What Matters In Life

Today has been a day of reflection for me. Sometimes we get news that makes us really take into consideration where we are in our life, how far we have come, and where we are going. Things happen, life changes, and with it, so do we as people. I was confronted with some news that makes my stomach flutter with butterflies...but not in a good sense, more a firy hot ball of nerves waiting to erupt. And it made me take a good hard look at my life, all those clips of memories that go crashing through your mind from the time you can remember until today, all the special moments you have shared with special people in your life. And what do we do with those memories when that's all that we have left? Be thankful that our brain can store that information, that we have that little something to hold onto fast...our memories.

If we are confronted with a situation in which we have no control, how do we deal with it? What chanegs do we make? Or do we continue on as we are, hoping to find happiness and success in the midst of our trials?

I'll continue reflecting, and hope that through these reflections I am granted good news that can shut down the burden giving those butterflies in my stomach life. And if confronted with a situation in which I have no control, I will use my memories to help me get through, to remind me from where I have come, and help me continue to reach where I want to be. And in the meantime, I'll be praying that I receive good news, and be relieved of the dread that certain circumstances can bring.


Neighborhood Rituals

Well, I just had a visit from a couple ladies in the neighborhood. I was a bit taken aback as I was in the middle of cooking dinner and wasn't expecting anyone. When they came in, they reminded me about a card I had gotten in the mailbox a few weeks back. I thought it very strange at that time, as it was for a party for one of our neighbors whom we have never met. And, it was for his retirement party. On the envelope our names were all misspelled and I didn't even give it another thought after that day. I didn't even mention it to Erwin, as I just assumed it was a bit strange that we go to a party of a person we've never even met.

Well, today here come the neighbor ladies. You were invited to a party this Saturday, they said. We're all going to be meeting up outside the party hall at 8pm. We'll all go in together and present him his gift as a group, all the neighbors that have been invited. We're asking each family to contribute 10 euro and we'll buy something nice rather than all coem with who knows what.

So, I pulled out the 10 euro I had in my pocket left from grocery shopping today and handed it over, thinking about precious money for a good cause for a man I have never met. Hmmm...and yet, it seems such a nice tradition. It's that small-town community atmosphere that gives me a sense of security living here. It's families coming together, looking out for one another. It's all these neighbors with whom I have never even laid eyes on!!!!!

Erwin and I are pretty private people. We don't get involved in all the local activities, but still try to partake in a few. But we're not yet quite a part of this tiny Belgian community in which we've made our home. Maybe it's time to learn these traditions, partake in them, and become part of the community spirit that lives all around us. I'd like to know my neighbors better, to be able to say hello and ask the newly retired how he's enjoying his new hobby. To know that when I get that card in the mail from someone we don't know, it's not strange, but that sense of community, and a chance for us to be involved, to come to know the people with whom we share a postcode as more than just the guy that lives a few houses down.

So, with my 10 euro contribution I was able to sign the card and become a part of that community spirit. Maybe signing that card was the opportunity for us to really call our home, home. Maybe we'll go to the party and meet these neighbors, see them on the street, invite them to a BBQ. I sent our babysitter an email to see if she can come...if she can, it's time to make that step.


One Word

Here's just one word to complete my thoughts...

1. Yourself: Disappointed
2. Your spouse: Working
3. Your hair: Ugh!
4. Your mother: Friend
5. Your father: Busy
6. Your favorite item: Nikes
7. Your dream last night: Not
8. Your favorite drink: Capuccino
9. Your dream car: Big
10. The room you are in: Living
11. Your ex: None
12. Your fear: Death
13. What you want to be in 10 years:Healthy
14. Who you hung out with last night: Wokkers
15. What you're not: Satisfied
16. Muffins: Yum!
17: One of your wish list items: Cleanliness
18: Time: Dwindling
19. The last thing you did: Cough
20. What you're wearing: Nikes
21. Your favorite weather: Sunny
22. Your favorite book: Any
23. The last thing you ate: Cheese
24. Your life: Insanity
25. Your mood: Somber
26. Your best friend(s): Quiet
27. What you're thinking about right now: Dirt
28. Your car: Gone
29. What you're doing at the moment: Clicking
30. Your summer: Vacation
31. Your relationship status: Quiet
32. What's on TV: Commercial
33. The weather: Perfect
34. The last time you laughed: Today
35. Where you wish you were: Gym
36. Life in General: Missing

Different People

Monday I took the boys to a Carnaval parade in the town next to us. Oma came with us and we were walking through town to find our perfect place to catch goodies they might throw our way. The kids were excited and kept telling us how much stuff they were going to get...bags full! At one point a mom and little girl came up to us and started talking to Kaeden. He knew her from his bus though you'd never have guessed it from him. He didn't say a thing to her. Anyway, we stood there to wait for the parade and were pulled into the world of this mom. She was so extroverted and loud, dancing around and shouting, telling us more about her life in ten minutes time than I'd tell a stranger on the street in a lifetime. We couldn't get a word in edge-wise, and oma and I kept giving each other the look. Yep, you know, that one that says "What a loser!" We remained cordial to her, but didn't try to become too friendly. She was one of those people that would be your best friend standing on your doorstep at the crack of dawn every day if you let her get too close. Not my cup of tea. She was quite simply overpowering and living a bit in her past. She was about 30 years old from what I could tell, recently divorced with one child, and had won a championship for being in the color guard. She told story after story about her memories of the parade she marched in and as each flaot came by with teenagers dancing and drinking, she whooped and yelled, danced around and sang to the songs...as if she was one of them.

Well, this woman has really been on my mind the past few days. I feel for her. I think she is going through a really rough time in her life and could use a good friend. One comment she made really hit home with me. She commented on one of the cons of our children attending a special school is that we as parents don't have that circle of "friendship" from other parents that going to a local school brings. We don't get to talk to other moms, get to know the other kids, or have that sense of community. Yet another reason we as parents of a handicapped child get "jipped". Our children don't have local friendships, they are separated even further from the community by attending a school in which is suited to their needs. It's a bit like a dog chasing his tail. A never ending circle that never comes to completion or justice. It stinks.

This woman is recently divorced, has a handicapped child (the only reason I know this is because her daughter attends Kaeden's school), and has a need for mother friendships. This was obvious in her excitement at having us to talk to. She is just going about it in all the wrong ways with her overbearing and strong extroversion. But is that any different than the way I go about it? I too am a mother of a special needs child with a need for more social contacts. Yet, I am the opposite of this woman I met at the parade. I am much too introverted and tend to give off the signal that I don't need anythign from anyone. I don't make small talk, I don't involve myself in the conversations, I don't assert myself with the other parents. I am kind and smile, wave, and say hello...but rarely do I feel a part of the group and sometimes I miss that. When I do take initiative and make conversation, it's usually one on one and I have to be in a very strong mood to do so. It's not that I'm antisocial, but I don't put myself out there like I could, and should if I want more contact in the world of socail activity and friendship.

I've been really feeling bad about my reaction to this other mother. I wish I had given her just a bit more of myself, a bit more compassion and understanding. She may have calmed down a bit and been someone who I could have had a meaningful conversation with, even if it was purely for the handicapped children we have in common. We are really two very different people in our take on life, but really, we're quite the same in the great scheme of things. We all just want to be understood and accepted, feel a part, feel important. So, what's so different about us after all?


Feb 19, 2001

Yep, that was the date that shows Kaeden at 112 cm in length. Tonight, on Feb 17, 2007, Jari is at 112 cm. 6 years apart, and my boys are the exact same height on nearly the same day :-) That means that Jari is a bit bigger than his brother was at the same age, as Jari is about 6 months younger than Kaeden was in Feb 2001. I already knew that, though, as the clothes we saved from Kaeden for Jari fit him now. And know what else I realized? IN feb 2001 there was not yet a Jari...Kaeden was a single child...wow, how time changes lives. Kaeden is now 149cm at the ripe age of 12, and 8cm taller than he was exactly a year ago. And Jari, well, he's still the little guy in the class but growing strong...he also grew 8cm in this past year!

If there's anything I recommend for parents, it's to get a growth chart, a permanent one, and keep track of your kids heights on it. So all the marks look a bit sloppy and it can never be reused, but wow, it sure lets you see just how far your kids have come! Mine, well, they've come a long way, baby!



It started out as a stressful morning as is always the case when our routine changes. I had to take Erwin to the train station this morning, and that always means getting up earlier and getting everyone out the door ready. But surprisingly, it went fairly well and kaeden waited for his bus while we headed to the train station. On the way home, Jari and I were talking about morning and the sun and why the windows are wet...just little small talk with my little guy, trying to get him psyched up for a new day. He went to school today after having the luxury of being home with mama the past three days after being sick. He's feeling better and just left with a little cough , so I'm happy I can continue with my plans to visit with friends this afternoon.

Anyway, as we were coming upon one of my favorite places between Weert and Beek there stood about 100 deer in our range. No cars were behind me so I pulled off to teh side of the road and we watched these beautiful animals as they watched us back. Huge antlers turned my sons's voice into high-pitched delight, and when we saw the babies running his voice became even more animated. This is some kind of animal reserve and we always await the moment with anticipation if we'll see our "friends" or not. As we bid them a good day, we suddenly had a grouse run right in front of us. Itw as so beautiful with such vibrant colors on his tail and head. As we continued further we saw geese and ducks playing in a field filled with water. It was a day full of nature, and we both enjoyed it. It made me feel so happy as the sun shone on us and we were in the presence of all these beautiful animals.

As I dropped Jari off at school, he was ready to begin his day. I walked in the door of my home dreading the mess that I left from our Valentine feast last night (I feel asleep immediately after tucking the boys in), but instead was greeted with the beautiful bouquet of flowers my husband brought home for me yesterday. Okay, so the mess was (IS!) there too, but those flowers just shined and I felt very loved.

It is mornings such as this that give my heart peace. After all the sadness I have been feeling recently, this weas the perfect pick-me-up. I have nothing in life that can't be sorted out with a little time, love, and nature. I am blessed.


Happy Valentine's Day!

It's the day of love today....Valentine's Day! Yet, what a strange Valentine's Day it is! We're celebrating a double holiday, as it's also Carnaval day for the kids at school. Kaeden left for school dressed as a soldier with his Valentine's cake he made yesterday and all his Valentine's in a sack to share with his friends. He's got an army painted face and a gun, camo clothing, and then some little Sweetheart candies and boxed Valentines...what a combination. He's excited about both, but I'm sure the Carnaval celebration is more powerful to him...that's what they know here in Belgium...not the lovey-dovey Valentine's, as much as we also make it part of our life here in our American household. Still, his classmates will be excited during their Carnaval celebration as they dive into Kaeden's heart-shaped cake and candies. I said it was interesting.

Jari has been home the past few days sick. I don't even know if he's going to go to school as when I woke him up he was feverish and coughing like a barking seal. I hate for him to miss these fun and special events, but he told me he just doesn't want to go. I think if he'd get up and be a bit more lively he'd want to cash in on the opportunity as well, but we'll wait and see. He's only got 1/2 day today and a dose of tylenol should perk him up just long enough. But I'm not gonna push it. I'd rather have a healthy little boy than a real Wyoming cowboy. And as for treats, well, we are saving Jari's for his soccer club. Treats are frowned upon at Jari's school, and I didn't manage to get the cookies made anyway. Jari wanted to create a football field with potato soccer balls just like he saw on a kids cooking program yesterday while he relaxed on the couch. So, that's what we did. He was very proud even as he took a bite into them with disgust. He decided he didn't like the grass or the soccer balls or the meat which was a bit pink inside...guess he's a well-done kinda boy like his mama.

Erwin will most likely be home late tonight as he's moving his office to another building. I packed his lunch up in lovey-dovey sandwich bags this morning, but the poem I wanted to write just didn't come to me yesterday, no matter what I did. Like I said, I have been feeling a bit down and the Valentine's Day celebration hasn't been the foremost thing on my mind. Erwin, will you be my Valentine, voor altijd en een dag? Even if I haven't been the most loving of wives, I hope that deep down you know how very much you mean to me.

Happy Valentine's Day! May it be a feast of loving hearts sharing that special closeness each of us deserves every day, but most especially, today.


Crabby Me

I have been a first class bitch the past few days. I haven't been able to understand what's going on with me, but I've just been totally down and taking it out on everyone around me. I've been miserable and want them miserable too. Now, isn't that just "nice". It's probably that time of the month...it should be getting close anyway...and as I get older I have noticed that I am having more and more bouts of bitchiness a few days prior to getting my period. I feel like the world is against me and I am most certainly against the world. But then I woke up this morning after a really miserable Sunday and didn't feel especially good. My stomach was feeling a bit funny, my throat a bit itchy, my voice a bit scratchy, and my head a bit stuffed. As the day wore on, it just kept multiplying. When I picked Jari up at lunch I took one look at his extremely white face and knew he was feeling just like mama. He came in and immediately lay down on the couch requesting a movie and water. He didn't go back to school, but we took some books in mama's bed and read stories and sang songs til we both crashed. He slept nearly two hours, got up and laid back on the couch with a blankie. I masked some medicine in his juice and he thought it tasted funny, but drank it anyway. He's perked up a bit in the last 1/2 hour, still laying on the couch with his blankie. I also feel a bit more human, though my head feels like it weighs a hundred ton and my ears are all full of fluff and there's that warm/cold thing going on...yep, the tell-tale signs of getting sick. Dang!!!

Maybe, just maybe, my bitchiness can be excused this time around. I dunno...I still feel that way. I just want to pack up myself and huddle in a corner all alone and lonely and have a good cry. Not ideal, especially when I've got a baby begging mama to take care of him. I should have been a crab, not a lion...but at least I know how to growl real good...



Today has been an emotional day for me and I'm not entirely sure why. Some days are like that...you just feel a bit sentimental about a lot of things. That's been me today...

Tomorrow is my SIL's birthday. We'll head over to help her celebrate after Jari's soccer game tomorrow afternoon. Jari and I went shopping for a birthday present this afternoon after school, but it's always so hard to find that perfect something. We got her a lil something I hope she'll like, just to even out the more practical gifts we've already decided upon.

Last night we signed Kaeden up for semi-internaat through his school. The program sounds really helpful even though the waitlist is long. He can still attend the vacation program being on the wait list so that'll be ncie for him this summer. It sounds as if they do a lot of fun activities. The costs add up quickly, but if it brings a bit more peace to our family and a bit more stability to Kaeden, there's no cost too high. On the same form we also agreed to be waitlisted for internaat. This is the live-in program at school which I have been ignoring for the past three years. It made me feel sick to my stomach when the forms were signed, but I have to look toward Kaeden's future and quit hovering over the mommy-feelings that hold onto my baby. I have agreed to nothing more than his being placed on the waitlist and if a spot comes available to him before we are ready, I can always refuse service. However, after some of the events that have happened with him recently, I am starting to feel the pressure to make some changes that will be positive for all of us. Even though I can't breathe when I think about placing him in a living situation, I am getting really fed up with daily fights and abuse we suffer at his expense. No mother should have to be put in this situation. Have I ever mentioned how much I hate autism?

My girlfriend Sharon and her husband watched the boys for us last night while we attended the meeting. I cannot begin to describe how important I feel this relationship is for my kids. Having such limited family here, the creation of extended family means a great deal to me. Sharon and Hans really love my boys and they treat them really well...my boys feel like they are family. It means so much to me, and I'm sure as the boys get older, the relationships that are important in their lives will only continue to grow. Having that security really means so much.

Jari told me today that he loves papa more than mama. When I couldn't help but let tears fall from my eyes, he said he was just joking. But it didn't sound like a joke to me, and really did hurt my heart. I asked him why he loves papa more and he assured me that he loves us both the same. The damage was already done, however. Makes me feel yet again like a failure as a mother. I can't help but be happy that my son and husband have such a special relationship. I am grateful that Erwin is his son's hero in life. But what happened to that mama/son bond that we created when he was still a baby? I know he loves me, but darn it all, why can't I be papa?

My gramma hasn't been feeling very well lately and went to the doc for a check-up. He was concerned with some of the things he saw and sent her for a thorough check-up today. I feel so nervous as she's having some of the same signs as when she was diagnosed with lung cancer a few years ago. Make sme worry that she may have cancer again, and I know she isn't willing to fight it any more. She is totally content with her life, and at peace with dying when it is time. She always says that if she dies tomorrow noone should be sad, because she has peace and feels ready to go whenever God is ready to have her. I wish I could feel as content as her, but death is something that never makes me feel peaceful. I don't want to lose the people that I love. It hurts too much.

My uncle Jack is still in the hospital with a tentative release date of Tuesday, as long as things at home are in place for him there. I pray for him daily and send messages to let him know that I care adn love him. I just hope he is well enough to go home as he isn't happy being in the hospital, and being around all his animals would give him the love he's missing there. Please keep him in your prayers.

I planned to visit with my girlfriends this week, but when I planned to leave, Erwin didn't seem too happy about it. So, I canceled. My husband and I never have enough us time and I could tell he needed it that night. We watched some home videos and then some tv. We didn't do anything special, but being together was something good for both of us. Canceling on my girlfriends is something I would never have done earlier in my life. But I am beginning to be a more open person with my feelings and trying to be more honest about how I feel. Sometimes you just have to make adjustments in life, and this was one of those times. I missed the laughter with my girlfriends, but enjoyed the cuddling with my husband...the balance between teh two is sometimes really hard to maintain. Both are equally worth it, for differing reasons. But at that moment in time, my husbands needs became my own and I stayed home. I need him to know that I care about him...sometimes it's too easy to let the relationship with your spouse sit on the backburner while life passes you by.

Well, it's pizza and movie night for us, so I'm gonna go spice up the frozen pizza and get it in the oven. Then we're gonna watch Happy Feet! Looking forward to seeing those cute dancing penguins! And my boys are gonna be thrilled! They've SO been wanting to see it!

Happy Friday...Happy Weekend!


He Didn't Have To Be

Oh my gawsh, I have tears streming down my face. I just listened to this song and boy, did it ever hit home. It's about a little boy with just a mom, and finally a man comes into their lives and the little boy finally has a dad. This is for you, Erwin...for being the dad you didn't have to be. Thanks so much for giving Kaeden a true hero to look up to. Thanks for giving me the family I dreamed of. You're the best. And this song, I dedicate to you. WE love you.



School News

We had a conference with Jari's teacher last night. She wanted to give us his test results as well as discuss his placement for next year. I headed out the door without a worry in my mind. Jari does well, tries hard, and I had no reason to be concerned. After our conference, I was much less confident. I'm convinced that my son is a high achiever and meets those expectations. The school sees a child that needs a bit of extra help, may fall behind in his studies, and has difficulty making contact with the teachers. Hmmmm....

Jari came out on his tests as being on the lower end of average. This in no way portrays the child I know at home. His artwork is extremely detailed and precise, he is already very interested in reading and tries to find all the letters on signs and in books. He knows much more than he was letting on in those tests. I KNOW this. As I looked at the tests I was surprised by some of his mistakes. His teacher said that she had to redirect him many times as he didn't initially understand the assignment. She said this happens much more frequently than just on the tests. It is hard for her to make contact with him, because he is very quiet and not inquisitive. I wonder what she'd think if she saw (and heard) him at home? She said he frequently draws and writes very tiny. On the first page of his test was a picture he made of himself. It in no way showed the detailed artist that Jari typically is. There was a tiny figure that you could barely see...yes, he'd included all the important parts...face, arms, hands, legs, feet, tummy...but it wasn't a drawing I would have even guessed Jari had done.

Jari's teacher is concerned that next year when he begins 1st year, which is the monumental school year here in Belgium, that he's going to become a bit lost, as he will not ask for help. She thinks he's going to be a kid that needs a bit of extra attention in order to be successful, and she fears that he won't get the attention, but become lost in the crowd due to his quiet manner. She made it clear to us that we're going to have to work extra with him at home in order for him to catch on to the important subject matter covered in 1st year, which is necessary for a successful school career.

Erwin came out of the appointment stating that how the tests were delivered is stupid and the scoring puts the child at a disadvantage. I was more concerned with what his teacher told me. Tests or not, she has been working with kids for a long time, has seen all the differing levels, and should know where a child falls. Still, in the case of Jari, I think she has it all wrong. I sincerely don't see him as someone who will find school subjects difficult, but more as a child who will move through with no worries. I wish I could say the same at this moment in time (no worries, I mean).

When I heard the results, I told her I was very surprised by what she was telling me. I assured her that he is a much different child at home...stubborn, outgoing, strong minded, and smart. But the fact is, we need to encourage him to be that same child at school. I'm happy that he is not a trouble-maker, gets along with the other kids, has great motor skills, and seems to enjoy his social and play life at school. But how can we give him the confidence to succeed in school, to question and answer with confidence, to share stories which apply to the topics of conversation without withdrawing?

This little conference really gave me a good kicking in the stomach. As I walked out, I felt like a failure. All the reminders of Kaeden's test results kept replaying in my mind making me fear the worst for my Jarietje. Yet in my heart of hearts (and head of heads) I KNOW this child will make it, and most likely at the top of the class...that's his character trait...he's going to be a success story. Thanks for the results, Miss Linda, and we WILL help Jari with his studies...next year, the year after that, and the year thereafter as well...and we won't stop til he proves that he is the bright child that WE KNOW that he is! I will not let him fall through the cracks...he will succeed!


Loose Tooth

We've reached yet another milestone in our home...one that convinces me life passes by much too quickly! Yep, my baby (okay, so he's 5...) came out of school today and told me he has a loose tooth. I checked and it's definitely LOOSE! It wiggles and could almost be popped off. Wonder if the tooth fairy will come and carry Jari's precious tooth off to help her build another room on her house? I wonder if she'll leave him money under his pillow as he sleeps? I wonder if she'll be happy or pouting like his mama is? First a loose tooth and then puberty...waaaahhhh, I don't want my baby to have a loose tooth just yet...


Protective Mom

I am a protective mom. I would do anything for my boys. Both of them. But, I am much more protective of Kaeden than Jari. Maybe that's because I don't feel he has the tools needed to protect himself. Maybe it's because he was the one thing that saved me from destroying my life when I was headed in the wrong direction prior to his birth. Maybe it's because he was the only thing that was mine all mine before I started my family. I don't know exactly why, but I am extremely protective of him. Of his feelings most of all.

And maybe, just maybe, when something like your child comes so close to be taken away from you, you'd do anything to make sure that can't happen for the rest of your life. Kaeden was nearly taken from my life. He was a very sick little boy until the time he turned five. I don't know what changed in him that year, but since then he's been healthier than a goat (why is that useful? Are goats healthy?) besides the autism that has stripped us of some healthy normalcy. Anyway, beginning from the time of his first hospital visit at 9 months old, my child was NEVER healthy. We spent good parts of our years in hospitals and there were many a day that I was sure he would stop breathing. One day, he did. My son was in the hospital at the ripe old age of 2. We had been rushed there after I took him in to the doctor following more breathing difficulties. My son suffered from RSV which led to serious asthma problems. When we arrived at the doctor's office they immediately shipped him off to the hospital...not even going through ER, they had his room ready when we arrived 10 minutes later...a private, sterile room with an oxygen tent where they stripped him of his clothes and tucked him in. We could enter the room, first after going through sterilization procedures, and wearing sterile clothing so no germs could reach his sick little body. I was so scared. I was alone with him and as my parents were on vacation, I couldn't reach them. I stayed in that little room for days, not even leaving to go home and shower or change clothes. He was so sick, and keeping him inside his tent of life was so difficult. Well, difficult after a few days where he first lay listless. At one point, his machines started beeping and I was a bit confused what was happening. Immediately his room filled with nurses as they screamed out "Get the doctor, we're losing him!" The doctor was luckily visiting a patient next door and ran in immediately. They started CPR and my baby's blue lips turned pink again as I stood shaking in a corner tears streaming down my face. I had just stood looking death in the eye...the death of my son.

The doctor called me into the hall after he was stable again. He told me how seriously ill Kaeden was and that we had to get his oxygen levels to rise. He saw how shaken I was and patted me on the back after promising to do all he could. Kaeden spent 10 days in the hospital that time. I missed my brother's wedding...but my son was still alive. We left the hospital with an oxygen tank that we carried with us everywhere we went...and the nebulizer treatments went to 4x/day. Talk about NO fun! A neb treatment for a 2 year old, and then the nose cleaning which was required 2x/day...a salt solution to rid the nose of bacteria that was squirted through his sinus cavities and came out the other nostril before squirting the flonase medicine into his nose. And then the steroids...so many steroids. I was given a choice at one point of Kaeden's treatment...give him more than the allotted amount of steroids and not know what will happen to him, now or later in life, or let him die. I chose the medicine. Without a second thought.

We were referred to one of the leading asthma institutions in the country for further testing and treatment. Luckily, it was in Denver, just 5 hours from my home. There we learned that he had a collapsed lung which was contributing to his problems. His medication was changed and lots of testing done with no real outcome as to where the problems stemmed. He simply couldn't get sick or he'd be subjected to breathing problems. I was very strict about his medication and he managed to do okay. I was always worried and every night I would pull out my stethoscope and listens to his lungs for any sign of wheezing. More often than not, there was wheezing present. It was no fun for either of us.

Anyway, why am I reminded of this story today? Well, people often wonder and comment on how protective I am of Kaeden. I seriously think this may the reason. And because we have been looking into getting our kids baptised, and I have had to remember the time my son nearly died and was given an emergency baptism at that time. Does that count as a baptism? The answers to that question seem a bit vague. At the time, I was convinced. I think a baptism is a baptism regardless of how it was performed or under what circumstances.

So, that's my story for today. Maybe now that I have written out all my fears, I can move on again...and wonder yet again if all these traumas from our early years together contribute to the autism that's part of him today? And maybe people can understand just a tiny bit better why I am so overtly protective of my first-born child. He's been through a LOT in his life...and because of that, so have I...

40 Year Party

My in-laws celebrated forty years of marriage yesterday. 40 years! I consider that quite a milestone in life. When Erwin adn I reach forty years of marriage, we'll be in our 70's...but oma and opa are in their early 60's and to help them celebrate their special day, they got a few little trips...one to Barcelona from Ilse, and one to the Moezel in Germany from us. And, they just got back from a few days away in Southern Holland that they planned themselves. So, celebrating 40 years seems quite a "worldly" experience!

In honor of their special day, they invited us all on a surprise day out. When we got to their house we all loaded up in their car and headed to....Toverland! It's a indoor/outdoor playland with rides and games and playgrounds and rollercoasters and we had a really good day relaxing with coffee and sandwiches between our bouts of fun. The kids especially enjoyed themselves and while there I kept thinking what unbelievably lucky guys we have. When I was a kid, we went to such an amusement park MAYBE once a year...my kids manage to get to one at least every couple of months. Are they spoiled? Maybe a little, but at the same time it's a day for our family to come together and do something fun we all enjoy. And we never just go buy a ticket and go, but search for specials or on the second hand site for people trying to get rid of tickets. And often, they receive the ticket as a gift for a birthday or Christmas. And it gives all of us a bit of fun.

After heading out at closing time, we went to a restaurnat for dinner. This was someplace Erwin remembered going with his family over the years, and so was meant to bring back memories as well as a good meal. It was a bit less than we had hoped, with snotty servers and cafe style food which was tasty, but limited in choice. Oma didn't even eat as she couldn't find anything she liked. Erwin sat with us 20 minutes late as he waited for his to cook, and Kaeden ended up with a hodgepodge of pea soup, a boiled egg and chocolate mousse. The cost with regards to service was certainly overpriced, but it was still nice having a sit-down meal with the entire family in a restaurnat...something we don't often do with our little guys. We then completed the evening at oma and opa's house with pie and coffee, as we all yawned and commented on how tired we were.

It was a nice day. The best part for me was seeing oma and opa so happy together, joking and smiling, talking about their second youth, the plans they have for the coming years. When they went on the bobsled together and came rolling to a stop with laughter that didn't stop, it made me feel really happy inside, gave me hope for the future with my own husband. Thinking about both sets of parents, mine who have shared 35 years together, and Erwin's celebrating 40 years, we have both had good examples of marriage, what making a life together means. I only hope that when we come to 40 years, I can be standing beside my husband with so much laughter still filling my eyes. Thank you oma and opa, for such a special day sharing such a wonderful milestone with us. Thank you for the laughter and smiles, thank you for giving us hope. And PROFICIAT! And now, onto the second youth...



I kinda forgot about this, but wanted to write about it today as it was a topic of interest to me in the past few months. Erwin has tried a few times to explain it to me unsuccessfully, but this morning it seems it finally got through. And now, I wonder if it's normal to pay a mortgage in the following manner. It seems that in Holland (where we have our loan), that's one normal way to do it...but everywhere else???

Anyway, when we bought our house, we applied for a loan for the amount of the house plus a bit more to do some renovations that we had to do before it could even be habitable. When the bank officer came to our house, we paid for an extra insurance that pays for our home should anything happen to Erwin...considering he's the bread-winner in our family, that would be necessary if I were left as a widow. The mortage we got is a 25 year one and what we now pay monthly covers the interest. Nothing over the interest...at the end of 25 years, we'll still owe the complete cost of the house. In the meantime, we have to re-negotiate our mortage after 10 years. Maybe the rates will drop, maybe they'll be higher, maybe we will choose to go with another bank...doesn't matter..a.t that time if we choose to go with another bank, we'll ahve to pay the full loan off...and get a new one with another provider...or continue paying the interest on our current loan at the interest rate that's offered at the 10-year mark.

Now, how are we going to pay off this loan at the end of the 25 years??? Well, we invested in another company that we pay a couple hundred euro in the month to invest our money. They put our money into stocks/bonds/CD's...anything that is a low risk and will hopefully give us a good return on our money at the end of our 25 year mortage period. This sounds like a bit of a gamble to me...if at the end of 25 years, our investments are short of the money we've given out, how are we going to pay off our loan on the house??? The contract we have with the investment company we are working with plays this investment game at a low risk level according to our wishes. We have no input about how they invest our money, but trust them to bring us back a good return at the end of 25 years. Hmmm...so, I'm finding it all a bit exciting now. It's sorta like playing the lottery and hoping that you hit...and at the end of 25 years, we'd well better have made a good return on our investments, else I may be forced out of house and home...talk about an adrenaline rush! Go Goudse Go! Make my cash into millions (well, at least 101,000 PLEASE!)!!!

But, is this a normal way to pay off a mortgage? I've never bought a house in America, so I dunno if that's done or not? But it seems a bit chancey...even if it's much more exciting than paying a bunch of extra we don't have every month...

Life as a Mom

I have been thinking a lot about my life as a mom. All the dreams I had when I first learned I was pregnant, the kind of mom I planned to be, the kind of children I planned to raise. And there are dreams, and there is reality. And I think that in general, I have been the kind of mom I want to be. I spend a lot of time with my children doing activities that are fun and help them learn. I am always available to my boys, whether it be to make them something to eat, give them a hug, kiss a boo-boo, or play a game. They are, in general, pretty happy little boys who don't want for much. But, I have also come to another realization about my mothering...as much as I give my kids, I never feel good enough, I never feel that I am doing this most important job as well as I could. Where do you ever reach that balance between giving to your children and finding peace within yourself? As a mom, I can't help but worry. I worry about my children's futures, if I am providing them with tools to be successful adults. I worry about whether I am teaching them compassion and understanding of other people, and still giving them the tools needed to prepare for dealing with situations that arise regarding others. Am I nourishing them properly, not giving in too much to their pleas for sweets and junk food? And as an overweight mother, how am I setting a good example for them in the exercise and eating department? How can I teach them to clean up after themselves, keep their space pleasant and healthy, when 1) it's easier to just do it myself; and 2) I am a chaotic person at best and find it hard work to keep my life and home organised? How can I teach them the value of education when I myself do not use the thousands of dollars and millions of hours put into obtaining my university degree? When is it time to let go just a little, or hold on a bit longer?

Lately, I just find myself questioning my ways as a mom. Maybe that comes from my last hope for helping Kaeden before I ask for outside help. He needs more than I am offering him, and I don't know if that comes from my lack of providing, or if it's because of his handicap. It's tormenting my mind, and each morning as I wake to the dread of our morning ritual, I pray that I can be a success, just for this hour that provides our family with the most stress, and if I can make it through that first hour, I can make it through anything. Maybe it comes from my worries about Jari...how to help him become his own person without modeling Kaeden's autistic behaviors. How to capture his giving spirit without worrying that he's too tuned in to the need of pleasing everyone. He doesn't like to cause disappointment, and this is a good thing, but I worry that he sometimes takes it too far and doesn't obey his own inner spirit in the process.

I am really trying my best here, but this is such a HUGE chore that God has blessed me with. It is my job to bring these young boys to adulthood and help them achieve success as upstanding citizens. I am their mom and they model me. They learn from me. They live with my faults. They teach me what I am doing right and wrong. They are growing up, my sweet little babies...am I being the guiding light that I dreamed I would be? A question that can only be answered with the passing of the years...