Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘child’

Bees, Trees & Keys

The King’s Magnificent Sneeze. Written by Jane Elizabeth Habgood. Illustrated by Russell Ferrantti-Donavellas. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Love the preamble for this picture-book story for 4-8 year-olds, and the taller people that read it with them. “To all of the small people and tall people reading this book – please, always be kind.” That is one of the endearing aspects of this story – no matter how ridiculous, or strange, the behavior is by those involved, everyone accepts what is.

614EmitApzL._SX260_The King’s Magnificent Sneeze reminded me, in some ways, of the classic Goodnight Moon. It is similar in rhythm and rhyme, but different in the context and surroundings. This story takes place throughout the kingdom, whereas Goodnight Moon is all in one room. The tale opens with a humongous sneeze by the King of Snoffleguss.

The King’s sneeze effects some beings physically (such as birds that fall out of trees, and a pond to freeze) and others find their behavior to be quite odd. Even the unimaginable happens when, “Old people easily find their keys.” As expected, and which works perfectly, most every sentence ends with a word that rhymes with “sneeze”.

The writing by Ms. Habgood is just right for the audience, and the illustrations by Mr. Ferrantti-Donavellas are most fitting. Even though they are still drawings, they almost seem to come to life with the people, things, and actions taking place on each page. The King’s Magnificent Sneeze is funny, entertaining, and will delight one and all.

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Enough Already

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You’re Perfect the Way You Are.
Written by Richard Nelson
Illustrated by Evgenia Dolotovskaia.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Here is a good book with a vital message. Not only are the words used for this age group (4 and up) perfectly maintained throughout the story, but the illustrations also match on every page. Some kids books are either too wordy, and complicated, or so simple, as to be insulting. You’re Perfect the Way You Are found the perfect balance.

The young girl of the story asks her mother, father, brother, grandpa, grandma, and uncle, if various parts of her body are alright (hair, hands, nose, etc.). Unlike real life, they are all in unison and give her the same positive message. “Are my hands too small?” I asked my Grandma while she helped wash them for dinner. She just smiled and replied, “No honey. You’re perfect the way you are.”

Children hear what we say about ourselves (and others). They can also sense, even more deeply, what we are feeling when we say something. A mother worried about “looking good enough”, or a father wondering if he’s “gained too much weight”, can have a a big, and often long-lasting, effect on their children’s sense of themselves as well.

Young children, adolescents (and adults), often believe they “aren’t good enough”, and spend lots of money, time, and energy to try to be different. This is usually unconscious and habitual. It is frequently ingrained in our conditioning, and thoughts. You’re Perfect the Way You Are is a good reminder, and important story, to remind us all that we ARE ENOUGH just as we are.

A Bear Adrift

41CFkTe7CPL.jpgSnugs the Snow Bear by Suzy Davies
Illustrated by Peter Hall
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

A sweet children’s book (for ages 4 and up), with a lot of animal characters, nice people, and of course the star of the show, Snugs, the snow bear. Snugs is not necessarily a polar bear, though he is off-white and lives in Greenland.

Snugs is set adrift when the ice he is on has melted, and goes towards Iceland. On the way he is discovered by a boat (ship Prince Eleanore) and the crew and passengers help him out. It is here that he meets Carla and James, and their grandmother (Mrs. Merryweather) who live in the Isle of Wight (England).

Snugs the Snow Bear combines some beautiful events (the Northern Lights, and visiting sites in Iceland) with the realities of global warming and its effect upon humans, animals, climate and the earth in general.

At first, I was taken slightly aback by the animals (some magical moose, etc.) and people (including Captain LightOwler and Rosanne) being able to talk to one another, and understand each other, but after awhile that concern faded into the background and fit with them all having to live on the same planet.

A Series of Events

51ABoAle4SLHope & Possibility Through Trauma by Don Shetterly. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

This is an insightful collection of essays, combined with a workbook and discussion guide, of how to live with hope and possibility after experiencing trauma. The trauma that Mr. Shetterly experienced was sexual, physical, and verbal abuse from his father and brother as a child. This trauma is spoken of briefly at the beginning of the book, but is not the focus of this work. It is primarily, and gratefully so, concerned with how we can heal, understand, and care for ourselves after having experienced such events.

“It is not a book with scientific facts and research,” states the author. “This book is about life and the struggles we face. It is also about the healing, hope, and possibilities that exist within us.” Some of the chapters included in this recipe for insight, and growth, are: “Self Acceptance”, “Rewiring the Brain”, “Personal Growth”, “Our body Connections”, “In the Moment’, and “Listening”. There are clear explanations of different issues that arise when we decide to stop running, or numbing, the pain of abuse, and a clear path on how to make it out of the valley of darkness and despair.

“Life is a series of events, choices, reactions, and growth. While one event can impact our future, it does not mean that it will control our future.” To take the step of acknowledging what has happened, can be terrifying, and the reality of not acknowledging what has happened, can fill one’s life with constant fear, anxiety, anger, and confusion. The author also speaks about healing the body, emotions and mind, by including body work, music, and affirmations. Some of the sections I found especially helpful were those that involved a guided relaxation exercise (body scan), how to calm one’s self, be mindful, and focus on the breath.

There is a lot of personal resonance with this book, and the author’s words. I have nine foster sisters that were all sexually abused in their biological families. Our adopted daughter experienced a variety of traumatic events with her birth family. I have written extensively about grief, loss, and trauma, and worked as a bereavement and trauma counselor with hospice, in hospitals, mental health facilities, prisons, and overseas with survivor’s of multiple traumas. Hope & Possibility Through Trauma, by Don Shetterly, is a welcome addition to the resources now available for those most in need of such sustenance, insight, and inspiration. Do not hesitate to get a copy for yourself or another.

Your Son Can’t Hear

61Q3NRycOJLA Mother’s Heart: Memoir of a Special Needs Parent by Eichin Chang-Lim. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

A clear-sighted, perfectly weighted memoir with balance of experience, insight, and observation. A Mother’s Heart doesn’t stray into un-associated material, and stays right on track, as Ms. Chang-Lim explores what it was like raising their son, Teddy, who is severely hearing-impaired. From his first days as a baby, up through the present (with Teddy now in his 20s), the author conveys the joys, frustrations, and what she has learned being the parent to her son, and her daughter (Victoria).

Upon hearing that her son couldn’t hear, the author writes, “Although the diagnoses was not a surprise, I was still sad and angry. I was angry that the whole universe did not show a shred of remorse for my son’s deafness. I was angry that my husband seemed so calm and in control. I was angry that I blamed myself for my son’s disability.” What she discovers is that her son’s hearing loss was a result of a disease called Waaredenberg Syndrome, though didn’t help much knowing when it came to his educational and social adjustments.

Most everything a parent of a hearing-impaired, or deaf, child needs to know, is either discussed, or mentioned in these pages. Chapter include headings such as, It’s Okay to Cry; A Support System Is Crucial; Early Intervention; Spouse Communication; Motherhood vs. Career; and Choosing the Right Special Education Placement. None of these issues are over-dramatized, or indulged in, nor are they skimmed or minimized. There is just the right amount of honesty, information, and personal frustration shared for readers to easily relate.

Each chapter begins with a perfect quote, such as E.M. Foster’s, “We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, to have the life that is waiting for us.” Ms. Chang-Lim didn’t plan on having to confront the realities of having a hearing-impaired child, but she has done so with grit and grace. An especially helpful portion is a segment her daughter writes about growing up with her brother Teddy, and how the attention he got effected her, and their relationship as siblings. Whether you have s child with special needs, or not, A Mother’s Heart speaks volumes for mothers and fathers everywhere.

It’s a Baby!

HavingMyBabyHaving My Baby Short stories by Imari Jade, Daphne Olivier, Tori L. Ridgewood, and Joanne Rawson.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Having My Baby is fun to read whether you want a baby, have had a baby, don’t like babies, know nothing about babies, or are just curious. The book consists of four fictional stories that look at pregnancy, childbirth and parenthood in the present, past and future, and which are uniquely told in first and third person.

The Family Plan, by Imari Jade, follows the heir to a well-know clothes designer, Emily, and her unplanned pregnancy with Bekim, a man she despises. Emily has never wanted a child, let alone marriage, and Bekim is not the settling down kind of a guy. Can either of them change? The odds are forever not in there favor.

In Daphne Olivier’s futuristic Rock-a-bye-Baby, Cela and Cane win the lottery to have a perfect, modified child of whichever gender they choose. When they must decide what level of intelligence, and physical features, there son, or daughter, will have, they question there life-long desire to conceive, as well as the idea of “perfection”.

Tabitha’s Solution, by Tori L. Ridgewood, finds Tabitha and Alex desperately trying to induce labor, in order to avoid the hospital and any medical interventions. Issues many parents discuss, and must decide, before, during pregnancy, and at the time of birth, take on a personal and intimate nature, as the couple struggle with their preconceptions, beliefs, and desires.

The final story in the collection, Learner Mum, by Joanne Rawson, takes a confirmed child and baby avoider, Polly Wilkins, to her sister Wendy’s home to take care of her nephew, Josh, for two days. Polly tries to get out of it, but ends up in the thick of panic, and being overwhelmed by a person one quarter her size. Will this experience confirm her worst fears about children, or force her to see another side?

If you haven’t thought about pregnancy, childbearing, or raising children before, read Having My Baby. Though fictional, these stories ring true, in most cases. If you have already had a child, or are in the throws of doing so, you will laugh and cry with these characters, because they will be all too familiar.

Lost Her Husband

BuddhasWifeExcerpt from the novel Buddha’s Wife. Yasodhara was Siddhartha’s wife before he became known as The Buddha. Pajapati was Siddhartha’s step-mother (Yasodhara’s mother-in-law) and the only mother Siddhartha ever knew. His birth mother died shortly after he was born (as did Yasodhara’s mother).

***

I dreamed of my visit to find Siddhartha in Uruvela after leaving Rajagaha and our meeting with Davidia.

Pajapati was reluctant to go out of our way, not because she didn’t wish to listen to Siddhartha’s teachings and learn more about the freedom he claimed to have discovered, but because of the pain and agony she knew it would cause me. But I insisted, and Pajapati had learned long ago that I am not easily swayed once I’ve made up my mind.

Though the Ordained Followers of the Teacher from Sakya, as they were called by villagers, already numbered in the thousands, it took some time to find them in the vihara (sanctuary) on the outskirts of Uruvela. The vihara had been donated by Siddhartha’s devotees Anathapindika and Jeta. The area was called Jetavana and the followers called themselves the Union of Bhikkhus. They were protected in Jetavana, yet seldom remained there long and often slept out in the open.

I was taken aback to see women at the camp, as I had always been under the impression that they were forbidden. Pajapati asked a woman carrying water to a group of men if she was with the Buddha.

“I am a lay disciple,” she replied. “We follow our husbands and sons who have been called to live a life of renunciation and seek liberation from desire and suffering.” She continued walking and we followed.

“But surely, they have not allowed you to take orders and don robes like the men?” I asked, running to keep up.

“Oh no,” she replied. “Being of service to the followers of Gotama is reward enough.”

We watched the woman pour her jug of water into the cups of the men with robes and shaved heads. There were not many women present, but one or two I recognized. I saw Yasa’s wife and mother, who had left the province, unexpectedly, six months earlier. Rumors that they had gone to follow the Tathagata circulated freely, but I didn’t realize they had not only sought the Buddha, but had literally joined their husband and son as lay disciples. The realization that, unlike most practices of the day, one did not have to leave their family to follow a religious life threw a cold bucket of pain in my face. I stood as frozen as snow on the peak of a Himalayan mountain in winter. Pajapati was hit with the same realization. She saw the shock on my face and realized what I was thinking.

“Yasodhara,” she said. “Let’s get out of here.”

I couldn’t move or reply.

“Come on.” Pajapati pulled at my sleeve. “Let’s go. The carriage is waiting.”

I remained immobile. My hands opened and closed stiffly. My fingers turned white and my face crimson red.

“That idiot!” I exclaimed, so loudly that Pajapati tried to hide inside her sari. “What a liar—a thoughtless, selfish liar!”

“Come on!” Pajapati pulled frantically at my sleeve. “Don’t make a scene.”

“How could he leave us?!” I said loudly, tears sliding down my cheeks. “He didn’t have to leave us!”

Pajapati wrapped her arm around me and lead me away as people watched and listened.

“He’s a demon!” I cried. “He’s destroyed every dream.”

“Come, come,” Pajapati soothed, her eyes wet with sympathy. “I understand.”

“Understand?” I stopped and stared. “How can you understand? He left me; he left Rahula. He discarded us like a sack of rocks. For what?” I motioned towards the followers. “Adoration for a coward—a man who talks about peace, but leaves his family in torment?”

“Stop it!” Pajapati shouted, dragging me into the waiting carriage. “That’s my step-son you’re talking about, and he’s the furthest thing from a demon I’ve ever known.”

Siddhartha had been informed later that day about a disturbance on the outskirts of the gathering. Something about a rich woman yelling obscenities and her mother escorting her out of the area. He wished them peace.

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