Queens Day

Today we all dressed in orange to join the millions of Dutch in celebrating the Queen of Holland's birthday. We walked past hundreds of stands with people selling their goods and came away with one purchase...a soccer trophy Jari just had to have. Our house is already over-cluttered and though I saw plenty of games I would have loved to buy, our game-cupboard is also bursting at the seams. And yes, we play a lot of games, but yet another choice just didn't seem quite worth the euro today. So, it was more just a walk around people watching day, which was plenty satisfying. We also managed to climb the Weert church tower, and after the 60+ meter tinyspiral staircase took my breath away, so did the amazing views from the top. We even managed to look into the south-south east direction and see the church tower of our own village, which was quite exciting for some rather odd reason. I loved looking over the roofs of all the buildings I regularly walk by, and even discovered yet another parking lot in the city which I didn't know existed. Now to try and figure out how to get there. The rooftop of McDonald's, which is housed in a very old building, was beautiful, different colored shingles creating a diamond pattern that you never see from below. Every visit in a tower I have taken reminds me why the panting is worth it!

We went to a building center to grab a few bags of potting soil and managed to get in on special Queen's Day bargains, so we came away with 6 bags instead of 2, but we always manage to use it up getting our plants potted....and considering they were giving away as many 1/2 dead flowers as you could carry, we're going to need it all!!! We all carried a few out to the car, and I'm sure we'll have their dying blooms perking up by tomorrow evening! The boys loved getting to pick out their free flowers.

We ended the evening with a BBQ by oma and opa, where the guys and I played soccer as they try to get me into shape. I always enjoy playing outside with them where they can burn off their energy and I can "let" them win and be happy, high-fiving each other as every mama loves to see.

So, Happy Birthday, Queen of Holland. I hope you enjoyed your special day as much as we enjoyed ours.


Poor People or Trash to Treasure?

Yesterday morning after Erwin left for work with a ready-for-school Jari, I heard the keys rattling in the lock...they hadn't gotten out the driveway when these words entered my day, "Another delivery for the poor people!" And I was handed a bag of fresh-washed, gently-worn Jari-sized clothing. It had been left by the door of our car, and we have no idea who it came from. However, Jari did wear one of his new t-shirts today!

The funny thing about this story is that in the past month, I have had numerous moms asking if I want their kids too-small clothes for Jari. I always say yes, heartily. No sense in buying new clothes if he can benefit from some hand me downs that sometimes still have the tags on. But, it does make me wonder...was this another bag from someone who had already given me stuff, or has word been going around town that "the poor Hollanders are willing to take your trash/treasure."

Erwin left for work with the words "What, do they all think we're too poor to buy new clothes?" I'm sure it didn't make him shake in laughter as it did me as I cleaned up our breakfast dishes. I found it really funny, finding stuff usually left on the sidewalks for goodwill to pick up, and bringing it in, this treasure too good to toss out. As soon as Jari got home from school, he inquired about where his new bag of clothes was. I couldn't help but start laughing again. Can we just say From Trash to Treasure...for it certainly was in the eyes of my very adorable five-year-old, much to his Papa's chagrin. Yep, those poor people down the road....hahaha


Oma is jarig!

Hartelijk Gefeliciteerd met je 64e verjaardag, dear omam!!!
Jij bent zo'n lieve vrouw en je verdien zoveel meer dan wat wij aan jou kan geven. In de jaren dat ik in Europa ben, heb ik in jou een echte vriendin gevonden, en jij bent eens mens dat ik kan altijd naartoe gaan als ik problemen of vragen heb, maar ook als ik iets leuk heb aan te melden. Als mensen klagen over zijn schoonmoeder, vraag ik me af hoe ik zo gelukkig ben om jou in mijn leven te hebben. Sinds ik jou ken, heb ik gewoon nog een mens in mijn leven om wie geeft mij liefde, zorg, en steun. En niet alleen mij, maar ook mijn man en kinderen, en voor dat kan ik nooit in woorden zeggen alles wat je voor mij betekent. Het is zo ontzettend veel. Als er was geen omam, was het hier voor mij niet gelukt. Ik zie hoe je door alle omstandigheden bovenop komt, meestal nog aan het lachen, en ik wil zoals jij bent...een gelukkig en sterke vrouw, aardig en vriendelijk, maar ook indrukwekkend. Ik kijk naar jou en hoop dat ik dat van jou nog kan leren.
Ik wens je een verjaardag gevuld met alles wat je verdien...liefde, geluk, vrede, gezondheid, kracht...en dan nog veel cadeautjes natuurlijk! Want voor mij, ben je zelf een cadeautje, een vrouw met wie ik kan lachen of huilen, mijn vriendin en mijn omam, de geweldig oma van mijn kinderen, en de vrouw dat vaak weet hoe ik van binnen zit zonder te vragen. Bedankt voor alles, voor alles wat je voor ons doet, voor alles wat je voor ons betekent, en voornaamlijk voor de aanvaarding van mij...want ik voel me hier echt een deel van je gezin, en dat voelt heel prettig.
Happy Birthday to a very special person. And thank you!
Love, Tera



There's nothing in the world that makes you more thankful for what you have as when the life of someone you love passes before your eyes. Yesterday we celebrated a most relaxing and lovely day enjoying Valkenburg with Erwin's family. It was oma's birthday celebration and we battled the crowds watching the Amstel Bike Race to tour the caves, ride the cable car, and go on the bobsled ride. We sat on the terrace for coffee and took in the warmth of the sun. And then we headed to a wok restaurant for dinner which was a delicious feast. It was a really terrific day.

Then, as we sat at the end of the evening drinking coffee while the boys played on the playground equipment, Kaeden ran to me with the news. My baby had fallen off the top of the slide. I remember saying "Oh, no" as I quickly ran to the playground. My legs carried me to where my son was laying on the ground, and his tears were rolling down his face as he sobbed. He wasn't responding to me when I told him to look at me, and my hands began to shake as I pulled his face to look at mine and watched his eyes come into focus, asking him where it hurt. I was scared to move him for fear that he could become paralyzed, yet he was wriggling around and I finally picked him up. He was in shock, but seemed relatively okay. Still, as the family made their way outside to see what all the fuss was about, I held firm that I was taking him to the hospital immediately. Jari was still crying and complaining of his back, heart, tummy, and hand hurting as I loaded him into the car and we headed on our way.

I sat in the backseat trying to keep my baby awake when all he wanted to do was go to sleep. I made little jokes and sang funny songs as my hands shook and my heart beat double time. I looked into his face and told him time and again that he would be okay. Erwin drove quickly and when we arrived at the hospital, I carried my son in, told the reception desk what had happened with a shaky voice, and they quickly ushered us into the room. The doctor came in to examine Jari and he told him nothing hurt but his hand and his heart. We were taken to get xrays, and by then Jari seemed fine.

When the doctor came back into the room, I was already assured that Jari was fine. He was once again acting like my little rambunctious boy, looking at the medical equipment and asking questions. The doctor told us there was nothing broken and to go home and watch him for the next few days, give him tylenol for pain. And then, 30 minutes after we arrived, we were out the door and on our way home, mommy smiling with relief.

Still, in those first minutes after Jari fell from the slide, my entire life flashed before my eyes, and so did that of my son. And in those moments when fear pushed me onwards, I recognized that I have much to be thankful for. I have two happy, healthy boys that keep me on my toes and fill me with sunshine. I have a husband who rushed me to the hospital even when he didn't feel it was necessary, and I had my in-laws racing through a red light behind us to get us to the hospital where we could all relax from our stricken worries.

As I look back over those few moments of our wonderful day, I know that Jari had an angel standing by his side. He could easily have been seriuosly injured, or even had a broken bone. He could have died from a fall such as that. But he didn't have a thing wrong, and as he shows me today how he can hop on one foot, as he lines up his dominoes counting his numbers, and as he asks for oatmeal with raisins and apples czuse he's so hungry, I feel such relief and gratitude.

And I am thankful for Kaeden, who did everything right and came to tell me immediately that his brother had fallen, acting positively even as he was himself shaking in fear. As I tucked him in last night he told me he was so scared when he saw Jari fall, and that his heart was pumping. I told him that I was proud of him and he did exactly what he should have done, first comforting his crying brother, and then coming for help.

And then I think about me. I felt very uncomfortable letting the boys go play without an adult to supervise. And when I was outside playing with Jari, I told him numerous times to be careful because the slide was fast and the steps were only a tiny iron bar. And yet, I left them there to play (not that I could have stopped him from falling...that could have happened anyway). I need to learn to listen better to my mommy instincts. I need to be strong enough to say NO, you can't play here until mommy can come with you. I need to recognize that when I smell fear, I should react to it and not wait for that fear to become a reality. I was lucky. But I also learned some very important lessons. 1) Listen to my instincts 2) I have much to be thankful for and 3) I have two really terrific kids that have been trusted in my care and I love them to pieces. I don't want to have a life without them in it. And I'm glad that at least for today, I don't have to.



I want to quit feeling so angry all the time. When my family all walked out of the house this morning, I just sat down on the steps and cried my eyes out. When everyone is here, I can't wait for them to be gone, but as soon as they are gone, I feel so empty and alone, and get so mad that I have to sit in this miserable house alone yet another day of my life. If I didn't have to go out, I think I would live in my pyjamas unshowered and feeling miserable for days on end. I fly off the handle so easily and my temper is just so fragile. I hate how I react to my family. I wish I could be the same person I used to be...I used to be so carefree and happy and satisfied with my life. I could handle problems when they came my way. Now I seem to just create issues that aren't even there and then can't deal with it all. I love my three guys so very much, but I don't let them know often enough, because I let this brewing anger hold me back from happiness. What is wrong with me? Why can't I allow myself to just be happy? Why can't I give the three most important people in my life the comfort they deserve from me? There is so much I could be doing in my life, for me, for my family, for my health and for our happiness, but instead I whiddle away my days accomplishing nothing. I feel like such a failure. To myself, as a wife, and as a mom. All things I used to take such pride in.

It's just one of those days. I have a massive headache, I have a lingering cold, and I feel like I could puke every time I stand up. Even the sunshine isn't giving me hope and peace today. Maybe I should just go back to bed and cry myself to sleep. At least in a state of sleep, I wouldn't have to think and be disgusted by myself any more.

Some days I just want to go home. Back to America, where my life seemed so much more stable. If I could I would just pack up my belongings, sell my house, and be gone. I wouldn't have to try so hard to fit in, try so hard to understand and be understood, I could find a job and go off to someplace where i interacted with other people and come home refreshed and then give my family and home attention. I miss my homeland, and the family and friends I associate with America. On days like today, that's even more evident. At least I could be an American living the American dream (whatever that is???) and fit in as an American.

I know I shouldn't complain. I have a near-perfect life with everything I could ask for. I live a life of comfort but I just feel like such an outsider. And with that heavy on my heart, all the goodness I have is easily stripped away and I have nothing left of me to give. I don't feel the happiness I am deserving of, and have every access to. What a pity party for one, huh?



This morning was a typical Kaeden morning...he was being a pain and unwilling to do anything I asked with minutes left to get ready before the bus came. I was totally frustrated and yelling and screaming, being that mom that I hate to be, when suddenly I didn't know what else to do...and I grabbed my son and pulled him into a huge hearty hug. He resisted me for a minute and then I felt him relax in my arms. As I kissed his fresh-washed hair, a peace fell over me, and when I let him go, it was as if my monster child had been replaced by a happy spirit. He got ready and smiled and spoke calmly and completed all his tasks with time enough to give out kisses and say goodbye to everyone as he left for the bus. It felt so good.

What I need to remember is that fighting with Kaeden does not produce results. Knowing he is loved does. As I lowered my voice and let him know I care, his entire attitude changed. And so did mine. I'm not saying it will work every morning, nor do I expect it to, but I am happy that this morning gave me a reminder that love is the best medicine, and I hope that I can remember it in future interactions with my hard-to-handle son.


Virginia Shootings

How has the world come to this? When is it going to end? What can we do to bring peace to our world? I wish the families of the victims strength during this difficult time. Maybe it will give us all a chance to think a bit harder about what we can do, to prevent this tragedy from occurring again. It's shattering. So pointless. May God be with you all.

What does it mean?

I'm feeling a bit unsure today. Last night as I tucked Kaeden into bed, he was telling me about a game they played at camp. One kid lays tummy-down on the floor and another lays on top and the one underneath struggles to get away from the one on top. Sounds a bit more like wrestling to me than a game, but okay, innocent enough. But then came the BIG bomb...the name of the game? Verkrachtertje. What does that mean? Rapist.

This had my every last nerve standing on end. I asked Kaeden what verkracht meant and he told me, knowing full well what rape means. Where did my son learn this? And why? I have spoken to him openly about sex and sexuality since he was little, but we've never discussed rape. I hate the fact that outside influences are giving my son knowledge about such a serious issue. So, I did my best to have the talk with him last night, and can only hope that my words and the trust he shares with me will outweigh what he learns from other kids or places.

As for what happened at scouts? Well, I talked to Erwin about it and he thinks it is possible there is another meaning for verkracht in Belgium. So, I wrote a note to his teacher today asking what it means in Belgium. I will be talking to the leaders of his scout group and tell them I think such a game is completely inappropriate, whether there are dual meanings or not. Having soemone struggle to be free and calling it rape is just completely insane. It should not in any way be a game. And then there is always the possibility that Kaeden misunderstood or heard something from another kid or, or, or...but what my son has in his mind is a game of rape, and for that, I won't stand idly by.

Sometimes being a parent is so hard. I will do anything to stand up for my children and what I think is best for them. But doing it self-assured in another language where I am not 100% confident makes it that much more difficult. I want to get to the bottom of this quickly, and show my son that when I mean business, I mean business...and when I feel strongly about an issue, I will do all in my power to make certain is it righted. And hopefully one day he can stand up for what he knows is right, and put an end to a little game of "verkrachtertje" all on his own, before it gets to this point.



It was a quiet ceremony on a hot day in Helmond. It couldn't have been more perfect, everything I was praying it would be to welcome my children into the world of the Lord. My little boys all dressed up in their "handsome" clothes and looking pretty spiffy to stand before the church and God, both answering "Ja, ik wil (yes, I will)" when the pastor asked if they chose to be baptised. The candles were lit in the tiny reed-covered chapel, and the statue of the virgin Mary stood above their heads. It was a private celebration with just our family, Erwin's godparents, and most importantly, the kids godparents. The only ones missing from the equation were my family, but that was to be expected under the circumstances. I wish they could have shared in the celebration. But, I am so happy to have my children baptised. I feel a relief I couldn't have dreamed possible, and the beautiful service that was given in honor of my children was mesmerizing. I couldn't help but shed a few tears as my children were blessed with the holy water and received a cross of oil upon their foreheads. The prayers were very relative to all that I had asked of the pastor. It wasn't an overly religious event, but more a celebration of my children as children of the Lord. I couldn't have asked for anything even slightly better.

As my boys held their baptism candles I watched in awe. I looked at their godparents sitting on the pews and thanked God yet again for giving my children such special people in their lives. People that I know care about my boys, love them in the manner that God wants them to be loved, and can give them that extra attention that they deserve. My brother Trevor, Jari's godfather, was not there to celebrate the occasion, and for that I was sorry. But Ilse, Lisa, and Erik were there, standing next to my children, these people we hand-picked to share in the lives of our children, people we trust and respect, and will have great meaning in the years to come for our sons.

Oma and Opa, I thank you yet again for helping to create this beautiful celebration. I couldn't do it without your help, as you already know. And as God blesses my children and all those close to them, may He also bless you for being so very important in my life.


Happy Feet

Today I was awakened by my little one telling me he had to use the bathroom...but it wasn't just that he needed to go, but that he had wet the bed. Oops! Not something that happens often with Jari, and he was definitely a bit embarrassed by his accident. He had a dire need to get in the bath and clean up his stinky little self. So, we trudged downstairs and turned on that glistening warm water and in he stepped. After my five minute early awakening, I was feeling okay again after my initial growls at being woken too soon. I started my morning ritual getting Erwin's food ready to take to work...and then I noticed the difference in our home, seconds after my husband came downstairs.

His feet were dancing. He had a smile plastered from one side to the other on his face. His eyes were shining. His voice was happily animated. And his happiness was definitely catching. I immediately cleared my mind of all the worries and chores I have to undertake today and started to sing in the kitchen. Erwin started making Kaeden's morning noises to "get me ready for his return", and I didn't even get annoyed, but laughed, happy that he was thinking about the safe return of our son this evening with stories to tell of his days at camp. It was really nice to see my husband so happy about today.

Why was he a bit of a "Happy Feet" this morning? Well, after weeks of 12 hour days at work, today is his last day before we....GO ON VACATION!!! Yep, tonight we're heading out to spend our traditional week away at Easter time. My husband loves vacation...well, who doesn't, but he really, really loves it! I enjoy seeing him during vacation as he relaxes from the stresses of everyday life and plays with the kids, eases into our day with late showers and breakfasts sitting around the table with an extra cup of coffee, making plans for our adventures of the day. And then as we drive off into adventure-land, we have a plan but no real worries...we take side roads to see where they will lead, we stop off at the woods to play with some sticks, we stop at a bridge to play Pooh sticks, we look for little brown signs that may lead to something interesting not listed on a tourist site, we have the radio playing and sing along, and we just enjoy our time as a family. No wonder he was happy today...his office and daily traffic adventures will be gone for an entire week, leaving him feeling renewed and refreshed. He won't need to answer telephone calls demanding deadlines, he won't have to sit through a boring meeting, he won't have to wake to the alarm clock ringing in his ear or worry if he'll find an ironed shirt in the closet. He won't have to drive behind an under the limit driver or a tractor that he can't pass. He won't have to find a parking place and take the elevator to the 7th floor and look out over the same view that he sees every day. He won't have to drink coffee from a little machine and eat bread sitting at his desk. Instead, he'll be on vacation, all that work stuff far from his mind.

Instead he'll have to play soccer outside, take a bike ride through a nature area, go on a few rides at an amusement park, watch the antics of the monkeys at the zoo, find easter eggs hidden by the bunny, eat breakfast with bacon and warm eggs and fresh-brewed coffee, sit on a terrace with a beer as we talk and watch the kids play on the playground, awaken in a little house by a pond when his mind says it's time to rise and shine, throw on a tshirt and training pants, and play, play, play just like the big kid that he can be. I love Happy Feet!

We're heading off on vacation...nope, not far away, but just over the border into Holland, just far enough away from reality for a week of freedom from life. My husband can't wait...and I can't wait for my husband to get home tonight!


Happy Birthday Mom!

Today is my mom's birthday. She is a person that deserves recognition, not only because it's her birthday, but because she is caring, giving, loving, sweet, supportive, and my best friend. She would do anything for me and for my family, but even further, she would do anything for anybody. She is the kind of person with an infectious smile and someone you know you can trust, honesty shining from her eyes. I love to hear her laugh. There are so many people that tell me what a wonderful woman my mom is. And they aren't saying it just to be nice. She is one of those honest-to-goodness wonderful people and others notice it about her. I can't tell you the number of times I have seen her help a stranger. She has a business and is often asked for help in different ways, whether it be a tank of gas or a bite to eat or a ride into town...and she always comes through. The majority of those people aren't trying to take advantage of her, but have an honest need, and she is giving enough to help them. The times she has been cheated leave her feeling completely shriveled, as she looks at people with the same cheery trust as she herself gives. Unfortunately, some people do not have her same loving spirit.

My mom, I could go on for days about all the reasons that I love her. There is nobody else in the world that I can call day or night and pour out my feelings to, knowing she will respond honestly and at the same time give me peace. She tries to keep me centered, keep me recognizing all teh goodness in my life, yet at the same time honoring my feelings by telling me she's sorry I feel as I do if I'm having a down day, or laughing with me until we're crying when I tell her a funny story. She gives so very much of herself, and I fail to tell her often enough just what a terrific mom she is.

I strive to be the kind of person that my mom is. I am much more opinionated, a bit more adventurous, and quite a lot more open than she is. Things I do and say sometimes shock her, but she just keeps her quiet opinions to herself or makes a joke to tell me what she needs me to know. She never puts me down, even when there are times I need a good kick in the butt. She helps me reach for the stars, and encourages me in all that I do. She is quite simply everything a mom should be, with just a little bit extra. There is noone like her.

So, today is her birthday, this wonderful gift of a woman that God has put upon this earth. She truly is a gift, her love shining through. I hope that today she gets back a double dose of all the good she gives. She deserves it. She deserves peace and happiness in her heart, a sunshine smile upon her face, and love that surrounds her in a tight-squeezing hug. Happy Birthday Dear Mom, may it be a day as terrific as you are. I love you.