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It's just a life, but its all mine and I love it!

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Aspergers Kids Can't be Described

For all those parents out there who have a recent diagnosis of high functioning autism or aspergers for your child. You're probably looking for a road map right now to tell you what your kid is going to be like. Unfortunately there isn't one. There's plenty of advice and lists of criteria for kids on the spectrum, but not one will properly describe your child.
My closest friends son is an Aspie as is my oldest boy. During a recent trip to the park we were chatting about the similarities but also the differences between the two. One is a mechanical things loving extrovert. The other is a nature loving introvert. One sings or refuses to listen to some songs, the other doesn't notice the presence or absence of music. One is small for his age, the other large. The list goes on.

He's not like Billy/Fred/Jane!

My long haired, WWII obsessed 7 year old was diagnosed as autistic or Aspergers about 3 years ago. I've never doubted that diagnosis, it made sense of a lot of things. I have however been told by well meaning friends and acquaintances that he isn't autistic because "my neighbour/ cousin/ daughter's friend/ pupil" is autistic and he's nothing like them.
I agree. He's not. Having aspergers isn't like growing up in Stepford. There's not a galactic cookie cutter either physically or mentally that Aspies get forced through before entering our world. If you attend early intervention classes with about ten kids there you'll probably find among other things:
  • Mostly boys - but they'll be some girls
  • Some kids with poor eye contact - but one or two will have great eye contact
  • Some kids that are playing on their own, seeming to ignore the existence of the others - and some running around playing tag or being dinosaurs or octonauts together
  • Some kids won't like bright lights, loud noises, strong smells, all of the above - some will get to an overload point - some will show no reaction whatsoever
  • Some very quiet kids - some really noisy kids - some moderate kids. And which ones are which will probably keep changing.
Cookie Cutter Autism
What you will not find is one obvious defining characteristic that puts all those kids in the same box.


Old or Young For His Age?

One of the things you'll get told or read over and over is that autism is about developmental delay. It is BUT that doesn't mean they will be delayed in every area.
My little boy still has the occasional time when he throws himself onto the floor hysterically because he lost a game in the classroom. In his defense he's well aware of his inability to cope with losing and takes steps to control it, usually by avoiding playing.
It's also quite apparent that he has very little care for others feelings if it's in conflict with what he wants. His little brother is the main exception to this rule, he doesn't like him being upset.
His coordination in sports is somewhat lacking in things like throwing or riding his bike. It would probably help if he would pay any attention to where he was going. His running is quite good though and now that he's becoming interested in cricket his catching is showing improvement simply because he's found a reason to be interested in it.
In other ways though he is frighteningly old. His thought processes are extremely logical, he can think his way around corners and can be incredibly persuasive in his arguments. His problem solving skills and manipulation of others can be scary and most certainly demonstrates an awareness of other peoples buttons and feelings. The best way I can describe him at such times is 'a born politician'.
He knowingly humours me. He will tell his stepdad that he's told me what I wanted to hear so he could get on with things.
So if you're looking into the future for a glimpse of your child, I'm happy to say that for autistic children it's just as much a mystery as for any other kid. And I can't emphasise enough - it won't be all bad, in fact some of it will be pretty damn amazing.

Monday, 6 April 2015

Drought Proof a Your Life - Redundancy

Worried About Redundancy

Over the last couple of years my industry has shrunk. Partly the bursting of the mining boom bubble. Partly government not investing in infrastructure. Partly the knock on effects of the global economy reducing companies willingness to spend.

I've been one of the lucky ones. I've come out the other end still fully employed. I have however been extremely aware of the shrinkage. One of my roles when my company decided on several occasions that we had to shrink too, was to be the one looking into people's eyes and telling them their world was changing. Yes I am that (insert descriptive expletive of your choice). I'm not HR, I'm a geologist, but I'm a team lead and if I don't do it who should?

As a side line to this article, each and every one of those people was truly amazing in their reaction at that unguarded moment.

I don't think anyone has come through completely unscathed or unaltered, but for me it's changed one of my thought processes in a basic way.

I think a lot of people when faced with the prospect of redundancy in their company start working out their redundancy package. At that point some even welcome the idea of redundancy! Most start looking at their debt, at their monthly living costs and of course jump onto the job seekers sites. It seems to me that most people take 3 to 6 months to find a new job. The redundancy package gets them over that first 3 months but then?

 

What's in Your Pantry?

 

Like a lot of people I pretty much lived paycheck to paycheck. I started looking at my pantry. If I lost my job today, how long could my household survive on what we had in?

 

When I first made people redundant it was just me and my kids. We're luckier now in that I have a partner so a little less vulnerable. But still, in the face of redundancy/ injury/ food or petrol crisis how long could we last on what we had?

 

The answer was a little depressing.

 

  • Obviously within a week or so we'd be out of fresh food, because well it's fresh and after a week it wouldn't be. For the first week though plenty of salmon, salads, yoghurts, deli meats, cheese.

 

  • When I was a kid we had a pantry with a shelf full of tins. I'm not sure if it's the fashion or my personal preference but I found I had a couple of tins of tuna, a tin of sweetcorn and a tin of coconut milk. Good as far as they went but hardly enough to keep us going for more than a couple of days.

 

  • Dried goods were better. I like to make bread so I had plenty of flour and the like. Pasta and rice were also in decent supply (I'd at least be able to make a tuna bake combined with the tins).

 

  • Finally the freezer. Some home made frozen meals such as pizza, lasagne, cottage pie and chicken nuggets. A respectable amount of frozen veg. A box of fish fingers.

 

Ok so I'm not listing everything here but you get the idea. The contents of my pantry, and freezer, and fridge were pretty meagre. They would keep us alive for a month or six weeks with very careful management and a lot of plain pasta but the variety and nutritional value was going to decline rapidly.

 

Extending this to the rest of the house and it was apparent that we'd be using newspaper for toilet roll and wearing hats to hide our greasy hair before the month was out if we ever had to rely purely on the contents of the house.

 

Now I know this sounds a little Mad Max post apocalyptic where everyone is suddenly wearing leather and carrying their own weight in weapons but it bothered me. Not in an obsessive I'm going to build tunnels under my house way but as a niggle at the back of my mind. I'd had to remove people's livelihoods in a snap of fingers. I was under no illusion that it couldn't happen to me tomorrow.

 

I didn't like feeling helpless and I was doing all I could to help keep things afloat at work, but there was something very concrete I could do at home to get rid of that niggle.

 

Where to Start?

Obviously it started with a list. Lists are very comforting when it's late in the evening, the kids are in bed and you can't make any actual progress. In all seriousness though a list in this situation was incredibly useful. I decided pretty quickly based entirely on gut feeling, that I wanted to have enough food and household goods in the house to survive comfortably for three months. Three months of school lunches for the kids. Three months of nutritious, tasty and varied evening meals, three months of porridge for breakfast. I didn't want to be able to just survive, I wanted to be able to keep things as normal as possible for the kids but I wanted to pay for it now while I could afford to.

 

I started in the morning and worked my way through breakfast, lunch and dinner. I mentally visited the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker. I considered raw ingredients for bread, cookies and cakes that wouldn't store for three months but would keep things normal if they were there. I thought about herbs, spices and condiments. Cordials and fizzy pop made appearances. Then I worked my way through the house, the bathroom, the laundry, cleaning products,lightbulbs, batteries. Finally I thought about where it would live (the garage joined onto the house) and what kind of storage I was going to need.

 

It is not a quick job! Start adding prices to the items and suddenly it's also quite scary, but for me that made it even scarier not to do it. It also made me realize I couldn't do it all in one month, I simply couldn't afford to. I had to prioritise and I did that in two ways.

 

  1. Essentials. The huge bag of baker's flour that would keep me in bread for the duration. The toilet rolls that would soon be very obvious if they were gone. I drew up groups of goods in order of importance.
  2. Deals. I also came out of this exercise with a desire to live more cheaply. Try working out what you spend on any single item over the course of a year. When you see the final number you'll soon make a decision on whether it's that essential. So I decided when I saw our favourite mint and tea tree shower gel for example at half price (thank you Coles) I would buy 3 months worth in one go. Why wouldn't you?

 

The next thing I did was go online and join Costco. It just so happened that a new store had just opened about 10 minutes drive from where I live (bonus!). People have different views of Costco but with this new philosophy it makes sense to me.

 

Less Time in Supermarkets

We're a year or so on from making this decision, and while we don't always have three months worth of goods in we probably have 2 months in as a rule. In fact I was prompted to write this article because I was having a pantry clear up and realize we've probably dipped to about 1 months worth for the first time in a long while.

 

A number of habits have changed over this time:

  • We get a meat pack from our local butcher, enough to last about 2 months each time. It's incredibly cheap to do it this way, the quality is excellent and there is plenty of variety.
  • We did have to buy a chest freezer to cope with the above, but it means we can store way more everything now.
  • Costco is our normal shop now. We try to go once a month for a big shop. We use a smaller shop for milk, salads etc when we need to.
  • We plan our meals better. The kids like to write their choices on a calendar for the month ahead. We don't stick to it rigidly but it makes a good guide. When we do this we're far better at remembering it get something out of the freezer the night before.

 

The whole thing has done what it was intended to do. The niggle in the back of my mind has quieted, but it's had another benefit that looking back is obvious but didn't occur to me when I made the decision. We're actually living a lot cheaper than we did, oh yeah and we spend a lot less time in supermarkets.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

How many bank accounts does it take to change a lightbulb?

Ok so there is no witty punch line to this one.  Blame it on a combination of frustration that two of those little in the ceiling lights have blown AGAIN! and that we're paying attention to household finances right now as we try and save a deposit for a house.

The question should be "how many bank accounts does it take to run our house?"

The answer is 5.  For 2 adults.

So what do we have? Why so many?  Or maybe this is normal?

We each have our own chequing account that we've always had.  We get paid into these and we keep a little private money in them, what might have been called pin money in regency times.  It's money that we don't need to think about spending, we know it doesn't affect our ability to pay the bills.  Also we've kept these accounts as my partner is self employed and people are used to paying him in that account and I've had mine as long as I've been in Australia.  It's continuity.

So that's two accounts.

Number three is our bill account.  This one is very important.  All of our bills, electricity, gas, rent, phones, subscriptions, tolls , kids child care, blah, blah, blah get paid out of this.  All we have to do is top it up at each pay day with our estimated bills for the month plus a little buffer.  Then we don't touch it.  I monitor it, make sure the bills are going out and for the right amount, but we don't touch it again till next payday, and then only to top it up to the required amount.  It gives me massive peace of mind, nothing gets forgotten and there is no chance of running out of money before a bill comes in.

Number four then is our household day to day costs.  Food shopping is the biggest, plus petrol and clothes if we need them. Also haircuts, car services, any normal everyday costs to run the family. And then fun stuff.  Family meals out, cinema or laser tag.  Trips to the swimming pool. We have a budget of course and the major food shopping tends to get done once a month just after payday again so that we know where we stand and whether we can afford to go out.

Having number three and four separate might seem overkill but it really does mean we know how much we have available for food, necessities and if we're really lucky for a bit of fun!

And finally five.  Five is our savings account.  Anything left over from the other four goes in here.  We're watching it grow, slower than we'd like but still grow.  Account number five is our future.

So how many accounts to make sure we have the money to change a light bulb? Five!  But I still don't know how many angels can dance on the head of a pin

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Is Crochet Old Fashioned?

YES!  Well sort of.  And also NO!

It's definitely old.  Really old. Not pyramid old, but certainly a couple of hundred years.

There are suggestions that it came to Europe from China, or the middle east.  And certainly there were crafts such as tambouring, embroidery using a drum like frame with the thread being worked by a needle with a hook.  It's as likely an origin for crocheting as anything, but it's not crochet.

There are rumours of Irish or Italian nuns creating lace using crochet from the 16th century, but no evidence although they certainly did so with great skill in later centuries.  In fact the first evidence of actual crochet appears in the late 1700s to early 1800s.  The first known crochet pattern in a magazine was published in 1819.  A Swedish ladies fashion magazine called "Konst och nyhetsmagasin för medborgare af alla klasser" if that type of thing interests you.  I haven't yet managed to discover what the pattern was for, but that is probably due to my lack of Swedish.  The magazine only began circulation in 1818 and was probably cutting edge for it's time.
Fashion Plate from Konst och nyhetmagasin for medborgare af alla klasser, courtesy of Nordiska Museet
 

So that covers the old part, but old fashioned?

Well you'll definitely get a few odd looks if you sit crocheting in public, yes this is the voice of experience.  But then when I stop to think about it, doing anything productive in public whether it's painting or writing, fixing a bike or a bit of carpentry will get you strange looks.  It's almost like these things have been relegated to the level of bowel movements.  We all know they have to happen, but would you mind closing the door so that we can all pretend it doesn't. 

Take street art for example, people tend to glance at it as they go past if it's already there, but if an artist is in the process of drawing it becomes street entertainment.

https://philipbattle.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/christine-edwards2.jpg

 
Progress always seems to be linked to automation, having machines do things for us instead of having to do them ourselves although the end bit often gets missed off that statement.  Doing things for us so that we have more time to do the things we enjoy.  Like crochet? So from that point of view is crochet old-fashioned because we do it by hand? Or is the time to do it by hand simply a luxury?

So I guess it boils down to the project.  A hideous 1970s diarrhea yellow and dog turd brown tea cosy made out of granny squares is going to get judged as old fashioned by most people.  Unless you're being ironic of course.  Or happen to like that kind of thing in which case errr lovely.


On the other hand a gorgeous crochet wedding dress can be the height of style.  And a baby blanket in modern colours and ripples would I hope be considered unremarkable if not down right fashionable.  This may of course be because that is exactly what I am currently working on.


Progress on a ripple blanket for a gorgeous little baby girl

 

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

A Real Bargain!

I have a weakness.

I suspect you do too. And yeah the title kinda gave it away. We all love a bargain.

But. Because you know there has to be a but. But what about all the times you get home, proudly unwrap or debag your bargain, and it's not exactly living up to expectations. You notice the little imperfections, the poor stitching, cheap materials, poor build quality.

What's your response? Well if you're anything like me, it's complete and utter denial. You put on a brave face. Of course it's not going to be perfect. Afterall, it was A BARGAIN!

Exhibit A

A pair of trainers, sneakers, whatever you want to call them, I'm not too worried. Only $15 in the sale. Yeah!

Exhibit B

The thing is I have a pair of dearly loved, incredibly comfortable pair of trainer like shoes that I live in when not wearing my very favourite knee high boots. My knee high boots are bizarrely enough are also divinely comfortable despite the heel.

Exhibit C

The other thing is they both cost in excess of $100, the boots especially. So a year or more after there purchase and substantial mileage they are beginning to look worse for the wear. :(

Now I'm a bit of a wuss when it comes to shoes. Not to put too fine a point on it if, my feet see a pair of shoes they blister. On the toes, the heel, the sole, wherever. So shoes that don't cripple me (slight artistic licence) are to be treasured. My new sneakers do not fall into this category. Five minutes tops before I was hobbling. I won't wear them again.

I reckon I've got maybe another week in my poor boots before I find myself limping along with no right heel. So this weekend I'll be hitting the shops. But the moral of the story is, if every time I bought a bargain I just saved myself the trouble and put the money in a jar, I could pay for a new pair. My cupboard of shame would also be a good deal emptier.

How many bargains are shoved in some dark drawer in cupboard of shame?