Archive for the ‘childhood’ Category

The “tween” morphs before my eyes. This weekend, he celebrates turning thirteen (ominous bells toll somewhere!) Wasn’t he a baby a moment ago?

He’s taking that step over the threshold, from hovering ‘between child and teenager,’ into official teenagedom.

We’ve been feeling the rumblings of the fiery belly within the volcano for a few months now. I’ve referred to my youngest son’s tween years in previous posts, by likening our household to being the wary villagers living on the slopes of an active volcano. Rumbles like meltdowns and unexplained grumpiness accompany bouts of joyous abandon on a daily basis.

The “tween” morphs before my eyes. His second year of intermediate school is much more social and about friendships and social groups. You never let your friends down, so he tells me. He’s spending more time on his phone. I had to request he put his mobile down for the entire drive we took in the car today, so that we could have a conversation.

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The first year at Intermediate school, he spent an hour or so gaming in the evenings, but it was on his computer, mostly playing games like Roblox and Minecraft, which he did for the most part alone.

This year, every night after dinner’s eaten, homework and drum practise are done and all the chores are finished, the youngest son plays Fortnite. There are alternate explosions henceforth, of giddy dances of triumph, and bursts of molten lava bearing anger and frustration down the slopes, either killing or scaring the daylights out of the poor, unsuspecting villagers.

What weaves these explosions of energy together is a lot of enthusiastic boy talk as he and his friends discuss their game. I watch sometimes from the kitchen while I’m making dinner. Their continuous conversation is punctuated with “Bro” “Bruh” “Yo” “Rip” “and “tight.” Every aspect of the previous game and the kills they made has to be discussed before they can start again.

The son does play solo quests sometimes but, they seem very sad affairs. No, Fortnite is all about the squads, and the way the groups of kids get to hang out together in virtual reality and play war games to their hearts’ content.

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In our house, Fortnite is played through the Xbox on the big screen of the tv, and the youngest son can talk to his friends as they play. This sort of enlarged experience is all part of the more hyped up version of himself he is at present. His voice rises in pitch more often, and he sometimes collapses to a bed mortally wounded by something I’ve said. Apparently, I don’t understand where he’s coming from, even though on the other hand I’m ‘the only one he can tell everything to.’ I tell you, it’s turbulent times in the village. We look up at the black smoke wisping from the peak across the sky.

What else is to come?

The “tween” morphs before my eyes.

There’s no change in the tone of voice yet, he can still reach a high note I can only dream of.

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Another thing that hasn’t changed is the sweetness. The innocence is still there, thankfully. I delight in the purity I still see in him.

And, he retains a need to discuss everything with me. I’m a “touchstone” for now. I remember though, with horror, the terrible creature I morphed into at the age of fifteen. I shudder to think of that happening to my youngest son. He has such a beautiful heart. So far, he hasn’t changed from the usual earnest, sensitive spirit he always was.

However, his appearance is slowly dramatically changing. He doesn’t look like my baby anymore.

All of a sudden, he’s sprouted literal inches overnight.

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I swear. I looked at him tonight and he’s taller than he was yesterday! I felt like someone had taken my child away and replaced him with a much bigger version, and I wanted the smaller one back. His face looks different, the cheeks no longer chubby. Can people really grow that fast? I’ve heard it said that the body releases so many growth hormones, that it does more growing in adolescence than at any other time in our life.

The youngest son’s only just started shooting upwards.

Tonight, he and I looked at one another from his new elevation, and he said, “Imagine when I’m looking down on you.” I said, “Let’s not imagine that, yet.”

Did you ever see the play, ‘Stop the world, I want to get off?’ I did, and that’s how I’ve been feeling lately, with my newly minted teen. Any advice would be welcome!

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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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012 (16)What a week! There is this thing kids with special needs do sometimes, which myself and friends who have special kids like to call, “running with Diablo.” It refers to those inexplicable times that come around with cyclical regularity, when our kids go off the rails for a short time.

Overnight, they go from sweet and obliging to fickle and resisting.

I’m not sure what sets Sam-the-man off. Our fifteen-year-old with Downs’ syndrome will periodically become impossible to deal with. What causes it? I’m not sure.

It never lasts more than a few days, yet while it’s here, he can cause merry havoc.

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Sam’s been running with Diablo this week. Yesterday, his teacher rang to say he’s not listening to any of the teachers in class. The day before, the taxi driver had to move him to the back seat, because Sam kept taking his shoes off and putting them in her face as she was driving. On Tuesday, my neighbour came to tell me Sam was in his school uniform lying on the grass verge. We ran down and there he was. He must have gotten off the taxi outside our house, as usual, but instead of walking up the drive to the house, he’d walked along the street and lain face down on the grass verge. Luckily he was unhurt. I thanked my neighbour and brought him inside, thanking our lucky stars as well.

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The rest of the time, Sam’s a model child! He will do everything he’s asked. He knows his daily routines, though he still needs a parent there to keep him on task. He can do everything for himself with guidance. It’s taken a lot of work and patience over the years to get him to this level of independence, but we’re here and so proud of his progress.

Sam’s doing really well in school and in general. He’ll happily sit and do his homework for an hour with his carer supporter in the evening. He’ll do anything he’s asked with a smile on his face that melts your heart.

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Then overnight, Sam is the exact opposite, he won’t do a thing I say, and he won’t go along with a single thing the family is doing. He plonks himself down and refuses to move. It’s like a switch is flipped. I talk to him a lot at these times, to explain why he has to do a thing. If he hears enough that makes sense to him, he’ll cooperate.

Next week, I’m attending another child behaviour workshop run by Sam’s school. A special needs mum needs tools in her kit!

The best tip I ever heard was “Distraction! Distraction! Distraction!” and it’s the parental trick I use with Sam most often.

They say the mental health of someone with Downs’ syndrome is five years younger than their physical age. Therefore, Sam is mentally around ten.

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When his behaviour derails, and he’s sitting on the floor refusing to get up and walk to the taxi, I divert his attention, “Oh, did you see that bird?” “Did I tell you about the thing we’re doing this weekend? Come on, get your shoes on and I’ll tell you.”

And the second best tip would be momentum. Once you’ve got them moving in the direction you want them to go/doing what you want them to do, KEEP GOING, do not stop!

Momentum is your friend.

A friend asked, “How do you cope?” Some days are harder than others.

Sam-the-man tests me sometimes to be more resourceful, and he keeps all of us on our toes. There are times when he’s locked us out of the house, or taken something important, like the remote for the garage or a personal device or car keys, and hidden them.

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We’ve lost many tv remotes and devices over the years that the phenomena even has a name, we call it a “Sammy special.”

The fact is it’s not easy, and as a parent I am tired a lot of the time.

I’m not sure whether his cyclical bad behaviour is a childhood thing he will grow out of or not. I remember my father asked me a couple of Christmases ago, “How much do you think Sam will grow up?” And I said, “I don’t know.” That’s the thing. The future is unknown. We’ll find out when we get there, I guess.

Meantime life is never boring, and I wouldn’t trade Sam for all the money in the world.

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Talk to you later.

Keep Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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There is no end to the adventures that we can have if only we seek them with open eyes. ~ Nehru

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In October of this year, my youngest son will be going on the trip of a lifetime. He and eleven other lucky kids from across New Zealand have been chosen to go to Disneyland.

Two weeks ago, we received an invitation to apply for a place on the coveted annual trip with Koru Care New Zealand, through our association with Heart Kids NZ. Yesterday, we got the happy news he had been accepted, and we’ll happily do our bit to help raise money for the trip, as this is such a great opportunity.

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Koru Care New Zealand is a charitable trust established in 1983. It’s run by volunteers ‘making dreams come true for seriously ill and disabled children.’ Heart Kids NZ is another charitable trust. It’s committed to providing lifelong support to those born with congenital heart defects and heart disease.

The youngest of my three boys was born in 2005, with complex congenital heart disorder (or CHD), although we did not know that at the time.

The first clue came when he started coughing at three weeks old, though he had no other symptoms of ill health.

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The cough would come and go from then on, however when he did contract the flu, then his health would plummet fast and the cough would become life threatening and continuous. It took me five years to get a diagnosis, as we went down the road of misdiagnoses and educated guesses and countless trial treatments.

Finally, after trying everything, I went back to our doctor with the whole story. She listened carefully to his chest. Her discovery of a heart murmur led to the hospital tests, which finally confirmed the problem was a hole in his heart or Atrial Septal Defect.

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In 2010, he underwent double bypass open heart surgery. The operation was later added to the “unusual casebook.” The hole in his heart was ‘more than just a hole, there was only a rim between the upper chambers,’ the surgeon, Dr. Elizabeth Rumball, told us later. ‘And his heart had grown a single vein from the liver to the bottom of the heart,’ something she had never seen before. Dr. Rumball had to figure out how create an autologous pericardial patch to fix both issues.

After six hours of surgery, my five-year-old woke in Pediatric Intensive Care, with a gash down his chest, in a lot of pain. His recovery process began there. Only three days out from the surgery, he moved to the high dependency unit and was already taking his first steps. Three days later we were released to go home.

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We’ve come a long way since those days.

They say it takes paediatric heart patients a year to get their energy back and a decade for the body to recover to the pre-surgery state, however, he is in good health these days. The difference with heart kids is that they are a little “fragile,” they don’t have the same stamina as other kids. They are also susceptible to emotional, developmental and behavioural problems.

My son has thrived since the surgery. Gone are the days and nights of coughing. He has quality of life and the prospect of a healthy future ahead, thanks to the wonderful doctors and staff at Starship Children’s Hospital.

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While we were in hospital, we joined the amazing Heart Kids NZ foundation. We put his name down on the list of kids interested in going to “Heart Camp,” a weeklong retreat each summer. From the age of eight, he has gone to camp every year. He’s learned adventure skills like kayaking, abseiling and rock climbing. He’s sat around campfires, and gone swimming, ridden the flying foxes and water slides. He’s made friends and had important experiences of independence. Because he was well known at heart camp, his name came up when Koru Care said they had places for four Heart kids on the Disneyland adventure.

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My son was the right age and state of health to be eligible, so his name went forward with a lot of others. And we were lucky enough to get picked. He was excited when I told him the good news because he has never travelled anywhere or been to a theme park, and he’s always wanted to go. This sweet boy who has been through so many trials in his life, will get to go on the adventure of a lifetime, to Disneyland!

Thank you to Koru Care New Zealand and to Heart Kids NZ and to the medical staff along the way for making all of this possible and for making a boy’s dream come true.

Blessings come in many ways, even when they’re sometimes dressed as catastrophes.

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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If you can dream it, you can do it. ~ Walt Disney

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A tragedy befell our garden this week of Edwardian proportions.

On Tuesday night, around nine o’clock, a storm sprang out of nowhere. It only lasted a few hours and yet, it did untold damage across our region. Trees fell down on people’s houses, on cars and across roads. Winds gusted 100 -160 kilometres an hour and in some places got up to 210 kilometres. A four story building under construction caved in, and there were power outs in many areas, leaving people without heating on the coldest night of the year.

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I went to bed around 9.30 on Tuesday night, afraid of the big gusts of wind roaring around the house. About half an hour later, I was woken by a loud, insistent banging on the door. My neighbour, Pete, stood on the doorstep in an oil slicker, holding a powerful torch, with the wind and rain howling behind him.

“You okay?” he asked.

“Yes, why?”

“Your big tree’s fallen down.”

My heart sank. No. Not that tree.

The Liquid Amber

Not the tree my parents planted in 1962 when they first moved in. The tree my brother-in-law dubbed ‘The Jewel of the Garden’ for its radiant magnificence. The tree whose dramatic changing hues, shedding of leaves and regaining of resplendent green shoots has heralded the turning of the seasons throughout my life. The tree I went and hugged for a few days in a row after dad died, and sang to. No. Not that tree.

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I remember when dad came back to visit the old homestead, a few years ago. He walked out into the backyard to admire the liquid amber he’d planted fifty years before. His head tilted, and he marvelled, “It’s grown so big.”

No.

Not that tree.

I couldn’t bear to go and look at it that evening and, besides, it was too wild outside. I waited until the next morning. Then, I went out into the garden, and I couldn’t believe my eyes.

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Most of the main column was gone. My nephew, who lives in the sleep out, said he could hear branches cracking in the storm. He’d gone outside to get a look and could see the big gusts of wind whipping the branches around. He went back to bed and threw a mattress over himself when he heard another loud crack, then a resounding thud when the top half fell.

Miraculously, it had crashed into Pete’s backyard, missing everything except for his clothesline.

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I was relieved to see the remaining trunk was still firmly planted in the ground and that many of the branches still seemed strong.

The tree removal guy says he hopes to salvage what’s left. He can trim the branches and trunk. The tree will be half the size, but the prognosis is that it might survive to be hugged another day.

Boy, I hope so.

I don’t care to lose too many more family members at the moment.

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The theme of loss and the reality of it in our daily lives is difficult.

At the end of the middle grade novel I’m working on, The Last Tree, when the hero, Aden misses his elderly mentor, Geo, he asks himself, ‘Is this what it’s like to grow up, there’s more pain and losing people?’

I think that’s one of those storms we all have to go through, when we start to mature, in becoming aware of our mortality and that our parents aren’t going to live forever. There are moments of understanding that one day we’ll have to find our way through this world alone, and one day, we’ll take the place of our parents as the elders in our own families.

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The elderly or grandparent character in a story always represents our mortality, by the nature of their advanced age, they represent impermanence.

I love to write the grandparents and always include them in my fiction. The truth is, that half the Jewel of the Garden must be taken away, that grandparents will die some day, and that our beloved parents will one day do the same, and so will we. But, the student, the child, the garden will carry on. The new growth will replace the old tree. And the next generation will blossom and thrive and have their season in the sun. That is the flow of life, and there is comfort in that knowledge and wisdom in acceptance.

Have you ever weathered a major storm or lost a tree you loved? What did you do? What nugget of wisdom did you gain from the experience?

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(Dad’s grandson and great-granddaughter)

Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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If we know how to appreciate these beautiful things, we will not have to search for anything else. Peace is available in every moment, in every breath, in every step. ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

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Because my siblings and I have been clearing out my parents’ home recently, we’ve pored through literally hundreds of old photos. I was thrilled to find photos of the very early days of our family homestead, the house I still live in today, which none of us had ever seen before. And, the idea came to me, to do a photo montage of the journey this old house and yard has taken to the gorgeous beauty it is today.

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It all started with a patch of dirt with promise.

In 1962, my parents were set to immigrate to New Zealand with their two young daughters. Dad came to New Zealand first, to build his young family a house in a newly opened suburb, with the help of two professional builders.

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By the time mum and my sisters took the six week journey from the U.K by boat in 1963, a nice tidy three bedroom wooden house was waiting for them.

The new Lockwood house was home.

The finished house

Back

The finished house, front

Front

I was born in 1964, my brother two years later. We lived a semi-rural lifestyle with a menagerie of pets, and enjoyed an idyllic, safe, free childhood in this house.

The garden, back

In the backyard, my parents had planted a hedge of bentamy trees along the fenceline, and a liquid amber sapling in front of the canary aviary.

The house took a lot of wear and tear.

The house, 1980's

In the 1980’s the house was painted brown, and apart from the extensive vegetable garden, there was not a lot of garden, just three fish ponds and two bird aviaries.

A triumphant return.

The house, 1990'sThe house, front

My parents offered me the house for rent in the 1990’s, and I returned after a long absence. The exterior wall colour had changed to white. Otherwise, the homestead had remained unchanged inside or out since the 1960’s.

In the backyard, we found a jungle.

The garden, back, 1990's

The bentamy had been left to multiply untended for the whole six years their house had been rented out and had grown ten, twelve feet high, and engulfed the aviary completely. The neighbours behind us complained their garden received no sun in winter or summer.

The back garden clean up

The back garden clean up crew

My parents and brother pitched in to help with the enormous job of trimming the hedge. The arborist carted away a ton of wood on his truck.

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We found the old aviary had survived underneath the bentamy, and we turned it into a garden shed.

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We left some foliage for privacy and planted a line of native trees called pittosporums along the fenceline. Within a few years, we’d take out the bentamy stumps altogether and let the natives take over.

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My husband and I began updating the interior of the house with a new kitchen, taking out the old fireplace, and putting in new LED lights. We added verandahs front and back as well as French doors.

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I had the roof fixed, the “hips” replaced, and I had the house painted a new colour called “Parchment” with white trim.

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I went on a planting spree and planted flowers, trees, and shrubs everywhere.

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I fenced the entire property and added three lockable gates.

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The liquid amber had bloomed into a fantastic venerable tree. As the oldest of its kind in the district, it’s leaves are the last in the neighbourhood to change colour in autumn and the first to get green buds back again in spring. It truly is the jewel of the garden.

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In 2014, I knocked down the old aviary/shed and built a brand new sleep out in its place.

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The maintenance on the house and property is nearly a full time job, yet, with a lot of hard work, I’ve managed to reclaim this place and create a magical garden getaway in the heart of the urban landscape. The house my father built was a haven for us growing up and is now a base for my kids and nephew and I that has heart, history and a family legacy rooted in its foundations.

I love our home.

Where do you live and why? Tell me where you grew up…

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“Art is never finished, only abandoned.” — Leonardo da Vinci.

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After we first got over the shock of my father’s death last week, we four siblings began to think about writing our eulogies.

I remember the first night, I couldn’t come up with a single word. I had about five scrunched up notes in my bag and nothing but crossed out lines on a pad. By the fourth and last night before the service, I really still only had the bare bones. My elder sister, who speaks for a living in her job gave me a few tips and suddenly, at the eleventh hour, I was able to write my eulogy.

Here’s the speech I gave at the Committal Service for my father last week…

 

Dad, My Hero

 

I’m Yvette, “daughter number three,” and I’m here to fill you in on some of the details of my father’s life, who he was, and how he came to be here.

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Dad was born 5 July, 1932, in Hastings, England, the only and treasured child of Nan and Jim. Nan was a magistrate and County Borough Organiser for the Women’s Voluntary Service, Jim was the manager of the Hastings Power Station.

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At the age of eight, when WWII broke out, Jim was needed in Hastings to run the power station, and dad spent years separated from his parents as he was evacuated to St. Albans.

As a young man, fresh out of school, he went to the University College School of Navigation in Southampton.

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Dad joined the merchant navy in 1949 and worked for them for ten years, working his way up to the rank of 1st Mate, navigator.

During that time, dad met mum. After their first meeting, his mother, Nan, said, “Why don’t you go out with a nice young girl like that?” and dad said, “She’s not my type.” Luckily, Shirley was his type, and they were wed in 1955. They had two daughters, Gina and Jag.

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Dad joined the Union Company in 1961. When he and mum decided to emigrate, he brought a new ship called the Nakuta out to New Zealand, in 1962. Mum followed with my sisters a year later.

My brother, Alan and I were born here in New Zealand.

Dad couldn’t leave mum alone in a strange country with young children so he left the sea in 1964. In 1966, he joined the NZ Post, working his way up to the position of senior supervisor.

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After nearly 30 years, dad finally retired to his beloved Tairua, living full time in the house he had built with the help of his family, which was his pride and joy. Dad lived here for twenty plus years and would say, “This is all the view I get to look at each day!”

Looking back, I realize how fortunate we were to have such a wonderful father. He was attentive, caring, disciplined, loyal, hard-working, kind, generous and good. He created a spirit in us, a fellowship of strength.

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Growing up, I felt secure and stable, because dad gave us that foundation, and I’ll always be grateful for that. He never had a bad word to say about anyone, and I learnt a lot from his example.

Dad was neither racist nor sexist. He believed all people are equal.

Perhaps because he’d been raised by such an extraordinary woman, he had a reverence for women. The only woman my father looked at was my mother. He didn’t look at women as objects of desire; he treated them as people worthy of respect and admiration.

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I never had the sense that dad expected any less of his daughters than he did of his son. He always said to me, Girls can do anything! And he wasn’t just paying lip service to the ideal. He believed it, therefore so did I.

At the age of seven, I had a formative experience with my father, which I’ve never told anyone until today. It was something special between him and me.

One day, dad took me for a drive. He said there’s something very important we need to do. We drove up to a car yard and dad said, “I need your help. We need to buy the family a new car and I want you to help me decide which car we should buy.”

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I took this very seriously because my father was a man of his word.

I walked around the cars. One by one, I looked inside and out, studied the angles. I was seven, I knew nothing about cars. Yet, dad never gave a word of advice or questioned me, he let me continue to prattle about how this car was too small, and this wouldn’t work as it had only two doors and listened carefully to my reasoning.

Eventually, I chose a ghastly green coloured Milford Marina. Dad said, “Good choice.” And he came back five minutes later with the deeds and the keys. It turned out, he’d been to the car yard the week before and bought it, but I didn’t find that out till later.

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All I knew was, I’d been empowered to believe in my own decision making, in my self-belief, my ability to think.

Thank you, dad, for your stellar example, for your open-minded leadership of this family, for your loyal love, your unwavering support. You were steadfast, ever present and dependable. You were our rock, and in my heart you ever will be.

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When you died, a blanket of cloud covered the mountain behind your house. It seemed fitting. The head of our family was gone and the landscape reflected the sad passing.

Thank you for everything.

I love you.

I’ll miss you, dad my hero.

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Talk to you later.

Keep Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Sometimes it’s better to light a flame thrower than curse the darkness. ~ Terry Pratchett

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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. I encourage everyone to visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs.

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: What do you love about the genre you write in most often?

Writing fantasy for children is a not exactly a hot genre. It’s difficult to do well, and as Terry Pratchett once said, there’s always been this ‘cloud of disapproval around the fantasy genre,’ as if it’s somehow the second cousin of more serious or entertaining popular fiction.

‘But some of the reasons are easy to see. The sheer torrent of the stuff for one thing. The telling and retelling. All those new worlds and eternal heroes.’ Yeah, I get it, too. Even for me, fantasy can get annoying, and yet, I can’t deny the draw. It’s what I loved to read as a child, and it’s what I love to write now.

Who cares about being cool or trendy?

For most of my thirty-five years writing for children, I’ve been writing “fantasy animal tales’ and they’re even less of a hot topic than pure fantasy. Yet, the roots of fantastic tales about animals, especially talking animals, go back to our very first oral traditions of storytelling, as far back as 600 B.C. and the time of Aesop.

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Why does this particular niche appeal to me? Kate de Goldi said once ‘writers always have their story, their palette, driven by something they find interesting that they can’t explain.’

I feel the answers lie in childhood.

I look back at my past, and I think I was a total nerd. Oh, the joy I used to get from reading a new book. To visit the library and get new books for free seemed such a delicious and exciting power to have. What to read? The choices were endless.

As a young child, I recall the impact of unexpected bliss I felt on the day I opened Finn Family Moomintroll, by Tove Jansson, and read ‘Chapter 1. In which Moomintroll, Snufkin and Snif find the Hobgoblin’s hat; how five small clouds unexpectedly appear, and how the Hemulen finds himself a new hobby.’ It was a profound moment.

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I was immediately transported somewhere else. I flew away to a far more fascinating place than my powerless world, as a small child growing up in the urban landscape and a working class family.

Pure fantasy seems to deal in the fulfilment of desire, the yearning of the human heart for a kinder world, a better self, a wholer experience, a sense of truly belonging, wrote David Pringle.

Through these fantasies I read: the Moomintroll series, and the Chronicles of Narnia, the ghost stories, myths and legends, I escaped through their portal, to lands far away, where exciting magical things happened that matched the limitlessness of my imagination.

These books made my childhood more wonderful and alive.

When I first approached writing fiction for children, it was natural to reach for the subject matter which intrigued me as a young person, the genre of animal fantasy. That’s where the heart lay. It was as simple as that.

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I think it was Thoreau who coined the famous advice for writers ‘know your own bone.’

It was writer/teacher, Kate de Goldi, who said, ‘Your idiosyncratic fascination is why you were made and set here.’

In other words, in order to be true to who we are as writers, we have to find the courage to follow what truly moves us, to write what our hearts sing to read and what lights us up inside. That takes undeniable courage, to dig down to the core and come up with one’s raw innermost truths, and then own them.

I used to be ashamed of my genre. I did a lot of writing but not a lot of submitting. When I did submit, I got responses like, “no one’s buying fantasy,” or “no one’s interested in reading about talking animals.” So, I submitted less often until I stopped altogether.

That’s where self publishing is king for authors like me, who write in less than popular genres. We don’t need a nod from the gatekeepers anymore to see our books in print. We nerds can say, “I’ll publish fantasy animal tales if I want to.” And, “Nerds rule!”

What do you love about the genre you write in?

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Talk to you later…

Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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When she is most lucky, the poet sees things as if for the first time, in their original radiance or darkness: a child does this too, for he has no choice. Edwin Muir

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Our fifteen-year-old Sam-the-man has the face of a flower and the temperament to match. People love him. ‘He has something special,’ said a friend, ‘he’s open.’ At the same time, the fact he has Down’s syndrome means he is five years younger mentally than his actual age. So, while his physical self might be fifteen, his mental self is 9-10-years-old. And just as when you have a small child, when he leaves to spend the weekend with his father, the first thing that needs to be done to restore the house to sanity is to clean up.

Having a child with special needs is like raising a perpetual child. There are joys and there is continuous work to be done.

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As the parent to a special needs child, there is only the unknown instead of a finish line in sight. I use the metaphor of ‘the child who can never grow up’ to try and share my understanding thus far.

Sam’s our Peter Pan. God love him, he does a chore when I ask but, as the eternal child, he simply also creates a mess wherever he goes.

There’s always a sea of crumbs extending out from where he’s been sitting and sometimes funny smells, I find old bits of food, sticky patches on tabletops, writing on the wall, or the furniture, and globs of unmentionable things. The bathroom always needs a good clean.

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Sam has no concept of keeping track of things or the consequences of his behaviours. Sometimes, I find a random object has been broken, or – as I did yesterday, I literally walk into a sea of orange juice and discover that Sam had spilt his drink. He’d put the cup away carefully in the kitchen and then moved to a room where there was no sticky juice spilt all over the floor and started playing happily there. He would have been completely oblivious to the possibilities that could follow leaving a sea of liquid on the floor. Luckily, I was barefoot and ran away for a mop and bucket.

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I looked into Sam’s guilt-free, innocent eyes afterwards, and I marvelled at him anew. His motivations are never vindictive, his motivations are always pure. He doesn’t have a mean bone in his body. He’d never hurt someone on purpose. His mind doesn’t work that way. It’s not preoccupied.

Sam doesn’t worry about things, he doesn’t anticipate harm. He’s always right here now in the present moment.

A year ago, it took me six weeks; from the moment the first bruise appeared on his legs, to realise someone was harming him. I discovered the boy called James next to him in the taxi, was a serial abuser, who had a reputation for hurting other kids. Sam had suffered this boy’s advances, an hour each way, to school and back every day, and never said a word, never showed any change in the way he felt about going to school or coming home.

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And he’s intelligent, Sam is smart. He can read, write, use a computer, he can use any device after watching someone use it once. He’s not dumb. Although he can’t speak clearly, he can get his message across. No. It wasn’t about being unable to communicate the fact he was being bullied every day. Rather, it was his ability to take anything in stride and to be in the moment. The bullying didn’t exist the instant he left the van or prior to getting back into it, simply because it wasn’t happening before of after.

Yes, Sam teaches me every day.

Anything that happens in his life, he’s able to take it in stride. It’s like living with a mini guru.

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I remember when Sam was born and we found out all the facts like one baby in 600 is born with Downs’ syndrome, they still don’t know why. We found out the official name is Trisomy 21 which stands for the extra chromosome.

Being classed as a “severe disability,” the embryos can be aborted right up till birth.

His father and I had no idea then, the amazingly transformative journey which lay ahead of us, raising Sam: through all the trials and the tribulations, through the years of watching him struggle, taking one step forward three steps back, to achieve every little milestone other children take for granted.

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It took Sam a year to be able to sit by himself, four years to learn to walk; it took him till the age of ten to be able to walk down a flight of stairs, and thirteen years to become fully toilet trained. Everything he’s learned has been hard-won. Yet, that has made every goal achieved much more satisfying. To watch Sam today wash himself in the bath, dress himself, shave his own stubble, and walk confidently to the taxi in the morning, I brim with pride, because I know how far we’ve come. And I also know how far we have yet to go.

It’s not easy but it’s a real privilege to raise a child with Downs’ syndrome.

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Talk to you later.

Keep Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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What’s so dreadful about Downs’ syndrome? ~ Sally Phillips

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I think when you have kids at the age of fifteen and twelve. you’re daily reminded by the sheer size of your children that the days of raising them are nearly over. At this stage, every milestone, every Christmas and New Year’s, has a slight touch of pathos, and there is the ever present awareness of appreciating their last days of childhood, their last carefree days of their youth.

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The six weeks the boys have off from school every summer has been one of the parts of parenting I’ve relished over the years. Never more so than now.

Of course, for a writer, who works from home, it is also a lot noisier, and it is more chaotic and harder to concentrate having the kids underfoot, yet, it’s an undeniable opportunity to spend time and bond together.

I would never allow myself to take that sort of time off writing usually, but because the kids need shepherding, help, driving about, as well as to be fed and watered during the holidays, I say, ‘it’s okay, I must.’ I end up taking the breaks with them.

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That’s no mean feat, because it takes a lot to stop me. I’m like a speeding locomotive. I get so much done during the year that when the festive season approaches, I’ll typically keep writing right up to Christmas Eve. This last Christmas, I stayed at my desk until 11.30 p.m. on the 24th before I finally conceded and closed the file on the work-in-progress, The Last Tree, and put the computer away.

When I finally do go on holiday, I like to go off the grid. I don’t take any devices with me, not even a phone. I think time away from the internet is very important for the creative soul, to replenish itself in nature and natural things.

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The kids and I, along with my eldest son spent the festive break with family at dad’s place, from Christmas to after New Year’s, for days of sun, sand and surf.

Burying children repeatedly in the sand

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hanging out together

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climbing mountains…

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…and more eating together.

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Once the kids and I returned to the city, we spent a day at the beach, a couple of days shopping for gadgets and supplies, a picnic with the family, friends coming over, dinner out, as well as a day trip to the fun fair.

It’s two weeks into the New Year and I still haven’t returned to work fully. It’s lovely to let go of the reigns, to take the foot off the accelerator for a few weeks, and remember what it is to have no agenda apart from having fun and connecting with the family, with no jobs to do other than to keep the food coming!

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We’re nearing the end of the kids’ long break, though. There are only one and a half weeks left. Thoughts turn towards preparation for school: stationary, uniforms, shoes, and of course, paying the various fees. But, there will be one or two more “play dates” for the boys and most likely, a few swims first.

All in all, our break has covered the bases, and I have to say, I like the feeling of 2018. Heading into the year of the Earth Dog, despite everything going on in the world, I feel a tentative optimism.

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I’m reminded of a great one of my dear grandmother’s invocations, once said to my sister and me and never forgotten.

One day when Gran was struggling with her health issues, she said to us, ‘let us go forward with a confident sense of anticipation.’ That quaint saying or “Nanism,” as I once coined my grandmother’s little repeated phrases, has become a favourite of ours, and it encapsulates my sense of the year ahead.

What’s your sense of 2018? Can you move forward with a confident sense of anticipation? 

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Keep Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Remember there are more aspects to good health than the physical body, work just as hard on finding your mental, emotional and spiritual happiness too. ~ Holly Butcher

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Any book that helps a child to form the habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him. ~ Maya Angelou

When I was small, our father used to read us a bedtime story every night. My brother and I would lie in our beds after all the bedtime rituals had been done. We’d yell, “Ready!” and dad would come down to sit in our room and read us the next precious pages in whatever book we were reading. He read us the classics, Wind in the Willows, The Water Babies, The Jungle Book, Treasure Island, and Robinson Crusoe. We grew up with a love for stories.

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It is as writer, Sage Cohen said, that we ‘come into this world hard-wired for the repetition of sound, rhythm and pattern in language. Before we can even speak, we delight in recognizing our own experience and learning about those unlike ours through the stories we are told.’ There is a primordial response of satisfaction to hear a good story, and for the writer it is the same joy to write one.

When you start out as a book lover who turns into a children’s writer you are deeply connected to the meaning and purpose of fiction. Michael Morpurgo said, ‘It’s not about testing and reading schemes, but about loving stories and passing on that passion to our children.’ We write because that love still lives and resonates inside us. Writers'_Week_Kate_de_Goldi_Adelaide_Festival_medium

We can still remember the special hushed feeling, like we had entered a cathedral, which we had as a young person every time we opened a book and stepped inside another world. We can still remember some of the tales and how we felt.

As author, Kate de Goldi once said, ‘We still remember readings that acted like transformations’.

I took a couple of writing for children courses with Kate de Goldi. I was struck when she said that she ‘never writes about or for children. I write for the once and always child in myself.’

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I related to that idea and I let rip, writing what the wild little girl inside wanted to say.

The danger for me, as an introvert, is that I can go far into my own world and lose contact with people. It’s easy to become distanced from the reading audience.

Yesterday, I was pried out of my bunker by well-meaning friends and forced to go to a Christmas party. I trooped along with an eye on the clock. Yet, the most extraordinary thing happened. I had the experience of meeting my first “fan.” Blake is the 8-year-old grandson of a friend. He happens to be a voracious reader, bless his soul, who ‘devours books’ as his grandmother put it.

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Blake had read my first book, The Or’in of Tane Mahuta, and had been waiting for the sequel. When I gave him The Sasori Empire, he carried it with both hands, staring all the while at the cover. He walked straight to a chair, sat down and started reading. When I left the party two hours later, Blake was still reading.

I could have wept. This experience was revelatory for me. I saw with my own eyes, a child who loves to read, diving headfirst into my world. A child who was engrossed in my story.

This simple situation took me out of my “shoes” as the author and put me into the shoes of the “reader.” I felt the responsibility to do justice to the world I’ve created, and to honour the needs of the reader, to deliver the best story I can.

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It had the singular effect of realigning me with my writer’s oath. I was reminded that once one has taken the reader on a journey, the responsible author ushers them safely home to a satisfactory conclusion. I recalled the pinkie swear to resolve all the questions and storylines raised.

Seeing that precious beautiful young reader deep into his book, (my book!), reminded me that my pen is a direct conduit to young readers’ hearts and minds. I have a duty to him and to all young readers to do the best I can. These years of reading literature will be some of the best and most exhilarating of their lives. I have to raise my game to be worthy of the challenge.

What a gift. And, just in time for Christmas.

That’s the New Year’s resolution sorted! Have you ever had a situation which made you remember your reader?

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Talk to you later.

Happy Holidays!

Yvette K. Carol

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‘The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart.’ ~ E.B.White

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