Last night was our parent-teacher conference for Kaeden. We headed off to the school expecting to get his report about all he's learning and what he's achieved and what he'll continue working on and what new things they'll throw into the mix next semester. The usual, but always interesting to actually know how he's doing academically, as his typical response is "I dunno...I don't remember...or I don't wanna talk about it." Luckily we have a daily written journal back and forth with the teachers, so I ahve a pretty good idea how things are going in general, but academically, little is said. I was looking forward to learning his test scores and feeling secure, because he always does well on the tests and on paper he stands out as a highly successful child. And that relieves me of some of my worry about him.

However, upon our arrival at the school, I was greeted with a new format of parent-teacher conference. There wasn't a single reference to how he is doing academically. There were no test scores presented. There was just this little circle of discomfort around my head as two teachers and another counselor from the regional learning center discussed our son with us. Discussed not his academic success, but his failure to thrive due to his extreme behavior problems stemming from his inability to control himself. He is just raging out-of-control, if not at home, then at school, and the myriad of problems this creates is great. Instead of getting assistance with his school placement for next year, they are advising us to have Kaeden put into care for a complete observation. They simply do not feel that they can justify any high school plans when his behavior is the cause of his lack of success. He can't sit still anymore, he can't focus on his work, he can't complete his work, and he can't move forth scholastically with these problems hanging over his head.

So, as I sat and heard their recomendation that my son be placed in a "unit", stripped of all his medication, given every test in the medical book, both mentally and physically, and find for once and for all the underlying cause for his aggression and anger and behavior problems, I found myself on the verge of panic. See, autism is no easy thing. It manifests itself differently in each individual, and on top of the problems with the autism, many other disorders can also arise. And Kaeden's medication is just not cutting it anymore. Coming into puberty, his 8 year old mental self cannot compete with or control his 13 year old physical self. He's simply losing it.

So, after we asked numerous questions about this placement, what it would mean for him, for our family, financial issues, and the symantics of the entire ordeal, I felt a bit of relief. I mean, no, I don't want my son to be sent away from home; no, I do not want to be subjected to too many questions about painful times in our lives; no, I do not want to hear all the reasons he is angry at me; no, I do not want to start the trials with medication all over again; no, I do not want to do all the paperwork such a stay will bring...but, and here's the big thing, I do want help for my son, to allow him to be the best he can be, to allow him freedom from pain and anger and hurt, to give him a concept of self-confidence, to find all the medical issues surrounding all these things and set him on the path for a successful life ahead. And this complete and thorough hospital stay sounds like it just may be the ticket we've been trying to find for a long time. It may give us some answers and some hope and some freedom from all the negativity that lies in our family. It may bring us, and most of all Kaeden, some peace.

I am scared. This is such a huge step to take. As a parent, when we first hold our little one as a newborn, we see their beauty, we're in awe over this person we have created, we can see nothing but the beauty his birth has brought into our life...and over the years that myth is diluted with each step forth on the path of independence. But with autism in the mix, that path is wound around far too many trees and stones and pathways through the forest, and you get a little lost trying to find your way back out into the sunlight. It kind of swallows you up as you sweat, wondering if you'll ever make it out alive, trying each path as it leads to yet another obstacle stuck in the darkness of the forest, thinking that you'll neevr make it out, never see the sunshine again, never be able to walk a steaight path from one point to another.

I want to walk out of the darkness of the forest. I want to feel the sunshine on my face. I want to follow my son from point A to point B without getting lost through all the obstacles. I want the relief of knowing it's going to be okay.

And so, there's this decision weighing heavily on my mind, and even though I feel in my heart of hearts that it is the right thing to do, to finally give Kaeden Kaeden himself back, I am in pain. In pain that our lives have gotten to this point, in pain that my child needs this type of intervention, in pain that my son will be removed from our home, in pain that I, his mom, wasn't able to make it all okay...but I feel a tiny tug of relief and some hope and finally I feel as if I can breathe fresh air, cuz maybe, just maybe, help is finally on the way. Maybe I can finally walk out of the darkness of those woods, next to my son, sunshine shining upon his beautiful, hopeful, paceful face.


Who Is That?

Sunday, we're trekking off to a Winter Wonderland Paradise called Phantasialand, where we'll be welcomed by rides and fun and maybe even a visit from Santa and fairies and elves all decorated in a Winter Wonderland theme. We're going with oma and opa and Aunt Ilse, and Michel is also coming along. And on Christmas day we're going to head to Helmond with my parents for a nice Christmas dinner with Erwin's family, and Michel will also be present.

Michel? Never heard about him...who is that?

He is the real and true boyfriend of my sister-in-law. And she likes him enough to subject him to these family days, which means it's gotta be serious! Really, who would bring their boyfriend along to an amusement park with an over-stimulated autistic teenager, a screaming, stubborn six-year-old, their mom who, though now Dutch, still has her Americanized language tools, and their father who knows all the right buttons to push to drive his sister crazy?! All I can say, is it must be LOVE! Holy cow, I never expected to say that where Ilse is concerned. But wow, I am SO happy for her.

Ever since I have been a member of Erwin's family, Ilse has had a few dates or been in a short-term relationship that hasn't worked out. Her horse has been her top priority and left her no time to manage a relationship as well. But since this summer, and her announcement that Michel is in her life, things have changed. She's still dedicated to Kartouche, she still makes it to dinners when we visit, she still goes to work...but now she's making time for this man in her life as well. And she seems to be very happy.

I am thrilled that Michel is joining us. It means that Ilse is taking her relationship to the next level, allowing him to know not only her, but also her family, and subjecting herself and Michel to a whole new aspect of Ilse. It means that he's important, and she plans on him sticking around, trusts him to join our family ride, with all our idiosyncrasies. And it means that someone new is throwing another element into our family. It's exciting, wondering about who he is, drawing a few conclusions from hearing stories, and awaiting judgement day when we finally meet. I know Michel is someone I will like, because he is making my sister-in-law happy, and that's something that really counts.

So, now that we're finally going to meet Mr. Right, can I begin asking when I'm going to be an auntie???! :-) Oh, and Congratulations Zusje!


Ticking Off The Days

Isn't it exciting? My mom and dad will be here in less than a week. And each night before bed, while we sing our songs and read our stories, we check off how many more sleeps til gramma and grampa are here to play! I can't even begin to portray in words the sparkle that flies from my children's eyes when they hear it's now just 10, 9, 8, 7...more sleeps! Gramma and Grampa are 100 times more exciting than Santa's visit. We've been trying to get the house cleaned up and organized so that they can come into a somewhat comfy home. Storage boxes full of treasured JUNK has been moved to the attic, and while we haven't yet begun the clearing out of their bedroom, we'll get to it eventually...oh, say, 11pm Dec 23rd when we need to leave for the airport by 8am the next morning...and they'll never be the wiser! Because, they probably won't even notice the cobwebs swept away, the shelves all dusted and windows sparkling clean...cuz if they have the same sparkle in their eyes that my boys have, everything will be shining and twinkling and nothing else is gonna matter. A year and a half since Jari last squeezed his little arms around grampa's neck...2 birthdays later, 3 lost teeth, 10 inches taller, and already able to read...and still, that bond between him and his grampa is as strong as if they see each other every day. It amazes me, makes me feel prouder than proud that I have managed to develop this special quality from thousands of miles away. And when I see the tears of joy make those sparkles shine even a little brighter come Dec 24, I'll be shivering from inside, happier than I have been in a long time, knowing my children and my parents get to indulge in their grandson/grandparent bonds, and make them even that much stronger without having to do it across the miles. Isn't it exciting?


O' Christmas Tree, O' Christmas Tree...

How lovely are your branches....

And lovely they are, all filled with the work of loving little hands and memories of Christmas celebrations past.


The Spirit of Christmas

I absolutely love the Christmas season. I enjoy listening to Christmas music and decorating the house. I love looking at decorations claiming streets and homes and yards. I love searching out special gifts and wrapping them up in pretty paper. I love the excitement I see in my children with the upcoming visit of Santa Claus. I love being in a church filled with decorated trees and Christmas flowers and the peaceful concept of Baby Jesus. I love the booming fireowrks and lighted skies during the New Year's celebration. I love going as a family and finding our perfect tree, wrestling with boxes from the attic and knotted together strings of lights. I love being surrounded by family and friends.

But what I don't love about Christmas is the feeling that giving brings when it swallows you up whole and becomes a competition. My favorite thing to do is find what I consider a perfect gift for a friend or family member, or making something I think they will love, and getting it to them so their eyes can twinkle during their Christmas celebration. However, sometimes when I find that perfection, or create that perfection, I am troubled. Troubled by wondering if they think it is enough, or will understand the meaning behind what I have chosen especially for them. Troubled by the fact that my measly 5 euro gift cannot compare to the 30 euro they have invested in me. Because, for me, the gift is NOT about the value or quantity, but about the quality...and the quality can only come in the form of giving from the heart, spotting that perfect gift through a store window and then lovingly handing over the cash, whatever the dollar amount, knowing you ahve chosen something your special friend or family member will either 1)love, 2) be able to use or 3) bring back a special memory of past days.

Yesterday, I spent the day with friends of mine at a Christmas market. We enjoyed wandering through the stalls and picking up a few odds and ends. On the way there, my one friend said: Oh no, I forgot to get M a gift. Maybe I can pick her something up at the markets. I thought that was a good compromise. As we wandered the stalls, she could decide what our other friend would love and then purchase it as a surprise. I, however, did not bring a gift, nor did I plan to buy one for this particular friend. We have neevr exchanged gifts, and if I see something I think she'll like, I pick it up and give it to her....but not as a necessary Christmas exchange. But when we got the the market and started looking at all the Christmas surprises, it turned into a money game. "I am going to buy you something for Christmas today, so let me know what you like," my one friend said. "Well, only if I can buy something for you in return," said the other. And then the game began. One purchased one thing, and the other purchased another to reciprocate. And it kept going on that way all through the afternoon. And I admit, it was starting to drive me crazy, because it became more a game of who could out-give rather than finding that special feeling of choosing a perfect gift. And at the end of the evening, my girlfriend said "" Well, I got nearly all my shopping done today. I got a little something for you and her and her......but, I need to just get a little something more and then I'll be done." And what I felt, instead of excited that she'd found me a perfect gift, was a bit of a let down that she needed to have even more for me. Why wasn't what she bought for me enough? If it was something she thought I would love, something she had hand-chosen becuase it suited me, why did she need more to round it off? I could care less of the dollar value or if my 2 euro gift is equal in price to my friend's 10 euro gift. I certainly don't need more junk to clutter my shelves, but I always love a gift when I know it was spcially chosen for me, and my shelves of special things grow because I know they have special meaning from whomever has chosen it for me. Or at least I hope they have special meaning.

Anyway, through all of this, I worried that maybe I was going to let my friend down by not equalling her 20 or 30 or 40 euro's worth of purcahses. I mean, she gives to all four of us, and they have only 2 to buy for and maybe I was supposed to buy even more to make the dollar values equal in our families. I want her to feel special, and I want her to enjoy the gifts I give to her, but without the expectation that it must have a dollar price attached. And if I choose to buy for one friend and not another, then I hope that I won't be looked upon as a grinch. And if I give something taht has cost me a measly 1 euro because it's soemthign I think she will like, I hope she doesn't feel short-changed. I don't want giving to feel like a competition.

I have had numerous favorite Christmas gifts, and I can assure you that the ones that brought tears to my eyes were simple and cost next-to-nothing. Let me list a few of my favorites over the years.

1) Wrapped inside a box with a note stating: These are my gifts for you this Christmas. I hope that each will bring you happiness and peace throughout the coming year, as having you as my daughter brings to me. Love, Mom. And inside the box were little hearts cut out of red felt, each with a simple word written on them: Love, Peace, Health, Joy, Happiness... and that gift touched me.
2) I adore the book Polar Express. I believe in the magic of Christmas. And I wanted my husband (who did not grow up believing in Santa and his spirit) to understand how deeply the magic touches me. We watched the Polar Express movie as a family, and at the end, tears washed down my cheeks. He didn't seem to understand why. However, on Christmas morning, in a pretty little tapestry box, I opened the lid and found a single red Christmas bell...and I could hear it ring as I held it up to my ear and jingled it. My absolute favorite gift from my husband to date...his understanding.
3) A box of chocolate covered cherries or thin mints...because that is my dad's favorite gift to give and it just isn't Christmas without them under the tree.
4) Whatever I receive from my boys. I give them 2 euro to go search out a gift for me, and the possibilities are endless...but whatever I unwrap, I know it has been chosen specially from them with much heart and thought...and when I see the package wrapped with extra tape and edges not so smooth, I get a lump in my heart and realize that this is the gift of love.

And those are just a few of my favorite things...because it isn't about the money, but about touching someone's heart. So, no competition here; no worries about how much I spend or if it will be enough or if everyone is equal (though I admit to giving my boys an equal NUMBER of gifts to open under the tree)...because when it comes from a gift from me, it will be one that I have specially hand-chosen with love...and it will be something perfect and special just for you.


A MeMe by Jade

Ok, so Jade Me Me'd me, and to prevent bad luck that may fallow I am going to continue the Me Me. lol (Yes, these are Jade's words...not mine...but I'm just going to go with it!)
So here's the rule, name 7 odd, random, or strange things people might not know about you and then pick 7 people to do the same. :-)My Me Me.

1) I won the local spelling bee when I was in 6th grade, went onto state level and lost by spelling a simple word wrong due to the stress...and at this moment, I can't even rememebr the word...but I did wear the exact same outfit for all the spelling bees thinking that's what helped me to win...purple pants and a tshirt with glitter butterflies!
2)I cannot stand to touch polyester training pant material...it gives me the weebie-geebies
3) I saved someone's life doing the heimlich maneuver at a park where I took my clients. And after, I spent a good hour in the death grip of one of my disabled clients who was overwhelmed by all the hupla going on.
4) I used to work with pottery and created a beautiful, large piece that is housed at my parents. I want to do pottery again, because it is so freeing.
5)I have no clue how to back-up my computer files.
6)I stole my mom's car from her work and went out joyriding with a friend when I was 14.
7) I use plastic wrappers, plastic wrap, strings, etc for a toothpick because it gets stuff out easier...and it drives my husband absolutely crazy when I do it.

I'm not going to tag anyone, but if you think it's interesting, have a go! So, something new about me? Or do you know me too well already? :-)

We're Back in the Computer Age

My computer is BAAAACCCKKK! She's a bit of an empty shell after her untimely death, but we'll have her filled up again in no time. But, so much has been happening, I thought I'd just do a picture post. Enjoy the zoo, Sinterklaas, Erwin's birthday, Thanksgiving, and my new title as Dutch citizen...it's all right here, folks! You saw it first!


Just Call Me Dutchie

I got a very important phone call last week...one that will literally change me, my life, and the person the world sees me as. Yes, it was the call I have been waiting for: from the consulate, welcoming me to my naturalisation ceremony. I am going to become a Dutch citizen. I have fulfilled all the obligations leading to this moment in the past 7 years...and my final step to complete in becoming a Dutch citizen arrives on Thursday when I will head to Antwerpen for the final installation...and then have every right that a true Nederlander has, including carrying a Nederlandse passport and the right to live and work at my own will in any of the European Union lands. I have this mixed up feeling running through my veins. I am completely thrilled that I will be accepted as a Dutch person, and be a true citizen of the land my heart has called home for these past years of my life. Holland is a place I have come to love and treasure, and even since we have moved to Belgium, Holland is my true European love...every time we head to the border, I truly feel as if I am home. There is so much to love about the tiny, clean, historical,flat, crowded land I first called home in 2000. But there's another side of me that feels a bit funny, in the sense of 'who am I?' When asked my citizenship, will I answer "Dutch", my adopted nationality, or "American", the born and bred blood flowing through my veins? I have patriotism to my homeland, and it feels just a teeny-tiny bit like I am cheating just a smidge. How can any one person be two, both from the inside, and on paper? It's a bit of euphoria...but also confusion.

I have been trying to find online examples of naturalisation ceremonies so I know what to expect. But I can't find much of anything, and that makes this final step a bit scary. It's a relatively new concept, but one I am required to complete. And I'm sure it will be just fine. And come Thursday, it will be me proudly wearing that Dutch-American t-shirt I purchased at Ellis Island a few years back, with the Dutch and American flags intertwined, and a pride and love of two countries which I can officially call mine. So watch out world, it's going to be the new me...the Dutch-American girl walking these European streets!


Happy Thanksgiving!

My computer has hit the sack and I have zero access online at the moment, but wanted to say that I give thanks for all the riches I have in my life. On this Thanksgiving day there is too much to name about why I am grateful. But it's worth the world to me. We had our Thanksgiving celebration this evening and it in itself was worthwhile of thanks. The people sitting at my dinner table I am thankful for. And for all the people in my life who were not here with me physically, but in heart and mind, for them I am thankful. There is nothing more that I could need in my life to be fulfilled and happy...just the connection with people I love and who love me back, and it's for that that I give thanks. Hoping you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration filled with love, happiness, and most of all, reasons for thanks. Happy Thanksgiving!


What's Been Going On?

It's been a few days since I've gotten around to writing. I really haven't been feeling up to it. I have been sick. Yes, me. And once I get that first little tickle in my throat, I know it's over for me. Once it comes, it lasts the entire winter, with few reprieves. I have a compromised immune system...that's what the doc says. And really, there's nothing that can be done about it. So, I just know that I'm going to be sick, and pretty much stay sick. Fun fun, I tell ya.

So, here's what's been happening around these parts:

1. Did I mention I've been sick? Been getting nothing done because all I wanna do is sleep cuz that's the only time my head doesn't feel 1000 pounds and my coughing doesn't cause my lungs to collapse. I've just been busy getting through the days, and that's about it.

2. The weather has turned cold. Brrrrrr! There is frost on the ground every morning, and when I ride my bike I need to put on gloves. And, it's been raining a lot. Typical fall weather for these parts. The kind of weather I just love to hate.

3. Took Jari to the dentist this week. Found out that I am the worst mama in the world. Both my boys have bad teeth. Jari screamed and screamed while he had a tooth extracted, and we have to go back for 2 fillings and the extraction of another absessed tooth. I am not looking forward to our appt next week...at.all!!! The good part? The tooth fairy came and left a shiny euro under Jari's pillow. And after all that screaming, he deserved it!

4. Kaeden is doing horrible in school. A couple weeks back he broke a window and yesterday he smashed a chair to pieces with a golf club. I am scared. I am afraid my son, the light of my life, is going to end up in child jail. And I am not kidding. And I don't know what the school is doing to try and make him see the wrong of his ways. We have an appt with the school next week. I am not looking forward to our appt....at.all!!!

5. I went to a meeting at Kaeden's school last night for children that will be moving into secondary school (IF he doesn't head to child jail first). I was blown away by all the choices we have to make. I had no idea it was such a major process. In America, you just go to the local high school. Here, you ahve to choose a school based on what education they offer. Does your child want to head to university? Go to this school. Does he want to be a mechanic? Go to this school. Does he plan to work in childcare? Go to this school. And then, there are all these different levels. 1A, 1B, BSO, BuSO, OV1, OV2, OV3, OV4. And kids that are in special education and continue that route have no chance to receive a diploma. They can only achieve a certificate, but no diploma. And that makes me mad. They are still completing their schooling. Do they not deserve a diploma for their efforts? And why, at age 12, do they already ahve to make a decision about what they want to do with their lives? Who, at 12, knows what they want to be? So, I am totally confused and worried and scared about what options are available for my son and which route we will end up going. And now, I have to find a suitable school. The speaker kept mentioning the kids with autism that have "different" needs than normal or mentally handicapped kids, and how they fall into this hole because of their "issues". Hmmm...one more point for autism. And MY child gets to go even further into the minus values. GREAT!!!!! (and that's very sarcastic, btw, if you didn't notice!)

5. My wonderful husband built us a new hobby rack. Okay, what's that you ask? Well, we used to have a table in our back room which was always such a mess you couldn't find a single thing. We took out the table and he built shelving to store a whole bunch of crates on. And in each crate I have been organising all my hobby stuff. And I had no idea what a massive amount of hobby stuff I have. I am not kidding, I think my hobby room is more sufficient than an elementary school supply room. And it's gotten me so excited seeing all the cool stuff that I have. I can't wait til it's completely organised so I can get busy creating. Yesterday I found my wood burning gun and couldn't help myself. I took doen the family name plaque I made which hangs in front of our house, reburned it all and gave it a lacquer finish! That's the kind of thing I LOVE TO DO! And I haven't done much of it the past few years cuz it was all hidden away in a big pile of mess. It's like a whole new world has opened up to me. The only negative? Well, now I have to put the laundry away, cuz my table is no longer there to store it. I **THINK** that was Erwin's big plan in this whole "Look what I'm gonna make for YOU!" charade!

6. My little critters are so happy. Our guinea pig babies take up a lot of my time. I just love love love them!!! It's so much fun to see them chasing around and popcorning to their little hearts content. And hearing them squeak and wheet all day is like a song in my heart. I am so happy we got them and they are such a big part of our lives now.

7. Tonight, I am going out with the girls! I am really looking forward to sharing a good meal out with girl chat. We're taking my friend Lisa out for her birthday to a Mexican place she loves. I can't wait to have good Mexican! And just being with my friends!!! So, it's going to be an enjoyable end to this week...until the weekend begins....

So, that's what's been going on. There's been MUCH MUCH more, but you get the idea....in this long post. It's been a whirlwind and it doesn't look to be slowing down at all in the coming weeks. At least I have a reason for living...somebody's gotta keep all this stuff circulating around these parts...



Yes, it's that time of year again...timefor the feast of Saint Nicolaas. My boys are excited about his arrival and last weekend we started off the festivities by giving him a hand at our city hall. They were rewarded with a huge bag of treats, of course. And they've been setting their shoe every night and making pictures and leaving carrots for the horse...it's all so magical.

BUT, and here's a big BUT...

Kaeden has been asking me if Sinterklaas is real. And this is the time I have been dreading, because I want the magic of these holidays to be with him forever. Yet, I understand that at his age, this questioning was bound to arise. But I can't exactly tell him the complete truth because I have another little boy to consider, one who is still young enough to believe in the magic and spirit of the season. And Kaeden isn't the kind of "young man" I can trust to keep a big secret like this. So, yesterday he asked me yet again why all the kids told him Sinterklaas is not real and your mom and dad fill your shoe. I calmly asked what he thought and he told me, "I just tell them that my mom wouldn't lie to me." A guilty lump of coal stuck in my throat. I feel terrible that he wants to know the comlete truth, but I cannot yet tell him. So, here's the story that I did tell him, as he left the table still doubting what to believe and what's just magic.

Sinterklaas is (I didn't use was) a real person and he is such a good person that he went around and helped all the poor people . He left them little goodies so they would have food to eat. And that's how the legend of Sinterklaas started. Sinterklaas is magic, and if you believe in the magic of Sinterklaas, he'll bring his magic to you. You have to believe for it to live in your heart. Sinterklaas is holy, he's a saint, and he took care of people. And his magic helped people. So, it's up to you whether you want to believe in the magic of Sinterklaas, because he is real, and he is good. Mama still believes in teh magic of Sinterklaas, because once you stop believing, then he stops coming, and I like it when he's here.

When I stopped with the entire story of Sinterklaas, I added towards the end: And please don't tell Jari what your friends are saying, cuz it wouldn't be nice for him to wonder about Sinterklaas.

"So, you are lying to me, then. If I can't tell Jari, you're lying. And it's not ncie for me when my friends tell me Sinterklaas isn't real either."

When Kaeden left the room, I sat and found it really difficult to breathe. How am I supposed to handle this situation? How can I make sure both my boys are taken care of in their magical holiday worlds? How can I assure Kaeden that it isn't about the man in the red cloak, but more about the magic he brings to our hearts and dreary November days? How can I make him believe in the spirit of this great saint, without making a fool of him in front of his friends? And protect Jari at the same time, to allow his belief in the magic and the man to carry on, for at least a couple years longer?

I love the holidays, and I love the spirit and magic of Christmas. But boy, this is a difficult subject...and though I knew it would be coming, I didn't realize how much I would hate my son calling me a liar...and knowing that maybe, in some small way, he's right.


Vacation Pics

Well, what a huge disappointment :-( Erwin loaded the pics from our vacation on the computer...all the Halloween pics and all the family pics we were planning to use for Christmas cards and all teh pics of our entire week away...and they are all deleted. He didn't save them, just looked, and when we went to see Sinterklaas I deleted them off the memory card. I am heartbroken, to say the least. I just can't believe it. Technology is wonderful...unless something like this happens. We didn't even have the video camera with us cuz it's broken, and now everything has vanished into thin air. There's nothing that can be done, but man, that sinking pit in my stomach could sure use a bit of cheering up...dang!


Okay, so I ran a recovery program and got back about 90% of my pics. I am so relieved. I should be really happy, but my very favorite pic from Jari during Halloween is still missing...covered by a shot from him with Sinterklaas. Ah well, at least I have most back and I am once again amazed by technology. Who comes up with this stuff? How does some thought in your head turn into the makings of something so wonderfully satisfying as bringing back all your disks deleted items? I wish I were that smart...but I'm just glad I can take advantage of someone else's brains. So, since this post is all about vacation pics, here's a few from our Autumn Break in Drenthe, Netherlands.


Our Legacy

This weekend we had friends come visit. It was a full house with kids running all around and it was busy and noisy and interesting to hear how our conversation always led back to our family life, our children, our home...when just 5 years ago, Erwin adn I were the only in his group of friends to even have children. Amazing what happens in such a short span of a few years in the mid to late 30's age range. It was erally nice to catch up with friends we see far too often.

During our conversation, I heard for the first time that the mother of Erwin's good friend is suffering from cancer. I had no idea, though she has been sick for 2 years already. It has again spread, now into her liver, and she is on morphine patches for pain...they don't expect her to live much longer. As we talked about this big happening in his life, Erwin's friend let tears loose as he told that the hardest part for him is seeing his parents, whom he has always looked up to, whom have always been there for him, as vulnerable. His eyes wet with unshed tears he spoke about how we expect them to always be there, because they always have been, but then suddenly we have to come to the realization that they are vulnerable, they won't be here forever, and we have to think about a future where they are no longer with us to give us advice and to lean on for strength. We have to become the strength and advisors for our own children, we now the parents that our children look up to, an ever present security in our own children's lives.

Seeing him with teary eyes and speaking from his heart, I just wanted to reach over and hug him tight, tell him it would be okay, be the strength that he's now missing in his own mother. But I can't be. I can only be here for my own children, and give them the best of me that I can, so they can one day feel that same bond that Erwin's friend has come to recognize within his relationship with his own mother.

We are all vulnerable. Life happens, and can be taken from us at any moment in time. We need to remember to rejoice in the good times, hold on to the present and be happy for all that we have. We need to give our children a security with which to grow up, and go on to share in the generations to come. What we are doing at this very moment in time is our legacy, for when we are only memories buried in the earth, what we do with this moment in time is all that will have mattered. Death is contained in the circle of life. And though death hurts, it brings us reality, a reality of from where we have come, and where we want to be...what we want our legacy to be....and how we can best pass that on to our children, our grandchildren, and the world we will never know.


Happy Halloween!

We're heading off on vacation for the week, but wanted to leave you with one last wish...Happy Halloween! Hope it's spooky, creepy, but most of all lotsa clowny fun! EnjoY!

Giggles of Embarrassment

This morning I was getting Kaeden's backpack ready for school. Inside I found a little package all duct-taped and stapled closed. That's weird, I thought, as I set it down and continued rummaging, looking for his daily journal in which the teachers and I correspond about everything to do with Kaeden. Finding it and opening it up, what I read gave me horrored shock. I couldn't help but get all giggly, am emotion I can't seem to control when I am embarrassed. It was as if a Halloween trick was coming to life. Here's the note staring back at me:

Dear Mama,

This afternoon the bus teacher came by our classroom. She returned this intimate lingerie which she confiscated from Kaeden as he shared it with the children on the bus. It seems that he decided to take these from your drawer as he was searching for a pair of socks. I secured your panties so that it won't happen again. I wish you all a stress-free holiday!

Thank you,
The teacher

I picked up the "secured" package wondering if it was a lacey pair that I barely wear preferring the cotton version of undergood. As I pryed it open I stood in shocked horror with the hext-to-nothing intimate (yes, it was not ANY panties, but THOSE panties...oh my god!) panties barely filling my fist. I could feel my face begin to burn as I immediately headed to the bathroom giggling.

Erwin, look what I got back from the school, I said dangling THOSE panties in front of his face.
Shaking his head, he said: No way, no way! It's time we start locking our bedroom door! And then he added: It's really not funny, as my laugh continued to escape me.

So, I wonder what kinds of stories all the other parents from the bus heard from their little darlings when they got home last night? It probably wasn't the same story Kaeden had to tell...those poor, innocent little kiddies....


Boys Will Be Boys

It was a really wonderful day. My kids were both so happy and good and played together like angels...something that happens far too infrequently. Here's a glimpse into their lives, back to the days of soldiers and kings...


School Pictures

Jari had school pictures today. As I got him bathed, his clothes all ironed, and his hair combed to perfection and then sprayed so it would stay that way, I remebered back to all the years when I was a kid and school picture day was announced. It was always a day met with anticipation, and kids dressed in their best and looked perfect angels which was not typical of them at all. Jari, in reality, should have been sent to get pictures with his hair all cock-eyed from sleep, his favorite crumpled t-shirt hanging from his body and jeans with a hole in one knee. That would be the true picture of my little boy. Not wearing a starched dress shirt tucked into his pants with a belt to hold the entire ensemble together. Not with perfectly combed hair and that fresh from the bath smell of newly washed little boys. Portrait pictures are something of a special variety. They strive to bring out the best in us, but never quite reach the standard. They can't capture the true us as we are, unless our cheeky grin happens to get in the way of the perfect shot. They don't emphasize our personality as we put our best foot forward to look completely put together. But still, they are the picture variety that we send to all our relatives in Christmas cards, the adorable perfection they pull from their wallet to share with all their friends. I wonder if they are ever disappointed at the 10th annual family reunion, to see the "real" portrait live and lively, after years of seeing nothing but the school picture perception?

School pictures are just something you have to do. It gives you one day a year to bring out the best of your little devils, turn them into the Beaver as you reach the June Cleaver goal of the 1950's view of perfection. You will look handsome today, my darling little devil. You will prove to all what a brilliantly beautiful child I have brought onto this earth. And when said child comes home and strips of their perfection and once again becomes your devil child, the real little devil you have come to treasure and love, you know with clarity that 20 years from now that school portrait will bring back memories of that one day you reached some perceived perfection. If, when you get them back, with no retakes, their eyes aren't closed, their smile a grimmace, or one patch of hair accidently poking straight up into the air, that for just one day you achieved June Cleaver status, and your little devil was somehow transformed into an angel for just long enough for you to dream. School pictures...perfection today, a laugh for the future.


Autism Rears It's Ugly Head

Yesterday we had the experience of seeing autism rear it's ugly head after months of having no major outbursts. Just a couple days ago I commented to Erwin how much easier Kaeden had become...we haven't heard him screaming nearly as often, haven't witnessed his violence or been cussed out like we have previously. But, I had to go and jinx it by mentioning it. And yesterday the full reality of living with autism came at me in one full leap. I have to say, 'his tantrum wasn't as bad as it could have been, and we gained a bit of control throughout the episode, but it still hit me like the blow of a hamemr watching my son regress to the violent, out of control child that rips my heart to shreds. And in reality, the entire thing could ahve been prevented last night, and I am the one to blame for it's full blow-out. That makes me feel really sad, that after years of living with my autistic son, I still manage to create a scene in which I know can become explosive. You'd think I would have learned by now. But I haven't. It's just too confusing living with autism, trying to work out when a situation is okay and when it causes a tantrum. Like walking on eggshells waiting for one to splinter under your feet.

Kaeden has been undergoing some major dental work for the past month. Every week we are greeted with shots and drills and water sprays and lots of noise. This is not something Kaeden handles well, and he has been very brave and done well throughout it all. Last night, the shot numbed his lips and tongue, which sent him over the edge. He was not happy. He couldn't relate to the weird sensation in his mouth and kept telling me over and over how much it hurt. I tried to be sympathetic, but really, there was nothing I could do. I reminded him the value of good dental care, how brushing his teeth could prevent a lot of these problems, because brushing his teeth is a major issue for him every day of his life. He hates doing it, and when he does, he doesn't do it well. And I can't help him, becuase he can't handle the pressure of me brushing his teeth. It's a no-win situation. Anyway, after his appointment we got home and it was already past dinner time. I agreed to make fries and snacks just to get everyone fed, but told Kaed he'd ahve to wait til his mouth wasn't so numb. Mistake number 1. He was hungry.

Next. because he was in pain, I told him to lie on the couch and watch a movie. He picked a family movie and we decided to make a movie night out of it, eating in the living room while watching the movie together. However, I suddenly realized 3/4 through the movie that the kids hadn't yet done their homework. The whole dental visit had thrown our schedule off-whack. So, I got out their homework and turned the movie to pause until their homework was complete. Mistake number 2.

Kaeden can't focus on homework unless he is sitting with no distractions at the kitchen table. However, there was mail from earlier in the day on the table and he became interested in that instead of his homework. I took it all away, leaving just his work in front of him. Mistake number 3.

I sat next to him to help him as he complained that he doesn't know how to do this work, it was never explained to him, blah, blah, blah...trying to get out of doing his math, his favorite subject. I assured him he could easily do the math problems, as he can add and subtract better than anyone I know. So, I started helping him by turning it into money problems, which is his favorite subject matter. But he wouldn't write the answers, so was giving me the answers and I wrote them for him. Until he started giving me only 1/2 an answer and expecting me to complete it for him. When I wouldn't do it, I could see the fury beginning to rise. Mistake number 4.

I told him we were going to turn the movie back on at 8:30 whether or not his homework was done. He could choose to get it done, or else go to bed without watching the movie. Mistake number 5.

After 10 minutes of scribbling on his homework and punching holes in it, I calmly put it away and told him to go brush his teeth. It was time for bed. Mistake number 6.

You don't need to know all the details following, but it was as if a huge explosion erupted. Too many commands, too many changes at once, too much happening for my son's brain to work through it all. And when I knew what was happening, I didn't stop and let him relax, but just piled on more commands and more stress, and was asking for a break-down. And I got one.

Although I don't blame myself for his tantrum, becuase the requests were simple and needed to be completed, I knew at one point that it was getting to be too much for him. I didn't take this cue and put an end to it all, but continued on as if my son could handle it. I didn't deserve to be treated by him how he treated me in the hour that followed. Nor did our home. However, it was all my mistakes leading up to that moment, mistakes which Kaeden didn't deserve to be subjected to either.

This autism thing, it is shattering. And it's so confusing. And it's a continual learning process. And last night made me realize that I have much more to learn. And with the schedule we've been keeping these days, it's no wonder he'd had enough. We have to leave room for him to breathe and to process. And last night, we were all breathing much more rapidly than our bodies and spirits could handle.

CS6 Numa Numa Project

This just made me feel happy all over this morning. I'm glad our deployed soldiers can still find some things to be happy about, and bring happiness to us as well. Hope you enjoy it as well!


Some Things About ME

1. What kind of SOAP is in your bathtub right now?
Dove Cream Oil (and a couple bars from the hotel all mushed up in the corner)

2. Do you have any watermelon in your refrigerator?
Nope, no watermelon

3. What would you change about your living room?
I'd put in double glazed windows, add a new couch set, and create more useable wall space

4. Are the dishes in your dishwasher clean or dirty?
Clean. Got to put them away to make room for today's dirties!
5. What is in your fridge?
Leftover garlic chicken and rice, 2 bottles of yogurt drink, meat for lunches, a block of cheese, butter, a HUGE assortiment of sauces, milk, a bag of salad...hmmm...probably a bunch of bacteria!

6. White or wheat bread?
Wheat, but I like white for certain things like french toast

7. What is on top of your refrigerator?
Nicky's water bowl, an extension cord with the dishwasher plugged in and probably a few dead bugs...but I'm not looking!

8. What color or design is on your shower curtain?
We have no shower curtain...which is why the floor is always wet...but opa will resolve that issue for us soon, I hear!

9. How many plants are in your home?
A nearly dead one in our room, 3 in the kitchen, 6 in the living room...adn I'd like a few more, big floor ones

10. Is your bed made right now?
Nope, not made, but covered, yes, in clean clothes that need to be put away!

11. Comet or Soft Scrub?
Neither..oxy power spray is my choice
12. Is your closet organized?
In a fashion...at least I know where everything is...

13. Can you describe your flashlight?
It's camoflage and has no batteries in it!

14. Do you drink out of glass or plastic most of the time at home?
Glass...I don't like plastic very much unless it's a bottle of water when we're out and about

15. Do you have iced tea made in a pitcher right now?
Nope. But I do have a container of it in the pantry

16. If you have a garage, is it cluttered?
Don't have a garage...but anything resembling a garage (the serre, the attic) is definitely cluttered

17. Curtains or blinds?
Hmmm, depends on the room and the use. I like the coziness of curtains in our home, but in some interiors blinds look good

18. How many pillows do you sleep with?
2...but one is much too puffy to be comfy for anythign toher than reading

19. Do you sleep with any lights on at night?
One in the hallway for the kids...but my door is shut.
20. How often do you vacuum?
Almost daily...it's one of those never done chores

21. Standard toothbrush or electric?

22. What color is your toothbrush?

23. Do you have a welcome mat on your front porch?
It's a mat, but it doesn't say Welcome!

24. What is in your oven right now?
Nothing. Well, probably some baked remnants of dinners past

25. Is there anything under your bed?
2 mattresses in case we have extra visitors

26. Chore you hate doing the most?
Laundry...and anyone that doesn't know that already...

27. What retro items are in your home?
Hmmm, I can't think of anything
28. Do you have a separate room that you use as an office?
We have the computer set up in the living room, and our official office/guest room is definitely more like our attic and serre...cluttered!

29. How many mirrors are in your home?
Five I think.

30. Do you have any hidden emergency money around your home?
Yep, it's called the kids piggy banks :-)
31. What color are your walls?
Off-white with accents in beige, in the kitchen soft yellow, and in our room a deep beige color

32. Do you keep any kind of protection weapons in your home?
Do play swords count?

33. What does your home smell like right now?
Guinea pig hay
34. Favorite candle scent?
Cinnamon during the holidays.
35. What kind of pickles (if any) are in your refrigerator right now?
Baby sweet-sour

36. What color is your favorite Bible?
I don't think we have a real bible...just the kids ones

37. Ever been on your roof?
Nope, and don't wanna be
38. Do you own a stereo?
Personally, no, but my husband does, and what's his is mine :-)
39. How many TVs do you have?
2, one in the living room, one for the playstation
40. How many house phones?
Three, 1 in the kitchen, 1 in the living room, 1 in our bedroom...but they aren't always where they should be according to my dear husband
41. Do you have a housekeeper?
That'd be me...adn I'm not a very good one

42. What style do you decorate in?
Second hand!

43. Do you like solid colors in furniture or prints?
Solids, definitely...and prints to accessorize
44. Is there a smoke detector in your home?
Yep, but the one in the kitchen has no battery cuz it went off every time I cooked

45. In case of fire, what are the items in your house which you’d grab if you only could make one quick trip?
Computer and hard drive with all my pictures...if I absolutely HAD to choose

America vs. Europe

Yesterday I had an hour to meet up with a girlfriend. I picked her up and we wanted someplace close-by to grab a drink, so we hit McD's. And that's when we started discussing Europe and America. It was a conversation which had my mind boggled and confused throughout the entire night. Being an expat is not an easy job. It takes a lot of courage, sacrifice, and acceptance. Courage to learn customs, cultures, langauges, lifestyles. Sacrifice to give up all that is familiar and tread on unfamiliar ground. Acceptance of customs, cultures, languages, lifestyles that aren't those that you grew up knowing, understanding, and living. And acceptance of a changing you. A new person that evolves from the old, pieced together by the society that formed us and the culture that we've adopted. We live constantly with a longing for our life to take on some normalcy, and it seems like we never quite reach that goal. We're stuck in the middle, our hearts and our ideals and beliefs lying someplace in the middle of the Atlantic, between two continents that we consider our own. It is sometimes a scary and lonely place to be.

As we talked, we both worried about the America that we'd left behind, the America that we nolonger feel completely connected to. We discussed the fact that America is a country with a lot of issues, and it's not the superpower that it perceives itself to be, not the land of the free and home of the brave as we once perceived it to be. Our attitudes and our morals have changed with the changeover of our American address to our European one. Yet, yet, there's still thsi patriotic need to accept our home land, to see it as the land we left behind, the one we didn't realize was lacking in so many areas, the one we thought was THE land, the place to ruled and controlled our lives, our upbringing, forming us to be the women we are today. Where is the news, real news and not another Britney Spears anecdote. Where are the family values promised us by politicians that throw children into daycare from sunup to sundown while parents work ina job that they won't receive holiday pay or vacation time? Where is the promise of medical help, insurance for the sick and elderly, without wiping them out of all they have worked so hard to achieve? What happened to the sit-down family dinners where parents talked with their children about their day, where couples shared stories about colleagues and meetings, rather than the jump-in-the-car and head to the 99 cent menu at McD's for a meal to provide further obesity of the population? Why are babies and toodlers drug through the 24-hour Walmart to pick up toilet paper and milk when their brains need sleep to learn and feel unburdened by the trials of the day at daycare? Why are there neon lights flashing 24 hours a day when global warming is not a "thing of the past"? Where is the acceptance and rights of all people, regardless of sexual orientation, religious beliefs? Why, when I state that I'm an American do I feel bile rise in my throat rather than being proud of the place I call my true home?

Because, Europe has opened my eys to the many differences between these two continents. Europe has plenty of it's own issues and problems which we hear about on the news and see in our daily lives living here. Europe is becoming more American-ized before our eyes in the short 7 years I have become a resident. There are more fast-food restaurants housed in beautiful 17th century buildings. There are shops staying open later and snack isles filled with too much junk food. Butchers and bakeries are now housed in the big super-market chains, and I no longer need to go to 5 stores to comlplete my shopping list. Convenient, yes. But is life all about convenience? What happened to wholesome goodness? Why is the insurance that is mandatory for all citizens takign away little pieces of care bit by bit? Where does the 19% tax money go? As I replace another light bulb with an energy saving one, and carry out my bins of recycling to the curb for pickup, I realize that I have changed. And so have the two places in which I live. And I'm not so sure it's for the better.

I applied to become a dual citizen with Dutch and American citizenship. I am awaiting my acceptance as a Dutch national. I feel that my heart, my ideals, my mindset and my beliefs are clashed into some mixed up, twisting and turning ball in my mind. I love America. I love Europe. I dislike America. I dislike Europe. I agree with America. I agree with Europe. And some may say you can't have it both ways. But I can, adn I do. I am an expat. I am 100% American, formed by the likes of Jefferson adn Washington. But I'm also going to be 100% Dutch, formed by the ideals and values I have come to learn and accept in this land of Oranje. And so, I have an obligation to both countries, and yet I sit here, with all these thoughts and moral issues on my mind, and can't see anything that I as this 200% person can achieve to make the ideal world. Which pieces of American will I keep? Which pieces of Europe will I throw to the wind? It confuses me greatly.

My girlfriend and I had a really introspective discussion. And since then, I am more confused than ever about where I stand. But I am even more sure about one thing than I have ever been before. I want to do something to help make my country the best it can be. My country is not America, nor is it Holland or Belgium. My country is both. For my mind, my heart, my character and personality are built upon both...and I believe in both of them, even with all the problems I see. For they have created this me, the woman standing here today. A woman I am proud to be, with an open mind and a loving heart, and destined to be stuck somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic forever.


The Perfect Family Day

Saturday was a day we have all been looking forward to. It was the day we chose to spend at the Efteling, a wonderful amusement park that my husband fondly remembers from his own childhood. We've been gearing the boys up all week for this special day out, and I assure you, none of us was disappointed. We got up and had breakfast together, not rushing, but starting the day out right, the boys starting out the morning playing a game of basketball with the neighbor while mama finished packing our picnic lunch. And then we were off, the sun shining out a promise of cheer.

Our car ride went wonderfully. This is our biggest issue when we head anyplace as a fmily. The car ride brings on fights and torment and tears and stops midway while the boys gather their wits so we can continue on. But Saturday, we didn't need to stop for tears, fighting, teasing, or even car sickness...we played games and scored points and we were all winners! And then, as we watched fro signs for teh Efteling on the highway, we finally spotted them, and suddenly the castle gates of Pardoes-land was in sight!
I won't go on and on about the fun we shared that day, but it truly was pure enjoyment. We weren't rushed and though some of the lines were longer than we had expected, and though we didn't make it onto all of our favorite rides, we did sit in the sun watching our children play together in the playground, we ate lunch together in little nippets after a ride, and we managed to see Pardoes, the Efteling mascot, bigger than life in the eyes of our kiddos. It was a relaxing day at teh amusement park, which is something you don't often achieve at an amusement park. We really had a great day.

And then, on the way home, we went into Eindhoven to enjoy the Lichtjesroute, where the city is lighted with displays through all the streets and creates a fairy-tale world for a couple of hours. Half-way through teh display, we headed to McDonald's for dinner, which is a treat in itself for the boys as we don't often go there and they were happy with their Happy Meal surprises, I enjoyed my plastic-y formed American hamburger, and Erwin stayed true to his Dutch self eating a kroket burger!

As we finished the ride home, the boys fell into a contented sleep and we tucked them into their cozy beds immediately upon arriving home...it was a great day!


English or Dutch?

My kiddo sure can make me laugh. Last night as I was reading his bedtime story, I realized just how in tune he is to the differences and similarities between Dutch and English. We were reading a Pooh book, and Pooh brought Piglet a honeypot to use as a stool. Stool, yes! Jari looked thoughtfully at the pictures and said "Dat is geen stoel, mama, maar een kruk. (That isn't a chair mama, but a stool)." Stoel (stool) in Dutch is a chair, while stool in English is kruk...does that make any sense?? haha He definitely didn't know the word for stool in English and yet, he knew the story was all wrong. I explained the definitions of stool, chair, stoel, and kruk to him and he then says to me, "English and Dutch are nearly the same. They even have the same words!" As I continued reading teh story, I don't think he heard a word because a little bit further he suddenly pipes up, "But that sure is hard when the same word means a different word, he mama?" Smart cookie I have there. I've got the same troubles as he does when it comes to this langauge stuff!!! I sure get a kick out of our bilingual-ism (is that a word??!).



Some days are just filled with sadness. Yesterday was one of those days for me and I climbed into bed early with a throbbing headache that just wouldn't go away. I was so relieved when my husband finally got home last night, and I just went to him and let the tears fall down my cheeks and into wet patches on his shoulder. I felt so much relief having him there to hug me tight and give me his strength as I fell to pieces.

It was an emotional rollercoaster day for me. First, I discovered that my friend Amanda is in the hospital with blood clots in her lungs. She had surgery last week and came through it fine, but after having shortness of breath and a feeling of general unhealth, she went to the hspital and was immediately booked in for a stay...probably a week long one. I tried to contact her all day, but could not get through no matter what I did. I felt so helpless and just wanted to hear her voice and know she was okay. Luckily, another friend finally got through to her husband, who told the story and let us know what is happening with her. I wanted to go visit her last night, but I couldn't with all the differing juggling acts that makes up my life. So, we're going this afternoon and bringing her chocolate and English books at her request! I'll feel so much better after seeing her with my own eyes and knowing she knows that I care about her.

Then came the firewood. The guy called me at 3:10 to tell me he'd be here at 4ishI had no money to pay him and had to bike to town to the bank before I picked Jari up from school at 3:30. I didn't think I could make it. Normally it's about 12 minutes into town, 12 minutes back and I had 20 to complete the task. I have never ridden so fast, and could feel the air from my lungs, inhale, exhale, as my heart beat double time. I made it home with time to spare, the money in my wallet. The guy brought the wood. It was filled with emotion for me. My dad is a logger, and it brought back all those feelings I had as a little girl, helping load and stack wood. The guy came with a trailer and hoisted it up by hand, dumping the wood into our driveway. That's how we used to do it too, when my dad was first starting his business, kids by his side with gloves ready to help unload. The guy ahd his son with him, who proudly helped his dad, and his dad praised him each step of the way. I loved seeing their jolly-ness and teh great balance they had between each other. When I asked the kid if he liked being Papa's helper, his eyes lit up as he answered a definite Yes. It reminded me of being with my dad in the woods all those years ago, and I missed my dad a whole lot more than I normally do. And it made me wish that his business hadn't expanded to the point it is today, when he has so much stress and too much work...the point at which it's just no longer fun for him, something he used to LOVE to do. Maybe he shoudl go back to the days of loading up a trailer and unloading it by hand with satisfaction in one small job well done...but he'd have a lot of disappointed customers and lose a lot of money, of which he owes for all his big machinery to make his life a living hell. Just makes you think...

And then, I called my mom. She is so sad and unhappy and I feel so far away, being unable to offer her the hug and support she so very much needs right now. My brother has moved back into town, and though most people would consider that a good thing, there has been a lot of pain the past years stemming from the relationship between my brother, my dad, my mom, and me. He has pretty much disowned our family. But now that they are back in town, it's causing marital problems between my parents as they struggle to find a balance seeing the grandkids daily from a distance, desperately wanting to be with them, yet not knowing how, or how far they can go. It's tricky business in what should be the most natural of feelings. And it's just plain sad. I hurt for my parents, and then I hurt for myself. I still don't know what I did that caused me to be an ogre in their (my borther and his wife) eyes. I don't know what my parents have done to cause a complete falling out of our family. All families have problems, but they deal with them and set the path straight so that Thanksgiving and Christmas and birthdays can be enjoyed by all, as a complete unit, everyone compromising and coming to a balance to enjoy these special days together. But my family hasn't got that anymore. We are no longer a comlete family. My family has been shredded into bits of me, them, we, mine...and there is no longer an us and ours. And it hurts so deep that the pain is never truly extinguished. It sist there like a huge tumor on your heart, never shrinking but growing bigger as the days pass.

My mom seems so fragile. She tries to hide her pain behind a laugh, but at the end of each laugh come a fury of tears and the echo of annihilation. She is depleted, a shell of sadness and pain of the mother I knew as a child. She feels useless and doesn't even want to go on living. And that scares me to bits. I need my mom. I need her love and support and advice and strength. And she hasn't got nay of that to give any more. And it makes me so angry all over again, every core of my being is flooded with an almost hatred for what my brother has caused our family to become. I don't blame him for every rough patch we've encountered on the way, but I do blame him for what we have become. And as my mother's sadness let loose, my own began to build until the pain in my heart was unable to take any more. I can't be there to make it easier for her, and even if I could, what could I do? I can offer nothing more than my love, my support, my friendship, but that still doesn't put her family back into one piece, the only goal she ever had for her life. It just feels as if the earth is slowly swallowing you up, but won't do it in a quick gulp, but does it slowly, sucking all the air out of your lungs and laughing as you suffer in the quicksand of life.

Sadness. It's a pure raw emotion, and one I have felt enough in my days. I just wish it was easy to swipe away and defeat.



I just finished tucking the boys into bed. Kaeden and I were reading a story about a fox and rabbit. His reading is getting so much better and I love hearing him read to me. He's still at about a first grade level, but he's improving and that's what counts. Anyway, he was reading about the fox making soup. He had to get a pan and make a fire and peel an onion...etc etc etc. Suddenly, Kaeden stops reading, looks at me and says "Mama, you don't know how to make soup." "Yes I do!" I told him firmly. "Yeah, you can open a can of soup!" he laughed as he gave me his reply. Okay, so maybe I don't make homemade soup...my husband hates soup and my kids love soup from a can!!! Why would I bother??? Except now that he's mentioned it, I may have to give it a go...especially to calm his joking laughter from my head!!! It's so much fun to hear him making jokes that really are jokes and funny. He knows how to make his mama smile...even as I hang my head in soupless shame!

Thumbs Up for my Husband

Last night Erwin came home with a smile. He told me he was featured in the Philips magazine, and proudly pulled it out to show me. There he was in a full-color picture holding his prize. As I read the article, an overwhelming pride shivered through me as well. The article discussed how hard Erwin has worked, how much overtime he's put in, doing his own job, the jobs of other employees on vacation, as well as completing an audit and the audit following on his own. They gave him a "pluim" (thumbs up) for his efforts and success. He also received 2 dinner gift certificates which was just the icing on the cake.

This is the first "pluim"that Philips has given out. It's their plan to do so monthly, to an employee that goes over and beyond the call of duty. I am happy that it's my husband that set the standards for this honor. Proud that his late nights (and mine) have not gone unnoticed, and that he's been rewarded for his dedication to his job. I am proud that someone finally took notice of his time card, of his light burning in the office deep into the night, of his missing family dinners and bedtime stories...I am proud, because he deserves it. As he heads out the door every morning onto traffic jammed streets to head to the Philips parking lot, he's doing so to provide us with the pleasant life we have; a car, a home, food, clothes, travels, phone calls, internet, DVD movies, soccer and Judo, scouts and school functions. And often, it's all just taken for granted. "Papa, I want..." "Erwin, we need..." "I called my mom today..." "Papa, my uniform is too small..." "Can we go to my soccer club dinner..." and though he must find us worthy enough to accept his care and prosperity, we don't thank him enough for what he does for us. And neither does Philips. I'm glad they finally did!

Congratulations, Hon!!!


A Good Feeling

I've often wrote about the troublesome issue that haunts me day and night. This is the relationship between my husband and first-born which tugs at my heart as I know they care about each other, but have a hard time showing that to each other. The struggle I have trying to help them bond and be positive towards each other is one which drives me to craziness some days. There's really nothing I can do about it, but I keep trying in hopes that they can both find happiness together, and in turn, I can break free from the pain that drives a knife through my heart on a daily basis. I don't think anyone knows how much it hurts me, how much sadness and anger I have inside, knowing their relationship is not what it should or could be. Some days I work myself into a frenzy worrying about what their relationship is doing to them, to our family, and lastly, to me. And then along comes a good moment, just one little glimpse into the true nature of their hearts, something that makes every slice of that knife from the past 7 years disappear, every bit of pain and anger and grief dissipate into thin air. Yesterday, I experienced one of those moments, and today, yet again, a complete happiness enveloped me, agve me hope, gave me security and trust and freedom. Just one simple experience to grant me my every wish come true.

We attended Kaeden's parent teacher conferences last night. It was the first time we've met his teachers, and it was an interesting conversation. The best part of the night was hearing that Kaeden is doing well in the class, he's the class helper with the younger kids, and both his teachers feel blessed to have them in his class. The not so good news was that he does not know how to interact with other kids, he gets angry in the blink of an eye, and that he can't seem to stay on task without being continually watched. All in all, nothing we don't already know about him and continue to work on. They classed him as a very typical autistic child...his main issue comes in the form of not being able to share his emotions and turning into a time-bomb in place of verbalizing them.

But the moment that brought me so much peace came in the form of Erwin defending our son. When he spoke to the teachers, it was mind-boggling for me to hear him telling them about our son, all the good things and he can do, the positive things about him, and even admitting that Kaeden does not know what he is doing when he is in the midst of one of his tantrums. Hearing Erwin speak to the teachers, all the love and care I know he hides inside for our child was washed ashore, and I heard him put Kaeden on a pedestal I didn't know existed in his mind. I was confused, but filled with glee and peace and contentment. It was as if a light went on in my mind, promising me of a better tomorrow, giving me hope for them as a team. I was ecstatic!

On the way home, I questioned him about this, and he down-played it a bit, again hiding his positive emotions behind the cloud of autism that always hangs above our family...and yet, what I had seen and heard had broken free, and I felt some of the stress and exhaustion relese from my shoulders and heart. To complete this story, came yet another moment this morning that gave me even more hope and even more freedom and relief. Kaeden went to his Papa, wrapped his arms around him, asked for a hug from "the best papa in the world", yes his very own words. I heard Kaeden cooing as Erwin encompassed him in this hug and rubbed his back, Kaeden's arms tightly latched around his papa in a tight squeeze. It was just a fleeting moment, but every inch of me was taut with peace and happiness, scared to look their way as I wanted the moment to last forever. I felt so utterly complete, and I hope that the same feeling encompassed both of them.

I don't expect their relationship to suddenly take a complete turn for the better, but in these past two days an awareness of what hides within each of them has been released, and a mother and wife can once again dare to hope.



I don't know what I was most drawn to. Was it his smile as we waited together in the hallway? His curly blonde hair falling just over his forehead? His scrawny, skinny body housed in training pants and a tank top, his sport shoe resting against the wall holding up his slouch, his arms crossed over his chest? All I know is that this teenage boy, oh, I'd say about sweet 16, really captured my attention. My gaze kept returning his way as we waited together in the sport hall; waited for our "kids" to finish up sport club and bring them safely home again.

As I collected Kaeden and we headed outside to our waiting bikes, I watched a handicapped girl, about 6 years old, runtowards this boy with a huge smile on her face. I watched this young man reach out for her and bring her up for a tight hug as he ruffled her hair and kissed in her scent. I watched as he set her back down again and took her hand in his, his self-assured walk helping her clumsy shuffle as they amde their way outside.

"Look what I have here," he said to this little girl. "We get to go on a bike ride." He reached down to pick her up and settle her into the child seat behind his bike. He gently buckled her in and hopped on, telling her she could feel the wind but it wouldn't be cold, because his body (clothed in a tank top and skinny) would keep her warm. The little girl poked him in the back. He turned around and playfully poked her back. She laughed and then they were off. I didn't hear another word, or catch another glimpse of them in the distance. But for those 3 minutes, I was entranced.

I assume that the boy was her brother. He was far too young to be her father, and the bond between them was definitely strong. He made me feel so proud. Here is a teenager picking his little sister up from the sport club for handicapped kids. He didn't hurry her along and try to hide her from the world, but tenderly and sweetly gathered her into his arms, showing his love for this little person, no embarrassment, no shame, nothing other than love. I learned so much just watching the two of them interact. This boy, whom I do not know, whom I have never before seen, opened me to an understanding about what commitment, love, and courage means.

Waiting with him in the hallway, I knew there was something about him. Seeing him with his sister, I know exactly what it was about him. Sweetness. I now know what the word really means.


Meet Crocky and Rudolph

We've been having fun getting to know our new babies! They are quite chirpy little critters and keep us entertained. The boys love them, though I'm not so sure Crock and Rudy like my boys quite as well....you get the idea. They are pretty timid, but getting braver and braver as they get used to us. This morning I let them run around outside eating up fresh grass and enjoying the breeze. They are now napping in their freshly cleaned cage...they tend to get stinky pretty fast! They are shades of tan with bright red eyes, they do not enjoy being brushed, and love hay, carrots, parsley and apples. Forget the tomatoes and bananas, please! Here's a few pics of our new babies...aren't they just adorable?