Monday, February 20, 2017

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain

It's almost a year since my life got flipped-turned upside down.

But this isn't the Fresh Prince, and a stint in Bel Air wasn't what was needed. Unless Bel-Air is code for all expenses paid psych hospital. In which case, sign me up, baby.

If I could share one thing about this whole time, it is that while I may seem perfectly fine these days, there is a lot going on behind the scenes to make me appear that way. Like the old man standing behind the curtain, furiously pumping levers and spinning dials to keep up appearances as the Wizard of Oz, I'm behind my own curtain squashing down negative self-talk and assumptions that everyone hates me, that I don't deserve to live, to look somewhat 'normal'.

And I tell ya, all that behind the scenes work is fucking exhausting. It's a daily run uphill. Through quicksand. With concrete boots on. (My knack for hyperbole seems unaffected)

The 'spoonie' theory of chronic illness (which I'm well familiar with, thanks to a chronic pain condition I've had since primary school) can be applied to chronic mental illness, too. I only have so many spoons of energy to use on a particular day and some days, just existing takes up all of them.

Some rare days, I have spoons to spare. Sometimes I'll save up all my spoons, and even do a sneaky borrow from the next day to have a night out. It means I will spend most of the next few days in bed, and parenting with the help of Netflix parental controls, but you gotta do what you gotta do.

If I talk to you and seem distracted, or I don't remember something you said a few days ago, it's because at the same time as trying to focus on you, I'm trying to ignore my own automatic thoughts that pop up. I'm working away behind the curtain. These shoulder devil thoughts intrude on the most mundane of conversations.

Chatting with a school mum about the weather:
"She doesn't really like you. She is just talking to you because she has nothing else to do."

Tricky or Bobbin become upset at something minor:
"You are a terrible mother. Your kids would be better off without you."

I forget to defrost meat for dinner:
"You suck. You are the worst person to have ever lived."

Filtering those messages out isn't easy, but I'm getting better at it. I do a quick fact check (all the while hoping I'm not missing too much of what you're saying): Does it matter if this person doesn't like me? Am I shit mum if my kids are fed, bathed and loved? Am I the worst person to have ever lived? Really? Have I considered genocide? No, then I'm not the worst person, let's move on.

I can feel myself coming back more and more in some areas, but not in others. The urge to write again has been stewing for a while, but so far every time I sit down and bang out a few sentences on the keyboard those intrusive thoughts come back.

"Why do you bother to write when no one will read?"

"This is terrible. You can't form a sentence."

"Just don't bother. You can't fuck up if you don't try."

And I've been listening to those thoughts a lot, as the dozens of half finished blog posts languishing in my drafts folder can attest.

But this shit is not linear. Just as everyone has ups and downs, so too does this recovery process. Don't say journey or I'll vomit.

So I keep trying. Pulling the levers. Spinning the tops. Pushing the buttons. Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain, it's still me. I'm working hard.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

iFly Perth is here and it is even more awesome than it looks

This is a C2 post - gifted experience
For full details please see my disclosure policy

I got to head to the launch of indoor skydiving facility iFly Perth this month and I spent most of the evening with my jaw hanging wide open in disbelief. I am now in the background of hundreds of photos looking like I'm catching flies. Attractive!

I was so awed by the set up and the performances of the skydivers (and they really were performances!) that I squealed and clapped like a kid at her very first circus. I couldn't quite believe what I was seeing.

Amazingly choreographed routines. Guys zooming around. Spinning up, up, up almost 15 metres off the ground in a vertical wind tunnel. Check these guys out:

I was going to call it ballet in the air, but the speed these professionals were flying it looked more akin to those 'wheel of death' motorcycle cages sans the motorbikes. In. Sane.

I came away from the party feeling pumped, and wondered if just watching others do it was so good, how extreme would it feel after I had a go?

So yesterday MapGuy and I headed to the brand spankin' new iFly Perth to find out. I can tell you, our first taste of indoor skydiving did not disappoint!

We suited up (almost attractive as my slack jawed stare on opening night) and had our introductory lesson from our instructor Danny, a highly experienced skydiver with around 520 jumps to his name. We learned how to hold our bodies, the hand signals used (you can't hear anything in the tunnel), and all the safety details.

Then it was go time.

Do you think orange is my colour?
There were six of us in our group ranging in age from three to mid fifties. Yeah, that wasn't a typo. One of my fellow students was a toddler. Because the speed of the wind in the tunnel is controlled in real time by another skydiver, it doesn't matter how big or small you are. Plus the instructor in with you has a level of fitness up there with elite athletes so they can help everyone from littlies to big burly blokes, all while being blasted with air.

It was brilliant.

Wendy, I can fly!
The feeling was so completely foreign that I had to work hard to concentrate on following Danny's hand signals, and I had no idea if I was putting my legs in the right spot or not because I couldn't really feel where they were, but his thumbs up said I was doing OK.

We each got two flights, the second of which was better because that unknown element was gone and I felt I could follow instructions better.

I can see my house from up here!
The wind blasting up my nostrils was a bloody weird sensation. They could legitimately add "complimentary sinus clean" to the list of services they offer.

There really was no down side to the experience. It's short, and there are options to go for longer, but the general time is the same as what you'd get with a freefall from 14,000 feet. Then you just pop out, let someone else have a turn and you're up again. No flight, no ear pressure worries, no parachute worries!

MapGuy was a natural
It's so controlled and it on top of actually being very safe, it felt safe - I wasn't scared at all, and at no time did I feel like I was about to drop out of the sky.

I don't know yet if it has made me want to jump out of a real plane, but I definitely want to go back and have another go. Even Tricky says he wants to have a go, so I've promised he can go for his birthday next year.

This is iFLY High and is $10 extra 
If you're stuck for a present, a voucher for experiences is always great, but indoor skydiving is just next level awesome.

iFly has locations in Sydney, the Gold Coast and Perth, and prices start at a very reasonable $89.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Shingle Bells

This absolute asshole of a year is almost over and I was just beginning to relax. I could see the proverbial finish line, and I was ready to slow motion run through the tape, crowd cheering and ticker-tape raining down. Chariots of Fire or Eye of the Tiger or some other inspirational bullshit music playing.

I had faith my birthday and Christmas would be the pinnacle of the year. A last ditch attempt from the universe to apologise for fucking up 2016 for almost everyone I know.

Instead, I find myself under a metric fuck tonne of stress as I go back and forth with school about a student making death threats to my Tricks and what seems like half the year one students, and the school now saying that the kids just need to stop reacting to the threats. Yeah, because a six year old should totally be able to remain stoney faced and stoic when told they are going to die. These kids still believe in Santa Claus and when their friends tell them they can do triple backflips while riding a motorbike. Grrrrr!

My nights are filled with reaching out to other parents, furiously researching who I can contact about this ongoing bullying (as the school is implementing safety plans... then not fucking following them) and worrying constantly about the psychological effects of sustained death threats to an entire bloody year group by one student.

Earlier in the year it would have been my mind that gave up and I'd be rocking in a corner.

This time though, with my mind so much stronger, this whole fiasco is manifesting physically. It is, quite literally, getting on my nerves instead.


Fucking Shingles. But you guessed that from my hilarious and oh-so-cliche post title, didn't you?

There will be no ticker-tape and slow motion run. There will be no inspirational music. Just "All the Shingle Ladies" on repeat for the next two-four weeks. 

I'm in a lot of pain and feeling pretty damn sorry for myself, but luckily I was at the doctor getting anti viral meds within hours of the rash appearing, so fingers crossed it isn't as bad as it could be.

I've been given Oxycodone because "this will be really bad over the next few days". So along with the pity party for one, I'm also a bit delirious and struggling to keep my eyes open. Perhaps I should employ MG as proof reader of my official emails before I hit send, lest I end up with expletive laden correspondence. 

So to 2016 I say, on behalf of so many, fuck you. Don't let the door hit you on the way out... and once you're through the door, fall down the stairs. Break your leg. Get concussed. Go to hospital and while you're there get MRSA. Because that is how highly I think of you. 

Friday, September 16, 2016

Even Mummy Cries

This is an S3 post - I received these books for review purposes
For full details please see my disclosure policy

I saw a meme once that said "My only goal as a mother is to raise children that don't have to recover from their childhood" and it really resonated with me as I am in the continual process of recovering from mine.

I wish trauma wasn't part of my background, but knowing its far reaching effects first hand has guided my parenting choices for the better, in a "do almost every thing the opposite" kinda way. I don't think I'm at the point of being thankful for being fucked up, but I might get there one day. 

When I had my breakdown earlier this year I was conscious of not scaring (and scarring) the kids, but also letting them know what was happening. They're not stupid. Kids can tell something is up no matter how hard you try to hide it and it just makes everything uncomfortable; an elephant in the room that everyone is deathly afraid to mention. 

I let them see me cry a few times because what message am I sending them if I say its OK for them to cry but not me? We sheltered them from the big, ugly stuff, but I let them know that yeah, mum's sad right now.

I needed them to hear that it was nothing they did that made me sad, and that I was taking some medicine to help my brain the same way that Tricks takes medicine to help his lungs. They were allowed to ask me anything and I would answer as honestly (and age-appropriately) as possible. Tricky had some questions, but Bobbin is too young right now and was just happy with cuddles and tickles.

One of the resources I've used recently is the book Even Mummy Cries by Naomi Hunter (available through Empowering Resources). 

It is a great starting point for an important conversation. It alludes to mental illness, but never uses the specific words, so it could be helpful with a range of mental diagnoses (although Dr Glow is suspecting the mum in the book is bipolar). When it showed the Mum sleeping a lot, Tricks was all "that's what you did!". He was able to recognise the behaviours of the Mother and see himself in the children and I think it helped him to know that it wasn't just his mum acting all strange.
The book, with its beautiful illustrations by Karen Erasmus, will let you ease in to talking about big feelings and how they influence our lives, whether you experience mental illness or not. They'll be learning acceptance without even knowing it. It's the literary version of smuggling veggies in to spag bol. 

With these frequent, small discussions about mental illness I hope my kids grow up knowing it's nothing to be ashamed of, scared of, or hidden away. That they understand their Mum's mental illness, and that of others, is just as real as diabetes or broken bones. Basically I don't want them to grow up to be assholes who carry on the stigma. 

I believe that being open and honest with kids is important, so we have read the other books from Empowering Resources too, A Secret Safe To Tell a gentle story that covers body safety, and You're Different, Jemima that encourages kids to celebrate their differences. But Even Mummy Cries is the one that seems like it was written for us, so I have a soft spot for it. 

How do you approach the big conversations with your kids?

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Alice in Wonderland birthday party on a budget

Alice in Wonderland birthday party ideas

I am a sucker for a themed birthday party. There is just something about everything coordinating that makes my obsessive compulsive brain sigh with happiness. But it doesn't have to cost the earth, especially if you make the food part of your decorations and use things from around the house.

I chose the theme of Alice in Wonderland for one reason: Bobbin received a little Alice costume from her Aunty Kitty for Christmas. I couldn't resist.

First things first we had to show Bobbin the movie to make sure she actually liked it, and PHEW! she did because otherwise we'd be screwed. So what is a themed party without a themed invite? On to PicMonkey I went with a couple freesource Alice images and the text from a page out of the book and voila!

Then it was on to sourcing all things Alice to decorate on a budget. I was after a whimsical feel, wanting the guests to feel like they had stepped in to Wonderland for the afternoon.

Alice in Wonderland birthday party ideas

Off to the Op Shop I went to grab some adorable little tea cups. I bought one set of four for $3.00 and a single tea cup for $2.00 from one shop but then at the next shop I loved another set of four so I grabbed that too, for $3.20. It meant I had extra in case of breakages - these are three year olds remember! - and because it was from an Op Shop, the money was going to a good cause. The girls thought it was the best thing ever to have real tea cups filled from a real tea pot!

I headed to Kmart (of course) and grabbed some small metal flamingos for $1 each that are technically garden decorations, but I thought they'd be perfect - remember the croquet scene? The plants, bunnies, and serving trays were things I had around the house. Who doesn't have ceramic bunnies around the house?

The most expensive part of Operation Alice was spray painting the IKEA Mammut stools to look like toadstools. It wasn't a necessity, but I've been meaning to do it since we got them from a swap meet a few years ago. Plus the table, which I got from kerbside rubbish last month, was old and faded and really needed a spray.

I used the Rust-Oleum 2X Ultra Cover in gloss white and gloss Apple Red at $11.95 each from Bunnings which go on to plastic really well. I coated each chair with white first, then cut out and placed randomly shaped blobs of cardboard on to the top before spraying over with one coat of Apple Red. They didn't turn out perfectly because I was a bit short on time, but they looked good enough for me, and cemented the Wonderland feel.

I decided to put the party in to Bobbin's bedroom rather than a corner of the back yard because the decorations all close together are so much more effective. I grabbed a two pack of cards from the local cheap things shop for $2.50 and pulled out some old fishing line from the craft drawer to make card bunting to hang from her ceiling. I made four strands with 20 cards on each, and hung them from the corners of the room to the fan in the centre. It looked so good!

On the window sill I placed three black photo frames with Alice in Wonderland silhouettes I'd printed out as a gift for Aunty Kitty last year... yep, she loaned them back to us when she found out the party theme! Plus she let us borrow a movie poster and a little Alice book we placed on the food table.

Alice in Wonderland birthday party ideas

To add a bit of cheer to the walls I made some "rose bushes" out of cardboard, and adorned them with crepe paper "roses". There were three with red roses and one with white roses, and as soon as Bobbin saw them she started sing "We're painting the roses red". Winning! She got the reference! 

Alice in Wonderland birthday party ideas

We brought in the Queen Anne dresser to be the food table, as is usual for parties around here. I saw it on the side of the road a few years ago and it was in such amazing condition I thought it couldn't possibly be out for the taking, so I knocked on the door and the man said it was! His daughter had long ago grown up and moved out and he was clearing out all her old stuff. He even helped me load it in the car. I got it home, painted it up and put some new handles on it with the help of my Aunty, and it's been a great piece ever since.

Alice in Wonderland birthday party ideas

I covered the table in the playing cards left over from the bunting, and little quotes from the book/movie I'd made using PicMonkey and printed out including "we're all mad here", "six impossible things before breakfast", "curiouser and curiouser", "this watch is exactly two days slow", and of course, "eat me"! It was a food table after all.

Alice in Wonderland birthday party ideas

I cut some flowers from a gigantic straggly bush on the side of the road, then covered the dresser with them. Stuffing them in the drawers and some on top for good measure, plus I pulled out some empty jars for vases and had them all around the room. It made such an impact and cost nothing. 

Alice in Wonderland birthday party ideas

I ordered the "Eat Me" cake topper from eBay for a few dollars and it took five weeks to arrive - ordering early is key for online purchases! I added some paper bunting to the top of the cake, too, which I grabbed at Target for around $3. The cake itself was three Woolworths mud cakes ($4 each) that I levelled out and stacked together. The icing went all wrong - too thick at first and then I thinned it down. Big mistake. HUGE. It was then too runny and I didn't have any more icing sugar to thicken it. Not gonna lie, I cried a bit.

For party food I used a white bread plate and a borrowed three tier serving tray. I served fairy bread (duh), cupcakes with rainbow icing (because at 2am I couldn't sleep and figured I would try something new) and Dr Oetker rice paper butterflies (from Woolworths $2.50 for a pack of 12), two punnets of strawberries, a punnet of blueberries, and a few Tic Toc bikkies because they suited the Alice theme so well! 

Alice in Wonderland birthday party ideas

We only had two activities for our tea party guests; we decorated some plain biscuits with Dr Oetker glitter icing pens, sprinkles, mini M&Ms and little jubes; and pass the parcel. If you've ever played with three year olds, is a lot of effort ensuring everyone is actually passing said parcel and not ripping it open the second they get their hands on it. Each layer had a mini icecream eraser that they loved and only cost $1 for the whole packet. The rest of the time the girls were free to just play with toys and have a tea party.

Each guest got a take home goodie bag with their name pegged on to it (photo at the top with the tea cups). They contained a sheet of stickers, a Freddo frog, a pack of sultanas and a little necklace with a tiny metal key or mushroom and vial saying "Drink Me" or "Eat Me". Another eBay find for $1.80 each!

Alice in Wonderland birthday party ideas

It was such a lovely tea party, and I adored the way the room came together. So much so it is still set up nearly a week later! We have had a mini tea party in there every day since because who can resist the pull of those toadstools and a room bursting with flowers?


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