new school, old school

Last week Grace had her first two days at her new school. The culmination of much angst, five school tours and two trial/transition days. It's been a process but, you know, I'm really really glad we did it. I'm sure that things will be less than perfect. There are already comparisons between the new school and the old school. The playground is much smaller, the class rooms are smaller and have more children with less air conditioning on a hot day. The commute by bike is longer, although I am marking that as a positive. However the thing that overrides it all is that at the end of the day we are getting a happy Grace. One who is prepared to talk about her day.
Really excited about Grace's first day at her new school! There were so many things we (G and me) didn't like about the old school. We had become really bitter. I'm still bitter and angry. About the asbestos working bee, about the attitudes towards the parents who were concerned about exposing themselves and their children to asbestos dust, the shouting teacher who drank coke throughout the day in full view of the children, the three hours a day of iPads that we weren't allowed to have any say about, the toxic stuff between the parents and the way you couldn't talk about a problem and try to work towards a solution without being called a whinger. But what upset me most, what became the final straw was something that came to light after Grace's first trial day at another school. When I asked her about her day on the train home, she said, Mum it was great! I had someone to play with all lunch time. Fark. How come I didn't know this? We talked about it quite a bit over the next week or so and it turned out she had been shuffling around the playground by herself for ages. Not every lunch time but enough for it to be significant. She still had after school play dates that worked well but lunch time was often lonely. We kept talking and within two weeks she had worked out a solution and paired up with another girl who was escaping the lunch time issue by playing with the preps. And then they started games that other girls joined in. There were some other girls (or one particular girl) they weren't allowed to join but on the whole it was a win. I was furious, why didn't the school let me know this was happening? Did they not notice or did they not think it was any of their concern? Or maybe none of my concern? We could have avoided months and months of silent, hidden misery.

Anyway with the new school, so far so good. Grace has made a new friend and is starting to get to know people. The uniform is a polyester shocker but you don't have to wear it if you don't want to. The vibe at pick up and drop off is friendly. Lots of kids Grace went to childcare with. Some parents we know from round about. I am beginning to feel a great big weight slide from my shoulders.

ps Grace, I'm sorry if I have shared too much but I am so glad you are having a happier time at school.

Last September's Queensland trip

Was going to blog about our recent camping trip but blogging and dealing with my photos are closely linked. And I had to process the photos from our Queensland trip etc before I could do the holidays.  Anyway. I remember really wanting to go to Queensland  to see my sister. Really, really wanting to go. And feeling like we just couldn't afford it. Especially during school holidays. But I worked out that if we flew Tiger to Brisbane and caught the train, it was doable. Then I got sick and spiralled into despair and  the doctor thought I might have whooping cough. It turns out I didn't but I had to pay money to change the day we were flying. I didn't want to even though it was still cheaper. But I couldn't bear the idea of infecting some kid whose parents didn't believe in immunisation, or some baby who was too young to be immunised. We managed to get out of the house and get to the airport really early for a big day of commuting. The sunshine in Brisbane was remarkable and we felt like old hands catching the train. Betty and the girls met us at Nambour station and it felt really good. It was really, really good to get there.
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I can't remember much about the holiday except that I wasn't as depressed. It was the first time we stayed in the new house built largely by my sister's partner, Cam. We went to the beach and we talked a lot which was great but also a bit intense. Three cousins together ranging in ages for four to eight is also intense. Lovely most of the time but there were the inevitable melt downs all around. I'm used to one child having a moment not several. I tried not to show it but I might have been a tad freaked out at times. We bought pineapples and mangoes. I read a book. Kate Atkinson, Case Histories if I remember correctly. I liked it a lot and have since read Life after Life. Must see if the library have more. I ate/drunk less sugar only to revert to form once I got home, although we have given up orange juice as a regular thing. On returning to Melbourne I fell in a heap again and I'm still trying to make sense of why and what happened. Maybe I don't need to know and should just move forward, you know onwards and upwards. - -

I think I might blog today

It's been a while. Four months in fact. Do I try and catch up? Or maybe just blurt out the highlights/lowlights? There aren't any proper photos either, my photo taking mojo seems to have gone the same way as my blogging/writing mojo. So much so that I couldn't make the annual Christmas calendar this year. But perhaps that was just well because really the best thing I can say about Christmas is that it will get better from here on. Suffice to say we will not be having my mum and dad and their spouses at joint Christmases any more. It was a change I thought we could make from next year but I spoke too soon and suddenly it all shifted without any way back. My Christmas day went from turning up with a pavlova and some cherries to shopping and cooking for two events. A couple of people were quite upset and Grace actually told me that I "broke Christmas". Despite all the kerfuffle though, it was better. But perhaps it would have been even more better if the change had not been made the week before Christmas and people could have a) had some time to get used to the new plan and b) not felt they had no say in it. Anyway, it was actually quite a lot better and I overcompensated with presents for Grace. Even if Gerard had to wrap them for me because I was making White Christmas.
Xmas time is here again. This years's recurrent family Christmas shit cycle took place against another really crappy bout of depression. It's been rolling up and down ever since September when I got that horrible flu. Sometimes I think I just need something to start me off, add some life circumstances, stir in some defective brain chemistry and voila, perfect storm. This period of depression, which my psychiatrist won't give me antidepressants for because she thinks it is to do with my life rather than any bi-polar brain chemistry, has made doing anything really difficult. Mornings are a bugger. I don't want to socialise. Or eat. Or exercise. Or take photos. Or anything really. Which makes it worse. So I have been trying to do things. But yeah, bummer.

I did manage to scrape myself off the floor to book and attend a Christmas craft market, four weeks in a row. With a another little market tucked in the middle. Didn't make enough money to flee the country but I covered some bills and my Christmas shopping. And I enjoyed finding out what people like to buy, and touch. The sewing was crazy but fun and think I will keep doing it on and off through the year. My head is full of new plans for toys and products and although I can see that what I am doing at the moment doesn't pay a great hourly rate, it does keep me out of trouble and I think you have to be doing stuff to discover what the next step is. Also made a WordPress website for a friend's business and I think she got a pretty good, responsive website that suits her needs at a reasonable price. Once again, I learnt a lot. There's still some more behind the scenes work to do there but as Gerard says, it's a cheap and practical way to learn a lot. Hopefully this year, I'll get around to making some business websites for myself and find a couple more that I can do for other people.Oh, and I have some more of the boring but well paid by the hour work coming up. And Gerard seems to be getting a fair bit of work about the place too. So I'm not at all worried that we will starve. Or have to subsist on just lentils and rice. Actually I think this year might even be reasonably good for us on the work front.
Gerard has been busy too. Mum has finished her cancer treatment and it has been astoundingly successful. There is no sign of any cancer remaining and apparently only a small percentage of people have a result this good. I am very happy about that, but there is no saying how long the remission might be, two years, ten years, twenty years - there is just no knowing. I do wish however that she would actually give up smoking. Seems like such a good idea, especially if you have had lung cancer. But oh well, what can you do?

Grace will be going to a new school this year. It's good to have finally made a decision but there is of course some anxiety about it not working out. I'm looking forward to drop offs and pick ups where people don't avert their gaze or suddenly become engaged in their mobile phone when you walk past. We still have our little circle of friends at the old school but really, there are quite a few people who would rather not know us. A WorkSafe investigation that resulted in this article, has a lot to do with that. Still we are not the only family leaving. Anyway we are looking forward to a school with  few more girls, a school run library that they take seriously, a language program and no fricking iPads. Grace is not really looking forward to the last one but it bothered her less than we expected on her transition day.

I could probably go on but I need to cook dinner. Maybe I can find some more to write about soon. Hopefully if I keep writing it will become a bit more upbeat. I would like that. So how are you?

craft camp debrief

Oh how I was looking forward to this last craft camp just gone. I missed the last one as it came right at the end of the week when mum's small cell lung cancer was diagnosed. She was out of hospital by the Saturday but it was a pretty heavy week and I don't I would have had it in me to go to craft camp. But I missed it, I missed seeing everyone and I missed the Queen's birthday craft camp being part of the rhythm of my year and I missed the injection of new winter clothes into our wardrobes. And since then things have been a bit tricky here, I miss my old job (in ways), I miss the structure and the money. The new things I am doing remain a great big learning curve. Also we are looking at changing Grace's school and well, mum still has cancer. So when this craft camp rolled around I was pretty damn excited and looking forward to a break and all the good things of craft camp. I voted by post, I cut everything out, I was organised.
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It was so great to be there. Really it was. To hang with (most of) the lovely women. To hang out in the studio on Friday making mini bears and chatting. To take in the view. To just be there. If I could bottle that Friday night Sewjourn feeling, I would. As it was I stayed up far too late on Friday night, chatting. By the time I went to bed I was spinning and overtired. When will I learn? Saturday was lovely too but come 6.05 pm on Saturday night just five minutes after the polls closed there was talk on social media that the coalition had already won.  I think I suggested after tea that we turn on the telly. Half of us headed to the telly and the other half to the studio. It was quickly apparent that things were not looking good. At one point I cried. Silent, wet tears. Thinking about what it might mean for my little family. Oh well.  And I think to say that the election result was a great big downer, was not at all understating it. It wasn't like it wasn't expected but I did have that tiny wee little bit of hope. Kind of like when your footy team comes back from being 40 points down at three quarter time. Unlikely but while there is hope, there is hope. Except now there isn't. Not for a good few years at least.
- On Sunday, it was also obvious that some of us really weren't well. I had a few sniffles and sneezes but didn't think much of it. It was nice to get home and hug Grace. She immediately loved her two mini bears Adam (after Adam Bandt) and Annie. They are now the children of Grizzle and Bluey. She was less thrilled about the clothes I made but those mini bears are pretty damned cute.I put most of my stuff away and enjoyed being home after the break. The next morning...... lurgy time. Yuck. Sick as a dog. And five days later I'm still hacking up a lung. Grace and G have been sick too, although not as bad. Seriously there were a couple of days that were awful. Including one day where I just couldn't get warm. And a spiral into despair. I'm more or less better now, except for a hacking cough (I get this every time I have a cold or flu - must be from being a smoker back in the day). Grace and G have both recovered quickly. Very sneaky little bug.
- Still, it was good to go to Sewjourn and hang out with the lovely women. I sewed a t shirt for me and one for Grace. A denim pinafore and most of one for Grace. A summer dress, two mini bears and two zippered pouches. And I have a whole heap of things cut out and ready to go. Because, as usual I was a little over ambitious. Oh, and on Sunday morning I got up early and meant to go back to bed but there was fog. I love fog! -

so much to learn, grasshopper

In the lead up to the last market, I discovered a few things. Stuffing woollen toys with polyfill is a linty, linty business and no amount of brushing will remove the film of polyfill from the outside of the toy afterwards. I'm thinking of fillings other than polyfill and also thinking of making a kind of cloth funnel to help with this but in the meantime I googled lint removal and the answer had me going d'oh. Sticky tape. Wide packing tape wound around my fingers. Very effective. The bears went to the market with their ears pressed and lint free. I was very proud of them.
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I also discovered that even though I didn't leave everything until the last minute, I was pretty busy the day before and also that I am still capable of a painful, chest tightening panic attack. Even though I knew there was nothing much to worry about, really. It's not really about the market per se. More about my slowness in moving any of my endeavours to a better paying basis. There is just so much to learn and do. The market was not a failure but also not what I would call a success. Although I think I did better than some other stalls but not as well as the stall next to me which was really well thought out and set up. Indeed I spent quite some time watching the lady and her stall. Lots to learn there.
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I need to get the paypal thing on my phone working. Or find another one. The PayPal customer service is really pleasant but they tell you different things about how it works. One section says there is a card reader and another says not. They also said it would work way before it actually did. Anyway, it really needs to be working before my next market. I also should design and order sew in tags for all my toys and sewn goods. I don't really like tags in toys myself but you would be surprised the number of people that have asked or commented about this. I have found a tag that I think will be soft and not too obtrusive so maybe it will be good.. Also need to devise a label for the wooden toys, perhaps a brand or a stamp, get proper business cards, design and print a card for the buttons, make/get a box for the buttons, agree on a finish for the buttons, learn all about shopping carts and various components for my website, finish said fecking website, find a way to make a banner for my stall (the computer prints wash out), work out a feasible stall set up and get G to make the props. Then I need to also make things. This is the fun bit but sometimes it gets lost under all the other stuff. I really need to get cracking on our Christmas season stock, replenish the nibbles, lizards and soft jumper toys,  develop a small bear and make some clothes for the big bears.

And I need to vote. Because I'm going to craft camp! Yay!

a room of my own, more or less

A while ago, in the midst of mum being sick, I had this idea about having a handmade business. And that was that I needed more room to sew. As this meant pretty much kicking G out of the study, I was reluctant to put forward the idea. But truth was, he couldn't get to his records anyway and his computer (that he found in hard rubbish) had died after a couple of years. I kept dreaming, sewing by by the light of the window, somewhere to keep my sewing supplies. Having more of my fabric in the house as opposed to in the shed. Then one night, after we'd had people around for drinks, I put the idea to G and he was surprisingly supportive. Pretty soon after we started moving things around. There were a few days of pain and then it was done.
- - It's amazing how I felt afterwards, like I had been given this huge gift. In the midst of what was a pretty terrible and draining time. Also that I was loved and that what I was doing was deserving of space and consideration. I work in this room nearly every day and while it isn't yet how I imagine it will be post renovation, there is (more) space and light. When I sew in the afternoon the sun shines on my shoulder. I still don't have quite enough space to put things or store fabric but I'm not looking at a whole lot of unused stuff taking up that space. And it is a whole lot better than I had before.
- G has a corner by the doorway for some of his stuff. The records are either in the lounge room or the shed and everybody uses the computer. Sometimes people use the computer while I sew which is pretty friendly. I feel quite lucky.

ps I could have been a bit more careful, and removed some elements from the photos but I feel disinclined to retake them. So a bit of unedited real life in each.

catch up

The first time Mum was in hospital, the oncologist kept saying cancer very definitely. We had been avoiding the word, talking about the lump and the mass. I started crying and she asked if I needed her to stop talking for a minute. It's been at least two months since then and I can definitely say the word now. Cancer. Mum has cancer. She's just had her third round of chemo and it is all kinds of shitty. I have to keep reminding myself that chemo is not the cancer. And that what works or passes for a routine one week might not be the same next week, or tomorrow even. I am trying to keep on with my own life as best I can while still trying to help Mum the best I can.

I said to Mum just after her first chemo that I was thinking about a bear and she rifled through her books and found me a pattern for a bear. It was pretty daggy but the construction method was intriguing. So I went away and thought about bears and bear ears. Eventually I came up with a bear, made it and left it on the kitchen table for Grace to discover in the morning. She loved it and named it Grizzle. I kept working on the pattern and I'm pretty pleased with the bears now.
- Signed up for the Sisters Market a week ago and suddenly feel the need to get my website done and tend to all those little details needed for a proper stall. Business cards, paper bags, table, display stands of some sort and a way to take credit cards.  And I need to make bears and other items. It's fun but a little nerve wracking. But I need to be working in some form. The other work comes and goes and at the moment it's a bit gone. I know it will be back but I need to work on having several sources of income. Or I will have to go back to customer service and I don't want to do that. It's good to be there when Mum needs me and not to be worrying about whether I can take this or that day off. Also I think my days of customer service are done.
- The website has been a saga. I signed up for one host and made a big mistake and they weren't helpful at all. In fact I think they even told me the wrong thing and were patronising about it. Eventually I signed up for another host and they are much nicer. They have been helping me transfer my domain name and the tone of their emails is lovely. I think they genuinely want to help. Transferring my domain name has been like a saga quest. I didn't set up my google apps properly after registering the name through blogger earlier this year but after much searching and some trial and error I found a way in. It's convoluted but seems to have worked. Now I just have to wait until the weekend and then I can work on my website again. Oooh shopping carts, you excite me.
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We didn't get to go away over the school holidays, a combination of Gerard's work, things with Mum and my commitments. So despite protests from the little one, we went on a family day trip. We decided to go to Avalon beach taking in as many op shops on the way there and back as possible. The beach features in Rats and Cats which we saw a while ago. It was great. Beautiful in a ramshackle way. Cleared the fuzz out of my head for a while.

Mum will have her fourth round of chemo next week. It makes me think of the dementors. It's hard and I'm just trying to focus on her being well again afterwards. Hopefully it will give her a really good amount of time.