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.