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.


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.....



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...


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!


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.


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
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
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
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 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
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 :-)


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!



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.


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.



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!