Archive for the ‘Family stories’ Category

As a parent, your children pass so many milestones which at the time seem incredible and wondrous: their first tooth, their first smile, first step, first day at school, first night away from home, passing the double digits, and so on. As a parent of a child with CHD, Congenital Heart Disorder, you have additional, special milestones. Surviving the surgery is the first one.

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And it’s not a given. You come face to face with this brutal reality the first day you arrive in the Children’s Heart Ward for your child’s procedure. The specialists sit you down to explain the risks of open heart surgery. The real danger lies in what they call the “bypass.” The surgeons must stop the heart beating, and divert the blood, passing it through a machine while they work on the heart. This creates the threat of blood clotting. They tell you, your child may be permanently brain damaged or die. You have to sign a waiver at this point which basically says you agree to take these risks.

Next, the psychologist shows you a book of the photos of the surgery and graphic detail of the children’s chests afterwards. This is tough love; they say the preparation is necessary because otherwise, the shock for the parents is too great.

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By this stage, you’re quaking in your boots, trying to look strong and brave for your child. You have to be the parent, even though you wish you could run home to your own.

Therefore, surviving the surgery is the first milestone.

My son was an unusual case, and patching the ASD (Atrial Septal defect) did not entirely fix the problem. When they took him off bypass the first time, and closed him, the surgeons saw the blood coming out was still blue instead of red. Something was still wrong. They had to open the heart again, stop the heart and put him on bypass for a second time.

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They discovered an “anomalous” vein going down to the liver. This defect was “unique to him.” They replaced the patch so it covered the hole and the unusual vein. This time his blood ran red. My five year old had survived a double bypass.

He made it through that terrible first day in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. “OW! Mama it hurts!” were his first crying words. The second day, he said, “I need to get well!” He made it through the first few days in the High Dependency Unit, and taking his first painful steps walking in the ward. Surviving week one in recovery is the second milestone.

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Then we went home and he managed the first six weeks at home when CHD children must not fall over or take a blow to the torso and getting comfortable enough to sleep every night is the tricky part. Third milestone, ticked!

It typically takes CHD children twelve months to regain normal energy levels. My son had only just started at school when he had to have his surgery. When he returned to school a month later, he could only do half days and I had to give him a piggyback home every day, because he was too tired to walk. A year later, he was at school doing full days and walking both ways. Fourth milestone!

In 2011, we returned to the Children’s Heart Clinic for a check up. Most patients get “discharged” at this point. 95% of cases survive into adulthood which is a good success rate. However my son had been added to the “unusual case book,” and as such, the surgeons asked us to return in five years, so they could check on him again.

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This week, we went back for our second check-up. Returning to the ward brought all the memories back. We peeped in down the hallways. My son remembered that when I’d placed him on the metal bed in the operating theatre, he’d worried that the blanket wasn’t thick enough to keep him warm!

The nurse gave son a check up. We filled out a questionnaire. Yes, he still gets tight-chested sometimes when he runs, yes, he gets blue lips when he does a lot of exercise, and yet, that doesn’t stop him. He plays golf and soccer, he’s learning to play the drums, and he runs around as much as the other kids. He’s fit and healthy.

The nurse gave him an E.C.G. and then an ultra-sound. The heart surgeons conferred and finally announced he was officially “discharged.”

Son and I “high-fived” on the way to the car. Yes. He made the fifth milestone. “Onwards and upwards from here,” as my father would say.

What milestone has made your heart sing lately?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“It doesn’t hurt to be optimistic. You can always cry later.”

— Lucimar Santos de Lima

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

This week, I took the boys down country and met my brother with his son. We stayed with grandpa for four days, as we do each school break.

Here’s the thing about visiting parents when they’re aging, there’s always a slight tension that never quite goes away. It’s like the prickle in your finger you can’t stop thinking about.

In between our visits, I worry about my father. He’s on his own now, mum having died nearly two years ago. I love his independence. He’s a potter-er. He has his aches and pains but he soldiers on. He makes his own meals and does his own laundry. I know he can take care of himself. I know he’s happy. I know he has a good life between his church, friends, bowls, volunteer work, clubs, and meetings.

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The last few get-togethers dad started complaining of memory loss. The last holiday or two, we have noticed changes. Some little instances of his not recognizing people he should have known, and so on. Since then, the normal mild tension one feels with a parent in their 80’s, became greater concern for his well-being. We’ve been keeping an eye on him. And now, each time we go, I’m hyped with stress, how is he going to be this time? Is he going to be worse? Will the decline be slow or steep?

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This visit was a relief for my brother and I because dad was fine. He showed no displays of memory loss beyond the ordinary things you or I would do. He was great. However, he is still different, more turned inward. When we saw a family friend on the last day, she asked my brother and I, how was your trip, and we both replied, “Interesting” in the same breath.

This holiday, dad, who is famous for his telling of jokes, and the offer of “a story,” had been silent. He didn’t tell a single joke in four days. That, in itself, set the tone for the difference. Dad also has his favourite things he likes to say, like how he was blessed with a lovely wife, a happy family and finding the land he lives on, and the story of how he found it. None of these stones were touched upon. And, that was unsettling.

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In the evenings, the boys would be playing cards (and dad joined in on many games), Sam would be playing his psp, and I’d be writing. I’d look up at dad and think, why isn’t he talking? He was busy with his Sudoku or he was working on his crossword, or he was reading the paper. If I asked a question, he’d answer and then go back to his crossword. He seemed deeply intensely absorbed in his routines and his things he likes to do.

Then on the last day we were there, I thought, I need to have a talk with dad.

I got up early. The instant I heard a footstep above, I rushed upstairs. I caught him before he could get started on his paper and I started him talking.

I engaged him, told him things about us and asked him questions. We had a conversation.

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He said, “I’ve been blessed with…” and I can’t tell you the relief I felt as he told me his familiar saying. He said, “And this place had only been open for development five days when we first saw it. I’ve told you the story, have I?” I said, “Yes, but tell me again!” I was so overjoyed he was back. There you are, dad. Whew!

Dad is simply aging naturally and as well as you can. He’s at the age and stage in life where he’s becoming more introverted. He’s looking inward which is the normal thing to do in the final stage of life. He’s got his routines and his set ways of doing things and he concentrates on them more so now than he did before as is natural. All is well with grandpa.

Yet, still I worry.

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The kids love to visit. My son with Downs’ syndrome loves grandpa, and Sam did spend a fair bit of time just staring at his face. Bless him, dad didn’t react but carried on as usual. I treasured him more than ever. I came home happy to report to the rest of the family (and Facebook!) that grandpa is going strong.

Now, how to manage the stress of worrying about him. What do you do?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“If you’re distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.” – M. Aurelius

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After months mostly spent indoors at the computer, my boys and I headed to the coast to spend Christmas with family.

It was a lot of fun. We stayed a whole week, with the boys going back with their father to the city for one day and night, to kayak with their other cousins. I surprised myself by swimming every day, sometimes twice. It was great.

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While there, I went from feeling the stress of Christmas to relaxing. My brother arrived with injuries, hardly able to move. Yet, by the time they left, he was looking like his old self. His partner suffers from an ongoing illness, and yet, while on holiday with us she had more “good days” than ever.

I pondered this as I holidayed, and I realized there is therapy in travel…in being somewhere ‘different’

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In fossicking about in rock-pools

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In connecting with the earth – actually touching it

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In making new friends

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In risking a little discomfort for the adventure

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In spending quality time with your cuzzies

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In hanging out with your siblings

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In being outdoors in the fresh air, sometimes doing nothing, sometimes climbing a mountain

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In fishing

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And swimming

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In snatching one last dip with the kids and nephews before the sun goes down

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There is therapeutic value in spending time with family. Full stop. Gathering under the same roof, especially during a festive time, helps to build and maintain those bonds. All the feasting and partying also expands the waistline! Never mind, the worry and guilt can wait till next year.

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These festive celebrations deepen the important connections in our lives. We feel the love. We feel plugged back into our families again.

I’ve returned to the city feeling refreshed, invigorated, calm and peaceful. I’m ready to work! I look forward with optimism to the year ahead. Bring on 2017!

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Talk to you later.

Happy New Year!

Yvette K. Carol

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“The Artist is no other than he who unlearns what he has learned, in order to know himself.” ~ E.E. Cummings

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The week before last, my eleven-year-old son asked the dreaded question, ‘Is there really a Santa Claus?’

A friend of his at school had said he didn’t believe in Father Christmas because ‘it’s just your parents bringing you presents.’

My boy looked up at me. ‘It’s not you bringing us the presents, is it?’

I stared into his eyes.

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I explained I was doing my bit to uphold a tradition in our family which dated back in time. The original mythology of the big guy delivering ‘small gifts to good children’ comes from St. Nicholas or “Bishop Nicholas.” He was one of the most popular saints in all Christendom, especially in the East. He is said to have been a bishop of Myra (Lycia) in the early 4th century. He was related to doing good works.

Bishop Nicholas dropped three bags of gold down the chimney of a starving 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.

As Brian Conway said, “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.”

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I thought this is the key time to talk about magic and those things that are beyond our ability to explain, before his facility to grasp the ethereal, the subtle is lost. The whole magic of Christmas, to me, lies in the power of possibility thinking. Anything can happen and probably will. That’s where the magic lives, in that gap we create with our minds, by saying, ‘what if?’

I asked, ‘Have you heard of the famous letter, ‘Yes, Virginia, there really is a Santa Claus?

‘No.’

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

The story goes that 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?”

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.”

“In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

“He exists as truly as love and generosity and devotion exist.

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(photography, Tracey Henderson)

“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.

“Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that doesn’t mean they’re not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders that are unseen and unseeable in the world.

“Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in this entire world there is nothing else more real and abiding.

“A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, 10 times 10 thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.”

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My son smiled. He asked, ‘Was it you bringing our gifts all these years?’

‘Yes.’

‘I still believe.’

‘Me, too.’

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Talk to you later.

Happy Holidays!

Yvette K. Carol

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Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast. ~ Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass

 

 

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Ever since the first year my son Sam-the-man was able to sit unaided, I have photographed him and made a Christmas card for our family.

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Sam was born with Down’s syndrome. The card began as a way of celebrating him and his achievements. It created a small yet meaningful tradition for our family. Once his little brother came along, the card featured the two boys and it became another way to chronicle their lives.

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I think people gravitate towards things which are home-made. Those are always the favourite gifts from the kids. I send a parcel to the boys’ grandfather every year at this time. I send him gifts and the boys’ artwork, their calendars, stories they’ve written, as well as our Xmas card.  This is what the older generation, grandparents especially, live for.

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The card is simple, easy to make, creative, fun.

The Photo:

Any parent can tell you, the first and hardest step in any Xmas photo is the child-wrangling.

*Tip: Don’t leave it till December. Try to get the photo taken before the festive season.

I aim to get the photo taken in the last couple of weeks of November, as this gives me a leeway of time up my sleeve if the boys prove resistant to having their photo taken. Ha ha. *evil laugh, rubs hands together!*

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Once I’ve managed to coral them into one room with the box of Christmas get-up, then they must be persuaded with promises of treats, to dress up. After that, I snap as many shots as I can take before they start begging to be let out.

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The boys are fourteen and eleven respectively, this year, and it’s getting harder and harder to coerce them into the festive shoot. You’d think it’d be getting easier, but, no!

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The Construction:

Picture chosen, print up a dozen pictures at 10 cm x 7 cm, and trim them. I like to keep them to a small size because some people like to hang the cards on their tree.

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Then, I choose which cardboard to use. Originally, I used to recycle old cardboard. We have a saying in New Zealand, ‘reduce, re-use, recycle,’ which we try to adhere to as much as possible. Some years, I cut old Christmas cards down to size. This year, however, I sourced a small box from the Hospice shop which were the right size which was a great option as they came supplied with their own envelopes.

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Glue a sheet of paper cut to a couple of centimetres shorter than the card to the front of the card stock. This will form an edging like a frame for the picture. Don’t worry about getting it perfect. I like to see a little of the construction in crafts.

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*Tip: Every year, on Boxing Day, I do a ritual of taking the discarded gift-wrap and cutting up the beautiful or unusual wrap into small, clean pieces for later craft projects. In this case, I have some rather special rescued reindeer, snowflake, and red-chequered print paper.

My mother used to buy me a crafting material called “Hot Fuzz,” coloured synthetic fibres which bond together under the heat of a warm iron (through paper). I cut a dozen rectangular wedges of a sheet of Hot Fuzz, for the dazzle. You could use holographic cellophane just as well for this.

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Stick the photograph on top of the recycled paper, trapping a wedge of Hot Fuzz/cellophane between the layers.

*Tip: use a glue stick as “wet” glue can stain the paper. Press the cards under something flat and heavy between each glued layer as it creates a flatter, more pleasing finish. Make sure each layer is fully dry before you add another.

This year, I bought a “Card Kit” of decorations at the Hospice Shop. It included diamante leaves, silver stars, silver bows and transparent beads. I also sourced some finer glitter.

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*Tip: When you add the glitter, make sure to place the card on a small tray as it’s really hard to collect and re-use the left-over sparkles otherwise.

On top of the photo, in the same corner as the Hot Fuzz, apply embellishment, be it a delicate bow or a star. In the lower right corner, on a sweep of glue, drizzle more glitter and add beads or stickers.

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The last step is to write a personal message inside. Then, post it, yes, via snail mail. It still exists.

I posted ours to the lucky recipients. One Facebook friend – who had requested a card – responded, she ‘couldn’t take her eyes off it.’ Yay!

A Christmas craft project completed feels wonderful. This year, I even had enough left to put one on our own shelf. Joy.

Do you have a festive family tradition? Do you enjoy crafting? Do share in the comments below!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious. ~ Albert Einstein

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I’ll never forget a school trip we did once. When I was seven-years-old we visited an old folks’ home. An octogenarian said, ‘I was young once, like you. I thought I was Peter Pan. You’ll be old like me, too, before you know it.’ I remember a chill going down my spine.

Time and the way it passes is a strange thing. It may be explained in a theoretical way, by a source like Wikipedia, ‘Time is the indefinite continued progress of existence and events that occur in apparently irreversible succession from the past through the present to the future.

However, for most of us, we observe time in a personal, subjective way via a passing parade of birthdays and rites of passage.

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Both my youngest boys make the transition from junior schools to the next level of their education, next year. In 2017, my middle child will move from Intermediate to High School, and my youngest boy moves from Primary School to Intermediate.

In four days, I shall turn 52.

I suddenly become aware of time, in a new, more acute way, it seems as if time has ‘sped up’ and ‘gone by fast.’

I was seventeen when my eldest child was born. I looked ahead at our lives like an endless path. Twenty years went by and I had my subsequent children. When I looked ahead with these babies, I saw a different picture, a shorter road.

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I’ve celebrated more birthdays with zeroes on the end. I’ve taken to dyeing the roots of my hair to cover the greys, and to wearing heels and lipstick more often to draw attention away from the gathering “crow’s feet” and “smile lines” on my face.

What does time mean?

According to Wikipedia, ‘Periodic events and periodic motion have long served as standards for units of time. Examples include the apparent motion of the sun across the sky, the phases of the moon, the swing of a pendulum, and the beat of a heart.’

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Yes, the beat of a heart. My boys have lost their baby teeth, they’ve passed the famed “double digits milestone,” learned to read and write, learned how to look after pets, play sports, and do basic chores. There has been a rhythm to the changes.

‘Currently, the international unit of time, the second, is defined by measuring the electronic transition frequency of caesium atoms.’ Why does time seem to go more slowly when we’re growing up and then seems to “speed up” as we age? I believe there is a scientific reason for it which has recently been established although I haven’t read the hypothesis, yet.

However, such things as this Wikipedia definition of time and the Gregorian calendar are relatively recent inventions.

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As a teacher of the Kahuna tradition, Erin Lees says, ‘The ancients followed the natural cycles. Life then followed that observation of nature.’ In other words, our ancestors heeded the seasons, plants, animals, migrations, the tides, the stars, the movement of the sun and moon for their sense of time.

The ancient peoples were consummate astronomers. ‘Temporal measurement has occupied scientists and technologists,’ says Wikipedia, ‘and was a prime motivation in navigation and astronomy.’

These days, we have become more and more “time poor.” Everybody rushes around saying they ‘don’t have time.’ You often hear the term, ‘time is money,’ and ‘there just aren’t enough hours in the day.’

‘Time is of significant social importance, having economic value as well as personal value, due to an awareness of the limited time in each day and in human life spans.’ ~ Wikipedia

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Therefore, to my mind, my task is to make the most of the time I have.

To do this, I need to find a balance between work and rest. The onus falls on me to find the methods of relaxation which suit me best.

There are many ways of stepping outside of the stress and slowing down. In order to return to some of that timeless experience of youth, we can utilize age-old relaxation techniques.

After trying many different things over the years, these methods work for me: daily meditation, which I learnt from the yogi, Gurudev Hamsah Nandatha, (e: adivajra@xplornet.com), daily discipline practise, I do Ka’alele Au, a form of martial art from Hawaii, which I learnt from the teacher, Erin Lees, (e: romikapalele@rocketmail.com), daily yoga, and I attend a local satsang group (also run by Erin). These are the things which keep my feet on the ground and my chin to the wind.

(p.s. on my birthday, I also gorge myself on cake!)

How do you create enough time? Do, tell!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Time you enjoy wasting, was not wasted. ~ John Lennon

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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time

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Back in 2002, when I was expecting my second child, I was 36-years-old. My doctor at the time advised me to have an amniocentesis test, which is the form of pre-natal screening we have here in New Zealand. The doctors test for Down’s syndrome by inserting a long needled into the womb and extracting amniotic fluid.

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I panicked. I thought what if the results come back as positive? It was a decision I simply couldn’t make. I decided against taking the test.

In New Zealand, we were told at the time, one in 600 babies were born with Down’s syndrome.

In the UK, between 1989 and 2012, 20,000 babies were diagnosed through the new non‐invasive prenatal testing (NIPT). Of these, 92% were aborted. And, being classified as a ‘severe disability’, abortion can take place right up until birth.

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I’m so glad I somehow found the strength to resist the pressure of the medical professionals around me at the time, because my second son was born with Down’s syndrome. Sam-the-man, The Sam. As my mother said at the time, he has more God in him than anyone else. It’s true. It bothers me deeply to think of the pressure I was put under during the early stages of my pregnancy to get tested.

The NIPT is expected to drastically improve the rates of diagnosis of Down’s syndrome in England, which they project will result in 102 more babies with the syndrome being detected each year. When abnormality is detected, the only counselling offered to women after diagnosis is usually heavily pointed towards abortion. In Britain, the only counselling charity the National Health Service directs women to is, Antenatal Results and Choices, formerly known as Support Around Termination For Abnormality.

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These sad facts came to light recently, through actress Sally Phillips recent BBC documentary; ‘A World without Down’s syndrome?’ The acclaimed actress, mother to a daughter with Down’s syndrome, dared to ask the question, ‘What’s so dreadful about Down’s syndrome?’ Phillips travels the world and speaks to various people, including, ‘Emma’ who despite having been firm in her decision not to be tested for the condition ‘had to constantly justify her decision to medical practitioners.’

Why do we need to justify wanting to keep our unborn child?

On the award-winning Down syndrome blog, Downs Side Up, Hayley Goleniowska has a mission. That of ‘Gently changing perceptions of Down syndrome from within people’s hearts.’

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This mama is speaking my language.

Hayley: My mission is now to inspire new parents, show the world that many incredible things are possible for our children, and shout out that Down’s syndrome truly is wonderful and that life will carry on, there will be challenges, but you will not regret or wish to change any of it. 

You go, Hayley!

Her daughter, Natty, was the first child in Britain with a disability to appear in a Back to School Campaign.

Our youngest daughter Natty is a clothing model, pioneering for children with disabilities everywhere. She is a true ambassador in her own right, opening doors and forcing companies to be more inclusive in their approach to advertising.

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The writer, Ciarán Kelly commented sagely on the issue. ‘The new NIPT test has its roots in the Idea that some people’s lives have little or no value and therefore should be screened out from society. This is profoundly wrong. Unborn children are perhaps the most vulnerable people in our world and need to be protected. All human beings are made in the image of God and have a special, intrinsic value regardless of how young or how old, how able-bodied or disabled they might be. This does not apply only to those with Down’s syndrome. Neither does it apply only to those whom parent, family or society has deemed ‘makes a contribution’. It applies to us all.’ ~ Ciarán Kelly

http://www.affinity.org.uk/downloads/The%20Bulletin/issue-33/4)-a-world-without-downs-syndrome.pdf

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Exactly. When something happens to one of us it happens to all of us. I had an incident happen within my own family this week, where I had to stand up and defend Sam against a member of the general public. And it made me aware once again of how little people really understand about these amazing gentle people. It’s such a shame. We are none of us, not Trump in the White House nor Natty the child Down’s syndrome model, any better than the other. We are all equal. That’s what my son reminds me of every day. We are all human. We all deserve to be here.

What are your feelings on who gets to be human?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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#justaboutcoping, #worldwithoutdowns, #worldwithdowns

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‘The value of human life does not lie in its contribution to society at large, or even to the happiness of a particular family’ ~ Ciarán Kelly

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“There clearly is a myth about boys and reading as so many people seem to think that the gender gap in reading is bigger than it is, but research shows that the number one factor that determines your reading ability is how often your parents read out loud to you and the number of books in your house, which is connected with social class”. ~ Jennifer Dyer skully jensen @catagator

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I’ve been a long time believer in the positive power of a bedtime story.

We grew up with our father reading a story to us, last thing at night, every night. The bedtime story formed a warm, loving, stable pillar of our childhood for my siblings and I.

While my middle child is an avid reader, my youngest son didn’t gravitate to reading for pleasure, so the nightly ritual of reading the boys a few books neatly filled the gap.

The kids and I have started reading Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve. Sam-the-man is finding the transition difficult; he needs to babble quietly to himself the whole time I’m reading. I’m reassured he is enjoying it nevertheless, as when I asked him if he’d like me to keep reading, he said an emphatic, yes!

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Mortal Engines has my youngest son, however, riveted. He is driven to talk about what has happened in each chapter we’ve read. During the toothbrushing/toileting before bed phase of the evening, he’ll be asking deep questions and pondering on the chapter. I am seeing first-hand, how a really good book can open and broaden a child’s mind. He’s prompted to look at things a little differently and ask some of the bigger questions.

I wonder if this has inspired the budding writer in him. In the past, I’d been impressed by my youngest son’s obvious talent for imaginative story. Yet, somewhere along the way, unbeknownst to me, his writing skills had languished. I was shocked to be called into school for a talk with his teacher, earlier in the year, to discuss ‘below National standard writing and English skills.’ His punctuation, use of descriptive words, and grasp of basic story structure needed work.

You can imagine how fired up I was. In the following holiday break, I spent time with Nat, reading stories and talking about them. We sat and made stories up on the spot a few times. On more than one occasion, we used making up stories to stave off the boredom of waiting for appointments.

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This week, Nat brought home three typed pages for me to read. Titled, ‘A Wizard’s Journey,’ it was a story he’d written and read aloud in class. I read it and was knocked over by everything. He had it all: structure, descriptive words, active words. I felt a rush of admiration for his talent. Moreover, I felt proud to see he had applied himself and improved.

He said, “A very beautiful thing happened today. My teacher said my story was the best story she’d ever heard in class.”

He was melting. And so was my heart. What a joy!

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Here was a boy who used to have no interest in reading for pleasure. His writing skills were under par, and yet, through the tradition of the bedtime story, we happened to hit upon the right sort of book, at the right time, to light up his inner storyteller.

The regular rhythm of the bedtime story provided the opportunity for that key moment in a reader’s life.  This may be the first book he remembers – the first one that makes him look for the next book in the series or that the author has written.

With a bit of luck, Mortal Engines has sparked my youngest son’s genuine interest in reading. All I can say for sure is that his writing skill and ability has leaped forward. He’s asking bigger picture questions. These things go hand in hand with increasing literacy.

Author and former teacher, Michael Morpurgo: It’s not about testing and reading schemes, but about loving stories and passing on that passion to our children. When I was a boy I didn’t much like reading either, but it was my mother reading to me and my brother Pieter at bedtime that kept stories and books alive for me.

Do you read to your kids? Do you believe in the gentle benevolent power of the bedtime story?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Everything in a good book (perhaps even in a bad book) is a new truth, a new revelation to a child, whose experiences are, as yet, so limited. Therefore writers for children need to be extra careful about preaching, about filling in those empty spaces for a child. -Jane Yolen

 

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My youngest son asked me a new question on the drive home from golf, yesterday.

He asked, “Are you happy?”

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I sat stunned for a moment or two. I thought, my boy’s growing up. This was the first time, as far as I knew, that his perception had gone beyond himself to thinking of other people. Then, I felt sorry for him. He’s the little worrier in the family.

Next, I felt incredulous that anyone close to me could think I was unhappy. I get to bring up my lovely boys, be with family and friends sometimes, and then I get to write, and be alone. What could be better than that?

To walk the path of the writer is not easy sometimes, because a lot of people just don’t get it.

I can see how in the “world’s” eyes, I might be miserable. I’m divorced. Single. A stay-at-home mum. A writer (the loneliest profession of them all!) and a “card-carrying” introvert!

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In fact, there are more single women these days than ever before, in the U.S, single women account for half the female vote, 56 million, up from 45 million last year, and in Australia, single women make up 42% of the adult female population. Yet, there’s still social stigma around doing certain things on your own, like going to the movies or eating alone. The writer, Christina Ling, wrote a fantastic piece for the Huffington Post, Don’t Feel Bad For Me Because I Do Things Alone. It echoes my feelings exactly. I rejuvenate through time alone, that’s how I recoup my energy.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/christina-ling/the-stigma-of-doing-things-alone_b_9239900.html?ncid=engmodushpmg00000004

As Christina puts it, ‘Being alone with your mind, however, is one of the best things for your soul. More importantly, I think we are perfectly entitled to simply not be in the mood to entertain someone throughout an activity or socialize, in general.’

 

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After being mama to two rambunctious boys for five days of the week, I look forward to my 48 hours break, when the boys spend time with their father. Even though I work alone, I still crave that solitary time, in which to recuperate fully.

Carol Bainbridge, the Gifted Child Expert explains the need of introverts to withdraw, ‘Being with people, even people they like and are comfortable with, can prevent them from their desire to be quietly introspective.’

http://giftedkids.about.com/bio/Carol-Bainbridge-19284.html

The lucky thing is, my job is directly suited to the introvert. And, I can’t imagine a job I could enjoy more than I do mine. I get to write fiction for young persons and those of the eternally youthful mind. It’s so fun, it’s the best job on the planet, hands-down.

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Murphy’s Law and the laws of randomness usually apply to most of us, and therefore, there may never be more than a penny or two in it for me. I may never build up a fan base beyond that of my family and pet fish. But that’s not the point. Doing what you love is the point, and as long as I get to write, then I shall still be the happiest mama within a five-mile radius of my son at all times!

I understand how my eleven-year-old looks at me, and he probably feels I must be miserable. Introverts only make up about 25-40% of the general population. There are not exactly a lot of introverted role models to look up to.

I had to assure him, “Yes, I am happy.” I don’t know whether it’s a “boy thing” or whether it’s the age, but that answer was enough. He took me at my word and carried on to the next subject.

I was still fascinated with the subject of happiness and what it means. He’d brought it up and I wanted to talk about it. However, I could see he’d already moved on. I let him take the lead, and we talked nonsense the rest of the way to his father’s house.

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After dropping my son off, I drove home to my weekly respite, and I pondered further on this delightful question my son had asked, Are you happy?

No one is happy 100% of the time, that’s just not natural, however, would I say I was predominantly happy? Yes.

What I was left with, was the sensation that my son cared. It takes emotional health and depth to ask another person how they are feeling. Therefore, I had a sense of my son’s developing emotional wellness, and his humanity.

It was a lovely, poignant, parenting moment. One of those, ‘he may act banana-pants crazy half the time, however, he’s going to turn out all right’ moments. It was one of those reward moments, when all the hard work of parenting is blissfully worth it.

What about you, what great questions have your kids asked you? Would you say you’re predominantly happy? 

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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In a totally sane society, madness is the only freedom. ~ J. G. Ballard

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After the loss of my mother, last year, I realized I needed to organize regular, quality-length time for my younger two boys with their grandfather.

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Time is short, and we need to make the most of the opportunity, while dad’s still alive, for him to get to know them, and for the kids to get to know their grandfather. This is a chance to deepen those precious relationships.

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To this end, I arranged with my brother, we would bring our boys to visit dad in every holiday break. Our boys could then maintain their relationships with one another, as well. Five or so times, my brother and I have travelled from opposite ends of the country, to bring our kids together with their grandfather. And, it’s turning into a lovely tradition.

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These holidays, we headed down to visit my father in the Coromandel, despite the dire forecast of thunderstorms, heavy rain and 110 knot winds. Yet, I’d checked the road conditions, and I knew all the roads were still open.

We didn’t want to miss out on time with dad, and we had also arranged a charter fishing trip on a boat for the boys.

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It rained on and off most days. However, the storm passed us by without even touching us.

The kids weren’t worried and they just got on and enjoyed themselves.

They reminded me how to look at the bright side. When it rained, they played indoors, when the sun came out, they raced outside again. Sometimes, they went out, rain or no!

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The very first day, our combined trio of boys made friends with the local kids. The gang was inseparable from then on.

I was reminded of how well kids make friends. They see others their size-ish and they gravitate towards one another. It seems all it takes is a look. Then, they play together and are instantly bonded. No questions asked.

What a pity we can’t put all the kids in charge of the world, huh?

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Dad, my brother and I took turns keeping an eye on what was going on with this new tribe.

The kids would come from the houses which face down onto a reserve, and gather on the communal grassed playing area and playground below Grandpa’s house.

They played together with great gusto and spirit. They played most of the time. The digital games and phones lay indoors, forgotten.

I love that about going away for the holidays – the strictures of city life fall away. People and shared experiences become more important.

When we weren’t out with the boys ourselves, I’d often be indoors, watching with the binoculars. Sometimes the kids were playing soccer, or ball tiggy, or softball. Sometimes they were on the swings and slides in the playground. You could hear the shrieks of laughter and hoots.

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Sometimes, mysteriously, they camped for long periods, the whole tribe sitting and talking beneath a tree or in the shade of the climbing wall.

It seemed never a cross word passed between them.

There were no falling-outs. Throughout our stay, they gathered to play and traipsed back and forth as a gang. At meal times, the crew dispersed. A preternatural quiet would descend.

Yet, I noticed, all it took was for one of them to appear on the reserve or in the playground, and in a very short time; they’d have rejoined forces. The whoops and voices would ring again. The kids seemed like magnets for each other.

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Our boys’ new mates even accompanied us on a family walk to the peak behind my father’s house.

Meantime, because of the weather warnings, the fishing charter was cancelled.

Not to be put off, we rearranged it with the skipper, for the following day.

Luckily, the weather improved enough for the fishing trip to kick off, as planned.

The boys were thrilled. My youngest called it ‘a big adventure,’ being a night trip. The boat was due to leave harbour at 5 p.m. and return at ten in the evening.

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Though they did encounter a rough off-shore wind that night, the trip was a success and, they each managed to catch some fish. Whew!

Being my son’s first proper trip, I was relieved to hear, upon their return, he’d caught ‘the first and biggest fish.’ Keeping everything on an even keel, my nephew then outdid him by landing an even bigger snapper.

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Both boys came home exhausted, proud warriors. It was lovely. You never know, we may have new fishermen in the family.

It was a fitting end to the trip. For dinner, I had fresh snapper fried with a little pepper, salt and olive oil, eaten with a simple green salad tossed with avocado. Perfect.

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I consider this holiday to have been a lesson in how a shining attitude (as demonstrated so ably by the boys), can transform a sodden four days, into a fun-filled adventure to be remembered forever.

How awesome is that?

I nominate children to rule the world!

Remember, whenever you reach the lip of a steep slope, (this sign graces the reserve near my dad’s house)… Please run down the hill screaming! (by Order of Life’s Too Short).

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Talk to you later,

Yvette K. Carol

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Time you enjoy wasting, was not wasted. ~ John Lennon

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