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.