftly followed by her sleep. Her sensory preferences with regards to food increase and so does her need for control around food and eating. Overall, refusal increases. Knowing this, we have been doing mealtimes a bit differently lately and it’s been making  a huge difference because she is actually eating!

So here’s what we do:

Be flexible with how you think meal times “should” look.

Wilding eats dinner fairly early. If she hasn’t finished her lunch at school (which happens when she’s anxious, exacerbated by noise or other people eating near her) she will eat it in the car on the way home whilst listening to her iPod with headphones on. When she’s ready for more food – she will climb onto the kitchen bench, and eat it there with me in the kitchen. While we chat, she eats.

To be honest  – I don’t actually care what time “dinner” is, all I care is that she’s eating. So I have learned to relax my own ideals and really just follow her lead. I don’t try and force her to fit a mould of society’s acceptability and instead I prepare myself to approach things from different angles to find what works for my kid.

Some days she eats dinner outside whilst scooting. Some days she prefers to sit down on a towel on the kitchen floor. And if she’s finished her food first on the rare days she eats with others, I don’t mind if she asks to leave the table early and I definitely don’t force her to stay seated.

As far as learning table manners and stuff goes – that is a separate issue, and can be taught at other times, too. Wilding knows feet don’t belong on the table and to use polite language. Meal times don’t have to be in one type of format only.

And this flexible stance on eating is working. In the kitchen on the bench, there’s minimal pressure, being on the bench also reduces the noise from others affecting her and she doesn’t need to watch other people eat or hear them eating – two things which she has minimal tolerance for on tough days.

Eating is a huge sensory activity: there is smell, touch, taste, texture and even sound involved. When a child refuses to eat it’s important to look at the entire picture, not just the food they are being served. I know for Wilding once I did this I was more aware of the possible triggers adding to her food refusal and so once I was able to eliminate those, funny thing – she ate!

Give some control.

When a child is feeling anxious it’s normal that they’ll try and assert control in other situations to compensate. They are feeling out of their depth so they grasp for anchors. During this time, it’s helpful to give the child a say. At dinner time I ask Wilding what plate/bowl she would like, how she would prefer the food to be presented (in a divided plate/separate bowl/in a mug) and how much she would like. She’s way more likely to eat food that she’s had a say in, after all – wouldn’t we all? I know I don’t eat food I don’t like, so it’s unrealistic to expect children too, either – especially autistic ones.

When it comes to introducing new foods, I find it helpful to do it in small steps. I definitely don’t place new food in front of Wilding unannounced and expect her to eat it. I always keep a range of “safe” foods available and accessible to her, which she can choose to eat instead. I might place something new in a learning bowl beside her main food, and encourage her to sniff it, touch it and even look at it. If she tries it and doesn’t like it, I consider it a big win if she will tolerate it being in a bowl near to her. As her tolerance grows, she may even try it again but there’s no pressure.

Finally, a brief note on the Learning Bowl. This is a bowl where new food can be placed into, or it can remain empty but where food that isn’t liked or tolerated can be placed in. The benefit to having a Learning Bowl is that it eliminates the need for the child to fling food they don’t like across the table, and it also slowly and gently encourages tolerance for foods they are still learning about. The new food is kept separate from their safe food, and so it is way more manageable than dumping it all together.

When your child is being picky around food, take a step back and look for the why. Be prepared to do things in a different way than usual.

I think that’s the thing I love about autism the most. Out of the six of us in my direct family – four peeps are autistic. So every day, I am forced to see things from different perspectives. And I love that there are always more than one (or three!) ways of doing things. Embrace your child’s uniqueness, and look a little deeper. You’ll find ways to connect and you’ll get to the bottom of why they aren’t eating, I promise.  And they will absolutely love you for it.

 

 

Why we NEED to talk about autism with our kids.

Over the past few weeks it’s kind of only just occurred to me that there are some individuals out there who actively choose not to disclose their child’s autism diagnosis with them.

When I say it’s “only just” occurred to me, I’m being serious. Because I actually cannot believe that a parent in their right mind would not tell their child such an important piece of information.

I’ve heard some parents insinuate that they don’t want to “burden” their child with a label or “make” their child feel different to everyone else.

And to those parents out there, I have some hard truths for you to hear:

Number one: Your child more than likely already knows that they’re different.
Children are not stupid. They are innately intelligent, and they can tell when others react differently to them, or when they react differently to others their age. They can see when they struggle with things other kids don’t. They more than likely already know that they aren’t like their peers. And they are probably wondering why.

Number two: This is your issue, not your child’s.
Being autistic is not some huge deficit. It isn’t a flaw or something to be ashamed of. It doesn’t make anyone any less than anyone else. It just is. It’s a different way of thinking, feeling and seeing the world. And different is not wrong. So chances are, if you tell me you’re hiding your child’s diagnosis from them because you are worried for them – I don’t believe you. Because you are projecting your own issues about difference onto your child. It is your stuff, not theirs. Children are innately resilient, loving and accepting of difference.

And finally, number three: When you choose to withhold something like an autistic diagnosis from your child, what you are actually doing is withholding a large portion of their identity.
Autism isn’t something you can take on and off. It’s not a hat or a piece of clothing that you can choose to wear. It is all-encompassing and covers every single element of the life of the autistic individual. By not telling your child about their diagnosis you are directly impacting their ability to understand their own triggers and reasons for the way they feel, see and do the things they do. And a child has every right to know those pieces of information. They form their identity, and they solidify and concrete the way they fit in and view their world. It is not your right to fail to disclose such a thing.

You can tell me I’m wrong, and you can tell me you know better. But I will tell you that I am married to an incredible man who didn’t realise he was autistic until he was 30 years old. And it wasn’t because his wonderful mother didn’t tell him, either – she didn’t know. And I know if she did know, she would have told him.  But if my husband did know, he would have had far less self-esteem issues and far less struggle with working out his place in the world. He would have accepted himself more, loved himself more and felt more confident as a contributing and worthwhile wholly-fantastic member of society.

Autism isn’t something to be afraid of. Ignorance is, it is toxic and debilitating. And if you deliberately choose to not be open with your child about why they are the way they are, you are directly contributing to that cycle. Your child deserves to know, their identity depends on it. Don’t perpetuate the fear of being different. Embrace it.

If you want to find out about how I told Sno she was autistic, read this post,

Taking Stock: Hello Spring

Geez, it’s been a while since I’ve blogged. Apologies to my readers who I have sorta left hanging. Shit has been full-on around here, and there has been enough motivation and cause for a re-jig of things around here. A bit of seeing things from a different perspective, if you will. (Like we don’t already do that, hey? *snort*).




In a nutshell: while having Sno at home has been great, it’s also brought its own challenges. And it’s forced us to accept that homeschooling her was no quick fix, issues still existed but they just changed their form. So she’s going back to school on a part-time basis, instead.  We are hoping that we can achieve a better balance for everyone with this arrangement She has been working actively at home on different strategies which we are going to implement in a schooling environment (non-verbal communication cards, using her noise-canceling headphones at school and dictation app are just a few of them).

And as for me, I’ve been completely run off my feet. Turns out freelancing, studying, homeschooling one child whilst wrangling the other 3, attempting to have a stable marriage and making time for myself is a lot to take on. I know, who knew, huh? So something had to shift. I’ve had to really prioritise the most pressing needs. Good news is, I graduate at the end of the month! I cannot tell you how much relief things brings me. Papagirltribe and I are hoping to swap roles as soon as I can find full-time employment in the media or communications industry, so there are big changes ahead. After ten years of being the primary caregiver to our girls (whilst doing a whole bunch of other stuff like 4 years of volunteering, presenting at conferences and general advocacy work), it’s time for me to “tag” Papagirltribe in and for me to “tag” myself out. Feeling excited would be an understatement. He has plans to go back to study next year, too, which works out well with Beans heading off to kindy part-time.

Phew. That’s a big ramble. Anyway. School holidays are almost over (thank fucking god) so I thought I’d see in this new term with a little memo below, to reconnect with you all and say hi.

Making: I have no idea. Feeding a family of six is really taking away my motivation to cook food ever again.
Cooking: Fine, I’ll probably make these for lunch and this for dinner.
Drinking: Pukka Licorice & Peppermint tea. Fave.
Reading: 4 books at the moment. Yep, seriously. This, this , this and this. I also just finished reading this.
Wanting: A little space, a live-in chef and an automatic self-starting laundry.
Looking: Out the window at the wet deck. I can’t believe it rained. It’s been a long time.
Considering: Whether I can throw out more crap in the house so I don’t have to find a place for it.
Wishing: I could find a job soon, like, tomorrow.
Enjoying: Squishy cuddles with my sunshiney 3 year old Beans.
Waiting: For the husband to get home so I can run off to my Barre class and leave him to put the four girls to bed.
Liking: Heading to the markets on a Sunday for our weekly fruit and veg haul (and steamed duck buns).
Wondering: Where the hell my purse went.
Loving: Living so close to somewhere so beautiful.
Pondering: Packing it all up and moving us away for a big change.
Listening: To Richard Fidler’s Conversations; currently chatting to Eddie Ayres which is really wonderful.
Deciding: That Papagirltribe can plan our anniversary escape in it’s entirety himself.
Buying: More tea.
Watching:  Nothing. Perks of not owning a TV and finding everything else batshit boring.
Hoping: My 99.5 year old Oma passes away soon so that my Mama’s Alzheimer’s doesn’t continue to regress too quickly from the worry.
Marvelling: At my cat’s grasp on (a lack) of personal space.
Cringing: At the thought of the biggest consumerist holiday of the year (Christmas) fast approaching. Blah.
Needing: To hang out with my best friend and twin.. yo, Jessie?!
Learning: About the power of the female menstrual cycle and the themes within the blood wisdom. See here.
Questioning: How I can further let things go and opt for the path of ease.
Smelling: The rain!
Wearing: My hair out, leggings on. Home day.
Noticing: The more expectations we hold, the more we risk being disappointed.
Thinking: I really should have made the effort to get to Chenrezig yesterday, so I’ll go soon instead.
Knowing: Tomorrow is gonna be super tricky.
Admiring: People who speak their truths, embrace their vulnerability and can laugh at themselves.
Getting: Up to pee.
Bookmarking: Free photo editing software.
Closing: Down the tab with all the pretties in the cart.
Feeling: Excited about travelling down the coast for the Women in Media Conference and staying in a hotel alone for a night.. eeeee.
Celebrating: My graduation, in a month!
Embracing: The power of vulnerability.

NOT Your Usual Sensory Shop.

A while ago I was contacted by Bri from Way of The Cactus, asking me if I would be willing to trial and review some of the awesome, eco-inspired sensory products her company stocks. As it happens, I’d actually seen the products before in my online travels and was already interested in them – so of course I snapped her up on the offer. Anyone who knows me well will know that I really can’t stand mass-produced short-lived plastic junk and try to avoid buying it where possible (with Lego and Magnatiles being the exceptions). I’m way more of a fan of quality versus quantity, and I have to say that Way of The Cactus completely tick all the boxes here.

*I will say that the review below is my opinion only and even though the products were supplied to me – my review is honest and completely my own.*

So, anyway.

Way of The Cactus is a business run by two families in Brisbane, comprising of an Occupational Therapist, artist, social worker and academic. They are also all autistic and between the founders Leif, Leia, Julies and Bri – a wide range of neurodivergence is encountered including autism, ADHD, dyslexia, anxiety and depression. This really appealed to me because I believe that the people who know the most about autism and sensory needs are in fact the autistic members of the community.

The company was started because the founders were spending a lot of their time searching for sensory products that not only looked beautiful and were effective, but were ethically and sustainably made. And so when Way of The Cactus found their beautiful items, they wanted to share it with others with similar values.I can really relate to this because being a mother of autistic children who have a wide range of sensory needs – I kinda get sick of chucking out plastic crap that only serves their purpose for a little while before it breaks. I hated that I was adding to landfill after each and every time something was broken. And despite not being autistic myself I can really appreciate how much nicer handcrafted items feel compared to their cheaper, tackier counterparts. Honestly, there was no comparison.

I was sent four items; and they didn’t disappoint.

First up, the Rubble Lariat is a gorgeous, unique item of jewellery that feels good and looks good on.  I love that it can be altered in the way it looks depending on how it is tied or arranged. I’m actually eyeing off a pair of the earrings from the producer of them now, too. Beautiful, beautiful jewellery.

 

Sno absolutely adores the Comfort Egg and pilfered it right out of my hands when the package arrived, claiming it has her own. It fits comfortably inside the palm of her hand and she finds it really relaxing to turn it over in her hand, and also loves to rub the soft wood against her skin. She says it smells good, too. It now lives inside her handbag along with her noise-cancelling headphones, phone and essential oil – this is what a sensory kit looks like for my 10.5 year old. She loves that it is small and unassuming.

 

Papagirltribe was sent an Organic Crew tee. He’s worn it at least three times a week since it arrived, so safe to say he approves. It is soft, non-clingy and he says he likes the unusual design on the tee. I have to say I think it looks funky!

Wilding pilfered the Gum Nut Spinning Top and although it’s hard to get an action shot of it, I can say that once she started spinning it she didn’t stop for a while! Watching it spin was clearly soothing and relaxing, and it is hardy – I know it isn’t going to smash within a short space of use.

Now, onto the good news for you – my readers. Way of The Cactus has kindly offered GirlTribe readers a 15% off discount code through the month of August and September. Simply enter in the code “GirlTribe15” in the discount section of your cart at checkout to redeem it. They ship worldwide and offer free post on orders over $99.00. Please get behind this awesome company and give them your support if you are after beautiful, sustainable sensory items that will last a long time.

Happy shopping!

I just paid money to cry, basically.

And it isn’t the first time it’s happened either.  In fact, this evening would mark the third time it’s happened to me. But the difference in tonight is, it’s the first time I haven’t grabbed my bag and keys and made an immediate run for it.

What I’m talking about is yoga. In the past six years, each time I have joined in a group yoga class it has brought up such intense, overwhelming emotions that leave me literally sobbing in the back of the studio class room full of other women.

Yep.

Taken in my car, after class.

Yoga makes me cry.

Which is super weird, because I do yoga every evening at home in my bedroom and I don’t ever recall ever crying then.

Anyway, this evening I rocked up to a fusion class which I’ve never done before and yep.. it happened again. Only this time I didn’t run away when it happened. No, this time as I lay on my mat in the room which had all of it’s lights turned off during the beginning meditation, I felt the familiar feeling of the tears welling up in my eyes and instead I just let them flow, and I surrendered to it – whole heartedly.  This time as the tears came and the emotions too, I let them flow because this time I felt safe. I felt held. I felt like it was time to try and stop attempting to make sense of this physical release and instead I decided I was just gonna let it play out.

And it didn’t just happen once, either. Oh no, this evening after the first time, I went on to cry twice more.

At one point I was literally heaving, sobbing. The tears were coming and so was all the emotion and I was that woman, in the back of the class, crying in yoga.

So I’m sure you’re all wondering why I was crying, exactly. And you know, I don’t really know. But what I do know is that so many times as a parent, as a woman, as a wife – I have to push my emotional needs to the background because there are other things in my life which require prioritisation. So many times throughout the day where shit is hard, and it’s challenging and it’s pushing me and forcing me to use all my reserves as a woman and mother just to get through.

Except… when I’m laying on a yoga mat, in a dark room, with other women – I can’t escape my emotions, I can’t run from them and it’s here, funnily enough, where they decide to come out. So they come out in the form of wet, sticky tears which trickle down my face and into my hair. My breathing increases, my heart rate climbs and I sob and cry and let it all out. They aren’t tears of sadness though, they’re tears of relief. Tears of release. Tears of healing.

Instead of shelving my emotions, numbing them or running from them – I’m able to feel them fully, in all that they are – and its okay.  It’s totally okay. In fact, it’s fucking lovely.

I left the yoga class tonight when it was over, and having felt my feelings in their entirety – I felt like a weight had been lifted. I feel emotionally cleansed and I feel like a better version of myself. All raw, sweary, sticky salty tears – me.

And yes, I will be going back.

 

Truth is, we are all just winging it.

“Four children,” people say to me. “Wow, you must be an expert on parenting!,”

Truthfully – I am totally not. Sure, four kids definitely brings some perspective to certain types of first-time parenting struggles, but honestly – most days I still feel like, ten years on in this journey – I have no fucking idea what I am doing.

I think for the most part; conscious parenting is a mix of calculated research with a fair amount of “well, let’s give this a shot!” thrown in.

Some problems come along and I may know how to tackle them, and do so with great efficiency, while I smugly think to myself what a pro I am at this whole parenting thing. Then other days those same problems come up again, so I do what I did before – to no avail. So I’m back right at the beginning where I started from: absolutely clueless, randomly trying a few different strategies here and there with a bunch of random attempts at managing thrown in.

Honestly there is no such thing as a perfect parent. We all have our ideals about the types of parent we wish to strive for, and the kind of upbringing that we want our children to have and what memories they can look back and draw upon. And that all sounds really lovely – except it isn’t real, or true. Because all of this stuff depends on our children and the individual daily circumstances we find ourselves in. It depends on the mood of our offspring, the weather, our health, the time of day, how much sleep we have had, our relationships with other people etc etc.

The “shoulds” don’t help. The “could haves” don’t help either. I think the best we all can aim for is to try better than we did the previous day, and allow ourselves grace and gentleness when shit doesn’t go to plan, because it often won’t.

So I’m writing this, mainly as a reassurance I guess – to other parents feeling like me.

When you feel like you should have all this shit sorted, and you don’t – it’s okay.

When you feel like you’re giving continually on an empty cup for absolutely no returns – it’s okay.

When you feel like you’re not the type of parent you wish you were able to be – it’s okay.

When you feel like you have absolutely no fucking idea how to overcome the next hurdle – it’s okay.

When you feel like things should be getting better or easier by now, and they aren’t – it’s okay.

I’m telling you it’s okay because I want you to know you are not alone. Feelings of exhaustion, overwhelm, confusion, frustration and complete and utter exasperation are all feelings that all parents have felt from time to time. Maybe I’m writing this for myself, to tell myself that even though the challenges seem endless – it is possible to get through it.

It’s okay to stop. Let some stuff slide. Have a big cry, eat a block of chocolate. Sit and dwell on the sheer hardness of it all, for a while. Allow yourself that time. Because then I know you can pick yourself up, and keep on keeping on. And I am, and I will.

Because honestly – none of us have any idea of what we are doing, really. We are all just winging it, and we are all in this together.

 

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