Archive for the ‘childhood’ Category

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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

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

InsecureWritersSupportGroup

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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

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

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

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The middle son started sneezing the same afternoon.

Of course, now I have a cold, too.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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(Kate de Goldi and I, 2008)

Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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

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

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

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

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

It’s a bit of a test.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Everything’s tested.

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

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

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

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

Kids need both love and rules to thrive.

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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

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At the moment, my eldest son is painting the exterior of the house for us. It’s been great. Because not only is the job getting done, but I get to see him regularly and sometimes he brings my granddaughter with him. At first, the idea was for my teenage boys to help me babysit her while the eldest carried on with the painting. But, after a couple of hours on the first day, the youngest son said, “Mum, I don’t think I’m responsible enough to be babysitting.” I had to laugh. At thirteen, he’s not quite ready to be a caregiver. He realized it takes constant vigilance to look after babies.

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He went back to his online game. My sixteen-year-old went back to watching YouTube. And I went back to following the path of her adventures. My nephew, who boards here, said to her, “Is it you who’s been pulling things out all over the house?” She just looked at them with those big blue peepers and we all laughed.

For me, as the grandparent, babysitting is a joyful vigilance. I’ve been absorbed in watching her and singing nursery rhymes, and reading baby books. It’s been a lot of fun and a wonderful bonding time with my granddaughter getting to see her for whole days at a time.

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Prior to my granddaughter’s birth, I was looking forward to being around a such a young child again. Even so, I had forgotten how special they are. When you’ve been here less than a year, the world is a vast and truly fascinating place. Everything is new waiting to be explored.

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They want to know what lies on top of every table and cabinet.

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They want to know what it is about these gadgets we find so fascinating, my granddaughter is never more animated than when she manages to get hold of a phone, or a tablet or a remote for a minute. They’re attracted to things they feel they probably shouldn’t be playing with.

There is one feature here at my house I had hoped to keep the baby away from, a Jade tree on the front porch which features little tiny pebbles and smallish glass butterflies.

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The jade tree was the first thing the baby noticed and she made a beeline for it. Babies are uncanny that way. They hone in on what you don’t want them to find. We played a fun game of Nana saying no, ‘you can’t eat that’ until I could distract her to something else.

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Luckily, we have loads of toys and everything a child could want here because I saved so much of the boys’ stuff, from their best baby toys and the best of everything over the years since then. Baby and I have a lot of fun playing with the musical instruments, playing with a bucket of water outside, blowing bubbles, reading picture books, stacking blocks and rolling a ball. But, what she’s really motivated to do is explore her world.

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One minute we’re playing the next minute she’s off, crawling at great speed to see what’s around the next corner. She wants to go into every room of the house, and pull herself up on the chairs and tables to see more.

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Every item she can get her hands on needs to be carefully examined and then sucked on. ‘Everything is intrinsically interesting’ as Shaun Tan said. This is the viewpoint of babies. I love how babies and little kids have to physically engage with their environment in a thorough way. It makes me see these same things anew.

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If there are stairs or different levels under fives have to go up and down and around and if possible through. They engage with things in every possible way. Nothing is taken for granted. Everything is tested and known completely. It’s not enough to take things out of the drawer; one must get in the drawer.

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So far, I have found this window into early childhood absorbing. Now that my two youngest boys are teenagers, life is different for us at home. I don’t have to have everything out of reach or locked up tight. Whereas, when there’s a baby around, anything you don’t want lost or broken, or that might be a potential hazard, has to be out of sight. We’re rediscovering the delights and dangers of the world again through her adventuring.

I’d always heard being a grandparent is fabulous, now I can attest to the fact. It’s the love for family enhanced by the benefit of time.

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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On the seventh day, God rested. His grandchildren must have been out of town. ~ Gene Perret

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The 0-5 years are the treasure years. Your kids will never be so adorable again. They’re pure and untrammelled spirits, and it’s a joy to be with them before they start school and start to become wise to the ways of the world.

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The under-fives are dynamos of learning. Their every moment is spent eating, sleeping or exploring their world. My granddaughter is ten months old and crawling. She’s bright and interested – not in the amazing toys I’ve put out for her – only in what I’m hiding inside the kitchen cupboards and the TV cabinet. Apparently, the best game in the world is to pull out the contents one by one, onto the floor. Said objects must be banged on the floor and also sucked. Things must be explored thoroughly.

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*I turn a lid draw in the kitchen into a ‘things they can play with’ drawer. It’s always a favourite.

Every part of the house is fascinating to my granddaughter. Even door stoppers are infinitely intriguing and worth studying and maybe gnawing on for a minute.

Doors are to be banged on and stood against.

Books on shelves are there for pulling onto the floor.

Boxes and baskets are for emptying. A trail of debris follows from room to room. I couldn’t leave her alone for a minute. When I did leave the baby with my two younger sons, while I put out the washing, she crawled around the house crying plaintively until I returned. I couldn’t eat, couldn’t go to the toilet, I couldn’t do a thing without company.

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It reminded me of that seldom spoken aspect of parenting, the need for parental time out. When my two youngest boys were little I would get burnt out on the job sometimes. I genuinely needed a break on my own every now and again. I used to leave the boys with their father, and I’d visit my parents on the coast for the weekend. That time away from my beloved sons kept me sane. I highly recommend.

My kids are now thirty-six, sixteen and thirteen. The eldest has given me my first grandchild. I see the cycle of child rearing again, through different eyes and the cycle of life goes on.

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I have a great deal of respect for parents, because I know how difficult it can be. I had my first child when I was seventeen. My middle child has special needs. My youngest son has Congenital Heart Disorder, and I raised my boys, for the most part, as a solo mum. Yet, it doesn’t matter the travails you go through, the moment you look into your child’s eyes. There is no greater love than the love you feel for your children, unless it’s for your grandchildren.

Sometimes, I feel nostalgic for the past, for my boys’ younger years, when they were chubby and cute, and they needed me. Then, I get the delight of babysitting Her Cuteness for a day, and I am reminded of the reality of mothering children under five. It’s gruelling. Nothing will ever make you more knackered! It occurred to me, you know what; maybe I’ve done my time.

It has made me more appreciative of the fact the younger boys are teenagers now. They don’t need me as much, it’s wonderful. It’s freeing in a lot of ways. I have more time for the things I want to do. I have more energy.

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Having said that, a mother’s work is still never done. The kids have their chores and I add another responsibility on their lists now and again. But the fact is, there is still so much more on the list to be done in a household, for a family, in a day. Home ownership is no joke. It is constant maintenance and it requires attention and frequent doses of money. My dad would call it, being “head cook and bottle washer.”

These days, my two younger sons go to stay with their father for a couple of days a week. I dropped them off tonight and came home to put away their stuff and cover up their devices and their recharge cords. I realized that even though the kids themselves aren’t here, I was still cleaning up after them and sorting out stuff for the household. It made me laugh, because it really is true that a mother’s work is never done. That’s when the title for this week’s blog came into my mind.

Just when you think you’re finished, you discover there’s something else needs doing. That’s life.

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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On the seventh day, God rested. His grandchildren must have been out of town. ~ Gene Perret

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Today, our carer supporter asked me, “Are you happy or sad about the school holidays starting tomorrow?” I said happy.

When the boys were younger, certainly the school breaks could be really arduous with them at home, but now that they’re teens, it’s much easier. I’m not begged to play soccer, or checkers or cards every other minute anymore, or to go here, there and everywhere. In some ways, it’s also much harder, because teens want to negotiate everything all the time. and they have more going on in their lives that needs coordinating. While at the same time, they try to delay doing everything you ask them to do. They’re hard work, just quietly.

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I’m pleased to report the youngest son has survived his first term of high school. It was touch and go though at times. Bullying happened at one point. And, he somehow failed to do a ton of homework, which now has to be done during the two week holiday break. He missed trombone practice so many times the teacher threatened to dump him. But, I came on board to help. I send text messages half an hour before trombone starts, and now he is getting to class. Mama to the rescue!

I feel I’m fighting a losing battle all the time, though, to wrest his attention away from playing “Fortnite.” Yes, he migrated back to playing it – along with the rest of the herd. Yes, it’s still hilarious. On occasion he plays other games on other modes, but the rest of the time he’s still loyal to Fortnite. Everything in his world, is organized to getting enough done in a day that he can earn some time to play.

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I’m not sure if it’s bordering on obsession. But he’s a good kid. If gaming is the way he chooses to spend his down time, when everything that needs to be done is done, then yeah okay. He calls the weekend, when he gets to do more “gaming,” his ‘haven.’ Ever the dramatist our new teen. He’s the master of dramatic over statement. It was ‘the funniest thing he ever heard’ or ‘the best song at the moment’ it was ‘the best in the world.’ Everything is said with an exclamation point.

He seems to have settled into the more adult scene of high school, although there’s a lot more pressure and responsibility that comes with getting older. I think it’s a bit of a shock to his system. He’s such a dreamer at heart.

Is he still carrying all his stationary for the year back and forth to school in his backpack each day? Yes.

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But the large pack we had to buy him, to fit all his gear plus his stationary every day, is pulling apart at the shoulder straps, after only one term. I said to the youngest son we’d have to discuss a solution to this. We hashed out various ideas. I helped him to see the wisdom of perhaps trying out having a locker for one term? That way, we can see if he can negotiate having to go to his locker each day and organizing what he needs, in the way the other kids are doing it. Let’s just see if he’s capable of that level of self discipline yet. He agreed. He’s willing to give it a go.

Thank goodness for that! I’ve worried about those wee pea stick legs and puny shoulders underneath the weight of that big pack each day. It also signifies his taking that next step up towards adulthood.

With this kid, every step in life is freighted with all sorts of things I’m unaware of. Very deep thinker is our youngest son.

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At any rate, hopefully he will master having his own locker next term.

The middle son has flown through the first term and is so happy now he has all his extra-curricular activities to utilise all that energy.

For now, the first holiday for the year starts tomorrow afternoon. And I am grateful. It means I don’t have to spend time and energy each day keeping the boys to their time schedules. I think we’re all ready for that.

Bring it on.

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Family is the most important thing in the world. ~ Princess Diana

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

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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