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!!


Autism News

Found this atricle about a new autism gene that has been discovered. Looks like it could bring us one step closer to a reason for autism which could possibly lead to a cure. Anyway, I thought it was interesting...and worthy of a quick read.
Mutated gene raises autism risk, US study finds By Maggie Fox, Healthand Science EditorMon Oct 16, 6:06 PM ETWASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. researchers said on Monday they had identified a genetic mutation that raises the risk of autism andcould also explain some of the other symptoms seen in children withautism. Although autism and similar disorders can clearly run in families, theirs is the first study to find a definitive genetic link to the disorder, which affects as many as 1 in 175 U.S. children.Dr. Pat Levitt and colleagues at Vanderbilt University in Nashville,Tennessee, studied 743 families in which 1,200 family members were affected by autism spectrum disorders, which range from fully disabling autism to Asperger's syndrome.They found a single mutation in a gene called MET, which is known tobe involved in brain development, regulation of the immune system and repair of the gastrointestinal system. All of these systems can beaffected in children with autism."This is a vulnerability gene," Levitt said in a telephone interview. "There are not genes that actually cause autism. It raises the risk."People with two copies of the mutated gene have 2 to 2.5 times the normal risk of autism and people with one mutated copy have 1.7 times the risk, he said. The findings, published in the Proceedings of the NationalAcademy of Sciences, offer a way to start looking for the actualcauses of autism, Levitt said. Autism can cause a range of symptoms, from fairly mild socialdysfunction to severe and disabling learning and social impairments. Researchers knew it could run in families, but the cause has been unknown. Children are usually diagnosed as toddlers, with parentsoften describing a sudden regression in abilities and behavior. There is no known cure. Levitt said the mutation does not change the function of the gene,but changes gene expression -- how active the gene is. Levitt says his team will now try to make a rat or a mouse with thesame genetic mutation and use it to study what in the environment might cause autism in people with the mutation."It may be more than one thing," Levitt said."Let's say it is exposure to some chemical. It is a long list of everything from food additives to mercury to fertilizers. This will help."


Phone Call

I just spent the past hour talking to my parents on the phone. As much as I wish it could have been in person with eye contact and body langauge to add to the overall effect of our conversation, it never fails to bring me contentment when my parents share their news. It was so nice to hear them excitedly telling me about their trip to New York and Boston. It isn't often that my parents take off for a vacation just with the two of them for no purpose other than to explore life together, but they did and both seemed to thoroughly enjoy it. I really believe that couples need these times to reconnect and revalidate their relationship in a way that only "getting away" allows us to do. In the one day they were in New York they saw Mamma Mia on Broadway, met a man from India who took them to all the hotspots throughout NYC (of course they paid for his services, but after their adventures with him they became fast friends and he actually invited them to his wedding in India...Tony was his name), they rode on a chairlift through NYC, saw nothing from the Empire State Building (there was zero visibility), went to Ground Zero, ate at a NY deli, and satyed in an airport hotel. Their plane arrived in Boston the following afternoon when they met up with my cousin, Lisa, and her family, who continued to add to their New England experiences. My dad was taken with the Mayflower and Plymouth Rock, they were greeted with a fresh clam and lobster dinner, and had many conversations, getting to know my cousin as a woman, rather than the child they remembered. They visited the Boston Marketplace and had memorable, costly ice cream cones. And they enjoyed every minute of it all, from what I heard in their voices.

I miss my parents so much. I wish I could be there to share in their daily life adventures. I wish I could help get Christmas trees and go hunting with my dad, and make out Greyhound tickets for my mom. I wish I could prepare dinner and have it ready for them when they came home from work. I wish I could sit and watch Fox News or CNN or CNBC or whatever my dad's newest news craze at the moment is. I wish I could sit up way too late talking to my mom about every little thing that has no meaning to anyone other than the two of us.

I can't be there in person, but I never leave them in heart. My parents are amazing people whom I am proud to know, even prouder to call mine. They have given me so much in my life and I can never thank them enough for all they have done. I'm so grateful they are learning to enjoy life as just the two of them again. I'm glad they took a trip and had a great time. And, I'm glad I was able to hear all about it!


A Few Random Thoughts

The day is grey and I also feel grey. I actually threw on a pair of sweats and left my pajamas on when I took Jari to school today...no shower, no brushed teeth, nothing. I feel so tired today, as if I never even went to bed. I was hoping to go unnoticed in the school yard looking so "chique", but one mom stopped me to talk. Darn! But, she did invite Jari over for a playdate tomorrow, so that was nice.

Erwin has been home the past 2 days with his back out. I hate it when he has back troubles. I feel like I should go up to bed and give him a massage, but I don't feel like it. I don't feel like being a loving wife at the moment, which is not helpful to either of us. I hope he feels better soon. I hate seeing my husband in pain.

I had choir last night. I paid for the ceciliafeest which is on Nov. 4. A good way to celebrate my brother Trev's birthday. I'm glad oma and opa can watch the kids so Erwin and I can go. It will be nice for him to meet my new "friends".

My dirigent (conductor) is very strict during our choir practice. You wouldn't believe how many times he stops us in the course of a song to make us improve. It makes me feel like a 7 year old back in school. He gets lots of rolled eyes during practice, but during the concert on Sat nite we got a TON of compliments on how beautifully we sang, so it must be worth something. He must know what he's doing. I told them I would be away next week, and they wished they were also going on vacation.

Vacation next week...to Drenthe. A little house in the woods and tickets to a couple little parks. And lots of other plans. Why can't I get excited about it? I just have no desire, which is very unlike me. Usually I am jumping for joy at the prospect of going away.

My house is the pits. And I mean big time. I look around me and not one surface is free of clutter and I feel totally overwhelmed by it all. I don't even know where or how to start. I get so sick of cleaning every day...and I mean, I do the exact same thing day after day and day after day it needs doing all over again. I can't believe how messy a house can get in such a short span of time. If I could just get it a little cleaned up I'd feel so much better about everything.

Erwin frustrates me sometimes. Jari is in soccer and Kaeden is in Judo. Jari has soccer games every weekend, Kaeden has Judo tournaments twice in Nov and Dec. The schedules conflict. Erwin says let Kaed miss Judo. I say why should Kaed have to miss Judo? Soccer is a team sport, he says. Jari has to be there. I say Kaeden needs the experience of tournaments, and he enjoys them. Er says his practice twice a week is what gives him the exercise. I say his tournaments are the reward for his practice. Erwin and I disagree on this matter. It makes me feel like Jari and his going-ons are more important to Erwin than Kaeden. He likes going to soccer games and hates to miss them. But he hates going to Judo and despises being even asked to go watch Kaed. And then I get very negative feelings about my husband, which I hate and it makes me feel miserable. Yet the feeling is there and assisting in this grey feeling I have. I wish Erwin and Kaeden had a better relationship. It makes me so sad that they don't.

As I went to bed last night I looked over and caught a glance of a picture with two smiling faces staring back at me. It was taken about 4 years ago and was a picture of my niece and nephew, my brother's kids. Now, my brother won't even talk to me. I feel as if I have lost a piece of my heart. Seeing that picture made it all come back to me again. It's easy to pretend the pain isn't there, but one tiny instance brings it all back full-force. I don't know why my brother doesn't like me. I don't know why he thinks I am a bad person. I don't know why he thinks I am a bad mom. But he does, and it hurts. Plain and simple. And it makes me not like him, which is not a normal characteristic for me. I'm glad I live in Belgium. It makes it easier to be separated from the situation. I wish I had a recent picture of the two smiling faces, and that I could call them and tell them I care. But I can't. I have no control, no power in this situation. I love you Beau and Bree, and I always will, just as I do your dad. I'll just keep waiting for "Someday...."

My girlfriend and her husband confuse me. They are having marriage problems and it's good one day and shit the next. And I don't know what to say to her, cuz I am just totally frustrated by the whole situation. I can't understand them and how moody their relationship is. I just hope for them that they can make it work in whatever way they need to for themselves. It's weird how different people deal with situations. People are all so utterly their own. And people in a relationship are also utterly their own. But you have to give in a relationship, and that's what makes it work. I hope they can both give. I hope it will work.

My husband just came down and called my blog shit. "Is all that shit gonna be saved?" he said. Does that mean my words, my life are shit? Or was he asking in a good way, so he could put my life on CD to preserve it? I think he was being kind. Weird how it can be construed in two ways. I need to learn to take the positive road. And can my life be saved onto one little CD? What a thought...

I woke up too late and thus so did Kaeden. I was in a rotten mood and thus so was Kaeden. I can set the tone for our family life. If mama is happy, everyone is happy. Too bad today I'm feeling like crap...

So, those are my thoughts of the moment. I'm going to take a shower, and hope to wash away some of this negativity running through my veins. Or maybe I should just go stand outside in the pouring rain...that'll do the trick...yeah, sure....


Funny Husband

Sometimes funny things happen with sleeping people. Tonight I was watching tv on the couch and Erwin was snoring away on the other couch. I accidentally dumped over the ashtray and cigarettes spilled onto the floor. I called out (not so netjes) "Aw, Jesus." Erwin came out of his deep sleep, said "What's wrong" and when I replied "Nothing" he said "Well, what'd you call me for then?" He was immediately back to sleep. HAHAHA and to think he thinks he's Jesus...Oh God! :-)


Kaeden's Post

Who am I writing this for? asked Kaeden. For me, for us, for everyone, I told him. And then, he began.

I want to say that we played a game. That we watched
a movie on the computer. And we went to Jari's soccer.
I went bike riding with my friends.
Jeroen and Art and the other one.
And I had a drink by Jari's soccer.
I got a drink and used my own money.
I drank AA. And my mom and I gave a big kiss.
I made lasagne and I made my mom pudding
with kit kats, 2 eyes, and one nose, and one mouth.
The mouth was a happy face cuz I love my mom and
she loves me. And I made a fire. I made a lot of fire.
It was very, very, very hot. Very, very. And I took a bath, gramma and grampa.
And now we are gonna go lay in mommy's bed and sleep tight. We will read a story.
I dunno what story but I like the story about the stars and the moon. And I love
you gramma and I will see you in the stars tonight. Love, Kaeden


A Day Out With The Boys

It has been an exceptional day for me today. I've just spent the day having a lot of fun with the kids, and it felt so refreshing and how I wish every day would be. It made me feel like a good mom, a fun mom, a young and energetic mom, the kind of mom, well, that my kids would want to have. It was a peaceful day filled with contentment and smiles and love. And I truly enjoyed myself.

We went to the Ijzeren Man and took the blue route through the forests there, stopping to pick up sticks and stones and pinecones and acorns...and any and every other little boy treasure we could find. We went onto the bird islands and watched ducks splashing in the water, saw a crane walking through the cattails, heard the whistles of any number of birds singing us their hello. We built huts from fallen trees and branches and climbed all forms of trees we could reach. We played baseball with sticks and pinecones, and had an acorn fight, 2 boys against one mama. We walked over bridges and under fallen trees, we hopped across mud puddles and fed acorns and grass to deer and goats and geese. We had a poohsticks contest and chased our sticks all the way to the other side of the water. We played on the exercise equipment in the woods and drug large trees with us the entire duration of our trip. It was just pure enchantment, living through the eyes of my children and having the time to do so, without regards to anything other than their happiness. As we left the woods, we came out on the wrong side of the ditch, filled with green, still water. Seeing no path to lead us to the other side, I made the decision to jump the ditch...it wasn't too wide, but yet a challenge...and one I didn't meet! I ended up mud and water to my waist after Kaed jumped across and I threw Jari with near success---a wet foot that sent him into tears...and wails when I fell in completely behind him. I pulled myself out of the ditch, covered in mud and frog eggs and slime and gracefully headed towards the car. We wouldn't be heading to get groceries or an ice cream looking and feeling as I did. Yet still, it was fun...and funny! I took my shoes off at the car, climbed in, and we began to sing and dance to children's songs. Jari and Kaeden laughed at mama who was completely wet, and proclaimed that it was my fat butt that caused me to fall in. I agreed unhappily. As we headed towards home, we saw a house with pumpkins for sale in the yard. I let the kids out to pick a pumpkin and when the lady saw them looking, she came to show them further choices. I got out looking like a pond and we had another good laugh about falling in the ditch as I told the woman my story. She must have felt sorry for us, as she gave us 3 good sized pumpkins for a mere 2 euro, and then threw in 3 little ones to boot. The kids were in total heaven, discussing what their pumpkins would become. They actually stuck to their original choices and I was so proud at seeing them pick their treasure and carry it back to the car with twinkling eyes. Too bad I didn't have my camera...but maybe better I didn't as it would have been totally saturated in the pocket of my jacket. When we got home, with me limping a bit from twisting my ankle during the fall, thorns stuck deep into the skin of my hands from grabbing a thron bush to pull me out, and after a quick shower to remove the stink and filth of the ditch, I went to talk to my husband and father-in-law who were busy in the attic. Pap asked if I had another shower, as he spied my wet hair. I couldn't do anything other than retell the tales of my day as we all had yet another good laugh.

Good thing that laughter is good for the soul...I've sure managed to have plenty of it today, even in some frightful circumstances...and through it all remained in good spirits and filled with a peaceful sense of happiness. THIS is living, this is being alive, and THIS is good.



I got a letter in the mail today. All the Dutch terms are a bit confusing to me, such as een blijvende ongeschiktheid van ten minste 66 procent en dit algemeen attest heeft als doel u toegang tot de verschillende sociale voordelen waarop u recht heeft, te vergemakkelijken.

But basically, I THINK it means that Kaeden's handicap has been at least partially approved and we do have rights to some social programs for handicapped people. It looks like he has been approved for a tax credit for both personal and house taxes, and he can receive a handicapped parking card (don't quite get this one as he's perfectly mobil). He's already received his free bus ticket. We still haven't heard about the medical benefits, but they are waiting on the doctor for those determinations.

I feel so mixed up right now. I am happy that we'll have some financial benefits from our son being handicapped, and that he will have those same benefits later in his life when he lives on his own, but just the fact that he was approved for these programs shows even more strongly that our son is not normal. He would never have been approved if his handicap wasn't completely legitimate, as the testing procedures for this are very thorough, as they well should be. But when I opened the letter with anticipation of some tax breaks we might receive, as I read through the conditions my heart was beating double time as it sank into the pit of my stomach. I am crying as I type this out, just feeling this pain. What did I ever do to deserve this? Why has God placed this disorder on MY child? When does the pain ever end? Why, oh why, does my little boy have to suffer? A mama is supposed to do everything for her child, to protect and love unconditionally, to see that they are happy and healthy. I am not able to do any of these, other than love. I cannot protect my child from this autism demon, I cannot see my child happy every day of his life as his autistic brain swells with fear and discomfort, I cannot see a healthy normal child laugh and play (autism always hides behind his complete mental health). My son is handicapped, and I cannot do my job as a mother is supposed to be allowed to. I just feel deflated, empty, and completely sad. I just hope when Kaed gets home, he'll have a bright smile and hug to assure me I'm doing all I can, that I am a good mama, in the only way I can be with him. Have I ever mentioned how very much I hate autism???


Fitting In

I admit I am not the easiest person to get to know. I shelter myself a bit before I let people get too close, and I protect my feelings by keeping things stored inside. I don't like to be the town gossip, nor do I like to be the outcast. But, often, that's what I feel I am. Within the confines of my own family and home, I can be me and be accepted and cherished, but out there in this dog-eat-dog world, I often feel very alone and lonely. Much of it has to do with the language barrier that plays such an impact on my life. Though I can speak Dutch fluently (at least fluently enoght to communicate and be understood) and I understand the majority of what is being said, it takes a LOT of work. It isn't easy to express myself quickly and confidently, and that gives my self-esteem a real lashing. I don't easily converse with people because I know it will take too much effort...on my part and theirs. Often, when I do partake in a conversation, I am asked to repeat what I said...sometimes numerous times as people adjust to my accent, my way of wording things, my Dutch mix-ups in sentence structure. And thus, I often remain quiet and leave myself open to those feelings of loneliness, being different, being the one that just doesn't quite fit into the group. It's my own fault, but it's just easier. When I try to join a conversation with numerous people, I often reply too slowly and they have moved on with another subject before I respond with a suitable answer. I feel really stupid sometimes. The past few days in group situations has brought me again to this ever-persistent, ever-dissatisfying issue of language. It forces me to be someone I instinctly am not. It assures me a feeling of insecurity. It lowers my self-esteem and hurts my pride. It portrays a woman that I don't want to be. It leaves me as the outcast. I notice that when I return home to America, I am much more free. I can share my opinions without having to think the process through first, I can crack a joke on whim, I can say what is on my mind. And I don't have to think first. It makes me a much more self-assured and outgoing person, the person that is hidden inside in my life here in Belgium. The person I prefer to be, the one that fits in and has that confidence. Today, as I sat with a group of moms at teh swimming pool, all engaged in various conversations, I just wanted to sink into the floor. They were all laughing and smiling, discussing their children and their lives, and I wanted to be a part...I wanted to shout out the praises of my own children, share a story about how Jari comes into our room and sleeps upside down with us (this was one of the conversations taking place), laugh with the moms discussing the recent soccer trauma, but instead I sat silent. Eventually I 'didn't even hear what was being said anymore, and when one mom finally asked me a question, I was zoned out watching my son swim adn answered with a ridiculous "Huh?" She looked at me as if I was too stupid to know what was being said,and I wanted to scream "Hey, I can understand you, I just flat out F*ing don't give a damn." But the truth is that I do care, I do want to be involved in the conversation, I do want to fit in. And that's when I let the floor swallow me up and I cried silent tears for the woman I am not allowed to be. I can understand...if only they could as well....



I have a girlfriend whom is going through a rough spot in her relationship. Though not married, their partnership is registered, which is the equivalent of a marriage in every aspect with an exception to children. My friend and her "husband" have no children, so they are as good as married. And it has been really bothering me, the troubles they are experiencing. I don't know how she is dealing with it all, and I can't seem to get beyond his disrespectful treatment of her. However, she loves him and is willing to do whatever it takes to make the relationship work. It has been making me really dissect my own relationship with my husband...how we have changed over the years since we first met, what my marriage and our relationship means, how we treat each other. And it has made me realize what a wonderful man I married, how much respect he shows me every day of my life, how much he cares and gives and loves. It's not just in how he treats me, but also what a great father he is to my children. And I won't say that there aren't times that he drives me crazy or irritates me to bits, but that doesn't matter, because the basis of our relationship is good, our commitment to each other goes deep, and we respect one another. Erwin may not be happy with how I look, he may get frustrated by my "irrational" outbursts, and he may think I don't take enough pride in my home, but he isn't in this for a wife that has a tv star body, someone like Mrs. Cleaver that cooks and cleans like her life depends on it..he is in it because we share a deep love for each other, he respects my values and thinks that I have enough to offer him in the sense of intelligence, humor, goodness, mothering, and the gift of care. We can laugh together, play jokes on each other, and talk well into the night about things that may or may not matter. I treasure him for his deep love of history and how easily he can bring something from the distant past to life for me today, for his broad knowledge of geography and other cultures, for his simple acceptance of my burned meals and wrinkled shirts. Together we share the same values, believing that unneccessary spending is ridiculous, that a home doesn't need to be a showhouse, that our family relationships have a deep impact on us, and that the best education we can give our children is in the form of travel. Our parenting styles are very different, but our goals are the same...to raise our children to make it on their own, give them a good basis for achieving this, and giving them love in the form of hugs and kisses, clean clothes and full bellies, days out playing as a family, but no top brand clothing, no allowance for doing what they are expected to do as a family member, no gifts eevry time we walk into a store. We share a love of nature and spend the most of our time together enjoying the outdoors, we share a love of travel adn spend the most of our money exploring new places, we share a love of computers and spend free moments enjoying this passion, we share a love for gardening and spend hours and hours making our yard the perfect place to complement our home. We don't believe in living a life beyond our means, but love when we have a little left over to do something special. We are compatible.

I remember back to the beginning of our relationship when I told Erwin a secret that I was scared would turn him away from me, when I wanted this man more than anything in the world, but I knew that this was something that could impact our relationship and something he deserved to know about me...when I told him with tears running down my face, he just pulled me close and told me it was okay, that he loved me for who I am, and that I had no reason to feel any shame. And as he rubbed my arm with tenderness, he asked me if I was okay. That is the man that is my husband. Those are the kinds of things we forget living everyday life with a person, the day in-day out stress of life coming between us. Those are the things I remember as I think about the possibility of our life taking a new direction, of us no longer being together. Erwin is someone I don't want to have to be without. He gives me so much every day of my life. Each morning as he kisses me goodbye and says his ritual I love you and I jokingly ask if he's sure, I know that those aren't words that he takes lightly. I know that as ritual as it may be, he truly does love me. There is noone I would rather have as my partner in life and love, and I am just grateful that my friend's problems have reminded me how good I have it....and how I need to nurture it and keep it alive. It's easy to step away and let daily life overtake our respect for one another, to let worries about children come between the fun we share as a couple, to allow finances to cast a dark shadow over our smiling faces...but when it really comes down to it, nothing matters except respecting each other, individually, as a couple, and as a member of our family. And I have earned the respect of a great man. I hope I give it back in that same devoted manner. Thanks for loving and respecting me, Er...all of me...


Who Is She?

I know lots of little bits and pieces, but the entire puzzle just never came into place for me. The puzzle I speak of is my sister-in-law, Ilse. In all the time I have been with her brother and a member of her family, she and I have never had (taken) the time to spend time together, getting to know each other, as we really should ahve done. There have been times when we have gotten a bit closer, but life circumstances just carried us back to the mixed up box, and those puzzle pieces just never clicked into place. After we had a bit of a falling out in July, I think we both looked at teh situation through new glasses, and began to see that putting those pieces to the puzzle together was important to both of us. Yesterday we finally took that first step. We spent teh day together, just the two of us, for the first time ever. I have to admit to being nervous. When I got an email asking me for a day out with her, I was thrilled. I felt a great relief lifted from my shoulders as I read her invitation,a pitter-patter in my heart feeling like this would give us our chance. There was no way I was letting this window of opportunity pass me by. As the day got closer, though, I wondered how we would make out, two virtual strangers trying to come together for a good cause. Would we have anything to talk about? Would we be happy shopping in the same types of stores? What should I wear to make her feel comfortable with me? Would we be bored with each other before the day came to an end?

As I showered for our outing I started to relax. I decided that the only thing I needed to be was myself, and I was looking forward to a day shopping and lunching out. It felt like a luxury was falling into my lap. One I had waited a very long time to receive. I got dressed and didn't even turn to my closet a second time. Whatever her opinion of me, it had long since formed and changing my clothes was not going to change who I am...I headed downstairs to wait, and managed to clean up the kitchen while I did. When I heard the doorbell ring, I was folding a load of laundry. At that moment, my stomach fell into the pit of my stomach. Oh boy, this is it, I thought, as I opened the door. And then in she walked...my sister-in-law.

We drove towards Weert, a nice little shopping city, for the day. We started off enjoying a cup of coffee in the sunshine, and the conversation was never a challenge. It came easily and flowed just as it should. We went shopping and managed to make a few good finds...at one of her favorite stores (I just learned this about her yesterday), V&D, I scored jeans for teh kids at a GREAT price. We took a lunch break again enjoying the beautiful weather outside. I talked a lot during lunch, she learned a great deal about who I was, things I have never even considered discussing with her before. We talked about how Erwin and I met, and how his family reacted to him getting involved with soem American girl on the internet. We laughed a lot as we discussed her brother, my husband, and his quirky but lovable personality traits. We just got to know one another, better than we have ever allowed each other before.

As we finished our second cup of coffee, I looked at my watch and relaized we had been sitting there for nearly 2 hours...2 hours talking, enjoying the weather, and each other (at least I think so). There had been no awkward moments, no times that I felt uncomfortable, no silences to fill up time. It was ncie. I learned a few new things about this importnat member of my family. I realized just how relaxed she could be when everyday stresses were thrown out the window, how her devotion to her horse is more than just about love and hides a strong value system and dedication. I learned that I could be me, and she would accept me for the person that I am. As we walked back to the car, I felt a peaceful contentment. All my worries were thrown out the window. Here is a woman with whom I could enjoy a day of companionship. I can't describe it as anything but nice.

After yesterday, I am even more willing to get that puzzle put together. I don't have to be her best friend, I don't have to agree with everything she says, I don't have to spend every free moment with her and know everything about her, but I can accept her as my friend, a person to laugh with and share with, someone to hang out with when time allows, a woman I want to claim as a member of my family. From my heart to yours, Ilse, I am proud to call you my sister-in-law. Thanks for taking the chance and getting one more piece of the puzzle fitted snuggly into place.


Kids Power Team

Today was Wednesday. We had the afternoon free to make choices about what to do. There was a Kids concert going on at the culture center in town and I talked Kaeden into missing sport club so we could attend. He was glad he did. After taking the bus to the city we purchased our tickets and then wandered around the toy store for a bit. Then the show began...music, lights, games, dancing. The boys really enjoyed themselves. And then came the big moment....Who from the audience can help us??? Kaeden's arms flailed wildly about as he screamed "Me, ME!" And after a couple more rounds of him bouncing and dancing til sweat ran down his face, he was chosen. He bounced with a spring in his step onto the stage and then had to sing all the kids songs from poular television series and kids artists. I was shocked that he knew them all. He then had to dance the chicken dance, the macarena, and one other dance...those he followed along and managed to figure it all out before the dance was over. He really enjoyed the shake your butt part :-) Yep, that's my boy! What amazes me about all of this is his ability to fit into a situation. As mucha s the thought of going had him in a panic, he loved every minute of it. He also loved being in the spotlight, siniging into the microphone, dancing for "all the world" to see. He seemed like such an average kid, despite his handicap, despite having just come home on the bus from his autism classroom, despite not yet being able to read ( I was so glad he wasn't chosen one game sooner when the kids had to play hangman...that wouldn't ahve went so well.). As his mom, I sat in the seat with Jari, watching our Kaeden, and I can't begin to tell what a strong feeling of pride pulsed through my veins. This is a child that may not be able to overcome his handicap, but he certainly is learning to live with it...and live with it with attitude! Nobody today could have guessed that he is a child that lives with autism, a child who must alter his every move in life to fit into what the norm says is acceptable. He was that normal boy, just having a GREAT time enjoying life. I can't say I didn't shed a few tears as I watched him dance...tears for the person he is, the person I sometimes wished he was, the person he can not ever become...and then, as his dance was over and he returned to his seat, I danced with him. Danced for joy that my son is just what he is...my son.


My Husband is The Best!

I was busy in the kitchen, just getting dinner dished up, when my husband walked through the door. In his hands was a big wrapped present and when Jari asked if it was for him, Erwin responded with "Nope, it's for Mama." I was in a bit of a shock as he handed it to me, saying "This is because you always cook for me and make my lunches and stuff." It's rare that Er gives me a present-like surprise for nothing...his are usually more in the form of days out or vacation plans, and he always has something special for me at holidays too. But just because??? I really couldn't believe it, and was rewarded with a brand new digital kitchen scale when I tore off the paper. It really is a ncie one and I'm sure will come in handy and get plenty of use as much as I enjoy creating in the kitchen. The cool thing about it is that with each new ingredient you add, you don't have to start over, rather just press reset and add your next ingredient and it measures each separately. Anyway, I'm happy to have the scale. But even more, I'm happy to have a husband that shows me his love...in many different ways. He's more than worth his weight, in gold!


Sometimes you've just got to do it...bring out all those paints and brushes, pallettes and paper, and let your hands work at mixing colors you never imagined were possible...deep purples that capture that moment in the dark sky just after the sun closes his eyes, bright lime greens springing up on paper like fresh leaves awakened after a winter sleep, a blue so deep even the bottom of the sea can't compare...colors that bring life to our world. I have been wanting to paint for awhile now, just try my hand and see what transforms with no real thought to where my mind may take me. Today I pulled out all those materials, all that mess that means a bit more cleaning up, but lets your spirit free, lets your mind's eye take shape and form. My canvas changed throughout the course of my painting session, first yellow and then green as I added blue. Somehow a fluid tree flowed onto the canvas, it's ball shape filled with brown twigs, as a hill came into the background, flowing on a slant where children could roll and laugh and a dark sky filled with the colors of a sunset after a storm. It was a quiet picture, no movement, a bit dark, as if the world is ready to go into sleep after dusk, parents singing their children to sleep as their eyelids get heavy and finally close, pets having been walked to do their duty and laying quietly in their basket at the feet of their owner reading a book in the lazy boy chair. I am a creative person in many ways, but painting, as much as I try, has never been my forte. I want to create like the masters with the results of a kindergarten classroom. Still, I felt relaxed. I wanted another canvas on which to create, more brushes to fill with yet another new color, more time to let my thoughts form into something solid and touchable. Painting felt good. I may not clean up that mess today. I may just leave it and see what transforms tomorrow, feel that peace again, see what new shapes go from my mind to my hand to the paper...see that even if I am not a master, it is fun to pretend, to be as free as that five year old proud to bring home their treasured work of art to show off on the refrigerator door...


Little Boy Surprises

Jari just kicked me out of the kitchen. He keeps complaining about how hungry he is, but everything I offer is strongly rejected in his stubborn whiny manner. Finally, he just said "I need a box." Weird, I thought, that a box will placate him with his growling rumbly-tumbly. I couldn't find a just right box, and finally asked what he needed it for. "I'm making you surprise treat" he stated. He has learned this from his big brother. When I handed him a serving tray, he said "YEAH, THAT's what I needed!" and without a thank you or smile or anything he proceeds to kick me out saying "Get out of the kitchen or I can't make your surprise." Lightbulbs go off in my head...hmmm...what little boy mess will I be tackling within the coming 20 minutes? Yet, I am swayed with his need to be independednt, to learn from experience, and from my own curiosity about what kinda treat I will get. I'm here waiting...and I'll let you know the outcome...

Aha, we just shared our treat. And what a smile he had on his little boy face when he sat his tray full of goodies on the couch. There was a bowl of cereal for him, a Capri-Sun for each of us, a peperkoek (individually wrapped), a can of mixed vegetables, 1 can stewed tomatoes, 2 cans of tomato sauce, and a bag of marshmallows! He went on to inform me that I need to help him open all the cans so that he can mix them all together and make me something I will think is just yummy...hmmm...I am hoping he will forget his yummy treat by the time he finishes his cereal and watching Fantasia.

What can I say? These little boy surprises are what keeps me alive. They bring a smile to the very heart of my heart. They give me plenty to keep busy with, as Kaeden's usual surprise would have been opening all those cans and using 10 bowls to whip it together "just right". And with a pretend smile plastering my lips, covering that need to spit it out as it covers my throat lining, he'd never need to try to comprehend just how much I love him to actually be eating his creation. As for Jari, well, I love him too...for NOT opening all those cans! :-) What a wonderful surprise treat!



Wednesdays are hard for me. At this moment I have taken a time out from playing and making games out of cleaning up to listen to my children scream, cry, and fight upstairs. I have had enough of my kids today. I can't wait til 4:50 when we leave for Jari's soccer practice, for 5:50 when we leave fro Kaeden's Judo lesson, and for 7:20 when the sitter comes to relieve me of parenthood....for just a couple hours while I attend Kaeden's parent-teacher conference (so, that's my way of getting out of parenthood for awhile). My boys are boys...they have fun doing anything that makes a mess, they fight each other continually, and when I come between them they curse me for being mean to "my brother". If I hear one more "Moooooooommmmm, Kaeden did..." or "MOM, Jari did..." I am going to pull every last hair out...and not out of my head, but theirs! Why, oh why, do Wednesdays have to be only 1/2 days at school?


God Confusion

Last night I had choir. We sing a lot of songs to do with God. In fact, I think every song we sang last night had the word God in it. And I'm just not sure how I feel about that. At this point in my life I am not a church-going person. I am, in fact, a bit fed up with the institution of religion, for what I perceive it to be doing to my family. I do believe in God. I do hold Him sacred in my heart. But when it comes to religion, I just don't know. I want to get my kids baptised and allow them to go through the rites of first communion. But why? I myself know next to nothing about catholicism. Does it matter though? I mean, it doesn't hurt anything to be brought up in a religion and learn a bit about the history of the world if nothing else. But when religion overtakes you, body, mind, and spirit, then I see it as a problem. I don't believe that God would want this. The God that I believe in doesn't bend to any religion. He doesn't think that any one group is right. He just wants peace and happiness for all His children. And religion just doesn't offer that. If it isn't taken too far and you belong to a religious institution and act as a good person and treat all people with respect, then it doesn't matter which religion you chose to be. But, if you use your religion as a means to create this fantasy that you are better than everyone else in the world, well, that makes religion total BS. I guess I can honestly say that I believe in God but not the institution of religion. But, in general, in healthy people, I also don't think it spreads harm.

The problem arises when religion is accepted into the soul of an unhealthy person, and they use that as a basis for EVERY aspect of their life...as religion can be read into differently by every person, there is no ONE right answer. Even as a baptised Catholic, I don't agree with everythign I know about the Catholic church...this doesn't stop me from declaring myself Catholic, going to church on ocassion, raising my children to believe in God, and believing in Him myself. But it doesn't have to overtake my life, make me a menace, and cause me to believe in things that are plain WRONG. When religion overtakes your life,God is no more ...it is just religion overpowering you, and religion speaks for you...you are no longer your own being, rather one soldier in the army...and what happens with armies? They fight. It doesn't matter what morals and values you hold as a child of God, you fight for your own army, you disgrace God by hurting other people. This is what I see happening in my own family, and if what God wants is pain, then religion certainly delivers.

Now, again, I am not opposed to religion in the sense that it helps remind us of God, to remind us to live as God would want us to live, as He lived and died for us. BUT, when it goes too far, religion actually twists that love for God into damnation. Is that what God would want, for His children and His world? I think not. So, I urge you to rethink your principle, live for you, in God's loving way, and not for some army that has a mission to cause harm. I'm speaking to you, Travis, and all the millions that think and act as you do. You are NOT acting in God's best interest...you're doing much more harm than good. I just realized, I NEED to sing these songs about God, I need to sing out His praise, and in doing so, I WILL act as a child of God, for it is HE that I honor, and not some senseless institution that claims fame to being THE one...for only God Himself is Just....only God Himself is THE ONE, and God Himself is the only being I chose to honor.


1. When you looked at yourself in the mirror today, what was the first thing you thought? You gotta dye your hair
2. When is the next time you will have sex? We don't have a schedule...
3. What's a word that rhymes with DUCK? Luck
4. Favorite planet? Earth
5. Who is the 4th person on your missed call list on your cell-phone? I have no idea even how to check that
6. What is your favorite ring on your phone? Uhm, the one that it was set to when I got it
7. What shirt are you wearing? A lime green tank top
8. Do you label yourself? Nope, don't think so
9. Name the brand of shoes you're currently wearing? Birkenstocks
10. Bright or Dark Room? Bright
11. What do you think about the person who took this survey before you? I have no clue who it was
12. If you're alone in a room with two beds, which one? The one on the right
13. What were you doing at midnight last night? Shutting down the computer and turning off the lights...I climbed into bed at 12:06
14. What did your last text message you received on your mobile say? The only text message I have ever had was from the phone company telling me my balance
16. What's a word that you say a lot? 1,2, 3...
17.Who told you he/she loved you last? My husband
18. Last furry thing you touched? Jari's cow chair...alive was Nicky (oma's dog)
19. How many drugs have you done in the last three days? None.
20. How many rolls of film do you need to get developed? One of Kaeden's...none of mine! I love digital!
21. Favorite age you have been so far? 11
22. Your worst enemy? I can't think of a single one
23. What is your current desktop picture?A sunset picture I took at the Snowy Range
24. What was the last thing you said to someone? Do you like this show?
25. If you had to choose between a million bucks or to be able to fly, which would you take? A million bucks!
26. Do you like someone? I like a lot of people, all for different reasons
27. What was the last book you read? Running In Heels
28. If the last person you spoke to was getting shot at, what would you do? Jump on him and use my body to cover him
30. What is the closest object to your left foot? A toy car


Playing Games

Today, both my kids are home from school. Kaeden has the day off, and Jari stayed home sick. It's always a bit busy when I have them both...today has been no exception, but it hasn't been fighting and arguing...we've been playing games! Jari chose Spiderman...when he came downstairs with the box I said "Oh no, not THAT game." The kids laughed and laughed...hahaha...mama has to play a game she hates. I put the thing all together, 100's (exaggeration) of pieces building the skyscrapers and connecting the magnetized Spiderman with all the demon pieces. ARGH! But, then we started playing. The kids LOVE this game, and their excitement brought me into the moment. I laughed with them, I OOhed and AAhed as Spidey swept across the magnetic board, cheering when I captured a demon! In the hour we played Spidey, I found myself enjoying it, even as I had to refit the pieces to keep the buildings intact. When it was over and we counted our pieces, the kids cheered that mama came in last. As they ate their pudding that the winners won, I pulled out Uno! Now, hahaha, jongens, let's see who is gonna win THIS game, one that I enjoy...and win I did...not in points, but in happy laughter and high fives...in giggles as they skipped mama yet again...in my boys being a team! This is one game I will play again and again, and love it every time!