Posts Tagged ‘parenting’

There is nothing quite like the smell of an extra spicy fruit cake baking in the oven, however, the Queen of them all is the old English style Christmas Cake. In essence, it’s a deeply rich fruit mixture heavy on the fruit and steeped in rum or brandy. Thick and dense, it bakes for up to four hours on a low heat, which is a nice long time for the smell to permeate the house. We love it.

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I come from a family of British immigrants to New Zealand, and despite the fact we have summer in the festive season, my parents continued the tradition of the “Christmas Cake.” I have raised my boys with our own version of the family tradition. At the end of November, my kids and I don our aprons and head into the kitchen for the labour of love.

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I think the secret to a good result is in soaking the fruit in orange juice and rum or brandy overnight. In the old English style, the ratio of dried fruit to flour is about four to one. Typically, there will be raisins, currants, sultanas and chopped dates. Most recipes call for glace cherries and crystallised ginger, but, as I’m not fond of these ingredients, I like to add chopped dried apricots and figs and extra blanched almonds.

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This year, my boys and I came up with a fun idea for a crafty gift. We only used half the batter for the traditional rectangular cake, which will be iced closer to Christmas with brandy butter icing.

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The other half of the batter, we fashioned into rough balls and baked in muffin tins. In this form, they take half the time, roughly two to two and a half hours at a low heat. They form a nice firm ball. Once cool, we dusted them lightly with sifted icing sugar.

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We wrapped the individual balls in baking paper, making neat little parcels with cotton gift ties.

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I had been collecting gift boxes and tins from the thrift stores the last few weeks. We wrapped the paper parcels in cellophane wrap to ensure they will stay fresh as long as possible and divided the balls between the tins and boxes.

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We wrote a personalised message on a gift tag inside each lid.

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We tied a ribbon on each box and there you have it, our Christmas Cake Balls as a gift you can make with your kids and give away at this year.

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Do you make your own gifts or have your own crafting traditions at this time of year? If so, let us know!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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It is never too late to start enjoying a happy childhood. ~ Joy Cowley

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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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Some time ago, friend and writer, Jenny Hansen put me on to a great new blog site called, ‘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 have three sons.

The post was so hilarious I 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 she had to have ‘a large glass of red wine’ that night to get over the experience.

I laughed in the grip of my own painful memories. My three sons have made my hair go grey which is why I have to dye it now, I’m sure! I look back and shudder! Like the time, Sam decided to take his plastic tricycle for a ride down the middle of our road at the age of three. He escaped our property on his trike, lifted his feet and whizzed down the middle of the street, with me running behind shouting, “Stop! Stop! Come back!”

Sam rode through a T-junction and kept pedalling into oncoming traffic as if his little life depended on it. I was screaming and running, braced for the impact, which fortunately never came. I managed to catch up with him before the cars reached us. His guardian angels must take home plenty of overtime pay, let me tell you.

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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, so the legend goes, and say, “I’m ready for bed, mama.” How I envied my sister! My boys would still be strangling each other somewhere, with one or the other moments away from an elbow in the eye, getting somehow mortally injured and screeching with pain. The need for me to dash them to A&E remained an ever present threat always hanging in the air. Or they’d be trying the old can’t-hear-you routine, making me repeat myself a dozen times. 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 a household of boys.

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A lot of dressing up.

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A lot of play-fighting.

What else goes on in a household of boys?

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There are birthday parties that would put adult all-night ravers to shame.

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There are more play fights.

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There are suspicious silences.

What else goes on in a household of boys?

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A lot of wild air guitar.

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A lot more spontaneous play-fighting.

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A lot of spontaneous posturing.

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

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Then, you wake up one day, and suddenly, the boys start growing in great dashes for the ceiling. You’ve reached the dreaded milestone, the teenage years, when things get really interesting. Incredibly, they become even louder.

They start traversing an emotional rollercoaster.

My youngest two are fifteen and twelve now, and sometimes they come home like black thunder clouds. I’m left wondering where my darling kids have gone. At present, my teen is having non-compliant days, which we’re putting down to the tiredness pre-Christmas, and my tween is having flare-ups of angst-ridden stroppiness, which we’re putting down to hormones. These days we get to see a lot of over excited noises, or dark looks and grouchy faces. It’s a vaguely scary rollercoaster up in here.

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Nevertheless, once the storm blows over, they come straight back to being loving and helpful again. It is a noisy, unpredictable, rambunctious form of chaos living with sons, and yet, 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!

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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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My family have just celebrated Hallowe’en. The kids and I are still eating the candy, and sometimes I sneak out special pieces to eat in my room later! Our bowl in the pantry has a collection of heart jellies, skull marshmallows and individually wrapped fingers and toes.

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Here, in New Zealand, the tradition of dressing in costume to go out trick or treating is only a recent import. When I was growing up, we didn’t celebrate Hallowe’en. And, even now, the celebration is still in its nascent stages. We haven’t quite stretched to carving pumpkins and lighting candles, although I’m sure they’re on the way.

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Even twenty years ago, when my eldest son was little, Hallowe’en was still barely a ripple in the pond. Yet, for my two younger boys, it has been a different story. They’ve grown up with the idea of going out in costume on October 31.

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On the old Celtic calendar, October 31 was the last day of the year.

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It was called Hallowe’en, or NUTCRACK NIGHT and HOLY EVE in ancient times. On that one night, all the witches and warlocks would be abroad.

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After the introduction of Christianity, it was taken over as ALL HALLOWS or ALL SAINTS. All Saints Eve is associated with the ancient customs of bobbing for apples and cracking nuts.

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Hallowe’en was also believed to be the best night of the year to find one’s future spouse by special rites.

Scottish tradition says that those born on Hallowe’en have the gift of second sight. Robert Burns details the customs in his poem Hallowe’en (1785).

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‘Like it or not, Hallowe’en as a fully fledged event, as a big night.’

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This year, in our neighbourhood, there was more spooky merchandise in the shops and it was more heavily advertised than ever before.

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The boys were excited to see more than double the number of revellers. We had a great night out. It had the feel of a street party.

We wandered around, chatted with the neighbours on the sidewalk, stopped to admire people’s gardens and look in awe at the garb of other revellers. It was joyful. The kids were frolicking, as if the masks and outrageous gear gave them the licence to run wild.

We had a laugh and some fun, and the boys came home with a bucketful of loot, which was carefully and scientifically divided between the pair of them on the couch.

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In the future, I’m certain we’ll be celebrating Hallowe’en night in an even bigger way. The decorations will be grander, and the makeovers more elaborate. Funny when you think, such a widely celebrated custom began as a simple ritual observing the last day of the year.

What do most of us like to do on the last day of the year? Party like it’s 1999, that’s what!

I love Halloween because it lets me be a kid again. How about you, did you go trick or treating this year?

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Even Mya, the eldest son’s new puppy, went trick or treating!

Talk to you later…

Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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“It is never too late to start enjoying a happy childhood.” ~ Joy Cowley

 

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

“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

 

Having just returned from the first half of our school holiday break, we can report that Grandpa is doing well. We drove down there, having heard he had ‘a sniffle and a cough.’ The constant worry about my father went into overdrive. I was thinking, he hasn’t recovered from double pneumonia long enough to get sick again.

In reality, he has a bit of a drippy nose and does cough now and then. Apart from that, dad seems completely healthy and well and normal. 85-year-old normal though. He is, after all, a year older now. We celebrated his birthday while he was in hospital and at death’s door.

Since released a couple of months ago, dad has been noticeably quieter, slower, and less inclined to search for the right answer in the crossword.

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Yet, that hasn’t stopped him getting back into bowls and all the other clubs he belongs to, as well as going to church twice a week. Dad drives himself everywhere, even over the mountains to buy groceries once a fortnight. My brother and I relaxed a little. The whole family has been checking on visiting dad regularly since July, monitoring his progress back to health. I felt reassured, heartened to see that he has made a marvellous recovery and is doing well.

Prior to dad contracting pneumonia, my brother and I had been taking our boys to visit with him in every holiday break. It is healthy for all of us to return and touch base with our heritage. What could be better for the boys right now, than time with their grandpa?

Our boys have grown up a lot in the last two years since we started our trips. Yet, they’re still young enough – that delightful in-between – when they still want to play ball at the park, and build “houses” for crabs on the shoreline at the beach. So, we spend part of each day at the parks, the beaches, and fishing off the wharves. Breakfast, lunch and dinner and the evenings are spent with grandpa. We help each other figure out crossword puzzles. We play two rounds of cribbage each night, and grandpa can still be relied upon to keep perfect score.

But, where once he would entertain us with stories in the evenings, those days are long gone. He doesn’t reach for his handwritten book of old time song lyrics or limericks and jokes and regale us with the best of the best anymore.

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Sometimes, dad wants to watch a certain show on television. But, then he returns to what he’s doing. He withdraws, somewhere. Even his eyes look faraway. I notice it’s hard to get him into a conversation of any length. He’s more interested in the newspaper or the crossword or his jigsaw puzzle.

When we left today, I told him that another one of his daughters would be there in a couple of days.

Dad responded gruffly, “I haven’t been alone more than three days since I was released.”

“We care about you,” I said.

I didn’t tell him, ‘we’re worried you’re not looking after yourself. We’re trying to take care of you in such a way, by doing little things here and there each time we visit, that we take some of the strain off you and in that way, we enable you to stay in your own home for as long as possible.’

Dad knows the writing is on the wall. Losing the dignity of independence is a rough road for anyone. That’s where family comes in.

We try to cushion him, and we’re doing our utmost to help him stay where he’s happiest.

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Each time one of us comes away from Grandpa, the rest of the family gather round wanting to know, whether in person or by ether, how was he? What was your sense? We try to get a gauge on how dad’s doing and what the appropriate response should be.

This time, the answer is, “Grandpa has a sniffle. Otherwise, he’s doing great.” He is complaining of being smothered by family! But, still, I didn’t hear him say no when I offered to make him a hot lemon and honey drink at night. I suspect he secretly likes all the attention.

We’ve returned to the city. My brother and I agree, we feel good, reassured about our father’s health and wellbeing, and yet, already, we’re planning the next check visit. You know how it is. Any time spent with him is precious and it sets our minds and hearts at ease.

How do you support your parents’ wellbeing into graceful old age?

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Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Wealth is the ability to fully experience life. ~ Henry David Thoreau

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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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This week, I took the boys down country to visit their grandfather. Dad has been recovering from double pneumonia. “I’m a medical miracle,” he told us proudly when we arrived. He is a miracle, getting over his life-threatening bout of illness at the rate of someone half his age. And, he was released home after a mere ten days instead of the usual month.

The last time we were there, dad was transitioning home from the hospital. He was still weak, only able to sit in a chair and doze, and he needed to use a walking frame to move.

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This time, he had colour in his cheeks, the normal tone had returned to his skin, and dad was walking unaided. My sister who had been nursing him reports he is now able to do everything for himself. “I’ve been driving for three weeks,” was the second thing he said.

They made them tough in the old days.

It’s great. Although there are worrying signs as well. It is not a simple matter to get over being gravely sick when you’re eighty-five. While he’s come a long way, there’s still a long way to go. Having lost a lot of weight, there is physical rebuilding which needs to take place. Until then, he needs to rest more often. He tires easily.

The pneumonia has left its mark.

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Thankfully, dad has such fire, such spirit. There’s no keeping a good man down, as they say, and it’s so true in his case. It doesn’t matter how far he sinks down, he comes back swinging. Yes, there are a few more issues, however, at the same time, he is doing marvellously. He’s busy doing his crosswords again, although he now sometimes gets the answers wrong. We grab the paper and correct them when he isn’t looking! Playing cards, where dad used to be a whiz at scoring, he now sometimes adds incorrectly. We laugh it off and make it fun.

The thing is the constancy has gone.

Some days, dad’s back on form and gets everything right. He’s so bright and bushy-tailed; he’ll come down to see his grandson fish off the wharf. Or he’ll spend the whole morning playing bowls and spend the afternoon working in the garden. Other days, he forgets the little details of his life which used to be automatic, like locking the door at night, or what he has with his vinegar in the morning (honey). And he’s so weary, he’ll barely leave the house, or take his evening walk.

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It’s hard to see this happening to a beloved parent. The fact of the matter is our parents do age ahead of us and aging is not the easiest process for a lot of people.

It’s our job as the children to take care of our parents into their dotage. The wheel turns and those who cared for us now need to be cared for. Yet, when a parent is still mentally sound and is physically strong; there is a fine line to tread between being supportive and intrusive. While our aim is to assist dad to stay in his home, we have to be careful not to impose our will over his. So one visits, cleans, gardens, does small maintenance jobs and meantime keeps an ever-watchful eye on them. All the family who have visited have done their bit. This is where the family support network plays a key role. It helps to share the load with someone.

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My sister and I holed up together in her room at the end of each long day, after the kids had gone to bed, and talked into the wee hours. We found that simply talking it over helped ease the burden. We let off steam that way, came up with strategies and plans for going forward.

We’re agreed we need to continue to share the visiting among us as a family and have enlisted dad’s neighbours to keep a weather eye upon him when we can’t be there.

In seeking common ground between us as siblings, we laid a platform to better assist dad to a happy, safe lifestyle, and hopefully, this will enable further constructive conversations in the future.

My youngest son said, “I like the way grandpa talks. He makes everything sound important.” Yes. Me, too. With a bit of help, grandpa will be able to continue to live in his wood cabin by the sea and keep telling his stories for a long time yet. It is a miracle!

What do you do to support aging parents while treating them with respect?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“The wisdom acquired with the passage of time is a useless gift unless you share it!” ~ E. Williams

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

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

 

 

This year my father’s 85th birthday passed by with dad seriously ill in hospital, suffering double pneumonia. If a person is a smoker, the rate of mortality from this illness among the elderly is high. As a non-smoker, and also a relatively fit person, dad’s chances of survival were better than average.

Nevertheless, none of the facts take the edge off, when you see your father that close to the final curtain. I remember how in those first moments of my first visit, when I saw his face with the cheeks sunken in towards his gaping mouth, I felt my heart clench. A keener sense of reality accompanied it. I felt even more love than usual for my father.

10599505_10202530643248555_4175807170543700148_nThat was a week ago.

Dad’s still recovering in hospital. The family has taken shifts to sit with him and my elder sisters are with him now. I shudder at the thought of what lies ahead. The shadow at the dinner party. The ghost at the gate. The pitch darkness that lies beyond the horizon.

It’s only been two years since my mother died. She passed away blissfully in her sleep, June 25, 2015, just four months shy of what would have been my parents’ 60th wedding anniversary. It reminded me never to bank on tomorrow. My teacher always says to ‘live as if death’s at your shoulder’ because it is.

It’s winter here in New Zealand, and it seems fitting to face these thoughts at this quieter time of year. As without so within and all that jazz.

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It’s also the first week of the school holidays.

Normally, my brother and I would take our kids to stay with dad for some of the break. It was so great to see the kids get to do all sorts of adventurous things outside in the fresh air on those visits, stretching their legs and their wings as boys need to do.

Even my boy with Down’s syndrome, Sam-the-man, who gets quite put out by any changes to routine, always welcomed the chance to spend quality time with his grandfather. Sam appreciated that his grandfather would sit and take the time to play cards and board games and patiently explain the rules.

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In Sam’s writing books, brought home from school at the end of each year, I noticed the words ‘Grandpa,’ ‘beach,’ and ‘sandcastles’ cropped up in his stories often.

We’ve had a special time and there are many wonderful memories.

These holidays, instead of going to the beach, the boys and I travelled to spend a couple of days sitting beside grandpa in hospital. We make the next visit soon.

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It’s sad to see an old tree fall. This profoundly good man has sacrificed a great deal for his family. He has given selflessly to all around him. Now, all he asks is to go home. While he is still very weak, we’re hopeful that one day, he will return home, at least in some capacity.

In a few days, the boys and I take our next turn at grandpa-sitting.

My sisters say dad’s health has improved.

We might not have noted dad’s birthday as we’ve done before. But as soon as he’s home we will celebrate.

We’ve remembered life goes on. Hope springs. And the human spirit is irrepressible. Thank goodness, no matter how many crazy despots come into power, life does go on. And I’m reminded of those sage words someone said once long ago; it’s never too late to bake a cake. 🙂 Words to live by.

Love you, dad. Happy Birthday!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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

 

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

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

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

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

Therefore, surviving the surgery is the first milestone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What milestone has made your heart sing lately?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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

— Lucimar Santos de Lima

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