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There have been ups and downs in my life, maybe that’s why I love rollercoasters so much, but everyone has their own story, and I wonder why you might want to read mine?

Everything that has happened in my life so far, has happened for a reason, and has made me who I am. It has also made me realise who I can be, where I can go in the future, and I’m excited to hold your hand and take you along on the journey with me. It’s my time to share with you my most open and transparent self. All of what makes me who I am today!

My earliest memory unfortunately, isn’t a very nice one, but I know I have remembered it myself, since I didn’t see it on photos or in a video, because no one else knew about it. I was sexually abused by my grandfather. It’s not something I was sure about telling the world about, but it is a part of my life that has happened, and as much as I’d like to forget it ever did, I can’t. It happened through no fault of my own.

I was a toddler. I was a victim. I was innocent and didn’t know any better.

It wasn’t until I was a little older and I realised it was very wrong and I could physically stop myself from being near him. It always happened at story time – such an innocent time, but one where I think I took myself off to a different place, rather than try to understand why it was happening.

Although I was abused, I had a very happy childhood, in a very loving family, with my two older brothers and my big sister.

What was happening to me wasn’t frightening at the time, but it was a nightmare that imprisoned me for most of my life.

When he died in 1997, strangely, I took it really bad. He was the closest relative I had known to die, and it took me a long time to get over the grief. I had a secret that I couldn’t tell anyone for the fear of possible backlash, or disbelief, but I found the courage around 7 years ago to tell my story to my nearest and dearest.

It wasn’t until just before I got married, that it all came out, and it turned out that I was not alone in his abuse. By then, of course, it was too late to get any answers or closure.

There are so many stories coming to light now, just about every day we hear it in the news, of victim’s testimonials – each different and difficult in their own way. It’s sickening that it has happened so often, to so many people, and is still happening. This isn’t something that has ever been, or ever will be acceptable.

I wasn’t sure whether I could actually tell my story, but if I hold onto it for the rest of my life, I am letting him still have control over my life – dead or not – and it’s wrong!

I am in control of my life and I am making a success of it. Me, it’s all me, not him!

I feel that by telling my story, I can let it go, if even just a little bit at a time and I hope that if you are holding on to an adverse or a hurtful situation within your past that this will inspire you to take action to speak out and let go.

Let me talk about happier time now…. 

I have been very happily married to my wonderful husband for 7 years. We were not sure whether we were going to be able to have children, as no-one really is until you start trying, but we hoped and prayed. We started trying right away for a family, but when it didn’t happen, we realised there was method to the madness, so we started looking into what you actually had to do to get pregnant. On the day i pee’d on that little white stick with all the hope in the world that it was positive, (my husband still says i had a sneaky peak first, but i had to check i had done it properly, and yes, ok i could see the colour changing). We sat quietly together on the edge of the bed for the very long 2 minutes. We turned it over & looked at each other with the Oh-my-god,-this-is-actually-happening!-Our-lives-are-about-to-totally-change look!

Fast forward 7 years and we have two beautiful children together, Ava (6) and Oliver (5). They are the main reason i wanted to be able to work from home, so i can see them growing up and becoming strong, independent little people.

Rural upbringing

Let’s go back to the beginning….. My first school was very small, my class had only 5 pupils in it, joined together as Primary 1-4 in one class and another class of Primary 5-7. There were only about 25-30 pupils in the entire school. Our teacher owned a farm just along the road & she used to take us on a walk to it, and let us play on the hay bales and see the animals. It was a lovely school and gave me a fantastic start in life.

We moved back to civilisation in Ayr to join a much larger primary school for primary 6 & 7. I can remember moving into a house with a staircase, which was a complete novelty for me, since we had always lived in a one storey cottage until I was 10. My brother and I used to get bed sheets, and use them as a sledge to get down the stairs quicker, and obviously to make it more fun. My mum had a silky over-sheet which was padded slightly, so my brother and I climbed aboard it, at the top of the stairs, one in-front of the other, we gathered up the excess covers around us, held on tight and pushed off the top step. It felt like less that a second before we hit the wall at the bottom. There were a few steps at the bottom which turned to the right, but we didn’t turn. We just lay at the bottom, stunned, and laughing, until my mum came through and gave us into trouble. That wasn’t the last time we did it either. We roped in my cousin too and the 3 of us hurtled down the stairs time & time again.

Challenging myself at college

I was interested in going to Art School, so I decided to do a portfolio building course in art & design at Ayr College.

I had the best time at college, I had made lots of new like-minded friends and I really felt like I fitted in there, so much more than I did at school.

I learned a lot about photography, graphics, use of colour, typography amongst many other things. I was given recognition for a project I completed on colour. I created a sculptural soft toy pyramid stack which represented the life cycle of humans through colour and shape.

My tutor asked for me to go and present it to other classes which made me feel very valued and proud of my work. It gave me a sense of achievement which I hadn’t really felt before.

At the time I still wanted to go to Art School, so I went to visit Glasgow Art School which was a very impressive building, however, I got the feeling it wasn’t the right place for me, so I went back to the drawing board to see what else I could do. I found an Integrated Product Design course at the Glasgow College of Building and Printing, where I completed 2 years of my degree (HND). The thing about product design though, is that it is so vast, and everything man-made is a product. I felt a bit lost & had to focus on where I wanted to be.

Doubters at College trying to dampen my spirits!

When I had a conversation with one of my tutors as to where my next step could be, we were talking about what my hobbies were and what I was really interested in. I mentioned that I loved cars and driving, and it was suggested that I could do a course on car design. I got quite excited at the thought of it, and I started looking into the course. It was at Coventry University, and it was actually in Transport Design, so taking in more than just cars.

I spoke to my head tutor that I planned on applying for the course, and he said, “that’s good, but you’ll not get in” he said it was a very elite course and he didn’t think I had what it takes to be a ‘car designer’.

At that point, I remember feeling very deflated and a bit miffed that he had actually burst my bubble so easily and flippantly. I took about a day of feeling angry at him for saying that, but I didn’t let it stop me. I went on & applied for the course because I believed in myself.

I went down to Coventry with my mum and my sister, and handed in my portfolio for review, and waited patiently for my interview slot. When my time came, the interview panel were only really interested in meeting me, and they told me that I had been successful, based solely on my portfolio.

I was so relieved and delighted with the news that I had got in, and I couldn’t wait to return to college to advise my head tutor that I did in fact, get onto the ‘elite course’. I was one of only 7 girls along with 120 guys.

Being a woman in a man’s world

When I finished my Honours degree in Integrated Product Design, I struggled to find a job in design, as I didn’t have experience, and I couldn’t get it without signing my life and works away to a company for barely any money, so I started working for Scottish Gas. I had a few different roles in the office before becoming a technical engineer for about 8 years, servicing and repairing boilers and other gas appliances

Although it’s 2017 and we’re well into the 21st Century, we still live in a very stereotypical world, with people young and old, giving their unconscious reactions to a woman doing a “man’s job”.

There was rarely a day went by that I didn’t have the same reaction.

“Strange job for a woman”, “How did you get into this kind of job?”, “Is there many women doing this job?”.

It was exhausting to say the same reasons day in, day out and pretend it was the first time I’d been asked them. Most people embraced it, and thought it was great that I was doing it, however, there were a few customers who stood out. There was an elderly lady who wouldn’t let me in her house because she was waiting on the “gas man”. Also, there were a lot of doubting men, who wouldn’t believe I could do the job, so they stood directly behind me as I worked to check I was doing it right – not that they would know right from wrong. Generally, by the end of the visit, they could see that I was very good at my job, a lot more thorough than some of the men, and ended up asking for me personally to come back again for their next service or breakdown.

Being a mum and running a business

When I became a mum in 2011, my whole world changed. I know that sounds like a cliché, but it really did. My outlook on life totally changed and I could no longer give my all to my job. I had a baby to look after and pregnancy affected my body in an adverse way, meaning I had problems with my joints (mostly my wrists) which affected the way I could work as an engineer. I had to re-think where my career was going. I was at that point I really started developing my business from a hobby to an income generating job.

Handmade with love.

It was while I was pregnant with my daughter Ava, that my products started being directed more towards children and babies rather than adults interior furnishings.

I designed the baby beanbag for my daughter before she arrived. It wasn’t until she was actually born, that I realised just how important it was going to become.

Ava was a very sicky baby, she was constantly hungry for more & more milk, but the more she took, the more she was sick. It was a mixture of colic, and acid reflux. One day I went through 5 changes of clothes in quick succession and it was so frustrating, but having her on the beanbag, helped it to subside. The advice given for babies with colic or acid reflux is to lift the head of their bed/cot and place a few books underneath the legs, so there is a gentle angle to let gravity help with the digestion of milk.

The health visitors came & went, and they all commented on what a fabulous beanbag it was, and how comfy she looked while she lay or slept in it.

I love being able to give my products the ‘handmade’ touch, something which you just can’t get from the mass market. It gives just a little more meaning when you have a rare or unique product for your child, almost personalised without being personalised.

My kids are actually are my in-house R&D team

Through the joyful and ongoing learning process of being a mum, I have realised opportunities for new products along the way, and now I’m blessed with the time to be able to design again. My children are my inspiration and they aren’t shy in asking for things for me to make for them.

Most recently my son, with his dental maturity, has lost 7 teeth & we had a few issues along the way with him swallowing 2 of his loose teeth. My daughter, who was trying to brush her tooth over the sink – I blame Peppa Pig for that one – inevitably it ended up down the drain. The tooth loss x 3 got me to thinking, there must be an easier way to do the tooth-coin swap without the possibility of more teeth going missing.

All through my design years, it seems I’ve always directed my designs towards children, and I’ve only just realised this recently. When I was in college, I designed a clock with inter-changing faces for children of different ages/abilities to tell the time. In University, I designed an interior of a car aimed towards parent & child so that it was easier to travel with a child.

I am a massive fan of Mr Walt Disney, and I feel that he has had a huge influence on my life. I love to watch all his films, old and new, and having kids gives me an excuse to sit down and watch a movie with them and sing along, even though it might be the 75th time I’ve seen it.

Mum guilt

Sometimes I do have the mum guilt that creeps over all Mumpreneurs. We are striving to make the world a better place for our children to grow in, but that in itself takes time. I still find it difficult to concentrate on certain tasks, especially when the kids are constantly “mum, mum, mum” every two minutes, and if they’re not asking me a million and one questions about the non-trivial things in life, they’re fighting over the same toy, even though we have half of ToysRus stock spread all over the house. I feel like I go around in circles all day long, cleaning their dirty clothes off the floor, rounding up their toys, and picking up the sofa cushions up off the floor for the 20th time that day. At least when I go out to my office, I can forget about the toys strewn all over the floor or the mounting ironing pile. It gives me the freedom away from the everyday chores, to find myself again underneath the mummy exterior, and allow myself to go back to being a designer. At the same time, I’m still here and available to take the kids to school and collect them again at the end of the day. Watch them do their homework, seeing how much they’ve learned, as their little brains soak up absolutely everything that they hear and see. I love to watch them grow, sometimes wishing time would stand still.

They amaze me! Clever, funny, amazing little mini me’s, which my husband and I gave life to. Sometimes I’ve got to remind myself to take time out of my busy schedule and absorb just how fantastic they are.

Children’s behaviour

I love my children more than life itself, but sometimes, most of the time, they drive me crazy. I think it’s all part and parcel of parenthood. I’ve tried a number of solutions to get them to behave, some worked, some not so much. I find the slow countdown from 3 to 0 works, but only if you follow through to the consequence. Yes, sometimes you have to be the bad cop, you will get to zero, there will be tears, but the next time, they’ll remember not to get to zero, hopefully! My daughter was getting wise to it, and wouldn’t move ‘til I was almost at zero, but after a few attempts at this, I counted quicker and caught her out. Now they mostly move when i say 3.

Perseverance is key!

The first step in a good behaviour management plan is to identify target behaviours. These behaviours should be specific (so that everyone is clear on what is expected), observable, and measurable (so everyone can agree whether or not the behaviour happened).

In our house, we use the planet chart. The children’s school use a similar strategy for behaviour, so I adapted it for use at home. Just the threat of moving them down gets them to do as they are asked, and they’re much more receptive to helping with little jobs around the house, like helping with the washing, so they can move up the chart.

The children physically moving the rockets up and down, has much more of an impact on their behaviour, because they are involved directly and can see the results.

Once they get their tokens at the end of the week, they stick them on their chart, and it becomes a bit of a competition when one gets more than the other, so they want to behave better in order to get more tokens and earn their rewards.

By practicing behavioural management at home, the whole family can help make it a more peaceful and happy place to be.

My dreams becoming a reality

I didn’t want to constantly put my children into childcare in order to let me work a very stressful and exhausting job, to then come home and find that i did not have any energy left for them, it was unfair for everyone.

I wanted to be my best self for them. I wanted them to see that if you have a desire for something, a desire to be more than just a number for someone else, a desire to live their dreams. 

As a parent, we are their first and most important role models. They look up to us so much and i will encourage my children to live their lives to the full, as much as i possibly can.

Through developing my business, I decided that i needed to make some changes, which started with me & my goals. I had to really focus on what i wanted out of life.

I am very privileged that i have a talent i can use, which lets me be at home with the kids when i need to be, and to allow me to fulfil my passions and dreams.

With a lot of hard work behind the scenes, I have re-branded my fantastic company, and I’m so very excited to share it all with you now.

Life has been a fabulous learning curve so far, and long may it continue.

I’ve created the “Out of this World” Reward Chart for you, because i fully understand that kids can be manipulative when they want to be. Sometimes they just need a little reminder of who the parents are, and hopefully my chart will help you a little in getting there.

‘Til the next time….

Kirsteen x