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the shadow of the life to come

Hazy Days

Archives for Kiera-Lee

Gymnastics– South Zone Champs

This past weekend was one busy one for the Hayes family – starting off with a 5:45am wake up call for me on Saturday morning.  Urgh!  All this in order to get 8 people to Mitchell’s Plein to the Swartklip Sports Centre for Kiera’s South Zone Champs competition.

We are new to the whole world of gymnastics competitions.  Slowly, but surely, we’ve been learning how it all works: the scoring systems, the technical points, the required scores in order to represent one’s province etc etc.  It’s been a fun, if not a little nerve-wracking, learning curve as we’ve watched our kids conquer their fears, get back up after falling down and achieve in areas they’d not expected to achieve.  It’s taught me a few things about myself and a few things about my kids. 

This competition marks the last of the competitions for Level 1 gymnasts in South Africa.  Across the country, kids first compete at club level in regional contests.  Then they move onto provincial trials (state trials) and finally they get to represent their province at “zonals”.  Simply, South Africa is divided into zones.  In the South Zone, the zones represented are Western Province, Eastern Province, Southern Province and Boland (WP, SP and Boland are all in the Western Cape).

We were a little concerned for Kiera this week – she’s had a strange virus that manifests itself in extreme fatigue, headaches (in her case, tummy aches) and quite a bit of emotional upheaval.  She’s been knocked sideways most of the week, skipping both gymnastics practises and waking up on Saturday morning not feeling 100% yet.  But, she was determined to try and so off she went.

And she did great!  It’s been fantastic watching her progress over the year as she’s grown in control and skill.  So this final contest was a rewarding experience for Kiera and the rest of the family too.

Beam: 8.85 (personal best at Oudtshoorn 9.05)

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Floor: 9.15 (personal best)

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Bar: 9.35 (personal best: Club Contest: 9.50)

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Siblings passed the time playing on the iPad and eating kitkat – which one do you think is the most obvious?

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Kiera did very well in total.  Even though her vault didn’t work out too well (8.6 on box vault, but personal best on skill vault with a 4.00 out of 5), she was 1st out of the U10 girls in her club, 3rd out of all the Western Province girls and 4th in the South Zone contest with a total score of 39.95 (she missed a platinum award by .05!)  Well done, Kiera!  Hard work paid off!

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Jam-packed June

This year is turning out to be the year of monthly summaries!  Thanks to my book, my computer hours have been less dedicated to blogging than in years past!  So, here’s some of the stuff that made June 2012 an extra-packed month….

Lapbooking our Alpaca experience:

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Then our first weekend in June we were hit with a frenzy of activity.  That Saturday began with Mamas and Munchkins at St James – a monthly meeting of moms (of all ages) and kiddies (of all ages).  The aim?  A place to meet younger and older moms for encouragement and friendship.  This time around the ladies organised Kath Megaw of the book Feeding Sense to talk the moms through feeding tips with kids.  I wish she was around when I was in the baby stages with my lot – what a wealth of information and wisdom she exudes!  0

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I had to duck out early from that talk to make it to Katie’s Children’s Church social – a lunch date of Art Jamming with the kids in Grade 2 and 3.  What fun!  They all got to colour/paint parts of a huge collage – parents and siblings too!

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Kiera and Craig hard at work!

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Hot dogs and biscuits for lunch – those go in your mouth, Katie Wates!

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Ta da!  Finished product! Smile  Love it.

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and on the wall…

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Then, home again, home again for Katie’s birthday party prep.  As if the day wasn’t jam-packed enough already, we had to add a visit to the emergency room for 1x husband who managed to slice his finger down to the tendon while I was in the shop buying last minute food for the party …

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All’s well that ends well, though – and with the enormous help of both sets of grandparents, the party managed to start on time and Katie had a blast.  Thankfully, Craig had finished the cake long before then, and was back from the ER by the time the candles were ready to be lit:

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ah!

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With all the drama of the previous night, you’d think that certain young kids would sleep late the next morning?  No sirree.  Not this lot.  Early to rise, and just as well, since we did have to fit in all the usual birthday morning traditions before church.

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And Katie had a wonderful day celebrating with family for tea and her specially chosen dinner meal that night: sushi and pizza! 

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Micah experienced a strange, inexplicable pain in his leg for about a week.  The poor boy could not walk on it at all by Monday, after Katie’s birthday.  Eventually, by Tuesday, we went to the doctor.  He couldn’t find anything and thought maybe it was systemic.  So the poor kid had to have bloods taken.  Kiera and I tried to distract him, but the repeated jabbing to get the blood to flow had the poor guy in tears…

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I wanted to cry too!  Poor kid.  Turns out that there was no indication of systemic anything.  His leg gradually got better on its own and to this day we have no idea what it was! 

Thankfully all was better by Father’s Day, so we all got to relax and enjoy the day – starting with presenting Dad with his Daddy Day book along with the kids 2012 messages:

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Other moments in June included playdates…

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Buying our first ever HUGE tub of honey – 14 350ml jars of honey’s worth in that tub – it’s only the beginning of August and we’ve already used 2/3rds of it!

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Time with Granny and Gaa – nothing like listening to grandparents read and tell stories is there?

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Hot chocolate on wintery days with friends …

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We left Cape Town behind towards the end of June to head off to Oudtshoorn for Kiera’s gymnastic’s contest.  We stayed at Amaranth and had the most amazing time.  Our accommodation and surrounds were breathtaking …

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We could’ve stayed a whole lot longer!

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But we enjoyed the time on the farm – the long walks, the fireplace, the stunning facilities…

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And we enjoyed all the touristy things too – like the Cango Ostrich Farm and the Cango Caves

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And we even managed a trip to the Cango Wildlife Ranch

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And, of course, the contest itself, where Kiera placed 2nd on beam.

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By the end of June, I was ready for a holiday, which is why this picture below is so very poignant….  I got to have a mini holiday on the last Friday and Saturday of June.  My dear friend Sue organised an overnight getaway for the Lunch Bunch moms at her home in Greyton.  Ahhhhh – bliss.  IMG_6442

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That’s it for Jam-Packed June!  Stay posted for July’s Joys! Smile

All Hope is Never Lost


chaelicampaignEarlier this year, Kiera was keen to take part in a writing contest for the Chaeli Campaign.  Problem was that it was open to high school students and adults.  But, her enthusiasm was second to none – most likely motivated by the R1000 first prize!  So, I figured, motivation is half the "battle" in creating a great story, why not ask the organisers if she can take part anyway?  Well, the Chaeli Campaign people are all about inclusivity and Kiera was given the go-ahead. 

Talk about enthusiasm bubbling over!  Despite mom’s heavy doses of reality checks (remember that you’re competing against adults; remember that this is the first complete first story you’ve written; don’t get your hopes up …) Kiera’s enthusiasm did not waver one bit.  She was determined to write a story worthy of entry.

And she did.

I was blown away at her skill.  Writing a short story with a specific word limitation is not easy for even an adult.  Introducing characters, creating a significant plot and wrapping up the story from beginning to end so that the package is presented whole and well requires skill – and to some measure, talent.

She bounced some ideas off me.  The topic was Hope and the "ability" in "disability" – roughly 1200 words that focus on the triumphs of those who live with disabilities.  Kiera’s ideas revolved around her most favourite subject – horses. 

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She had some great ideas and we had fun chatting through some potential plot lines one evening.  But soon it was bedtime and I figured we’d have another session of ideas before she went ahead.

Instead, the next thing I knew she had written up the entire story.  Reading her story that first day brought tears to my eyes.  This was a great story.  Oh, it was obvious that some of her favourite "fluff" novels influenced her style.  It wasn’t going to win prizes for depth and pathos – after all, she is just 9 with a typical 9-year old’s lack of harrowing life experience. But, with some fine-tuning of her grammar and punctuation, she could enter her story with no reserve.

And so began the editing process.  Again, Kiera blew me away.  She took the process so seriously, happily answering my editorial questions (Can you spot where you may need a comma here?   How could you say this sentence in such a way that it better explains how your main character is feeling?  Does it make sense to move from this sentence to the next one?  What could you say to make the transition more fluid?) and diligently going through the 5 or so critiques without complaining.  We kept copies of each critique and re-edit – it’s a great picture of how a beautiful raw product can be slightly and gradually polished to reveal a final product that glows. 

Finally, the day came to submit her entry.  And then the long wait.  By this stage she was pretty sure that she wouldn’t win anything, knowing that she was competing against much older children and adults, but there was still that "what if" that kept her hopeful and eager to hear the results. 

Eventually, two months later the winners were announced.  Kiera was not one of them.  But, despite what must have been at least a smidgen of disappointment, Kiera was not downhearted.  She’s been talking about writing more short stories for a collection she hopes to publish one day.  She plans to write an adventure story about survivors next. 

Whether she does or not, I can’t predict.  But I can say that her first foray into the writing world has revealed that this 9-year old has a gift that is worth nurturing. 

All Hope is Never Lost

By Kiera-Lee Hayes, 9 years old

Nikita stared tearfully out of the big square window in her small room. “Everything is so unfair!” she exclaimed, tears beginning to stream down her cheeks. “I can’t ride horses or play like a normal kid. I can’t even stand, because I’m paralysed!’’

Her sobs became louder and louder, until a small voice said, “Nikita, supper is ready….” Her younger brother stopped when he saw her face. “Nikita, w-why are you crying?” asked Dylan, his green eyes wide and questioning.

Nikita answered, “Dylan, do you understand that I used to have riding lessons at Shady Grounds Stables?”

“Yes,” her brother answered. “And you loved doing it,” he added thoughtfully.

“Well,” Nikita said, tears filling her eyes, “I-I c-can’t r-r-ride any m-more!” She burst into more floods of tears.

Dylan asked, “Why not Nikita? Why can’t you ride?” Then it struck him: she can’t ride because she’s paralysed! Silently, he tiptoed out of the room. Nikita didn’t notice: she just cried and cried.

At supper that evening, Mrs Granger said, “Nikita, I have good news for you.”

Nikita stopped playing with her food. “What good news?” she asked curiously.

“I have found a riding school for the disabled,” her mother replied triumphantly.

“WHAT?!” Nikita looked at her mother and in disbelief asked, “Really?”

Her mother smiled. "Yes, it’s called Garder Riding School for the Disabled.”

Nikita couldn’t believe her ears. “Can I go?” she asked with a catch in her breath.

Her mother smiled again, “I spoke to the owner. You may go tomorrow!”

The next morning, Nikita’s mother helped her get dressed into the old jodhs she had worn before her car accident six months ago.

“Mom, how will I get on the horse and ride?” she asked.

“Don’t worry. Clare will teach you everything.” answered her mother. Nikita suddenly felt nervous. What if she could not ride? Then she would have no hope left about being able to ride again. “Mom, I d-don’t want to go,” she said shakily.

Her mother looked at her, surprised, “What do you mean? Of course you do. You’ve been sitting in your room all day moping because you can’t ride. Now come put your shirt on.” Nikita didn’t argue. In her head she worried, but in her heart she had a desperate surge to ride. She wheeled herself to the car, grimacing as her mother helped her in. With a bounce like Bungee his pet rabbit, Dylan hopped in the seat next to her.

“Are you ready?” asked their mother.

“Yes!” said Dylan.

Nikita said nothing.

After dropping Dylan off at his friend’s house, they headed towards the Main Road, turned into Garder Road and then they were there. Anxiety filled her as they drove through the gates. And all the way to the stables, Nikita became more and more nervous and more and more sure that she could not ride.

“Mom…” Nikita broke the uncomfortable silence.

“Yes?” her mother answered.

“I-I don’t want to ride.”

Her mother looked at her with concern . “Oh, Nikeets!” she sighed. “You were so excited at supper last night and everything has been organised. How about you give it a try?”

Nikita was not excited – now. “I don’t want to! I’m paralysed remember? I can’t ride!”

At this point a woman walked up to them. “Hello, you must be Mrs. Granger!” she said.

Nikita’s mother smiled. “Yes, I’m Sarah Granger. And this is Nikita. You must be Clare.”

“Yes,” replied the woman gently. “It’s lovely to meet you, Nikita. We hope you feel welcome here at Garder Riding School. Come and see the pony you’re going to learn on.”

Nikita glanced at her mom. Mrs Granger had a look on her face that said “be polite”. Tears stung the back of her throat. “I can’t ride!” she said and burst into tears.

Clare smiled sympathetically. “Don’t worry, Nikita, you’ll learn how and you don’t have to ride right away.” She wheeled Nikita to the stables, chatting in a friendly manner all the way while showing her the horses. The sweet musty stable smell made Nikita miss riding so much.

“And this is Mischief,” said Clare, coming to the last pony, a beautiful dun with a glossy black mane. “He’ll be the one you will ride.”

Nikita looked indignantly up at Clare and said, “I told you I can’t ride.”

Clare corrected herself, “Oh, I mean he’s the one you can learn on if you change your mind. Let’s go outside and I’ll introduce you to Melissa Kaspean. She’s one of our instructors.”

They went to an arena where a woman was jumping on a chestnut horse, and as Clare called her up, Nikita realized that she only had one leg! “Melissa!” said Clare. “This is Nikita. She is paralysed and she’s a bit nervous about riding.”

“I can understand that. I think I can help, if you’d like, Nikita?” Melissa said. As she spoke, she swung herself out of the saddle and leaned on her horse. Clare passed her a crutch and she took it gratefully. “Thanks, Clare!” She began to lead her horse to the stable.

“Oh! I’ll take Ruby,” said Clare. “ You go with Nikita.”

Melissa handed the reins over to Clare and effortlessly walked with her crutch and one leg to Nikita’s chair. “Let’s go to the stable to talk,” she suggested. Nikita wheeled her wheelchair into the stable and Melissa seated herself on a bale of hay. “Nikita, why don’t you want to ride?”

Nikita answered, “ I can’t! And if I try I’ll fail! Then I-I’ll never be able to ride again. Besides I’m paralysed, so I can’t.”

Melissa looked her in the eye and asked, “Did you see me jumping in the arena?”

Nikita stared at her, wondering why she had asked. “Yes,” she answered.

“And you understand I only have one leg?”

Again Nikita answered yes.

“Well, if I can ride disabled, then you can too.”

This was too much for Nikita. She yelled, “You might have one leg, but I have none, so I can’t ride!” Tears streamed down her cheeks.

Melissa grasped Nikita’s hands, “Nikita, no one can paralyse your heart! No one can take it away! Learning to ride with paralysed legs is the easy part, but pushing on and believing and keeping your courage in front of you is the hard part. And hardest of all is that first move – getting on the horse. If you can do that, your courage can follow. Then you just need to keep your courage in front of you and push on forward.”

Just then Melissa’s cell phone rang and she quickly left the stables.

“I just need to sit on the horse,” Nikita thought, realising that all hope was not lost. She pushed away her worries and decided then and there to believe that she could do it.

“I can do it,” she said, “I can! I can! I can!” Suddenly, a new feeling rushed into her: a feeling that was urging her on, that was pushing her forward. She wheeled herself out of the stable and said to her mother, “Mum, can I do it now?”

Her mother looked at her and smiled. “Of course!” she said.

Nikita said to Clare, “I would like to try now.”

Clare beamed, “I think Mischief is waiting for you!”

Melissa grinned too, “Go girl!”

~~~

Epilogue: 2 years later

“Nikita Granger on Mischief!” boomed the loud speaker and the crowd cheered. Nikita rode over to the podium to fetch her rosette. She had come first! And the next day in the paper, the headlines screamed – PARALYSED GIRL SNATCHES FIRST PLACE!

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Kiera’s Gymnastics

In 2010, Kiera and Katie joined the Brawn’s Gymnastics Club in Bergvliet.  I’d heard wonderful things about the club and with the girls begging me to let them do gymnastics, I was thrilled to find something close to home.  I figured they’d have fun.  Plus it’s great exercise and promotes strength building. 

Fast forward three years, and the girls are still loving gymnastics.  Considering how Katie is easily bored by repetitive tasks, it’s a wonder she still loves it!  But, the exercise, the friends, the fun and the tasks have kept her attention and her love.  Kiera, however, was a different kettle of fish.  Early 2011 she decided she was done with gymnastics.  Desperate to be able to ride horses all day long, she hoped somehow to swap sports.  But, we were not allowing chopping and changing (ballet lasted all of one year after two years of begging to do it!) and, besides, horse riding was just wa-ay too cost prohibitive.

Within another month, Kiera’s love for gymnastics returned.  And then something happened.  She started getting better and better.  Eventually she was invited to the Level 1 competition training group.  And after a few months’ training made it to her first contest – a fun preparation contest between Brawns and Giants. 

She did just great.  A few wobbles here, a toe needing pointing there, a leg not quite straight enough and a routine or two that was a little too rushed – but for the most part, she did superbly. 

Ashley, her coach, readying Kiera for the vaultKiera's strongest apparatus: bar.  She scored 9.5 on this one

The best part? Her attitude. In the past, she has struggled with her fiercely competitive nature and the disappointment of losing has been overwhelming. We’ve talked it through so many times, and soon Kiera began taking on board all we had talked about. What a transformation – how wonderful to see a little girl cheer her teammates, be happy for the winners, and enjoy the competitions despite not winning a much coveted medal or spot on the podium.

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But, she did win a place in the next competition amongst all the clubs in Cape Town.  And that was exciting enough!

Then the poor girl got Severs Disease in her left ankle.  Yes, I also took a double at that term.  Turns out that it’s not a disease so much as a syndrome that effects kids of her age due to their growth plates closing up in the heel, faster than their calf muscle is growing.  This places strain on the Achilles tendon and can cause a lot of pain.  By Thursday she was limping around and in great pain.  Thankfully, our trusty neighbour and relative, Kathy, is a physio and she diagnosed Kiera’s problem between mouthfuls of french toast for her two year old.  Heat, massage, stretching and rest required.  Thankfully, by Saturday morning her ankle was much better and we were A for Away.

I never imagined that I’d be the sporting mom – you know, getting up with the birds, packing cooler bags of goodies, and spending hours on the sidelines cheering for my child.  Actually, I don’t know what I did imagine, but here we are.  And here I was this morning.  Waking up my kids, bundling them into the car after breakfast, heading off before the sun showed its face for a morning of listening to the same floor routine tune over and over for 6 hours solid!

We arrived at the venue by 7:45am – just after 8 we found out that Kiera’s age group was only starting at 10am.  Well, by 11am her group started.  Between a running supply of snacks from the cooler, some library books, puzzles and plenty of iPad action, the three other kids were kept entertained and happy.  But by the time it was Kiera’s turn, the novelty was wearing thin.  But they managed to keep going, despite boredom and the wriggles kicking in.  Thanks to a generous supply of jelly babies from Granny Bev, the kids weren’t too antsy.

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Kiera started off on beam – a beautiful performance with an 8.5

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Then it was floor – ouch!  She started off with an impressive high bunny jump/kick – and promptly wobbled and fell, taking a bunch of points off her score!  The rest of her routine was near perfect, so she scored a 8.2 in the end. 

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Vault next – with an 8.65 and a 3.3 (out of 5).

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And finally her strongest – bar.  Not quite as good as last time, but still a decent score of 8.95.

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Finally, with 3 very antsy younger siblings with us on the balcony, we waited for the results.  Kiera was hoping against hope that she would make the top 15 in her age group.  It means that she can go on to the regional competition in Oudtshoorn.  The top kids in that contest get to represent Western Province at Nationals.  It’s her dream to wear a WP leotard. 

But, while her heart’s desire is to stand on stage and eventually make it to Nationals, her mouth was encouraging her teammates.  She told them that they should all not expect to be a part of the top 15 – then, if they’re not, they won’t be too disappointed, but if they are, then it’ll be extra special.

Well, she made it!  #13 – but in the team! 

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One ecstatically happy young girl jumped into her daddy’s arms, clutching the "golden ticket" to her first regional contest ever.  Such joy!

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Now we have to figure out how to get us to Oudtshoorn!  And, in the meantime, we’ve got to keep that calf muscle well stretched, while Kiera puts in some diligent training so that she can work on beating her own scores recorded above.   

Well done, Kiera!

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