Archive for the ‘childhood’ Category

The school year is off with a bang! It’s like going from zero to sixty in a matter of seconds. I’m ready for a holiday already. I’ve been running around like a headless chicken as the school year typically begins with a list of the kids’ “required items,” uniforms, stationary, sports uniforms, footwear, school fees, sports fees, and there are endless emails to read from schools, sports clubs, teachers, and coaches and so on. In the last two weeks, between the two boys, with the school gear and stationary lists, and the various items needed for camp, I’ve been on the phone, online, making purchases, making lists, dashing out to the shops, going here and there, buying things and finding obscure items like heavy duty gumboots, insect repellent and aquatic shoes.

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The youngest son began his second year of high school last week. In that time he has already impressed his math teacher by being the only student in the classroom to figure out the difficult math puzzle he put to them. That night when he was telling me about it, he said, “Me, big brain,” which made me laugh. He has that dazzling self confidence that young people do before life has bashed them around a bit. My nephew is always telling him, “You don’t know everything, you realize that?” I think it’s a great and admirable thing about youth when they believe anything is possible. I like to emulate that. He has been away with the other Year 10s on a school camp this week. The house has been resoundingly quiet without him. I never realized he made so much noise.

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Sam-the-man, my seventeen-year-old with Down syndrome started his first week at the Transition Centre. He loves it, thank goodness. Parents of special needs kids always feel trepidation approaching any change in circumstances for their children like changing schools, moving houses, or taking on a new carer supporter. You never know whether your child will flip out this time or display a delayed reaction by “acting out” later at home. As one of the two students from his high school to be picked last year for the coveted positions at the Transition Centre, I wanted him to be ready, but I still wasn’t sure. He seemed too young and immature to be at what is essentially the special needs equivalent of a university or a job training facility. Was he ready? I didn’t know.

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On Monday they picked Sam up in a big Mercedes bus taxi. On board were a small crew of able-bodied young people with special needs aged between seventeen and twenty-one. They were the other kids going to the Transition Centre from around our neighbourhood.

According to the timetable, they spend their days working at local farms and tree nurseries. Some days, they do fitness, swimming, arts and crafts, and literacy and numeracy classes. It’s a far more grown up week. Even after his first day, Sam came home looking more confident. His teacher tells me he worked hard and “he responds really well to praise.” I gladly put my fears away, because Sam comes home each day with a new sense of purpose in his stride. He was ready for the step up.

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Sam’s dance class began their first term of the year on Tuesday. As the night of the class has changed and it no longer clashes with my schedule, I take him. It’s a great excuse to sit and read for an hour while taking peeks at his progress. Sam picks up the new moves quickly. The other girls in the class seem to take him and his sometimes quirky antics and lapses into freestyle in stride, and the teacher carries on teaching! It’s a tolerant environment for him to grow as a dancer. And he’s started going to the gym on Wednesday nights again. I’ve been providing the taxi service for the various activities.

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As the summer holidays draw to their end, I always think the kids going back to school will be a cinch. With all your beach days behind you, you can take anything life brings. Then the first week of school happens and you feel as if you have been “run over by a truck.” The first week or two back at school, the boys and I are exhausted and grumpy. It takes a little while to get the cogs greased and the wheels of the school bus turning again. However, the challenges of the New Year arise and we have to grow to meet them. It’s a process.

We’ll get there, aided in no uncertain terms by good music, family, friends, meditation, and good food.

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it. ~ Mark Twain (Samuel L. Clemens)

It’s been an interesting and intense time of late with the higher than usual summer temperatures and the boys becoming fractious towards the end of the holidays. Adolescence has beset the youngest child, and he’s monstrously tired all the time, not only that he lies around complaining about being too hot and too tired. Apparently all he can do is online gaming or binge-watching anime on Netflix. He tries asking for things, like can I bring him a drink or a snack, from the couch. That’s when I growl, and he says, “Okay, I’ll do it” with a groaning voice as if he was dying. I get that the hormones racing through his body are raising his body temperature and that this is our hottest summer, yet there’s a limit to even the most patient parent’s Zen.

“Don’t you feel hot?” asked the youngest child, plaintively.

“Yes,” said I.

“Well, how do you handle it?” he asked.

“I try not to focus on it but put my attention onto other things.”

“Huh?”

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The constant baking temperatures test the patience levels. The boys have been grumpy, and they snap back a lot. We have been having difficulty sleeping, though we each sleep with a fan.

An hour after we’d gone to bed last night, a knock sounded at my door. A weary voice on the other side, that wavers these days between high and low as if uncertain where to settle, said, “I’m boiling, I can’t sleep. Can you help?”

I got up and hugged him. It was like hugging an oven. The youngest is having hormonal surges – just as I am each night when menopausal hot flashes wake me up – his body at fourteen-and-a-half is aflame with hormones. I felt sorry for him. We did a few things that helped his core body temperature come down and he could sleep.

As there is some concern about the “heat wave” predicted for New Zealand this weekend, when temperatures may reach 30 degrees, I thought I might share a few tips on cooling down.

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“Temperatures nationwide are above normal on Sunday, not just by a few degrees but in many regions by over 10C as air flows from Australia and the sub-tropics combine to move down over parts of New Zealand,” according to NewsHub.

Here are some ways to cope with the heat

Go downstairs to the basement if you have one as they will always be cooler than upstairs.

Have cold baths or showers

Try to avoid getting sunburned during the day.

Close the curtains on the sunny side of the house.

Don’t open windows facing the sun during the day, open them at night once the temperatures come down

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Make trays of ice and hold a cube in your mouth.

Drink plenty of water

Drink iced water. Put your water bottle in the freezer until it’s nearly frozen and then take out and once it melts take small sips, it’s effective for bringing body temperature down.

Apply cold packs which are cheaply available from stores like Pak ‘n’ Save

My friend said that they were saving the money to have air conditioning installed. We have air con though I never use it as it’s too expensive to run, but it’s a backup plan if things get desperate. However, if you don’t have air con at home, borrow other peoples. We hang out in the malls, the libraries, the museum, the public places that are air-conditioned during the day to cool down.

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As temperatures continue to climb, we must think further ahead. I plan to get a quote for sun awnings off both sides of the house to cover the verandas and also get quotes for wooden shutters for the windows. I hear getting the windows triple glazed is best. Triple glazing keeps the heat out and in winter keeps the heat in, however, that is top dollar.

My youngest tells me, “This results from global warming, the seasons will be more extreme, summers will be hotter and winters will be colder.” Summers are more scorching, I haven’t noticed winters changing overly, although weather has been unpredictable with freak storms, floods, and so on. I remember reading that Europe and America had heat waves last summer. It’s an undeniable fact that conditions are changing, therefore on a global level, we have to find ways of responding to climate change.

On a personal level, there are also many things we can do to embrace change and deal with what is happening positively. I want to think ahead, find solutions for my family, and get on with living life. How about you?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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The more you accept your life, the more your life improves. ~ Unknown

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Subscribe to my newsletter by emailing me with “Newsletter subscription” in the subject line to: yvettecarol@hotmail.com

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world–or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. Every month, the organisers announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. Remember, the question is optional!!!

OPTIONAL January 8 question – What started you on your writing journey? Was it a particular book, movie, story, or series? Did you just “know” suddenly you wanted to write?

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Thinking about this question was like going back in time in my mind.

I thought it started when I wrote my first children’s story at seventeen. Why? It was the perfect escape from my life as a teen mum, living in a squalid upstairs flat, washing twenty dirty nappies in the bathtub every day, and making macaroni cheese with a different flavouring every night for dinner.

Then I thought no, it started further back than that. It started when I was seven and had first learned how to read and write. At school, I was a natural-born leader and could organize all the other crying kids into happy games of ring-a-roses and so on. However, I couldn’t do math, I struggled to learn to tell the time for years; I found every subject difficult apart from English because that was when invariably they would ask us to write a story. I can even remember one of the story prompts from when I was seven, ‘I was so scared when…’

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Every time the teacher asked the class to write a story, I would pick up my pencil and let fly with my imagination. There was ever a story to hand, I was never without one, and they tripped easily off the end of my pencil with ‘gay abandon’ as they used to say in the 60s. Suddenly I felt empowered suddenly I felt alive and suddenly I felt I could do anything!  I knew I could write a story. It felt wonderful to be sure of myself and to get good marks and encouragement for my work.

I loved expressing myself in the written word even then.

But the more I thought about it the more I thought no, it started further back than that. It began back when I used to tell my little brother spontaneous stories in our “curtain game” which we used to do when I was four and he was two.

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We had picture curtains displaying bright images of toys, dolls, trucks, and pets, and the game we used to play was to pick a picture and tell a story. My brother’s stories were a few words long while my stories could stretch on for fifteen minutes. I found story telling came to me easily, the ideas, the characters, the scenes tumbled out effortlessly, and the process gave me great joy.

Writing the stories down on paper began at seven, so I guess you could say my “writing journey” started properly then.

Into my twenties and thirties, I still wrote with pen and paper. I would spout off about how I liked the tactile aspect and that the thoughts seemed to flow more easily from brain via pen to real paper, and so on and so forth. But when I faced typing up the first draft of The Chronicles of Aden Weaver, in 2010, I had the unenviable task of typing up a 300,000 word handwritten manuscript. I chopped the story into three sections and I still had a huge job before me. I roped in a few people to take a few thousand words each, to make it less daunting. And it helped.

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However, when I finished that task, I felt burned. I never wrote another story with pen and paper. And you know what? I can write stories perfectly well on a computer, I’ve discovered the story writing is the same and you have the benefit of not having to transcribe your own tiny handwriting afterwards! Win-win. I published the first book in The Chronicles of Aden Weaver series, The Or’in of Tane Mahuta in 2015, the follow-up, The Sasori Empire in 2017, and the third book in the trilogy, The Last Tree is due out this year. It’s been a thrilling journey so far. I love writing stories no matter the medium, and I can’t wait to see where I go in the decade ahead.

I love writing fiction! Do you?

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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“Whatever you think you can do or believe you can do, begin it. Action has magic, grace and power in it.” ~ Goethe

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Subscribe to my newsletter by emailing me with “Newsletter Subscription” in the subject line to: yvettecarol@hotmail.com

Each year of a child’s life, there is a different focus a different theme a different version of the child you knew before. Although I resist and feel the tug of nostalgia for the younger version, I also delight in the unfolding. It’s an amazing privilege to watch your kids grow up.  After a tough first year at high school, my youngest son passed his exams, and they named him one of the top thirty smartest kids in year nine. I have concluded that not only is he smarter than me he also in a lot of ways is older than I am. He’s one of those people whom they say ‘has an old head on young shoulders.’

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Already planning his years at university at fourteen? I have to admit I had no thoughts about my future when I started high school. I was the very definition of teenage and clueless. Yet, here’s son number three filling me in on some ideas already hatching. “My friends and I have lots of plans. Because we want to attend university together, we thought we might buy a house together. Because we’re all nice people. I don’t think we’ve had one argument. We just talk. We’ve known each other the whole way through school and we all get on.” Throw co-owning a house in there as well? Sheesh. Perhaps it was those years spent playing Minecraft and building his own houses again and again. At least he can think big.

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With the youngest I noticed that in year seven (11 years old) he was solely about sport and vigorous active play, in year eight it became more about friends and social networks, talking, and occasional soccer or basketball, and year nine, at fourteen the friends have taken centre stage, it’s about hanging out, catching up and occasional sport. Throughout the year he and his friends have organized many gatherings outside of school hours: bowling, movies, trick or treating and so on yet the difference is the parents did not arrange them, the kids themselves did everything. They’re motivated to socialize more outside of school, to be together more often, yet they’re still young enough that their voices squeak and their parties run from 4 to 7 p.m. They’re adorable.

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The youngest son’s still into online gaming. The language and gentle jibing that goes on continuously has changed. The age appropriate slang or “teen-speak” is a fluid ever moving river, and it’s always evolving into something else. The accepted greeting is still hey or what’s up, the endearment is bro and sometimes gets extended to a fonder brother. If things are not great with you, you can be numb, salt/salty, or scuffed, if things are not going well with the game, it’s gay, aids, or cancer. If someone’s trying too hard, they’re sweaty. If they’re smart and sexy, they’re smexy. When two people like each other, you ‘ship’ their names together. The youngest is being harassed at school at the moment for being suspected of being gay with his best friend Harry so everyone’s shipped their names and have been calling both boys ‘Hat.’ When you get lucky it’s clutch, and when things are so good it’s so gang.

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The other day, the youngest son and I were having a conversation when his teen-speak crept into the situation. He said, “Stupid, right?”

I said, “No, I don’t think it’s stupid at all.”

He said, “I mean crazy stupid… as in good.”

Ah! Ma writes a note in her mental dictionary. I love listening to it, teen-speak is a mobile, connected, ever shifting form. We must have been the same when we were young.

Yesterday, he asked me, “How old are you going to be on your birthday?”

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I said, “Fifty-five.”

He said, “That’s not as old as I thought you were.” You’ve got to laugh, right. In some ways, our teenagers are so grown up and in others, not at all.

The fourteenth year is flying by. I’m only barely keeping up with the changes the youngest is doing before my eyes. It seems with every day his limbs are longer. It’s like getting to watch a slow-motion morph as your teen swerves from child to adult and his profile fills out. He wakes taller every morning. In September, he’d crept up to standing eye-to-eye with me and two months later he’s slightly taller. Instead of our old you’re short enough to stand under my armpit game, now I fit under his. It’s very odd. I liked him being shorter because my middle child has already outgrown me.

Ever wanted to feel you’re steadily shrinking? Here, borrow my teenagers!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

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Subscribe to my Newsletter by emailing me with “Newsletter Subscription” in the subject line to: yvettecarol@hotmail.com

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world–or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every of every month. Every month, the organisers announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. Remember, the question is optional!!!

InsecureWritersSupportGroup

OPTIONAL IWSG Day Question: October reflective question: It’s been said that the benefits of becoming a writer who does not read is that all your ideas are new and original. Everything you do is an extension of yourself, instead of a mixture of you and another author. On the other hand how can you expect other people to want to read your writing if you don’t enjoy reading yourself? What are your thoughts?

While parenthood and other strains have sometimes prevented me from reading nevertheless books have always played a major part in my life. From listening to mum and dad reading us stories from babyhood, to being given my first book of legends, my first book of poems, fairy stories, and so on, as a special Christmas gift each year, I grew up surrounded and encouraged by literature. There were lots of books in our house. My parents sometimes even allowed me to borrow from my sisters’ library, which was considered a special treat.

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We grew up with a nightly ritual of our father reading us bedtime stories. From the time we were babies right through to young adolescents, in reward for getting ready for bed dad would come and read a few pages to us. He read slowly in his deep voice and it was wondrous to hear all the classics, Treasure Island, Robinson Crusoe, The Swiss Family Robinson, and so on.

You’ve heard the saying, you are what you eat. I believe it’s also true to say; you are what you read.

The wonderful Kate De Goldi put it best when she said, ‘I’m someone who’s been constructed by books, my sense of self, how to think about other people, how to understand other people’s realities is largely down to reading.’

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Having been an avid bookworm since the age of seven, I feel I’ve been steeped in the cultures and stories of every novel I’d ever dragged home from the library and pored through every night.

I am not sure how you would separate me from the stories I’ve heard and told and read.

So I must accept that there’s no getting away from the literature I’ve imbibed. Those books are part of my DNA. I’m re-reading the Redwall series from the beginning. I got a shock the other day, when I read a character refer to death/the afterlife as being ‘the dark gates’ because in my Chronicles of Aden Weaver series, I called death ‘the black gates.’ I must have subconsciously recalled the phrase from those wonderful books by Brian Jacques and made it my own. I’d completely forgotten the term until I read it recently.

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Do the best you can to be as scrupulous as possible, but sometimes these things happen. Does it mean I should stop reading to avoid such clashes? No.

Every writer has heard that they should read to write. The theory being if you don’t read the best in your genre, how do you know what those readers are interested in reading? It’s vital research to every author worth their salt, to know their genre.

When I was a younger writer I used to exist in a bubble of solitude. It was the 80’s before the internet and personal computers. I was a young mother at home and I did not understand what the marketing of books was about in those days.

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I hadn’t read in my genre (of children’s fiction) since I had been a child. I wrote about whatever I liked. The resulting epic, The Scrifs and the Stirrits, was fantasy adventure for 6- 9–year-old readers with a tale of furry little critters on a quest.

In the 80’s absolutely no one was publishing anthropomorphic, off-world fantasy adventures for 6- 9–year-old readers. They weren’t popular, but I had no way of knowing as I was not reading in my genre. There wasn’t a single publisher in New Zealand who would look at my manuscript. Those were the days before self publishing when the traditional gatekeepers really did stand between the writer and the goal of publication. It was a tough lesson.

Point taken: you have to read to write. What do you think?

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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 “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies,” said Jojen. “The man who never reads lives only one.” ~ George R. R. Martin. A Dance with Dragons

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Subscribe to my Newsletter at www.yvettecarol.com

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every of every month. Every month, the organisers announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. Remember, the question is optional!!!

InsecureWritersSupportGroup

OPTIONAL IWSG Day Question: If you could pick one place in the world to sit and write your next story, where would it be and why?

If I could pick one place in the world to sit and write my next story, it would be the top of the mountain behind my parents’ house, in the Coromandel Peninsula of New Zealand. My connection with the mountain goes way back to my earliest memories. My parents bought the property in 1964, for ‘the equivalent of a whole year’s wages, $900,’ as dad used to say. We went there every school holidays and long weekend from then on. I have fond memories of trekking up the mountain on the old dirt track and racing my brother and sisters down the other side on flattened boxes.

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Every time we arrived at our land for a holiday, our family would play “the 100 stem game” – something mum and dad had concocted – we would start at the bottom of the section and the whole family would work our way up the property in a long line, pulling stems of bracken until we reached a hundred. It was only when we’d pulled out a hundred bracken, we were allowed to run off and explore the forest. We tamed the section of land and the land helped us go a little wild. The countryside was full of wild life, as well as many colourful species of birds: tui, fantail, finches, swifts, wax eyes, kingfishers, pheasants, quail, wood pigeons, hawks, moreporks, kiwi, oyster catchers, sand pipers, herons, and many more. Our holidays there were carefree, swimming, fishing, and exploring the forest and the enigmatic mountain. The 360 degree view of the surrounding area from the top was breathtakingly beautiful.

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Later on, when my parents retired to live on the property permanently, I lived with them on occasion. If I wasn’t living there, I was visiting on a regular basis. Each day, I would walk up the mountain for exercise. I learned to always take a small notebook and a pen in my pocket, because so often, the simple act of walking through the forest, up the sacred way through the trees, would feel like a meditation. This caused lots of ideas to fizz and pop, so I would often have to sit on different boulders here and there along the track, to catch the thoughts in my notebook. Sitting in the shaded stretch of forest, the ideas felt endless.

I’ve told this story many times before, however it’s a precious memory of a really special time in my life. While my parents were still newly retired, they still felt strong and capable and used to do a lot of travelling. I would housesit and pet-sit for them whenever they were away.

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One of the times my parents were away travelling on a five week tour of Australia, I happened to be in the “genesis period” of working on my next book – in other words, I was just starting a new novel. It was astonishing. I found all I needed to do was walk up the mountain each day, then return to my computer and start to write, and the words would flow like a river. I didn’t have to apply any effort to the story at all. It got so that the characters took on a life of their own and for those five weeks, it was as if they hovered somewhere above me, among the exposed wooden beams of the ceiling, as they narrated the story. It was one of the most satisfying creative experiences of my life.

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From that time on, I thought of my parents’ land and their mountain as my ‘creative wellspring.’ That’s the best way I have of describing it. Inspiration fills me every visit, and the mountain gives her blessing. I’m currently nearly finished writing my trilogy, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver. It means it’s nearly time to make the pilgrimage to the family mountain. I need to breathe the fresh air and humbly walk through the forest for another story.

What about you, where would you choose to write your next story, or to create your next work of art?

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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A person is a fool to become a writer. His only compensation is absolute freedom. ~ Roald Dahl

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It’s been a week of it. Colds, scrapes, grazes, and a near miss in my car. The week started with that first sneeze, when the parental heart skips a beat, because you know what a sneeze means, and what is coming is not going to be fun for anyone. It is still winter down here in the southern hemisphere.

Last weekend, the boys came home from their father’s place, and the youngest son complained he’d been sick the whole time he’d been there. He was full of a cold, so he stayed home until he was well and went back to school yesterday.

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The middle son started sneezing the same afternoon.

Of course, now I have a cold, too.

It usually happens the parents sail through miraculously while their kids are sick, and then we finally catch it.

I was especially sad for my middle son to catch a cold, because Sam was already feeling poorly. He had taken a nasty fall while running on the playground at school. I could tell from the moment I saw him step out of the taxi bus, that he was not in a good way. He was limping and nursing his hand, palm up, in front of him. Sam has Down syndrome and he can’t tell me what happened. However, I read in his “communication book”—which goes backwards and forwards between his teacher and me—about his fall. Sam’s palm was quite swollen and there were two large skinless patches. He had skinned his knee as well, with little gravel bits added. I felt like a monster when I sprayed the disinfectant on his hand, because he didn’t know what was coming. Sam groaned and pinched down on his forearm, and I said, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, but I had to do it.” It was a horrible moment. Then I put new dressings on.

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The next day, when I went to change the dressings, I found I’d used ones that stuck to the wounds. Parental fail. Oh, man! To add insult to injury, the poor kid had also caught his brother’s cold. He had to learn how to blow and sneeze one-handed.

I took Sam down to our doctor’s clinic, to have a trained nurse clean and dress the wounds. She said she doesn’t think he’s fractured anything and the sites are not infected. He will need the dressings redone at the clinic in a couple of days.

It’s hard isn’t it, when you take your child to see a medical professional, and you know that the nurse or doctor is going to hurt that child in the name of medicine, and there’s nothing you can do to save them from the pain. Sam looked at me as the nurse wiped the wounds really firmly with some sort of wet wipes and then dry ones, and I could see him flinching, and all I could do was say helpless nothings, “Nearly there” “You’re doing so well” “Almost clean.”

The whole process made his hand and leg hurt so much, he was limping a lot more on the way out than on the way in.

As the parent who has taken them to be subjected to the procedure, you feel guilt. It’s a tough ride this parenting business.

To finish off a gnarly week of it, after I dropped the boys off at their dad’s tonight, I drove around the corner in my station wagon and came to a screeching halt bumper-to-bumper with a large Landover. The road is narrow and there were cars parked on both sides of the street, and we had both moved into the middle to pass through the gap. Luckily for both of us, he saw me and braked, and then I braked. We managed to avoid a collision.

I drove away thinking, what if both of us had been driving a tad faster? I felt very fortunate indeed. And I realized life has been hectic of late. The near-miss was a wake-up call to ‘slow down.’ They boys and I all need to ease the foot off the accelerator and look after our health and ourselves, first and foremost.

In life, difficult things can happen. There can be strife with people, or hard life lessons, coupled with illness and accidents. Those are the times when taking a step back, slowing down and taking a breather becomes really important. Rest. Heal. Return.

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise. – Victor Hugo

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The first week back at school, the youngest son and his friends organized a game of laser tag on the Friday night. The group of nine kids arranged their parental transport and played laser tag from 6-7 p.m. It was all good clean fun, and the kids had a ball. This week, they’ve organised to play Call of Duty together at one of the boys’ houses.

I thought, wow, we’ve come a long way from the earlier despair over having no friends.

His social life is definitely waxing. However, for the time being, the youngest still seems mostly content to be at home playing C.O.D, Minecraft or Fortnite on his X-box, or watching anime on his phone. Sometimes, he even reverts back to playing Roblox on his laptop. I still have a buddy a while longer, yet.

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We were talking the other night at bedtime. I’ve mentioned this before. My son does his own version of The 10 p.m. Question like the protagonist, Frankie, in Kate de Goldi’s brilliant book, who comes to the door of his parents room every night with a deep, thought-provoking question. On one of the writing courses I did with Kate, she told us that the character sprang directly from her son and his ‘nightly questions about the universe and everything.’ My youngest does his own version: every night, after we’ve all done some reading, cleaned our teeth, and said our prayers, when I go to close the door and say goodnight, the youngest son suddenly says, “Why do people get depressed?” (last night’s question) or something similarly deep and reflective and requiring a long considered conversation. He says he gets most of his ideas at night.

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As a fourteen-year-old, I had my head in a book, to the extent that I remember taking twenty books with me, when our family went on holiday to the Coromandel. I suffered frequent headaches throughout the vacation. When my parents had my eyes tested upon our return home, they were told I had 20/20 vision. So they put my headaches down to ‘too much reading’! As if.

I carried on reading regardless, of course, as you do when you’re a teenager.

My youngest son is headstrong in the way of being in his own dreamworld at times. Tonight, he was due at soccer practice at 5.15 p.m. “Finish your food.” “Put your phone down.” “You still have your exercises to do.” Why is he still sitting there watching anime on his phone and eating with one hand, when it’s 4.55? “Put your phone down.” “Hurry up and finish your food.”

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Result: we arrived at practice ten minutes late, which is disrespectful to the coach. Next week, I will renew my efforts to coral this long-limbed, gangly, phone-watching teenager and get him to soccer practice on time.

We have had one success story, so far. This year, I forced the youngest son into a new routine of nightly reading. He was consistently getting his lowest marks in English. He’d always enjoyed a bedtime story, but never spent time reading on his own. So this year, while I have continued with the usual bedtime stories for his brother, the youngest son chooses his own books and reads alone. His goal is two pages a night. Sometimes, I have to make him stop after four, or he’ll be late to bed. And he’s now getting better marks in English.

The other night, as I went to say goodnight, the youngest said, “Mum, I have to write an essay for social studies about early life in New Zealand, all about the pioneers. I need pictures and maps. I mean where do you find that sort of stuff?” “I’d go to the library and ask the librarian.” “The library? Thanks, mum, I never thought of that.”

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He needed more than Google could provide, yet he never thought of going to the library? That’s sad. The school library would have been my first port of call when I was a kid.

By the way, the youngest loved the idea and went to the school library with a few of his friends this morning. “Did you get any books out to help with your essay?” “No, I got chatting with my friends and forgot to get any books out.”

He promises me, he will remember to actually look for books next time.

I believe in the value of libraries. Well known author, Margaret Mahy said, “I’m here to assert that librarians stand dancing on that tenuous ridge that separates chaos from order. That dancing librarian makes so much of the world accessible to others.”

I’ll be expecting more 10 p.m. questions soon…

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(Kate de Goldi and I, 2008)

Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Leave the libraries alone. You don’t know the value of what you’re looking after. It is too precious to destroy.’ ~ Philip Pullman

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Last week, my youngest son turned to me and asked in all earnestness, “You’ve never done anything wrong have you, mum?” This follows on from the week before last, when he asked me, “You don’t tell lies do you, mum?” He’s newly turned fourteen and we’ve entered the age of questions. You’ve heard of Kate de Goldi’s bestselling book, The 10 p.m. Question? Her son would come to their bedroom door every night with deep, thought-provoking queries. My son does the same thing.

I answered, that while I do my best, at times I make mistakes, too. I get angry at other drivers on the road. I sometimes forget why I went down the other end of the house. Recently I backed the car into a pillar at a friend’s house, which was in my blind spot, and I stove in my bumper. I’m not perfect. I make mistakes.

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Part of the youngest son’s transition from childhood to adulthood, is realizing some hard truths. In the next decade, he’ll learn that parents are not perfect, that life is not fair, that the world is not kind, that the world is in fact a scary, dangerous, ruthless place. Some people call it taking off the rose-tinted glasses of childhood.

The baby of the family is currently readjusting his view of the world. It’s a shame and also a necessary part of growing up. Every child must go through this rite of passage of adolescence, during which time the parents formerly believed to be gods, become human, during which time the reality of life starts to dawn.

It’s a bit of a test.

Still, at just turned fourteen, the innocence of the child is lingering and it’s precious.

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As the youngest, I have treasured this son’s childhood. I have truly valued the untamed, free, fluidity of the child’s spirit. ‘Is there a limited number of times that a child will insist on remaining wedded to the moment?’ asks Russell Brand, in his excellent book, Revolution. Brand posits that kids lose their spontaneity as they grow up. ‘We condition our children and ourselves to enter into this spectacle, confining ourselves to a prescribed path.’

The youngest is still in contact with the wild freedom of the boy within, while at the same time he takes tentative steps forward, finding his way into the jungle of adulthood.

I see the same wonderful element of untamed spirit in my one-year-old granddaughter. The spontaneity, the pure fervour she has for life is a joy to witness. She is a long way off from constructing a persona with which to deal with the world.

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When my son asks me have you ever done anything wrong, I feel a reaction of wanting to defend myself. But I don’t want to dig myself into a false position, or as Eckhart Tolle put it, to ‘adopt a mental position then we identify with that mental position and it becomes invested with self.’

So, I respond as honestly as I can. That way, the youngest son can come back later – as he often does, after he’s thought about things – and we can continue the conversation.

The teenage brain has been proven by scientists to only be able to sustain attention on a few things at a time. If I overburden him with too much information at once it will be wasted breath. It is far better, and more effective, to converse with a teenager in short instalments. Sound bites, if you will. Then they can retain what’s been said.

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I know he will be fine as long as we keep the lines of communication open. I remember my grandmother was proud of her closeness with her son (my father) when he was growing up. She said, they could discuss ‘anything and everything.’

When he would come home from sea for short stints, as an 18-year-old seaman, he and Gran would sit chatting for hours.

Gran said she never had a moment’s worry with dad, because she knew they could talk and sort out any problem.

Dad at eighteen

That’s the way I like to be with my kids.

In our conversations, I try to stay honest, and I try not to have a reaction to the things they share with me, so they feel safe.

The other day I overheard the youngest playing with friends on Fortnite. He said, “If you ever have a question don’t go to your teacher, they don’t like it when you ask lots of questions. Go to your mother. Mums know everything.”

Okay, so I haven’t quite debunked his myths around me yet, but we’re getting there.

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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A child’s bucket of self-esteem must be filled so high that the rest of the world can’t poke enough holes to drain it dry. ~ Alvin Price

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The youngest son turned fourteen, last week. It was my first thought when I woke up that morning, ‘How can my youngest be fourteen?’ I’ve heard it said, that while a boy is thirteen and fourteen they still ‘have the boy in them,’ and after the age of fifteen and sixteen ‘the man starts to appear.’

Some of the other boys in the youngest son’s soccer team are already shooting up, their voices have deepened and their necks are already thickening. The youngest is not quite there. I looked at him today, feeling that the loss of childhood is impending, and yet cherishing in him the puny neck and curving cheek of the child. He will still be a boy for another year, thank goodness.

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His first term of high school, the youngest said, he tried hard to be accepted by the cool kids. For whom, ‘you have to do bad things to fit in.’ But the cool kids refused to let him into their groups. He had been miserable, feeling he would never make any friends. “What I learnt,” he told me, “was that all you need to do is be yourself and be nice to people and you just end up making friends.”

I thought, wow, I could never have figured that out on my own as a fourteen-year-old. He’s smarter than I am!

He’s a dedicated gamer, still loyal to Fortnite, though he branches out to other online games now and then. His mobile phone has morphed from occasional gaming to now being part of his daily arsenal, always close at hand, for gaming, emailing, messages and instagram. He would no more think of leaving the house without it than he would think of leaving without his pants. He navigates between the real world and the virtual one with seamless ease and is fluid with the language for both.

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He’s also the hippest guy in town. His conversation is rife with slang, “Yo, yo, yo” “Bro” “R.I.P” and “whatsup.” Virtually every second sentence is followed by, “I’m joking!” He laughs uproariously over ‘jokes’ that are not funny.

At fourteen, he’s going through periods of rapid growth in which he grows several inches in several months followed by periods of slow development. He’s hungry all the time. I don’t where he puts it, but the grocery bill is definitely growing with him.

He’s very talkative. I’m glad he still talks to me and feels he can tell me what’s going on in his life. When he confides in me I try not to have big reactions, like when he told me he’d been bullied, or when he cried for having no friends, I try not to over react in a way that would make him shut down or feel unsafe talking to me.

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My role is to listen and be as neutral as possible.

He doesn’t often want my opinion anyway. He’s convinced he knows everything. When I give advice, he usually won’t take it until he’s done it his way, figured out that doesn’t work and has come back, realizing he might like to give my idea a try after all.

Everything’s tested.

He has begun to socialize with friends in public places. So far, he’s independently organized three get-togethers with friends at the mall and at the cinema, where they were able to hang out while still within a lighted, relatively secure environment. Though I was nervous at first, he handled everything without a problem.

He’s flexing his wings and taking short flights from the nest. He’s discovering how far he can go.

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It’s appropriate he learns now that with turning fourteen and getting to do his own thing comes more responsibility. He can stay up later, but later bedtimes have to be earned. He’s got to make his own bed every morning and prepare his own snacks from now on. In return for extra chores, he can earn some pocket money. He’s learning that he can have more if he does more.

He can talk to me about anything, but he needs to be respectful and use clean language. If he snaps at me, he has to apologize. He can make his own snacks and food, but he has to tidy up afterwards. He can play digital games, but only once the chores and homework are done. He has his own computer, phone, and Xbox, but is only allowed to use them in the communal living room, and is not allowed devices in the bedroom. A balance of open-mindedness, love, and reassurance is best when it’s levelled out by principles and healthy limits.

Kids need both love and rules to thrive.

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Parents are the bones on which children sharpen their teeth. ~ Peter Ustinov

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