Archive for the ‘Raising boys’ Category

“Tween,” short for tweenager, is a preposition, a contraction of between. It is a noun, tween, a youngster between 10 and 12 years of age, considered too old to be a child and too young to be a teenager.

*Tip One: the most important thing you can do for yourself and your child, as the parent of a “tween” is to give them limits.

The power that is contained within my twelve-year-old son’s weedy body is enough to fuel a small power station. He comes home from school and bursts in the door, sparks shooting in all directions, talking to a friend on the phone in a voice booming through the rafters at similar decibel levels to a sonic jet. Without guidelines set and clearly known, chaos will ensue.

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My tween is a constant whirl of movement punctuated by long pauses at his device of choice, accompanied by phone conversations with his friends, newly-coined slang and laughter. He frequently bursts into song. He’s full of stories. He has yet to reach the stage of closing off and shutting himself away, or needing to oppose me.

*Tip Two: Don’t get lulled into easing up on the rules of your household. KEEPing guidelines in place now will help you through the storms to come.

The dreaded teen years lurk ahead like a thundercloud on the horizon. I know from experience the sudden leap kids do, especially boys, where they jump into these growth spurts and seem to morph before your eyes into alien beings with strange new bodies and voices. They become gripped by a hormonal whirlwind. But, that’s in the future. The teen’s adult preoccupations, like dating, fashion, and socialising haven’t kicked in yet. The tween still plays handball in the living room and soccer in the hall with his brother. For now, I just want to enjoy this sweet, kooky, joyous boy. For now, we dwell in the fields of daisies and carefree walks of the in between.

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I can still see the child in the outline of the face. The innocence is still there, and I guess because he is my last, and the end of his childhood looms near, it seems all the more precious and fleeting. His way of thinking is still pure, of another world we adults can’t inhabit.

A delightful side of the tween is they seek to communicate everything that happens in their day, especially the wounding injustices which have been inflicted upon them.

Tween’s retain this engaging, heart-warming need to turn everything over under the powerful gaze of their parent. They still want to figure out what happens and whether or not it is “fair.” They probe and prod for answers, for varying views on why things are the way they are.

*Tip Three: Let them talk, don’t stifle them or cut them short. Establish the communication and trust between you. This will help in future “negotiations.”

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He’s at that age when everything is funny. It’s adorable in parts. Yet, at the same time, exasperating. He often finds jokes so funny he laughs until he cries. Then, he falls about coughing and gasping for breath, until by the end of his enjoyment of the joke, I’m ready to strangle him with my bare hands to make it stop. He finds things too funny, if there is such a thing.

*Tip Four: take a breather from them when you need to.

Tweens and teens will go through one of the greatest growing periods of their life between twelve and seventeen. In a sense, so do we, as their parents. It’s stressful for all concerned.

Their limbs lengthen. Our resolve strengthens. His voice deepens. Our back straightens.

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It takes a lot of effort raising a tween. Their absentmindedness is both frustrating and hilarious. They become like gangly newborn fawns falling over themselves, ploughing into solid obstacles they claim they just “didn’t see.” Full control over their cognitive abilities seems to veer between heightened and non-existent. The next minute, they can withdraw into their own shell and go deaf, dumb and blind.

My tween ran straight into a post the other day. I’m the adult in the situation, so I’m not allowed to laugh!

As his guide, I only get to steer sometimes: I remind the tween to watch his head, eat a meal, get some fresh air, and so on (and laugh later, when I tell my friends about it).

*Tip Five: Repeat this after me, my main role as the tween parent is to stay calm and keep the rudder of the household on course, thereby providing a secure base for them to come back to. By staying in that centred place, through the storms in my household, I become the leader my children need me to be.

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Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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It is your job as the Tween Parent to preserve the magic for as long as possible and make crabby pants more live-able and hopefully, leave yourself with a little bit of sanity. ~ “BluntGuest” on BluntMoms.com

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My latest releases:

The Or’in of Tane Mahuta

Book One, the Chronicles of Aden Weaver http://amzn.com/B015K1KF0I

The Sasori Empire

Book Two, the Chronicles of Aden Weaver http://amzn.com/B075PMTN2H

 

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According to Dictionary.com, the modern “tween” is a youngster between 10 and 12 years of age, considered too old to be a child and too young to be a teenager. I was interested to learn the word tween has been in use since 1250-1300. It originally stemmed from the Middle English twene, which later evolved into ‘between.’

My youngest son turned 12 a few months ago. We’ve been living on the slopes of the dormant volcano in Tweenville for a year or so.

We didn’t know we were in trouble at first. At that stage, we didn’t know the youngest son would earn himself the nickname, ‘Little-Unpredictable-Volcano.’  At that stage, we were only newly arrived in the neighbourhood. We lived a placid, pastoral existence.

Things were quiet. Too quiet. The rumblings were far off in the distance, like that thunderstorm you hear coming but haven’t started worrying about yet.MountNgauruhoe

Six months in, I was thinking I had worried about nothing.

Twelve months in, the rumblings were becoming more frequent in Tweenville. The other villagers living nearby looked up with fear and wondered whether they should evacuate their homes. Mini-eruptions were starting to rattle with increasing velocity.

In the last two months, something has clicked and Little-Unpredictable-Volcano has moved from smoking benevolently to blowing sky-high on more than one occasion. Just asking him to do the dishes these days can sometimes be enough to trigger an eruption. Larva flows everywhere, burns everything to a crisp and buries more of the villages. At this stage, all the people have evacuated except for the Mayor (me) and her trusty sidekick (middle son).

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In amidst the daily arguments and negotiations going at our house, and navigating his mood swings and grumpiness, there have also been occasions of his complete thoughtlessness.

One innocent Wednesday, the youngest son decided to stay after school and play basketball with his friends, without telling me. When he wasn’t home at the usual time, I gave him a further half an hour. Then his brother and I hopped in the car and drove back the way he would bike home from school, to see if he was having bike trouble or similar.

But there was no sign of him. We drove into the school carpark – there was no sign of any bikes. He must have left. We drove home, but he wasn’t there either. Out we went for a second drive around the neighbourhood to the school and home again, arriving an hour and a half after the time he should have been home and there was still no sign of him anywhere. That was when the adrenalin kicked into high gear.

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I went into full scale panic mode. I rang the police.

Half way through answering the list of questions, I spied the tween pushing his bike up our drive.

“Am I in time-out?” he asked, looking scared.

I didn’t know whether to hug him or kill him. (I hugged him). He ‘hadn’t realized the time.’ He was sorry. ETC.

I was weak with relief. I was angry he hadn’t found a way to contact me and let me know. I was disappointed he could have been so inconsiderate.

We talked. We hashed out an agreement. He will take his phone to school every day and text me if he wants to stay after school.

We hugged.

Little-Unpredictable-Volcano has gone quiet for now.

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One of the terrific anonymous guest writers* over on BluntMom.com wrote a post about raising tweens recently. She said, It is your job as the Tween Parent to preserve the magic for as long as possible and make crabby pants more live-able and hopefully, leave yourself with a little bit of sanity.

That last part is so important in these times of trial. We have to do whatever we can to make life with our young people more pleasant. We have to cut ourselves some slack.

When Mr. Crabby Pants went to start into another argument with me the other day, I cut him off with “I don’t want to do this.” The look on his face was pure shock. “Whatever argument you want to have with me, please hold on, and come back to me tomorrow,” I said. “I simply don’t have the time today. I’m sorry. So save that thought. Remember it. And we’ll talk about the whole thing later.”

To my astonishment, the tween accepted that. “Okay,” he said.

I realized its okay to call a time out on the drama sometimes and simply not participate. Postponement works. Then, when you do talk about it, the energy has gone out of it too which always helps a faster resolution.

If we don’t set parameters in place in the tween years, imagine the hell the teenage years could become!

How do you take care of yourself and survive raising your tween?

(My secret is late night treats!)

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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*http://www.bluntmoms.com/care-tweens-magical-creatures/

It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are. E.e. Cummings

 

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

 

 

*Courtesy warning: contains meat products.*

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I wish you could smell my kitchen right now. The smell is savoury, deeply fragrant and spicy. I’ve spent the whole day making meatballs. And let me tell you, it has been so much fun.

For those of us with children at school, we’re coming to the time of year when the kids take their next holidays. My thoughts have swung forward to organizing our next trip to visit grandpa.

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With travel in mind, the first thing I do is start to plan the food. This time, I plan to make a batch of pumpkin soup and freeze it into small batches to take with us. I like to take a few pre-made things. That way I don’t have to spend a lot of time making food when I’d rather be spending time with my father or with the kids.

I recently went to see a “medical herbalist.” She takes a comprehensive look at diet and lifestyle. She suggests herbs and some kind of eating plan. Mine discovered a few things absent nutritionally from my diet and she sent me an eating plan as well as a great list of suggested snacks.  Boiled eggs. Check. Tahini or hummus with vegetable sticks. Check. And homemade meatballs, “a small concentrated bundle of protein, handy to have as they last well in the fridge.”

I had never considered making meatballs to have on hand as a snack. I thought, what a great snack food for my hungry growing boys as well. I’m always looking for easy protein options for them.

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Mini meatballs would be the perfect thing to go in the boys’ lunchboxes for school as well as for the upcoming car journey. Why mini? Kids like small foods. So I decided to come up with a “healthy meatball” I would feel good about the kids and I eating on a regular basis. I retreated to my kitchen lab today and I came with a tasty low fat treat. The nice thing about having precooked meatballs with you on vacation is that they make a great sandwich or roll filling and can form the basis of a nice dinner with the addition of pasta and tomato sauce.

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Here’s my mini meatball:

Combine 375g mince, fresh herbs and a good dose of dried mixed herbs, fresh ginger grated on the fine grater, a cup of crumbled fresh Vogels (or wholemeal) bread (not the crusts), 2 tbs tomato sauce (I added a few diced angel tomatoes), a handful of minced fresh greens like spinach or silverbeet, I used the light-green inner of one leek, finely chopped, plus a glug of good olive oil and plenty of salt and pepper.

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The best part is smooshing all the ingredients between your fingers and then rolling balls of the mixture between your hands. In case you’re wondering, yes, it is just like rolling play dough into balls as a child! I’ve heard chefs say before that meatballs are a favourite recipe and now I can see way. It was brilliant fun.

All it takes is chopping and mixing a bunch of ingredients, pinch into small balls and you’re done.

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However, as meat is fatty, and I’d added some good fat to make it stick together, I didn’t want to add more fat by frying the balls in a pan. I wanted to bake them like miniature meatloaves. I came up with the solution of placing each little ball in a miniature container.

I baked them for 30-40 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius.

When they came out they were each sitting, bubbling, in an inch of oil.

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At this point, you have to be ready with paper towels spread over the baking rack, and a pair of tongs. You want to whisk those meatballs out of the oil as fast as you can to prevent them from soaking the oil back up again. If they hit the paper towel warm they’ll continue leaking even more excess oil. The resulting meatball will retain some of the fat but most of it has been rendered.

Take them off the paper and let them cool the rest of the way on the baking rack. Freeze in relatively small batches, so you can take out half a dozen at a time and still have some for another day.

Our mini meatballs look and taste great, they’re our family’s healthy take on an old favourite.

Do you have a go-to recipe to take on holiday?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Do your little bit of good where you are; it is those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world. ~ Desmond Tutu

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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

 

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

He asked, “Are you happy?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It seemed never a cross word passed between them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How awesome is that?

I nominate children to rule the world!

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

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Talk to you later,

Yvette K. Carol

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

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The thing about writing humour is that everyone has a different sense of humour.

I remember having a conversation about this with a friend. She said, their family had invited the son’s new girlfriend over, to join them for dinner. After the meal, they thought they’d watch their favourite show, with the idea that laughing would bring them all together. So they put on a comedy which they knew was side-splitting, ‘Little Britain.’ My friend said that she, her husband and sons were rolling off the couch, nearly crying with laughter, while the son’s girlfriend never cracked a smile throughout the whole show.

Humour is personal and deadly serious.

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I promised readers I’d share my journey towards the holy grail of engaging the funny bone. Let’s say, it’s been an interesting process, so far.

In my last post, there was a great moaning, wailing and gnashing of teeth about having to write the material for my humorous speech.

I got some helpful pointers from a number of responders. With regards my first idea for material, which had been my mother and her dementia, a friend on social media – the wonderfully gregarious Lord David Prosser  – countered with a great comment.

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‘If you get the chance to read the Deric Longden story Lost for Words or get the chance to see the TV film that was made starring Dame Thora Hird you’ll see that the subject of dementia can be dealt with i a funny, charming yet sympathetic way. Because we see the humour in a situation doesn’t make us uncaring towards people suffering that illness, it just means the particular situation was funny.’ ~ David Prosser

Thanks, David.

However, for the upcoming Speech Contest, I decided to go with the same topic I covered last year, something I know intimately – being a parent. Since then, after many anxious, feeble attempts at writing it, and wringing of hands, I began to despair I’d ever be able to write anything good ever again!

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I watched footage of award-winning humorous speaker, Jeanne Robertson http://www.jeannerobertson.com (thanks for the link, Jenny), and read a post or two by my friends who write funny blogs, like the self-confessed undie chronicler, Jenny Hansen, https://jennyhansenauthor.wordpress.com/ and sweet blogger, Bun Karyudo, whose excellent “Lovingly Hand-Crafted Humor Blog” is always good for a chuckle.

I thought Bun’s recent post, Teaching My Son to Swim? It’s Just Not Going to Happen https://bunkaryudo.wordpress.com/2016/08/13/teaching-my-son-to-swim-its-just-not-going-to-happen/ was hilarious.

Here’s an excerpt, where his wife is convincing a reluctant Bun why he ought to teach their son to swim:

“When someone makes a promise, isn’t it only right to keep it.”

When someone made a promise, I nodded, it was only right to keep it.

“Right then,” she said, “I promised our son you’d teach him to swim. How can you possibly refuse?”

Bun, however, has a natural gift for turn of comedic phrase. I don’t!

Still stumped, I gazed upon these people’s brilliance and felt unable to produce anything of credibly feather-tickling value myself.

I’ve been having the same conversation everywhere I’ve gone, what makes comedy?

This week, a friend asked me, ‘Look at this way, what makes you laugh?’

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Terrific question. I can tell you, one-liners leave me cold; I prefer it when there’s a storyline, and the humour comes through what happens.

A light went on! I realized that my earlier attempts had failed, because each was basically a series of one-liners strung together.

Yesterday, my two youngest sons left to spend the weekend with their father. Last night, I relaxed and listened to some music, as you do. I was thinking about how different childhood is for kids these days, compared to say, when I was young, or say my parents, or their parents before them.

A few words wafted by me on the wind. If you consider that my grandmother was born in 1901. She lived in the “pre-nuclear age…” I thought, Gran had perfect recall, while I have trouble remembering something from one room of the house to the other… that’s a funny idea! Lucky for me, I was fleet of foot and captured the words before they flew on by.

I had the start to my speech.

The concept of comparing childhoods in our family, from my gran through to my youngest son, gave me the all-important narrative I needed. The rest flowed from there.

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Here’s an example of the content as it stands so far: ‘They say there are more crazy people on the streets these days than ever before, we parents get warnings to keep an eye on our children’s whereabouts at all times. I know my children’s whereabouts – couch one and couch two in our living room, where they can get the wifi.’

Therefore, the raw material for my humorous speech has finally been produced. A labour of love, no less.

Now, I just need to figure out how to deliver the speech to achieve maximum impact. Wish me luck! Any tips for comedic timing/inflection that works,  please let me know! There’s a chocolate fish in it for you (nah, just kidding).

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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It is impossible to look cool while picking up a Frisbee. ~ Peter Kay

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Since I put my name forward to compete in a Toastmaster’s “Humorous Speech Contest,” a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been working on the dilemma of material. Or, lack of it. The race has been on to write something funny.

I have spent days wondering what I should write about.

My hairdresser came over to give me a trim. She has her aging parents living with her, one of whom is blind, while the other has Alzheimer’s. The stories she told, of the mishaps going on in their household, had both of us nearly crying with laughter. I thought, ‘this stuff is priceless.’

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I thought about my own family’s hilarious stories, about my mother, and her dementia. I put it to the arbiters of taste in my circle. The resounding answer was, ‘No, don’t go there. Mothers are sacrosanct.’ Then, I read an article the other day, in which a woman, whose mother had died with Alzheimer’s, decried another guy, who had written a piece about his mother “going mad.” She said, it was ‘cruel and inconsiderate’ to mock those whose parents had dementia.

I realized that my first two ideas were hot-button topics! I decided “not to go there.” In a contest situation, the idea is to appeal to the audience, not turn people away.

What is funny?

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I have wracked my brain, and done a bit of research.

I’ve learned from reading various comedian’s blogs that humour comes from the unexpected. We laugh because we’re led to expect one thing but are given the opposite instead.

I began to experiment. Going back to the subject of raising kids for my subject matter, I wrote a short speech.

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According to what I read, one’s success with a “humorous speech” depends less on content than on the delivery. In the latest Toastmasters magazine, it was reported that the speaker, Palmo Carpino advised, if you want to go from good to great, is “It’s not so much about building a library as it is about building your reflexes.” Paul, who is active with the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers, says, “This is what usually separates the “ok attempts” scribed into a written speech from the “memorable point illustrated in a memorable manner.”

The next time I saw my nephew, I tried out some of the so-called “funny bits” in my speech on him. He gave me one of those face-spreading smiles you give, when something isn’t really funny. My jokes had flat-lined.

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I reworked the speech completely, remembering the rule of the unexpected. I practiced it again and again, by standing up, marching about and testing the delivery, the pauses, the inflections.

That’s what you have to get just right, the sound and timing of your material.

I tried rearranging each piece so as to take the audience in one direction then, casting about for the punch line which turns the listeners in a different direction. Bouncing it off myself and others.

I’ve received some great tips and ideas from people. The top two would have to be, ‘Just be yourself and let your character shine through.’ A great resource, according to a writer/artist friend of mine, Steve Attkisson, is Gene Perret’s Ten Commandments of Comedy. This is ‘one book that has been instructive and entertaining.’ I intend to withdraw this book from the library, to read next. I know I need help.

Will the audience laugh? Only time will tell!

In the end, I’ll get it right. Meantime, I thought the lessons I’m learning along the way might be valuable. As I figure out how to write a humorous speech, hopefully, what I share via my blog might also benefit someone else. Ain’t the internet cool?

How do you write funny? Any tips to share? Send help. Please. Or chocolate.

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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My advice? You wanna look 20 years younger? Stand further away. ~ Jeff Green

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July 8th. It was the end of the second term and time for our return visit to Grandpa.

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Being winter, I had the car packed with extra bedding, extra warm clothes, and extra everything. We left town at 10 a.m. The boys watched movies on my laptop in the backseat. We were due to meet my father in his favourite coffee shop for lunch, and by the time we neared the turnoff from the highway, we were making good time.

Then, we neared the bottom of the hill, a literal fifteen-minute drive left to Grandpa’s small town.

That was when we saw orange cones across the road ahead of us. Ominously, a council worker stood re-directing traffic.

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“The road’s closed,” said the earnest-looking young Maori man.

“Why?”

“Flooding. No one can get through. There’s been heavy rain and there’s a ‘King tide.’ The tide won’t drop till about 5 p.m.”

“What can we do?”

“Prestcott’s Garage is open. You can go along there and wait with the others, if you want.”

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We opted to go through the barrier, and drive a few hundred yards to the old-timey gas station. It was midday.

We sat waiting in our car, along with about a dozen other similarly-trapped people, stuck in limbo, in the pouring rain.

The laptop then ran out of battery power. The boys started complaining. It was one of those times when you, as the adult, wished there was someone you could complain to!

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We trailed about outside, and were very fortunate that after half an hour, it stopped raining. The kids were able to see it as an adventure then, rather than a punishment.

For the next two and a half hours, we played with a ball, and we took walks around about to look at the flooded fields.

I’d seen the low-lying countryside with lots of big puddles before, but nothing like this. There were cars stuck on the other sides of the roads in all directions, too, we were told. A tree was down across the road, also, for which a special kind of tractor was sent. A car was submerged and a truck had landed in the ditch. A local farmer had had to “teach her heifers to swim.”

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We were wet, cold and tired. Yet, we bided our time and watched the occasional emergency vehicle dash past.

I had spontaneous conversations with all kinds of interesting folk. There was the 95-year-old who had travelled down with his 70-year-old wife, to view a property in the area, and had only been intending a day trip, to travel straight back to the city afterwards. There was a young businessman with neat coiffed hair and immaculately-pressed shirt and slacks, on his way to meet friends. The truck-driver who told me, he would attempt driving through anyway, but he was worried because if he didn’t make it, ‘the insurance won’t cover you if you’ve travelled on a closed road.’ An elderly blue-eyed gentleman blustered, ‘We only just moved here from Auckland. I’m beginning to wish we never had!’

We stood around, talking and commiserating.

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Finally, an authoritative-looking man came from the direction of the flood, and announced, “There’ll be nothing getting through for the next two days. The bridge has moved.”

I phoned dad. He said, “But, couldn’t you come around the long way?” A trip around the top of the Coromandel Peninsula would take another three hours. Yet, we had no choice!

I had never driven the journey in question before, and upon querying others at the station, was told, ‘just follow your nose to the turn off.’ At 3 p.m. we set off back the way we’d come, over the Coromandel Ranges, chased by the pouring rain and howling gale.

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The road lived up to the terrible reputation Kiwi roads have gained overseas. After an hour of hair-raising twists and turns winding up the coast, we headed into the mountains; a route of 25 – 35 km tight twists and turns. This particular trek includes the only “15 km” hairpin bend I’ve ever taken. As the gathering dusk turned to evening, I prayed we would make it to our destination.

Additional to this litany of woes, was the fact I was stuck wearing my dark prescription glasses. My glasses for night time driving were somewhere in amongst our luggage. I was trying to see where the road was going, as it bent and twisted in front of me like a pile of wet spaghetti in the pitch dark!

Another two hours later, we limped into my father’s small town. 6.15 p.m. The first day of our mid-winter break had been an instrument of torture!

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Later, my brother arrived with news the bridge hadn’t moved after all. Someone had gotten the wrong message through to the crowd of us waiting at the garage. 95% of the people waiting had turned around and returned home, while a few of us hardier types had weathered the trip the long way round. Either way, it had been, as a burly blond guy at the scene had said, ‘A bloody mess!’

My father said he was going to talk to the Mayor. The fact that all roads into the Coromandel had been reduced to a single lane for a whole day, and yet, there were no road signs out on the highways, to warn travellers, was “pathetic,” he said. The fact there was no clear authority in charge, once there were holiday goers stuck in limbo, was “hopeless management.” These were serious issues which needed to be addressed by the Mayor and the council, dad said. My thoughts exactly. Bravo!

Thanks, dad. You’re my hero! 

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Talk to you later.

(p.s. The rest of the holiday was great!)

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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The hero’s redemption (and ultimate victory) hinges on their transcending their self-concern. And it rarely happens unless the writer brings the hero to the point of despair. ~ PJ Reece

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Friend, writer, Jenny Hansen, put me on to a great new blog site this week, ‘Blunt Moms,’ written by a happy collective of mommas telling it like it is.

The first post I read was by author, Anne Sawan, ‘Moms of boys, you are my people.’ Of course, this got my attention as I’m a mother to three sons. The post was so hilarious I nearly split my jeans laughing. I subscribed the same day.

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Anne Sawan wrote of discovering her boys running around on their icy roof in winter, ‘inches away from slipping off and cracking their skulls,’ and how, that night, she had to have ‘a large glass of red wine’ in order to get over the experience.

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I laughed in the grip of my own painful memories. My three sons have made my hair go gray which is why I have to dye it now.

I remember one time, when Sam was three and escaped the property. He took off in his plastic car down the middle of our street. He lifted his feet and whizzed down the hill, with me running behind shouting, “Stop! Stop, Sam!”

He shot out of the street, turning a corner into another road, still freewheeling. I braced myself for hearing a screech of brakes, which fortunately never came. I managed to catch up with Sam and yank him off the road before he met any traffic. His guardian angels must take home plenty of overtime, that night. In fact, all my boys have given their angels a run for their money.

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‘Boys are just a different breed from girls,’ wrote Sawan. I couldn’t agree more.

My sister’s darling daughter used to present herself to her mother each evening at six o’clock exactly, and say, “I’m ready for bed, mama.” How I envied my sister! My boys would still be strangling each other somewhere, with someone moments away from an elbow in the eye, or getting somehow mortally injured and roaring with pain. Or they’d be trying the old, I-can’t-hear-you routine. Oh, yes, boys are different, all right.

What goes on in a household of boys?

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A lot of yelling goes on in this household of boys.

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A lot of dressing up.

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Play-fighting.

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Birthday parties that would put adult all-night-ragers to shame.

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Hours spent playing digital games.

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More play-fighting.

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Suspicious silences.

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Wild air guitar-playing while only dressed in underwear.

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Yet more play-fighting.

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And of course, posturing.

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Did I mention the singing? They sing a lot as well.

Once you learn to roll with the rambunctious, noisy, chaos of living with sons, I am here to report; it is possible to live harmoniously with them.

Besides in the words of Anne Sawan, in the end, “we laugh knowing our boys are going to be marrying your girls, and one day, if they’re lucky, they may just have little boys of their own.”

That’s called karma, folks!

Do you have any stories of the differences between raising your sons and daughters, or any hair-raising parenting tales to share?

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Talk to you later,

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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‘Raising children is one of the most significant things that a person can do. It matters a tremendous amount, and women who choose to do it should be held in high esteem. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it was a token of great respect for a man to address an older woman as “mother.” That might be a good thing to bring back.’ ~ Paul Rosenberg

 

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