12.27.2006

Christmas is over. I always feel a bit sad once the holiday is complete...no more running around like a chicken with my head chopped off trying to get everything done, just messes to clean up from all the goodness the holiday has left behind. And then, there is New Years to look forward to, which has become another quite exciting holiday since moving to Holland where the fireworks light up the night sky. But once New Years eve has passed and 2007 is upon us, there is the humdrum of winter days with nothing to look forward to, except spring which seems so far away. Still, it was another very ncie Christmas, with lots of little things that made it so. I love sharing the excitement of the season with my boys. And this year there were the concerts with the choir in which I was able to take part, as well as a delicious 5 course meal prepared by oma. There was the little Christmas party we hosted to share the day with friends, and planning to visit Santa Claus at the garden center where they produced snow to create that winter wonderland feeling. And of course, the boys got to choose their yearly ornament which always gives my heart a pitter-patter as I watch which they choose toa dorn our already overflowing tree. All the cards we receive which I can't wait to open and read the Christmas letters to see what has been happening with all my family and friends, and packages that arrive in the mail from family too far away. There are the phone calls between countries, discussing what we all want for Christmas as well as sharing all our holiday wishes. There is Christmas music playing on the stereo and Christmas movies watched on TV, family nights sitting around drinking hot cocoa, and eating decorated Christmas cookies which leave behind trails of dusty flour. There is the ever daily task of cleaning up pine needles that litter the floor and ending the night by turning off the glowing lights the decorate our home, knowing I'll be turning them on for the same effect the following morning. And then there is vacation from school...days I long to have fun with my boys as we have no schedules to meet, no mornign rush and no worries. Today, we have done nothing...we've played a few games, eaten a few meals, but linger yet in our pyjamas, teeth not brushed, faces not washed, as the dark night sky already descends upon us...I suppose I will put the kiddos to bed in teh same clothing they wore all day. I wanted to go out and have fun today, but with our colds and the boys completely happy staying in the comfy warm house, I decided we'd save adventures for another day...they have wanted to do nothing more than watch cartoons and eat popcorn...and so, that's what we've done...it's vacation after all...and so far, there have been only two minor arguments, which has made it a peaceful day to boot. Hopefully, that trend will continue throughout our vacation from school.

Anyway, it was a wonderful end to 2006...and now, onto the next phase of life, a new year and more experiences in which to partake.

12.23.2006

Progression to Christmas

Our Countdown To Christmas! Just 2 days to go....Yippee!!!




















































12.22.2006

A Sad Boy

I heard crying coming from his room. It was most unexpected, as he'd been dancing and singing all evening to songs on his CD player. I had just tucked him in, we'd laughed at a story, I sang a song and then he decided he wanted to listen to more music. When I gave him a kiss and told him to have sweet dreams, I had no idea of the sadness that was trapped inside his soul...and I didn't know it until I heard the sobbing coming from behind his closed door as I put away the laundry.

I quietly walked to his door and listened. I heard him talking to himself, crying about all the friends he was going to miss, about how nobody cares what he thinks. It broke my heart, that he couldn't talk to me sooner, that he thought that I didn't care...I do care, with every breath of my being, I care. So I entered his room and asked him why he was so sad.

Well, he has to move into a new classroom with the return to school after Christmas break. Every time we have discussed this, he's sounded excited about it and totally okay with the changes...changes for him are difficult, but he was taking it all in stride and seemed even gung ho about having a class with just three children. But not tonight. Tonight, my son, my Kaeden, hit a low, and could think of nothing but the friends he'd leave behind, the teacher that would no longer be his, the new situation a bit too demanding for a child of 11 with autism. He's been in the same calssroom with the same teacher for three years now, and it is a major deal. The class he is in is too trying for his teacher and they decided to split the kids up and make a few changes. Little did they know what pain would come to my lil guy's life. His sobbing just kept increasing as I talked to him about all the advantages to moving into the new class....but nothing mattered other than the fact that he would not see his friends or his teacher on the regular basis that he is so secure with now. Nothing could bring him to freedom, not even mama's kisses, mama's hair rubs, mama's words of wisdom.

As Kaeden asked me to leave him be alone, my own eyes filled with tears. For the first time in his life, he wanted me to leave him to his misery. "I just need to be by myself right now," are the exact words he used. And as I realized that there was no more I could do other than let him work through this pain alone, I kissed him goodnight and assured him I would be there if he needed me, all he needed to do was call. As I closed his door, he asked me to come back in a little while and check on him...my one consolation that he still needs me to help him heal this wound.

My son, I wish you peace in your new adventure. I promise you that everything will be okay...you have conquered so much already, you can conquer this too. Be strong, my boy...and I am here for you, whenever you decide you need me. And Kaeden, I love you more than all the stars in the sky...

Losing My Cool

Today started out in a bit of a fashion...a fashion that's gone out of style and I'm not really happy to be wearing. Kaeden was being his normal morning self (not exactly easy, happy, or cooperative), and Erwin got mad...and when I defended Kaeden (it really wasn't his fault, but mine) Erwin accused me of taking the blame for something he did again. Well, maybe I do that at times, but in this case, it was relevant. In any case, as I finished packing Erwin's lunch, I suddenly got the urge to put on those out of style jeans and smashed his sandwiches as I threw them against the wall. It had nothing to do with him, nothing to do with Kaed, but all to do with me and my lack of control. I get that way at times...and after looking back I understand the cause of my tantrum. I was stressed out! I was trying to get all the little gift bags packaged into Merry Christmas form before the bus came honking and Erwin took off for work, and this simple addition to the normal morning stress was too much to handle...I lost it, once again throwing my fury towards my husband...the one person I know can handle my irrational outbursts...he continues to stand by my side and give me his love and support, whatever I may throw his way...even if it is smashed sandwiches for the day.

Anyway, these little outbursts I have are enough to throw my entire day off balance, put me in a sullen mood, and cause me to have minor crying fits throughout the entire day, wondering why, when I have so much to be greatful for, one little something can throw me totally over the edge. I never feel good about that person I become, and guilt wreaks havok on my body and spirit. And I wonder if I am deserving of all the goodness that I have been blessed with in my life.

So, to try to create some order to my soul, I decided to take a minute to remember all that I am thankful for...here's just a sampling of a few of those "little things":

I am able to be a stay at home mom, nourishing my children with the security of having a parent always at their beckoning call. As much as I'd like to work parttime, I know that for my children, being home and taking care of them is the most important job I could be doing. They never have to worry about where they are supposed to be or who will be caring for them, because mama is always there to kiss a bruised knee, listen to a story, turn on a movie, prepare a meal, find a clean pair of undies, and just be present...and I am fulfilled by being a mom home with her children.

I have a husband that is not demanding of me. If things in the house are not done, if clothes are not ironed or dishes not washed, I don't have to worry about hearing him nag me. He accepts me for who I am, is always available to listen to my stories, helps me get the kids to bed at night, and does anything I ask of him within reason. He is a wonderful husband, a loving dad, and a partner in life I wouldn't want to be without. He also allows me to have time alone and is always aware of my activities and never gives me reason I can't do the things I want and enjoy. He is supportive of me.

I have a home which provides me with warm shelter, food is always abundant on the table, clothing which fits for all occasions...all those simple needs that one has in life. We live a comfortable life and afford many luxuries that offer us a well-balanced lifestyle. We don't want for much, our bills are always paid, and we don't have the nagging financial worries always hanging over our heads. That's not to say we are rich by any means, we live check to check like the majority of people, but we do so in a manner that fulfills us and provides plenty of little extras to give us a complete, well-rounded life.

The phone and internet keeps me in touch with family and friends. Without the luxury of good calling ratesI'd be so lost in life. I have a definite desire to speak to my mom and can afford to do so at least a couple times each week. I don't have to worry that we'll go broke if we want to share time laughing. And the internet allows me that same luxury with other family members, some of whom I am just learning to know again. It's wonderful knowing there are so many people out there that care, that wonder how I am, and keep in touch.

Friendship. I have friends, old and new. I have always been a bit hard to get to know as I shy away from getting too close to people, but I have made some very good friends in my life that provide me with everything I need. I hope that I do the same for them. Friends really add a lot to life, giving you support and love and the gift of understanding. They are fun to laugh with and carry on with, knowing they'll be there for you no matter what.

For the gift of my voice. I never knew that singing would bring me such a sense of release, but it does. When I sing I can throw out all the frustrations of life through song, give my lungs a good workout, and do it in the form of something beautiful. I am grateful that I have the choir to give me something of my own in which I can be among people all sharing a common interest.

My boys. They give me just about everything one can imagine. It's not all good, but it does show that I have a wonderful range of emotion!!! Mostly though, when i look at my kids, I have a feeling of awe. I just can't believe that I helped in the creation of something so beautiful, that I was given such a gift to protect and guide, that I was entrusted to care for them and give them my love. They are such amazing little people with such differing personalities. They bring me that star at the end of the day and that sunshine every morning. They are my life and I never would ahve guessed what a great sense of accomplishment these little people create within me. My little bug and my Riley boy, they bring me hope, happiness, and love.

My fishies. It may sound crazy, but I love to watch them swim, feed them, clean their tank, to talk to them and watch as they come to the top knowing I am going to provide for them. I could watch them for hours, just wondering about their lives. I really get fulfillment from my fish, and though I'd like another pet, they do give me satisfaction.

There is so much more, but I am already feeling more free...and on top of that, my littlest love just came in from outside and asked that I play memory with him. And I want to go play, give him my complete attention, let him know he is worthy of my time. So, for now, I will go change out of those outdated pants and step into something more comfortable, something a bit more stylish, and feel good about me and my life.

12.18.2006

Christmas Thoughts

Christmas...a time when magic fills the air, the twinkling lights and glow of the Christmas tree fills your heart with peace, Christmas songs lift your spirit, you feel alive!!! And why shouldn't we as we celebrate the birth of Christ? What He gave for us to be able to enjoy this holiday, this festival, to have this peace fill us? And with Christmas, comes the added bonus of Santa and his reindeer and sleigh filled with toys for good girls and boys. Commercial? Maybe, but it has it's own sense of magic, and with kids in the house, you can't help but get caught up in the adventure of Santa and all that he means.

I purchased The Polar Express as it's my favorite Christmas story, and the boys have enjoyed watching it with me numerous times since I pulled it fresh from the package last week. They don't quite get the message, but my heart burns and my eyes fill with tears each time I watch the movie, feeling the magic and hearing the jingle of the bell, the sign that I am a believer...and believer I am. I remember when I first started to question Santa Claus and whether he was real, my mom gave me some very steadfast words of wisdom: The magic of Santa will never leave you as long as you believe. And each year as I wrap packages and see the twinkle in my children's eyes as they await Santa's visit, I know that her words ring true; for me, Santa is magical!

But, there is another side to this story, one that fills me with a bit of sadness, a sense of loss, a wish for a bit more magic. Erwin did not grow up knowing Santa. He did not celebrate Christmas in the manner that I know Christmas...nor did my in-laws and many other people from this part of the world. In school, Christmas is only discussed as the birth of baby Jesus...there are no stories of Santa and what he will bring, no sitting on Santa's knee and telling him your dreams for the year. And because Erwin has never known the magic of Santa, he cannot share the excitement of the Christmas season with me. He sees only Sinterklaas as the magical holiday figure and makes jokes about Santa, the fat, drunk man trying to look like Sinterklaas. He doesn't feel the magic of this cheery fellow with a nose like a cherry that laughs like a bowl full of jelly. He doesn't grasp the feeling of nostalgia I have when trying to bring this magic alive for my children in a culture where he does not reign king. He can't understand the deep love of the Christmas holiday that I have, the magic that fills my soul, the spirit that comes in the form of Santa.

That's why, as I watch The Polar Express, I cry. I ache for my husband to feel the same magic that I do. To have just a glimmer of the passion that comes with my favorite holiday of the year. And he can't, becasue he has no history. My in-laws came and the boys tlaked them into watching The Polar Express. As I sat at the ending with tears streaming down my cheeks, they couldn't possibly understand what it meant to me. They haven't got that magic in their hearts...the magic that comes from childhood and brings you to this moment in your life. They have that magic only when Sinterklaas arrives, but with Santa, it's me alone that has to pass on this tradition, the magic, the spirit of this jolly fellow and hope that my children grow up believing as I do...believing in the magic of this red-suited man with a twinkle in his eye. Because if you believe, the magic of Santa will live on forever...wise words passed down through the generations!

I will leave you with a hearty HO HO HO!!!! MERRRRRYYYY CHRISTMAS! And wishes for the magic of this blessed season to fill your heart...

12.14.2006

Mayonnaise

I took the huge bottle of mayonnaise out of the fridge today. Jari wanted hot dogs for lunch and as I put his suace on the plate, I realized how much mayonnaise we actually go through. My son will not eat without his precious mayonnaise in which to dip every item of food. The only time I don't bring out the mayo with a meal is when it's cereal for breakfast. It just hit me funny today, putting his glob of mayo on the plate and I laughed out loud. When I brought jari his cut up hotdog, before he even looked at the plate, he said "And the sauce (mayo) too?" When I handed him his plate with a huge laugh pointing to the mayo, his baby blues lit up and he was completely content.

So, I decided to look up the origin of mayonnaise, and what it is that makes my son so satisfied at mealtime. Have a peek here ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mayonnaise) to see what makes my son tick (and grow too!).

Happy eating...mayonnaise, no less.

12.12.2006

Autism Counselor

Our autism counselor just left. She came today to discuss how Kaeden is doing...well, he's been okay, but things have been better. All the hoopla of the holiday season is difficult for him. He enjoys it so very much, while at the same time the stress is overwhelming for him. Think about how much the holidays throw you in a loop and multiply that by 100 times and you have an idea how it affects him. Every one of his senses works overtime every day of his life. Every sound, sight, smell, taste, and feeling is multiplied, and they all work simultaneously. He doesn't have the option of turning off his senses. For many people, walking in a kitchen with dinner cooking smells delicious. For Kaeden, all at once, he smells the dinner cooking, sees the mess on the countertop, his tastebuds work to bring the smell to fruition, he hears the sissing of the boiling water, he feels the heat in the air...and while we notice all of that, it comes in parts...for him it's like a sensory overload.

Our counselor reminded me that while "fun" activities such as amusement parks and carnivals and zoos are wonderful for the average person, autistic individuals go into sensory overload and it overtakes their entire system. She asked me not to forget a walk in the woods or a bike ride along quiet streets to help Kaeden relax during this busy period, to bring him peace and contentment in this world full of so many sights, sounds, and smells.

We discussed Jari, and how he will soon be bypassing Kaeden in many different ways as he grows and finds his way in this world. Kaeden will probably react to this negatively as he sees his brother succeed, while he realizes that Jari is more normal than he is. However, she also told me that in 99% of cases with an older autistic sibling, the younger child is more compassionate for his sibling, learns to help him through life, is there for him. The younger child cares about his sibling more than anyone, as he has always had this autistic child in his life. He hasn't known life any differently and needs the fulfillment of the autistic person in his life. Often, siblings of autistic children grow up to work in a profession working with people, because they ahve been trained from birth to recognize differences and emotions, to accept people for who they are. I know Jari is learning patience and acceptance even as he learns how easy it is for him to bring Kaeden to tears. I hope that in time he uses this ability for the good.

I was told that recent studies have proved that the father passes on the autistic gene to his child. In the case of an autistic father, their child will have autism with 54% if he is a boy and 34% if she is a girl. Our counselor told me that because of the high outcome of a child being born with autism, Kaeden should realistically not have children. It is passed on through the father. 90% of children that have autism have it from a gene passed from the father, 10% from some form of brain damage.

As for Kaeden's problem with cussing? We need to tell him what words he can use in place of the cuss words. He doesn't have the tools to figure out what he can say in place of the bad word, so he simply says the bad word. In the case when he is angry, he doesn't even recognize what he is saying or doing until after the fact. In these moments it in impossible to reach him. Even after, when he knows what he's done is wrong, he can't put two and two together to stop it the following time. With tools that we offer him to help, he may eventually be able to turn the behavior around, but it needs to be with assistance, as it is not something he can do on his own.

I don't know why I wanted to write about this today. I know only that it is always a relief to have the counselor come and talk with me about my son. She is someone who tells me each time Is ee her what a good job we are doing with our son. She says that Kaeden knows he is loved and feels secure enough with us to let his emotions and pain and fear show at home, even as he hides it when others are around. He needs to be accepted for who he is, and the older he gets, the more noticeable his handicap becomes, to us, to him, and to society. We need to be his lighthouse for this ship out at sea. We need to guide him, reach him, and give him strength and security. We need to love him.

Each time our counselor comes, I get teary-eyed as we discuss my child. I get teary-eyed as she tells me that the life I am leading is difficult, that having a child in a wheelchair with mental retardation is easier than dealing with the day in day out crisis of a child with autism. Because a child with autism is inconsistent, tiring, and stressful, and life never has teh easy feel of peace. As I tell her thank you as she walks out my door, I truly mean it. Thank you for helping me to understand, for coming to terms with this disability, for making me smile as I hear success stories and for making me cry as I share my pain and feeling of being an inadequate mother. Thank you for letting me be me, the mother of an autistic child.

12.08.2006

Happy?!

Wow! I live in the happiest part of Europe! Makes me wonder why with all the rain we've been having pouring down and no sun whatsoever to be seen...Jari even asked me yesterday at lunch time if it was already bedtime since it was so dark outside. Anyway, I have a Dutch family and live in Belgium so I should be just about at the top in happiness factor...maybe I need a bit more practice!?! I truly wonder what creates happiness? The only thing I do know is that it has to come from within...or then again, maybe you've just got to be nuts! :-) Here's the article from Expatica news...

Belgians amongst 'happiest' Europeans
6 December 2006
BRUSSELS - The Dutch are the happiest Europeans followed by the Irish and the Belgians, reveals a new survey.
Belgians also rank amongst the biggest consumers of psychological self-help books, but scientists haven't researched into whether there is a link between this and the findings of the 'happiness' survey.
This survey initiated by the European Commission showed that the Dutch are the Happiest Europeans surveyed with as many as 83 percent of Dutch respondents answering positively.
The Irish join the ranks of happiest European with 82 percent giving positive answers, followed by the Belgians with 80 percent.Lithuania, Bulgaria and, surprisingly, Italy, are amongst the countries with the most unhappy residents. Only 42 percent of the participants questioned in these countries said they were happy.

But the results of this survey are not all positive for Belgians.
Relatively, Belgium hospitalises more people for mental health reasons then any other European country. Per capita, there are five times as many patients hospitalised for psychological illness in Belgium than the European average.
In short, Belgians may be crazy but they're happy.
[Copyright Expatica news 2006]

12.07.2006

Cheater

Jari stayed home with mama today. He's been getting to bed really late and when he was still sleeping this morning, I left him to doze under his covers. He woke about 9:30 in a pretty happy mood. I was glad I let him sleep. So, it was a big playdate today. One of those days I can say that I accomplished a whole bunch...entertaining my child and enjoying his company. We played Kid Monoploy time and time again...but...

During one game Jari really wanted to land on the free money space. Each time he missed the space he'd get frustrated and count the dice with how many throws he'd need to reach it again. I knew he was on a mission. And with good reason, there was about $11...quite a lot in Kid Monoploy! Anyway, I went to make a cup of coffee...it was his turn to go. He threw the dice and I saw it land on the table...a number 3...I continued making my coffee. Suddenly I hear him scream out "Mama, I got a SIX! Now I get ALL the money!" And I see his little hand reach over and grasp the dollars, his eyes twinkling with satisfaction.

So, knowing that he cheated, I asked "Jari, are you SURE you got a six? Cuz, I won't play a game with someone that cheats." He pipes up with "I didn't cheat!" But I saw the twinkle in his eyes dim as he stared back at me with his big blue eyes. So, we sat across from each other staring. I told him to go ahead and take the money if he didn't cheat. As his hand closed over the dollars, he reluctantly left them on the board. Then he looked and me and just shook his head yes. "You did cheat?" I asked him. When he turned his eyes away from mine, I knew he realized he had been caught. I told him it isn't fun to play if people cheat, and that God is also not proud of him when he does'something like that. And he explained that it was gonna be a six but then it rolled over to a three but he thought it was a six. I chuckled to myself, again reiterating that it's not okay to lie.

As we finished the game and Jari eventually did win the money honestly (in fact, he won the entire game), as we were cleaning up he asked, "Well, is grampa gonna be mad at me too if I lie?" I couldn't help but let a little laugh escape my lips...

12.06.2006

Little Faces

Here is a story I wrote for an autism website. It is being considered for publication in a Chicken Soup for the Soul book. Whether or not it is published, writing it gave me a sense of freedom, reminding me that dealing with autism has many trials, but we are making it even through all the heart-wrenching times. This story is being considered for the Changed Attitudes section of the book. Maybe reading it will also alter your views of handicapped people.

It was a September morning, the sun shining bright, the excitement of a new school year fueling our spirit. It was our first month living in Belgium, a new town, a new school, new friends and activities. I had breakfast on the table and clothes waiting on a chair for my 11 year old son, Kaeden. Of course, there were also all his picture cards lined up to help him organise his morning chores. As I climbed the stairs to wake him for this day, a slight panic started to form in the pit of my stomach. My son has autism, borderline asperger's/PDD-NOS, with a combination of ADHD. Today was his first day in this new school, where nobody knew about his diagnosis. Yet I was thrilled at the same time. This little boy was going to be placed in a special needs school had we continued living in Holland, but with our move to Belgium came the opportunity to once again make a go of it in the local, "normal" school.

You see, as his mother, the idea of him being handicapped and being unable to live a so-called normal life squeezed the breath from my lungs and caused a cloud of darkness to envelop my spirit in sadness. I had already been dealt the blow of his first diagnosis of ADHD a few years prior, but the newer autism diagnosis was one which just tore my heart to shreds. It wasn't that I didn't realize my son was a bit different than other children, a bit behind the mental age of his peers, a bit more unruly and wiggly, a bit more aggressive, a bit too friendly with strangers. Of course I knew all those things, but in my heart, I could not see him as being anything other than my child, the tiny baby that I carried in my womb and held close to me after giving birth, the child I nurtured with the milk from my own body, the child I watched grow and take form and become the Kaeden that he is today. Today, yes, a chance to once again hide his disability and hide my own inability to accept him for exactly who he is.

As my son woke and quickly jumped up with the excitemet of school on the horizon, I was filled with relief. Mornings for Kaeden are extremely difficult, and getting him ready on time is always a chore. Today he jumped right up, proving to me that this new start was a good choice for him, and in my mind I conjured up images of him bringing real friends home from shool to play, taking part in school activities, catching up in reading and writing and graduating at the top of his class. As we prepared for our first day of school, I was filled with peace.

The peace was short lived. After his first day in his new school, beaming with pride as I went to pick him up, a smile on my face ready to see him and hear all about his day, I was confronted by the director of the school. She informed me that Kaeden seemed ill-prepared for his age group and they had placed him in a class one level down. She also wanted him to be tested and see what options were available for Kaeden. My heart sunk, my breath became labored, tears started to form in my eyes. Was I the only one who could see this child's potential? Was I the only one who cared about giving him the very best? Why couldn't he make it through one day without giving me these new problems? I felt totally defeated.

As the testing was completed over the course of a couple weeks, my son continued to attend the local school. He seemed happy enough there, but was not making any real progress, hadn't formed any real clicks with any of the kids. With all the results compiled, we went to the dreaded appointment for the results. I heard them tell me all the scores, explain all the reasons he could not be successful in their school, and then heard a scream tear through my body as they told me they had made an appointment for me to visit the special needs school just a short bus ride from our home. I had failed. I had failed at hiding his disability and I was being punished by reality. My son was not equipped to deal with life at a normal school.

We headed to the special needs school and were greeted with kindness. Yes, they had the training to help children like Kaeden, yes, he could learn all the same material, just at an individual level suited to him. As they explained the concept of their school, my sadness began to turn around once again. This school was close to home, he would have the service of a bus to take him there and home again, he would have a class with a minimal number of students, the teachers were specially trained to deal with learning disabilities, and there were a number of children from our neighborhood who also attended the school. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad afterall, I thought, as we met with the teacher that would be his. I looked at the classroom walls with children's pictures and posters hanging and watched as she ruffled my son's hair. He had a big smile on his face as she showed him where he could hang his coat, where he would sit next to his classmates. And thus began his life at yet another new school.

As I returned home and waited for his bus in the afternoon, I felt sadness again as I watched all the mama's picking their children up across the street from my house at the local school, all smiling and laughing, happily engaged in conversation. I wanted to be one of them. That feeling faded as I saw my son's bus arrive and he stepped off running to me with a smile plastered across his face. All thoughts of the "normal" moms left my mind as I headed to our home hearing my son talk about his new school and the kids he had played with during recess.

This happiness was also short-lived as week after week I received calls from the school to discuss Kaeden's behavior. It was always with dread that I answered my phone, waiting to hear what he'd done now to be put in detention. I was angered that this school that had given me promises of being equipped to deal with children like my son, seemed unable to do anything to help him. It was an emotional visit when I met with the director and was given the name of yet another school that might be more suitable for my son.

I put off contacting the school until I could no longer accept the position my son was in day after day at his current school. I finally made an appointment to meet with the school. As I walked through the doors of St. Elisabeth school, I looked around me and recognized this was not at all a typical school. For one thing, it was huge, the playground outside was filled with therapeutic types of equipment rather than the typical swings and slide, and there were many differnt children walking through the hallways. By this, I mean children in wheelchairs, children with down's syndrome, children with other noticeable handicaps. As I gave my name at the reception, she asked me if I needed someone from the school or from the boarding home. I searched through my purse for the name of the lady I was supposed to meet, praying it was someone from the school. It was. As she greeted me and we toured the school, I was totally overwhelmed. She showed me the swimming pool in the school, the trampoline room used for therapy, the different areas of the school all containing classrooms for specific handicaps. And then we reached the autism department. I entered with skepticism, feeling extremely uneasy. The classroom had 6 desks, each their own cubicle. There were very few pictures on the walls, to help the children concentrate she explained. There were special boards with each child's name and their own set of tasks for each 20 minute period of the day. It was a totally structured and strict environment. It didn't look like a fun place to be, rather a place to work. I was hardened by this point in my search for a perfect school, and made statements that told her I was not happy with all the problems we had encountered and wanted proof that he would be able to be successful here. What proof could she give me? She explained that some children need the extra structure of a day completely lined out for them, that they need separation from other children in order to stay on task. She told me that the classrooms had no more than six children to give them the individual attention they need, and that they still had recess and special classes. She offered the benefit of children being able to stay until they reach the age of 22, the advantage of the school also having a home, and a daycare. I wasn't convinced, my son was a happy, healthy little boy, he didn't look the part of the hadicapped kids I had seen in the hallway, how would he ever be normalized in society if he had to be in such an environment? I disn't want to face the truth of my son's handicap.

As we returned to her office where she gave me some brochures, she informed me that there was a waiting list for the autism classes, but that they were planning to create another classroom at the start of the next school year if I wanted to register Kaeden. I told her I would consider it, and made another appointment in which I could bring Kaeden with me. We went to the appointment and Kaeden was so thrilled with the trampolines and swimming pool in the school, he was convinced this was the place for him to be. As he walked down the halls, he wasn't aware or bothered by the faces he encounterd, a fact that didn't go unnoticed. As I signed my name next to the little X, I felt betrayed by God, the system, my son. I just wanted my pitiful self to be swallowed up, I didn't want to deal with all this any more. I was trying to do what was best for my child, but I just didn't know what that was anymore. I didn't know how to help him be successful.

After the summer vacation, another September was upon us. The air was fresh and crisp with the promise of another school year in the air. As I prepared Kaeden for his new school, he was happy and excited, couldn't wait to go in and meet his new friends. When we heard the bus pull up outside, I gave him a kiss and opened the door. As I looked into the windows of the school bus, lots of little faces were staring back at me. Children with handicaps, noticeable handicaps. One little boy had his face plastered against the window. I couldn't peel my eyes from his face, his face showing the physical signs of down's syndrome. He gave me a huge smile, and a little wave as the bus carried my son away from me once again. I closed the door and went into my home and cried. Cried tears for the child I could not have. Cried tears for the mother I could not be. Cried tears for the anger and sadness that filled my soul.

Each day as I put Kaeden on the bus, those faces stared down at me from the window. I came to recognize some of the faces, especially the little boy that waved to me each morning. I came to recognize them not as handicpped people, but for the smiles and rumpled hair, the people behind the faces. Finally one morning as I saw Kaeden take his seat, I realized that my heart was free. I didn't feel the pain that I did every other morning. I felt peaceful and secure. As I looked up at the windows filled with children headed to their special school, I waved back at the little boy staring down at me. With extra entusiasm, he waved at me and the biggest smile I've ever seen lighted up his entire face. And as I returned his smile, I sent God a thankful prayer for giving me the opportunity to accept these people, these disabled people, my son! My son had courage and I was finally accwepting him for who he is.

Each morning, I await the little faces staring at me from the windows of the bus. I can't wait to wave to my little friend and capture the feeling of sunshine he always brings me. And as the bus pulls away heading for St. Elisabeth school, I am happy that my son is sitting there next to all those people, people that know compassion and love, people that are accepting and non-judgemental. People that smile from the windows of a bus.

12.05.2006

Sinterklaas







The holidays are upon us. We celebrated Sinterklaas a couple days early on Sunday. We had such a great weekend. First it was soccer and Scouts, then Erwin adn I attended the yearly "dobbelsteen avond" with all of his old friends. It's greta to catch up with everyone. I was amazed at howe much people's lives have changed in the past year...one couple bought a new home, another two are moving in together, another is adding on to their home...and I saw an almost two-year-old I haven't seen since she was a baby and pictures of another friends baby. It was fun...Erwin and i took the bikes so we could drink and got there pretty soaked...but it was dry on the way home as we rode back to oma and opa's to spend the night. Sunday we woke and quickly got ready to take the kids to a movie. We're making our own tradition, spending Sinterklas morning at a family movie with our kdis. We all enjoyed the movie, but it was a bit too deep for Jari...Kruistocht in Spijkerbroek. Then we walked around the shops a bit before heading to another friend's birthday/graduation party. And then, the big thrill was upon us! We arrived abck at oma and opa's and immediately put on some music for Sinterklaas. We sang and got excited and suddenly there was pepernoten being thrown into the room adn all the windows and doors were shaking from Zwarte Piet. The boys were so excited...not sure where to look first or which cookies to grab from the floor...and then, as they checked out the window, big ooh's and aah's escaped their spirit and gathered big smiles on their faces as the presents were discovered under the porch! Jute sacks filled with brightly wrapped gifts, a tub full of goodies...and Jari's huge sigh as the excitement leadign to that moment escaped him. It was a pleasant evening...the boys were so well-behaved and not at all the wild monekys they normally are. Each gift Jari received was opened with a huge sigh...his sign that it was just breathtaking! And Kaeden sat quietly next to oma the entire evening, happily showing off his gifts and carefully placing them into his pile on the floor. As we read our poems to each other, the boys listened contentedly. Jari played with his new garage, Kaeden listened to his new CD on his new CD player, Ilse let her motorized puppy walk across the floor, I read a book with children's oldtime games in it, Erwin checked out all the dates on his new calendar, oma set up her new digital scale, and opa flashed us all decked out in his new bathrobe. And we all ate snacks and yummy bits oma had put together, as well as candy carefully placed within everyone's reach! It was a relaxed evening, and after 4 hours everything was exchanged and a mess left behind in oma and opa's living room. We all received the gift of tickets to the Efteling, a wonderful amusement park for young and old, from Ilse Piet, and made plans to go on Saturday. So, that's where we're headed this weekend. The kids both had Sinterklaas celebrations at school today and came home with some cute things they had made. And tomorrow they are both off, for a chance to get over the excitement and play with their new toys. A short list? Mama: digital scale, lottery tickets, an angel candleholder, a movie, tea towels, game book, splatter paint kit, uhm...there is more to be sure, but that's what I rememebr at the moment. Papa: calendar X2, 2 new sweaters, atari game, lottery tickets, AOE game, ??? Kaeden: Cd stuff, Knex, lots of paper and pens, a stapler, pyjamas, pants, undies, socks, a book starring him, ??? Jari: garage, a new training outfit for his soccer practice, soccer shoes, a book starring him, blocks, a USA puzzle, a catepillar, ??? And we got a new vacuum too! Yes, we certainly were all very good little KIDS this year...and what a loot we received. But I can honestly say that the best gift is that I have such a warm and loving family with whom to share the new cultures and traditions, to learn all about my husband and his heritage, and to create that same excitement and magic for our own children to carry on further through the generations. My dear little boys, you are lucky guys...and I love you both.

12.01.2006

Biting My Nails

Dang! About 6 or 7 months ago I quit biting my nails. Jari started biting his and I promised him that I would quit doing it if he would...wé both stopped. But, yesterday I spent the day chewing away. Today I am feeling the pain. I have 3 very mismatched nails left and 7 stubs bitten so low that they are bleeding. I can't believe I did it. I sincerely thought I had that little problem licked...now I can only hope my baby doesn't start again. Every time he wants to bite, he says "But momma doesn't bite her nails, so neither do I" with a proud smile on his face. Maybe he won't notice. This really just bites...literally!

11.30.2006

Busy Lives

Today I am feeling a bit disappointed. My parents are working hard at home in the midst of their Christmas tree season...life for them at this time of year is extremely busy. They work day and night trying hard to please customers with their perfect family tree, and though it's a wonderful time at Tumbleweed, it's also a time for falling into bed utterly exhausted at the end of another day. I understand this, I was raised helping during this fun, busy time. Still, I am a bit disappointed. My mom and/or dad still haven't taken a moment to call my husband to wish him a happy birthday. They were on the road hauling Christmas trees from Wisconsin on the day itself, so I understand that they couldn't call then. I hold no grudges...but it's been a day short of a week, and they still haven't called Erwin. I wish they would...I know they care about him, I know they have the thoughts to make that call, I know they wish him the best, and I know they appreciate him. I also know the time difference plays a role...but I still wish they would call just to let Erwin know all these things I already know. Erwin hasn't said a thing about it, I don't know if he's even considered that they haven't called, but I have. I'm missing this gesture from them. I sincerely believe that a simple gesture such as a quick call with a Happy Birthday can bring light to a person's life. And I feel that my husband deserves this light, deserves this from my parents. I hope they call soon. It would restore my faith in them, because though their lives are busy, family is still the most important thing of all.

11.29.2006

What's Up In Belgium?

Talk about a busy life...that has been ours the past few weeks. It has been really good, though, and I have crashed each night into a deep, contented sleep. We celebrated Thanksgiving and Erwin's birthday last week. It was the nicest Thanksgiving we have had since moving to Europe. I really enjoyed the evening, and even all the work that goes into such a diverse meal...I wouldn't want it any other way. Once every year I can make up my menu and prepare a feast for my family, all the while remembering all that I have to be thankful for. And with each hour that I cooked, those reasons came into my mind, reminding me why...my family, my friends, my home, my garden, food on the table, financial security, love, health, happiness. Even through all the downs we have in our lives, the good far outweighs the bad, and I have no reason to complain, only reason to cherish what I have been blessed with.

I think of Kaeden having autism, and how much that plays a part in our lives...I am not happy he has autism or that we ahve to deal with it on a daily basis...however, it has taught me so much...and it has proved to be a trial in my relationship with Erwin...but we are still together, still in love, still working toward the goal of raising a successful family...and it makes all those good moments we share as a family that much better.

Kaeden is a person I deeply admire for his outlook on life, what he goes through on a daily basis to fit into this world. He makes my eyes light up each time he succeeds at something new or progresses further than I imagined he could. He is tough, but he is also grand.

I think of Jari, the child that looks at you with his big blue eyes, the little one that has a second sense about when I am feeling sad, and does all in his power to relieve me of that burden. He is a caring little boy and brings me more laughter than anyone else in the world...he is energetic, stubborn, and sweet, all mixed into one. He is the gift that Erwin and I can together be most proud.

I think of my family at home, my mom and dad who work so hard and always have to provide us with the best life possible. The taught me the value of nature, and how that can bring such a sense of peace to your inner spirit. Still, being out in nature is the time I enjoy the very most of all we do.

My brothers...Travis and Trevor. Though I am going through a difficult time with Travis, I am thankful that I have the good times to remember and remind me that he has a good heart and we have shared a lot together. Trevor is my baby brother, and I still see him as such, the little guy I helped to care for s he grew. Now with his own wife and child, he gives me even more reason to be thankful. He is someone of whom I am very proud.

My in-laws...they are such wonderful people. The care for me and my family and show it on a daily basis. They are here for us wheneevr we need them, they help us out in every way possible. They also make it easier for me when I am missing home, giving me that sense of family that I miss from my own...they have become my own. When oma read the prayer opa had written for Thanksgiving day, I felt a deep bond with my father-in-law. He truly understands me, and knows how hard it sometimes is for me being away from my home, but also understands that here I also have much to treasure. I couldn't make it here without their support.

Ilse, my sister-in-law, a woman busy with her own life, yet always making changes in her schedule to suit us. We seem to understand each other and are willing to try to gain a closeness in our relationship. She is wonderful with Jari and I appreciate the positive efforts she has made to have a better relationship with Kaeden. She has a good heart.

For my friends here in Europe, who share their joys and sorrows with me, who trust me to be their friend, who share the ups and downs of making a new country their home, who are from here and try to understand me and my cultures and traditions...I am thankful for each of you.

For friends far away who stand by my side even as I walk on different soil and wake to a different clock, a day doesn't go by that I don't think of you and cherish the times we have shared, the memories we have made together.

And for all the other important people in my life, thanks to all of you for all you give me in my life...I have many people who add so much to my life.

Erwin's birthday was nice as he stayed home from work and we had the morning together just the two of us. We prepared our home for Thanksgiving, and I made him croissants for breakfast. He received all our gifts with a smile,a nd blew out his candles on oma's appeltaart. He had a surprise visit from Zwarte Pieten which really added a lot to our evening. They did a magnificent job with the kids and our boys were entranced by them. And we all sang Happy Birthday numerous times...he had to know he was special.

Yesterday I spent the day out with the KAV women's group. We left early in the morning to attend a breakfast at the movie theater, followed by a private viewing of The Devil Wears Prada...what a great film! I just loved it! After, I spent the day shopping with a lady from the group...picked up a few last minute gifts and just enjoyed spending the day in a new city with time to just be a woman. It was fun to be out and about with a native, learning more and more about Belgium culture as I fired away question after question. And also fun answering all of her questions about my home-land, extending those answers to include fun stories that came into my mind. Erwin came home from work early to be ehre for the boys and when I arrived home we had Pizza and Movie Family Night, watching a Sinterklaas movie to elevate the excitement already flowing through our home about his arrival this weekend.

This afternoon we make our way to Papa's office where Sint will make his yearly visit...Jari has already 10 times assured me that he's going to get a BIG present from Sinterklaas tonight! He is so excited!!!! He also keeps telling me that he doesn't have to set his shoe tonight cuz he'll already have gotten his BIG present and Sinterklaas won't come twice in one day...hehehe I'm planning to take my long-haired boy for a cut before we go...wish me luck...he does not want to go to the barber!

Tomorrow I am taking my friend Sharon grocery shopping and we're planning to also have a look around the city since it's late night shopping there. Then Saturday we have soccer and scouts before we head to oma and opa's, where the boys will be entertained while Erwin adn I attend a party with all his friends. It's a lot of fun and I'll surely come home with a bag full of presents! Sunday marks the BIG day, when Sinterklaas makes his yearly visit. But before his arrival we'll attend another party of our friend who has graduated and celebrates his birthday all in one. It should be a nice way to spend the afternoon out of oma and opa's hair.

So, busy, yes....thrilling, yes...and I feel good....now, if I could just get some of my poems written...oooooffff!!! Yes, poems in Dutch to represent memories of a person and how their gift relates to them. It's so much fun to share, but I need some inspiration! I'll let you know how it goes.....

11.23.2006

HAIR

I colored my hair yesterday. It is not something Erwin typically notices, so I was happily surprised when this morning we were in the bathroom and he said, "Did you color your hair?" Yes, I answered, pretty shocked that he noticed. As he looked at me, he said, "Well, it looks really nice. Don't you think so?" It felt good that my husband noticed a change in me, that he bothered to mention it...as I said, it's not typical for him. So, thank you dear husband, for bringing an extra bit of happiness to my life today, for your kind words that made me feel more valued, somehow just a little bit prettier. It really did bring a flicker of sunshine to my life today...

Thanksgiving

Today is the celebration of Thanksgiving. A time to reflect on your life and give thanks for all the goodness that you have been blessed with. I can't even begin to describe how much I have to be thankful for...it is abundant. The love I have in my heart is strong and deep, the happiness I hold cannot be counted upon one hand. In this season of Thanks, I wish to be reminded at every turn of all the people that give me love, all the family I hold close in my heart, all the friends with whom I share smiles, all the glories with which God has bestowed upon me. Today, as I miss sitting at the big table situated in the center of our kitchen, my great-gramma's fine china sparkling under the lights, reminding us of past generations with whom we have to give thanks for bringing us to this day, as the smells of all the delicious food waft through the air, my heart will be also wafting through that air, filled with the gift of love for everybody I wish I could share the day with. Thanksgiving, a time for beautiful memories, for giving thanks. I am thankful...Happy Thanksgiving!

11.21.2006

Feeling Incomplete

Today gave me another blow, one I wasn't prepared for and just threw another knot in my book of life...a tight one that feels like it's going to be stuck for a good long while. I remember the feeling I had when I found out I was pregnant...I was scared, wondering how in the world I was going to take care of a baby, all the while on cloud nine thinking of names and picking out little clothes and getting excited about what kind of life I could offer my child. When he was born and Kaeden was placed in my arms, all I felt was love and pride and wonder. This perfect little baby boy was the most beautiful creation I had ever seen. He stole my heart from the onset, and that love and commitment to him has only grown stronger with each day that passes. I had so many dreams for him from before he was even born, wondering who he would become, what he would do with his life...and as time wore on and I realized that my son, my perfect baby boy, had problems, those dreams started slowly changing. Today I got this big blow that just crushed my spirit...made me lose sight of every goal I ever had for him.

We requested that Kaeden be retested for his IQ, as his original score was extremely low. I got the results back this morning with no marked improvement. He still tested at a total IQ of 69, mentally handicapped. When I saw teh results staring me back in the face, I completely lost it. It was as if I was hanging all his success in life on this stupid number. When the counselor looked at my face in shocked horror with my eyes filled with tears, she remarked "You weren't expecting that, were you?" Of course I wasn't expecting that. I had dreams of my baby boy growing up and going to school, getting a successful job, having a family and home, giving me beautiful grandchildren. How could I explain that seeing those numbers just took all those dreams and shredded them into a million pieces? All I could see before my eyes was my 40 year old son sitting in his pyjamas in my kitchen demanding his breakfast. Not my dream for his life....or mine.

As we went over the results of the test, I disputed nearly all the points, trying to prove my son's brilliance to her. She finally told me that even if the test was a bit biased, it's the test they have used for years with success and that the average IQ is 100. My son is expected (on average) to reach the mental capacity of a 3rd grader...a kid of 9 years old...one of those kids in my classroom that I taught and thought how much more they had to learn in life. I wanted to scream at her that she is wrong, that my son can add numbers faster than me in his head, that he can give change better than one of my mom's college workers, that he can buy my groceries and know how much change he will get back. I wanted her to see what possibilities my son has, that my dreams can come true, and that he is NOT that number 69 on that sheet of paper.

As we talked further about his schooling possibilities I knew that my measure of success for him had to change. I will still do all in my power to push him to succeed, to challenge him to the end, to make him be his very best....but his very best is going to almost surely be less than that moment I first held him in my arms and his life danced before my eyes. Luckily, he has already given me more love and happiness than I had ever imagined was possible at that very same moment. My dreams for him are still big...and they will reamin so, and I will be proud no matter how that 69 plays into our lives. Go for it, Kiddo! And I will be behind you 110%, sharing in your success and your happiness....whatever that plays out to be.

Thoughts on Family

Yesterday we got a picture in the mail from my little nephew. He's such a little darling and I feel blessed that I had the chance to see him after he was born, but wish so much I could see him again. Babies grow so much and change so much, and I would love to be able to hear his giggle and see his smile...but I will be totally happy with the pictures, becasue they do give me an idea how beautiful this little boy is, sitting next to some pumpkins in front of a tree with fall leaves all around him, eyes wide open with an adorable, serious expression on his pink face. He really is a gorgeous little guy!

As I took his picture to frame in my family collage hanging in my entryway, the happiness at seeing his face was replaced with grief. There staring back at me was my other brother with his wife and my other nephew and niece, all with smiling faces. When I see their pictures, all I feel is a deep sadness fill my heart and a longing for some normalcy in our relationship. I was stricken by the memories of the day that picture was taken, and wondered if even then, when we played video games together and had a lunch at Applebee's, if it was all just a facade, and the smiels that show in the picture were really just two-faced people pretending to enjoy our company. As I placed the baby's picture in the frame, I had an urge to rip out the pictures of Travis's family and replace them with pictures of people that I know care about me, my children, my family. Why would I want a picture displyed of people that don't exist in my life? But the truth of the matter is that in my life, these people do exist. They are important to me, I care about them, and I have a lifetime of history to represent good times I have had with them. I don't care that in their shaken world of misunderstanding they have estranged themselves from me. No, I do care, but I don't want to stoop to their level. I want to try and remember the good times and hope for a future filled with more good times in the years to come. I want a relationship with them, I want to see my niece and nephew as they grow up, hear about their lives and be a part. It hurts me so deeply that I have no power, no control over this matter. I have been eliminated by someone that I love deeply, care about more than he will ever know. Why is it that the feelings I have for him, for his family and life, can't be reciprocated? I still can't understand what I have done that makes me so unworthy of their love. And yet, the more I think about the pain they have caused me, the more my grief turns to anger and I feel a hardness begin to creep into my heart. Do I want these people in my life, really? Things that they have said can never be forgotten, but do I have what it takes to be forgiving? I have been accused of abusing my own child, the gift that I love more than my own life. Is there room to forgive, reason to forgive, when people hurt you so deeply? For my own well being I must try to reach a state of forgiveness, come to understand that they are going through some own problems in their lives in order to push so completely away from the people that care about them. It is so hard to understand, and even harder to accept. And I am scared that when the time comes, and I believe there will be a day, that Travis is willing to accept me into his life again, I will have broke free from that need. The longer that this hurt goes on, the more disgust I feel for him. It would be so much easier to clear his pictures of my home, not be reminded every time I want to see my family...but then my children would be stripped of reminders of family that does exist in their hearts, in my heart...it isn't fair. As I replaced the frame back on the wall, with ALL my family still intact, I was not feeling a sense of peace. I don't know what the answer is, but I do know that it hurts.

11.20.2006

Here Goes

A Meme from my friend Amanda's Blog (http://whataboutyourhips.blogspot.com/).

Here goes:

DO YOU SNORE? Yes, if I am really tired or have a cold, I snore
ARE YOU A LOVER OR A FIGHTER? Hmmm, I love to fight?! No, I think in general I am a lover, but fight if I need to depending on the circumstances
WHAT’S YOUR WORST FEAR? Losing my kids
AS A KID, WERE YOU A LEGO MANIAC? Nope, not as a kid, and not now either, though my husband certainly is and I love seeing the things he creates with the kids. I also am amazed when I see the big LEGO creations like at Legoland
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF “REALITY” TV? For some reason, it captures my attention, but really, if there was none, I sure wouldn't miss it
DO YOU CHEW ON YOUR STRAWS? If I have a straw, I chew it!
WERE YOU A CUTE BABY? In order to be such a beautiful woman, I had to be a cute baby....right?
IS THE SINGLE LIFE FOR YOU? Being single was fun. The responsibilities I have now as a wife and mom are much more stressful...but also a thousand times more rewarding.
DO YOU SING IN THE SHOWER?I sing everywhere
HAVE YOU EVER BUNGEE JUMPED? Nope, though I do enjoy watching people do it. I don't have the nerve to try it, and these days my body couldn't handle it
ANY SECRET TALENTS? Secret talents? Does adding veggies to meals in sneaky ways count?
WHAT’S YOUR IDEAL VACATION SPOT? Anyplace that I can explore a new culture, but also have time to relax, and preferably a new spot each time
CAN YOU SWIM? I can swim, but I wouldn't want to have to save anyone
HAVE YOU SEEN THE MOVIE DONNIE DARKO? I've neevr even heard of it
DO YOU GIVE A DAMN ABOUT THE OZONE? I think we all better care about the ozone...we're being affected by it daily
HOW MANY LICKS DOES IT TAKE TO GET TO THE CENTER OF A TOOTSIE POP? Oh yum...I usually just take a bite and crunch into it
CAN YOU SING THE ALPHABET BACKWARDS? We used to do this in school, and got pretty good at it. But I just tried and it would take some practice
DO YOU PREFER ELECTRIC OR MANUAL PENCIL SHARPENER? I don't think I care, but the electric bill is less with a manual one
WHAT’S YOUR STAND ON HUNTING? I totally have no problem with hunting. I grew up in a family where hunting brought food to the table. I don't like hunting just for the sport though. And to be honest, I don't eat wild meat. I just get this picture in my mind of a beautiful animal running through the forest and then my dad gutting it out...yuck!
IS MARRIAGE IN YOUR FUTURE? I hope so...I sure don't want a divorce
DO YOU LIKE YOUR HANDWRITING? Sometimes...I think it's gotten messier as I get older
WHAT ARE YOU ALLERGIC TO? I don't think I have any allergies
WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU SAID, “I LOVE YOU”? When I kissed my three guys good bye this morning
DO YOU CRY AT WEDDINGS? I cry really easily...so weddings are a definite
HOW DO YOU LIKE YOUR EGGS? I don't like eggs unless they are keeping a cake together :-)
ARE BLONDES DUMB? Some are, some aren't...just as some brunettes, red heads, and blue heads are dumb
WHERE DOES THE OTHER SOCK END UP? I wish I had a story I wrote about this in college...it was great fun! I dunno where they go, but I know they must reproduce at an alarming rate
WHAT TIME IS IT? 9:42 am
DO YOU HAVE A NICKNAME? I have a few, but none that has ever changed my original name
IS MCDONALD’S DISGUSTING? I like McD's on occasion
WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU WERE IN A CAR? This morning from 4am til 7am when I took my cousin to the airport
DO YOU PREFER BATHS OR SHOWERS? A shower is quick, but a bath is luxurious
IS SANTA CLAUS REAL? The spirit of Santa is definitely real, and as long as you hold that magic in your heart, Santa is real
DO YOU LIKE TO HAVE YOUR NECK KISSED?Oh, I love that...just ask my husband
ARE YOU AFRAID OF THE DARK? Nope, I like the dark...except when it takes up most of the day
WHAT ARE YOU ADDICTED TO? Eating the wrong foods, the computer, and coffee or cappuccino
CRUNCHY OR CREAMY PEANUT BUTTER? I like the crunchy kind, but usually buy the creamy kind
CAN YOU CRACK YOUR NECK? Sometimes it happens without warning
HAVE YOU EVER RIDDEN IN AN AMBULANCE? Twice...once when I was 11 and broke my leg roller skating on a girl scout trip. The second time was when I passed out from a sinus infection after dropping Kaeden off at daycare
IS DRUG FREE THE WAY TO BE? I think so, though users would probably disagree
ARE YOU A HEAVY SLEEPER? I sleep pretty well, but always hear my kids when they wake up
WHAT COLOR ARE YOUR EYES? Green
DO YOU LIKE YOUR LIFE? I've got no complaints about it...I think there is room for improvement, but I have to do that myself
ARE YOU PSYCHIC? Nope
HAVE YOU READ CATCHER IN THE RYE? I've started it a few times...was a required read for school, but I could never get into it
DO YOU PLAY ANY INSTRUMENTS?Not even close
HAVE YOU EVER STOLEN MONEY? Yes, when Iw as younger it was a bit of a problem area for me.
CAN YOU SNOWBOARD? Never tried it, but I doubt it...two feet on one board strapped down...I'm sure I'd fall over
DO YOU LIKE CAMPING? Love, love, love it!
DO YOU SNORT WHEN YOU LAUGH? I don't think so
DO YOU BELIEVE IN MAGIC? Yes, some kinds of magic...like Santa Claus
ARE DOGS A MAN’S BEST FRIEND? They can be. I know they have a second sense and can realte very well
DO YOU BELIEVE IN DIVORCE? In general, no. That said, I think people should be happy in a marriage...it takes a lot of work and many people give up too easily without a fight. And if the couple has kids, they shouldn't stay together for the kids sake, cuz the kids will just be miserable as well
CAN YOU DO THE MOONWALK? I used to be awesome...hahaha
DO YOU MAKE A LOT OF MISTAKES? Yes, but that's where learning comes in, right?
IS IT COLD OUTSIDE TODAY? It is freezing out today, with that strong wind
WHAT WAS THE LAST THING YOU ATE? A sandwich with spicy cheese
DO YOU WEAR NAIL POLISH? Sometimes...I think it really looks nice if people have the nails for it
HOW MANY PEOPLE DO YOU LIKE RIGHT NOW? I like a lot of people
WHAT’S THE MOST ANNOYING TV COMMERCIAL? Hmmm, can't think of one right now...but those ones that just don't apply to the product bug me
FAVORITE SONG AT THE MOMENT? Ego Sum Panis...a few months ago I'd never even heard of it and couldn't pronounce a single word, but when I sing it with the choir it sounds so pretty...and I have to reach some very high notes and I am actually getting closer and closer all the time and it's fun to try....plus it annoys Erwin to death :-)

11.15.2006

Interesting Day

I've had a few stressful days. Yesterday I had a day filled with numerous appointments, one after the next, and it felt so good to be busy and have things I had to do, places I had to be. I fell into bed last night utterly exhausted. I am not used to all the scurry of activity that used to be a part of my everyday life. I miss it! Yet, I also feel extremely lucky to have time for myself, for my family, and the financial support of my husband to carry us through. I really do have a good life with him. I could take more advantage of my free time rather than waste it away sitting home. There's plenty I could busy myself with, without it having to be the stressful chores as it was yesterday.

I took Kaed to the pediatrician yesterday suspecting a bladder infection. Well, that was confirmed after a urine test, and the doc let me see all the white blood cells in the microscope. He then did a sonogram of his bladder and tha's when the worry came in. Hmmm, his bladder looks a bit irregular. These swirls shouldn't be here...it should be nice and smooth. I started to wonder exactly what he was trying to tell me as I asked question after question. As we went and sat back at his desk, he told me it was imperative Kaeden have exploratory surgery done, and quickly due to his suspicion that he could be having urinary reflux which damages the kidneys. We were informed that I should take his urine sample to the hospital laboratory for testing, and while there check in for his surgery tomorrow (yes, that would be today). I was in complete shock. It was a big blow that something so serious could be wrong after a worry about somethign small like a bladder infection. So, off to the hospital we went...and our surgery for today was confirmed for 10 am. I wasn't nervous other than the fact that it was all going so quickly...but maybe that makes it easier...it's then said and done and you don't have to consider the implications any further.

Anyway, Kaeden had exploratory surgery today. It was not fun seeing him crying in pain as they inserted the camera through his penis and into his bladder...and having to do it over again because it was not correctly positioned. In fact, I dunno if I was sick, if it was too hot, or because I had to see my baby in pain, but I almost passed out...seriously. I had to sit on a stool and close my eyes, remove my sweater, and feel myself go pale covered in sweat. Yuck! After the second nurse came in to help and got the tube and camera and cathether into position, we went to have the exploration done. Kaeden does not have reflux which is a huge relief, but he does have some abnormalities on his bladder which they wish to investiagte further. The doc told me it looks as if he has had an extremely numerous number of bladder infections which have scarred his bladder. But, I know of just this time...so what is the cause? I guess I will get more answers when I talk to his pediatrician again later in the week or next week.

We got home after having a pancake and hot chocolate treat in the hospital cafe. Kaeden has had an easy, relaxed day. He still has some pain off and on between his pain reliever, and he still had blood in his urine, but after seeing that tube go in, I'm not surprised. He's now sound asleep and I hope the memories of this experience will pass quickly through his mind...and be just that, distant memories.

In happier news, my cousin Renee arrived for her visit today! Erwin picked her up from the train station in Eindhoven and she arrived just in time to have a nice dinner with us. Kaeden found the bottle of children's champagne and opened it with a giggle to celebrate her arrival. We have some fun time planned with her, so hopefully she'll enjoy herself. I just love getting visitors from home! She spoiled us with a few goodies from America and Strasbourg (where she visited first) and headed to bed after her journey. We'll see what's in store for tomorrow, but I think I'll take her out on the bike and share the beautiful fall colors lining my streets...and maybe she'll want to go further onto all the brilliant bike trails we have here. It really is pretty when you get out and ride. Anyway, welcome to Belgium Renee! We're happy to have you here!


11.10.2006

Jari


I love the mornings when
Kaeden and Erwin have
already left for work and
school, the house is quiet
as I traipse upstairs and
surprise my littlest love
with a
morning wake up kiss. I love to watch him sleep, see his funny morning hair and eyes zooming back and forth as he dreams. I wonder if he
dreams of being a policeman or a power ranger, if he dreams of playing with mommy or coloring a picture or maybe about the dinosaur of which I sing him to sleep with each evening. I love to see his tiny head snuggled just under the covers, watch his body as the blankets stretch and fall with each breath. And as I watch him, I wonder at the creation of this tiny person that is able to fill my being with so much love, pride, joy, and amusement. Of every creation I have made, he is by far the most astouding, the one of which I am most proud. He is stunningly beautiful, and as I catch his little cheek with a Good Morning Sunshine kiss, he pulls me to him and I breathe in the scent of my little boy, feeling his arms encase me in his love. I hope I give him as much security as he does me. When I tell him that I love him, he replies with "I love you too, mama." and it takes my breath away for just a moment. This is perfection. A moment frozen in time, shared by just the two of us, giving and receiving in unison.


Jari has been so excited the past days. Sinterklaas has arrived in Belgium and he plans each picture he makes to set in his shoe with such careful precision, knowing that if he does his best work, Sinterklaas will be proud, and he will be rewarded with a tiny little treat for his well-done efforts. And to Jari, however long it takes him to make that perfect picture is well worth the time to be seen as good through the eyes of Sinterklaas. This morning as we came down the steps, Jari saw his picture still in his shoe, the sign that Sinterklaas had not made it to our house last night. As he pulled the picture out of his shoe, a treasured work of art, I saw a flash of disappointment cross his face, but his positive attitude remained as he explained "Sinterklaas was very busy last night, huh mom? Maybe he will come get my picture tonight, cuz I did a very good job." As he returned his picture to his shoe, I felt a bit disappointed as well, but know that Sinterklaas can not possibly make a visit every night. Yes, my darling boy, I KNOW Sinterklaas is proud of you, and I am positive he will collect your drawing tonight and store it safely away in his red book, reminding him time and time again how much love goes into each stroke of your marker.


As we got ready for school and brushed our teeth together, then got on our coats and hopped on our bike for the trip, Jari exclaimed about the sunny day and how pretty the sky was, but it was still cold. Yes, sweet boy, sometimes the sun shines but the air is still cold. But I bet when I come pick you up for lunch it will be a bit warmer. And it was. We played boxing as I chased him around the house. And we ate soup together, which proved to be a big enough mess he had to change clothes 2 times!!! We talked about his visit to kermis (the carnaval in our town which is setting up for this weekend...with exactly 1 ride, 1 snack shop, and 2 games) with his class, and he was so happy that the carousel was there. He's still so little, but time passes so quickly...when I clean out his cupboard and make a dent in all the clothes that no longer fit him, I wonder how long he will still let me wake him with sweet mornign kisses, how long I have to hear the words of love, how much time remains that he'll think it fun for mama to chase him through the house...how much time is left for Sinterklaas to be such an important figure in his world. How ever much time I have, it will never be enough. These are precious days and I treasure each as the gift that it is. I'm so glad you are mine, my little bug. I hope one day you will know just how happy you have made me, letting me be your mama, letting me love you. Always stay just as you are today...a loving, giving little man with lots of energy and sunshine smiles, with a mind totally your own, someone who can laugh and giggle and shower the people around you with the feeling that life is good. Because with you around, life can't be anything other than wonderful. I'm so glad you are my reality.

11.08.2006

What is it about HOME


Today I happened to catch a glance of Oprah on TV. She was recapping a cross-country trip she took with her friend Gayle. They were in Colorado and seeing the mountains and the breathtaking beauty with Into the Great Wide Open playing as background music sent me into blubbering hysterics. It was home. It was land as I know it, land that I love, land that grabs a piece of your heart and never lets it go. It was the exact same feeling of missing home I got when the kids received the movie Spirit as a gift and when we were watching it for the first time, my heart ached for the place that used to be my home....every time I hear the Spirit Soundtrack tears well into my eyes remembering that feeling...a deep longing. It doesn't matter that the mountains are now snow-covered and cold, I just wish I could be there. There is something about home that never leaves you, no matter where you go or how many wonderful experiences you have in your life. Home is where the heart is, and although I now have a new home, I ache for the peace of my true home. It's a longing that will never leave me, a sadness of being away from that beauty, an undescribeable excitement as the plane touches down onto that mountaintop world, and I am enveloped not only in the beauty surrounding me, but the beauty that fills my heart as I know that I have reached home once again.

11.07.2006

Drenthe


There is so much to tell. Life just keeps hopping, and with it lots of new experiences and happenings...and I can't keep up! So, I'll start with vacation...yes, our family vacation to Drenthe...a beautiful, wooded area with many outdoor adventures in which to partake.

We started our vacation with a stop to the highest waterfall in Nederland...and as we walked towards it, realized there was no water flowing...darn! They were doing some work on it, and there was nothing to see. We still took the little journey there and as I stepped down the 3rd step of the waterfall, crackkkkkk, I felt my ankle pop and down I went. It immediately started swelling and as I sat on the steps crying in pain, all the sadness of a ruined vacation flowed out the tear ducts of my eyes. I couldn't believe my misfortune. I hobbled back to the car using a stick for support and took off my shoe. My ankle was throbbing and swollen 3x the size. We got an ice pack from the cooler and I settled in the backseat using Kaeden as a cushion...he's wiggly...but loving!

We continued on to our destination, and the guys got out and played at the Boomkroonpad along the way. It is a bunch of towers and bridges built into the treetops and when they came back to me at the car I heard shouts of excitement about how high they went and how much they could see. It wa a ncie stop along the way to our vacation home.

When we got to the holiday park we checked in and drove to our house. Nope, no vacation house here...it was like a huge, brick built home, brand new and in tip-top condition. Really beautifully decorated and clean and comfy. Luckily there was a downstairs bedroom where I found my new home. After debating about whether to go to the doctor, we decided to wait til morning. When we got up and called all the docs, there was no answer, so I decided to stay home with my foot up and icing while the guys went off to visit the concentration camp, Westerbork, and the satellite towers. While they were gone, the Great Pumpkin managed to sneak into the house and scatter leaves everywhere, but also left some candy and tickets to Kabouterland. When they arrived home, mama was snuggled in bed and they were so excited to see that the Great Pumpkin came for his yearly visit. After checking every nook and cranny of the house for specail Halloween treats, we had our scary pumpkin and ghost dinner! It was a fun night and we ended the evening playing Uno over and over again.

Wednesday we made the trek to an indoor playground (Speelstad Oranje) with lots of rides and fun stuff for the kids. It was a stormy day with strong winds and we were happy to be inside. We spent the entire day there, and I even managed to hobble upstairs for a round of golf. Erwin won :-( But really, we all won...it was fun to see the kids excited over each ride they jumped into, and since it was not at all busy they could go as often as they wanted without even waiting in line.

Thursday we donned our winter jackets and braved the fall weather to go in search of the hunnebedden. They are gravestones from 5000 years ago and are still in place, piles of rocks on which the kids enjoyed climbing. We managed to see four different hunnebedden that day before heading into Assen for a walk around town. I was moving pretty slow at this point after all of our treks through the woods to reach the gravestones, and after an hour walking through town I couldn't take another step. Erwin and Kaeden went to get the car and we headed back to the house. I took teh kids swimming once we got there and Erwin made dinner...yep, he really did! The kids were in shock that Papa could cook, and went so far as to exclaim that he should do it more often as it was not burned like mama cooks...the nerve of my men!!!

Firday we spent the morning cleaning up and packing as check-out was at 10. We let Jari swim and Kaeden unfortunately was not allowed as punishment for his rotten behavior. He was fine by the time we said goodbye to Landgood Het Grote Zand, and we headed to Kabouterland. There we saw lots of animals, played on skelters, played on the playground equipment, and watched Papa perform a puppet show. It was a really nicely done little park and if the weather had been a bit nicer, there was a lot there to enjoy. The kabouter displays were terrific, with stories to go with each diorama. The kids had a great time. We left Drenthe and headed onto the crowded Friday night highways heading back to Belgium. We stopped for a late dinner at Ikea on the way home and got back to our place about 10.

It was a really good vacation, even with the exception of my little accident. It was relaxing and adventurous all in the same breath. It was time well spent as a family, and energy well spent exploring another area of Holland. It was too short, as vacations always are!

10.29.2006

Tomorrow's the DAY

Yep, here I am, supposed to be cleaning and packing before we leave on our trip tomorrow, but instead telling you what we're going to be doing. We'll get up bright and early, have breakfast and pack up the car, and then get in and GO! We're going to Drenthe this trip, about 3 hours from here in the north of Holland. We should have a little house in the woods, at a park with a swimming pool and kids playland and mini-golf...and of course we'll visit the hunebedden (ancient gravestones) and see teh Boomkroonpad (an adventure through the trees) and see the huge satellite dishes and maybe even go to Speelstad Oranje (an indoor amusement park) or Kabouterland (a troll forest). And, I'm sure the Great Pumpkin will be coming for his annual visit...complete with scattered leaves and candy hidden all around. Oh, we're going to have FUN! That's what these family trips are all about...sharing our enjoyment of each other and relaxing together in a place where daily burdens can't get in the way. We want to enjoy you guys, share our knowledge of the world with you, teach you new things, show you new places, and have you learn that living life is wonderful. We want to spend hours at the swimming pool watching you jump in 100's of different ways and not miss a single jump, we want to watch you make a hole in one golfing and see your face light up with happiness, we want to see just how sweaty you can get running through the balls and mazes, we want to capture each delighted "Look at my stick" as we walk through the forest, and play baseball with pinecones and sticks, play Poohsticks and see whose goes the fastest, listen for the singing of all the different birds. We want to not miss a single smile, not miss your deep belly laughter, not miss your excitement at the arrival of the Great Pumpkin! These trips we take are to give us completely to you guys...when we have the chance to relax, we can give more to you. And without the pressures of life, we can take it all slower, take it all easier, not get so worked up. We can just enjoy. And so, guys, that's what's on our agenda. An opportunity to get to know each other a little better, an opportunity to let our love for you guys show, and an opportunity to share terrific experiences with you. Mama and Papa don't believe in spending lots of money giving you the best toys and clothes, the newest video games or top price cookies (even tho you have plenty of all the above too)...but we'll be darned if we let the opportunity pass to spend family time sharing our world with you, taking a trip to see new horizons, giving you the taste and feel of a vacation out in nature. And that, guys, is money and time well spent. We hope that you will enjoy our week in Drenthe as much as I know we will. I'll let you know what all we experienced in our adventures this time around when we get back to reality!!