Archive for the ‘parenting’ Category

2022 has been a fascinating rollercoaster ride so far. Three weeks ago, the middle son – Samuel – who is nineteen and has a dual diagnosis, Down syndrome, and Autism, began to exhibit certain worrying behaviours: not sleeping, not eating, talking incessantly, flicking light switches on and off, and so on. I existed on little to no sleep. The stress levels were through the roof. I sought professional help, and we ended up seeing a behavioural specialist.
We managed to link Samuel’s behaviour issues to the many changes going on in his life and a simple error on our part of not fully explaining things to him as we went along. Because Sam is non-verbal, we can sometimes forget to include him in the conversations about what is happening in our family. It is easy to overlook that he is affected by every decision we make and therefore needs things explained to him every step of the way.

Frankly, a lot of things have altered lately. Sam’s father decided he would sell his house, intending to move to the countryside. He started renovating the house, and his flatmates moved out. Sam’s younger brother (and best mate) stayed at dad’s house for three weeks, helping him to paint the exterior. All these major events were going on around Sam without his understanding. No wonder he started acting out.

We sat down, and I talked to him about the entire situation, moving house, the renovating, and so on.
The behavioural specialist said until the living setup and routine fully settle down, Sam may continue to exhibit erratic behaviours. “But you understand it now. It’s his way of controlling an uncontrollable situation. Let him do his little things and know that it will eventually pass.”

Heartened, I told various family members and my closest friends about what we had gone through around here for the last three weeks. The general reaction was shock. My sister said, “Tell me while it’s going on, next time. Why don’t you let me support you?” And my friends told me off similarly. One of my oldest buddies said to me today, “You know, it helps to talk about difficult things. That’s what friends are for.”
I hear what they are saying, and I get it. What they don’t understand is this is the way introverts deal with the big stuff. We live through it, figure out the answers (often with the help of professionals), contemplate the circumstances and what we have learned. When we have the issues resolved, we share the carefully considered results.
It doesn’t mean we don’t appreciate the offers of help. We do. We do things a little differently from the majority.

According to the site Introvert, Dear, an award-winning community hub:

We introverts make up 30 -50% of the population, and most of us share these characteristics:
We’d rather stay home most nights than go out to one social event after another.
We enjoy quiet, solitary activities like reading, writing, gaming, gardening, or drawing.
We’ll usually choose the company of a few close friends over a wild party.
We do our best work alone.
Many of us will avoid small talk or other unnecessary social interactions.
We usually do our best work alone.

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And, from my personal experience, when the major events take place in our lives, we wish to sort out our business by ourselves first, before we include loved ones.
Apart from irritating my family and friends with this introverted trait, I am happy to report that the worst of the crisis is over. Samuel is sleeping and eating again. So am I. Huzzah! His father and I have made a point of talking with Sam about each new thing. There are fewer erratic behaviours and more of the son we know and love.

Currently, I’m floating in a state of utter relief and bliss. My patience has returned. I can feel my face again. Now, I want to spend time with those around me and talk.

Family and friends of introverts know this. Talking to you after rather than during a crisis does not mean we don’t need you or love you. We need to process our experiences in a private way before we share. Is that okay?
To my fellow introverts, I say: It is essential to honour your real self and what you need for bliss. The world needs more contemplative, calm people. It is fine to be an introvert and do things your way.
Let us celebrate our differences.

How do you process the big stuff? By talking it through with folks (extrovert) or talking about it after the fact (introvert)?

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
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“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.” ~ Albert Einstein

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

When traumatic events happen, you deal with them as best you can. Times goes on. You assume the event is safely in the past. Then, you enter a situation that is similar to the traumatic event and have a panic attack. This is what happened to me this week, and it took me by surprise.
In some cases, life-changing experiences can cause Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. PTSD is a mental illness triggered by peak levels of distress. It can be treated and brought under control with help from a doctor, therapy, and professional guidance. A good friend lived through the big earthquake that rocked Christchurch in 2011. Diagnosed with PTSD, she suffers recurrent nightmares and over-reacts when she hears loud noises.

In my case, what I went through this week was not PTSD but a flashback. A flashback is when you feel drawn back into the traumatic experience as if it is happening all over again.
This week, the youngest son was scheduled for an adenectomy and to have grommets inserted. Surgery is a last resort in my book. But in my son’s case, the specialist believed that his oversized adenoids were causing the loss of hearing in his left ear and inability to breathe through his nose. So it had to be done.
We sat in the hospital waiting room and worked on our crossword, chatting and laughing.
A nurse said, “We’re ready for you now. Follow me.” We followed her along the winding corridors through a pair of heavy blue doors. As the nurse and my son stepped aside, I got my first sight of the room. I took in the surgeons, the anesthetists, the nurses, all in masks and gowns, the skinny operating table, the machines, and the lights. My stomach immediately dropped sickeningly. My skin prickled with goosebumps, and my heart was pounding. I was freaking out. But I couldn’t show it. My son needed me, and I had to be strong for him.

It was scarily like that other time, in August 2010, when he was five years old, and we followed a nurse into a stark white operating theatre. I was straight back there. No time had elapsed in between. In 2010, I looked at my little boy, and I looked at that operating table and felt as if I would throw up with fear, knowing my baby was about to undergo a heart bypass and open-heart surgery.

However, as a parent, you are the captain of the ship. Captains don’t get to freak out. Your job is to stay at the helm until the bitter end.

I had to be calm that day in 2010 and smile for my son. I murmured, “You’re okay, mama loves you,” when he fought the gas mask, and the doctors made me lie on him until the anesthetic took effect and he went limp beneath me.

On Tuesday morning this week, I walked into that operating room, took one glimpse, and stepped back ten years to the scariest time of my life. On Tuesday, my son was only undergoing a minor medical procedure. Yet, I was staring into the white light and hearing angels as if his life was on the line.

As a mature adult today, I have lots of tools to help me weather the storms of life. Whenever something stressful happens, I calm down with meditation, affirmations, yoga, and breathing techniques. But for the private panic attack, I suffered in that hospital room this week, none of my tools helped. I was physically reliving the helpless terror I felt in that other theatre room. According to Rothschild, ‘A flashback can mimic the real thing because it provokes a similar level of stress in the body. The same hormones course through your veins as did at the time of the actual trauma, setting your heart pounding and preparing your muscles and other body systems to react as they did at the time.’

That describes my panic attack perfectly. I stayed with my son until he had fallen unconscious. In the waiting room, I did the only thing I could do. I rang my family and talked to people who cared, and it helped so much.

*According to the site, Trauma Recovery, here are some ideas for managing the situation if you get stuck in a flashback:
NAME the experience as a flashback (example- this is a memory, NOT a recurrence of the actual event)
Use LANGUAGE that categorizes the flashbacks as a “memory” (example- I was attacked, rather than I am being attacked)
Use the SENSES to GROUND self in your CURRENT environment:
Name what you see, feel, hear, smell, etc.
Rub hands together
Touch, feel the chair that is supporting you
Wiggle your toes
Favourite colour- find three things in the room that are “blue”
Name the date, month, year, season
Count backward from 100
Use an object as a grounding tool
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I’ve kept a note of these points in case any of my loved ones need escorting into theatre in the future.
Have you ever suffered a private panic attack or a flashback? What did you do?

Talk to you later.
Keep creating
Yvette Carol
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“I have laid my son on an OR table and kissed him as he fell asleep. I have handed him to a surgeon knowing they would stop his heart and prayed it would beat again. I am a Heart mum.” ~ Suzanne White

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Do you remember turning 16? I do. Like it was yesterday. It was the summer holidays. My friends and I were hitchhiking up north. We stopped at a cafe. There were four of us hunched around a Formica tabletop with sodas, and I remember saying I didn’t want to turn 16 (the next day). Why not? It was too close to 20! Who could imagine being “so ancient?”

Funny how the vantage point of time changes things.

The youngest of my three sons had his sweet sixteenth birthday two weeks ago. He is more mature at this age than I have ever been. I guess for some people it just comes naturally. The other day, he said, “Do you know what I’m looking forward to the most about growing up?”

I said, “No” although I imagined he’d say beer, driving, or possibly not going to school.

He said, “I’m looking forward to having logical, rational conversations.”

Huh? Jaw drops to floor.

We’re definitely different, he and I. At 16 I fretted about getting old, while my youngest son pines for more adult conversation. How shallow was I? He’s already a better human being than I am. Huzzah!

What did the son want to do for the big milestone birthday? After offering him every adventure option or fun experience available, what he most wanted was ‘a cake and to hang out’ with his friends uninterrupted. Could they hang here? Sure, I said, smiling, although I secretly dreaded it. Idiot Trooper that I am, I let him invite all his mates over regardless.

My friends and I at 16 were rebels. No self-respecting adults wanted to be around us.

To my surprise, my son’s friends were delightful. They had the run of one part of the house the entire day, while I kept food and liquid coming. They played online games, outdoor games, jumped on the trampoline, took photos of themselves, played music, and sang in harmony together the entire day. In the afternoon they demolished an entire chocolate cake and then left en masse to buy supplies from the supermarket, returning an hour later to cook a feast. So lively, so fun, were they, I even missed them in their absence.

In the late afternoon, the girls drifted home. Finally, just “Da boys” remained, playing online games into the evening, still singing in beautiful harmony along with their favourite songs. By the time Da boys left, I felt tired but mostly buoyed by the experience.

They’re mature, considerate kids. Who knew?

That said, they’re still only 16. They still like to play games the same way they did when they were little, but with a lot of music, singing, slang and posturing thrown in. The energy levels when these teen buddies get together can ramp up suddenly, get inexplicably loud for a short period—almost explosive—then peter out again and dip so low the kids appear to retreat behind their phone screens for a while to reboot, becoming temporarily tomb-like and silent, before the shrieks and the laughter escalate and they flare into life, noise and energy all over again. To be around them even for a short period is akin to putting one’s finger into an electric socket, recharging every cell in the body and rendering one’s hair into an instant afro. It’s vitalizing and frenetic at the same time.  

The upshot overall was the day was easy, no drama. As their humble servant, I got to witness snippets of their group dynamic, the teen slang, the weird sounds they make when they’re together, which was fun.

I remember the heady freedom of being 16. You’re old enough to do things but young enough to be silly and not care who is watching.

There was one of son’s friends singing that very Michael Jackson, high-pitched, “Hee hee!” so frequently I nearly asked him to stop (although thankfully, I didn’t). One boy hugged his phone and speaker the entire day, constantly scrolling the music selection – he was clearly in charge of the music selection. There was the occasional daring use of a swear word, but not loud enough for me to discern. I turned a blind eye, regardless. As head provider of refreshments, I stayed in my quarters – the perfect excuse to get some writing done – and let the teens have the house for the day. Some freedom was all they wanted. They often burst outside to play Frisbee, badminton, shoot hoops and jump on the trampoline for hours in the afternoon, which rather impressed me.

I think your child’s friends say a lot about who they are and how they’re doing, and I liked the son’s friends a lot. That made me happy.

At sixteen, I was a fool. At the same age, my son is smarter, more mature, and more emotionally intelligent than I am. Maybe there’s hope for the future, yet.

Talk to you later.

Keep creating!

Yvette Carol

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There’s nothing wrong with teenagers that reasoning with them won’t aggravate. ~ Anonymous

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*Tips for parents on Stanford Children’s Health, Understanding the Teen Brain

I wouldn’t go back to being a teenager for all the money in the world. What a roller coaster. My youngest son is at the tender age of fifteen, when his body’s morphing at a gallop and his view of himself and the world is in constant flux. He’s growing taller every week, he’s either a bundle of energy or catatonic on the couch, and he has to question everything. The emotions rocket from simmering to sky-high in an instant. As a parent, I’m used to ongoing frustration with both my younger boys, and feeling peeved when they haven’t done what I’ve asked, and so on. Now every time a flicker of annoyance crosses my brow, I’ve hurt my teenager’s feelings. We’ve been doing a lot of talking, in consequence.

It’s a minefield, I tell you.

The youngest son is morphing in so many ways it’s hard for me to keep up. Not only is he evolving in ever-increasing height and girth, the tone of his voice and his new dialect of teenage slang keeps changing. He’s altered likewise in his preoccupations. Friends used to call him ‘the dancer’ because whenever he had to wait he would dance on the spot. At home he would break into dance between games. Then he turned fifteen… and stopped dancing.

He disappeared into his phone.

As a drummer, he used to tap a rhythm with his feet constantly. You knew where he was in the house by the sound of his drumming feet. It was like living with a tap dancer. He filled our days with the sound. When he turned fifteen, he stopped tapping.

He started playing more Xbox.

It’s official. The youngest son is going through the teenage ya-ya’s. As an adult, I process life using the pre-frontal cortex, the brain’s rational part, whereas at fifteen, he’s still processing stimuli using the amygdale, the emotional part. The connections between his amygdale and the rational part develop at different rates. He literally is feeling things more than he’s thinking about them.

The rational part of his brain won’t fully develop until after the age of 25, so I have to be patient and be the adult for both of us.

I set rules and limits, and we negotiate the parameters as an ongoing process. He’s expected to do chores and make some of his own meals. He’s on breakfast and lunch, I handle dinner. I feel sorry for the teen angst he’s going through. As a Gemini, when he was little, the boy could talk the hind legs off a donkey. These days he’s tongue-tied. He says he can’t make conversation, he doesn’t know the right thing to say and that he stuffs a conversation up.

He’s painfully self-conscious and self judgemental.

Two weeks ago, the youngest became nervous about going back to school, and the week before first term began, he fretted over distinct possibilities for disaster every night. He ‘wouldn’t know what to say,’ he’d be taller than his height-challenged friends again, (as happened last summer), or he’d have no friends in his classes, and the subjects he’d chosen would be the wrong choices.

Every night I was putting out fires.

Each day his anxieties rise and fall. Yet the glorious thing about kids is they’re indefatigable. Alongside the self doubt, there is an inextinguishable bravado. If I question whether the youngest should walk to school before daybreak, he tells me he’s ‘big and strong.’ If I query whether he should take on more at school, he tells me he’s so far ahead of the other kids in his class; he teaches them the subjects when they get confused, that he’s ‘got it sussed.’ If I worry about him getting home late from school, he rolls his eyes and tells me he knows what he’s doing. No matter what it is, he assures me he has it under control and I should stop worrying.

I’m your mother, dude, I never stop worrying.

I counsel myself that the only things I can do as the parent is:

*To check in with him when he talks, about whether he wants me to find solutions or just listen

*Make him aware of the consequences of his actions and help him link his thinking with the facts

*Remind him of the tough times he’s dreaded and gotten through in the past and that he is resilient enough to get through anything

*Pay attention to him and listen when he talks, even if it’s about the anime shows he’s watching or what happened the last time he played Minecraft or Rocket League.

I need to do all this, while still running the household and writing books. I’m just sayin’.

Have you survived raising teenagers? All tips welcome!

Talk to you later.

Keep creating!

Yvette Carol

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Insanity is hereditary; you get it from your children. ~ Sam Levinson

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*Tips for parents from Stanford Children’s Health, Understanding the Teen Brain

Being a parent is hard at the best of times. When you’re working as well you divide your energy between their needs and your own. And my kids are at the most dreaded age of them all. No, not the terrible two’s but the terrifying teenage years. You always hear parents complaining about their teens and I used to think, no, nothing is as hard as raising little kids. But now that I’m here, man, this is parenting on a whole new level. It’s not just about feeding, clothing, housing and nurturing them anymore, it’s also about a whole raft of complex emotional counselling to keep them on an even keel. It’s about offering day-by-day guidance as they navigate the choppy waters of hormones and the realities of impending adulthood.

The middle son has his trials but being special needs he mostly cruises through life enjoying himself immensely or sleeping. The youngest son is on a rollercoaster of a lifetime. He’s a cauldron of emotions and intense reactions and feels burdened by being the smartest person in the room. There is a continuous thread of school drama going on in the background and he suffers deeply over things that happen between his large group of friends. Every night he regales me with whom’s not talking to who, who has acted strange, who he hates, who said this, that and the other thing. He talks about interactions with teachers where they have treated him unfairly, where none of the teachers appreciate him, and no one understands him. He says he lost respect for them because he asks questions and they don’t have the answers. He says they can’t think out of the box.

The youngest son has what they call “an old head on young shoulders.” He craves adulthood for want of a decent conversation. Teenagers are terrible conversationalists, he says. Teens mostly talk about recounts of their gaming exploits and what they’re watching online. They bore the youngest, and he gets all fidgety.

Being fifteen, he’s living through the most phenomenal rush of growth hormones he’ll ever experience, and I swear he’s taller every week. He’s growing at an exponential rate. Poor thing, he doesn’t know whether he’s a boy or a man. His brain is trying to catch up with him. He looks all awkward and gangly. He’s long limbed and cack-kneed, like a newborn giraffe. He bursts through the front door after school, lopes into the house, flops on the couch, or sprawls in a chair. He is energy at 110% or he’s nearly catatonic and falls asleep.

His voice has changed completely, too. Isn’t it funny how you get what you wish for? The dear boy had wanted a deep voice for years. In fact, I overheard him several times at fourteen-years-old, when playing on his X-box, pretending his voice was deeper than it was. Now his voice has broken it’s taken a lower timbre than any of his friends and he gets teased about it constantly. Now he wishes it wasn’t as deep as it is. Dude, decide!

The ever flowing, evolving form of his language changes like a chameleon. As he and his mates game together online, I hear the interchange of effortless “teen speak.” His tactics were ‘soft’ or ‘stale’ and if he’s doing badly in the game, he’s ‘choking.’ When luck is on his side, he’s ‘clipped it’ or ‘smacked them,’ in which case that was ‘cracked’ (truly awesome). And the favourite way of swearing without swearing is to put ‘frickin’ before everything.

The youngest son is a marvel. He has three modes: talking, gaming, or staring at his phone. Don’t get me started on the phone! What sort of monster did we create? I can remember his father and I discussing whether he was ready for his own phone at eleven. We bought him his first mobile at twelve. Cut to three years later and it’s permanently in front of his face. Their father took the boys to the South Island at Christmas and he confiscated the youngest son’s phone several times just to get him to look at the majestic scenery and take part in the family outdoor vacation. Otherwise the phone remains attached to one’s hand, or occasionally stuck in one’s waistband so one can stay plugged in to friends’ conversations while gaming.

I definitely underestimated how difficult parenting teens can sometimes be. I stand corrected.

Have you survived raising teenagers? Please send notes!

Talk to you later.

Keep creating!

Yvette Carol

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90% of parenting is just thinking about when you can lie down again. ~ Phyllis Diller

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

InsecureWritersSupportGroup

April 1 question – The IWSG’s focus is on our writers. Each month, from all over the globe, we are a united group sharing our insecurities, our troubles, and our pain. So, in this time when our world is in a crisis with the covid-19 pandemic, our optional question this month is: how are things in your world?

We’re in the North Island of New Zealand, where the whole country has been on lockdown for nearly two weeks, with two weeks still to go, unless the end date gets changed. It’s been so strange, almost haunting, as if one had gone back in time to one’s youth. The air is clear of the usual traffic fumes and jet exhaust and smells different. Clean. The streets ring with the sounds of children playing and adults talking. There are more cyclists than cars on the road, and there are families out walking along the footpaths in droves.

It reminds me of growing up here in the 1960s.

Baby me with sisters

Yet, it’s not like the memories I keep of my childhood because this bucolic idyll is fraught with tension and a keyed-up state of general anxiety. As my friend said the other night, in our virtual drinks, re the Covid-19 virus, “I could have it, you could have it, we could all have it,” and that’s the uneasy truth we’re living with. Every visit to the supermarket, every outing, we feel we’re literally risking our lives. And we are.

Those of us who are parents are also trying to help our children deal with the stress. I have three boys. My two younger boys, my nephew and I are in our “bubble” over here, and my eldest is in a bubble with his own little family on the other side of town. At present, I’m worried about my eldest and his twenty-two-month-old baby. My darling granddaughter has a fever and they’re not sure what it is yet. I’ve been receiving constant updates and staying in contact with them.

Thank goodness for the Internet.

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My youngest son has immersed himself either in online schoolwork or in gaming and watching anime. He practices the trombone and drums. He’s not worried about a thing, he is as happy as a sandboy.

My seventeen-year-old Sam has Down syndrome and does not understand the pandemic or anything about lockdown. All he knows is that everything is suddenly different. His weekly chart of activities went from being full with school every day, and extracurricular activities, dance class, gym training, and basketball at night to being stuck at home on endless holiday. For a special needs person, they thrive on routine, and they like things to be the same every day. All Sam knows is the personal disaster of everything changing and becoming different suddenly. His reaction is to act out, to do silly things, or to freeze up and refuse to cooperate with even the simplest of requests. As Sam can’t speak, bad behaviour is his way of expressing himself. However, he’ll get used to the new normal given time.

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I’ve been enjoying the virtual meetings. I’ve been attending Toastmasters’ meetings via Zoom every Wednesday. They’ve been a lot of fun. It’s so nice to see everyone and see they’re doing well. I think connecting in whatever ways we can is uplifting. I also attend Friday night virtual drinks with old friends, via Zoom. We’ve known each other since schooldays. We’ve called our soiree “cocktails & pigtails,” and we wear our hair in pigtails, too, for the laughs. I’ve been so grateful for my friends, and I’m on the phone daily with my family. We’re checking up on one another.

I’ve been busy, more so than ever, since lockdown. I’ve been an editing machine and in two weeks, I have edited the entire manuscript of my work-in-progress twice! I’ve also been communicating with the book designer and figuring out how we will redo my first two books and do the design for the third. With luck, I’ll stay on target for publishing The Last Tree by June. I’m still going after my dreams, despite my insecurities, virus or no virus, lockdown or no lockdown.

What about you?

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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“Life is the love that reaches out, building bridges across gulfs of uncertainty to touch hands, hearts and souls in the experience of union,” – P. Seymour

The city has gone quiet and the noise from the motorway barely audible. In New Zealand, we are officially on lock down as the government helps everyone in the fight to contain the Covid-19 virus. We have four weeks ahead of self isolation and with luck the government will step the nation down from a “Level Four Alert” to a Level Three. It’s okay. I can hear more of the bird calls and the songs of the insects. It sounds poignant. Some people say they don’t like the quiet. I love it. I haven’t seen the streets this quiet since I was a kid growing up here in the sixties. The stillness feels peaceful, which is just what we need as we curl inside our family “bubbles” and prepare to hibernate.

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Essential services are still running. I ventured out yesterday to do the grocery shopping, and it was nerve-wracking. Police outside the supermarket, hazard signs, and perspex barriers between us and the checkout operators.

How do I cope with going out in public? I take preventative measures.

There are face masks available at some local chemists. I’m doing my best to follow all the preventative measures. The boys and I are washing our hands regularly and using Hand Sanitizer. We keep a distance of two meters from others in public. When we get home we shower, wash the clothes we were wearing and put shoes and coats out in the sun. We wash all the groceries, fruit, vegetables, and the packaging of processed foods in warm soapy water. There are many things we can do to minimize the risk.

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It is still scary. Every day we hear about new cases of people infected. I hope my family will be okay. But yesterday, while in the supermarket, two men sneezed and did not put an elbow over their faces. In another aisle, an online shopper was putting goods in his basket and did a sneeze over the goods he had collected. Horrible. Though sneezing is not a symptom of Covid-19, when there is a deadly virus around, any sign of illness is off-putting. If they’d had face masks on they wouldn’t have shared their illness with us. I realized how little control I had over the situation and for the first time I was afraid. There is an invisible danger every time I leave the house, and yet I still have to enter the supermarket and grocery store to get supplies each week.

How do I cope with the fear? Deep breathing helps. I sometimes say a mantra. I find meditation helps me stay on an even keel, so I’ve been meditating more than usual.

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After this week’s sneezing incident, I’ve taken the boys’ father up on his offer to do the shopping for both households for the duration of the lock down period. The fewer people out there, the better.

Yet, as social animals, we still need social interaction. It can get lonely in isolation. Thank goodness for modern technology. People have been reaching out to each other, face timing relatives on Skype and meeting with friends online. I’ve heard from friends, family, and Toastmasters colleagues. I’ve had videos sent to me via Facebook of friends singing. My old friends from schooldays are meeting up via Zoom room this Friday night for “virtual drinks.”

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This week we had our club’s first ever online Toastmasters meeting, and it was great fun. In among the fear, there have been positive things that have come out of this extraordinary time as people find new ways of connecting and supporting one another.

However, there’s also such a thing as being too plugged in. With world news at the moment, I think less is more. I sat and watched the BBC news with my son the other night and afterwards I felt almost unable to function. Stress lowers immunity function. I think for now, a light touch with the news is necessary for one’s well-being.

If we give in to the fear, we spiral downward. We have to stay strong mentally and emotionally and physically. That’s the only way we can be of service to our families. We have to persevere, keep our spirits up, the morale high.

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How do I keep my spirits up? I gravitate towards things I enjoyed doing as a kid.

I read books, watch movies, draw pictures, doodle, write stories, listen to music, sing, dance, go outside into the garden, plant things, and spend time with my family.

The boys and I have done their schoolwork together, gone for family runs, and we’ve played board games. I’ve seen whole families out biking to the park, couples walking dogs.

We’re reminded we can get through this together, and we will. How about you, how are you doing?

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Talk to you later.

Keep creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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The darkest night is often the bridge to the brightest tomorrow. – Jonathan Lockwood Huie

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 * There are free counselling services in New Zealand. Call or text 1737. Check what’s available in your area.

I’ve been running around all week like a flea in a fit. The youngest son has been home from school, suffering from his allergies, and as any parent knows when a child is sick it creates a ton of extra work. Also…he likes to talk. He’s one of those people who once he gets going on a topic that interests him can ramble on and on, making it hard to get away. So each day, he’s lain on the couch, sneezing, talking, and watching anime, surrounded in a cotton cloud of spent tissues, while I’ve tried to get all the usual stuff done as well as look after the patient. These are the times you need to clone yourself.

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I suspect the youngest son has an active mind. The other day he said, “Do you know what I’m looking forward to the most about growing up?” A number of things went through my head like leaving school, independence, money, etc. He said, “I’m looking forward to having rational conversations.” I think my jaw hit the floor. Say what? Yes. He said he gets tired of the ridiculous things his friends say and it drives him crazy. I was amazed by that. I hung off every word my friends said when I was his age like a brainless gibbon. I had no such discernment.

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Since he was a tiny child the youngest has always been wise for his age. And decisive. While I’m dithering about on a decision, like what to name a new pet, the youngest son will deliver a verdict immediately. As the years went by, I started to rely on his instantaneous decision making because he always seemed to make the right choice. He’s fourteen and to him things are very clear. It’s a quality I envy at times. To me things are very grey never black and white, however, I may have gotten jaded with time.

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Over a month ago, he begged me to take him to an information evening about junior space school. The $10,000 price tag for two weeks at Space Camp didn’t faze him. He negotiated with his father and has started working every weekend with him as a builder’s hand. He’s saving the money steadily. “I want to do this more than I’ve wanted to do anything else in my life,” he told me. I believed him and want to support him in fulfilling his dream in every way that I can. The other day, in a questionnaire for school, he said they asked what he wants to be when he grows up. “I wanted to write astronaut but thought it would sound stupid.” “It’s not stupid to have big dreams,” I told him. “Dream as big as you like and anything is possible.”

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I admire him because I know how far he’s come. I guess when you’ve faced death on the operating table at the age of five it changes a person. But the youngest son survived his double bypass open heart surgery, without brain damage or the possible side effects of paediatric heart surgery like emotional/developmental/behavioural difficulties. He came through perhaps a little weaker physically than his peers. Otherwise he is no different except for his high level of intelligence and a well of compassion as deep and wide as Lake Taupo. I would say he’s an extraordinary individual. If anyone could grow up to be an astronaut, it’s him.

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I tell friends, “he’s fourteen going on forty” as a way of saying he has an old head on young shoulders. I remember we were driving back from his physiotherapy one afternoon, and the boy racer in the car next to us screeched to a halt half a car’s length over the stop lines on the road. The youngest said, “Why do that? He’s just showing off. It’s silly.” I thought if I closed my eyes that could be my father speaking, you’d never think it was coming from someone nearly eligible to be a boy racer himself.

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It’s humbling being a parent. As Kahlil Gibran said in his famous book, The Prophet, your children are not yours, they are the arrows and you are the bow that sends them forth into the world. As a parent you want the best for your children. You create them, raise them, guide them, love them and then you let them go. Yet, with my youngest sometimes I’d swear he’s the one raising me.

What about you, do you know a child who seems far older than their years? Or are you the old soul in your family?

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Talk to you later.

Keep creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. ~ Kahlil Gibran

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The school year is off with a bang! It’s like going from zero to sixty in a matter of seconds. I’m ready for a holiday already. I’ve been running around like a headless chicken as the school year typically begins with a list of the kids’ “required items,” uniforms, stationary, sports uniforms, footwear, school fees, sports fees, and there are endless emails to read from schools, sports clubs, teachers, and coaches and so on. In the last two weeks, between the two boys, with the school gear and stationary lists, and the various items needed for camp, I’ve been on the phone, online, making purchases, making lists, dashing out to the shops, going here and there, buying things and finding obscure items like heavy duty gumboots, insect repellent and aquatic shoes.

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The youngest son began his second year of high school last week. In that time he has already impressed his math teacher by being the only student in the classroom to figure out the difficult math puzzle he put to them. That night when he was telling me about it, he said, “Me, big brain,” which made me laugh. He has that dazzling self confidence that young people do before life has bashed them around a bit. My nephew is always telling him, “You don’t know everything, you realize that?” I think it’s a great and admirable thing about youth when they believe anything is possible. I like to emulate that. He has been away with the other Year 10s on a school camp this week. The house has been resoundingly quiet without him. I never realized he made so much noise.

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Sam-the-man, my seventeen-year-old with Down syndrome started his first week at the Transition Centre. He loves it, thank goodness. Parents of special needs kids always feel trepidation approaching any change in circumstances for their children like changing schools, moving houses, or taking on a new carer supporter. You never know whether your child will flip out this time or display a delayed reaction by “acting out” later at home. As one of the two students from his high school to be picked last year for the coveted positions at the Transition Centre, I wanted him to be ready, but I still wasn’t sure. He seemed too young and immature to be at what is essentially the special needs equivalent of a university or a job training facility. Was he ready? I didn’t know.

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On Monday they picked Sam up in a big Mercedes bus taxi. On board were a small crew of able-bodied young people with special needs aged between seventeen and twenty-one. They were the other kids going to the Transition Centre from around our neighbourhood.

According to the timetable, they spend their days working at local farms and tree nurseries. Some days, they do fitness, swimming, arts and crafts, and literacy and numeracy classes. It’s a far more grown up week. Even after his first day, Sam came home looking more confident. His teacher tells me he worked hard and “he responds really well to praise.” I gladly put my fears away, because Sam comes home each day with a new sense of purpose in his stride. He was ready for the step up.

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Sam’s dance class began their first term of the year on Tuesday. As the night of the class has changed and it no longer clashes with my schedule, I take him. It’s a great excuse to sit and read for an hour while taking peeks at his progress. Sam picks up the new moves quickly. The other girls in the class seem to take him and his sometimes quirky antics and lapses into freestyle in stride, and the teacher carries on teaching! It’s a tolerant environment for him to grow as a dancer. And he’s started going to the gym on Wednesday nights again. I’ve been providing the taxi service for the various activities.

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As the summer holidays draw to their end, I always think the kids going back to school will be a cinch. With all your beach days behind you, you can take anything life brings. Then the first week of school happens and you feel as if you have been “run over by a truck.” The first week or two back at school, the boys and I are exhausted and grumpy. It takes a little while to get the cogs greased and the wheels of the school bus turning again. However, the challenges of the New Year arise and we have to grow to meet them. It’s a process.

We’ll get there, aided in no uncertain terms by good music, family, friends, meditation, and good food.

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it. ~ Mark Twain (Samuel L. Clemens)

It’s been an interesting and intense time of late with the higher than usual summer temperatures and the boys becoming fractious towards the end of the holidays. Adolescence has beset the youngest child, and he’s monstrously tired all the time, not only that he lies around complaining about being too hot and too tired. Apparently all he can do is online gaming or binge-watching anime on Netflix. He tries asking for things, like can I bring him a drink or a snack, from the couch. That’s when I growl, and he says, “Okay, I’ll do it” with a groaning voice as if he was dying. I get that the hormones racing through his body are raising his body temperature and that this is our hottest summer, yet there’s a limit to even the most patient parent’s Zen.

“Don’t you feel hot?” asked the youngest child, plaintively.

“Yes,” said I.

“Well, how do you handle it?” he asked.

“I try not to focus on it but put my attention onto other things.”

“Huh?”

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The constant baking temperatures test the patience levels. The boys have been grumpy, and they snap back a lot. We have been having difficulty sleeping, though we each sleep with a fan.

An hour after we’d gone to bed last night, a knock sounded at my door. A weary voice on the other side, that wavers these days between high and low as if uncertain where to settle, said, “I’m boiling, I can’t sleep. Can you help?”

I got up and hugged him. It was like hugging an oven. The youngest is having hormonal surges – just as I am each night when menopausal hot flashes wake me up – his body at fourteen-and-a-half is aflame with hormones. I felt sorry for him. We did a few things that helped his core body temperature come down and he could sleep.

As there is some concern about the “heat wave” predicted for New Zealand this weekend, when temperatures may reach 30 degrees, I thought I might share a few tips on cooling down.

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“Temperatures nationwide are above normal on Sunday, not just by a few degrees but in many regions by over 10C as air flows from Australia and the sub-tropics combine to move down over parts of New Zealand,” according to NewsHub.

Here are some ways to cope with the heat

Go downstairs to the basement if you have one as they will always be cooler than upstairs.

Have cold baths or showers

Try to avoid getting sunburned during the day.

Close the curtains on the sunny side of the house.

Don’t open windows facing the sun during the day, open them at night once the temperatures come down

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Make trays of ice and hold a cube in your mouth.

Drink plenty of water

Drink iced water. Put your water bottle in the freezer until it’s nearly frozen and then take out and once it melts take small sips, it’s effective for bringing body temperature down.

Apply cold packs which are cheaply available from stores like Pak ‘n’ Save

My friend said that they were saving the money to have air conditioning installed. We have air con though I never use it as it’s too expensive to run, but it’s a backup plan if things get desperate. However, if you don’t have air con at home, borrow other peoples. We hang out in the malls, the libraries, the museum, the public places that are air-conditioned during the day to cool down.

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As temperatures continue to climb, we must think further ahead. I plan to get a quote for sun awnings off both sides of the house to cover the verandas and also get quotes for wooden shutters for the windows. I hear getting the windows triple glazed is best. Triple glazing keeps the heat out and in winter keeps the heat in, however, that is top dollar.

My youngest tells me, “This results from global warming, the seasons will be more extreme, summers will be hotter and winters will be colder.” Summers are more scorching, I haven’t noticed winters changing overly, although weather has been unpredictable with freak storms, floods, and so on. I remember reading that Europe and America had heat waves last summer. It’s an undeniable fact that conditions are changing, therefore on a global level, we have to find ways of responding to climate change.

On a personal level, there are also many things we can do to embrace change and deal with what is happening positively. I want to think ahead, find solutions for my family, and get on with living life. How about you?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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The more you accept your life, the more your life improves. ~ Unknown

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