Sunday, 1 September 2013

Today is Father's Day, and probably a timely moment to talk about what life is like as a sole parent.  Not as a single parent who shares parenting responsibilities with an ex partner (and I'm not for one second pretending that is without it's difficulties), but a sole parent where the child's other parent, for whatever reason, is not part of the equation.

I've been a sole parent since very early on in my pregnancy. How that came about is a long story but the fact remains that, not by my choosing,  the First Mate and I have been on our own from day one.

Being a sole parent is hard. Is it necessarily harder than being any other type of parent? I couldn't tell you because I don't know any different. But this gig is tough and I'm always on the hunt for ways to make it easier.

You often hear single parents talk about having to be both Mum and Dad to their kids. It's very common for well meaning people to bestow their pity upon me for having to play both roles to my son.

Image from

And for several years that's exactly how I felt. As though I had to try and be two different people, bring the same amount of love, energy, time, money, fun, attention, discipline, knowledge and resources into my household that two parents would be able to provide.

And I failed.

Because it's impossible.

I am only one person.

And while I'm busy trying to split myself down the middle to be best father to First Mate that I can be, I'm only able to be half the mother I need to be.

So at some point, I made the decision to stop trying to be a father. I will never, ever be able to do that.  Ever.

But I can be a mother.  First Mate deserves a whole mother, not half of one.  And I deserve to just be me, not half of me and half of some else. Because, believe me, that's exhausting.

So, to all the sole parents out there, give yourself permission to just be one person. It will help you become whole. xxx

The Captain. 
I love markets.

I mean, I LUUUURVE markets. Barely a weekend goes by that I don't visit some kind of market, fair, stall or bazaar.

There is something about food, crafts and good old  trash 'n' treasure that brings the community converging into a melting pot of culture and language. Professions and socio-economic status don't apply as we collectively fill a bag of snow peas for $1.99.

There is something about being at the markets that makes people happy. Everyone you meet has a smile on their face and an interesting story to tell.

I don't know if  it's the aroma from the coffee van mixed with freshly cooked gyoza……

I don't know if it's the stunning vibrant colours at every twist and turn…..

Perhaps it's that crisp, instantly recognisable but indescribable smell of fresh fruit and vegetables…..

What ever it is, there is something about this assault on the senses that has the power to make this battle weary mum think she can handle anything!

What's your favourite local market?

The Captain.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

When you first laid eyes on your first born child did you get that overwhelming sense of undeniable love and adoration? Did you feel that you were suddenly made whole and that nothing could ever be as perfect as that little person they placed on your chest? When you brought them home from the hospital did you spend hours watching them, holding them, not wanting to let them out of your sight? Did you, despite the sleepless nights, just know that motherhood was the most amazing thing you had ever experienced in your whole entire life?

No, me neither.

This is how motherhood was sold to me. And to you too I bet. It's natural, it's beautiful. Yes, it's hard, but it's so rewarding and as soon as you meet your baby you will fall in such deep love that it will all be worth it. And the 3 am screaming, the pooplosions, the vomiting would all be forgotten every time you see your baby smile.

Well nearly 7  years on, I'm still waiting to experience this promised euphoria. And I don't think I'm the only one.

It is such a taboo in our culture to admit you don't readily take to being a mother. From such a young age we are bombarded with romantic  ideas that Motherhood comes naturally to you simply because you happen to be born a woman. That once the baby arrives, you will instinctively know what to do and how to handle every surreal parenting situation that should arise.

And who are the worst perpetrators of perpetuating this fallacy?

Other women.

I call this the Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows Effect.
Men don't talk up parenthood. You don't hear new dads saying to their friends "Mate, you so have to have baby. Seriously dude, it's the most amazing thing you'll ever do with your life. Just get her pregnant, don't worry about it man. When the baby comes, you'll just instinctively know how to be a good dad."

It doesn't happen.

But women, they will crap on until they are blue in the face about how wonderfully blissful it is to be a mother. How fulfilled their life is now. How they were nothing until they had that baby.

But have you ever tried admitting to another woman that you are struggling as a mum? That you haven't bonded with your baby? That you don't particularly draw any fulfilment out of this Motherhood caper? Well I have. And with the exception of my village (see this post), the response I generally get is that of shock, disapproval and such looks that I wondered if I had sprouted horns and a tail that I hadn't noticed.

You can't say that. You just don't talk about those kinds of things. Motherhood is Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows remember? Everyone else says so. Everyone else loves being a mother. Everyone else must be right. And I must be doing something wrong.

And even if someone feels the same way, chances are, she'll be too scared to admit it.

So ladies, we need to start talking about this. To each other. We need to stop perpetuating the fallacy and start having honest dialogue. Motherhood is hard. There was a 16th Century English Philosopher, Thomas Hobbes, who said that life is "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short". I think we can apply that to Motherhood… minus the short part :-)  Yes, there are many women who relish Motherhood and roll around in it like the proverbial pig in you-know-what. But I think there would be equal numbers of women who feel lost, lonely, regretful, overwhelmed and very detached from the screaming bundle of 'joy' writhing around in front of them.  And if they dare speak up about how they are feeling, instead of receiving the support they are so desperately crying out for, they are treated like lepers and cast out by their own kind.

The sisterhood really needs to step it up on this issue. Let's start talking about the good and the bad. The easy and the difficult. The fun and the heartbreaking. Let's be equally open about our mistakes, our downfalls, our fears and failures when it comes to Motherhood . Not to focus on the negative but to bring the balance back to realistic. If a woman is struggling with being a mother, she shouldn't need to feel ashamed or embarrassed, she should feel empowered to share her worries with a fellow mum. She shouldn't be treated as though she is unfeeling or unworthy, rather guided with compassion and understanding.

I know there will be ladies reading this who feel the same way as me. To you I say, you are not alone. You are not heartless. You are not less of a woman. You are not a bad mother. What you are doing is bloody hard. And if reading my post makes you feel just a little less lonely, a little less overwhelmed or a little more confident, then that is Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows to me!

So start talking ladies…..

The Captain.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Back here I spoke about the importance of morale.  Here's a few things boosting my morale at the moment.

 Nutella Cupcakes

Just three ingredients folks!

No, I'm not kidding.

A friend posted them on Facebook and there was no way I wasn't trying those bad boys out.
These ones are straight out of my kitchen but head here for the original recipe.

New Rug

Gotta love the Rocklea Markets. 

My great new bargin rug brightens the place up a bit.

Auslan Books

So excited that my new Auslan books have arrived from Deaf Australia.

I learned Signed English many, many years ago but this year have been doing an Auslan course (Signed English and Auslan- not the same thing).

I'm loving feeling more and more confident with my Auslan communication skills.

New scarves

Another market bargain- five scarves for $20. How could I resist.

Especially after the First Mate reminded me to make sure I bought a black one, not just coloured ones because 'black goes with everything Mum'.

I love scarves.

I love scarves so much I might even devote an entire post to them.

Stay tuned for that :-)

What's boosting your morale today?

The Captain.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Casting my mind back to high school science I am reminded of the Law of Conservation of Energy.

Energy may neither created nor destroyed.

Humans can't make energy. We can't conjure it, fashion it, build it, construct it or formulate it. And much unlike a vast number of other naturally occurring phenomena, we can't destroy it either. Though I'm sure the human race would give it a red hot go given half a chance.

But what does this mean for all the negative, nervous, anxious energy I carry around with me on a daily basis? When I get tired of carrying it, but can't destroy it or put it down, what can I do with it?

The answer is channelling.

I'm having a particularly difficult time with the First Mate at the moment and I am one big walking, talking ball of tightly knotted negative energy. And it's heavy. And I'm getting tired of lugging it around with me.

Then this afternoon, in a stroke of luck/ coincidence/ blessing from the universe, I stumbled across the most stunningly beautiful magazine. I mean, without a word of a lie, spying the cover caused me to let out a little gasp of pleasure right there in my local news agent.

Flow. Magazine for paper lovers. That's me. I'm a paper lover. For as long as I can remember, the sight, touch and smell of gorgeous papers, pretty ribbons and various adhesive products has caused somewhat of a Pavlovian response in me.

Walking into Kikki K or the Kaisercraft store fills me with far more excitement than I should probably admit to.

Sitting at my craft desk mulling over my latest work for PaperCuts Cards and Creations is probably the closest I will ever come to a divine experience.

As I reached over to caress this new gift from Magazine heaven, I felt a shift in energy.

As if this other worldly experience weren't enough, I came home to find baby, harp playing cherubs flitting charmingly around my letter box.

Could it be??  Oh my goodness!

Another gift from the heavens! (Or at least a very lovely friend who unknowingly had impeccable timing). The Stampin! Up 2013 catalogue. Yay!

Slowly, as I paw over these two splendid publications, my negative energy is being channelled into creative energy. I'm being inspired and oddly fulfilled in a way that only textured cardstock and clear acrylic stamps can do.

Tomorrow will still be there. As will all the stressors that feed my anxiety and make me feel that all is utterly futile. But tonight, at least for a few hours, I feel lighter. And maybe it will make tomorrows load of energy a little easier to carry.

The Captain.

Monday, 1 July 2013

How versatile is the humble apple.  I often buy them when they're on special and make up a batch of stewed apples. Nutritious, delicious, inexpensive and oh so many different uses!

Stewed Apples

1kg apples (any you like!)
1/3 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup water
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp corn flour

Makes approx 900g of apple mix

This recipe is more art than science folks. Adjust any or all ingredients to your taste. It all works equally well.

Peel and chop apples. 

I like to finely dice them but you can chop them any way you like.

Add all ingredients except corn flour together in a saucepan.

Cover and simmer until apples are tender. This will take approximately 20 minutes.

Don't forget to stir regularly!

If desired, add the corn flour dissolved in water to the mix to thicken the syrup.

Voila! A delicious batch of stewed apples ready to use.

But what to do with it?

First Mate loves it with Golden Syrup on oats for breakfast.

Hoeing in. 

Note the piece of string sitting on the breakfast table. He carried that around with him all day.

With pikelets and cream for afternoon tea perhaps? 

Did someone say apple crumble cheesecake slice?

Oh, I think so!

Other uses-
  • Apple crumble
  • Apple and cinnamon muffins
  • Omit the cinnamon from the recipe then blitz the final result up for apple sauce perfect for roast pork
  • Omit the cinnamon and sugar from the recipe then blitz up for completely natural baby food
  • Substitute apples for pears- they work just as well
I'd love to hear your suggestions!

And to sign off with a bit of gratuitous fun, here's one of my favourite clips from one of my favourite movies, Good Will Hunting.

How do you like them apples?

The Captain.

Sunday, 30 June 2013

In modern Australian society there  are a few topics that are guaranteed to split any group of people right down the centre.

In no particular order they are asylum seekers, Ford vs Holden, gay marriage, State of Origin football and ADHD.

Now, I have some pretty firm views on some of those topics but today, let's focus in on ADHD. 

As I've spoken about in previous posts, the First Mate and I have beaten a weary path together over the past few years, culminating in the suggestion he be assessed for ADHD.

There ensued a flurry of reports, anecdotal records, documentation, assessments and requests. I bounced incessantly between teachers, GP's, guidance officers, learning and behavioural specialists, optometrists and paediatricians to be finally spat out of the Whirling Dervish experience with a formal diagnosis of both Hyperactive and Inattentive ADHD. And a prescription for medication.

Now, I consider myself a fairly intelligent woman. I started my research long before we received the diagnosis. I've read books, consulted medical specialists, learning support teachers and most importantly, other mothers to try and arm myself with the necessary information to make educated choices for my son. Everyone has a different opinion. And everyone has a different interpretation of the scientific facts (somewhat like religion really).

I've discovered two things in this process. 

1) There is no single solution for managing children like the First Mate. It is a process of elimination. Two steps forward, one step back. Try, try again. It's taking snippets from all the sound advice you've read, heard and stumbled upon from various sources and piecing them together like the fabric in a shabby chic quilt. Individually the pieces are scraps, but when sewn together, those scraps are functional and comforting.

2) Be mindful of your audience. I'm a fairly open person. I've certainly been accused of being too open often enough. I tend to discuss my life with anyone who will listen if I think it will help either them or me (hence the blog!) but since entering the realm of ADHD I've had to learn to guard both myself and the First Mate. As I mentioned in my opening paragraph, ADHD can be a very divisive topic and there are more than enough people ready to shoot you down if you raise this in public.

I'm not here to prove its validity as a medical condition or give evidence towards the effectiveness of medication. That's not my role or my purpose. I believe it's important to seek out information from a variety of sources and challenge your views in order to feel confident in your choices. It's not helpful to blindly barrel ahead with single minded focus to the exclusion of new data, research, ideas and options.

HOWEVER, it is an equally futile use of precious emotional energy to invest too much in constantly justifying yourself and your choices to people who may not have your or your child's best interest at heart. People who will feel the need to use your 'poor parenting', 'bad diet', lack of discipline' (we are all familiar with these oft regurgitated stereotypes) to push their own agendas. To feed feverishly on your insecurities to feel better about themselves. You needn't look too hard for these jackals. There are plenty of them out there.

Perhaps it's the budding anthropologist in me, or perhaps it's purely out of my own personal necessity, but I believe in the old adage "It takes a whole village to raise a child".
For this single mum to a boy with special needs, my village is everything. Filled with an eclectic mix of people, my village provides me the benefit of differing values and opinions balanced with the strength and support to forge my own path. We provide a united front against the jackals.

Image source

United we stand, divided we fall. And let's face it, some days, to simply still be standing is an immense achievement in itself!

Keep on standing.

The Captain.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

A few people have made comment to me about how 'pretty' my blog looks. In the interest of full disclosure, I'm afraid I have to admit that I can take absolutely zero credit for this.

A very quick 'free blog template' Google search led me to two awesome websites which helped me tremendously.

             Shabby Blogs

Both Leelou Blogs and Shabby Blogs have amazingly beautiful design work which they generously offer for free personal use AND provide very easy step by step instructions on how to use them. I have used design elements from both these websites in my blog template.

While we're at it, I also need to give a shout out to A Beautiful Mess.Their amazing ipad app turns my ordinary photos into something blog worthy!

I have absolutely no affiliation with any of these websites, I just wanted to share the designer love!

The Captain.

emotional or mental condition with respect to cheerfulness, confidence, zeal, etc., especially in the face of opposition, hardship, etc.: the morale of the troops.

Dwight D. Eisenhower once said “Morale is the greatest single factor in successful wars”. Now, of course, in its literal sense we could certainly argue there is no such thing as a successful war. However, figuratively, this statement can be  accurately applied  to the battle against the daily grind.

Taking time to boost morale can be the difference between facing opposition with a calm, cool head or racing in with guns a-blazing. And we all know the later rarely ends well.

Here's a few things that have boosted my morale lately.

Coffee with my BFF, Queen J. 

A kitchen table, multiple cups of coffee, chocolate cake and two containers full of almonds (natural for her and oven roasted for those of us who like food with flavour) is the perfect way to spend an afternoon if you ask me. 

There's nothing like being able to spill your guts in a judgement-free cone of silence to relieve some of the emotional weight we tend to carry.

Writing the shopping list. 

I actually really enjoy this. I love trawling through all my recipes (of which I have many!) and planning the weekly meals.  

Doing the grocery shopping without a list is a sure fire way to spend too much money!

The manuscript. 

The First Mate has decided he wants to have a book published and spent the morning drafting the first chapter on the laptop.  

For a boy struggling with his literacy skills at school, it warms my heart to see him engaged in such an activity.

Comfort food!  

Speaking of heart warming… I'm loving winter cooking right now. Rich, hearty, delicious. 

Such a pleasant way to warm up!

What's boosting your morale today?

The Captain.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Sometimes it takes an external force to make an inward change.

For several years I have struggled with a child who was violent, aggressive, inattentive, dissociative and unable to process even simple, single step instructions.  A little boy who could explain to you Newton's Laws of Physics or Darwin's Theory of Evolution but could not write 'The cat sat on the mat' because he was removed from the classroom too often to gain adequate literacy skills.

A boy who could literally scream for hours with no sign of giving up. Scream for so long that neither he nor I could even remember what had tripped the proverbial  trip wire in the first place. A child so frustrated by himself and the world he lived in that literally banging his head against the wall was his preferred coping mechanism.

As a mother, this is terrifying. Confronting, infuriating, exhausting. After years of trying every disciplinary technique known to mankind, I was at the end of my tether. After years of tweaking and re-tweaking the First Mates diet, I was fatigued. After trying to action the advice of all those people who knew how to raise my son better than I did, I was ready to give up.

I was admitting defeat. Obviously it was just my lot in life to have a difficult child. A child I didn't want to be around. A child who tipped the scales far too heavily on the side of pain and anguish and far to little on the side of joy and pleasure. Besides, I probably brought it on myself anyway…… I am far from the perfect parent…..

And then one day…. His teacher said to me "Have you thought of having him tested for ADHD?".

Have you thought of having him tested for ADHD?

As I stood at the kitchen sink that night I cried. No, I sobbed. Big fat, wet tears bomb diving into the washing up water. Now, sobbing into a sink full of dirty dishes is hardly a rarity in my house. In fact, it's a typical Friday night. But this time it wasn't tears of despair. They weren't the tears of anger, resentment or good old fashioned self pity that normally stained my cheeks.

They were tears of relief.



Somebody believed me. There was a genuine problem here and somebody else had noticed. Maybe I wasn't crazy. Maybe I wasn't overreacting. Maybe he wasn't 'just acting like a normal boy'. Maybe he wasn't 'just a naughty kid'.  Maybe he didn't just 'need more discipline'. Maybe I wasn't 'too strict'.

Maybe it wasn't my fault.

And maybe it wasn't his fault either.

While a revelation is certainly not a resolution, and our true journey was only just beginning, this single comment was certainly an impetus for change in both my son and my lives. 

The Captain.

Monday, 24 June 2013

I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a blog for ages.  I even set one up a few years ago but never actually posted anything.

Many people have told me I should write. Maybe because they think I have something interesting to say, maybe because they are sick of hearing me talk about myself and hope that by me having another platform it lets them off the hook!

Either way, I’ve finally decided to give it a crack.

But where do I start?  What kind of blog do I want to write?  All the “How to write a great blog” articles say you should write about something specific. Have a theme, a niche audience, a gimmick. Alrighty then.

I’m a sole parent.  I have been since I was pregnant.  My son (the 6 year old First Mate) has ADHD. I have battled post natal depression. Somehow, we are both still standing.  There is a blog in that I reckon....

I work. I work at what I will refer to as the chalkface, a great term I have affectionately pilfered from my good friend Flora Fascinata. My job is a crazy mix of amazing fulfilment and brain numbing monotony. There is a blog in that I reckon....

I love language and culture. I love learning how to speak (or sign!) other languages. I love listening to people talk about their culture, their customs, and their beliefs.  I want to experience the world. Because I was foolish enough to drop out of uni when I was young, I’m now trying to catch up by studying part time. It’s hard. It’s fascinating. It’s stressful. It’s rewarding.  There is a blog in that I reckon....

I’m in lust with paper. Beautiful paper. I make cards, invitations, gifts. Anything that requires me to cut out little bits of fancy paper and glue them together.  On occasion I sell my wares and am hoping to grow this venture.  There is a blog in that I reckon....

I cook. A lot. Probably too much considering there are only two people living in my house.  I’m passionate about the financial and physical benefits of home cooked food. I am forever looking for ways to produce inexpensive, simple food that passes both mine and the First Mates checklists. And when I do, I like to share them with every living person I know. There is a blog in that I reckon....

So friends, this is why I have stumbled at the starting blocks of blog writing. What’s my theme, my focus?

I’ve finally decided to throw caution to the wind and say bugger the ‘experts’. I’m going to write about everything. The whole kit and caboodle. People are a sum of their parts and my world has many insanely complex, deliciously entertaining and surprising uplifting parts.

If you stay tuned long enough you’ll probably hear about how I hate to hang out washing but I don’t mind cleaning the shower. I’ll share how it feels to have your heart broken by a little boy so distressed about school it’s a daily battle to get him there. 

No doubt I will want to show off my latest card creations and boast about the big bulk cook up I’ve just done. You can commiserate with me when I’m up till all hours trying to finish a uni assignment and have to start work early the next morning. 

And maybe I’ll be echoing your own thoughts as I document the trials, tribulations and triumphs of everyday life as a single mum.

Who knows what will happen and where we'll end up. All I can say is..... Cover me! I’m going in!

The Captain.