Archive for the ‘childhood’ Category

I got caught on the hop this week. I discovered on Tuesday that I was due to give a speech at Toastmasters the following day, and I had to come up with something in a hurry. I thought about Sam, my sixteen-year-old with Downs’ syndrome. In the four years I’d been in Toastmasters, I had not tackled the big issues. I’d spoken about all kinds of major things, but, I hadn’t had the courage to talk about Sam, and Downs’ syndrome, or anything about my life as a “special” mum. I still haven’t had the courage to talk about about my youngest son, who has Congenital Heart Defect, and the life and death surgery he went through twice at the tender age age of five. Similarly, I have yet to give a speech about my grandmother’s death, or those of my parents (both deceased within the last four years). I didn’t feel I could do them justice.

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But, when Toastmasters asked me to do my first speech of the year, I decided the time had come to delve a little deeper and share more of my personal stories. In Toastmasters, they say that personal stories are the most powerful, they are the speeches people remember. I decided I would share the story of Sam’s arrival in my life and being a parent of a special needs kid. The speech title, ‘The Road Less Travelled,’ comes from the last verse of one of my favourite poems, The Road Not Taken, by Robert Frost

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

I opened my speech by recounting the story of Sam’s birth, in more or less these words:

When I was pregnant with my second child, I was thirty-six. My doctor recommended I take an amniocentesis test, which tests for any abnormalities in the child. I agreed and booked in for the test.

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But, the night before I was due to go into the hospital, I woke up at exactly 11 o’clock at night, with an epiphany. I sat up in bed and asked myself,

‘What would you do if there was something wrong with the baby?’

I knew I could not go against my moral code and abort it. So, literally at the eleventh hour, I cancelled the test.

Some months later, after a difficult birth, my midwife handed the baby to me with the words, “I’m sorry, but I believe your son has Downs’ syndrome.”

My world, my life as I knew it up to that point, ended, and a whole new life began in a whole new world. It was one I knew nothing about, and I had a lot to learn!

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Downs’ syndrome is a genetic condition which results from a third copy of the 21st chromosome.

One in six hundred babies are born with Downs’ syndrome every year in New Zealand. The condition entails delayed development, low muscle tone, and this combined with a large tongue makes it very difficult for many Downs’ syndrome kids to talk clearly. 70% of girls with the syndrome will be understood by anyone outside their immediate family and that figure drops to 40-50% for the boys.

The things that our normal babies take for granted, like sitting up, standing, walking, none of these things come easy for a special kid. Every step is hard won. Sam was three-years-old before he could crawl, five before he could walk, eleven before he was potty trained during the day and thirteen before he was dry through the night.

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We special parents say, ‘it’s like taking one step forward, two steps back.’

Therefore every milestone achieved, every hurdle crossed, with these kids is such a triumph. You feel so proud of them you could burst. I know how hard Sam has worked to learn how to do every little thing.

Being a special needs parent has enriched my life. Sam has taught me so much; I have gained so much from his example. He’s taught me humility, patience, tolerance, compassion, forgiveness and how to care for the underdog. I would say most of all, he has taught me how to be present. For Sam, there is no future. He doesn’t have the ability to look ahead and imagine outcomes, there is only right now.

Sam is always present. That lesson in itself has been a gift.

The road less travelled by continues to reap dividends, and I am so grateful I accepted the challenge.

Thank goodness. Imagine what I would have missed out on!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“There’s not one path. There’s not even the right path. There is only your path.” – Nietzsche

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

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The youngest son began high school this week. He was nervous about the extra work load and whether he’d fit in. At the same time, he was excited about the new opportunities. When his older brother and I joined him the first morning of the Orientation day, for the Powhiri (traditional Maori welcome ceremony), my heart was wrung inside out to bear witness to his slouching, head hung down awkwardness.

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I can remember my first day of high school. I walked – it was a good three quarter of an hour distance – and I was petrified, wondering what college would be like. After a while, another girl, who was walking along in the same uniform, joined me. We immediately became friends. All the nervousness melted away. For that important first day, I strolled in the gates with an ally and that made all the difference in the world.

I hoped my son would find his friends.

Eyes are watching, everywhere.
Look at the seniors, we wouldn’t dare.
Talk to old friends, the pressure ends there.
From ‘High School’ © Nikii
Source: https://www.familyfriendpoems.com/poem/highschool

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The youngest son’s first day at high school was an orientation day so there were no classes. I was distracted the whole day, worrying about him. He survived however, and somehow, miraculously figured out which bus to catch home, returning faded and dusty around four in the afternoon. He’d found one of his buddies from last year, he said.

Yet, I noticed he was still carrying the bag with his year’s worth of stationary.

I said I’d buy a school locker, but no, he was ‘too nervous to get one!’

The second day, he was still finding his way around the new school, navigating his classes with different teachers. “Everything about high school is weird,” he said, upon returning home that day. They had done a tour of the nurse’s office, “And on the walls were giant posters, one was for LGBT rights, and the other was about using condoms.” I gather he was slightly shocked.

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He’s being treated in a new way, as if he’s older, which he quite likes. He still didn’t appreciate hearing the input of the teacher, who – upon seeing he and his friends laughing in the break – said, “You won’t be smiling like that for long!”

We all know, high school is a place of hard knocks, but no one expects the teachers to be telling the new students that message on their first day at high school. He’ll find the truth out on his own!

The youngest son came home around four in the afternoon, weary and wan, and devastated that he had been given homework already! Stepping into high school, apparently, was like stepping into another world. He said, “The kids don’t really play games in the breaks, they just walk around the school talking.”
There’s peer pressure, sex, violence, and too many fights to imagine.
People, who you thought were your friends, are the ones you mainly end up fighting.
From ‘A Typical Teenager’ © Courtney Dailey
Source: https://www.familyfriendpoems.com/poem/a-typical-teenager

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The third day at high school (today) was a new experience again. Youngest son came in the door around four this afternoon, tired and pale, yet, he was smiling. He said, “Remember how I wanted to go to this school because my friends were going there? Well, I found a crowd of them today. It was awesome!” Additionally, a number of them catch the same bus route home. Happy Days!

I noticed he’s still carrying his year’s worth of stationary around with him.

Maybe that will settle down and he’ll be able to trust his stuff to a locker in the second week? Unknown. For now, I can say, we have both managed to get through those gnarly first days, and he’s managed to find his feet to some degree.

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According to some statistics, kids generally enjoy high school. Teens say they have their best memories from school in high school (45%) versus those that rank Middle School/Junior (33%) or Elementary School (22%).

I can remember having an awful lot of fun in high school and meeting my best friends there.

The youngest son has five years ahead of him at this institution. Though I worry he’s underweight, and possibly a bully magnet, his years at high school could also be the making of him. Given the right sprinkle of teachers and the right sequence of learning opportunities, he might grow in confidence as well as size. He might gain maturity and become more responsible. He might make lifelong friends. You never know.

What I do know for sure is that we’ve seen another milestone. Now, I have two boys in high school. Another phase in life begins….

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“There’s not one path. There’s not even the right path. There is only your path.” – Nietzsche

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

It’s interesting living with young men, as you never quite know what mood you’re going to find them in. The sixteen-year-old was a drama a minute all of last year. Myself and the rest of the family were exhausted by Christmas. Yet, this year, he seems to be settling down and finding his middle ground.

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The youngest is on the cusp of adolescence. At the gullible age of thirteen, he takes everything so seriously, and lately, he has become even more into online gaming. These summer holidays, he was forced to take a two week break from gaming and spend time with family. But the last couple of weeks he’s been home and playing online most of the time. I offer him other activities. He says gaming is his way of relaxing.

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Apparently, most of his friends have moved on from constant Fortnite to other games like Call of Duty and Skate 3. They’re still ‘hanging out,’ just the same way I would have started doing with my friends at his age, but they’re doing it in digital form. The gamers follow one another in herds. All the friends who play regularly together, move by word of mouth to the games where the other kids are. All the time they’re playing they’re keeping up a constant conversation. In fact, if there are kids who are new in the group and they’re not talking, they get asked to speak because if they don’t, everyone else ‘gets sketched out about it.’

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I listen to the youngest son’s conversations sometimes, as I do sanction eavesdropping (not constantly, but on occasion) while a child is under the age of sixteen. A young person can easily be led astray without even realizing its happening. And this is such a potentially scary time for parents of pre-teens and young teens as everyone is so accessible. I admit I have nightmares about it sometimes. I worry about my boys often.

The other day, I heard my youngest son repeating some very unsavoury words, that he was obviously parroting someone else saying to him. I said, “WHAT are you talking about?”

He said, “I was talking with so-and-so (one of the people he plays online with) and he just randomly started saying these strange things.”

I said, “Unfriend and block him.”

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The youngest son did so. It surprised me that he had no idea what was going on. That’s where I feel a little parental guidance and supervision is required, at times.

He’s doing fine navigating things himself, yet he needs a bit of course correction now and again.

Apart from that, I can see the attraction. The kids are playing these super fun games from the comfort of home, yet, they’re still having this socially bonding experience with their friends. They’re all “What’s up, G?” “Let’s go!” “Yo!” and when a move taken in a game is a bad one “That’s cancer!” and when someone wins the game “You’re a god!” They talk the same lingo, and yet the words of choice change every week. What started out one week as ‘bro,’ turned into ‘bruh,’ then into ‘brr’ and, as of this week, they’re saying ‘bro’ again. You’ve got to be in the clique to know which words to use. One time I overheard the youngest son ask someone, “Why do you sound like you’re thirty years old?” They can tell when you’re not one of them in a twinkling.

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I can’t complain. If all this fun online stuff had been available in my time, I’m sure I would’ve been into it, too. I just worry that my boys don’t get out into nature enough. I want them to get outdoors more often. Throughout the holidays, I’ve invited the youngest son outside for rounds of badminton – formerly our favourite game – and he has declined the offer. Although I did convince him to joining myself and his brother for a number of swims.

I bought the youngest son a really good teen novel for Christmas to encourage him into reading. I want him to read at least one page every night this year.

I know he will come through this fixated, over dramatic, friends-are-everything stage, just as his two brothers did before him. Nevertheless, I try to stay vigilant in guiding and protecting him. I tell him he can always talk to me, that I’m always here for him.

The best advice my grandmother gave me for parenting was, ‘keep the lines of communication open,’ and that’s what I endeavour to do. What about you?

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Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

 

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Raise one foot and you get ten feet of wind. – Chinese Proverb

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

The other day at Toastmasters, one friend said that she can never get used to Christmas in summer. Being born in the U.K, and only having lived in New Zealand for ten years, she’s still not used to celebrating the festive season at the height of the hottest season. My grandmother was English also, and though she lived here the last nine years of her life, Nan always said, ‘it never felt like Xmas’ celebrating in the sun.

It really is nutso when you think about it.

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The original celebration was about reassuring the people during the dark months of winter that the light would return again, when the shaman or elder went from door to door in the village with a branch of evergreen and a lamp.

Here we are, in the southern hemisphere, where it’s already the height of summer, therefore we are ‘in the light’ and don’t need a reminder that the sun will return again. Yet, we still eat a big roast meal in the middle of the day, we still wear fluffy Santa hats, we still songs about snow and sleigh bells. There is some conflict there because the celebration is happening in the wrong season.

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Me, I put all the negative voices aside. I was born in the month of December, so maybe that’s what makes me partial to the tradition, but I was raised with Christmas in summer. I have no problem with the nutso scheme of things. It suits me perfectly. I am happy to wear a Santa hat at the beach. I have no issue at all with wearing a Christmas jersey in summer. Maybe it comes down to being a kid at heart. I still have a powerful belief in Santa Claus, or rather; I fight for the right to believe in the possibility he exists.

My creative spirit is restless to believe in the ‘wonders that are unseen and unseeable in the world,’ in the possibility of anything.

There’s a famous post from the column of Francis P. Church, who wrote for The Sun, in 1897, which says it perfectly.

A girl called Virginia O’Hanlon wrote a letter to the editor. She said, “Dear Editor, I am eight years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth: is there a Santa Claus?”

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Francis Church wrote in reply ~

“Dear Virginia,

Your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the scepticism of a sceptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be seen which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little.”

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. How dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

“Not believe in Santa Claus? You might as well not believe in fairies! The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see.”

Christmas magic (via Tracey Henderson)

The original mythology of the large-hearted man delivering ‘gifts to good children’ comes from St. Nicholas or “Bishop Nicholas.” He was one of the most popular saints in early Christendom, especially in the East. He is said to have been a bishop of Myra (Lycia) in the early 4th century, and he was related to doing good works.

Bishop Nicholas dropped three bags of gold down the chimney of a poor family, so the story goes, and the story of his kindness (one of many in his lifetime) spread. People everywhere grabbed onto the idea and began to hang stockings by the fire; in the hope Bishop Nicholas would visit them with his “magical gifts” in the night. Something about this idea caught hold in the human consciousness and took root. And, it’s been with a great many of us, ever since.

I know the festive season gets a lot of bad press, these days. However, it also brings a lot of pleasure. To me, it brings creativity, inspiration and uplifts the artist within.

The joy! I wish you and your families Happy Holidays, and I’ll see you in the New Year!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“A true hero of the people, St. Nicholas still delivers his magical gifts each year at Christmastime. The gifts Santa Claus delivers, gifts of hope and joy, bring the joy of giving to all the children of the world.” ~ Brian Conway

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[N.B. The blog will be on hiatus next week]

Today is Halloween in California where the youngest son continues his dream trip, ‘A Californian Adventure’ thanks to Koru Care NZ. The charitable trust is run by volunteers, who raise funds to send a group of seriously ill and disabled children on the trip of a lifetime to Disneyland each year.

When your child suffers so much due to ill health, as the parent, you want good things to happen to them.

Yet, as the parent, you’re also a bit jaded, and you tend to think, will this trip really be the ‘trip of a lifetime’ or will it be a series of disappointments? However, I’m happy to say the Californian Adventure has been all they promised and more.

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As was detailed in A California Adventure and Californian Adventure, Part 1, in the first week, the kids had been to meet the California Highway Patrol, to see the Hollywood Walk of Fame, to Universal Studios, and SeaWorld, and in the last blog post, the team were on their way to Disneyland. Imagine being a child at Disneyland for the first time, and you can stay all day through to the evening and go on as many rides as you can handle! Ha ha, I can hardly imagine the joy.

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The next day, they went to Knott’s Berry Farm, renamed “Knott’s Scary Farm” for the Day of the Dead. And, then, they visited Disney California Adventure Park.

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I love the fact that the kids aren’t being treated like kids. They aren’t expected to be in bed early every night. The team of adult carers have taken the kids out to see the sights in the evenings as well.

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They’ve given them a taste of the nightlife. They stayed at Disneyland, Knott’s Scary Farm and Disneyland California Adventure until after dark, so they got to watch the parades and ride the lighted roller coasters at night.

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They’ve dined in cool restaurants, seeing the bright lights along the way, and they’ve attended different dinner theatre, things most of these kids would never normally get to do.

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In the second week, they had another fun educational visit, this time to the LA Coast Guard and then a day at the San Diego Zoo.

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Today was a free day, and they’ve been at the beach all day. Tonight, they’ll have to fasten their seatbelts, because they’re going to a Halloween party! Then, the kids have one more day at Disneyland and California Adventure before they finally depart LAX for home.

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I expect the youngest son will come exhausted, satiated, and also, that his life will be forever enriched by this formative experience.

I’ve enjoyed watching on from afar and getting to live every minute vicariously through him, even the scary ones. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. The trip of a lifetime? It’s proving to be the trip of at least two!

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44877107_2379645158715632_414595559609860096_nI think one of the greatest things Korucare do with this trip is make it ‘device-free.’ The kids aren’t allowed to take phones or ipads or any sort of handheld gaming devices.

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They are thrown together for two weeks and without their phones and what-have-you, these kids are forced to communicate. And, it’s a beautiful thing to watch. You can see through the photos how close they’ve grown.

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These days, with the research done on the effects of the internet/personal phones/devices on our kids, the research has shown a decrease in the ability of children to hold a conversation.

What a brilliant idea, to make these vacations device-free. It really brings the group of kids together in a way they rarely get to experience, one-on-one, in the moment, and interacting with one another. It’s healthy for them and they need that reminder about how to function in real time with other people.

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At an event like this, where the kids are not allowed to bring their phones, you see them instantly revert to sitting in groups on the floor talking, and playing handgames, it’s the most heartwarming sight in the world. I’m so thrilled and pleased and honoured our family was one of those chosen for this special life-changing event.

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Thank you, once again, to all those who contribute to KoruCare NZ. We’ll never forget this.

Thank you!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“Reach high, for stars lie hidden in your soul. Dream deep, for every dream precedes the goal!” – P. Vaull Starr

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

Last Saturday, the youngest son left New Zealand along with twenty-six other kids, on this year’s ‘Californian Adventure.’ The trip is organized and run each year by Koru Care NZ, a charitable trust based in the South Island of New Zealand, whose mission statement is ‘making dreams come true for seriously ill and disabled children.’

As the last days counted down before departure, the tension began to mount, which escalated into pure adrenalin. We all got swept up in it. The tide of enthusiasm skipped from the kids, who were racing from all parts of the country to meet at Auckland International Airport, to the parents, whether through the Facebook page they’d set up or via those who could be there in person.

The kids were so happy, it was a force to be reckoned with.

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The photos started flooding into the Facebook page, which has became my favourite port of call every day since. The organisers have been brilliant, because through the steady stream of pictures, we parents have been able to follow along for the ride.

Part one of their grand adventure has been spectacular.

The first day in California was a free day, to give everyone time to get over the jetlag. There were pictures of kids swimming in the pool and eating ice creams and visiting the local food joints. In these pictures, I can see the youngest son is still finding his feet, still feeling a bit awkward with his new companions. Their second day, they took a bus ride to visit the California Highway Patrol where the kids watched demonstrations by the officers and learned about the work they do. They received souvenirs and were allowed to take photographs sitting on the bikes and cars.

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At this stage, the kids and the adults were visibly starting to relax more in the photos, and it seemed they were getting to know one another. I could tell the youngest son had befriended the other heart kid he was sharing a room with. In the pictures, the kids were chatting and getting on.

The whole group dynamic seemed to be becoming more like a family.

The fourth day, they took a bus tour to see the Hollywood Walk of Fame. There was a video taken of the kids screaming when they saw the Hollywood sign. The excitement was infectious. They went to Universal Studios, where they visited Harry Potter’s World and the Staples Centre. In these photos, the youngest son is having fun. There is a hilarious video posted on the KoruCare page of my son and others standing in front of a huge transformer.

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The robot knocked off the son’s cap and said, ‘Pick up your hat.’ The son picked it up and the transformer knocked it off again. This was repeated four times to greater and greater laughter from the crowd, and the funny part was the transformer laughed each time too. The group of kids around the youngest son seem tight-knit, and everyone’s in a great mood. The footage absolutely made my day.

It constantly amazes me how much joy my son’s good fortune is bringing me. I’m so happy for him I could burst!

Today, being the fifth day of their Californian Adventure, the Koru Care team visited SeaWorld in San Diego. That would have been the first time my son has ever seen a display like that, and I’m sure he would have been in awe and wonder.

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The way the trip has been organized, every morning the kids are told where they are going that day, they have no idea beforehand. The youngest son’s carer had explained the intention behind it being ‘that every morning will be like Christmas morning.’

I wish I could be a fly on the wall for tomorrow morning. Because tomorrow they get to go to … drum roll, please … Disneyland!

33674968_10155287787936744_7223338404287610880_nThe reactions should be priceless. My son will be over the moon. As his cousin was pointing out to me today, ‘This is a big step up from having gone on his first roller coaster ride, this year.’ In January, the boys and I had visited our first ever fun fair. The boys couldn’t get enough of the rides, and the youngest son said it was the most fun he’d ever had. So, for a treat, in May, I paid for him and friends and family to go to Rainbow’s End for his thirteenth birthday. He spent a delirious day going on every ride. That was when he went on his first rollercoaster. And here we are, in October, and he’s about to go to Disneyland! He’ll be in seventh heaven.

I’m so grateful to the good folk who do all the fund raising for these trips and the running of Koru Care Nz What an incredible organization. Support in any way you can. Thank you!

 

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“May your dreams be larger than mountains and may you have the courage to scale their summits.” -Harley King

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

One of the things I’ll miss most when the youngest child morphs from child to young adult is the singing. It doesn’t start first thing in the morning, when he’s a zombie and must sit plastered to the couch watching television. The singing starts from the moment of that first voluntary movement towards feeding himself, or finding and turning on his device of choice, he’ll begin to sing random snatches of verse from various songs. Not whole songs, sometimes not even choruses, just a few lines here and there, often repeated before I say, ‘OY,’ and he moves onto the next song that pops into his head. He and his friends have been that way since they were small.

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The songs continue throughout the day until he tires in the evening and starts to wind down with snack foods and the cartoon network.

When the youngest son is playing a game on his computer and talking to a friend through his tablet (who is also playing the same game), in between snatches of chatter about what they’re doing, and actually playing the games, one or other of them is bellowing a rendition of a song. They don’t bat an eyelid. It’s part of their banter, part of their way of bouncing ideas off the world. And it’s not just him, it’s all of them.

Kids sing. It comes as naturally as breathing and there’s something wonderful about that. 

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They don’t run out of song ideas or steam for it either. It’s simply amazing. I admire their fearless lack of self consciousness greatly. Imagine how great it must be to live that way. To be so young and carefree.

The youngest son’s voice is okay. He’s no Josh Grobin, but he can hold a tune. His natural tone when he’s burbling to himself is sweet. It’s just that he can’t seem to sing at a low volume for long, he and his friends have a habit of turning up the volume until, once again, I have to yell, ‘OY’ to get him to lower the decibel level.

I had expected the childlike tendency for song to have expired by now. However, even at the grand old age of thirteen, he still sings the whole day long. Not constantly. It comes and goes, in between activities and school and time spent playing Fortnite and planning to take the world by storm as the next YouTube gamer video star, the next Dan DTM. He still sings.

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I love it. He tapes himself playing online games for his YouTube channel, and in between the banter, he’s singing. I don’t know if he even knows he’s doing it. But, it’s got to be a surefire way to tell the older YouTubers from the younger generation. That’s for sure. Adults are far too self conscious to burst into spontaneous choruses of their favourite tune every other minute.

As a child, I used to sing in all the school productions and sometimes for certain events at church. But, then I grew up, and I stopped. I notice adults, in general, tend to sing, dance and laugh less than children, which strikes me as sad.

At least, for now, I know my youngest son is still a child because he’s still singing. Sure, I get annoyed when he repeats the same line twenty-five times. Sure, I get frustrated when I can’t hear myself think for his warbling. Sure, I get ticked off when he’s still singing and dancing in the living room instead of doing what he’s been told.

Of course, I do, even a tuneful melody can wear your nerves to a frazzle on the hundredth rendition.003 (16)Here are my Top Tips to survive as the parent:

When going on long trips, take ear plugs.

When it gets too loud, ask for an indoor voice.

When the same line is repeated ad nauseum, ask them to stop.

When jobs don’t get done, set a deadline or there will be loss of a treat or privilege.

When the singing and dancing jars the nerves, escape the room!

Even though I shake my head at times, there is still something endearing about hearing your child sing that wrings the heart strings. And, you can’t stay mad for long. As I said in the introduction, I’m sure this trait is the one I’ll miss the most after he’s grown up and gone. So I’ll withstand and cherish him while I can and he’s young.

How do you handle the never-ending melody of your children?  

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Children will not remember you for the material things you provided but for the feeling that you cherished them. ~ Richard L. Evans

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The stage that I’m at now with my kids, the eldest has his own family while I still have two teenagers at home. The youngest is halfway into his first year as a teen. He’s navigating new waters of social interaction with his peers. He’s figuring out how to stand on his own two feet. The middle son is special needs, with Downs’ syndrome and Autism. But, if you take some broad sweeps of the brush, there are many ways in which adolescence is universal.

Being a teen is confusing

Life suddenly becomes more complex. For instance, the youngest has become embroiled in intrigues and dramas at school between the groups of friends. He’s stuck as mediator and counsellor and he’s trying to unravel seemingly endless knots of disputes. There’s tension in every section. He comes home from school, more often than not, frowning, talking to himself; chock full of “teen angst.”

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It’s pressure-filled

You would not believe the amount of pressure these new teens put each other under to ‘find a girlfriend or a boyfriend.’ By the second term, the youngest had gained a “girlfriend.”

It’s a rollercoaster ride

Luckily, he doesn’t expect me to help. He only tells me the occasional insight, the shortened update that comes after he’s figured something out. I’m glad for that. Even the précis of his adolescent spats, are so convoluted they could suck all time for productive worthwhile endeavours into them like teenage black holes.

I do not envy my boys this stage in life. I wouldn’t go back there for a million dollars.

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What can I do, as the parent of these teenage boys?

I’m constantly juggling balls in the air, balancing the day-to-day stuff of running a family, while walking the knife edge of constantly gauging their wellbeing. When you’re the mum in such a situation as this, you learn to spot fires and put them out before they get out of control. If you don’t want World War Three in your house, you get to vet the teenagers’ emotional, mental and spiritual wellbeing throughout each day.

I think parenting teenagers is just as exhausting as the pre-school years. It takes every ounce of savvy and screws every drop of resolve out of you, and as with all parenting, it requires your time and doesn’t let up for a minute.

With the middle child’s recent diagnosis of autism, I’ve learned to apply the rapid salve of one-on-one time. Instead of waiting for the teenage angst to send him to Mars, each time I notice him becoming restless, I suggest we do an activity together.

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We’ve played cards, board games and balloon tennis. He’s responded wonderfully to this diversion tactic, and there have been less aggressive outbursts.

While having one-on-one time works with my special son, it doesn’t work as well with my youngest son, who is starting to value hanging out with his friends, on line and at school, above spending time with mum.

I googled ‘tips or how to raise teens.’ These are my own versions of the tips which have worked for me, so far:

Let them grow up

A bit of trust goes a long way. Teenagers want to be respected. I’ve given the youngest more rope this year than he’s had before. This year, he’s started to stay late after school, and visit friends on the way home. He’s got a later bedtime and has more freedom.

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Set out the guidelines

I’m a firm believer in letting the kids know what the rules are in the house.

Give them more responsibilities

Let them do more around the house and do their share.

Have consequences

When the rules are broken, it’s time out on their own for ten minutes and they can’t return to the family until they’re ready to apologize.

 

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Have an open ear

I try to be as open minded as possible. If he feels safe to talk to me, and knows he can trust me, we’re on a good footing.

Talk about risks, discuss game plans for dangerous situations

I try to teach the youngest on how he can protect himself on the internet and in public. On a practical level, it’s important for teens to have a plan for what to do if they need help.  I always make sure the teenager has a cell phone with credit, and that we run through game plans ahead of social situations. I let my teen know that he can call at any hour, and I’ll come get him. The best I can do is provide the information and the safety net. And, pray like crazy, of course.

Hope that helps!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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‘…if you have raised a few teenagers you will understand that there is some point when sanity is questioned (yours not theirs).’~ Ann Kaplan

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When I received a dramatic phonecall from the ex-husband tonight, I thought something terrible had happened to one of the boys. But, no. The cafuffle was over the fact our thirteen-year-old had left his cell phone here at home.

I could hear the teenager in the background, saying in no uncertain terms, “But, you don’t understand, I need my phone!”

“Are you able to drop it off tonight?” asked the ex-husband, hopefully.

“No.” I told him they could pick it up on their way to school in the morning. It was the principle of the thing. I wanted the teenager to learn the consequences of his actions.

And also, every kid needs to learn how to survive without their cell.

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What is it with this kid and his phone? In the last couple of months, since turning thirteen, his phone has become the most important device in his life, trumping his computer, tablet, even his X-box.

When he got home from school this afternoon, he turned on his mobile to the tune of a string of beeps and whistles that went on for several minutes. What was that? I asked.

“Seventy-seven text messages,” said the son. 

That’s more than I get in a month! His social life is more banging than mine. His circles are chatting all the time on Google Hangouts, and he spends half his time divided between Instagram and YouTube. Of course, he’s riveted.

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I probably would have been the same, had all this technology been around when I was a teenager. Luckily for me, in my heyday, phones were attached to the walls of people’s houses, and I had no choice but to hang out with my friends in person and talk to them in real time.

I have a great deal of concern for the generation coming up, that they spend so much time experiencing life through a screen, having connections and relationships with people predominantly over their devices. Because of this phenomenon, my thirteen-year-old takes his cell everywhere. It’s never far from his hand. And he’s not alone, I gather. Talking to a friend the other night, about the university students she teaches, she said although she asks them to put their mobiles away every day, they still set their phones right beside them.

Kids these days have to stay connected. They expect it.

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Which means I have to start every conversation with my teen by asking, “Can you please put down the phone?” shortly followed by, “Can you please look at me?” and routinely accompanied by, “I’ll give you to the count of five to put it down or I’ll take it off you.” That usually gets a quick response.

It’s annoying to fight to get his attention all the time and it’s tiring work. Given this background, can you blame me for feeling joy when I heard the teenager had left his cell at home? My first thought was it would be good for him to take an enforced breather from technology (rubbing of hands, secret parental glee).

In the initial conversation with his father on the phone this evening, I heard my son in the background ask his dad ‘to chill,’ and his dad saying, “Did you just tell me to chill?” Yes, the youngest gives us lip and a bit of attitude sometimes, nowadays.

He has to nudge the boundaries a bit to see what falls and what stands. He’s constantly testing, and I understand. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.

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Yet, as a parent, I can’t afford to lose ground, I have to pull him up on attitude and demand respect, or all hell will break loose. I try to do so in a way that is loving, kind and firm, so he knows, we’re still on the same side.

I think that’s just as important for teenagers as staking out boundaries, is to give them a soft place to fall, to make sure they know they are loved.

I remember my grandmother being proud of the fact, that all through my father’s childhood, ‘they could always talk about anything.’ So, I try to follow her example, to keep the door open. I try to keep an open mind and open ears, so my new teen feels he can talk to me.

I try to put myself in my teenager’s shoes and not to judge him for his awkward, idiotic, inflammatory moments. I used to be a teenage terror once, too. Thank goodness there were no mobile phones then!

Come to think of it, I’m sure I used to drive my parents crazy. I believe this is called karma. What about you, are you able to separate your teens from their phones?

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(Me, at fifteen)

Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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You don’t have favourites among your children but you do have allies. ~ Zadie Smith

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My brother and I decided to start the school holidays with a working bee. We made our first “boys trip” to mums and dads home by the sea since our father died.

I wanted to continue the tradition we had set up years ago, of taking our sons to the family homestead and spending time together during each school holidays. Back then, of course, the family vacays had been primarily for us to gather the boys around their grandfather in a regular fashion. However, after dad died in February, my brother was ready to abandon the holiday get-together – so much so, that we didn’t meet up there in the last school break. My kids and I really missed it.

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These family sabbaticals are essential, to my way of thinking. Otherwise, we see one another briefly a few times a year for birthdays and other celebrations. It’s not long enough to keep the fabric of our familial relationships alive and breathing. The internet is great and all very well. But, a true actual connection with your people comes through face-to-face conversations and spending time together.

I said, ‘I would like to continue the “boys’ trips” for as long as our teenagers want to go.’ My brother agreed, and we met in mums and dads quaint wood cabin on the first day of the holidays.

IMG_2957Unfortunately, without our parents there to maintain the place, when we drive up, it’s to a wild wonderland of weeds and overgrown paths. We’re also still reclaiming the land from the wilderness which had begun to overtake the gardens in the last few years of dad’s life. Upon every stay there now, we are reminded of how much work there is to be done.

The flat downstairs has been successfully renovated for renting out. The upstairs doesn’t need anything doing inside. It’s the house exterior and the grounds that need drastic elbow grease applied. Therefore, every trip is a working bee, by extension.

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We classed our stay at Grandpa’s as the ‘fifth working bee,’ and while we were there, we took three trailers of rubbish to the dump, marking the 23rd trip made to release our parents’ plethora of stuff.

Although the kids helped at times, mostly they wanted to have fun. Left to their own devices, they reverted to teenage things: like trekking down to the reserve to play ball, or lying around playing cards, and even tried their hands at cooking. They got to play cards with us in the evenings and watch movies lying on mattresses pulled before the fire.

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We didn’t trek up to the peak of the mountain, we didn’t go to the beach or the golf course, nor did we catch any fish. We worked hard on the family property, made meals together, and got to hang out in each other’s company for four days. And it was wonderful.

The best memories in life are made of such simple shared times as these.

It was such a delight to be in the fresh air of the seaside. It was such a pleasure to have an open fire, which we left burning all day on the really cold days, and it was satisfying to see the neglected areas come to life with a bit of TLC.

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We aim to slowly do the clean up and improvements on the house exterior, as well as to make the gardens low-maintenance, except for the veggie gardens, which we’ll hopefully keep going. We need to repaint, and to redo the steps and the ramp.

There is a huge amount to be done. But, nothing is daunting when you have a team alongside and you do each stint together. Every day, we moved mountains of rubbish and cleared whole areas of weeds. I made big pots of food each night and we feasted as only those who are truly hungry can. You’re exhausted and replete and sleep well.

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I particularly enjoy the conversations in the car. On this trip, my young nephew, who sat shotgun, was able to whip out his phone and check messages sometimes. But, the rest of the journey, we were stuck together with nothing to do but talk. You get to cover a broad spectrum of topics and catch up on everything. You can’t wander away and make food. You can’t read. Your attention is focused on what is being said. Car-bound conversations are some of the best I’ve ever had.

We finished our break by plotting the next one! We know it’ll be more blood, sweat and tears and, yet, we can’t wait.

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Families are like fudge – mostly sweet with a few nuts. ~ Author Unknown

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