Archive for the ‘kids’ Category

Love is the greatest gift that one generation can leave to another. ~ Richard Garnet

A couple of weeks ago, I learned that my nephew, a hardworking student doing his masters in architecture, had lost out on the summer job he’d been expecting. I wanted to support him. But I’m not going to just give him money. What does he gain from receiving something for nothing? Nothing. Far better, he moves and breaks a sweat, then gets the reward. In my home, my nephew, along with my three boys, and another nephew (who boards here), are all welcome to stay as long as they like. If they need money, they can have it, but, they have to earn it first.

I think a family, no matter what the shape or size, needs rules and to keep the rules simple. 

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I offered the nephew a few weeks work around here, as the old homestead was due for sprucing anyway. No problem. In fact, I realized it might even be preferable to put the effort in now, instead of waiting for the sweltering heat of the holidays.

It’s a win-win situation: I get help with the big work of summer, and he gets some income to pay his rent and eat, until he can find himself another part time job.

He and I have been working on the house maintenance the last two weeks, and we’ll most likely get finished next week. I feed him and pay him well, so I know he’s getting fed, he can pay his bills and in return, I’m getting all our jobs done early this summer. There’s nothing wrong with that. It means that this year, I might actually relax during my break. There’s nothing wrong with that, either. I think they call that a ‘win-win-win situation!’

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I really do want to support my nephew and help him. He’s a wonderful young man with a bright future ahead of him, and a social conscience as to how he can help people.

The proposal he recently submitted for his Master’s thesis – which he has to write next year – is about ‘the absence of the Maori voice, presence and culture in our present New Zealand society and in our design aesthetic.’

It was so poetic and poignant, I was struck by this boy’s mind and heart, his eloquent vision, and how much potential he has to do good in this world through his humanitarian approach to architecture.

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Sadly, my nephew’s mother died when he was only seven-years-old. I had been his “nanny” from the time he was three weeks old to the age of seven – as his parents were both busy professionals, working long hours – so we’ve always been close. But ever since his mother’s death, when his father remarried, I’ve felt like I was a standby, second mum for him.

I’ve watched him rise up through the ranks of college, choosing tech drawing and design classes the whole way through the school system.

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He always knew what he was interested in and what he was good at. I’ve seldom seen such singularity of purpose in a young child. So, I’m in awe of his trajectory, and I intend to continue to act as a support network behind him. As I’ve said to him many a time, if ever you need anything, you always know you can come here. Family should keep an open door for each other.

It’s difficult for young people coming up these days because everything’s so expensive.

Rental prices in this city are sky-high, so a lot of young people’s incomes are absorbed by the rent each week. It’s hardly good incentive for tertiary study.

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I know this particular nephew has a huge student loan already, and he’s still got his fifth year of University to go. He relies on paying work during summer, to put enough money away in the bank, to survive through the next school year. But, the company who had promised him work this summer went belly-up. The promised position had evaporated. Family can not only step in at this point, they can bang the tom-toms and send the message out to others. I can let my friends know there’s a willing young man looking for yard work. His father’s living down south at the moment so he’s not around, but I’m here, so that’s okay. No matter what, I’ll help get him through. That’s what family is for. I think it’s especially important to lend a hand to the up-and-coming next generation – they are, after all, our future.

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

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part one of their grand adventure has been spectacular.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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

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A few months ago, our family got some great news. The youngest son had been chosen as a “heart kid” (a child who has undergone open heart surgery) to go along on this year’s ‘California Adventure.’ A trip to Disneyland is organized and run each year by Koru Care Charitable Trust NZ, ‘making dreams come true for seriously ill and disabled children.’

I overheard a conversation the youngest son was having yesterday with friends while playing Fortnite. One member of the squad asked, “Why do you get to go to Disneyland?” and another answered, “It’s his reward for surviving heart surgery.” That’s the truth and yet, my youngest felt bad about accepting the gift. He said he felt someone else should be going on the trip in his place because he ‘didn’t deserve it.’

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And so, I gently reminded him of the terrifying journey of the first five years of his life. It was an endlessly harrowing ride for me as his chief nurse and caregiver.

The youngest of my three boys was born in 2005, with complex congenital heart disorder (or CHD), although we did not know that at the time. The first clue came when he started coughing at three weeks old, though he had no other symptoms of ill health.

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

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Finally, after trying everything, I told our doctor the whole story. She listened carefully to his chest. Her diagnosis of a heart murmur then led us on to the hospital tests, which finally confirmed the actual problem was a sizeable hole in his heart or atrial septal defect. The medical part of our journey began there.

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

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

We’ve come a long way since those days. The youngest son starts high school, next year. One of the teachers asked me how having had the surgery affects him now. I said, he’s fine now, yet, he will always be that little bit “fragile,” and he won’t have quite the same stamina and energy levels as other kids. Child heart patients are also susceptible to emotional, developmental and behavioural problems. We haven’t had any issues there, so far.

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He has to take daily medications and rest a little more than other kids his own age. But, generally he is healthy, fit and well. He bikes to school each day. And, wonderfully, gone are the days and nights of coughing. He has quality of life and the prospect of a healthy future ahead.

With a bit of gentle prodding on my part, the youngest son had remembered his journey and accepted that maybe it was acceptable for him to go on the California Adventure.

After another month and a half, I started the process of medical clearance for him to take the trip. I started on doing the paperwork, and buying the things he would need to take with him. I borrowed luggage and we went to get some money changed into U.S currency.

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As the weeks have gone by, the pressure to have everything in order has increased. And in the last two weeks, I’ve been flat tack. Tonight, the bags are packed. The boy has had his nails trimmed, and he’s had a haircut.

Everything is done, at last.

On Saturday, he leaves on the California Adventure with twenty-four other lucky kids.

The youngest son said, “I don’t feel happy very much, but about this trip, I feel the happiest I’ve ever been.”

The joy! What parent doesn’t want to hear that?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When going on long trips, take ear plugs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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

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

Being a teen is confusing

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

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It’s pressure-filled

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

It’s a rollercoaster ride

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let them grow up

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

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Set out the guidelines

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

Give them more responsibilities

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

Have consequences

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

 

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Have an open ear

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

Talk about risks, discuss game plans for dangerous situations

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

Hope that helps!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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

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

I’m not on the bestseller list. Yet, as a friend and I were saying in a podcast the other day, it’s not ultimately about having to “sell” our artworks, it’s about having a form of creative expression and how vital it is to our health and well being to express ourselves in creative ways. The crazier the world gets, the more we need to ground ourselves through creative expression, whether that be through art, writing, dance, drama, cooking, music, gardening, or whatever form it takes. It’s a way to be happy and build happy memories which helps us to be healthy.

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I’ve been lucky enough to pursue art and writing throughout my adult life. These things have given me a release valve for the stress and have given me great joy. At the same time, my creative hobbies have given me a solid base in life and a means of transforming energy into something new. Art keeps me on an even keel, and, telling stories is satisfying on a deep level.

Did you know that storytelling is the second oldest profession in the world? ‘Storytelling has a shape. It dominates the way all stories are told and can be traced back not just to the Renaissance, but to the very beginning of the recorded word,’ wrote John Yorke. And, so it does.

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Humankind has always sought to communicate what has yet to be expressed. Since we first developed ways of communicating 150,000 years ago, artistic expression has separated us from the animal kingdom. As author, Terry Pratchett said, ‘Lots of animals are bright, but as far as we can tell they’ve never come up with any ideas about who makes the thunder.’

Our creative pursuits, since earliest times, have defined and refined humanity.

‘Before you can change the world you have to be able to form a picture of the world being other than it appears.’ Humankind’s development comes down to having used our imaginations and creating new things that had never been seen or done before. Our very survival as a species may depend on inventions yet to exist.

Thomas M Madsen, visual artist

Thomas M Madsen, visual artist

I believe for this and many other reasons, it’s necessary to foster the arts. It’s vital we encourage ourselves and one another and our children and grandchildren to express themselves. I say this not only in favour of humankind’s continued evolution, but also, because I came so close to stifling my own child’s creativity.

For about three years, I had resisted the youngest son’s desire to play drums. I made him take piano. At the start of last year, I said to the youngest son, “Shall we sign you up for piano lessons, again?”

He said, “Okay…I will, but only because music lessons make you smarter. What I really want to learn is drums.”

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For the first time, I really heard him, and I realized I have to let him do this. No matter how uncomfortable it may be for us, no matter how big the potential financial input needed, I have to let him have a go at learning drums.

I gave him one term of lessons to see if he liked it. He was a natural and took to it like a duck to water. Within six months of weekly half hour lessons, my son took his first drum exam and passed it ‘with distinction.’ Now, in 2018, he’s just passed second grade, again ‘with distinction.’ He tells me the exhilaration he feels when a piece becomes natural is unlike any other. What a blessing.

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It surprises me, looking back. I saw that even someone like myself, who truly values the arts in every way, had still come close to stifling my son’s artistic outlet, simply because I was on auto-pilot around what I thought he “should” be doing. The only difference – the key that turned it around – was that I listened to him. I think that’s the best thing we can do for our children and young people, is to really listen when they speak.  When I saw what I was doing, I took the youngest out of the piano lessons, started him with drum lessons, invested in a nice drum kit, and he was away.

In the mid-year report, his teacher wrote: ‘His natural talent is showing through, he seems to have an aptitude for picking up drum pieces very quickly, by using his ear, and reading at the same time.’

Of course he does! And last month, he joined the school band for the first time. I’m so glad I opened my ears.

What about you, what is your creative outlet?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Our ability to create other worlds made us humans. ~ Terry Pratchett

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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(Me, at fifteen)

Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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

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On Wednesday, the thirteen-year-old had done his chores without being asked and was ready to bike to school by 7.30 a.m. I commented on this radical departure from the way he normally has to be asked to do everything and leaves for school with two minutes to spare. He said, “I’m more mature. I’m a teenager now.”

I was enchanted. I hugged him and told him how much promise he has as a young man coming up in the world, how much he has to offer.

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On Thursday, I had to nag him to do every single chore and he was running late again. I asked him what had happened. He said, “I’m not a teen anymore, I’m just a kid again.”

“Why?”

“Because being a teen is boring! You just have to do more work.”

I had to laugh. Good luck on the Peter Pan wish, kid.

I think of my new teen like a reptile that has outgrown his skin without fully inhabiting the new one. He’s a little bit stuck betwixt and between. He’s not grown up enough or confident enough to be a full teenager, yet neither is he a tween any longer.

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His friends are just as important as ever, that’s one thing that’s remained a constant. He’s taking his first tentative, teetering steps into crushing on a friend. The social activity, his teacher reports, is increasing. Break times at school, which used to be all about sport, are now more often about socializing.

He’s a shape-shifter. Daily, the youngest son’s interests and appearance change. He veers from dependable, docile and close by, to unpredictable mood swings and long sessions whispering into his cell phone in the bedroom closet. The growth he is doing now is unparalleled; he’s morphing into new skins. The rounded cheeks are no more. They belong to yesteryear. I realize his voice isn’t as high pitched. He’s sneaking up on my eye-level.

I miss the days of my youngest son being a “tween” though. It was a lot quieter around here then. He’s gone to visit a friend, it’s been half an hour since he left, and yet, my head is still ringing.

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Bored with Fortnite, he’s back to playing roblox on his computer which means he is stationed on the kitchen counter, the only available spot left for a computer at this end of the house. The games make noises; like blaring sirens and bells ringing, and then the son himself is talking to the friend he’s playing the game with via his mobile phone. So, I hear the friend’s chatter and my son’s. I can deal with this. It’s all normal teen stuff. However, as the game goes on, his voice tends to take off for the stratosphere like a supersonic jet.

The youngest son doesn’t have to be situated in the kitchen, but I’ve watched enough Oprah shows to know that kids taking computers into their bedrooms is never a good idea.

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And, while the incessant chatter that goes on after school between he and his friends is annoying, I’d rather that than not be privy to what they’re talking about or getting up to.

Nevertheless, after the kids have gone to bed each evening, I feel like my head has been freed from the inside of a bell.

At least with Fortnite, the son played it in the living room. I never thought I’d be suggesting to my youngest that he might like to play Xbox, but I have done so. A number of times. However, he’s not buying what I’m selling. Fortnite is so last month. Of course, the key factor is that all his friends have returned to Roblox. Kids flock together. It looks like I’m stuck with him in the kitchen drowning out all other sounds for miles around. I’m thinking of buying sound cancelling earmuffs.

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Perhaps the earmuffs might also help me withstand what he himself has called “verbal diarrhoea.” He’s at the stage of having a lot to say. He talks a lot when he’s not gaming, texting or on a phone call, practising his drumming, or eating. Once he starts to talk he just keeps going. He doesn’t need me to say anything, just listen.

All he needs is for mama to set the framework, hold the course, to give him someone to bounce things off. And, to keep the food coming, of course!

It’s nothing a good pair of earmuffs and a regular sabbatical won’t heal. What about you, how are you surviving the teen years?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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All kids need is a little help, a little hope, and someone who believes in them. ~ Magic Johnson

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