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Mental Health Check List

Self care is such an important factor in our lives. And as parents we often put it on the back burner feeling that it is selfish to care for ourselves when there are things we could be doing for our family.  This is especially true of women in general.  Society has conditioned us to think of others before ourselves.  But that is a whole other conversation and a feminist pinterest hole I often get lost down in the darkest hours of the night.

Aaand back to my original point – self care is important and it is not selfish.  In fact, if we care for ourselves properly we are in better shape to look after others.  Nobody ever says “Why are you changing the oil in your car?  Its purpose is to just be taking you where you need to go.”  We all know that without fuel and maintenance the car is going to be less fuel effective over time and eventually break down.  People aren’t cars (even though I’m pretty sure I could add a plethora of automotive based innuendos right here) but the point still stands.  All people, adults and children alike need to be looked after properly to function at their fullest capacity.

If you’re anything like me, you just jump in your car and drive without a second thought, both literally and metaphorically.   And it isn’t until you hear a chug in the engine or everything slows down that you think about the mechanics of the whole operation.  If you know anything about me from my various blog posts that focus on mental health, it is that I am a huge fan of mindfulness.  Living a mindful life helps me quiet the anxious chatter in my head and live my best, happiest, most stress free, insert-your-own-chilled-out-adjectives-and-superlatives-here life.  In fact, if you head to this post over here, you’ll find a handy mindful day planner that can help you bring mindfulness to even the busiest of days.  And here you will find some five minute mindfulness techniques that you can bring to your work day to ease the stress of being in an office surrounded by a whole stack of stupid.

Teens especially are prone to forgetting to do the basics that keep them happy and healthy (and often hygienic…). They are in this awesome, awkward state between childhood and adulthood where the world is not new, but they are learning to navigate it without the training wheels on.  By us giving them the space they need to discover themselves, grow into functioning adults and steer their own path they no longer have us hovering over them reminding them to do the little things.

So on that note, here is my handy dandy, printable and saveable as a .pdf mental health check list of things for your teen to do when they’re feeling flat and shite and they don’t know what to do about it.  And it is pretty darn good advice for we grown-ups to be reminded of as well.

Click for a printable PDF version or pin me to share the love.

What Have I Had to Eat?

Have you forgotten to eat, gotten to busy to have time to eat or be subsisting on junk food for too long?  Your body needs fuel.  Find tasty nutrients and ingest them regularly.  There is a very strong link between food and disorders such as anxiety and depression, if you are interested in looking into this more in depth, head to the Food and Mood Centre website.

Have I Had Enough Water to Drink?

Two litres, or eight glasses, per day is the standard recommended amount of water to drink per day.  Fill up a Pump bottle and drink three of those per day.  The last thing you need, especially if you already have a mental health issue, is to be struggling against the effects of dehydration.  Becoming dehydrated impacts your ability to think clearly and negatively affects mood.

What are My Sleep Patterns Like?

How good is bed?  I love bed.  I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t in my trackies snuggled up on my bed writing this post while listening to the weather rage outside.  Good, uninterrupted sleep is important to give the brain some down time to process the day and increase mental resilience during waking hours.  And it aids memory.  Get you teen sleeping like their grades depend on it – because they kind of do.

When did I Last Talk to a Friend?

Good friendships are even better than a freshly made bed with line dried sheets.  Research shows that people who have regular contact with friends produce less cortisol in the brain.  Cortisol is a stress hormone that can lead to symptoms of anxiety.  Staying cooped up in their room studying all holidays or playing video games alone is not helping stress levels.  Reach out and contact someone, prompt your teen to speak to a friend if they’ve gotten too insular or wrapped up in the stress of getting good grades.

Have I Been Active Today?

This one time, I put the symptoms to my fibromyalgia into web md and it came up telling me I was most likely suffering from exercise.  True story.  But don’t let that put you off of pulling on your sweat pants and taking a walk in mother nature.  Exercise releases the happy-feel-good endorphin serotonin, aids sleep (see above), reduces stress, enlarges the part of the brain responsible for memory and the list goes on.

What am I Thinking About?

There’s not nearly enough space here to talk about all the detrimental effects of negative thinking on mental health.  Getting trapped inside our own heads replaying past events, unnecessarily worrying about the future, or focusing on negative self-talk can increase can lead to symptoms of depression and anxiety.  Speak to your mental health professional about techniques that work for you to keep your mind healthy and positive.

*cough*mindfulness

While this is not an exhaustive list of things that impact mental health and is not a complete treatment plan, it is certainly a good place to start when you are feeling flat and a good reminder to have up somewhere to avoid feeling like dehydrated shite.

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Recover your Barstools and Revamp your Space

Refresh, restore, renew.

Today’s project is brought to you by the prefix re-.  As in refresh, restore and renew an item instead of buying new.  In part because I love to get hands on with my home renovation projects.  And also because I am flat broke having found myself retrenched.  Yes, you heard correctly. I am (unfortunately) currently between jobs.  But as they say, every cloud has two birds in the bush and you can’t put a pig in a wet sack. Or something like that.  I seem to remember more silver linings and maybe something about another door opening in the original proverb.

But I digress, as is my way.  I have always wanted to work for myself, and while I know it will take quite some time to be in a position to support myself with the Blogging and Virtual Assistant business I have decided to move forward with, I am positive and looking forward to this new adventure.  Plus, this new change of direction will give me time to get stuck in to all the half finished jobs around the house (that don’t require me to spend a cent because I already planned for them ages ago).

And there are sooo many half finished jobs that I am spoilt for choice.

When my lovely in-laws heard that I was looking at setting up my own business while also looking for paid employment, they donated the two wrought iron stools they had laying around in the shed to the cause.

I knew they had the potential to be an absolutely perfect addition to my breakfast bar (the chairs that is, not my in-laws) and the ideal place to put my tuchus as I sent out job applications and worked on my business.  A little worn, a little rusty and a little weary.  But brimming with potential.  So I promptly left all the unfinished renovations unfinished, and set to work on this newly presented project.

Since I was going to have to do this project without spending a single cent, I had the choice of two suitable fabrics I had bought several months back to make cushion covers for my bedroom.  Thank goodness for my innate need to buy a little extra of everything ‘just in case’.  I loved them both for this project and was leaning towards the patterned fabric until my daughter pointed out it might be a little bit too much once I got all the pictures hung on the stairwell wall nearby.  As usual, she was right and I went for the plain grey fabric, with a little surprise burst of colour on the underside of the stools.  And I considered the idea of making little bolster cushions out of the patterned fabric to stop them looking too plain.

But first things first – for those of you playing along at home, for this project you will need:

  • Fabric of your choice, the exact amount needed will be determined by the size of your seats. I used an unlined triple weave curtain fabric, but whatever you chose make sure it is durable and not too lightweight.  For my seats I used about 70 x 63 cm.
  • Scissors
  • Drill with screwdriver bit/screwdriver
  • Staples and staple gun.
  • Staple remover (or flatblade screwdriver if you, like the vast majority of humans, do not possess a staple remover)
  • Pliers
  • Dressmaker’s pins
  • Wine to celebrate your success. Or to get drunk enough not to see your mistakes.  Up to you really.

1. Remove the seat

The first step is to determine how to remove the seat of your stool.  Flip it over and take a look.  Thankfully for me it was four simple screws holding it in and with the use of my trusty, and much loved Ryobi One Drill it was a simple matter to remove them.  They were a little rusty, so I went downstairs and got some new ones for when it came time to put everything back together.

2. Pull out the staples

With your seat off, place it upside down on your work surface (aka kitchen bench) and get to work removing the staples.  The tiny ones holding in the bottom fabric on my seat were near on impossible to remove any which way I tried, so I simply ripped the fabric off.  This exposed the much larger staples holding the upholstery on.  And while I *have* a staple remover, I certainly didn’t *use* a staple remover.  I used a flat blade screwdriver to get those suckers out (a fact which we will not be sharing with my husband, the technical owner of said screwdriver).  Slide whatever makeshift tool you are using under the staples and lever them out.  Any that are shifting but are being a little more stubborn can be manhandled out with pliers once you have enough to grip. This still left the tiny staples from before, so I once again simply ripped the fabric away from them.

As a side note, before you remove the staples that hold the seat covering in place, look at how the fabric is folded/cut as this is what you will be aiming for in order to have nice smooth edges on your recovered seat.

3. No seriously, there are more staples than you think…

With all the fabric gone, it left enough space for me to be able to manoeuvre a smaller screwdriver under the staples and pull them out with pliers.  But let’s face it, this side is going to be completely covered so technically it wouldn’t have changed the aesthetics of the project if you left them there.  But I knew it would bug me to know I’d only half done the job, so I got stuck in and ripped them all out.  And that’s the longest and most tedious part of this project over and done with.  Pretty quick and easy, right?

If you find that the cushioning of your seat has disintegrated, now would be the time to duck out and grab some foam and cut it to size.  Thankfully mine was absolutely fine and comfy, so I forged ahead without worrying about this.

4. Cut your fabric

Now you have a naked seat, it’s time for the fun part.  Recovering your poor, nekkid seat.  And getting the cut right is easier than you might have first thought.  All you need to do is grab the fabric you had removed from the stool, place it face down on the back of the fabric you will be using, pin in place and cut around it, using the old fabric as a template.

5. Staple fabric in place

Lay the fabric right side up (shocking, I know!) over the seat of your seat, smoothing out any unwanted wrinkles.  And I would assume that all wrinkles are unwanted wrinkles in this situation.

Check it is positioned correctly by folding the fabric around to where it will be stapled.  All good?  Excellent.  Grab your staple gun and start by putting a couple of staples side by side in one side.  Move to the opposite side and, pulling tight to give the completed project a taught, smooth look, put a couple of staples in here as well.  Now work your way around, making sure you remain wrinkle free have neat, even folds to account for the curves.

6. Cover the base

Looking good?  Mine too.  At this stage I was thrilled with how it was beginning to look.  To cover the raw edges of the fabric and exposed woodwork, you will want to lay the fabric you will be using on the bottom face down on the bench.  You could simply use matching fabric, it would give it a professional finish, especially if you are, like me, using a plain fabric on top.  However, I like colour, fun and little bit of a surprise so I chose the patterned fabric that may have come off as too busy when choosing fabric right back at the beginning of this project.  As I had already used these two fabrics together on another project I knew they contrasted perfectly.

Use the seat as a template and draw around it on the back of the fabric.  Cut around this, leaving a couple of centimetres to fold under, hiding the exposed edge.  Then flip the seat back over and staple in place.

7. Clean the framework

The stools I was revamping had been left out in the weather so there was plenty of elbow grease needed to remove the rust and dirt.  If yours look as tired as mine, now is the time to break out the sugar soap and scourer.  As tempting as it is to put it all back together so you can revel in your genius, you don’t want to mess up your fresh, clean fabric with dirty water and grime.

8. Reattach the seat to your stool.

Finally, it is time to firmly reattach the seat to the frame. I used my Ryobi One drill again, but if you are way more energetic than me, get out your screwdriver and go for it.  Flip right side up and stand back to admire your handiwork.

9. Sit on stool feeling accomplished and drinking wine.

You don’t need guidance for this step – I believe in you.

And there you have it.  A total revamp of your breakfast bar stool that needs zero outlay and is easily accomplished in an afternoon.  Isn’t it amazing how small things like this change the entire look of the space?

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There’s always a bright side. Even if that bright side is that you only lost a finger.

Lessons come from the most unlikely places.  Like from children and applesauce. And crack.  Sometimes from manky, infected toes and bubblewrap, but that’s another story altogether.  Today’s lesson is courtesy of applesauce and crack and I don’t really know how I feel about it all.

Ash, eating applesauce straight from the jar. “It’s Apples Mum.  It must be healthy.”
Me, trying good parenting. “Yeah.  But how much sugar is in it?”
“Only 12%.”
“12% of that jar was sugar. That’s not healthy.”
“Look on the bright side.  It isn’t 50%.”
“That’s like saying to someone who just lost a finger.  ‘Look on the bright side, it wasn’t half an arm.’ It isn’t helpful.  They still lost a finger.”
“Well I’d rather lose a finger than an arm.  I don’t think you’re getting it Mum. There’s always a bright side.”

Ten minutes later…

Me, trying some more parenting “…I’m glad you asked. The inserts for the cup holders are on the sink because *someone* <eyeballs Ash> left iceblock wrappers in there and they got sticky.”
“Look on the bright side, Mum.  At least I’m not a crack addict”.

Today applesauce and crack have taught us valuable lessons.  I’m pretty sure the lesson is that if you’re a total smartarse, try not to raise your children to be just like you.

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WHY DO PEOPLE KEEP TRUSTING ME TO DO THINGS? IT DOESN’T MAKE SENSE!

So here’s the thing.  People keep putting me in charge of stuff and I can’t work out why.  No, really.  Managers are supposed to be fully functioning adults and if we have learned anything on this blog, we know I am not a fully functioning anything.

I used to be Assistant Manager at a refuge for homeless youth.  I’m pretty sure I can’t be allowed to raise other people’s children, this is how my own son’s twisted little mind works:

Me: (writing notes on a client for staff meeting): “hmmm social networks…”
Son: “tumblr, twitter, facebook..”
Me: “No dear, my client’s social networks.”
Son: “Just because they’re homeless doesn’t mean they can’t have a tumblr”
Me: “heheh they usually have a facebook”
Son (horrified at himself) …….. “ahhhahahahahahahahahah….ohhhhhh….”
Me: “Oh god, what?”
Son: “If they have a facebook at least the homeless have one wall”
Me: “…..
……..
….you’re going to hell.  You know that right?”

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Perhaps I am the Prime Minister of Australia. Only Time Will Tell.

I’ve decided I’m a genius.  No reason other than the fact that geniuses… geni-i… people who possess the smarts are often unappreciated in their life time.  And I am unappreciated.  Ergo I must be a genius.  Flawless logic really when you think about it.

Artists are the same.  So I’m probably an artist too.

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Roll Up Beach Bed Tutorial

Life takes us on many unexpected journeys,  and this craft project was the beginning of our 2015 holiday that did not exactly work out the way we had hoped. Or happen at all that year in fact.  However, as with many disasters faced with a positive attitude and a healthy dose of irreverence, in the end it worked out better.  While it took us an extra twelve months to get there, in which we had a 7 month wait for permission from Minister’s delegate to get passports for our girls, we managed to amend our holiday to take in New Zealand, New Caledonia and Vanuatu so it wasn’t so beach oriented for the girls.  In all honesty, this is a post I started writing about 18 months ago, however after our holiday fell through, I put it aside for a little while.  But here we are, so let’s have a wander down my crafty memory lane together.

Create a Roll Up Beach Bed. Comprehensive Sewing Tutorial.

So there I was planning a superb family holiday to the South Pacific, fourteen glorious nights cruising around three gorgeous countries – Fiji, New Caledonia and Vanuatu.  Sun, sand and snorkelling, who could ask for more?  I could almost feel the sun on my back and the waves gently rocking me as I snorkelled through the reefs.  The only drawback was that, in the words of my youngest daughter, “I’d like the beach if it wasn’t for the sand and the waves.” Also, there is no wifi on Mystery Island, which is a problem if you are a fan-fiction addicted 14-year-old who secretly dreams of being a superhero.

I shouldn't need to be sewing to make this place enjoyable for my nerdlingsNow obviously I wanted my girls to enjoy our tropical holiday as much as the snorkelling aficionados in the family.  And since I was unable to convince them that swimming with turtles and all manner of brightly coloured fish is the most amazing experience to have when on tiny islands in the South Pacific, I found a crafty, lazy compromise.  The amazing Stella at The Golden Adventures of a Very Dark Horse came up with the solution; I’ve just tweaked it to fit with my family’s love of fantasy and things that deviate from the traditional norm. (And also because I’m essentially a 7-year-old in a grownup’s body and I like to DO IT MYSELF! *stamps foot in a petulant and precocious manner*).

Seeing Stella’s idea on Pinterest made me think about how I could make the girls’ island adventure relaxing and fun in their own way.  We’d planned horse riding in rainforests and abseiling down waterfalls to cater to their uniqueness, but I wanted them to enjoy their beach time as well, even though they don’t like to swim at the beach.

So with tutorial chosen, I was off to Spotlight to find some suitable material that wasn’t all ‘beachy’, ‘girly’, or ‘old lady’.  I chose a cotton fabric with a Wonder Woman print for Miss Ash, one of the only DC characters allowed in our house without a heartfelt discussion on why Marvel is better than DC and serious debate over whether Batman is a Super Hero or not.  (For the record, my vote is cast for Ninja with Gadgets in the Batman debate.  He’s not a superhero.)  And then off to the nearest department store for two bath sheets in matching colours, I went with a dark grey to satisfy the curled-up-in-her-room-not-being-social-and-reading-by-the-glow-of-the-tablet vibe she had going on at the time.

I’d like to point out that this is an excellent craft to use up bits of leftover fabric and upcycle old towels. I used new because I was trying to make a brand new gift for them rather than indulge my inner hippie.

Create a Roll Up Beach Bed. Comprehensive Sewing Tutorial.

With two beach sheets, some hobby fill, a metre of Wonder Woman fabric and matching thread in hand, I was ready to begin the day’s crafty adventure.

Create a Roll Up Beach Bed. Comprehensive Sewing Tutorial.

The first step was to decide how big I wanted the pillow part of the bed to be.  Keeping in mind that the finished product will wrap around this, making the finished size of the bag slightly larger than the size of the pillow.

Create a Roll Up Beach Bed. Comprehensive Sewing Tutorial.

I cut the first towel into four pieces as shown above.  The large piece on the right is for the pillow.  I made mine the width of the towel x 33 cm.  The two skinny pieces in the middle are for the handles and once again they are the width of the towel x 15 cm.   The last piece is leftovers, don’t throw it away though, I have a way to use it up at the end.  I hate wasting crafty goodies.  And Tim Tams. Never waste a Tim Tam.

Sew a Roll Up Beach Bed. Comprehensive CraftTutorial.

Next I put the pillow part together by folding it almost in half, leaving about 5cm of the raw edge exposed (this ‘flap’ is where the other towel will be attached to the pillow).  I sewed the open ends together and raw edge down, leaving a gap along the raw edge to push the stuffing into.  (Don’t worry about the exposed raw edge as it will be hidden by the other towel very shortly).

Sew a Roll Up Beach Bed. Comprehensive CraftTutorial.

I sewed the gap closed and then pinned the second towel over the exposed raw edge to hide it and create the rest of the bed  part of the beach bed.  To make sure it was strong and the stitching reinforced for lots of lazing, I sewed it in three separate places as marked above.  Sewing along the side of the pillow was awkward; somewhat like trying to drive a car with a Pillow Pet under each arm.  My best advice is to take it slow, pull it through straight, use LOTS of pins and remember that the towelling is quite thick, you’ll want a sturdy needle on the machine unless you want to break a few.

Sew a Roll Up Beach Bed. Comprehensive CraftTutorial.

Sew a Roll Up Beach Bed. Comprehensive CraftTutorial.

I rolled up the beach bed with the right side on the inside of the roll, set it aside for the moment and got the Wonder Woman fabric out.  I cut two strips that were 6.5 cm wide…well, in reality I made two small cuts in the fabric 6.5 cm apart and ripped the fabric down to the end.  This makes a much straighter line than I could ever cut freehand, is quick, and oddly satisfying.  But if you want to cut it like a grown up with scissors and the like, go right ahead.  I folded the edges of the strips 1cm in on either side and pressed them.  If you want ties that aren’t as wide as mine, turn the edges in further or make your strips slimmer. I wanted the strips wide enough that I would be able to reinforce the stitching as they will be holding the whole project shut while there is a fair amount of weight in the side pockets.

Sew a Roll Up Beach Bed. Comprehensive CraftTutorial.

Fold the strips in half longways so the pressed edges meet and press them again.  There is an inordinate amount of pressing at this stage of the game. You may as well leave the iron plugged in for the time being.  Run a seam down the open side close to the edge. At one end of each of the ties, fold over twice to hide the raw edge, press and sew to keep it in place.  At the opposite end, fold 1 cm over and press down.  This is the end that you will attach to the towelling.

Grab the rolled up beach bed that you had put aside and place the ties evenly along the opening.

crossPin and sew the ties in place.  I wanted these stitches to hold with the weight of books and sun block pulling at them, so I sewed the ties on with a cross pattern for extra strength, like sew (like so… I slay me):

Incidentally, the answer to your unasked question is yes.  Three of the ties will be on the edge of the foot of the bed and three of them will be in the middle of the back of the bed.  This is why we rolled it up with the right side facing in.

Sew a Roll Up Beach Bed. Comprehensive Wonder Woman CraftTutorial.

Next, it was time to put the pockets on the side.  The size of the pockets you create will be dictated by the size of the stuff your little nerdling wants to carry to the beach. The best way to create the pockets is to measure the nerd crap your non-snorkelling, geekling wants to bring to make the outdoors feel more like indoors and custom-create the pockets.  For the ones I did, I made sure that there were pockets and sleeves the right size for books, headphones, sunblock, a Nintendo DS and sunglasses.  They will also be dependent on the size of the towel you started out with.

For the long pocket, I cut (and by cut, you know I mean ripped) a length of fabric that was 66 cm by 21 cm.  Then it was back to the iron to press the edges over by 1cm.  Along one of the long edges (the one that is now the top of the pocket) fold it over again and press so this edge does not have a visible raw edge on the back. Run a line of stitching along this top edge to keep it in place.

Grab your rolled up beach bed and position the long pocket underneath the ties as shown in the picture.  Make sure it is parallel to the foot of the bed so things aren’t inclined to fall out of wonky pockets as it is being carried.

Sew the pocket in place then, measure the items most likely to be carried in the pockets and sew dividers along the pocket as illustrated by the dotted lines above.  I do not suggest leaving it as one long pocket as it will sag in the middle and things will fall straight out.

Sew a Roll Up Beach Bed. Comprehensive Wonder Woman CraftTutorial.

Flip the bed over and create pockets on the other side.  Mine were cut at 33 cm x 21 cm and were created with the exact same process as above.  Create as many small pockets or another large one if you wish.  If Donna’s first meeting with the Doctor has taught me anything, it is that pockets are always handy.

Sew a Roll Up Beach Bed. Comprehensive Wonder Woman CraftTutorial.

The only thing left to do to finish off the beach bed is to make the handles using the two 15 cm wide pieces of toweling you cut in the beginning.  Fold each one in half and sew down the raw edges.  Turn right side out.  Using your patterned fabric, create sleeves for the ends of the handles.  Cut 4 pieces 10 cm x 21 cm.  Fold 1cm down on each end, wrong sides of the fabric together and press.  Flip it over and fold in half, right sides together. Press.  Run a 1 cm seam down each side and clip the corners.  Turn right side out and slide them on to the handles like end caps.

Sew a Roll Up Beach Bed. Comprehensive Wonder Woman CraftTutorial.

Unroll the bed and place the first handle on the foot of the bed near the ties, top of the patterned sleeve flush with the edge of the towel.  The width of your towel will determine how far in from the edge the handles are placed. Mine were 14 cm in from the edge.  Pin in place.  Place the second handle the same distance in from the edge as the first.  Pin in place.  Using the same cross pattern as above, sew the handles one.  Roll the bed back up and pin the other end of the handles in between the ties on the other side of the opening.  Sew using the cross pattern.

Clip all the loose threads.  Sit back with a self-satisfied smug look of self-congratulatory contentment.

Oh, remember that piece of leftover towelling that you kept aside for the end?  It is perfect for cleaning off sandy feet before sitting on your newly created beach bed.  Use some leftover patterned fabric to cover the raw edge of the towelling then fold it up and place it in one of the handy dandy pockets of your beach bed.

Sew a Roll Up Beach Bed. Comprehensive CraftTutorial.

Sew a Roll Up Beach Bed. Comprehensive CraftTutorial.

Sew a Roll Up Beach Bed. Comprehensive Wonder Woman CraftTutorial.

Wonder Woman Beach Bed Craft Tutorial.

 

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She Really Sucks at Teamwork

Conversation with my daughter bourne out of possible swine flu and too much cough syrup

“Bekah, if I die, I want you to avenge my death by becoming a world famous scientist and waging war on all the bacteria and viruses in the world.” “Okay, Mummy” <I walk off content in the knowledge my daughter loves me>

<pops head back into the room as an afterthought> “Also, if you accidentally turn yourself into the Hulk, I’ll understand if you have more pressing things to deal with than avenging me.”

“She Hulk.  I’d be She Hulk”

“Huh…. That’s the problem you had with that sentence….”

“Well, I’d have to be She Hulk, wouldn’t I?…”  Quite frankly I tuned out somewhere in the middle of talk of marvel characters and avenging but I tuned back in when it sounded like she was coming to an end and I had finished thinking about things I find WAY more interesting.  BECAUSE I’M A GOOD MOTHER.

…”and then I could be The Avengers all by myself”.

“You suck at team work”

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Love Your Children In a Manner That They Can’t Help But Love You Back. Whatever That Is To You.

We have just recently moved in to a rental property that is… less than ideal.  After piling all the trash left at the property by the previous tenant out on the curb for council clean up one evening, I was walking arm in arm up the driveway with my 17 yo daughter.

Me: “Thanks for helping.”

Bek: “I love you too.”

That right there is everything I could have hoped for as a parent.  No matter what I say, my daughter hears ‘I love you’.

Their whole lives, the last thing my children have heard before they leave the house is “I love you”, even if we have just had a disagreement or I am feeling less than loving towards some of their behaviours.  “I love you” will always be the last thing they hear when they leave our home.  It may be “I really want to choke you Homer Simpson style for your stupidity right now, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love you beyond compare.”  Or “we’ll talk about it when you get home tonight and  you’ve removed your head from your arse.  Just know I love you no matter how special your behaviour is.”  But it is still “I love you”.

When I say love your children in a manner they can’t help but love you back, I don’t mean give them everything they want and never impose any rules on them.  What you get in return for that is not love and it is certainly not respect.  We are there to be their parents, not their enabling best friends.  I am mother.  Mentor.  Enforcer of Rules.  Shepherd through life.  Often begrudging, but generally chatty Taxi Driver.  Chores and Homework Badger.  Our friendship, though it exists, exists with strings attached.  With caveats and boundaries.  I am first and foremost their mother.  We will but heads on the odd occasion that they are being buttheads.

Now I know that my style of parenting isn’t for everyone, we are quite sweary and NSFW behind closed doors.  That is why I encourage you to use whatever it is about the amazing human being you are, the thing that makes you lovable and unique, in order to love your children so much they can’t help but love you back.  If like me, you love building box forts in the lounge room and creating indoor beach barbeques, engage with them using quirky part of your personality that meshes with yours.  If you are crafty, show you love by creating things you know they’ll adore.  If you are sporty, make chores fun by turning them into games and competitions.  If they enjoy both fishing and animated films, exclaim “I don’t understand fishing metaphors” before collapsing to the ground if you get lost when they start talking about inline spinners and jerkbait.

Birthday forts are parenting done right!

Parenting is difficult and tiring.  But it also the most wonderfully joyous thing to be a part of.  For me, my children can’t help but love me back because my love shines through in all the nonsense I bring to their lives.  And in the fact that within the circus we call home I put in the effort to set consistent rules and boundaries.  All the fun, laughter, and inappropriate joking is underscored by boundaries and discipline.

I was at the store on the weekend and a tired looking mother was on the travelator with her twin boys.  One was running up the down travelator and the other was walking calmly in front of her towards me.  I smiled knowingly at her and we in that moment of understanding we bonded as parents.  She was clearly overwrought, the shopping centre was near on empty and there was no one else on the travelator but us so it was no big deal that the boys were not standing perfectly by her side.  They were quiet, happy and quite well behaved for 6 ish years old to my eye.  “It gets easier as they get older and less active” I encouraged her.

“Yeah but I’ve still got to go through that horrible stage that comes after this.”  I always find it interesting that parents just assume their children will be difficult, as if they don’t have any control over it.

“My boy is 22 and he didn’t have a difficult stage after he stopped running everywhere and breaking bones” I responded.  Her response floored me.  I wish it was the first time I had heard words to this effect, but sadly it isn’t.

“My daughter is thirteen and she’s a bitch.”

If I thought my mother had that opinion of me, I probably would be too.  In fact, thirteen year old me would go out of her way to prove she was a bitch.  That’s what thirteen year olds do.  If children don’t have someone believing in the person they can be, why would they try to be anyone different?

Loving our children in a way that they can’t help but love us back is about modelling the behaviours we want to see in them, engaging with them in a manner that they connect with and taking the time to experience the world from their own frame of reference.  If we treat our children like a hindrance or a difficulty then that is what they will think we believe of them.  There is no connection in that, it communicates disappointment in who they are and the gap between what we want them to be and who they actually are.  There is a vast difference between hearing “Will you just shut up and stay still for a change?” or “Why can’t you just behave like your brother/friend/anyone other than them” than hearing “Sweetheart, you know how sometimes you get tired and grumpy and I look after you? I’m feeling that right now, can we just take some time out for me to rest so I can be my fun self again soon?”  They all ask for peace and quiet, but the last one creates a shared experience and helps our children understand and connect with us and how we are feeling.

How we deal with those moments when we butt heads with our children is every bit as important as all the moments in between when they are actually nice to be around.  In fact, they speak volumes to our children about our role in their lives and how we view them as people.

One of the reasons my children can’t help but love me back is because they see the love in everything I do.  Even when I have to discipline them.  Rarely are there raised voices and harsh words in our house, no matter how spectacularly stupid or hurtful the behaviour by the adorable little miscreant has been.  I always speak honestly and openly with them about where I am coming from when I do have to play the Parent Card and squash their fun or any misbehaviours.

After all the hurt feelings and teenage anger has died down to a simmer, I approach my child and explain to them why I did what I did.  I assure them that I understand that they are hurt and angry and I would have felt the same at their age.  But I’ve lived a life and I can see the pitfalls of their decisions even if they can’t.  I remind them that I am their mother and my job is to get them through to adulthood safe, well rounded and happy.  In that order.  Happy sometimes has to take a back seat when the other two goals are jeopardised.  I make sure they understand that loving them is much bigger than just making them happy in that moment.  I love them so much I will be the one to put my foot down so they can go on to have rich and happy lives as adults, regardless of how unhappy it makes the both of us at the time.

Speaking to my 16 year old about parenting styles and how we show love to each other, including my setting of rules and boundaries, she said “I was an asshole for a bit but you refused to take any of my crap and I pulled my head in pretty quickly.”  While we as parents are not wholly in control of our children’s actions and attitudes, we play a large part in them as they grow up.

After thinking about writing this post I presented all of my children a seemingly simple question.  I asked “This is not a self serving question for gratification; it’s a genuine question for a post I’m writing.  Why do you love me?”

My 17 year old daughter gave me the most insightful answer which, thankfully, confirmed what I had suspected.  She said she loved me because I was funny, kind, silly and thoughtful.  All good answers and, if I’m honest, did give me the gratification as a parent that I was not intentionally seeking.  It is easy to see why someone would respond well to kindness and thoughtfulness, but I wanted to know why my personal characteristics of funny and silly were reasons to love me as a parent.  To her, those qualities are a reflection of her and she likes that we connect that way.  She responds well to being parented in a style that meshes with her own personality.

All my children have their own wonderful, unique personalities and are experiencing life differently to myself and each other.  To have the kind of relationship where they can’t help but love me back I take the time to see life through their eyes, listen to everything they have to say to me even if I. Really. Don’t. Care. About. Pokemon Go.  And I recognise that the little things aren’t worth saying no to if they don’t take too much time out of my day or cause inconvenience.  Is it a pain in the butt to detour past the gym to go past three pokemon stops? Yes.  Does it take more than two minutes? No.  I have two minutes to give to my children to make them feel that I care about helping them with the things that interest them.  Did I just clean the lounge room?  Yes.  Is it a pain in the butt to step over lego or a stuffed toy tea party? Yes.  Does it actually hurt me in any way for the lounge to be messed up again for a few hours? No.  Off you go, have fun, clean up after yourselves.  If you don’t, the next time you ask to mess the house up will be a learning experience you won’t enjoy.

I show my children that I not only love them but like them.  I seek out ways for us to spend time together doing things that we both enjoy.  I have created a comfortable space that they can ask anything they like (seriously, once my child came out with ‘I heard something at school I don’t know.  What’s a rim job?’), and they know they can call for help if they have made a mistake and they won’t be instantly met with attitude.  They know there will be consequences, but they also know they will be met with love and support before the consequences come after they are out of danger and distress. The punishment always fits the crime, if I think I am going to overreact I tell them I love them but will talk to them when I have had a moment to collect myself because I’m too angry to make good decisions.  I am consistent.  In short, I treat them like individual, thinking, feeling people, not possessions for me to own or control.

Parenting Tools – TL;DR

There is no magic formula for parenting. But I can tell you that your children can’t help but love you back when your chief parenting tool is love.  Love and patience.  Patience and love.  Your two main parenting tools are love and patience and respect.  Your three main parenting tools are love, respect, patience and honesty.  Your four…no amongst your parenting tools are such elements as love… no wait, I’ll start this again.

Amongst your parenting tools are such diverse elements as love, patience, respect, honesty, fairness, boundaries, consistency and a genuine desire to connect with your children and understand where they are coming from.

Throw in a liberal handful of your own personality and they will never realise they are in the middle of the Spanish Inquisition.  Or a Monty Python Sketch.

 

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DIY Wedding Sign Tutorial

I figured the next item on the list of things to make for my friend’s wedding was a nice, easy project that could be done in a day.  I was thinking that if it weren’t for the two hour dry time between coats of paint, I could have knocked this out in an hour or so.   What I didn’t take into consideration with the time frame was making a typo in the initial printing stages.  So, unless you’re total muppet like I am, this is a brilliant piece to pass the time while binge watching Netflix of an afternoon.  Otherwise, it’ll take an extra four hours to add two extra coats of paint to cover up your mistakes.

Design and make your own personalised sign with your response to his big question to display on your wedding day.

The beautiful bride-to-be posted this picture on Facebook.

screenshot_original-sign

Now I’ve known her for a quite some time.  And having heard the tumble of filth and profanity that spills from her mouth on a daily basis, I knew there was no chance that a simple “Are you serious?” happened after he asked her to marry him.  Not to be hoodwinked by an innocuous picture on Facebook, I felt the need to query her response to The Question.

Design and make your own personalised sign with your response to his big question to display on your wedding day.

And so it was decided that I would make the same sign for her but with the original swearing included.

Sadly common sense and good judgement prevailed over fun and poor decision making.  The desire for profanity was recanted at the eleventh hour and the sign was made with a more PG feel to it.

wedding-sign-list

Now, at Bunnings, you can get the board cut to size for free.  So I asked a much-less-clumsy-than-I-am person to cut it at 500 mm leaving me with a 50 cm long piece and a 73 cm piece of board.  Once home I sanded the ends where he had cut it to smooth them off.

step_1_wedding_sign

With the white paint, use a wide paint brush to paint the background colour. You’re going for the rustic feel from the original photo,  so don’t extend the paint all the way to the edges, and angle your brush to create the rough effect. Oddly enough it is harder than it looks to get a look of casual indifference on purpose.  Especially if you’re a bit of a perfectionist.

Two coats should provide enough coverage to create a base you are happy with, but if you have chosen a particularly porous piece of timber or a different brand of paint, you might need an extra coat.

step_2_wedding_sign

While the paint is drying, use your software of choice to design what you want to paint on your sign.  My personal favourite is Photoshop, but you can download The Gimp for free.  It is a superb piece of freeware for image editing.  Careful what you google if you go looking for this and avoid image searches unless you are sure no one will be looking at your browser history.

With the page in landscape aspect, I used Lover’s Quarrel, 400 pt for the cursive writing and Eccentric Std, 300 pt for the block letters.  At this size, it will print over two pages.  So due to laziness and care factor, I just had the words run off the edge of the page.  Once I was ready to print out the second page, I nudged them over to print the rest of the word.

step_3_wedding_sign

To transfer the type to the board the correct way around you need print your words out backwards. If you are using Photoshop, rasterise the type and flip it horizontally.

Time to grab a glass of wine and wait for the last coat of paint to dry.

Once the base is dry, rule a straight pencil line for the bottom row of text to be lined up against.

step_4_wedding_sign

Tape some greaseproof paper to a piece of A4 paper.  My printer kept jamming if I didn’t tape it all the way around.  And after a little trial and error, I can tell you that, for my printer, the key is straight, thin edges.  It worked best when I used a card from my wallet to flatten the tape down so the printer could pick the paper up properly.  And clipping a small amount from one of the top corners let any trapped air out, stopping the printer from jamming.

Print your design onto the greaseproof paper.

tips copy

 

 

Any printing on the sticky tape will not set and make a mess on your board, so it is best to line it up so that you can cut these bits off.

step_5_wedding_sign

Working relatively quickly, cut the greaseproof paper from the A4 sheet you used to stabilise it and cut off any sticky tape with wet ink on it.  Once both pages are printed and cut, tape them together at the back, taking care to line up the text.

Ink side down, line the bottom row of text up against your pencil line and tape the greaseproof paper in place.  I’m sure you’ll notice that in the picture my text isn’t lined up against the pencil mark.  After I placed the print out on the board I wasn’t happy with the placement and moved it.

Using a card from your wallet, rub across the back of the greaseproof paper, transferring the ink from the waxy paper to the board.  Pull the paper aside to check enough ink has transferred to make the letters distinct enough to paint over then discard the greaseproof paper once you are happy with the transfer.

step_6_wedding_sign

Working carefully, paint over the ink.

tips copy

 

 

Just a couple of quick tips if you’ve never done this before:

·         Work top to bottom, left to right.  Unless you are left-handed, in which case you should start on the right.
·         Move the board around so you do not accidentally smudge the paint with your hand.
·         Use a decent quality, reasonably stiff brush.  You want defined edges, not soft watercolour style edges.
·         You will more than likely need two coats of paint for the lettering as well.

Once your lettering is dry, erase the pencil line and flip the boards over to affix hooks if you are intending to hang them.  I spaced mine 9 cm from the top and 5 cm in from the edges.  Although I don’t believe these are going to be hung at the wedding, I put the hooks on in case the couple would like to hang them at home as a memento of their day.

Design and make your own personalised sign with your response to his big question to display on your wedding day.

finished_sign_2_wedding_sign

finished_project_3_wedding_sign

And there you have it, a personalised decoration for a wedding that you could potentially make with leftover bits and bobs you have around the shed.

 

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