Archive for the ‘perseverance’ Category

What a kid. My youngest son never fails to amaze me. He’s been a walking list of ailments his entire fourteen years of life. I have had to slowly peel away the “onion rings” of his symptoms in order to get to the source of his real problems. I’ve raised all three of my kids alone. With the middle son’s special needs and the complex health profile of my youngest son, I’ve found that there is help out there, however nothing’s handed to you on a plate. You have to go and find it. You have to ask questions. You’ve got to self advocate. And, you have to keep a watchful eye on your child, keep notes, and keep going to health professionals until you get over the finish line with the answers.

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My son started coughing at two weeks old.

There began the first part of our medical mystery tour together. In his first five years, we were in and out of doctor’s offices because of his cough. We got different diagnoses: hayfever, flu, childhood asthma, and he took lots of medicine. We tried different branches of alternative medicine: he was diagnosed with sour stomach, gluten allergy, and wheat intolerance, and we tried eating in many new ways. We tried Chinese herbal medicine as well, and they all did help a bit.

But nothing stopped the coughing. When he did catch the flu, he and I would spend long, frightening nights as I tried to keep him alive through his continuous bouts. We spent many nights at A&E.

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I kept taking him back to the doctor. He was put on nebulizers, and given a blue and orange inhaler to take daily. At one stage, when things were at their worst, I spent $600 taking him to the doctor in one month. I was determined to get to the bottom of it. And, we did. Finally, on the umpteenth visit, we got a doctor who listened to his chest, and listened again, and said, “I think I hear a heart murmur.”

Those words set us on the course to finally learning what he really had, which was Congenital Heart Disorder.

We were put on the short list for surgery. Four months later, the youngest son underwent double bypass open heart surgery to have a closure of the large Atrial Spetal Defect, and repair of a partial anomalous venous drainage.

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It was a harrowing ordeal he came through with flying colours. After the operation began a lengthy recovery process

It takes kids who have heart surgery a year to get over the anaesthetic, five years to get back to their pre-surgery weight, and ten years for their bodies to get back to their pre-surgery state.

My son had his surgery at the age of five, so next year he will pass the ten year mark. However, back in 2010, after the surgery had fixed his heart and healing was underway, he was still coughing.

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This time, the rounds of visits were confined to a doctor and a homeopath. I felt he was allergic to something, so I requested of my doctor that we be sent for allergy testing. The result was, he was allergic to cats, dogs, fish, dust and egg. On a scale of one to ten, he was allergic to eggs at a ten. Eggs were off the menu. He was put onto daily antihistamines. Our homeopath prescribed homeopathic tinctures to help him get over flus and colds. All good except he went on coughing.

Long story short, we discovered the youngest son had asthma, not the ‘childhood’ variety, but the real kind.

Leapfrog a few years to last week. After years of the youngest son being teased in the family for being deaf, I finally decided to have his hearing tested.

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To my surprise, we discovered he has a retracted eardrum and a loss of hearing. I thought, that makes sense of a lot of things. We’re seeing the specialist in four months, at Otorhinolaryngology.

This week, I followed up on another worry. I’ve always worried that the youngest son injures his ankles easily. A recent sprain wasn’t getting better, so I took him to a physiotherapist and a podiatrist. Turns out, he has a twisted pelvis with one hip more forward than the other. And he has an in turned foot. That explained a few things. Nevertheless, with daily exercises and an insert in his shoe, we can fix what could have been a developmental problem for him, in future. I’m so grateful. (I’m also thinking, what the heck with this kid?)

However, with each new diagnosis life gets easier. We gain new tools. Getting the answers is the thing. And from here, all is possible.

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Failures I consider valuable negative information – Dr. Goddard

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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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What’s been going on around here, lately? A whole lot of pruning of hedges and fruit trees. We usually try to get it done in autumn, but as I rely on the help of extended family, I must accord with their schedules. I like to keep as many of the big jobs as possible within our group. We work by a system of barter, goods or services given, in exchange for certain jobs done. We have some very useful people on board: with gardeners, a plumber, an electrician, and a budding architect.

This year, we didn’t get started on the tree pruning until the beginning of June, which means winter. Still, I couldn’t complain. I was just glad to see family with a ladder and a chainsaw.

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I think the idea of pruning in autumn, is that the trees are ‘sleeping’ (their sap isn’t running), and the weather is still mild. In winter, there is too much rain to make the job easy or pleasant for anyone.

Luckily, in the North Island of New Zealand, we have had a relatively dry autumn and winter, so far. And, we got the first part of the pruning successfully done. I have been dismantling the wood the rest of the week.

Outside at present, there are a number of big piles of branches down. I’m trying to get ahead of it. The other day, I offered my nephew forty dollars if he’d help dismantle one of the piles of branches. After three hours, he started looking into the cost of hiring a wood chipper machine.

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I took the job back again. Sometimes, when I’m working in the yard, I think of my parents. They were always out doing something in the garden. I don’t mind the effort. I find it therapeutic. In fact, I was reading an article the other day that related many health benefits of gardening. The Healing Power of Gardens: Oliver Sacks on the Psychological and Physiological Consolations of Nature

I have a fond memory of one time, when I walked up the path, and mum was weeding around the base of the plum tree in our front yard. She turned around and smiled, with white petals sprinkled in her hair. It was a moment so sweet it’s stayed with me ever since.

My father was famous for breaking the wood down into the smallest parts and not wasting any part of the tree.

The back garden clean up crew

I’m the same way. I dismantle the wood completely. I spend weeks breaking the branches down into leaves for compost, twigs for kindling, and short logs, which I load into cardboard boxes. This weekend, I’ll deliver another carload of wood to a family member, who has an open fire. For the rest of the wood, I’ll put it on the free site, Pay-it-forward, on Facebook. (To find your local group, put ‘Pay it Forward’ in the search bar at the top of the page on Facebook, and search for one in your area.) I simply advertise ‘free firewood’ and people come by to collect the wood.

The finished house

It used to be, we had a lovely open fireplace. However, my husband and I built a wall over it, because it was dangerous with two babies in the house. I miss having the open fire. I used to sit entranced by the flames through long, stormy nights.

When I first moved back to this house as an adult, it was a little over twenty years ago. My niece and I used to come home on Friday nights, after salsa class in the city, and sit the rest of the night, with hot chocolates, toasting marshmallows and talking in front of the fire. You can’t do that in front of the air con.

I miss the way our home fire burned all the wood the property creates, and it saved us money on heating bills. Now that we no longer have a fireplace, I have to pay for the air con, and I have to figure out what to do with the wood.

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At present, my primary target is to reduce the stacks of branches into leaves for composting and the boxes of firewood. The clock is ticking, as the second half of the pruning still waits.

Hopefully, we’ll finish before the wet weather begins, and I can rest for winter knowing the year’s maintenance is done. As my nephew said the other day, ‘You’ve created your own secret garden.’ That’s exactly how I feel about this place, too.

Even a ‘Secret Garden’ takes a bit of effort and a bit of teamwork to bring to fruition.

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“If winter comes, can spring be far behind?” ― Percy Bysshe Shelley

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

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

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

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

Doors are to be banged on and stood against.

Books on shelves are there for pulling onto the floor.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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

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Both the boys’ schools are requesting the pupils wear brightly coloured mufti to school tomorrow and donate gold coins in the “Colour Your Day for Christchurch” event. Designed ‘to lift New Zealand’s spirit after the mosque shootings in Christchurch,’ it’s a lovely initiative taken up by many of the schools here and it symbolises a real sense of ‘coming togetherness.’ I’ve seen this spirit of compassion exhibited many times in different ways in the days since the massacre some have called “Black Friday.” 15 March 2019 will be forever marked in history as the day of New Zealand’s worst mass shooting, when a masked gunman opened fire in two mosques in Christchurch, killing fifty innocent people at prayer.

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The horror touched me personally as one of our lovely Toastmasters from our club lost two friends in the tragedy. To some extent I still can’t believe it happened in our slow little backwater of a country. I have felt sad to the core over the senseless brutal loss of life. I have felt extra gratitude for my life that my children are alive today – I’ve given my boys lots of hugs. I have felt such empathy for my friend and all the others in their grief.

When we heard the news, on Friday 15th, it was a shock.

It seemed as if a cloud of gloom hung over New Zealand for a while, at first.

While at the same time, I have seen such a coming together of people everywhere. And, there has been an outpouring of love and support for Christchurch.

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(Orewa College, NZ)

The very next day, there were Girl Guides selling biscuits and people selling hotdogs outside our local Bunnings, to raise funds for the families of those affected.

This Wednesday, when our friend in Toastmasters gave a speech and revealed she had lost two friends in the shooting, I had to stand and do an evaluation of her presentation. I was too emotional to speak. I said, “I don’t think I can do it.” Another member stood up spontaneously and came to stand with her arm around me, which gave me the strength to continue. I experienced such a sense of fellowship, with my fellow club members that day.

I saw exactly the same thing happen in a news report a few days ago, when the senior medical staff at the hospital in Christchurch was being interviewed. The surgeon was describing operating on a four-year-old shooting victim and he choked up, unable to speak. Then, another doctor walked over and put her hand on his shoulder, and he continued speaking. There has been so much love and care from every quarter.

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(© Jorge Silva/Reuters)

People are hurting. Yet, people are helping where they can and comforting one another.

Everyone is joining in a spirit of fellowship that reminds us all we can create real solidarity between us no matter the creed or race. We’re all New Zealanders. And, there’s a sense now of pulling together when times are tough.

I’ve seen it in the images of people holding candlelight vigils, and the many photos of the flowers left at the gates of every mosque across the country.

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(© Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited)

I’ve seen it in the attitude of our esteemed Prime Minister, Jacinda Adern. If I hadn’t been a fan of her before this event, I would be a fan now. The way she has handled this entire disaster has been steady and empathetic. Jacinda has shown true grace and humanity under immense duress. And she’s tough. When Donald Trump asked what the U.S.A could do to help, she told him he could treat all Muslims with love and respect. She’s no pushover, and I admire that about her.

Jacinda has already moved to change the gun laws, banning automatic weapons here, which I think is a terrific step forward. My dad would be cheering her on. She’s decisive and brave, and I’m grateful for her leadership at this time.

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(via Facebook)

I have faith we will come through this as a country. I think we’re all still a little shell shocked and the healing process will take time, however that process has started.

Healing comes through the small ways we show love and respect for one another.

And it comes through the messages of love and support from around the world, which have sometimes been literally breathtaking.

As long as we continue to pull into unity in this time of hardship, we will come out of this. Perhaps our communities will be even stronger and more cohesive than we were before. I hope so.

My prayers and love go to the Muslim community in New Zealand.

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Talk to you later.

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

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

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

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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

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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

From the time he was small, my son Samuel has had episodes of erratic behaviour. Talking with my friends who also parent Downs’ syndrome kids, I discovered this can be part of the syndrome. Small stints of bad behaviour seemed to come about in cyclical fashion, and among our circle, we called it ‘running with Diablo.’ Our kids would run wild every now and again, and then it was over as fast as it started. No problem.

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Sam’s episodes have always been doozies though. I put that down to his being a strong, forceful character, a little volcano that needed to let off steam like Mt. Vesuivus. From the age of five-years-old to ten, Sam’s mischievous escapades were epic. He once carried the entire contents of the fridge and freezer into our living room and spread it out on the floor while I was putting out the washing. He once escaped the house by climbing out of the living room window at two o’clock in the morning. One time, he was walking along nicely beside us as we went to school and on the turn of a dime, he burst into running full tilt across the road in front of a Kenwood truck. In the latter two cases, Sam was lucky not to have been killed.

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Sam is no longer a ten-year-old. Now, he’s fifteen, and he’s bigger and stronger than me. His behaviour this year has steadily deteriorated. Tonight, he decided he was leaving with our carer supporter, who had spent a couple of hours helping Sam with homework. Neither the carer supporter, nor I, could stop Sam’s focused march down the drive as he repeated, “Good morning, Sam” over and over. He refused to listen to reason.

For the first time, I felt really afraid, that we’d lost control over him. I couldn’t see the boy I knew in his eyes anymore, his eyes looked blank, and the pupils widely dilated like that of a cat with the wind in its tail.

Then, I remembered something said by a friend whose child is autistic. Her child’s behaviour had gone off the rails at the onset of adolescence. Medication had helped, though it had been trial and error to get the medication right. I grabbed onto this idea like a lifeline. I sent her an email.

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I also remembered a neighbour telling me, her autistic child had started eating chalk and wire. However, medication had stopped the behaviour and he was attending a normal school. Maybe there was hope we could come out of this ditch, too.

The thing is, when Sam was small, he was diagnosed by a specialist as having a dual diagnosis: Down’s syndrome and Autism. But, somewhere along the way the ‘Autism’ tag got dropped. Tonight, I realised, Sam is autistic. He is a dual diagnosis. It might have gone into a latent period, for some reason. And, potentially, in Sam’s case, the trigger for setting it off again was my father’s death. Sam’s behaviour has been totally unpredictable ever since dad died.

I looked up Autism to read about it a bit, to see if my hunch was correct.

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This from Wikipedia: Autism is a developmental disorder characterized by troubles with social interaction and communication and by restricted and repetitive behavior.[3] Parents usually notice signs in the first two or three years of their child’s life.[1][3] These signs often develop gradually, though some children with autism reach their developmental milestones at a normal pace and then worsen.[9]

Tick, tick, tick. All these things applied to my son.

Then, from HELPGUIDE.org I found some tips on How to help your child with Autism thrive

*Provide structure and safety

*Find nonverbal ways to connect

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*Figure out the motivation behind the tantrumIt’s only natural to feel upset when you are misunderstood or ignored, and it’s no different for children with ASD. When children with ASD act out, it’s often because you’re not picking up on their nonverbal cues. Throwing a tantrum is their way of communicating their frustration and getting your attention.

*Create a personalized autism treatment plan

*Find help and support

I decided to reach out for support.

I had joined the Crippled Children’s Society years ago, so there would be someone to advise me on things to do with disability, when needed. However, I never used the service. Tonight, I sent an email to my advocate at CCS, titled, ‘Help.’

We need to see a specialist and sort out a treatment plan. Wish me luck!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“Don’t waste a minute not being happy! If one window closes, run to the next window – or break down a door!” – B. Shields

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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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012 (16)What a week! There is this thing kids with special needs do sometimes, which myself and friends who have special kids like to call, “running with Diablo.” It refers to those inexplicable times that come around with cyclical regularity, when our kids go off the rails for a short time.

Overnight, they go from sweet and obliging to fickle and resisting.

I’m not sure what sets Sam-the-man off. Our fifteen-year-old with Downs’ syndrome will periodically become impossible to deal with. What causes it? I’m not sure.

It never lasts more than a few days, yet while it’s here, he can cause merry havoc.

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Sam’s been running with Diablo this week. Yesterday, his teacher rang to say he’s not listening to any of the teachers in class. The day before, the taxi driver had to move him to the back seat, because Sam kept taking his shoes off and putting them in her face as she was driving. On Tuesday, my neighbour came to tell me Sam was in his school uniform lying on the grass verge. We ran down and there he was. He must have gotten off the taxi outside our house, as usual, but instead of walking up the drive to the house, he’d walked along the street and lain face down on the grass verge. Luckily he was unhurt. I thanked my neighbour and brought him inside, thanking our lucky stars as well.

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The rest of the time, Sam’s a model child! He will do everything he’s asked. He knows his daily routines, though he still needs a parent there to keep him on task. He can do everything for himself with guidance. It’s taken a lot of work and patience over the years to get him to this level of independence, but we’re here and so proud of his progress.

Sam’s doing really well in school and in general. He’ll happily sit and do his homework for an hour with his carer supporter in the evening. He’ll do anything he’s asked with a smile on his face that melts your heart.

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Then overnight, Sam is the exact opposite, he won’t do a thing I say, and he won’t go along with a single thing the family is doing. He plonks himself down and refuses to move. It’s like a switch is flipped. I talk to him a lot at these times, to explain why he has to do a thing. If he hears enough that makes sense to him, he’ll cooperate.

Next week, I’m attending another child behaviour workshop run by Sam’s school. A special needs mum needs tools in her kit!

The best tip I ever heard was “Distraction! Distraction! Distraction!” and it’s the parental trick I use with Sam most often.

They say the mental health of someone with Downs’ syndrome is five years younger than their physical age. Therefore, Sam is mentally around ten.

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When his behaviour derails, and he’s sitting on the floor refusing to get up and walk to the taxi, I divert his attention, “Oh, did you see that bird?” “Did I tell you about the thing we’re doing this weekend? Come on, get your shoes on and I’ll tell you.”

And the second best tip would be momentum. Once you’ve got them moving in the direction you want them to go/doing what you want them to do, KEEP GOING, do not stop!

Momentum is your friend.

A friend asked, “How do you cope?” Some days are harder than others.

Sam-the-man tests me sometimes to be more resourceful, and he keeps all of us on our toes. There are times when he’s locked us out of the house, or taken something important, like the remote for the garage or a personal device or car keys, and hidden them.

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We’ve lost many tv remotes and devices over the years that the phenomena even has a name, we call it a “Sammy special.”

The fact is it’s not easy, and as a parent I am tired a lot of the time.

I’m not sure whether his cyclical bad behaviour is a childhood thing he will grow out of or not. I remember my father asked me a couple of Christmases ago, “How much do you think Sam will grow up?” And I said, “I don’t know.” That’s the thing. The future is unknown. We’ll find out when we get there, I guess.

Meantime life is never boring, and I wouldn’t trade Sam for all the money in the world.

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Talk to you later.

Keep Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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There is no end to the adventures that we can have if only we seek them with open eyes. ~ Nehru

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The All is Lost moment is powerful because it is primal ~ Cory Milles

Loss in the course of life is inevitable, yet we eventually become enriched and deepened by pain. We learn and grow from experiences of difficulty.

As writers, we can employ obstacles, failures and friction in a similar way, to force our characters to evolve.

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In his book, The Prophet, poet, Kahlil Gibran, writes of love, ‘He sifts you to free you from your husks. He grinds you to whiteness. He kneads you until you are pliant.’ This gives an apt metaphor for human life. In our short spans on this planet, we suffer and win and are made anew. ‘That you may know the secrets of your heart, and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life’s heart.’

This is exactly which happens in life and what we seek to get right with writing fiction. It’s why people read, too.

As my teacher Kate de Goldi said, ‘We remember the readings that acted like transformations.’

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Author, PJ Reece wrote, ‘We’re not attracted to stories without conflict simply because we can’t learn anything from them. They are empty of the seeds that might nurture our own growth, in whatever direction that might be. Of course we love to read happy stuff in books too, but only after the hero has travelled his or her difficult path of personal growth and finally reached the reward for their journey.’

This is precisely why we like books with a solid definable problem.

Think Harry Potter vs Lord Voldemort, or Katniss vs the tyranny of the Capitol. We know who we’re cheering for and that there’s the promise of a good fight.

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All stories, since the first tales told around the campfire, capture the same essence, that of our collective struggle through life.

The stories we remember are those about characters who strive and fail. We love those who transcend their lower natures to become something more, because we relate to that battle. The triumph of our tiny hero, Bilbo Baggins, in The Lord of the Rings, when he throws the ring in the fiery pit is universal and the jubilation at the return of the king is the sort of life-affirming, inspiring fodder we will read for generations. They’re the stories about the human condition, our common travail, and they’ll never age.

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In the Warrior Writer’s course I took with tutor, Bob Mayer, he taught us that conflict is the fuel of a story. He also taught that the goals of the protagonist and antagonist must be opposed, although their goals don’t need to be the same thing.

Whether your antagonist is the ocean, a person, or an idea, in order for the core conflict to work, it must bring them against the protagonist in direct dispute. For one to achieve what they want, the other can’t achieve their goal. Therefore they become locked in a dilemma which needs to be resolved.

The questions which this tussle generates keep the readers glued.

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If your story is low key and quiet, then force the protagonist through inner fires. ‘The best stories — and the most lifelike — are ones that follow/force the protagonist through a series of disillusionments.’ Wrote author PJ Reece. ‘I see all protagonists as bumbling their way into the dark, otherwise they never leave their valley, the Valley of the Happy Nice People, and who wants to read about that? No one.’

In other words, if you want your story to be remembered, get the problem nailed down because a sturdy conflict can turn a mediocre story into a bestseller.

With a believable force opposing our hero, the characters are forced to make choices, and we ask which choices they will make and what will be the result. Result: reader engagement.

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Some stories have a background antagonist, who presents no immediate threat, in which case most of the conflict will come from friends, family, team members and “threshold guardians.” Yet, whether there’s a direct or indirect antagonist, each external mini-battle must expose more of the root of the character’s internal conflict.

Each test slowly grinds them to whiteness, teaching them a life lesson or giving them the option to change and grow.

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Within each story there are both internal and external sources of conflict. The internal relates to the character’s inner flaws which need to change. The external refers to the physical forces opposing him creating tension.

In every scene the ideal is to have both an external and internal conflict.

The transformation at the end of the book comes only after the protagonist confronts their limitations and defeats both them and the antagonist. Hopefully, there is a glorious resolution of storyline. There is a positive change in the central character arc, a blooming of the protagonist’s full potential, and a reward, a boon, “the gift of fire” to bring back home for the tribe.

Or as writer, David Farland said, ‘At the end of your novel, there are only three rules: Payoff! Payoff! Payoff!’

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Talk to you later.

Keep Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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‘Life is trouble. When everything goes wrong, what a joy it is to test your soul.’ ~ Nikos Kazantzakis

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